Evertonians blotted their copybook this week after seeing their club make a trio of genuinely exciting signings and then string together opening wins to top the league for the first time in 13 years – they got carried away. You simply cannot do that in this day and age. It is football’s cardinal sin.
Consequently, their downloading in droves of their Eighties anthem ‘Spirit of the Blues’ – to such an extent that it kept Miley Cyrus off the top spot in the iTunes chart – was widely ridiculed by rivals. A welter of tweets meanwhile, claiming Everton were going to win the Premier League or that James Rodriguez was mustard were meticulously bookmarked by Liverpool supporters in desperate need of a girlfriend, all so they can be reproduced when the Toffees inevitably hit a sticky patch. Again, so they can be ridiculed.
As we all know, there is nothing so hurtful in life than to have a year-old tweet quoted back at you when you have been proven wrong. Accompanied by a stinging line such as ‘Well that worked out well’ it can leave you shamed and bed-bound for days.
Okay, enough with the sarcasm. That is beneath us all. Let’s instead place this week’s developments in context.
Everton last won a trophy a quarter of a century ago. Since then they have managed to secure a top-four spot once but were deprived of Champions League football when Pierluigi Collina – widely regarded as the best referee in the world at the time – ludicrously ruled out a late Duncan Ferguson goal that saw the Blues exit at the qualifying stage. That was in 2005 with David Moyes in charge and in the subsequent years, Everton have averaged eighth place in the Premier League. Prior to Moyes, it was not uncommon to experience relegation dogfights.
Throughout this prolonged period of underachievement, week in, week out a loyal army of fans have attended their magnificent yet down-at-heel home of Goodison Park, a ground that is very easy to love but one that is undoubtedly light years behind the shiny, swanky stadia commonplace elsewhere. They have turned up en masse and supported their team loudly and passionately and all while being served up the occasional moment of excellence but mostly dirge and mediocrity courtesy of managers such as Sam Allardyce and Ronald Koeman. Allardyce had so little respect for the fan-base that he barely bothered to hide his disdain. Koeman was a human catastrophe.
If Everton’s recruitment of managers was questionable their recruitment of players was arguably even worse. Time and again in recent windows the board has lavished funds on personnel undeserving of their fee with the summer of 2017 particularly standing out as a harsh lesson in how not to spend £180m. Players over-looked meanwhile include a young Erling Haaland – reportedly offered to the club for peanuts – while the opportunity to sign Andrew Robertson and Harry Maguire from Hull for a combined sum of £20m was bafflingly declined.
So, all in all, it is fair to say that Everton fans have generally been through the wringer since their glory days in the Eighties and mention of Robertson brings us to their final forbearance, that of being Liverpool’s neighbours. If you think you’ve had it tough as a Manchester United or City, or Arsenal or Spurs fan in recent times, having to endure the nauseating love-in from the media regarding Jurgen Klopp’s side then consider being a Bluenose residing on Merseyside. It must feel like boarding in David Koresh’s compound.
A few days before Christmas last year Carlo Ancelotti arrived in the North-West. Here was a proven winner; an elite coach with a formidable C.V. and the reaction of the Everton fans on seeing this managerial giant in the Goodison dug-out was telling. There is no way of writing this without it coming across as condescending so apologies in advance but the excitement on display was thoroughly endearing: a refreshing change from the ugly entitlement that is usually prevalent in Premier League fan-bases who believe their club has a divine right to possess the world’s best coaches, strikers and defenders even when logic says otherwise. There was none of that here, only celebration.
That same pure joy was in evidence again recently when Everton tempted James Rodriguez over from Real Madrid. An attacking midfielder of rare touch and vision, his ability to turn a game in an instant will be a huge plus and it only got better for Everton when the criminally under-rated Allan joined from Napoli and the robust presence of Abdoulaye Doucoure arrived from relegated Watford.
In the space of just a week or so Everton had dramatically upgraded their central area and all for a smidgeon over £40m and with Ancelotti orchestrating proceedings it finally looks like the club has got its act together; like they’re going places.
An opening day victory away to Spurs hinted further at this and when a Rodriguez-inspired Blues blitzed West Brom and beat Crystal Palace can we really blame the fans – who have endured so much – for getting a little giddy?
Giddy for sure, but carried away? That’s actually a misconception. If you speak person to person with an Evertonian claiming they are in with a title shout you will see the glint in their eye and the smile on their lips. They’re messing. But of course, much of the region is in lock-down and on Twitter the words – if minus a winky emoji – act as chum for online chumps. Let’s then disregard that.
But the excitement; the unadulterated, buzzing, unchaste excitement. To mock this is to illustrate where we are right now in a cynical, tribal world. Depressingly and pathetically, it is not allowed anymore for football supporters to be excited in the moment. It leaves you laid bare; open to attack and even appearing naïve should things go pear-shaped. In the vicious playground that is Twitter, it is only advisable to show excitement when a new signing goes on to prove their worth or when your club lifts a piece of silverware and even then it is typically boastful in tone, intended to score pointless points.
For Evertonians to go against type and rejoice at where they are presently, not caring one jot about the bitter catcalls from the cheap seats and not caring one iota about holding back until any vindication comes, well, like with their disbelief at securing Ancelotti, it is thoroughly endearing. There has been no ‘wait and see’; no cautious suppressing of enthusiasm and subsequently, should success follow, they will have enjoyed every inch from start to finish.
Perhaps that should be a lesson for the rest of us and it is hoped they get their rewards ultimately. Because this is a fan-base that deserves it and has earned it the hard way.