Cruel Summer

For as far back as I can remember, I have hated the summer. I hate the sense that you should be outside enjoying yourself. I hate the sounds of other people enjoying themselves. I hate barbeques. I hate the smell of barbeques. I hate men who pride themselves on their barbequing ‘skills’.  I hate frisbees. I hate eating outside. I hate the packed beaches. I hate the rammed parks. I hate the undeniable reality of the men’s sandal, revealing feet that should remain forever covered. I hate the heat. I hate getting sunburned. I hate salads. I hate the muscley-toned flaunting their physical superiority at every given opportunity.

And then there are wasps. I really fucking hate wasps. Every aspect of the above is made so much worse by those evil little c**ts.  Not just because they possess malign intent, although that alone is bad enough. But also because my tried and tested way of dealing with them, running away as fast as possible, arms flailing and screaming, depending on your perspective, like either (A) a marine or (B) a highly-strung toddler, is met with near universal disdain.

So, you can appreciate why it pisses me off so much that, in recent years, the club I choose to follow has done everything it can to make me wish that the summer would arrive as soon as is humanly possible.

The summer is the promised land, a time when the dross of the recent season finally comes to an end, when the decks are at last cleared, when new players arriving will allow the club to build for a better tomorrow.

It’s a period of infectious optimism. God bless the summer, when all of football’s happy outcomes remain deliriously possible. Is there any part of the football calendar more imbued with hope than right now?

Even the most hardened of Evertonian pessimists, the kind who will write our season off when Tom Davies gives the ball away two minutes into the opening game of the campaign, cannot fail to succumb to the sunny optimism of the summer.

These months have a near miraculous quality. You approach the season’s end weary, tired of football and all its predictability.  The campaign has chipped away at your reserves of hope. You’re ready for a breather; a break from Everton being ‘Everton’.

But the close season does something to you. Not long after the campaign’s conclusion you are resurrected. Like Lazarus rolling back the stone, you emerge anew. And this reborn self is barely recognisable from the world-weary wreck of just a few days ago. Sunshine and optimism are everywhere as you approach the season to come.

All rumours are considered entirely plausible. The players that arrive will be transformative. The deficiencies of the last campaign will be addressed. This year will be different. This is the season when it all comes good.

But will it?

I feel like Evertonians are stuck in a cycle at the moment: summer optimism, crushing reality of the season, a palpable desire for the campaign to end, summer optimism, crushing reality of the season, a palpable desire for the campaign to end, and on and on it goes…

For years now, we seem to be willing the season to come to a conclusion in the hope of a summer that will change everything. But all those summers have given us is more pain to come. The squad we have now is worse than the one that David Moyes left us with. And, the Martinez first season blip aside, it’s got progressively worse summer by summer.

At the end of every campaign we look forward to this time of year as being transformative. And, unquestionably, this summer will bring change. Aside from the natural ebb and flow of the transfer market, a manager of Ancelotti’s calibre would not have come to a club like Everton without the promise of being able to bring in players to make the side his own.

But will every arrival be a success? How often does that happen at any club? If three quarters of the players you bring in during any window end up being decent that’s impressive. But even if that happens, it still leaves more dross clogging up the wage bill.

And what of the dross that is already there? Everton have amassed an unenviable number of players who it seems are not good enough to play for the club but who, because of their wages, are also hard to move on.

In our heads, we likely imagine a wholesale clear-out of the crap and the fresh arrival of better players in their wake. But is that really going to happen during one window? It seems unlikely, meaning that some of the players who we currently loath seeing week-in-week-out in an Everton shirt are still going to be part of the squad next season, featuring for the first team on occasion.

Everton are going to be a work in progress for some time to come. In terms of recruitment, the past few years have been a disaster, hundreds of millions of pounds pissed up the wall.  Getting the club out of this mess is going to take time. No club can undo years of mistakes in the blink of an eye.

But while few expect a miracle from the summer and the season to come, I imagine that most Blues yearn for signs of progress at the very least. We need to feel that the club is, at last, on the right path, that recruitment is starting to make sense and the side has some direction.

Until we have that feeling of clarity, the sense that those with their hands on the tiller know what they’re doing, as fans, we are unlikely to escape our current ‘Groundhog Day-like’ existence. Yearning for the summer every March is no way to live as a supporter. You have to believe that things are getting better. In the absence of silverware, and let’s face it, each season the chances of those beyond the elite getting their hands on a trinket are slim, a sense of progression is all a lot of fans have. It says so much of our recent history, that for a club of Everton’s stature, even this has been beyond us.

Over the coming weeks, there will be lots of talk, both within the fanbase and from those outside looking in, about what constitutes a ‘successful’ season for Everton. More than anything, for me, ‘success’ will be the end of summer yearning.  I can take another trophy-less season, another year outside the European places, even another year of Anfield misery, if come May there is a feeling that the Moshiri project is finally heading somewhere, that stability has arrived and a team for the future is being built.

The idea of enduring another season where the summer is hoped for is almost too unpalatable to take. The summer, with all its hateful connotations, its buxom men unleashing their moobs on an unsuspecting public, its self-satisfied dickheads playing bongos down the park, it’s permanent stench of sun cream and overcooked meat, needs to be put off for as long as possible. Nobody should ever have to pine for the summer. Shame on you Everton if you ever make me do that again.

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