Buried by badge-gate, a promising pre-season waits for Everton

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Hunter Martin/Getty ImagesLeighton Baines and Everton have plenty of experience with preseason tours in the United States, including this 2011 encounter with the Philadelphia Union.

Buried amid the outpouring of anger towards the new badge, the pre-season tour of America effectively slipped under the radar when announced. The tour confirmation arrived on the same day as the badge unveiling, yet participation in a stellar pre-season tournament became an afterthought due to the divisive badge.

Partaking in an impressively assembled pre-season tournament, featuring several of the biggest clubs in world football, the news should have been a feather in the cap of the club, but it was drowned out by badge-gate.

- No bids yet for Everton star Fellaini

While the US tour is the obvious highlight of the warm-up fixtures, there are several others nearer to home. Everton begin their preparations for next season in Austria on 14th July against Austria Vienna. Winners of the Austrian Bundesliga in 2012-13, the Champions promise a tough test for Roberto Martinez in his first game as manager.

Two local fixtures follow the brief Vienna excursion with the Toffees away to Accrington Stanley on 17th July, before a trip to Blackburn Rovers on the 27th of the same month. After those regional outings, thoughts turn to the American adventure in the International Champions Cup.

AC Milan and Valencia get the tournament started on 27th July prior to Everton and Juventus facing off on 31st in San Francisco. Winners of the last two Serie A titles, the Bianconeri represent a significant step up in class on recent pre-season opponents.

The Italian champions ended the 2011-12 season unbeaten, their 49-match unbeaten run brought to an end in November 2012. As it happens, the team who ended the unbeaten run, Inter Milan, are another of the entrants in this Stateside competition.

Everton then face either Real Madrid or LA Galaxy in Los Angeles on 3rd August; the only variable is the kickoff time as this depends on the outcome of the Juventus match. The Galaxy are known to Evertonians due to the loan spells of their star player Landon Donovan, but supporters will have more than one eye on a potential clash with the Spanish giants.

In their third and final match, set for the 6th/7th August in Miami, Martinez and company will either AC Milan, Inter Milan, Valencia or Chelsea depending on results. Already playing Chelsea at least twice a season anyway, Everton fans will hope to round off the summer tour against one of the other teams.

After the US tour ends, the customary home friendly will take place. There is no official announcement yet, but Everton will end pre-season against Real Betis. The fixture is pencilled in for Sunday 11th August at Goodison Park and, against the side finishing seventh in La Liga last season, the Betis match concludes a pre-season boasting a noticeable upturn in opposing quality.

Despite the stronger opposition, question marks linger over poor starts. The exception to the rule was last season when the scheduled tournament fell through. Left without a pre-season jaunt, Everton enjoyed their best start since 2004. The Blues need to hit the ground running in 2013-14 or the link between overseas tours and slow starts seems more than just coincidence.

Finally, able to enter Everton into a prestigious tournament offering great marketing opportunities and commercial exposure, it is hard to believe this is the same club buried in a continuum of commercial disasters. Symptomatic of the scatter gun nature of recent Everton decision-making, supporters need more of these decisions and less of the others (the badge fiasco).

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