TV influence has put an unfair burden on Everton FC
TONIGHT will be one of those nights when everyone has to stand up and be counted for Everton Football Club. But you know what? This club is very good at doing that.
It goes without saying that the schedule Everton have been asked to accept is hugely unfair.
Unfortunately it underlines once again how influential the great God television is in football today.
I was first given an inkling of that influence when I was on tour with England in the early 1990s.
We were playing the USA and apparently we had to leave the dressing room exactly six minutes before kick-off to fit in with the TV's advertising schedules.
To ensure the players were ready, a TV executive knocked on our dressing room door and boomed: "Seven minutes and 30 seconds to live broadcast!"
Then 15 seconds later he knocked again and shouted: "Seven minutes and 15 seconds to live broadcast!"
The same rigmarole went on every 15 seconds until we were sorely tempted to slam the dressing room door shut and refuse to leave!
It just underlined how football now is governed by TV and its executives - and that's why Everton have to play an important cup tie barely 48 hours after a gruelling league fixture.
The TV companies want to screen Arsenal's match against Liverpool on Wednesday - and the local police force won't allow Arsenal and Tottenham to play at home on the same night,.
Imagine if Manchester United were in the same boat. I'm sure Sir Alex would have plenty to say about the situation.
It's difficult, but it's not impossible. Stoke went to Tottenham at the weekend and won and Everton have won at The Lane a couple of times in recent seasons.
It certainly isn't the bogey ground it once was for Everton teams in the 1990s.
I'll be interested to see who plays, but you can rest assured that the majority of David Moyes' squad will be chomping at the bit regardless of how tired their limbs may be feeling.
Adrenalin can carry you so far. The big worry, of course, is that tired muscles run the risk of sustaining even further injury.
But all Everton will be worrying about at the moment is winning tonight. And they can!
Benfica can expect fireworks from Everton in return leg
BEFORE last Thursday I was part of an unwanted record in Everton's illustrious history.
The club's biggest beating in Europe prior to last week's trip to the Stadium of Light was that awful night in Bucharest when DInamo defeated us 5-1.
That record went last week, and I can't say I was relieved that it has passed on to another group of players now.
But if I remember rightly, we were fuelled by a burning desire to put things right in the second leg - and we absolutely pummelled the Romanians.
We scored an early goal, won the match, but couldn't add to it. Quite how we only scored one that night I'll never know.
But I can guarantee Benfica will be faced by a similar sense of revenge next week. Last Thursday's game was hugely disappointing.
But I'll wager there will be more than fireworks at Goodison Park on Bonfire Night when Benfica come to town.
IT'S SO SOUL-DESTROYING FOR TIM
SOMETIMES it can be soul destroying to be a goalkeeper.
Tim Howard has just conceded eight goals in his last two games - and he couldn't have done anything about a single one.
But that's a goalkeeper's lot.
Sometimes you will play a game where you drop every cross, your kicking is awful and you somehow still manage to keep a clean sheet - so you have to take the rough with the smooth.
In hindsight Tim might look back and maybe wish he'd let Carlo Nash have a run-out in Lisbon last week, but knowing Tim he'd probably still have preferred to play!
There's nothing he can do about what's going on in front of him, other than concentrate on his own game.
He can organise, he can shout and he can encourage - but when people aren't stopping punts from opposition goalkeepers getting through to strikers there's not much else he can do.
Tim's own game is pretty good at the moment, and he just has to make sure that his own confidence isn't affected by the recent problems at the back.
As soon as the manager is able to pick a more settled side I'm sure things will improve.