25 long years as an Evertonian (and why I’m still bothering)

Everton fans of all ages have a special bond, it’s largely built around pain and disappointment, but also pride and a sense of something bigger than football. Those old enough to remember might still reminisce about that famous team from the 80s, yet the Everton of 30 odd years following have done their very best to make you forget. I’ve sung the songs and drank in celebration of Howard Kendall and co, but that’s not my era; my era is one of struggle and identity crisis.

As a kid my Dad took my sister and I to the game and we’d count down the days until Saturday. My first game as I remember was Newcastle at home in 2003, I can’t remember the score but there was enough there to make me understand that Everton was something that would stay in my life, Let’s be honest David Moyes’ Everton didn’t always show up, however there was a pride running through the team, little did we know what we had in the likes of Leon Osman, Lee Carsley and Tony Hibbert. It was those sorts of players which made me proud to watch, on the whole maybe they were lacking in star-quality but at least they asked a question of anyone coming to Goodison Park. I loved the Everton teams which dug in and refused to lie down. I loved the Everton teams which showed real understanding with one another, linking up and expressing themselves whilst doing it. I would’ve loved a gifted Everton with sexy playmakers and ball-playing centre halves, but we were skint so we made do with what we had. I still love Everton, but like in a dying relationship I’m asking a few questions, mainly: what’s there to love about Everton?

I think the idea of Everton is what we were sold once, now we’re stuck with it, we can’t flog it to anyone else because it’s ours. We fell in love with the idea of Everton returning to their glory days, rising from the pits of underfunding and mismanagement. Yet, the reality is we’ve spent over £500 million since the 2016/17 season, we’ve brought in managers considered to be at the top of the game, and we’ve signed players with huge pedigree. Whether it was right or not, since Moyes’ departure the directors of football and the management staff have tried to create a more attractive looking Everton, one that we might love more. Now 8 years on we are seemingly worse off, devoid of attacking quality, lacking in depth, and crying out for some fight. I dare say the fight is almost leaving the fans. By that I mean the fight to keep it together and support the team, rather than protest against it. We’ll always have a strong and passionate following, but for many I think the patience is wearing thin with the board and the management.

What keeps us going?

We’ve not come close to winning a trophy in years. We’ve not won a trophy since the summer before I was born, 25 years ago. I want to see us win something, don’t we all. Most of all I want to see a gradual improvement, and that’s not always necessarily about results. It’s about signing players who get it, bringing in managers who the fans will be happy to get behind, and making decisions for the club’s growth rather than because they’re convenient. The board’s decision to bring in Rafa Benitez might have made logical sense, but it speaks volumes about where they consider the club to be and what they’ll settle for. The fans didn’t want him. Is he a bad manager? Probably not. But come on, what happened to us having a bit of pride in what we did? Suppose that left the day Sam Allardyce and his little red friend took over. Anyway what keeps us going. I don’t know. Honestly now I think it’s because none of us could leave our mates to go through it alone.

Enjoy the derby if you can, be horrible and make it an absolute cauldron of hatred. Just remember that no matter how much you think you hate Everton, you’ll never be able to stop watching. We all feel it, the toffees are bigger than football, they’re an emotion, a way of life. And we wouldn’t (definitely would) change them for the world.

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