I’d offer Season’s Greetings but it’s been a long while since Evertonians greeted a season really. And yet we get to do it twice this season, thanks to a beautiful six week break for a jamboree of world soccer in Qatar. How do you feel now? How did it feel to have weekends absent from Everton? Might it be something you could get used to?
I’m conscious this preview is dropping on Christmas Eve and after such a dreary start it’s possible I could be visited by three ghosts tonight but honestly, dear reader, I feel good. Vibrant even. And it’s made me ponder. Do we really need Everton? More of that in just a bit though.
In the weeks ahead only will we be able to gauge if the six week break was a life ring for a listless Everton who, prior to the pause, got humped twice at Bournemouth in one week and looked as poor as we remembered them in some dark times last season. By virtue of having shit players Everton didn’t lose too many of their squad to the World Cup so there’s been some time for the coaching team to work on those players without the distraction of being humped every week. Indeed, Everton even added some silverware in a far flung land and remain unbeaten since the second week of November, a feat that even Argentina couldn’t match. Top of the global form league, you can’t sing that.
A home tie against fellow strugglers Wolverhampton Wanderers on a Boxing Day at Goodison Park is about as a desirable a fixture as the Toffees can wish for when returning to the dirge of the Premier League. There’s an opportunity there to mark a clear line between what was and what can be. I think most of us would just be happy with a cohesive, hard working team who build upon some improvements in defence to show some vigour in midfield and – preferably – something to get excited about in the final third. Some form of olive branch from Everton to its fans to try heal a fractured relationship, and reassure this season won’t result in having to dust off a load of blue flares and act like some generic Italian ultras in both meeting and seeing off buses in the vain hope some of our players will respond to it and not, languidly, send Everton to a lower league grave, while they fuck off to another club ready to vulture Everton and pay said shit bastard player handsomely for moving to them.
It’s on writing this an uneasy feeling of despair lingers in the background, a feeling which I’d forgot for roughly about six weeks. Now it’s easy to hate on Everton – as an Evertonian – as some form of protective mask or coping mechanism, shouting EVERTON THAT every time they do the Everton thing. The more Everton let us down, the more it feeds into our narrative of persecution, and yet for most of the 92 clubs in the professional league that’s just a reality. Interspersed with rare moments of success, our last one being “famously” a gap of 27 years and counting. Essentially we’re in a weekend relationship with a sports club. Dating Everton is a relationship like most others. It starts off with engagement, excitable feelings and hope, then begins the slow march into tolerance and resentment as you build a collective list of behaviours and habits that damage each other, and Everton won’t even put the stockings on anymore. There’s a point of equilibrium when you both realise that you’ve put, no – wasted – that much time on each other that you’re sticking with each other through pure bloody minded spite. Maybe you find yourself here, maybe you’re still booking weekends away with Everton and sordid thoughts. I do hope it’s the latter.
Does it have to be this way through? The six week break just now shows enforced abstinence can work probably easier than you think. If you feel yourself getting angry over Everton, damaging relationships around you, wasting money that could be spent on better pursuits or just simply losing your shit on twitter and calling other fans nonces for having a difference of opinion or club to you, then this may be a good opportunity to grab that wedge and drive it between you and the ghastly weekend ruining fucks while you can. You’re a fully grown adult, mate. The tattoo is faded and looks shit by now anyway, place your self worth and identity into just being you, and the impact you bring to others. How much time do you waste on them and for what benefit? No one’s arsed really. They’re shit and are likely to be a shit for way longer than you think you can handle, so cut the cord now and simply live a better life.
If you’ve proceeded beyond this point then really it’s you.
The Premier League is fucked too. It’s a vile pantomime of hysteria and hype designed to treat fans as customers, and with barely concealed contempt. They’re laughing their fucking cocks off at you, mate. Fifty pounds a ticket please to witness a working class game where whoever spends or cheats most prevails. I don’t even recognise the game I fell in love with during the 80s (sound misplaced nostalgic klaxon) as the Premier League is like Formula 1 really, but instead of teams carrying the name of luxury car makers they advertise rich owners and authoritarian states instead.
Think I can hear the jangling chains of that first ghost now to be honest, so let’s look – very briefly – at the opposition.
Slack jawed yokels from middle isle with questionable hygiene and habits, yet an endearing nature about them which instantly puts them in preference to 90% of all other fans. Admittedly our accent can be unpopular to some but a conversation with Black Country folk is how I imagine a slow death in a lava flow of mud to feel. It’s the semolina of accents. I only hope that their travelling fans have overdone it on the Netto Baileys and incest before arriving so Goodison is spared a succession of chants that makes one wish, crave, a Russian missile to pierce the thick pungent sprouts filled air to wipe them out, and if necessary the entirety of Everton football club too. Sure, the ozone hogging scud deflected off the church but the goal stands and the game is over, let’s go to the Pools Panel for a result. Which shows a 2 (away win), of course.
There’s no beef with Wolves really – a team of wonderful history and tradition, if I was going to select teams to stay with (with or without Everton) they’re be fairly high up my list. They’ve a new Manager and a new expensive striker (not sure of eligibility to play) and will be looking to make their own mark in turning around their season. Everton just have to do more than them, as simple as that. There’s nothing truly terrifying about the Wolves team and they are the away team on the day. These small advantages have to converted into points without excuse if Everton are to make a dash away from the bottom three.
That six week break will need to yield visible signs of change on the pitch within – give or take – the first fifteen minutes at Goodison if a Boxing Day bear pit to be summoned. One can hope Lampard has evident changes of formation, personnel and confidence in the players he chooses to put out. There’s little point in trying to second guess them but with a nearly fully fit squad to choose from there’s sufficient options, and expensive options, for a canny manager to get something out of them. It isn’t too difficult to work out what Goodison will respond to, so there’s the prize. Turn that leaf, make those resolutions happen. It’s a pretty low bar right now so the weight of expectation shouldn’t be too damning. Just fucking into them, and again, and again, and even when they’re beaten right into them again, but even harder.
In amongst the apprehension, foul hangover odours, and blue Santa hats, and groans and huddled together humans questioning why they spend their Boxing Day in such manners, is opportunity for Everton. For tentative signs of rebirth if not exactly a season of goodwill, that’s already half gone.
Welcome back to Goodison. This seems a good a place as ever to sincerely wish you and those you care about a very Merry Christmas, and superior year ahead to the one you’re just finishing now. That’s called progress.