As the saying goes – once Everton has touched you, you can’t make them just fuck off and leave you alone.
Or something like that.
Yes, like Christopher Biggins, Everton are back in the spotlight and making people fume yet again. This time we’ve got the potential to cause a furore so big that Owen Smith will need to launch a campaign against us and the Mail might link us to cancer or an immigration boom. Is this the season that we end our long wait for glory? Will this be the first step in a quiet revolution? Or will we shake our heads come May, mutter ‘Everton that’ and begin again?
Things certainly are different in our sunny corner of L4, mind. When Farhad Moshiri swept into Goodison in February, he brought eye-watering wealth and the promise of better days. We’d be the Mersey Billionaires, a star-studded line-up and a glittering new stadium, winning the lot and making heads fall off left, right and centre. Funny thing is, some of our *not at all impatient* fanbase are disgusted that all of this hasn’t happened immediately. Damn you Moshiri, you Persian fraud. A Farsi-cal chairman, if you’re keen on atrocious puns.
Simply put, there is no way a great change is going to happen quickly. It may even mean that the points tally only improves slightly this season. We’re all desperate to end our hiatus from success, but while trophies can be a short-term goal whether you’re Man City or Wigan, returning to a place among the upper crust takes a while. Just look at Manchester United and Liverpool, two sides with plenty of history and fistfuls of cash, still not assured of a place in the top four.
So we’re getting there, as Oasis said, little by little. While Everton hope to give us everything we ever dreamed of, first we must repair the damage after the wheels of our club came falling off. Roberto Martinez is out, his phenomenal vision long since clouded over, and his uninspiring staff out with him. The replacements have been hand-picked; Ronald Koeman, the man credited with guiding a Southampton side constantly plucked by bigger sides a few places above us; Steve Walsh, one of the masterminds who guided Leicester to the title; Erwin Koeman and Jan Kluitenberg, two of Koeman’s most trusted men; and Patrick Lodewijks, a highly rated goalkeeping coach to replace Inaki Bergara and his suspect shorts. Like the refurbishment of Goodison, we’re building on what we’ve got and steadily improving. The grand vision, much like a beautiful new stadium on the King’s Dock, will arrive in time if the foundations are there.
With no games to fume about, we’ve had lots of time to whine about the squad. Where’s the signings? Why aren’t we spending money NOW? Why aren’t we bidding on him, the Mirror says he’s available? The Mirror’s selling Lukaku again, what a bunch of lying bastards. All paper talk. Anyway, where’s that signing we were linked with by that ITK? What, we’ve bid for HIM?! Oh, not him, I wanted the other one.
It’s exhausting, it really is.
So John Stones is gone. Effortlessly brilliant on the ball but unable to do the basics, he is not worth £47.5m as a short-term signing, but he will be in time. Best of luck to him. In the meantime, Steven Pienaar, Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert have all left the club. Hibbert, distraught at not getting a new contract, told the Mail that we’re not “The People’s Club” any more.
Idrissa Gueye is in, and while we may be blinkered by the awful showings he put in against us for Lille and Aston Villa, he will add some energy and bite to a midfield that went missing too often last season. Ashley Williams may be 32 but he has experience, leadership and the ability to do the basics and do them well. Maarten Stekelenburg is a second choice keeper in first choice keeper’s clothing at the moment, but he can claim a cross and only does star jumps as a warm-up. The pattern is clear – carefully handpicked players who do not immediately elevate us to the very top, but represent an improvement. There is the suggestion that at least two more players will come in. Lamine Kone and Yannick Bolasie are targets, and while all the Twitter experts may be keen to point out there are better options out there, we’ll have to trust the new staff. This soon into their time here, we owe them that much.
Besides, it’s not your money they’re spending, is it? Unless you’ve got a Sky subscription.
According to Ronald Koeman, we’re 70% ready for the new season. While that’s hardly heartening, Koeman is a man eternally chasing that elusive 100%. Not the Martinez, Lego Movie-style hyper-enthusiastic 100%, but perfection. They will be ready to play this weekend, but they will not be playing Koeman’s brand of football to his full satisfaction for a while yet. Again, that watchword is patience.
There’s nothing to say we can’t win games even though we’re not at our best, or because we haven’t concluded our business. It’s time to get back on that nine-month rollercoaster and see if we’re giddy or just back to feeling nauseous come May.
Luckily, it’s only Spurs we’ve got, that side against whom we have an awful record and who put up 80% of a decent title fight last season before going all Sprursy.
Dealing with infuriatingly patronising red neighbours is a cross we both have to bear, and for that they can be forgiven for being constantly maudlin. The inflated sense of self-worth a group of people can only get from being from London makes it a pain when the Jack Wills-sporting crowd saunter into town with all the great bantz about eating rats and bricking cars, but they don’t have the same sense of entitlement that Arsenal fans tend to.
Mauricio Pochettino, he with the constant expression of a man who has flown to Las Vegas and had his luggage turn up in Luton, has created a strong side built on youthful talents and a strong back line. Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderwiereld and Jan Vertonghen stroll into almost any side. Kyle Walker probably strolls into lamp posts, the absent minded-looking meff. Moussa Dembele is the understated heartbeat of this side, so it is a bonus that he is out and hired goon Victor Wanyama is in. Dele Alli is excellent and has now proved it, so he and Ross Barkley can console each other now Alli is bound to be weighed down by hype and constant pressure to meet expectations, while Christian Eriksen is excellent and already knows it. Harry Kane, with his face like a Madame Tussaud’s project gone horribly wrong, proved a lot of people wrong by continuing to score freely last campaign. After a summer of looking like one of the key players in the England tragic comedy that was ‘This Time We’ll Definitely Follow On From ’66, Part XIII’, he’ll be motivated to return to top form for his club.
So the Koeman era starts here. Stekelenburg in goal. Robles can no longer use Tim Howard as a yardstick, so his inability to claim a cross is now a real sticking point. Coleman, Funes Mori, Jagielka and Baines if the former is fit. Perhaps Holgate at right back if not. For all our transfer failings, we’ve done an excellent job picking up classy young defenders. Tom Davies could also slot in there, but he and his flowing blonde locks will be better suited in midfield. Taking up those slots should be Gueye, Barry and Barkley. Lennon, Lukaku and Deulofeu if Lukaku is fit. If not, Mirallas in for Lukaku. We clearly need more attacking options, but Deulofeu shows some promise as a less-than-traditional centre forward, as he once did for Barcelona B.
Alright, I know things aren’t perfect. After the last couple of years, we knew we needed to build from the rubble of previous failures. That rebuilding starts here and now, with a home game against good opposition. It’s not going to be a bed of roses, and we may not get where we want to go. But we need to feel like we’re at least on the way.
They say good things come to those who wait. And we’ve waited long enough.
Come on you Blues.