So save me a place in your parking lot
And save me a place beside you
When you lie down to sleep at night
Someday I’ll get it right
Someday, well I’ll get it right
Yeah, one day I’ll get it right…
Do we believe the singer? If we’re close to him and/or care for him, we do. If we’re on the outside looking in, we hear the tone of his voice and immediately doubt his sincerity/ability to make good. You really need to hear the song to fully grasp the tone thing. But either way, this is about Everton. And the currency of hope.
If you’re a writer or whatever the hell it is that I am, there are almost always instances where you’re at a bit of a loss as to where to go next. Sometimes this is good old fashioned “writer’s block”. Other times you’re full of thoughts on a particular subject, but then you realize that those thoughts are tweaks or variations on territory that you and others have already covered extensively. To the point where you’re annoyed that your subject matter-in this case Everton-doesn’t at least have the decency to be more interesting.
I’ve seen some bad Everton teams before, but if there’s one thing I can say about this current iteration it’s that they’re bad in a consistent, boring manner. People like me and a bunch of others who derive a special sort of masochistic inspiration to write about Everton in these dark days have pretty much covered the obvious deficiencies from the manager to the hierarchy to the underperforming players and to what is needed. I’m sure there will be more of this to discuss as this lost season crawls to its tortured death and inevitably to a summer of more change, a new manager, new players, new direction, etc. But I’m bored with all that right now. Admit it, you probably are, too.
Instead, I want to ask a question that started really gnawing away at me for some reason since the Watford defeat. Simply, how relevant are Everton? To frame it a bit more, how relevant are Everton to non-Evertonians? And how does the answer to that question inform and skew our expectations vs. the expectations of others?
Mind you, I’m NOT asking how relevant Everton SHOULD be. We are a big club. A great club. My club. I’ve invested time and money and angst into the club at a level that makes no logical sense considering I’m an American from Texas, living in Oklahoma and should get a life but I gave it to Everton and the club won’t sell it back to me. I love stupid Everton and like most of you, I grapple with the competing forces of both our traditional sense of dread and the hard to fully articulate bit of hope that at SOME POINT, it will be our turn for fortunes to finally turn in a manner worthy of our history and all this damn pain. As grim as this season has been, we point to financial resources and a new stadium on the horizon as evidence that our hope to be elite again isn’t misplaced. But do those on the outside believe that? And does it matter? I suspect it just might. And more than we care to admit.
Sam Allardyce was perfectly willing to settle for a draw. To Watford. With 20 minutes to go. And the most egregious part of that-as astute observers have pointed out-is that it while it says a lot about how Allardyce views what’s good enough for Everton, it may be indicative of how outsiders view Everton’s level and potential. And that mid-table ambition ought to be enough because Everton are viewed with far less optimism in regards to our long term trajectory by those outside this bubble. Especially followers of the game in their 20’s and 30’s who can’t remember a lot of Everton being good, much less great. As generally cynical (and who could blame us?) as we already are as Evertonians, are we still far more hopeful than the average outsider? Ought we be as hopeful as we even are?
The optimistic side of me says that with money and Farhad growing into this and the right Portuguese manager and that new stadium on the horizon, we’re not that lost of a cause. The more rational side of me says that maybe we’re talking about the wrong sorts of expectations. Like, we all talk about getting Top 6 next season. I’m quite hard up for that. But how about we put at least two really good seasons together? How about we make sustained runs in cup competitions for two seasons in a row? How about we not be such a season to season proposition? I aspire for more than those late 2000’s Everton teams, but those teams at least could sustain a decent level for more than a solitary season. This is a sustained sad.
Champions League and trophies start with first proving that you can be consistently good for an extended period of time. Not this season to season roller coaster of the last several years whose highs aren’t even that great. We’ve just proven that money can be transformative but that transformative can go in both directions. Everyone’s had plenty to say on the money. It’s just time for the money to turn the arrow in the right direction. And hold steady for a bit. Ambition built on the shaky-albeit occasionally thrilling-foundation of summer transfer Twitter drunkenness has a dicey future.
And YES, it matters whether outsiders believe in us. It impacts the quality of player, manager, sponsor, etc. we can attract. It impacts the number of times we’re told that a player’s significant other really can’t bear the thought of leaving London. It impacts the ability to finally sign the truly impactful player(s) that we haven’t really been all that close to getting. Those things matter. Yeah, modern football is gross sometimes, but it’s the game we’re trying to win. It starts with being good for a bit before being great for a bit longer. Wouldn’t it be great to be good again for a while?
So to this wretched season I say, “Get behind me Satan!” Ahead I see the seductive glow of the summer. I take a seat, stare skeptically into her gorgeous eyes and whisper, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.”