WHISPER it quietly but there’s something in the water at Goodison Park this season which points towards a positive campaign.
It may be an almost intangible change in the nature of Everton’s team, but circumstances could yet conspire to go in David Moyes’ favour after a difficult summer.
It was Jack Rodwell who first hinted at the subtle hardening of the Toffee’s collective backbone when he said: “I think we’re a different side from last year too, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is but I think we’ve got more resilience.”
Rodwell was speaking before the Wigan game, when Everton went a goal behind only to respond with three goals which eventually put the result beyond doubt and provided a timely morale boost even if the performance wasn’t quite a classic.
Next up was West Bromwich Albion in the Carling Cup, and again the Blues went behind. Suddenly the spectres of Reading and Brentford from last season – and too many other cup nightmares before them – reared on the horizon.
But that resilience Rodwell referred to was in evidence again. Marouane Fellaini provided a manful stint as a makeshift forward to get the scores level and then superior hunger and desire lent the Blues the edge, as Phil Neville curled the winner into the top corner.
There’s a marked difference from last season when Everton were playing much slicker football at times but failing to get results.
Remember Wolves or Wigan at Goodison, or Blackburn away on the opening day.
Too often Everton simply didn’t have a plan B, or the uplift in motivation to grind something out when it mattered. They’d go a goal behind, or get pegged back and results would invariably suffer.
Perhaps it’s a response to the summer which has passed, when the Blues failed to sign the high-profile forward they needed and ultimately lost one of their star men when Mikel Arteta left to try and conquer the Champions League as part of Arsene Wenger’s crumbling Arsenal dynasty.
More optimistically, it could even have echoes of the season which followed straight after Wayne Rooney was sold to Manchester United.
While there’s more chance of Mike Tindall entering another dwarf throwing contest than there is of the Blues finishing fourth again, there’s a sense that something is coming to a head this season.
Often after games, footballers – drained and weary after 90 minutes – face the media and fall back on well-worn cliches.
But even after 120 lung-busting minutes on Wednesday Leighton Baines was not trotting out platitudes.
Quite the opposite, there was a stirring intensity when he told me: “We are desperate to achieve something, basically.
“There’s no point pretending otherwise – we want to win it and we were desperate to stay in it. We feel we’re capable and we fought and worked for it, and hopefully we’ll get the fruits of that later on in the competition.
“There will still be top sides in it but you can see how seriously we take it and want to win it so badly.”
Even during their best performance of the season again Aston Villa, which ironically only earned them a point, the Blues were plugging away to the bitter end – and Apostolos Vellios was desperately unfortunate to not seal a thrilling comeback
Moyes’ teams have always been super-fit and able to go the distance. But there is an edge this time around, an added never-say-die burst.
It’s unlikely to deliver them into the Champions League promised land, but don’t rule it out delivering something even more precious – a trophy.