An entire generation of Blues left full of frustration and disappointment. Yet again. It’s all they know when it comes to Everton.
Those of us unlucky enough to be born in the late eighties and early nineties are used to abject failure at Goodison Park. We missed the league titles and cup triumphs. We’ve seen and heard all about them but we’re yet to sample what winning is really like for ourselves.
A season following Everton over the last two decades hasn’t been complete without that feeling of sheer desolation and anger after yet another cup run comes to a hurtling end. On and on and on it goes.
The misery continued on Thursday night against Dynamo Kiev. The less said about that game the better but it’s the same every year.
The hope and expectation extinguished in 90 painful minutes. Dreams of Warsaw gone. The younger Blues wondering if it will ever go our way.
Being an Everton fan in your early twenties is no fun. We’ve missed out. For some, the 1995 FA Cup win may be their earliest football memory. Others will have been too young to appreciate it.
I missed it all. As Dave Watson launched the FA Cup into the air with Neville Southall modestly grinning behind him, I didn’t have a clue it was even happening. I was 4 and yet to be introduced to Everton Football Club.
Unluckily for me, I learnt of the Toffees just three months later and attended my first game at the start of the 1996/97 campaign.
It was incredible. The vast green pitch, the atmosphere, the victory. David Unsworth and Gary Speed scoring to beat Newcastle 2-0 on Alan Shearer’s Magpies debut. Duncan Ferguson, who would become my hero, involved in both goals.
I sat in pure amazement, blissfully unaware of the annual irritations to come.
Since that first match, I’ve travelled the country watching my team, desperately hoping ‘this is the year it all comes together,’ but every season it falls apart. The sad fact is, I expect it. I know it will fall apart. We all do.
Who was to know, as a Blue euphoria swept through Wembley on May 20 1995, this would be Everton’s last triumph for twenty years?
The cup draws, league campaigns and European tours have come and gone and still we wait.
Sure, other huge clubs are experiencing similarly barren runs – Aston Villa and Newcastle to name two – but every visit to Goodison is a constant reminder of past successes. The place is dripping with history. But that is all it is. History. We’re a club without a trophy in two decades. That’s over 7,300 days. That’s two solar eclipses. Horrible.
Those older, lucky ones who were there in Rotterdam in ’85 and made the annual trip to Wembley once upon a time may argue it’s even worse for them. They’ve experienced the sheer joy of knowing their side is the best in the land and have been starved of that feeling for too long.
For those who missed it all, it’s great hearing the tales of past league wins and trophy parades but the younger generation need their own triumphs. We want our own Everton memories.
For Blues my age, our greatest moments are perhaps the FA Cup final against Chelsea (which we lost, although I’m convinced we’d have won had Lars Jacobsen started instead of Tony Hibbert. Trust me on that one) and finishing in the top four, against all the odds, ten years ago.
The penalty shoot-out win over Manchester United was special too but a semi-final victory is nothing to celebrate beyond the day itself.
All great moments in the life of a young Evertonian but none have the same ring to them as ‘we won it Rotterdam’ or ‘we won the double’.
Football is about winning, finishing first. After all, our motto reads; ‘Nothing but the best is good enough’.
It has to be said, since David Moyes took over in 2002, it’s felt like Everton are edging closer and closer to where the club expects to be. However, the failures continue. Things have been good but never good enough.
The shortcomings would be far easier to take if Everton were beaten by the better side, unlucky having given their best. That rarely happens though.
More often than not, Everton let themselves down. Outfought and outthought. That is what hurts the most.
The term ‘Everton that’ may irritate some but is a perfect description of the bad fortune the club seems to attract. Anything that can go wrong, does go wrong and is ‘typical’ of the Toffees.
Take 2005. Everton robbed of a place in the Champions League group stages by an appalling refereeing decision after more than matching Villarreal before stupidly losing 5-1 in Bucharest. Heads went.
Fast forward a decade and Barkley hitting the post twice in Kiev. So close yet so, so far.
Domestically, we’ve shown we can beat anybody. Just not when it matters.
The fourth most successful club in England is not incapable of winning a trophy; though it feels that way. We always find a way to mess it up.
Blues aren’t so disheartened to completely rule out a triumph, one day, but it’s tough keeping the faith after so many setbacks.
We mock the club with self-deprecating humour but secretly we are praying Everton will prove us wrong. Just this one time, please prove we can actually go all the way.
The times young Evertonians have heard: ‘One day, son,’ but with each passing season the hope drains away that little bit more. Will we ever get our day in the sun?
Martinez said soon after his appointment: ‘When I arrived at the club I felt like we didn’t want to show off your history; it was a bit like “We’re not allowed to win trophies no, that’s for other football clubs”’.
That statement struck a chord with the Blues. That’s how much the club’s mentality had shifted. We, the fans, don’t believe we can win. Supporters of a club with nine league titles and five FA Cup wins now feel excluded from success. An outsider, just a few months into his tenure at the club, could sense the pessimism continual disappointments had manifested.
Everton in the Premier League era are perennial bottlers. It’s as simple as that.
We’ve been forced to watch on as clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City, nowhere near a match for Everton in terms of history, win Premier League titles. They’ll take years to catch us but at this rate, they’ll manage it. We’re standing still.
Middlesbrough and Fulham have made European finals while the success of those across the park, albeit fortuitously, has been tough to take too.
Of course, supporting Everton isn’t all about winning, how could it be? It’s about the chills on the back of your neck when Z Cars starts to play, the Gwladys Street roar and the royal blue shirt. However, it would be nice to add ‘winning silverware’ to that list, wouldn’t it?
Our dreams have been dashed for another year but we’ll all be there in August, ready to go again.