Oh Everton, we’ve missed you.
Not just you and the sexy togger you delivered last season, but we’ve missed the scramble for away tickets (any spares lad?), the new songs that get sung, the moaning arl fella behind your seat in his mid 50s who still craves the 80s Everton. We’ve certainly missed the sound of Z-Cars at five-to-three.
We always crave this at the start of August year after year, however this time there is a wave of optimism about which we all hope and pray will be the dawn of a new, great, hungry Everton.
As we all know, last season was one of the most enjoyable in recent times. After witnessing 11 years of good, stable, if at times one dimensional football under David Moyes, we saw a new brand of brave attacking football. A lot has been said about the comparisons between our current manager and his predecessor so I’ll leave that there. There was a feeling at the last game of the season at Hull that this new, young and ambitious Everton team had the potential to be on the brink of something. ‘The School of Science is on it’s way back’ wasn’t just sung in hope, but in belief.
So where exactly did this tide of belief in our ranks come from? Was it that Hull game when 5th place was confirmed? Was it when Martínez, Barkley, Stones or Coleman signed their new contracts? Or was it when our board showed some ambition and forked out for Big Rom for the reported £28m? Not the summer we are used to is it? No real worries about selling players, but rather securing some of the best at Everton, for a long time.
For me, the new contracts and the big money signings were all part of a snowball effect. If we do go on to do something really special in the next year or two, we should look back to the moment Leighton Baines signed a new contract and committed four years to Everton in January. This time last year we were all fearful of him leaving. Everything you read, heard and watched indicated he was Manchester United bound, and to keep him here was massive. The man was our Player of the Season for the previous two years. He was our talisman. He was continually one of the best performing defenders, not just in England but also when compared with Europe’s best. Normally in this day and age when the Uniteds, Chelseas or Citys come calling, you’re forced to sell.
Baines decision to stay signified the change in direction at the club. This was the start of where we showed that we aren’t just plucky little Everton anymore, but serious. It showed the likes of Coleman, Barkley, Stones and Lukaku that this is the club to be at. If such an important player like Baines can stay, why shouldn’t they? With all of these players having now committed their futures to Everton, we can finally start looking up, rather than over our shoulder.
With so many false dawns at Everton in the past and with others around us strengthening, few could forgive even the most optimistic of fans for wondering were it may go wrong this season. Many may be worried by the poor pre-season we’ve had. Some may feel with the added games in the Europa League, we may not cope with demands. Naturally, a minority of moaning arses will simply write us off for no reason at all. Another false dawn would be, to coin a phrase, ‘very Everton’.
There’s a lot to be positive about though. We have a young, hungry, ambitious squad, mixed with experienced internationals and proven Premier League quality. Where there is a fresh faced John Stones, we have a dependable Sylvain Distin. Where there is a robust James McCarthy, we have a player in Gareth Barry with that winning mentality. Where there is a gem, a Scouser, a true blue in Ross Barkley, we have a club captain who has never let us down and is committed to Everton in every sense in Phil Jagielka.
This is where we stood out last season, in our balance. When Moyes left, all the talk was of an ageing squad – now all I see is a squad brimming with talent, but with a real balance. To borrow a popular phrase from Roberto, we have a ‘unique’ collection of players who all buy into the vision of the manager.
The start of the season is almost here. Leicester, followed by two evening games at Goodison against Arsenal & Chelsea. Leicester won’t know what’s hit them when our sell out away end goes mad. Then there’s Arsenal & Chelsea – everyone on the ale all day, a bank holiday weekend, I’m excited just thinking about it. Goodison at it’s moody, alcohol-fuelled best. Imagine that first tackle the referee gets wrong and the whole ground is screaming abuse at Jack Wilshere or John Terry – that bear-pit, angry Goodison – you’ve missed that as well… I know I have.
Do yourself a favour tonight. Lash The Golden Vision on YouTube, watch your Big Dunc or Official History DVD and dream of what could be for Everton this season.
Success is overdue at our football club. The good times will be back one day and God knows, we deserve it. Let’s hope come this time next year, we have the biggest summer hangover ever after witnessing the season of dreams.
Up The Toffees.
The School of Science is on it’s way back.