November 2016. Everton top the Premier League. But only in a poll organised by TalkSport, which listed The Blues as the most likeable side in the division.
That made me smile. A bit of fun that sees your team come out on top. Cue the tit-for-tat insults and debates on what is right and what is wrong but I (biased of course) know it is well deserved.
Everton are a club that gives to the community. A charity unparalleled by no other football initiative, the work Everton in the Community does is diverse and so far reaching, almost every walk of life benefits. The Fan Services department is constantly exploring new ways of improving the support experience for supporters both Blue and our visitors. (*And no they can’t improve Goodison Park’s restricted views before any away fan tries to be clever. The new stadium (fingers crossed) will take care of that problem.*)
The off-field exploits is something I do not want changing! Football is now often seen as a multi-billion pound industry that cares little for fans and only about wealth, so to have a club, my club, providing a glimmer of humanity to those less fortunate is something we should ALL be aspiring to do.
For a long time though, I fear this likeability factor is also as evident on the pitch as well as off. Now, this piece is not some irrational response to Tottenham hitting us for six at home recently, although that has certainly exacerbated the situation. Every Evertonian will have done their own debrief on the defeat, attributing blame to who they feel it should go to and exactly what it is Marco Silva’s men are missing on the pitch. A new striker and right-back seems to be a must amongst the Blue faithful, but I see another glaring gap: leadership and a bit of nastiness.
The TalkSport piece I mentioned is very telling. The only club to not have a picture of players on the field, or supporters in the stands, is Everton. Instead, we have a picture of Speedo Mick, another fine example of someone going above and beyond for those less fortunate than he, strolling the streets in the attire he is now famous for. Again I reiterate, the exploits of Mick and charitable endeavours are something that gives me a real sense of pride.??But the lines now appear to be blurred off and on-field.
Football is about winning! Yes, we can’t all be number one, but any that enter the game must surely have the will to one day get to that most coveted spot. And Everton have done it nine times, with only Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal bettering our total of titles (sorry Sky Sports, but football was invented long before you came along and saved it)! Yet the Blues seem content with just making up the numbers and knowing the place Sky Sports deem they should be in. Dominic Calvert-Lewin sees a goal chalked out for what was minimal of contact on Davinson Sánchez, while Son Heung-Min clearly runs the ball out before delivering his cross. Each occasion was met with little-to-no resistance from the Toffees.
Now, I don’t agree with the referee being surrounded and harassed, but where is the leadership, the bite and the desire to right the wrongs from Everton? Calvert-Lewin’s ‘goal’ puts Silva’s men 2-0 up. It was disallowed and then there seems to be an acceptance of Tottenham being the better side and destined for the three points. Let’s be honest, Tottenham are a better side than us, but I see Man City as superior to Crystal Palace, and the Eagles overcame the odds to stun Pep Guardiola’s men. Upsets happen, wonder goals are scored and teams perform below par. Why do Everton never upset anyone?
The 1980’s was a glorious time for the Blues. A team packed full of quality, endeavour and leadership, coupled with players capable of dishing it out if and when required. I look at our team of yesterday and see quality, there is endeavour, but leadership and players determined to mix it? No. A mentality seems to engulf the club, one that is brow-beaten into acceptance of a status that modern day football has placed on us.
Tim Cahill, a hero of the Gwladys Street, will never be considered the most technically gifted, but his knack of getting the vital goal and infectious belief that no game was ever lost until the final whistle, no matter who the opposition, is something so sorely lacking on the Goodison pitch these days. Duncan Ferguson, in my opinion a huge underachiever, could never be accused of not putting himself about the field when he was in the mood. I could name more, but would struggle to pinpoint any in recent years.
I stress, I am not looking for a team that is associated with thuggery and brutality (two things Big Dunc was often accused of to be fair), but I would happily drop a few places in the likeability league for a few more points and some performances that befit playing for Everton Football Club. Silva and co. will come up against better opposition but simply believing that you can’t win and are happy to accept defeat like a good soul cannot continue. After all, self-belief didn’t do Leicester City any harm a few seasons back!
Keep up the niceties and life-changing work off the field, it sets my club apart from the rest, and I totally agree with the proverb that it’s nice to be nice. Just not all of the time!