It’s April 1st1995, a 9-year-old fresh faced Bramley Toffee Pip (apple pun) equipped with his monthly edition of ‘The Evertonian’. Fully kitted in his NEC 93-95 Everton Umbro kit, and on his merry way to his first ever visit to the ‘not as old as now’ Old Lady to go and watch the mighty blues take on post war failures Blackburn Rovers.
Blackburn had not won a major trophy since 1928 whereas the mighty toffees were league champions a meagre 7 years ago. We had recent history, we were a big club, we helped form the Premier League; this sorry bunch of chumps are going to regret the day they came to visit the team with the 4thhighest stadium capacity in the country.
Now from what we all see of him in the media, I think Chris Sutton would very much raise the tiniest hint of a grin if he knew he dashed the hopes and dreams of an enthusiastic 9-year-old Evertonian after 16-seconds. Yes that’s right 16 seconds! You know that bit in Home Hlone 2 when Kevin McAllister is watching the Grinch in the limo, and the Grinch’s bitter look transcends into a smile & then it fades into Tim Curry grinning with glee as Curry (also) kills all the hopes and dreams of a young 9 year old boy? Chris Sutton is Tim Curry, Alan Shearer netting 5 minutes later to make it 2-0 is certainly taking up the mantle of Rob Schneider.
Now that game finished 2-1 to Blackburn who went on to win the title that year, welcome to Everton to me (but that’s another story). Blackburn bought the title that year right? Not an embarrassment to get beat by a team with such resources? That season Blackburn spent a combined £6.8m on Jeff Kenna, Robbie Slater & Tim Curry. In comparison Everton spent a combined £10.9m on Duncan Ferguson, Daniel Amokachi, Chinny Samways & The Duke of Earl Barrett.
Blackburn, a club perceived as not one of the country’s “Big 5” at the time, not from a major city, a capacity of around 28,000, recently promoted to the Premiership & had not won a pot since 1928. Why were they coming to our famous “massive” club and practically killing the game in 6 minutes? Simple…………they were a well-run club, a very well-run club.
The 90s was great for my generation, too young to remember any of the bad stuff but now old enough to get nostalgic about cassette tapes of return of the Mack, killing Tamagotchi’s, Wade Smith & getting chased by cows that you thought were bulls in Colomendy (or was the last one just me?).
But I am going to have to fast forward to modern day; would we be expecting to beat Blackburn now? Or at least there equivalent, say…Wolves? The answer, my fellow blue brethren, I’m sure some of you are not going to enjoy.
Now the title headline seems to be the new “Come on Everton these are shit!” Log in to any social media outlet and you will see multiple comments of “we should be beating the likes of (insert any team not in the top 6) at home”. What is our actually God given right to beat these teams? Some of them skilled, well ran clubs with a set system & some top-quality players, some of them well organised, designed to set up defensively, frustrate the home team, to play the clock out, to do anything in their power to fight, scrap & battle for any point going.
Over those 20-odd years of going the game I have seen some capitulations to a combination of the good, the bad & the ugly teams. In 1996 we lost 4-0 to a Wimbledon team full of massive but organised meat heads (think Huddersfield but with ability) that even Neal Eardley scored.
In ‘97 a 1-2 reverse to newly promoted Crystal Palace, anyone remember losing 1-0 to Pierre Van Hooijdonk’s Nottingham Forest after they had lost a billion games on the spin and Pierre had been on a 12 week self-proscribed holiday? 3-0 defeats to the likes of Ipswich, Charlton & Portsmouth, Big Sam’s Bolton coming to Goodison and completely humiliating us 4-1, Paul Ince’s Blackburn team facing a team consisting of 16 year olds Jack Rodwell & Jose Baxter and beating us 3-2, and it seemed like Chris Brunt & Paul Scharner scored at Goodison for 5 years running. While at times our record at Goodison has been good, it is not a massive surprise that we occasionally don’t beat teams who turn up to Goodison with no fear and a plan. So why should we be beating these team at home?
“Everton Aren’t We” I hear you say.
While on that day at Wembley in 2016 we all found a new hero on Wembley Way, albeit in a guy who on camera at least looks what the result of Steve Buscemi pro creating with a Pitbull, he has been my own personal highlight of the past 3-4 years supporting Everton. Unfortunately I feel our feeling of grandeur is a hinderance to what we have seen at L4, especially in recent years.
While I may get accused of not showing any ambition and being exactly what is wrong with the club the past 20 years, what do you actually expect? What have we done or achieved in the modern game that is relevant today? We hear so much about how we are such a big club, but how big are we actually?
What defines a big club? Stadium, History, Fanbase, Marketing Ability, Longevity, Spending Power, Location? There are a lot of things that people see on a self-edited tick list to define a big club, but I’ll stick with the usual factors
History – Every club has history, some of it successful, some of it not so successful! Some of it is not defined in trophies won but more for a style from a certain period, an iconic figure in the past. It can be defined in so many different ways. We all know our trophy haul in the 9 league titles (4 best in the country), 5 FA Cups (joint 8thwith City, West Brom & Wanderers) 0 League cups & A European Cup Winners Cup (Now defunct), when the list breaks down to major trophies won it goes as follows, Man Utd (42), Liverpool (41), Arsenal (29), Chelsea (22), Villa (20), Spurs (17), Everton (15), City (13), Newcastle (11), Sunderland (9). Now I am trying to stay away from statistics in this piece but I thought this was a good point to view that City will possibly take over us this season, leaving us the 8thmost successful team in the country.
You would hear people argue that the likes of City’s & Chelsea’s totals aren’t classed as history because trophies have mainly come after large takeovers, but Chelsea’s dominance in particular has been over the space of almost 15 years now – that is long enough to be classes as an era! Our biggest and most successful era was over a 4-year spell in the 80s – 4 years that’s all. In fact, only 2 of our league titles have come since 1970, that’s almost 50 years.
Our European record is terrible compared to the sides we would like to think we stand along with in terms of things won. Liverpool, Chelsea, United, Forest, Villa all had famous teams to have won the trophies, while the likes of Arsenal & Leeds have at least had runs to the final. The UEFA Cup is again something we have not even got to a Quarter Final of, whilst Ipswich have proudly won that trophy as have Spurs twice – even Middlesbrough & Fulham have reached the final in recent years. We are proud of our Cup Winners Cup victory, and rightly so, but we are on par in European competition with West Ham, that is a very sobering thought indeed.
We all talk about some of the greats that have played for our club, your Dixie Deans, Brian Labones, Neville Southalls, Alan Balls. All absolute giants of the English game, all seen as masters of their profession and have stood the test of time. West Ham fans would say the exact same about Bobby Moore, Trevor Brooking, Geoff Hurst & Tim Reiper (maybe not the last one but its nice to hear his name). Every club has legends, Bolton have the great Nat Lofthouse, Preston have Tom Finney all in the far too distance past, and unfortunately, that is not important in today’s game.
Goodison is my bae, I love that place, the noise of the chairs as Cenk stumbles towards to the Gwladys only to kick it out for a throw in to watch some pink faced middle-aged fella with a cholesterol level of 190 telling him he’s a “massive bag of dog slop” is one of the most beautiful things in my life. But even our fanbase is not “Big Club”. Number wise attending games we are good, sell out every away (but I have my own reasons why that happens which I’ll save for another time). Attendance wise we have always been around 6-10thin the country, this season we have mostly been 9th. 9thbest team in the league, with the 9thbest attendance? Makes sense doesn’t it.
Commercially we are miles behind the actual big clubs without going too stat heavy. We all know the Premier League is now a juggernaut that will eventually take over the world in some sort of Mad Max/Terminator hybrid where a cyborg from the future that looks like some of your favourite stars will be coming back to kill your first born. If Mikel Arteta knocks at my door with a sawn-off shot gun, I’ll take the risk and ask him for a cuddle.
Considering we were part of the “Big 5” that formed the competition, we have been pushed out of that door and left to sleep in the shed with an old bike, a sander that should have been returned to the neighbour months ago and an old “Magnificent 7th” VHS. But at least we have shelter, at least we aren’t Aston Villa – they have been left out to pasture, we don’t know when they will be back. Nottingham Forest, Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday have all been stuck in the Championship longer than the grass at the Etihad.
We are not in the party of 6 that Sky have built together, in fact I question if they even want Arsenal & Spurs in it so when it comes to commercially we ae not going to get anywhere near City, Chelsea, Man Utd & Liverpool. The desperation to want to be involved in that party may be a reason why the atmosphere has gone toxic in recent years. Under Moyes we were disturbing the apple cart, we were punching above our weight financially and although there were so many holes to that side, we knew what we were and where we stood.
Reality bites, and the sooner we realise that, then we can all climb off this massive pedestal that at the moment is bigger than the Radio City Tower. No one has a God given right to collect points in this league, and as a whole the players & fans together need to realise that. No one cares about us, no one ever really has or will. But why do we need that approval? That status as a “Big” club? The need to feel superior to those tricky reds and have the likes of Daniel Craig or some other biff cling onto the coat tails to make themselves feel relevant?
Not for me, that 9-year-old didn’t care about any of that! Growing up at Goodison Park (figuratively not literally). Some of my best days have been there! Being able to swear in front of my family purely on the basis it was telling Kopites exactly what they were, Duncan’s turn and shot v Liverpool in ‘97, Rhino laying one on Fowler in the same game, the Cadamateri derby, Kevin Campbell bailing us out in 99, Unsworth v Fulham, Radzinski’s late 2 v Southampton, that Rooney goal, Carsley 1-0 ,Duncan v Utd in 05, Neville’s tackle, Fiorentina, Gosling v Liverpool, Osman v Larissa, 3-0 v Arsenal with Baines telling Arteta were to go (sorry Mikel), Lukaku v Chelsea! You can’t tell me none of that equals to nothing, you can’t tell me that’s all gone? Limbs every time for those moments and we weren’t anywhere near fighting for titles.
Sure, Moshiri’s money has raised expectation, and we have wasted that so far. Sure in today’s game with 24/7 news coverage and a bigger spotlight on an elite group we may look in with an enviable eye!
At the moment we are a team ranging from 7thto 11th. Apart from a few years here and there and a short stint in the 80s that is were we have more than often been.
Brian Labone famously said “One Evertonian is Worth 20 Liverpudlians” and he’s right. It would have been easy to follow that lot up the park, and cling onto a bunch of trophies won by a bunch of people before I was even born. Bounce round town on match day in my official LFC socks, with my “Egyptian King” memorabilia dinner set, spending my anniversaries at the Shankly talking to a hologram, watching my John Bishop DVD. We all could have taken the easy route if we wanted to.
Don’t lose sight of who you are & who we are! Supporting Everton is never going to be easy, but would you have it any other way? And if you can’t love Everton for what we are, then maybe Everton aren’t for you!
So next time we struggle to break down a determined Burnley or Palace team at home, yes it will be frustrating, yes you will want to scream and shout, but remember why you’re there, why you chose Everton, why you keep going.
After all, “Were Everton, Aren’t We”?