Welsh rockers Lostprophets return on 2nd April with their fifth album Weapons before embarking on a UK and European tour from 15th April (click here for a list of dates) – but first comes the rather important matter of Everton’s FA Cup quarter-final replay at Sunderland tonight, the winner of which shall of course take on Liverpool at Wembley for a place in the final. Football Burp caught up with the band’s guitarist Mike Lewis for a ruddy good natter about his beloved Toffees, fresh of course from a very creditable 2-0 win at Swansea City on Saturday…
How did you come to be an Everton fan?
I started getting into football in the mid-’80s, when my local team Cardiff City were in Division Four. I went to Ninian Park a couple of times but it was pretty grim. Everyone at my school supported either Everton or Liverpool, and Everton had players like Neville Southall, Pat Van Den Hauwe and Kevin Ratcliffe. I was attracted more to them than Ian Rush and Liverpool.
Did you see the Swansea game on Saturday?
I didn’t, but I saw the highlights. I was actually in Cardiff but I had a family thing on. I heard they played really well.
Marouane Fellaini came on as a sub and dominated the game…
He’s been our player of the season this year. I think he’s been absolutely phenomenal. He’s really developed into a class player, at least in my eyes.
Would you like to see him continue in that attacking midfield position – the Cahill role, if you will – or do you prefer him further back the pitch?
He can play both really well, which is great, but I prefer him to be playing not too far forward. It’s nice to see Cahill linking well with Jelavic, so for now it’s nice to have Fellaini further back.
Do you like the look of Jelavic?
Yeah, he’s scored a couple of goals already, his work rate’s really good, he seems to get stuck, and his finish against Spurs the other week when he hit it first time was beautiful. We’ve had trouble getting the ball in the back of the net this season so I don’t know if he’s the sole answer to our problems, but he’s a step in the right direction anyway.
Have you heard the rumour that Royston Drenthe has been sacked? (Football Burp says: since this interview took place, David Moyes has been quoted as saying that he’s given Drenthe compassionate leave to deal with a family situation.)
I didn’t hear that he’s been sacked, but I heard that he didn’t travel to Swansea because he’d been drinking or something. He’s a bit of a weird one, Drenthe – he’ll do something amazing, but he goes down far too easily for my liking. I like someone like Big Vic [Anichebe], who’ll fight players off rather than go down straight away. Drenthe holds onto the ball for way too long sometimes, tries to do too much. Sometimes he shows he’s a good player and then he’ll do something stupid. He’s very unpredictable.
But I think Heitinga’s been amazing recently. I’ve seen a lot of people saying that he could be a future captain and I think that’s a really good shout – you can see him on the pitch yelling at everyone, and he seems to be a bit of a fan favourite as well.
Phil Jagielka came back in against Swansea and looked much more like his old self…
Yeah, ’cause I thought he looked a bit ropey against Liverpool. Although that game was a disaster anyway.
What did you think of Moyes’s decision to rest players for that game?
I thought that was a mistake, and I did read Jagielka saying that confidence was low after the derby. I understand Moyes’s theory in resting players, and if we were playing Bolton or Blackburn then I maybe could have accepted it, but every Evertonian wants to beat Liverpool, and to go out there and be embarrassed by them was a blow to morale. And then the first twenty minutes against Sunderland were pretty shaky as well. I think if we’d played a full-strength team against Liverpool, and even if we’d still lost at least giving them a damn good go, then that would have been better to carry the momentum through to the Sunderland game. But then he’s the boss…
Where will you be watching tonight’s replay?
I don’t even know if I can watch it, which is a bummer. I’m in London and I’ll be doing interviews until about 6, then I’ve got to get back to Wales. It looks like it might be a ‘Radio Merseyside on my iPhone’ job.
If Everton win, will you try and get to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool?
Yeah. I’m really lucky in that I’ll be in London at the time of both the semi and the final, so without wanting to jinx it, it would be pretty amazing if we went all the way. The semi on the 14th is the day before we start our tour in Dublin, so I can make it to Wembley that day then fly to Dublin, and we play Brixton Academy the day before the final and Cologne in Germany the day after the final, so if we get there then I can make both. Fingers crossed!
Did you manage to get to either the semi or final in 2009?
I didn’t, I was in the States. I managed to watch the semi-final in my house, scared the sh*t out of my mother-in-law screaming at the TV! For the final, there’s a pub in Santa Monica called The Queen’s Head where I used to go all the time to watch games. In the States, we get tons of games, way more than over here – in fact, every weekend we get pretty much every game – so I used to go down there with a couple of friends and my wife. It was quite surprising, there were probably about fifty Blues in there [for the final], probably more than there were Chelsea fans which was kind of surprising.
I think Everton’s profile in the States has got much bigger over the last few years, especially with Landon Donovan coming over. Football’s really taking off over there – you’ve got football clubs on the West Coast like Seattle and Portland getting attendances in the 30,000s, and LA Galaxy are getting 20,000 every game pretty much. Even though they show every game over there, there’s only two channels so some of them get a delayed airing, but when Landon was with us Everton’s was the main game every weekend. They made such a point of it – “Landon Donovan’s Everton is taking on blah blah blah”. And Tim Howard as well, but to a lesser degree. You know, Landon is the face of football in the States, the US captain and the player everyone knows, so for him to come and play for us was a massive profile boost in the States.
Have you managed to get down to Goodison Park much over the years?
Yeah, I’ve managed to make it down quite a bit over the last few seasons. Unfortunately I haven’t been this year because since the season started I’ve only been in the UK for two weeks, but I got to a couple of games last season. I caught the 2-0 derby win at Goodison, which was nice. Because I don’t live in this country any more, when I am over here I’m generally on tour so I’m trying to fit games in between. When I get a touring schedule, the first thing I look at is what games I could possibly make. I usually get to make a couple a season.
What was the first game you ever went to? And the best? And the worst?
The first game I went to was Aston Villa away around ’86 or ’87, because my dad used to work in Birmingham. He got us tickets sitting in with the Villa fans, and I remember him telling me to just sit quiet and not cheer if Everton scored. It was a 0-0 draw, so I didn’t have any problems!
The worst game I’ve seen was when we got beat 6-1 by Arsenal at Goodison. Me and my mate had driven up from Pontypridd, a four-hour drive, and I think if I hadn’t driven so far then I would’ve left early. Apart from the fact that we got stuffed, there was the whole Lescott thing as well – some people were booing him, some were cheering him, people were divided. The fact that it was the first game of the season…you know, you want a big scalp on the opening day, and we were at home, so to lose like that was just an awful way to start the season.
The best game, at least in recent memory, was probably beating Liverpool 2-0 last season because I hadn’t managed to make it to a Merseyside derby before. Another amazing one in recent memory was the 1-1 draw against Manchester United when Fellaini scored, Phil Neville made that tackle on Ronaldo and Yakubu hit the post. That was such an amazing game of football, and it seemed to change our season because it really picked up after that. We were in the Lower Bullens, right in front of where Neville went through Ronaldo.
If you had to select a five-a-side team out of all the Everton players you’ve seen in your time as a fan, who would you pick?
Neville Southall in goal, for sure – he was the best ‘keeper in the world at his time. Up front, it’s hard not to pick Graeme Sharp. Defence, Kevin Ratcliffe and Dave Watson. And it’s hard for me not to pick Tim Cahill – he’s not the flashiest of players but I love his spirit, and I think he’s going to be the next Everton ‘legend’ in the way that Duncan Ferguson is.
Cahill couldn’t score many headers in five-a-side, though.
Yeah. Maybe I’d go for Andrei Kanchelskis – he’d be a good five-a-side player, I reckon. And it’s hard not to pick Kevin Sheedy.
At seven players strong, that would be quite a five-a-side team! Finally, quick score prediction for tonight?
Sunderland have been really good at home lately so I think it’s going to be a really tough game. I’m going to go for a conservative 2-1 win for us.
Mike, thank you.
Weapons, the brand new album by Lostprophets, will be released April 2nd by Visible Noise. For more information, including a list of live dates, please visit lostprophets.com or the band’s Facebook page.