By The Esk
I’m not usually one for showing emotion. In business, family and social life I’m the guy who shows the least reaction to events good or bad.
Football, actually Everton, though is different.
I’ve watched Everton for over 45 years. In the early days as a kid, it was the event, rather than the match which I recall. Going with my Grandad, him standing in exactly the same spot he had stood on since his first game at Goodison immediately after WW1, the Bullens side of the Gwladys Street terrace, 5 or 6 rows up from the front wall, directly in line with the side line of the penalty area. Always on the step in front of the crush barrier, “never stand behind the crush barrier son, always in front” was his advice. I used to make my way to the front wall, and in the early days stood on a milk crate like hundreds of other kids.
We used to walk to Goodison from Tuebrook, me taking two steps to his one. He always wore his work boots. Bizarrely he never tied the laces, only when he was on a ship would he tie his laces, and then tie a lace around the bottom of his trousers, so the rats wouldn’t run up them – “bow-yanks” he called them.
His Dad, my Great Grandad was at Goodison for our first game, and watched the club for many years, up to the beginning of WW1 hardly missing a game. He passed his love for Everton onto his son, my Grandad and I’m hugely grateful for him doing so.
It was my Grandad that taught me the line “senior club in the City”. He never let anyone forget the sequence of events in the late 1800’s, plus of course he was of the generation that saw Everton in our prime, genuinely for much of his life as the not only the senior club in the City but the biggest club in the land.
As was the case in those days he frequently wrote to the Echo, and occasionally the club when he saw something he didn’t like, or wasn’t up to his standards. Just occasionally he’d get a courteous reply thanking him for bringing it to the club’s attention.
He passed away in the mid 70’s, too early to see our resurgent 80’s side but thankfully too early to see the decline of our club from the late 80’s onwards.
What he would have made of that period of our history, Lord only knows. With absolute certainty, he would have been firing off letters to the Board demanding the return to best practices, the belief and commitment to NSNO. NSNO was not just a motto to him, it was the standard by which he expected not only “his” club but everyone else to live by. He had no time for wasted talents, or people who could not/would not deliver to the extent of their abilities. Like many of his generation, being working class denied him the opportunity to use his talents, to become educated beyond the age of 14. Even as a youngster I could see the aching frustration of him seeing others waste opportunities denied to him and many others. If he could only have had 5 minutes alone with Barkley……
You might wonder why I’m writing all this? Well, it’s because I see tonight as the beginning of a new phase in our history. Although we’ve had a full season already under the control and direction of Moshiri, Koeman and Walsh, last season was about turning around the damage on and off the pitch of decades of mis-management financially and footballing-wise. Before we could progress, we needed to recover.
Largely the recovery process is well under way, the club has a robust balance sheet, has attracted global financing, and is once more competitive in the transfer market. In addition, we’ve the new stadium which appears to be meeting all our wishes. It’s worth noting that given the club and the board have been criticised in the past for poor decision making etc. etc., it should also be congratulated for the vision at least, articulated by Robert Elstone in the blog piece last night.
There are clearly many issues still to be addressed as spoken about frequently on #EvertonBusinessMatters and I for one will continue as my Grandad would have done pointing out the issues and perhaps offering solutions too.
However, given the activities in the transfer market, and the probability of more to come, the time has arrived where the focus is now on the team to deliver given the qualities it now possesses.
Genuinely this is our first season of being competitive since 1984/85 in my mind, 33 long years, a third of a century. Now not even me at my optimistic best/worst (delete as appropriate) is suggesting we’ll repeat 84/85 but we’re in a better position to give it a good crack than any time since.
Of course, the mid 80’s team never developed into a dynasty. Events overtook, and the start of the period of under-investment meant we never strengthened when selling – a strategy that has continued until this summer. The great thing about this summer is that we’ve strengthened despite selling Lukaku (and now Barkley) and through Walsh and Unsworth in the Academy have a system, a process in place to allow the team and squad to develop in the years ahead, and become a dynasty that we should have created a third of a century ago.
My Grandad will be looking down on us tonight as we embark on this phase of our history. Just, maybe he’ll be looking at the team and the coaching staff and say we’re moving in the right direction at last. He won’t be truly satisfied though. One of his great sayings was “you don’t get anything for coming second in life” – he was after all living many years before the Champions League was dreamed off. For him NSNO meant only one thing – winning, and until we do start winning I’ll be writing on his behalf.
It’s the beginning of a new era tonight, and all Blues around the world will view it as the start to winning ways once more. Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, and I can’t wait.