The Everton Mentality
In light of the recent 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Tottenham, Everton were condemned to their 4th loss in their 5th visit to the new Wembley Stadium since it’s opening in the March of 2007. The lacklustre performance furthers a run of 4 games without a point picked up and a 6th without a win.
8 days prior to the embarrassing performance which gifted Harry Kane the accolade of Tottenham’s highest ever Premier League scorer, 8,000 Evertonians made the trip to Anfield in the FA Cup. I was one of the devoted Blues to make the walk, and pre-match, Blues fans seemed to be in particularly optimistic spirits; certainly at The Abbey pub, facing the gates of Stanley Park with the Grand Old Lady just a stroll behind us. Just before setting off to make the infamous walk across Stanley Park, an elderly gentleman staggered into the toilet, clearly under the influence and full of courage he bellowed: “We’ll do these, Everton aren’t we!”. The statement brought out a few chuckles from those around, but no one seeming to believe what he had said. Of course this is the standard reaction to someone who’s slurring his words after one too many pints of Stella, but it got me thinking, are we the Everton that instills fear purely because of the name? This is proving not to be the case, as year after year Everton collapse when it matters most.
This is more commonly discussed as Everton’s mentality of being the “nearly men”, or even the “7th member of the top 6”, and at this rate, we’re not even that anymore. Of course, as the football gods had written it, Liverpool’s new £72 million man Virgil van Dijk grabbed an 88th minute winner in that game, towering above captain Phil Jagielka and nodding past onrushing keeper Jordan Pickford, quelling any hope of ending our baron run at our old stomping ground, which hasn’t seen a Toffees win since 1999, suffering 10 defeats at Anfield since.
Although putting up more fight than usual, Everton eventually caved in to the pressure. Falling apart on the grandest stages has become synonymous with Everton in recent history; particularly against the Premier Leagues bigger sides, having not won at the Emirates since its opening in July 2006 (our last win away at Arsenal coming at Highbury in January 1996), and our last win at Stamford Bridge (in 90 minutes) came in November of 1994. Our last win at Old Trafford despite the 1-0 win over a David Moyes managed side in the 13/14 season came in August 1992, the Premier League’s first season since taking over the old First Division.
Although records at Tottenham and Manchester City in the past have been considerably better, Everton still approach such games with an underdog mentality, yet to win at Tottenham since November 2008, or at Manchester City since December 2010; a game that very much epitomises Everton’s inability to deal with pressure being the 3-1 defeat in the League Cup semi final 2nd leg at the Etihad in 2016, holding a 2-1 aggregate over City and scoring early in the game, yet (albeit the controversy of the 3rd) we concede 3 and crash out of the cup. The underdog mentality capsulated the Moyes era, not being able to compete financially with such teams, yet giving them a run for their money on the pitch, particularly at Goodison, however, with the £150m influx of Farhad Moshiri, this underdog mentality should not be as prominent.
Everton have crashed out of Europe, the FA Cup and the League Cup, each at the first hurdle, and a case can be made that both Cup games were winnable in their own right, and on paper, we should have topped our Europa League group. We have lost Stones to Manchester City, Lukaku to Manchester United and now Barkley to Chelsea. All teams known for their ability to dominate games and win trophies, something far adrift from Everton; our greatest achievement so far this season coming from 2 down at home against mid-table Watford to win 3-2 late on; in order for this “underdog” mentality to change, this Everton side must be dominating games they are expected to win, starting with West Brom at Goodison this Saturday. A big win would boost the atmosphere around a fairly miserable Goodison as of the last few seasons and develop a fortress reputation once again before our planned move to a stadium on the banks of the royal blue Mersey. Names such as Rooney, Sigurdsson, Tosun and now Walcott should produce enough fire power to win such mediocre games.
Despite this season being yet again void of any silverware, this needs to be the ambition for the next; by recuperating the motto of “Nil Satis Nisi Optimum” and getting back to winning ways with big performances. Not becoming “more boring”, as Sam Allardyce so eloquently worded. A phrase that springs to mind is that of the legendary Harry Catterick, commenting on the fact Everton’s home shirts in the 1960s had no badge: “There is no need for a badge on the shirt. Everton are the team that play in blue and white. Everyone knows who we are; we don’t need to tell them.”