In 1988, when my dad was almost the age I am now, he got an Everton book for his birthday. It was from his parents. It’s titled “Forever Everton: The Official Illustrated History of Everton F.C.” and it’s written by Stephen F. Kelly.
I read it a lot when I was younger, perhaps too much. It sits on my shelf now, rarely pulled out.
When you read the introduction it describes an Everton that is completely alien from my blues. How can this be the same Everton I know?:
“Few clubs can boast the honors Everton have achieved… Everton have never been a club simply content to win trophies. When they are won, it has to be done in style… Skill and ability have always been to the fore and even in their darkest days they have remained true to their cause…”
“During their 99 years in the Football League Everton have accumulated more points in the First Division race than any other team and can rightfully claim to be the all-time champions of English football. And it will be many years, if ever, before another team catches them. With such a record it is hardly surprising that Everton are envied throughout the footballing world… Never has a club’s motto /Nil Satis Nisi Optimum/ been more appropriate.”
Since my dad read those breathless words in February 1988, Everton have won just one major trophy, the FA Cup in 1995. Even that was a quarter of a century ago.
Football has changed a lot since that introduction was written, and so have Everton, but /Nil Satis Nisi Optimum./ is still on our shirts.
And it is laughable.
I adore Everton, and there is no question that their success makes me happier than watching them sink, but what makes me love them is simple and unchanging.
They are Everton.
“Nil Satis Nisi Optimum” means nothing to me. Not because I “accept mediocrity” (although, since 1988 accepting or not, haven’t we been fed mediocrity from our blues?) but because I recognize that it is meaningless Victoriana and zero relevance to Everton of today.
One wonders if Stoke City fans demand that their players spend at least five days a week slaving at pottery wheels to slake the demands of their badge which proclaims them “The Potters”…
Do Villa fans rise up in fury when they aren’t “Prepared” and lose games.
And what of Elgin City fans, currently second in Scottish League Two. How annoying is it to them, that all that’s required for them to become the greatest football team north of Hadrian’s Wall is to look down at their chests, and live up to the noble Latin phrase /Sic Itur Ad Astra/ – “Thus we reach the stars…”
And what of those with no motto on their shirts like Man City, or perennial losers Real Madrid? I can’t imagine how it feels to wander so aimlessly, cruelly denied a footballing moral compass…
I remember chattering my teeth through an entire Blackburn Rovers game when I was little, not through the cold but through searing excitement. I remember Duncan’s first game for us, Brett Angell and the footballing devil on his shoulder which turned him into a stumbling mess, Mikel Madar and his ridiculous hair, Marc Hottiger and his balsa-wood confidence. What about footballs dreaded Sarlacc, relegation, and our improbable escapes from its jaws? Did we cheer until we were hoarse when Gareth Farrelly scuffed in his goal to keep us up, or when we clawed back a 3-2 win against Wimbledon because it was the embodiment of N.S.N.O?
None of these things were at the pinnacle of footballing greatness, but they were definitely good enough for me, I cheered them all.
We currently are lucky enough to have Carlo Ancelotti as our manager. The Italian knows a thing or two about /Nothing But The Best Is Good Enough/, he was fired because of that philosophy. Despite winning /La Decima/ for Real Madrid, he was sacked the following season after finishing second in La Liga. It’s probably fine for Real Madrid to act like this, maybe we should give them our motto, but for us it is a monumental piss take.
Referencing Nil Satis Nisi Optimum every five minutes does nothing. In fact we could scream it every five seconds, from the roof of Goodison. We could scream it until our faces are as blue as our shirts. It won’t change anything.
Progress is needed but pebble dashing social media with NSNO isn’t going to move the needle. This isn’t about perfection. Not yet, and perhaps never.
Turning to an aged dusty latin motto after every defeat, and telling anyone who disagrees that they are accepting mediocrity is lazy. I have faith in Brands, Barrett-Baxendale and Ancelotti, not in the false idol that is four words in a dead language.