The worst performance I can ever remember, bringing quite possibly the most embarrassing result in the club’s long history. It’s time to put THAT club out to pasture.
You know what happened, you don’t need me to go into the lengthy details explaining the events of Sunday afternoon. Everton lost a Merseyside derby to a Liverpool team made up of pre-shavers. The FA Cup is over for the season, yet another derby defeat goes into the record books and supporters have sunken to even new depths of despair. The question shouldn’t be why, or even how? Instead it should be, ‘what should it mean’?
For me personally, this game had that end of an era feel to it. Not for Carlo Ancelotti because he’s of course, he’s only just arrived. Marco Silva lost his job after a thrashing at Anfield only a month ago but for our new manager this match felt like a free hit, a chance for him to build a real bond with supporters should we win it. Should we lose, as we indeed did, well it’s impossible to attach any blame to him really, he can only use the tools he’s been left after all
No, that feeling I had of “this has to be the end” was in regards to the Everton Football Club I’ve grown up supporting. The only club I’ve loved, and the only club I’ve been overly interested in following. Everton are a great institution, with proud supporters and a history all but a few other elite clubs would give anything for. Nine league titles, five FA Cups and a European Cup Winners Cup. Great memories for all supporters who were lucky enough to witness them happen.
I’m unfortunately not one of them. Being born in 1994, I was actually still in nappies the last time Everton added silverware to cabinet. I’ve been going to the games since 2003 and, in that time, the only real high moments have been occasional cup runs and European tours. That’s more than most football fans get supporting their local club granted, but still far less to celebrate than I’d like.
I’ve grown up knowing an Everton that simply doesn’t win trophies, or even seriously compete for them. I’ve known an Everton that doesn’t attract superstar players to play for us, doesn’t win high-pressure games (especially away) and, to my and every Evertonians’ huge embarrassment, doesn’t win derbies against our local rivals. Bad timing has of course played a huge part in all of that but there have been plenty of other occasions down the years, where circumstances were perfect, for victories to manifest themselves. Yet they never do.
Instead it’s been defeats, defeat after defeat after defeat. And not even spirited defeat either, the type where you come away feeling devastated but also more behind the cause than ever. Instead it’s been losing in manners that could be taken straight from big-screen movies. Last minute howlers, last minute wonder goals, previously derided players finally having a great day, referees giving decisions against us that defy logic, etc. No scenario is too outlandish or cynical. Conjure up in your mind a way for Everton to lose a game at some point over the last 20 or so years that fantasy has actually been reality.
Some say the club is cursed, that’s nonsense because there’s no such thing. Some would just say the club has forever been unlucky, perhaps you’d agree if you believe in that sort of thing. But alas, luck (if real) isn’t something that always stays at a certain level as the years go, so you can’t even blame that. A lot argue the club has just been rudderless at the top for a long time and that has trickled all the way down, a losing mentality has seeped into everything. I personally would go along with that, but again it’s not the sole answer as to why things have gone the way they have. Even clubs with utterly inept leadership have managed to give their supporters some magical memories. Portsmouth won the FA Cup in 2008, Birmingham the League Cup 2011, also Swansea and Wigan in 2013. Look where all of them are now.
Even Spurs, a club similar to Everton in a lot of ways, manage to beat their local rivals Arsenal on a semi-consistent basis and give their fans regular adventures in the Champions League. Plenty of treasured memories being created.
For multiple Everton sides though all of the above has just been impossible to achieve, like trying to reach the top of an endless staircase. Yet supporters have kept daring to believe, wanting to dream, even though we’ve been served up heartbreaks nearly every single season. At what point do people reach their limit and stop investing emotionally? For some that will never happen, for others though I feel this last result at Anfield has brought them closer to that point than they’ve ever been before.
Shall we accept Everton are going to carry on in the way they always do whenever supporters’ spirit is crushed? Trot out some of the “we know we let you down but we’ll try harder next time” babble? Perhaps spend some money in the now open transfer window to try and hook people back in? Honestly, I don’t think even that will be enough this time for most.
The overall point I’m making is this, Everton Football Club in its current incarnation will never again bring the success Evertonians yearn for. It’s a club that lost its way a while ago (for a multitude of reasons) and it’s too far down the wrong road now to reach that fabled promised land one day after all. The mindset of fatalism is too deeply routed in us all, the players, supporters and the people behind the scenes. The anxiety of playing in high-pressure situations is too just to much for us overcome, evidently even when our rivals decide to field their under 23s.
So, what next then? Shall we just wind it up, sell the furniture and all move on Bury-style? As tempting as that actually feels in the most painful moments after a disappointment, it will of course won’t happen. Instead, supporters should let go of the past and I mean everything about it. All of the memories, that includes the heartbreaks and the glories. Time for us all to realise that life is about seeking out new things and leaving what’s happened before to the books.
We have Carlo Ancelotti, a 3x time Champions League winner, with 20 major trophies overall, as our manager now. We have a mega-rich owner (with his even richer mate set to come aboard too). And we have a new state of the art stadium set for construction, a visually stunning structure that any other football fan would love to call their club’s home. All that we need for a massive club reboot is already in place, but the last thing is to deal with the emotional aspect of it all. Goodison Park will always be special, the old Everton will always be special, but it the hard fact is is that they don’t have a place in the modern football world. Least not a place Evertonians are happy to settle for.
Manchester City have already made this same leap and look at them now. Only their most jaded fan would argue that the club they watch now, the one that’s lifted 10 trophies since Sheihk Mansour’s arrival, is the same one that they grew up supporting in decades previous.
“Typical City” was the saying in those days. Not anymore, the club that was stuck with that mindset was put to rest. In its’ place is a club that, by hook or by crook, has forced it’s way to the top table and now commands respect as a true giant of the game. But would their die-hard support trade it all in order to go back to how it was, to have their old Citeh back, the one they felt so close too? I’m sure you know the answer to that yourself.
Everton FC really needs to go through the same transformation. The Everton we know, it needs to expire. Instead we’ll move forward supporting a new Everton, one supporters recognise and love just as much, but realise that it really is something different from what we previously had.
“Everton that”, I think it’s the time the club that’s infected with that mindset is left behind, just like the old Man City was. It’s not selling your soul, it’s not disowning everything that came before, it’s not being a “plastic fan”. It’s being brave enough to make a difficult decision in the hope it bears fruit long-term.
Here’s a slightly geeky analogy, if you’ve ever seen or read Harry Potter do you remember the phoenix in the headmaster’s office? When it lives for a long time and becomes weak, it starts to weep. When its’ life naturally expires, the phoenix bursts into flames and becomes a pile of ash. ,But in that pile where it stood is something new, a tiny chick that is the new descendant of the previous. The phoenix dies and is then reborn, and before long it grows to be more beautiful and majestic than it was even before.
For Everton, a rebirth should mean no more obsessive hatred/comparisons with Liverpool. No more worshipping former players solely because of perceived ‘hardness’. No more ‘family club atmosphere’, where no one will tell anyone else any home truths. No more chips on our shoulders regarding our portrayal in the media. Let it all of that go, it’s only wasted energy and counter-productive to our supposed aims.
Football clubs that really achieve things are all, in equal measure, classy, ruthless, prudent, purposeful, and most of all, free of emotional hang ups. Let’s be one of those from now on.