Last Saturday’s Everton matchday programme saw a double-page spread reminding Season Ticket members this season that they have till April 6th to renew for next season. There were numerous adverts to the same effect flashed up on the two giant TV screens throughout the game against Brighton.
Many supporters, myself included, have already renewed for Season 18/19, but there are some who haven’t yet taken the plunge, and the question is why?
Simple answers include disappointment in the level of performance throughout the current season, disappointment and disillusionment with some of this seasons transfer activity, and a general disappointment in the way the club operates and far too often, fails to communicate professionally and coherently.
But there is one massive over-riding factor in the delay in renewing of many current season ticket members – they want an answer as to who will be manager of Everton Football Club for the 18/19 season.
Sam Allardyce was appointed on an eighteen-month contract but in recent weeks, particularly after quite frankly shameful losses away at both Watford and Burnley, never mind the shellackings by Tottenham and Arsenal, his seeing out that contract has looked increasingly doubtful.
Prior to the Brighton game in a nearby cafe and again when in my Main Stand seat, I overheard a number of conversations with an unerringly familiar theme, “If he’s still here next season, I’m not renewing my ST”.
There are some Blues who would question this thinking as the club is so much bigger than any individual – if you’re an Evertonian, then you support the club through thick and thin.
But these weren’t the comments of youngsters who, rightly or wrongly, maybe could be accused of a lack of patience or a sense of entitlement, these were comments from older, seasoned, battle-hardened Evertonians.
Evertonians who have seen the highs and endured the lows, have supported the club through the thick and thin.
Evertonians who remember the 62/63 League Championship team and the never-to-be-forgotten, come-from-behind, Eddie Kavanagh racing across the pitch, Mike Trebilcock, 1966 FA Cup victory…
Evertonians who remember the 69/70 championship team that included the incomparable Holy Trinity of Harvey, Kendall and Ball…
Evertonians who saw the decline of the late 1970s and early 1980s before the glorious re-birth of the Blues under Howard Kendall that saw the FA Cup, the European Cup Winners Cup, two League Championships and four Charity Shields paraded around Goodison…
Evertonians who suffered another eight year gap before Joe Royle led his ‘Dogs of War’ side to FA Cup glory over Manchester United…
Evertonians who have endured well over twenty years of trophyless football since that Paul Rideout header hit the Wembley netting.
Through all these times and there were many with the club dicing with genuine relegation fears and final day escapes, Evertonians kept the faith, sometimes blind faith.
Now though, that faith is being severely tested.
Even before the much-travelled and never relegated Allardyce was appointed, with the club teetering on the brink of the bottom three, the vast majority of Evertonians were steadfastly against the idea of the him taking charge of the club.
Negative, dour, long-ball, hoof-ball, boring, mind-numbing, anti-football – were just some of the labels bandied around about how he might end up having Everton play.
The immediate results said otherwise, but since the December 30th loss at Bournemouth, Everton’s form has, to be generous, been patchy at best.
Evertonians wavering in their commitment to the 18/19 season might also suggest that Sam Allardyce is the very essence of anti-Everton with his style of football.
Since the 1960’s, Everton have won fifteen trophies, four League Titles, three FA Cups, one European Cup Winners Cup and seven Charity Shields and all under managers who had formerly played for the club – Harry Catterick, Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey and Joe Royle – men steeped in the traditions of and graduates from the School of Science.
As a player, Sam Allardyce was more agricultural than cultured and despite the brief period when his Bolton team that contained the likes of Jay-Jay Okocha and Djorkaeff, rubbed shoulders with the higher echelons, his entire managerial career has been about survival ‘glory’ rather than trophy glory.
Coaching and managing a football club in the way Evertonians want to see Everton coached, managed and playing simply isn’t in his nature, his skillset, his DNA.
So with less than four weeks to go before the renewal deadline expires, what can Everton do to secure the commitment of wavering fans?
Should the club by outrageously bold and do as is sometimes done in other sports… announce right now that Sam Allardyce will not be manager of Everton Football Club beyond the final game of the 17/18 season and that a new manager will be appointed at the earliest possible date.
Of course, before such an announcement could be made, the club would need to be in advanced if not totally agreed negotiations with a suitable successor, and right now, there are names many Blues would be delighted to be linked with.
Paulo Fonseca of Shaktar Donetsk is one of the brighter, younger managers in Europe, Thomas Tuchel, Diego Simeone, even Carlo Ancelotti are all names that would be infinitely more popular and respected than the dour, gum-chewing Allardyce.
Allardyce might be peeved to learn his tenure were to be cut short, but it’s unlikely he’d be shaken to his core were such an announcement to be made. He’s been in the game long enough to know that if results aren’t right or you haven’t got the full support of the players, fans and board, then you might as well pack your bags and take the settlement package when offered.
What the wavering ST members don’t know, as none of us knows, is what the thinking is within the club. Has the board or the major shareholder made any decision on who will manage the club for next season?
Can they afford to leave Allardyce in situ and hope to ride out the storm that would surely ensue?
I guess the biggest question for the Board is do they honestly, unequivocally believe that Sam Allardyce is the man to determine the summer transfer activity, the man to lead Everton into the 18/19 season and more importantly, do they unequivocally believe he’s the manager who could win a trophy next season or at least secure qualification for European football for the 19/20 season?
If the answer to these questions is anything other than an immediate, unhesitating and deafening shout of Yes, then the club needs to get on with identifying a short list of the very highest calibre alternatives, get on with talking to them and get on with making the appointment in good enough time to give the new man every opportunity to prepare fully for season 18/19… and get on with communicating these decisions to the fans, out of respect for their loyalty if not their hard-earned season ticket money.
None of this is likely to happen before the April 6th deadline date, but if there was some serious activity and acknowledgement of a problem being addressed, then a potential shortfall in season ticket renewals could be averted, and a whole new wave of optimism launched.
Originally published on my blog, andycostigan.wordpress.com