I spent some time deliberating over the way in which to approach this article, for quite some time to no avail. It is long overdue, to say the least.
At this point in the season, the state of my brain is most accurately described as an eddy of sheer disappointment and razed hope. Yet, I still possess the ability to articulate my thoughts and worries regarding my club, whom I love dearly.
In light of recent results, I look only to the bottom of the table, at hapless Aston Villa, with troubled eyes. I really do feel for the Villans, not least because of their rich heritage that has inexcusably been tarnished by the most rotten of seasons, but also, because I see a bit of Everton in the Midlands club’s troubling scenario.
May 2010, a couple months’ shy of six years ago, saw Aston Villa finish in 6th place, only three points above the Blues. With current Toffees stand-in captain Gareth Barry leaving before the season’s commencement, the exodus from Villa Park had begun. With the club once again unable to ascertain a new shiny ornament for the trophy cabinet, James Milner left the following season, seeking pastures new. Ashley Young and Stewart Downing departed the year after, lured away by the call of money and success like moths to a flame.
Things never looked up since 2010, with the once great Villans failing to finish in the top half ever since, leading to the position they’re in now. Tragic, not only for Villa fans but for English football.
Then we come to the perplexing predicament of Everton Football club.
A fifth place finish in Roberto Martinez’s first season at the helm was exemplary, with the Catalonian surprising even those who had held faith in his abilities as a manager.
Yet, as with the curious case of Aston Villa, failure to capture silverware could cost the club dearly.
Players are constantly being linked with moves away to bigger clubs, clubs that can compete continentally, and if the Everton fail to achieve European qualification once again this season, I fear the worst. An exodus could easily follow in the summer, with a large number of Everton’s players being courted by clubs that possess much deeper pockets than that of their current employers.
For much of the season, Everton have remained below the delineating line that separates the elite from the ordinary. It is with great pain and sadness that we seemingly belong to the latter of those categorisations.
But what could be the reason for this? Simply, the management.
Everton are underachievers, no question about it. Despite Martinez’s ever consistent parochial attitude to the string of crippling results that are psychologically ravaging the squad, it remains a fact that the Spaniard is not doing enough with the squad at his disposal, in the most lucid sense.
Bereft of ideas, Martinez’s proclivity to capitulate lies within his failure to effectively utilise the cards nestled between his fingers. Unbalanced line-ups are becoming an identifiable trait for the former Wigan manager, whose inability to field two wingers is becoming beyond farcical. Poor substitutions are similarly becoming a habit, often contributing to the negative hysteria of the ever-nervous fan base.
Roberto’s teams are too nice. As a club, Everton employ little on-field snide, which whilst some may view as applaudable, is not acceptable at this level. To a certain degree, Everton have been subject to various Machiavellian acts from opposing players, whilst failing to respond by fighting fire with fire. This just isn’t acceptable.
Any self-respecting football fan in the country, if being honest, will state that they too are being left mystified by the poor position of the Toffees. It’s asinine that with all of the flair and footballing pyrotechnics accessible, the club are gazing up at Watford, West Ham and Stoke.
It’s difficult to explain to neutrals, but there is very little worse than consistently being led on to believe a resurgence is in effect, before being knocked back down to earth with a swift left hook. The League Cup was one of these such instances. As I imagine most Evertonians did who live far from the gravitational pull of Manchester city centre, I attended the game in the nearest bar showing the fixture, hope and excitement swirling throughout my anatomy. Swiftly, and viciously, the stream of positive emotions I was experiencing was severed in a brutal display.
Leon Osman starting? Gerard Deulofeu replaced after an hour? Arouna Koné being in the match day squad? All valid questions I frequently asked aloud, accompanied by a number of expletives. The game shattered me, physically and emotionally, and I’m not ashamed to say it took me a few days to effectively recover. All this, and I was sat in a warm, underpopulated bar with cheap alcoholic refreshments on tap a mere few metres from my location. I daren’t imagine the pain and despair that would have accompanied those magnificent fans who had travelled to the Etihad.
As Evertonians, we have been forcefully trained to accept failure, to accept that we’re likely to fall before the finish line; however that certainly doesn’t mean we should accept it. As Alan Ball once said, ‘Once Everton has touched you, you’ll never be the same again.’ You can’t just stop supporting the club, you can’t just walk away, it just isn’t in our DNA. Once you’ve discovered the elation and joy of celebrating an Everton victory in amongst the Blue family, you’re stuck with the club to the inevitable end, through the sensational positives and the abhorrent negatives.
‘Everton, realistically, will never really challenge at the highest level.’ Saw that on my twitter timeline the other day. When ‘Robert Huth brace fires Leicester City to a 6-point lead atop the Premier League Table’ exists as a tabloid headline, anything is possible. If you had looked before the season at both Everton and Leicester’s starting line-ups, Everton’s players are better in every position. Yet with a manager focusing the team’s energy, vigour and attitude to match their strengths, they have stormed the Premier League, and rightly so, they deserve it.
I’m 19 years old. I was born in 1996, a year after Everton’s last real success, and I’ll be damned if I have to go another 19 years without seeing the club lift a trophy.
Whether or not the proposed American consortium takes the reigns from Bill Kenwright, change is needed. It’s essential because without it the reigns will continue to strangle the club until it starts to suffocate.
I hope I get to a point in my life when Nil Satis Nisi Optimum begins to mean something.
It’s the hope that kills you…