“Silva Linings Playbook”

What is the “Everton way”? What style, ethos or brand best embodies our clubs values and echoes our proud history? Well, if you were to ask our delightful soon to be ex-neighbours from across the park, or even the most cynical of downtrodden Evertonian, recent seasons have brought with it a brand of mediocrity that is best summarized as dross. Groundhog Day, perhaps? I’ll leave the film references shall I? They’re tenuous at best. Nevertheless, the point remains. Last season merely brought to the fore the discontent us blues have felt for years over the style, direction and mentality demonstrated by our club from the board room down. We could talk stadiums, boardroom and fan base till we’re all blue in the face. But that’s not the intention of this piece…

Quite the opposite. This is not yet an “Ode to Marco”, but what we have witnessed in recent weeks is a foresight into what a future under that handsome Iberian’s premiership looks like. Speaking of handsome Iberian’s, what about Gomes eh? I digress.

In the post Moyes’ era, the focal point of that rarest of rare commodities, Evertonian optimism was best embodied by Bobby and those brown shoes. The epitome of that short yet sugar sweet bout of positivity was the 3-0 against Arsenal, at Goodison. Out-playing an Arsenal side not yet in full Wenger decline, with that most Evertonian blend of attacking football, high tempo pressing, and a snarling Goodison Park brought with it echoes of a by-gone era. Magic Martinez and his blend of footballing alchemy was not to last. As we know, this came in his first season and what was to follow in the following years was defending and overwhelming passivity not seen since the dark days of the late 90’s. I liked Martinez. He understood our club and its’ traditions. But hyperbole at times bordering on the neigh-on delusional can only carry you a certain amount of the way. Results are ultimately what a football manager is judged on. Please note Roberto’s hair pre and post Everton. It ain’t easy being a blue.

Next man up. I intend to gloss over large parts of the following years, through fear of petrifying footballing flashbacks.  Sods law applies eminently in football as it does life. With Koeman brought the increased cash injection of Moshiri’s millions, bringing to L4 block buster’s such as Klaassen, Martina and Sandro. It seemed clear from an early stage that these lads were not Everton players. Not to say they can’t compete at a good level, but they lacked that indefinable, inscrutable quality of what it takes to be an Everton player.  If only Moyes had that money eh… Nostalgia clouds judgement, and who knows what might have happened had financial restrictions not applied to Moyes. Who knows, Cahill, Pienaar, Arteta and co. may have remained undiscovered gems in the wilderness of footballing ‘could haves’.

Allardyce brought with him the footballing foresight of an 18th Century artisan. With this brought months of negativity both on and off the pitch. I’ll give ‘Big Sam’ some credit where it’s due. What I’d say about this particular episode in “A Series of Unfortunate Events” (sorry), is that he did unite a divided fan base. We all fckin hated him! Happily, Moshiri obliged and brought to an end this particularly dark time in the history of our club.

Fast forward a summer, and we find ourselves in a respectable league position, playing attractive football under the stewardship of Silva and the recruiting know-how of Brands. How often do six summer signings come in and all hit the ground running, blues? What’s most impressive is the clearly defined strategy of this summer’s recruiting policy. Young, pacy, creative and tactically adept, all the new lads function in what Marco is trying to evolve the team into. This of course stands in stark contrast to last year’s recruitment policy, which seemingly involved two middle aged men watching highlight videos on Youtube, and enquiring in fan forums over the “next big thing”.

It has been years and years, long before my time I am reliably informed by older Evertonian’s that the blues have had an “attacking four”. The Pace of Walcott, the vision and work rate of Sigurdsson supplemented by the Brazillan brilliance of Bernard and Richarlison makes for scintillating viewing, and hints at a bright future for the team. Arguably, what epitomises our newly found positivity is the fan’s reaction to 1 point out of a possible six from Manchester Utd and Chelsea. Rather than the results themselves being scrutinized, it is our performances and positivity which have been applauded. It goes to proves that football is as much an art as it is a science, watched with the eyes and felt by the heart. Science? School of? Not yet lads and ladies, but some superficial similarities are beginning to emerge… I’ll leave all the ‘fab four’ shouts to the Banner Brigade across Stanley Park.

It is still early days. Results will fluctuate. But what we have seen in recent weeks suggests we have a manager in charge who understands the club, its heritage and our expectations. How nice is it to drive down to Goodison expecting a positive performance, rather than enduring a pain staking bore-fest? Next up, Cardiff and everybody’s favourite Gail Platt lookalike, Neil Warnock. Some knocks and niggles are beginning to creep in amongst the playing staff, so this will be a good test for what lies beneath our starting XI. And for the first time in a long time, I believe what lies beneath are quality and options.

And thus concludes a brief and hopeful assessment of what we have seen the last few weeks. Too early to be swept away with joyous fervour, but confident enough to declare what we see before our rose tinted spectacles as “half ways decent”. Silva gets it. In yer’ face pressing, and have-a-go swashbuckling attaching play, complemented by ever-improving defensive organization. The future of Everton looks positive with a united direction from top to bottom. Until next week probably…

Sorry, old habits die hard. Up the toffees.

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