I remember in Roberto Martinez’s final season—a season characterized by a seemingly endless string of Shakespearean tragedies on the pitch–wondering what we had done to deserve this. From the glow of that first season of his and an apparent return to School of Science ways, El Mejor’s light created a spark of hope in me that I never recalled having at any point under David Moyes. And yet only a couple seasons later, we were an abject failure compared to the lofty standards many of us had begun to internalize. I was left feeling that the 15/16 season was more than just simply a bad season of football. Something felt especially cruel about it all. Like I was being ridiculed by the football gods for having some outsized hope for Everton. Why couldn’t it ever finally work out for us? We were so close. Why couldn’t we build upon that first lovely season? But like many an Evertonian, I comforted myself with the old reliable crutch about being “skint”, believing that there was simply a glass ceiling that couldn’t be broken without a mega-billionaire owner. And despite Farhad Moshiri entering the picture before the demise of Martinez, I had yet to see anything concrete from him that suggested things would change dramatically. Boy, was I ever wrong.
A couple years and hundreds of millions spent later, Everton have hired Sam Allardyce. I find it hard to type these words in nearly the same manner with which I have an almost impossible time using the words “President” and “Trump” together. Sam Allardyce is the manager of Everton. Let it sink in. Don’t ignore that gross feeling. You need to really feel it. Yes, the walking Brexit cartoon whose wine-soaked stench I can detect from across the Atlantic is our new manager. A corrupt punchline of a man who was destined to befoul other, lesser clubs who weren’t a big club like Everton—the same Everton that was simply biding its time before big investment would have it rising like the sleeping giant we’ve all known in our gut that it was.
Yet while I can be mad at Everton for hiring such an infamous turd he is only the wage that a myriad of sins going back years have necessitated. Much like Trump was the reward for years of Americans talking past one another and living in echo chambers and generally not coping well with a changing world around it, Sam Allardyce is the reward for decision after decision and performance after performance that has worn this particular path to hell’s gate. Big Sam may only be a caretaker, but in that “time is a flat circle” sort of way, Big Sam has always been the caretaker just waiting to show us exactly how much worse things could be and how misplaced our faith in this club’s idyllic destiny has been for so long.
Of course, this does not mean that we are forever doomed, but I’m out of the prediction game once and for all. I’ve been wrong about a lot when it comes to forecasting Everton’s fortunes in the Moshiri era thus far. But I’m also not blind. We are firmly and deeply in the shit now. Ambition and being a club to be proud of and all that are secondary to the brutal slog of a relegation fight where “by any means necessary” becomes the only mantra that matters and love of the manager and the players is not required to scale the mountain ahead of us. And while we may loathe Big Sam and all he represents and how antithetical he is to what we’ve always believed we are, he isn’t the only one I’ll have a hard time looking in the eye during this journey.
Without question, there aren’t more than a few players worthy of our affection, either. This sorry lot has personally enriched themselves on the backs of their non-performance and half- assed effort in blue shirts. And while they’ve been done no favors by the utter void of managerial and administrative leadership that suddenly widened after a summer of drunken transfer self-congratulation, far too many of them have gone through the motions without a hint of detectable shame. Which is, of course, the greatest insult in the face of all our caring. This team full of captains (you should count) has found a way to collectively disgrace the proud tradition of those who came before them and made Everton what it is. Their initial looks of dejection early in the season has turned mostly to looks of indifference. There is nothing that aggravates a soul more than when passionate investment is met with persistent indifference. In short, if I’m in pain, they better damn well be, too. At least a LITTLE bit, right?
In a world where many of us look to the club as a light in an increasingly dark geopolitical and social hellscape, seeing another set of ultra wealthy men enrich themselves further off the backs of our collective misery—especially while representing something that is greater than merely a sport to so many of us—stings even more. I learned a long time ago that in sport, no team or set of fans deserve an outcome. We simply demand that in exchange for our support financially, emotionally, etc that we get maximum effort on the pitch and at least a general sense that those wearing a shirt that means the world to us hurt even a fraction as much as we do when things don’t go our way. It’s a relatively simple and straightforward social contract that isn’t unique to Everton and Evertonians, but one that is absolutely sacred to us. Our motto is our standard is all about expecting elite effort and investment of the collective to the best of their ability in striving for excellence. It sounds lofty but ultimately, it’s about giving a shit and acting accordingly. Well somewhere along the way in recent years, that contract has been broken by the club, its management, ownership, and players. And so here we are.
We as supporters will of course support. The hand we’ve been dealt in the form of Everton may be a bad one at the moment, but there’s no giving cards back. It’s an odd thing, the whole “being chosen by Everton” thing. Unlike almost any other interest in my life that I could see myself walking away from when the cost benefit analysis becomes unfavorable, the idea of walking away from Everton feels about as feasible as walking away without my head. I wish I’d known that before getting into this, but alas there will always be the things that infect our soul in unchanging ways. So I imagine we will learn a lot about our supporters during these tough days ahead—including who the actual supporters are, I suppose. Because anyone claiming they can’t support a club with Sam Allardyce in charge (yes, even him) isn’t a real supporter anyway and they’re probably reading this and wondering what sort of mania could befall a guy living in Oklahoma over an English football team anyway. I get it. “Show me on the doll where Everton touched you,” is about how I’m feeling at the moment, but I am touched nonetheless and once Everton has touched you, blah, blah, blah.
But the story of Everton—our story with Everton—started before we were here and will end long after we’re dead or when a certain orange sherbet-y megalomaniac nukes us all into oblivion, whichever comes first. We all are tasked with carrying our shared load a bit farther in this story with each passing season and there have been some who have seen the highest highs and many of you reading this for whom those highs are relegated to books, recollections, and low definition video. And that is just the way it is. We will endure. This is the family we’ve chosen. And family is everything. Especially this one. Because if it wasn’t, we’d be able to move on like reasonable people. Reason and Everton have an awkward relationship anyway, so I’ve given up questioning it. I’m done predicting brighter days ahead. Who really knows? For now we’ll step forward together and stare the battle for survival right in the eye. Even with Sam Allardyce. Because we must.