Malaysian Evertonian hopes players rediscover fighting spirit to escape relegation

While most eyes will be on the Liverpool-Manchester City match, Brendan Sta Maria (main image), is only focused on cheering on his favourite team, Everton.

Sta Maria, 58, has been a lifelong Evertonian and has experienced all the highs and lows of supporting the Toffees.

The nine-time English champion has lost its way in recent years, giving Sta Maria a few extra grey hairs. The team is now 16th in the English Premier League with 25 points from 27 games.

It could have had more, but Everton was docked six points for breaching the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability rules, and faces another charge for the same offence.

Everton is only five points ahead of relegation-threatened Luton but will have a chance to pull clear when it plays Manchester United in the early kickoff on March 9 (8.30pm).

“We escaped relegation in the last few seasons, so I sort of expected another harrowing season,” said Sta Maria, whose all-time favourite player is legendary Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall.

“I am bracing myself for another points deduction.

“All I ask is for the players to show the kind of fighting spirit Everton is known for. That is why I fell in love with the team.”

Everton played some lovely football in the early part of the season and grew stronger after it was initially docked 10 points by the EPL in November – the penalty was reduced to six points after an appeal.

But it has stumbled in the past few months and has only collected two points from its last five matches.

“After the 10-point deduction, the players showed their determination by going on a winning run,” said Sta Maria, of Everton’s four-game winning streak over Nottingham Forest, Newcastle, Chelsea, and Burnley.

“They looked like the Everton of old, the one I grew up admiring. But after that winning run, they seemed to relax, and that was when things fell apart.

“It does not matter how many more points deductions come our way if we cannot win our games. We could have won most of our last 10 matches, but we just threw the points away.”

Following its win over Burnley, Everton lost to Tottenham, Manchester City, and Wolves in the EPL and on penalties to Fulham in the quarterfinals of the League Cup.

“There are two points in every game where Everton looks vulnerable – five minutes after scoring, and the last five minutes of each match,” said Sta Maria, a corporate trainer and coach who runs Mishu HR and Training.

“If you watch all our matches, we give chances and goals in the dying minutes, and immediately after we score. That is the reason why our points tally is so low.

“Another reason is because we cannot seem to put away the chances that come our way. Our strikers are not good enough.”

Sta Maria said Dominic Calvert-Lewin has not been the same since suffering many injuries, and hopes he can rediscover the form that made him an England international.

The striker, who saved Everton from relegation with a header against Crystal Palace in May 2022, has since then suffered a knee injury that ruled him out for 46 days, two hamstring injuries that saw him miss 121 days, and a broken cheekbone that ruled him out for 25 days at the start of this season.

Since returning from his latest injury, Calvert-Lewin has only scored three times, with the last being the winner against West Ham on Oct 29. Everton has played 22 times since then.

Meanwhile, Liverpool and Manchester City – the top two sides in the standings – face off at Anfield tomorrow, with third-placed Arsenal having the chance to leapfrog them if it beats Brentford (1.30am, on March 10).

The Gunners have been scoring goals for fun, while the Bees have the fourth-worst defensive record after conceding 50 times from 27 matches. Only Sheffield United (72), Burnley (60), and Luton (54), have conceded more.

FIXTURES (Malaysian time)

SATURDAY
Manchester United vs Everton (8.30pm)
Crystal Palace vs Luton (11pm)
Bournemouth vs Sheffield United (11pm)
Wolves vs Fulham (11pm)

SUNDAY
Arsenal vs Brentford (1.30am)
Aston Villa vs Tottenham (9pm)
West Ham vs Burnley (10pm)
Brighton vs Nottingham Forest (10pm)
Liverpool vs Manchester City (11.45pm)

TUESDAY
Chelsea vs Newcastle (4am)