Everton’s Malaysian fan club president believes Benitez can be sweet for Toffees

Lynn Choo was not into football while growing up.

That slowly changed, and in 1985, Gary Lineker’s arrival at Everton sealed her allegiance.

Since then, her love for the Toffees has grown, and today, she is the president of the Everton Supporters Club of Malaysia.

We speak to her about former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez taking charge at Goodison Park, Carlo Ancelotti, and where she expects the team to finish in the league.

What are your thoughts on Benitez replacing Ancelotti?

Choo: There was much animosity because of Rafa’s comments that Everton was a “small club” when he was Liverpool boss.

I was not against him as we had failed with big names like Ancelotti and (Ronald) Koeman and young potential managers like (Marco) Silva.

So, there was nothing to lose.

It did not matter that Rafa was Liverpool manager. He has Premier League experience and has won plenty of silverware.

Rafa has thick skin and does not care what others say. If he can get the job done, that’s enough. I am happy with the players he brought in (Demarai Gray, Andros Townsend and Andy Lonergan).

What went wrong last season?

Choo: Ancelotti was good at tweaking the team and changing the formation to suit the opposition. But as a result, it felt like the team had no identity as we kept changing shapes and players from game to game.

He brought in good players (James Rodríguez, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan), and Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored a couple of hattricks early on. But then, the injuries piled up. All the poor signings we made in the past came back to haunt us.

Not having fans in the stadium also played a part. I do not want to use that as an excuse, but our home form was poor.

Ancelotti, however, did win at Anfield!

Were you sad to see James Rodríguez leave?

Choo: I am sad it did not work out as he is such a brilliant and talented player. It was a pleasure watching him play, but he looked disinterested towards the end.

He joined because of Ancelotti. Perhaps he knew something. In a way, I am happy he left as it freed up the wage bill.

Where do you think Everton will finish this season?

Choo: Realistically, eighth, to 10th position. As for Europe, it is a Catch-22 situation. I would love for us to qualify, but we may not have the squad to see us through.

Looking at our bench recently, we had two goalkeepers and several youngsters due to our injuries.

The Premier League has become so competitive. It is not just a question of the ‘Big Six’. There are also the likes of Leicester, West Ham, Wolves … where does that leave us?

Would a good cup run be enough?

Choo: Oh, yes. Winning the FA Cup would mean the world as that was our last silverware (1995).

When did you start supporting Everton?

Choo: It was 1985. I was not into football, but my best friend’s elder sister was a Tottenham fan. So, I started watching some games.

I cannot remember the first match I watched. It may have been a Liverpool vs Everton match. I have an affinity for blue and decided to follow the blue team.

Gary Lineker joining (before the 1985-86 season) sealed the deal for me.

So Lineker was your favourite player growing up?

Choo: I was a fan of Lineker’s, but I never had a ‘favourite’ player. Others may follow (Lionel) Messi and (Cristiano) Ronaldo, but I prefer players like Tim Cahill, who play with passion.

Cahill may not be the most skilful or best player, but he gives his all in every game.

Tell us about your experiences visiting Goodison Park.

Choo: My first trip was in 2012 to watch Everton vs Newcastle. I was there with a cousin who supported them.

It was amazing. I was so in awe. I was not shouting, screaming or looking as excited as a first-timer. I was enjoying the moment and soaking in everything around me.

Watching a match on television is better as you have the commentary and multiple replays, but experiencing the family-like atmosphere at the ground cannot be beaten.

The fans are very friendly, and there is an affinity with other like-minded people.

To top it off, I got to meet the players! I stood out in the cold for over an hour, freezing my butt off waiting for them. That was part of the excitement.

I went back the following year for (David) Moyes’ final match, and my last visit was in 2019.

FIXTURES (Malaysian time)

SATURDAY

Manchester United vs Everton (7.30pm)
Chelsea vs Southampton (10pm)
Wolves vs Newcastle (10pm)
Burnley vs Norwich (10pm)
Leeds vs Watford (10pm)

SUNDAY

Brighton vs Arsenal (12.30am)
Tottenham vs Aston Villa (9pm)
West Ham vs Brentford (9pm)
Crystal Palace vs Leicester (9pm)
Liverpool vs Manchester City (11.30pm)

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