By Dave Downie
It’s the kind of football that makes you struggle to think back to a time when you actually enjoyed watching your team. Sadly, you could say that about any of Everton’s performances under the three individuals who’ve been charged with overseeing what has long since become a quagmire of a squad this season.
The fickle finger of blame has pointed in every direction at some point, but the common trait from whomever it takes aim at is at best indecisiveness and at worst outright incompetence.
Take any of the key protagonists in Everton’s dreadful season, and their part in it reads like the dialogue from a Carry On film.
Let’s take a closer look.
Managers Koeman and Allardyce (we’ll excuse David Unsworth due to mitigating circumstances) have each shown clinical ineptitude in their work, none of which you would even dream of associating with any level of management in professional football. Dominic Calvert-Lewin starting at right-wing back and bringing Morgan Schneiderlin on when 3-0 down at Spurs are two particular highlights from each of their efforts on the touchline. But there’s an extra doff of the cap to Big Sam as he said the shot-shy effort at Wembley was too adventurous for his team and they needed to be more boring.
One of Director of Football Steve Walsh’s responses at the club’s AGM when talking about his attempts to replace Romelu Lukaku was to reel out the statistic that Everton would’ve finished seventh last season without the Belgian’s goals. That’s right. The man in charge of recruitment justified not signing a striker by effectively saying the club’s record Premier League goalscorer was in fact useless. The kind of logic you’d see from Lord Melchett in Blackadder Goes Forth, for those who’ve seen it. Near £200 million spent to score 26 goals in 24 games and concede fewer than only Huddersfield, West Ham, Stoke and Watford.
Not to be outdone, Farhad Moshiri’s resolute defence of an under-fire Koeman at one point was to state that a home defeat to Burnley was the only unexpected defeat of the campaign. This was also a comment from a late night chat with Jim White, who the Iranian revealed calls him anonymously in the small hours and sometimes confuses him for Bill Kenwright. All normal then. Nothing to see here. If only the club had a PR and communications department.
Of course, many people will point to the players as the main reason for this season’s decline. They’d be correct too, with less than a handful able to really hold their heads up high.
Amongst the worst, though? Schneiderlin, Williams, Martina and Keane will take some beating with the former’s effort against West Brom being spoken of in terms of an Antolin Alcaraz masterclass in Kiev by some.
We’ve seen a fan trying to push a player in order to protect his child having previously been stood twenty feet away (see Lyon at home), an English record European exit and being knocked out of domestic cup competitions at the earliest possible stage, one of which a Merseyside derby to a late goal from a defender who hasn’t been fit or bothered for more than a year.
A bugbear for many Evertonians over the years has been the self-fulfilling negativity amongst their peers inside Goodison, but surely that can be excused when a club that speaks so loudly about ambition and prospects in turn falters and plunges to the depths of ineptitude currently on show.
There’s a wider issue here, though, and it’s a palpable lack of leadership and accountability at all levels of the club. Forget the season, it’s a write off and has been for some time. Fortunately survival probably won’t be an issue due to the deluge in the bottom half of the table – it’s staggering that Everton are still ninth.
The more worrying aspect in every regard is how it changes. Thus far, a scattergun approach to throwing money at the problem has only made matters worse. The appointment of Sam Allardyce following Koeman’s dismissal is looking increasingly rushed and panic-stricken.
But more overwhelmingly, what does Everton stand for these days? Words such as identity, direction and purpose seem to have little or no meaning in relation to what the club wants to be right now and how it conducts itself.
Even if there is an understanding internally, then where is the output being shown? It’s much more than spending money and signing players – sadly the peak for many people as fans in the last generation came at a time when the club was financially just about keeping its head above water.
The harsh reality about spending money in this game is that it takes even more money to put it right – just look at the rebuilding job ahead in the summer already, that’s without taking into account the uncertainty and longevity of Sam Allardyce’s tenure.
False dawns are unfortunately common place at Everton and in many ways, this season has been the biggest of them all.
Somebody needs to get a grip of the situation quickly before uncertainty and decline become common practice.