If there’s one thing about football that makes it so fascinating it’s got to be its unpredictability.
This time last week we were discussing how Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho and Sam Byram would all be involved in the game at Sunderland and look what happened.
Diafra didn’t travel to the north-east and Sam got sent-off. Andy played, but he’s now out of the squad for the Everton game as a result of aggravating his groin injury in the play leading up to Andrew Ayew’s goal last week.
Coming as it did after only five minutes, though, the big striker did extremely well to last the whole game.
Diafra Sakho didn’t travel to the Stadium of Light last weekend. Reports indicate that he is still not back to full fitness and that if included in the squad against Everton, Diafra will only play part of the game.
Some minor discomfort was the reason given for his late exclusion at Sunderland but hopefully this will have cleared. Nonetheless, the medical people are recommending only a limited participation until his recovery is complete.
Again, like Andy Carroll, Diafra is finding that coming back from a long-term injury brings its own problems in terms of fitness. That’s something that only he can work around.
We’ve spoken before about how difficult it can be coming back from injury; and how in many cases as a player you are on a complete loser if you try to come back before you are ready.
Team-mates quickly lose patience with you if you start to not go for balls you would usually compete for and it’s easy in the heat of the moment to forget that someone is playing well below their usual fitness levels.
The same happens on the terraces and that spills over into calls for people to subbed if they appear to be under-performing and the flak then transfers to the management on the bench.
It’s all very well wanting to be a brave lad etc. and turning out injured for the sake of the team; but it can quickly backfire. Not only on the player but also on the manager, and that then carries through to the medical people.
Winston Reid is also expected to figure this weekend against Everton. Winston too has been out of action for the last few weeks with a groin injury.
As Andy will testify, these can be so difficult to come back from; and because it’s impossible to play football without all the twisting and turning that’s involved in a game, the risks of aggravating these are high.
However, we don’t get to know all the facts and for sure he’ll have been put through his paces in the past couple of weeks in readiness for a return. Where Winston’s injury differs from Andy’s of course is there’s been no recurrence to factor in.
Hopefully Winston won’t have suffered any reaction during this past week in training and will be good to go for the Everton match.
Slaven Bilić is going to want to finish the season on a high. The last few weeks have been a succession of ups and downs for the Croatian coach and a couple of good, convincing victories is what he needs to cement his position.
He’s already shown how strong a character he is with the Dimitri Payet affair and it seems that he has to face a new challenge of one kind or another almost on a weekly basis.
Nothing ever goes perfectly when points are being dropped and players are out injured. Everyone has an opinion; whether it’s to do with their fitness or their inclusion in the team.
Slaven will be the first to admit that it’s all part of the job and that a manager needs to be a strong character in the first place or he shouldn’t even be in the post.
Dealing with confrontations is something that happens in football on a regular basis anyway, and it’s something all managers are more than capable of.
Slaven certainly isn’t lacking in that respect and it’s easy to see how passionate he is by his actions on the bench. With some coaches a lot of the posturing can sometimes appear to be a bit forced or even be solely for the benefit of the crowd; but there’s no doubt in Slaven’s case it’s all for real.
We know he’s going to have to make changes against Everton anyway, due to the injuries we’ve mentioned in addition to the suspensions. Three points at the weekend though would make all the difference; at least for the next seven days!