I’ll mostly miss the empty weekends full of endless possibility. Absolutely no concern of fitting everything in and around Everton. The fleeting moments of serenity. A complete lack of studying permutations on how my football team stay in a league that I detest. No opposition fans attempting low grade toe curling “banter”,. Getting to Friday and ambling to Monday, undeterred. Not having to hot step down City Road avoiding dog eggs on my preferred footwear. Being a calmer, better human to those around me. Sun in the sky you know how I feel.
That’s all fucked for nine months now as Everton renter the orbit of your life and explore new ways to mess with your nerves and head. Carrying on beyond this point probably makes you a masochist.
Anyway I hope you enjoyed your summer, dear reader. However you chose to spend it. Perhaps that was enjoying life with a little less anxiety, hopefully. Maybe it was fuming on the internet most days at Everton’s inaction in remedying a haunting previous two seasons. No matter, it’s you that gets to choose how you traverse this fleeting journey from A to B that they call life.
Personally I chose disconnect and not really thinking about Everton or paying attention to the media smorgasbord of stuff that doesn’t come true but keeps you clicking. And it was lovely. A throw back to the days before internet and sports news channels, when the newspaper back pages would become barren for a few months while everyone reset from the season and just bothered about life. Or indeed nothing at all.
But now Everton are back then so am I. This ticket for the big royal blue rollercoaster doesn’t expire and, friend, let me tell you some of these dips are burrowing underground by now. Yet I remain as it’s my preferred weekend habit and one, maybe one day, it will be different again. Football without hope is futile, otherwise what’s the fucking point? We’re only a modern Kevin Brock backpass away from inflection point and grand moments in our immediate future that to look upon, misty eyed in the distant future, while generations after us serve their decades supporting shit Evertons. Their turn, our eyes will have seen the glory.
A notable summer obsession for digital age football fans is transfers. It’s quite the spectacle as some people become fucking crazed by who their club might be signing, even if it’s just be big fat obvious lie. Some soothsayers use all means (YouTube, stats websites, lies) to declare that the latest human to sign for their club is the answer to all that club’s problems, or an expensive flop, before they’ve even kicked a ball. It’s a high stakes winner takes all game with reputations at stake forever, as no one forgets online when you made a judgement error, ever. With bonus points for anyone who’s watched that player before the link with Everton “but not YouTube”. The average fan’s urge to a masquerade as a top scout is very real and prevalent everywhere you look. Tell you what, you know a player you lad.
Then there’s the financial analysts. Normal casual young football fans have the calculator, excel sheet and rule book out as they feel the urge to detail – line by line – the ins and outs of football clubs whilst raging against FFP. There’s no room for comfort even in the off season as all is noted down, players, kit deals, sponsorships, and don’t forget the sleeve or the training ground. It’s a delicate spiderweb of interlinking complexities where one strand yanked just too carelessly tugs on another strand, or awakes a giant fucking tarantula to come and sink it’s fangs into the head of your beloved football club and suck their insides out for the season ahead.
When did we stop just enjoying the football? When did it become death by XG or doing better at FFP than your rivals? I just want to watch my club, preferably at 3pm every Saturday, play against another team who we can throw mad tackles in on and somehow shithouse a win against. While I laugh at the evident pain of their scruffy fans, basking that it’s their weekend fucked and not mine. Then a few pints, a meal or takeaway, some right words and glances and back to ours for some slightly above average lovemaking. And hello Sunday morning in bed. Let me read the nice stuff the media said about us and watch the MOTD I missed when attempting to seduce the human lying next to me. Having a fleeting moment where I feel purpose and contentment in the universe. Until I remember I forgot the black pudding and that our key player went off the field holding the back of his thigh on 87 minutes. Could kill for a cold fresh orange right now. Really hope she goes the toilet before I do. I fancy a walk shuffles back curtains I don’t fancy a walk. Maybe I’ll just lay here for while. That bad texan of theirs in the away end with the Stone Island, hope he’s having a shit Sunday morning. What’s that bump on arm, that wasn’t there before. Who do we have next? Hmmm need to check my kecks to see if my wallet is still in the back pocket from last night. What games are on later? Really must mow the lawn at some point. Is she awake?
“What you thinking of?”
It’s not a good feel starting another season with familiar faces owning and running Everton after their near ruin of the club. Incredibly they’ll get a third go of circling the drain, while apparently in transition. Last summer it was “judge us at the end of the transfer window” whereas this year it’s just silence. Progress of sorts I suppose. All change please. The unpalatable truth is that to compete in the Premier League now you need a monster, a nefarious James Bond baddy or entire country looking to use your club and fanbase as an image marketing exercise. We’ve just had an a oligarch but, as how we roll, it made us infinitely shitter. Not that I personally get to choose owners but I’d be moderately content with someone whose impact on others I don’t despise too much, and one that has some form of ability to run a Premier League football club, so fans that really do care can have a few seasons without looming anxiety and some actual style of football they can relate to, perhaps even enjoy. It would seem the sooner Everton get to a new ground without getting relegated or bankrupted then there’s a clean slate to start again. And find another monster, but one who can run a football club and show a little less contempt for fans. That would be a start. Give me them comfy 2-0 wins so 5pm feels alright, and I’m drinking out of enjoyment rather than medication.
Fulham at home is as decent an opening fixture as you can get. If you get too good a team they want to set down a marker. Promoted teams even worse on the first day of the season. Whereas someone sat in the middle and having lost a few key players with an unsettled manager is exactly what you’re after. Even if it feels not long ago being stood outside Goodison with 15 minutes left after the same opposition had swatted Everton aside and make me convinced, for the very first time in my life, that the Toffees were definitely relegated. That’s in the past now, but for it they must pay.
When the fixture list throws you the club equivalent of a geography teacher, complete with cords and patched blazer elbows, you really need to mug them on your home patch. Rifle through everything they have and take what we need, which in this case is an opening three points. A fanbase that travels up to Goodison wearing straw hats on a canal barge simply cannot be allowed to leave with anything other than existential pain, steal their Pret A Manger clean out of their manicured hands. Their travelling Lib Dem army are way out of their comfort zone in places like Walton and Goodison Park, yet amongst a cast of truly hideous away fans across the Premier League, Fulham are alright by comparison so I’ll spare my satirical typecasting for scruffy bootlicking try-hards who truly deserve it. For any Fulham fans reading this, that’s a huge compliment.
Famously staunch manager Marco Silva has faced down his Garden Of Eden moment as the snake of Saudi whispered in his ear. That should see him good for another three to four weeks. For the avoidance of doubt an actual snake, not plastic snake. In retrospect the chaos of Everton was too early in Silva’s career so its pleasing to see him crave out a very decent career for himself. His Fulham team rightfully will be targeting three points of their own but it’s an opening day 3pm Saturday opening day @ Goodison thing and with about 25 games to go before Evertonians really start panicking about fixtures I’ve a feeling Everton and Goodison will be up for this on the day. Just hurt them. On the other hand that could be my delusion after three months of forgetting what they’re really like. I can’t be arsed going through any sort of analysis of Fulham’s most dangerous players or any sort of tactical musings in this or any other preview really, so I’ll move onto Everton.
There’s some customary injury concerns with McNeill, Coleman ruled out and Tarkowski, Danjuma having knocks but expected to be alright on the day. Everyone’s favourite injury concern DCL has got some minutes in during the last few friendlies as he’s being shrewdly managed through recovery by a Manager not rushing him back to save his skin. Whether than can translate in giving Everton the all around presence and goal scoring threat they desperate need up front, is another thing. It’s unlikely to be a burden that a young Portuguese lad with 900 minutes of professional football under his belt can carry, so you’d hope there’s some form of cheap knock down or loan experience yet to come in that position, especially after how Everton were nearly relegated by such an absence last two seasons. Dyche said DCL isn’t ready yet but part of me thinks that’s a ploy and Everton’s number 9 will get the first half at least against Fulham, if not then it’s the narky little Gallic Eminem trying to handle balls blasted against his chest and over his head.
The above guarantees three in central midfield. Doucoure furthest forward, Gana Gueye deepest and very likely Onana. The latter has offered some lively contributions in pre season, it would be a welcome bonus if he developed into the player he’s showed glimpses of what he could be. Although signed for big money we’ve had experience in the past of tall gangly Belgians bought for big money who took a season to adapt to the English game, before cracking on to Everton’s benefit. In the absence of McNeil it’s probably Garner on the right and Iwobi on the left as per the Sporting friendly. Welcome back, 2pm team news fume.
Defence still looks a major area for concern even after a summer to try remedy it. Gone are Mina and Coady, remaining are Keane, Godfrey and Holgate. The only central defender Everton can rely on is Tarkowski, although there is the promise of a returning Branthwaite this season. As it stands most hope the latter two can put something together but Everton will have to sign someone for this position, and somehow shift some of the others for cash money. To suckers willing to pay for them. Marlo Stanfield’s dar will play left back and Natto Patto will stride up and down the right hand side. It’s really good to see Jordan Pickford start another season as Everton goalkeeper.
The question is have Everton done enough to prevent a third season of existential crisis and widespread fan depression? As it stands I really don’t think so. Yet, as just another tit on the internet who really gives a fuck about what I think though, and I refer you back to football without hope is fuck all really. It’s a first day of the season at Goodison Park so time to recommence familiar patterns and people. Maybe it’s not about the football really, that’s just an excuse, a habit. Even if it is about the football then until Everton squeeze the air of optimism out of my lungs in a prolonged weekly big fuck off python slow crush, then I’ll be looking keenly for that misplaced back pass to change it all.
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me. And I’m feeling blue.