Silva’s Season Of Highs and Lows

Marco Silva
Marco Silva

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening, depending on when you’re reading this. My name is Edward James and I’m the lunatic that speaks to his phone at Everton games. I also upload IMRs (instant match reactions) for the Toffee Blues YouTube channel, if you’re not subscribed yet then why? It’s good content. I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of being able to go to all 42 domestic games for the 18/19 season. The only missing moment? Winning the first trophy we’ve lifted since 1995, as the other lot like to remind us. So, I thought I’d step away from the recording beep, and to the taps of keyboard keys, for an Instant Season Reaction and review. I’m sorry, titles and introductions aren’t my strongest suit.

So, the 2018/19 season. It followed a miserable campaign of despair, boredom and spite, and that was just Koeman’s small part. It really couldn’t get much worse than last season. We kicked off with a new Director of Football in Marcel Brands. Experienced and pivotal in any recent success for PSV Eindhoven, and my personal signing of the season. Next came Marco Silva, a young and naïve manager with potential, that split the fanbase on whether he was the right man for the job. Under the guidance and watchful eye of Marcel, Farhad and Bill, our season started with some vast debate over our recruitment. A couple of “Barcelona rejects”, Chelsea’s fallen man, the Brazilian the world forgot and the one that “ruined the transfer market”. All valid opinions, but how wrong we were.

August started off in the most Everton way. Debuts played, and opinions already made, we had a mediocre pre-season to say the least. Our season kicked off though with a visit to the Molineux, to championship high-flyers Wolverhampton Wanderers. Evertonians cautious as to what lay ahead for the game, and the season. But a special chant of ‘Hi Ho Marco Silva’ to accompany Wolves’ walk out music appeared and showed the optimism Evertonians had for the season. We took the lead twice through Richarlison, a sign of things to come, only to leave Wolverhampton with spoils shared and 10 men on the pitch. A speculative decision and another sign of things to come. Goodison’s first game of the season ended with a 2-1 win over Southampton, positive again and a well-earned result to really kick off the season. A visit to the Vitality left Everton cherry picked off two points from Bournemouth. Down to 10 men again and leaving supporters with worries of the cracks showing in set piece dealings. August rounded off with a 3-1 expected demolition of Rotherham in the league cup, and Evertonians happy and starting to believe in their club again. “Undefeated and in good form, not bad at all” I thought.

But of course, happiness doesn’t always last forever. The Terriers taking a point, and a hammering from West Ham before the Goodison faithful. Those set piece worries starting to grow with a few in the crowd, and Goodison start to wonder is ‘Silva the right man’? Another defeat followed at the Emirates, another worrying officiating display for the 2nd goal but fans, including myself, believed Everton deserved more. A lack of cowardice but also that clinical edge cost the team in the end. But we all recognised the attitude this team had. September finished with a classy win over Fulham, and a standout performance from Sigurdsson. A player under much criticism, mine included, in recent times, stood tall and winning the respect of all.

October was an early league cup exit, now some more concerns from fans, including myself. Another manager that wasn’t taking this cup seriously, are we getting another manager that won’t progress us? My worries were quelled with back-to-back wins over Leicester at the King Power, and Palace at Goodison. Gylfi’s goal of the season being particularly spectacular, and Everton taking advantage against a 10-man Leicester, particularly Bernard who ‘tore them apart’. The Palace game showed an ability to bounce back and win the support. Pickford’s penalty save and goals from Tosun and Dominic Calvert-Lewin to win the points when it could have been so different. Another positive display for fans at Old Trafford, we were leaving proud of the display but again disappointed at official decisions, it was a bitter taste for the away fans as again, we believed we deserved more. However, a certain rendition of Oasis’ ‘She’s Electric’ made its debut…and has stuck around to this day.

November? A very good part for fans for the season. Another month undefeated with wins against Brighton and Cardiff respectively, and a draw at Stamford Bridge squidged in between. Support flourished more for Silva and his tactics. We started to believe again, “we’re getting points against the big teams, we’re actually getting better” I thought. Signings like Mina, Gomes and Zouma were proving their worth and winning blue hearts all around. The team was flowing with positivity and a real vibe of togetherness, the form and fans proving it so. BUT…that all changed so quickly, and so horribly.

A trip across Stanley Park to the team in their stride and the reds of Merseyside. It always is a good atmosphere in the derbies, the rivalry and hatred flowing around the stadium, and a game to prove it. Tackles and shots flying in and out. Everton were never out of it for a second, and we all believed this could be the time we win again at Anfield. But of course, we all know what happened. Pickford’s mistake and Origi’s winner broke the hearts of everyone connected with Everton. But still, we applauded our team. We knew they gave their all, and again proved our belief that we could take the game to the big teams. But December has always been a bad month for Everton. We’ve never been able to deal with the fixture congestion like other teams can. Defeats at the Etihad and the Amex, a battering from Spurs at Goodison to accompany draws against Watford and Newcastle, they all left a sour note to the season’s end. However, we did get a nice, late Christmas present on Boxing Day. A 5-1 win over Burnley at Turf Moor, and the words of “Jingle Bells, oh what fun it is to see Everton win away” ringing through the away end. My favourite game of the season, it showed our team with a clinical edge, and fans just enjoying the time and forgetting everything else that has happened.

But the new year began as it ended, a horrendous defeat to an underperforming Leicester City didn’t help the hungover fans that made the trip to Goodison for a 12:30 kick off. Another defeat at Southampton and support for Silva was starting to unravel, much like the form that only a couple of months ago, supporters thought as a sign of the future. While wins against Lincoln City in the FA Cup, and against Bournemouth and Huddersfield put points on the league table, one of the worst games of Silva’s reign reared its head. And if there was ever a point where Evertonians started to turn against Silva’s tactics, it was this one. The next round of the FA Cup, and the Lion’s Den waited for Evertonians. Fans arrived at the game with optimism, fear and caution mixed together. A toxic atmosphere from Millwall, both on and off the field proved too much for Everton. Going from winning the game twice, to capitulating at set pieces proved enough for supporters and the Silva Out parade started to grow.

The #SilvaOut starting to appear more and more in February. Consecutive defeats to Wolverhampton and Manchester City at Goodison, with another at a hostile Vicarage Road to Silva’s old team Watford added salt to a growing wound in the fanbase. It was splitting quicker than a centre half pairing under Martinez (Sorry Bobby, still love you though). It was either “Silva out, he’s not good enough!” or “Silva needs time, he’s got a massive job to repair this team”. And with games against most of the top 6 coming soon, Cardiff was turning into a must win game for supporting anxiety and worry. A 3-0 win and dominant display at Cardiff City, on a Tuesday night, once again showed promising signs of what we could be under Silva. I, like most fans, was happy to get another win and show our belief in Marco. The chants of Everton and the players were being heard again. “But it is only Cardiff City, they’re s##te” said most of the Silva Out brigade, “he needs to do it in the big games”. Well Marco did just that.

The Merseyside Derby returned to Goodison, and Liverpool were flying in form and needing a win to keep up with the superpowered team of Manchester City, and take over the title race. If there was ever a game for Silva to win the fans back, this was one of them. However, there was something different in this derby. The Siren. Fans welcomed this addition. It brought a real unite and fight to Goodison, making the atmosphere like the days of Southall and Ratcliffe. It brought a real fear to the Liverpool team; all you must do is see Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson’s reaction before walking onto the pitch. Goodison became a bear pit again, and Silva used this to his advantage. The team, the manager, the fans all united and managed to make a significant result in the title race, leading Klopp to start blaming the wind for a poor Liverpool performance (ha ha). The team played one of its best games, especially Michael Keane. I’ve not mentioned one of my favourite players much, Keane has turned it around this season and has been consistently performing brilliantly. He has fast become one of the first names on the team sheet, which I personally love to see.

The derby did bring a real togetherness and unite fans again, and the wound was healing at a quicker rate. Silva’s support had grown again, and his zonal marking tactics and attacking philosophy were pleasing the fans. We travelled to Newcastle, believing in a win. But we all know how that turned out. Newcastle bouncing back from 2-0 down and another defeat that brought some of the Silva Out brigade again. But I, like most fans, thought this just showed a side and manager with naivety and potential to learn from mistakes. The following results proved so. Consecutive wins against Chelsea, West Ham and Arsenal showed Silva was learning how to win games, and how to control and dominate teams. Fans could see real improvement and were uniting behind Silva. But of course, we are Everton. Winning consecutively three times, with wins against top 6 teams as well, and heading to a relegated side. We were always going to lose. Fans and the team were too arrogant and took the game for granted, Fulham taught us to never expect a result in the Premier League.

Everton returned to Goodison to host Manchester United, a bitter rival of the whole city and a team where we all thought we could get a win against. The siren played out around Goodison (it’s basically become tradition since the Derby) and there was a roar from the Gwladys Street I personally had never heard before. It was loud, thundering, and made the ground shake. This was a stadium of supporters that backed their team and their manager. The team pulled the result off. The score finished 4-0 and you could have filled the Goal of the Season votes with all four. Mine is Lucas Digne’s though, phenomenal strike. He’s also not been spoken about much, what a season he’s had! Our best and most consistent player by far.

And so, we had three games left with nothing really to play for. European qualification was basically impossible, so we were playing for pride. But Evertonians still cheered them on. A draw at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park showed our lack of experience in front of goal, but we didn’t lose. A comfortable 2-0 win against Burnley, at the final Goodison game of the season was overshadowed by the lap of appreciation from the players. Supporters were in unison for the side and showed their gratitude as well. It was brilliant to see.

Now we’ve come to the final day of the season. Our last game at the new Tottenham Hotspurs Ground, one final chance for Everton to show its new mentality against one of the top sides of the world. Spurs and their fans made it tough, 1-0 up in three minutes and the crowd behind the team. Spurs to most Everton fans is a blueprint of where Everton should be. A young side of talent, with a talented coach who’s learnt so much for a young age and challenging in European titles at their frankly fantastic stadium. But Evertonians still cheered their team, mainly because of other results on the day, and it got the team going again. To be 2-1 up at a top 6 side’s ground showed promise again. Eriksen brought the game back to 2-2 with a fantastic free kick, but we fans didn’t care. We were proud of the team for their performance in this game and the whole season.  It was made even better when City beat Liverpool in the title race and were crowned Champions of England, going on to complete their domestic treble as well.

And that’s it, the season is now over. Like I say, I’ve been lucky enough to get to every game this season, so I’ve been able to see this team with Marco grow, make their mistakes and learn. Special mention to all the fantastic players this season and Marco for standing by his tactics as they’ve proved everyone wrong. Also, I’d like to shout out, all my friends from the away/home coaches and Goodison, and the Toffee Blues as well, you’ve made this season even more special for me. I’d do it all again if I could.

So, before I reach 2500 words, I’ll summarise. Marco’s first season with the Everton Crest on his chest. It’s been a season of regeneration, and not just for careers like Keane, Gomes and Sigurdsson but the club’s identity as well. Gone have these ideas that Everton will quiver before the big clubs, or that Goodison is a place of misery and boredom. Now, Everton are staking their claim and showing their potential, to be a part of the top teams again. It’s still a long way to go yet, and maybe this will all disappear next season. But I think, we’ve shown what we can do. We’ve shown we can bring back the days where Everton are a club to fear. How do those words go again? “If you know your history”

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