By Paul Dargan
When William Shakespeare wrote the poem Now is the Winter of Our Discontent, a speech by Gloucester in his play Richard III, the phrase was meant as a metaphor where the reign of King Edward IV had turned sour.
The famous Stratford bard obviously had no idea that in around 400 or so years, it would be used by a similar bald journalist to best describe the situation at one collective participant’s situation in a pastime which would not yet even exist for around 250 years.
Alas, that folically-challenged writer tis I.
The goings-on at Everton could have been scribed by the great man himself as one of his comedies (at least viewed as such by those either not employed by, playing for or supporting the football club).
But it is happening, as I write this, the night after the evening before – mainly because I was too busy with actual work and too angry and frustrated by what had happened just 1.2 miles from the home ground of the Toffees.
Sticky is always used by the lazy headline writers to summarise a state of affairs at Goodison Park, either on or off the pitch. However, I feel that it is one which truly encapsulates matters at the moment.
If Blues fans thought that losing 5-2 to a heavily-rotated Liverpool side in a Merseyside derby – which effectively saw the visiting manager to Anfield, Marco Silva, lose his place at the helm – was bad enough, then Sunday’s incredibly embarrassing reversal to the Playdoh Pups is off the scale.
I’m sure the arguments will continue on even after Evertonians have cast their eye over my backlash, but one thing is for sure – if this is not to be a watershed for the club, then winding the club up could well save everyone involved any such future shame.
My simple point being that football is a cyclical business. You win, you lose. Some win more than others, some lose a great deal beyond the result. However, it’s only cyclical in the positive if you continue to act like you have something to get back to.
It’s widely-known that Everton Football Club last won a trophy in 1995. Not since then has a meaningful piece of silverware been brought back to the trophy cabinet housed in Goodison.
To make matters worse, Liverpool are on the brink of winning the league title that they have yet to hold aloft since its inception in 1992. Two years previous to the inaugural Premier League season, the Reds were winning their 18th First Division championship.
So, in effect, it is 30 years since they finished top of the tree in the top-flight.
When Manchester United won the aforementioned first Premier League title, it was 27 years after they had sat atop of the domestic league at the end of a season. When their ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City beat Stoke City in the 2010 FA Cup Final, that ended a drought of 35 years without silverware.
Basically, it happens. Everton are not alone in the fact that they have not finished as top dogs in any competitive tournament for a prolonged period. Every club – even the most successful ones – endures such interludes.
However, the way that they climb back to their zenith is by getting things right both on and off the pitch. That’s where the club have fallen down. Bad decisions hinder any type of success and so it has been proved, and on they go with more hurt and pain for supporters who continue to turn up in their droves, with little return.
With the reports, at the time of writing, that Everton’s board are about to post record losses of up to £100m after a series of transfers that are yet to show positively on the pitch, it seems patience will be required to see how new manager Carlo Ancelotti reacts with new acquisitions.
Regardless of that, many fans have finally had their tolerance for the performances of some individual players wear thin and the spirits of the Everton faithful have been tested to breaking point.
That’s why this latest defeat needs to be the watershed moment.
When Germany lost 5-1 to England in October 2001, they were embarrassed, humiliated and forced into action. In the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, they reached the final, beaten only by Brazil.
Then, their golden generation destroyed England at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and four years later, gained revenge on Brazil in their own back yard in a 7-1 semi-final win, before beating Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the final.
Now, not for one second am I comparing Everton to Germany – that would be ridiculous.
However, the difference between those who can fall down, get back up again and then reconquer the world is that they acknowledge their mistakes. They put everything right where it needs to be corrected and then start again.
Everyone fails at one time or another. Those who succeed again, learn from their mistakes.
If I was in charge at the club, I would be asking why no player from the double-winning U23 Everton side has been promoted. I would ask serious questions as to why players are being brought in with what seems like little due diligence.
Take the signing of Gylfi Sigurdsson, for example. In January 2012, he joined Swansea City on loan from German Bundesliga club Hoffenheim and scored seven goals, with an additional four assists from his 18 Premier League appearances.
The Welsh club then agreed a deal to take the Icelandic attacking midfielder to the Liberty Stadium on a permanent deal for a fee in the region of £6.8m. However, the manager of the Swans at the time, Brendan Rodgers, then agreed to take charge of Liverpool after Kenny Dalglish was sacked.
The move eventually broke down and in stepped Andre Villas-Boas – who had himself just been appointed manager of Tottenham Hotspur – to sign him for £8m. Just two years later, Sigurdsson was on his way back to South Wales, with Swansea left-back Ben Davies going the opposite way.
It hadn’t worked out for Sigurdsson at White Hart Lane, but he was pleased to be going back to play for a club where he said he felt happy in the short time he was there.
The reason he hadn’t succeeded at Spurs is pretty much what I see at Everton – he doesn’t fit into the system, as he needs a lot of other players doing the donkey work in behind him, freeing him up for his spectacular efforts on goal; which to be fair, we have seen a few times for the Blues.
However, if the goals aren’t there, there is little else to shout about with him. Although I am not his greatest fan because of this – and have been quite vocal about this for about 18 months – I feel that he has been one of the main victims of the departure of Idrissa Gana Gueye to Paris Saint-Germain, in the summer transfer window.
Sigurdsson is not a centre-midfielder and it was no more painfully obvious than on Sunday, with not just the visuals, but the statistics to back it up. However, when he has been allowed the freedom to roam higher up the pitch – almost level with the front players – he has been woefully lacking and statuesque, for me.
He isn’t a scapegoat, as a lot of the other players and their lack of quality, intelligence, heart, passion, spirit and basic ability was brutally exposed for all to see, against a team of largely inexperienced youngsters.
So, if the transfer budget is going to be harmed due to Financial Fair Play misdemeanours, that means that a club should be able to blood a youngster or two from their academy. Especially one which has seen its Under-23 side win their league twice in three years, and add a cup for good measure.
However, only forward Anthony Gordon has seen any game time this season.
When Everton have a squad full of players who are either not capable of putting in the consistent performances required to take the club forward, or simply do not want to be there – judging by their lack of effort on the pitch – Ancelotti, the Director of Football Marcel Brands and majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, really must get the next batch of signings right.
There has to be a clear plan for identity, because for far too long there hasn’t been one. David Moyes may not have been an Everton manager to everyone’s liking, but at least there was a blueprint and the players knew what was expected of them. Yes, it wasn’t good enough as a long-term project, but that was with the club having a lack of funds to compete with the best.
Now, the club cannot complain that they are anywhere near paupers. Since Moshiri walked into the club in 2016, only Manchester City and Chelsea, have spent more than Everton – hence the record losses.
Not every player that a club brings in should be for an astronomical fee. The scouting system should be negating that need, by spotting players when they are younger and therefore less expensive.
However, the reason that a club has an academy is to provide youth players for the first-team. So, why isn’t that working? This needs to be looked at seriously and that should be the job of Brands.
The way that a great football works is to have its every age level playing the same way as the first-team professionals, so that the identity is there for everyone to fall in line behind – including the players – and allowing them to progress far more easily, avoiding such huge outlays of funds.
Great teams are made on the training pitch, just like world champion boxers are produced in the gym. No money in the world can make you a better player, coaching is the only way that happens.
In conclusion, Everton have to learn from the blueprints of the best around, no matter how much that may make fans baulk at the fact they may be copying the very clubs that they despise.
But my point is: DO YOU WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL OR NOT?