Is this the worst Everton side ever? It’s a question that has been posed with depressing regularity this season. It’s easy and seductive to see why the answer for many people has been a resounding ‘yes!’. Gutless, anemic, spectacularly uncreative, this is a side that has rarely looked accomplished on the pitch, can point to just a handful of games where it has deserved to win and which, were it not for the plethora of inept sides in ‘The Greatest League in the World’ should be knee deep in a relegation tussle by now.
But as unremittingly s**t as the current Everton side is, can we as fans definitively say that it is the worst ever?
For a club with such a long history as Everton, specifically one that has not been immune to producing periods of dross, it is unsurprising that when it comes to judging the ‘worst’ side ever there are a fair few contenders. Here, for what it’s worth, are some runners and riders.
The Everton sides of the late 1920s and early 1930s are probably best defined as erratic. Although the league title was captured on two occasions during this period, the club also, improbably, suffered its first relegation into the second tier in 1930.
Underpinning both the highs and the lows during this time was the magnificent Dixie Dean. Dean was a colossus, a player of unrivalled ability who almost single-highhandedly dragged Everton to the pinnacle of the game. The downside of this was be the unsettling impact that his absence had on the side during periods of injury. And in the 1929/30 campaign, Dean was absent through injury a lot. Bereft of such a stellar talent, Everton struggled. They finished rock bottom of the league in the 1929/30 campaign and dropped.
Any side that is relegated is unquestionably bad and for Blues at the time, dropping so quickly after recently winning the league must have been particularly galling. Although a blip (Everton bounced back right away and won the title at the first attempt) that season still stands out as one of the club’s low points and the Dean-less Blues one of Goodison’s worst sides.
S***e-ometer Rating: 9/10
In the early 1950s, storm clouds once again hovered over Goodison as Everton produced another one of its less than vintage teams. Where the club had suffered in the late 1920s due to the absence of its insanely talented centre forward, in the 1950s, it suffered under the yoke of a board who had enthusiastically embraced the austerity aesthetic that had characterised Britain in the immediate post war years and then continued this love affair long after everyone else had released the purse strings a bit.
With a proclivity for recruiting low quality Irish imports and poor quality lower league ‘bargains’, Everton nose dived. At the end of the 1950/51 season, the club found itself bottom of the league. For modern fans who currently believe that relegation is unlikely, back then the Blues managed just one win and two draws in the last nine games, a level of performance that if mirrored today would likely see the club go down.
It would take a further three seasons for Everton to get back up, during which time, for a brief period, the Blues even flirted with the possibility of dropping to the third tier. And even once back in the top flight, the struggles continued. Were it not for the arrival of the Moores money as the 1960s dawned then it‘s possible that another relegation would have occurred.
S***e-ometer Rating: 10/10
For those more mature Blues, the name ‘Mike Walker’ can still send a chill down the spine. Back in January 1994, the former Norwich City manager arrived at mediocre, mid-table, non-crisis afflicted Everton, promising a bright future. What he delivered instead was the worst managerial performance of any Everton manager in the club’s history (yet) and a near death experience that those around at the time have never fully recovered from.
After a brief honeymoon period when he first arrived, the club very quickly went into a death spiral, one that culminated in the ‘Great Escape’ against Wimbledon in 1994, a Houdini-like escape from the clutches of relegation. It was a game where even an Everton victory could still have seen the club go down, so precarious a position had the wretched Walker put the Blues in.
In an act of near insane generosity, the club stuck by Walker who thanked them for their support by continuing his dreadful managerial form. By November the following season, Everton were bottom of the league, playing some of the worst football ever seen at Goodison, and near certainties for relegation.
S***e-ometer Rating: 9.5/10
The fans were told it would never happen again. Yet just four years after Wimbledon, Everton were once again looking down the barrel of a gun. The Blues faced Coventry in the final game of the season, knowing that even a victory might not be enough to survive if the club’s relegation rivals, Bolton Wanderers, won their game against Chelsea.
Bearing similarities to the relegation campaign of 1951, this crisis had also been manufactured at board level. Everton’s millionaire saviour, the hamper magnate Peter Johnson, had sacked the talented Joe Royle, turned the cash tap off and after a fruitless search for a ‘world class’ replacement, turned to Howard Kendall to take the reigns, a man whose managerial talents were fading.
It was a perfect storm that created one of the worst Everton sides to ever take to the pitch; craftless, unthreatening and irredeemably conservative. They were a second tier side hell bent on finding their level. As such, the Blues started the campaign badly and continued in that vein throughout, never really escaping the gravitational pull of the bottom three.
Although survival was achieved (largely due to Bolton losing), it was one that was hardly deserved.
S***e-ometer Rating: 9/10
The season isn’t over yet and so it’s hard to judge just how bad this Everton side is compared to those ‘giants’ of the past. But what we can say with certainty is that there has never been such disparity between what was hoped for at the start of a season and what was ultimately delivered. In August, the fans believed that quality football would be served up, alongside a challenge to the top six, a decent showing in Europe and more signs that the ‘Moshiri-Plan’ was building for the future.
Instead, we have been given the opposite. Football of the lowest quality, a relegation threatened campaign, a European adventure breathtaking in its incompetence and evidence that the ‘Moshiri-Plan’, on the pitch at least, is nothing more than a series of knee-jerk reactions coupled with a scatter-gun approach to recruitment.
It is this gulf at the moment, allied to a feeling that the kind of ‘Everton’ that many of us have long loved and respected, is being undermined and unpicked by the insidious impact of money, that had led this season to become defined by so much despair and a lingering sense that surely nothing has ever been this bad before?
But right now, certainly when compared to the past, the 2017/18 campaign is merely very, very bad. On the Shite-ometer it would probably only get a 7 or and 8. A top half finish is still a possibility and despite the wretchedness of the performances delivered, there remains a feeling that a better team is lingering within.
Of course things could change in the coming months. There is nothing that I have seen in recent weeks to suggest that Everton face any easy games between now and the end of the season. Relegation still remains a possibility. And were that to happen, then we could all sit back and say without doubt that, ‘Yes, this is the worst Everton side ever’. Here’s hoping that this doesn’t happen and instead, the squad of 1951 maintain that particular title.
Jim Keoghan is the author of Highs, Lows and Bakayokos (Everton in the 90s) and Everton’s Greatest Games