Reader notification: This piece contains a few “buzzwords”, but sometimes they’re unavoidable. Stick with me, regardless.
May 16th, 2018. What a day, eh? “What do they want?” Am I wrong to want the entertainment value on the pitch to match the sports cocaine that is quickly becoming a thing called “Everton Summer”? Would it melt these wings? All I know is that it’s here once more and I am born again!
Last summer—despite the season that cruelly followed—was some of the most fun, funny, joyous, ridiculously petty and rad offseasons EVER for Evertonians of a certain age and/or association for whom the “good old days” is largely confined to low-def YouTube clips. I can get tired of watching sports sometimes and I need a break. I could definitely use a short break from watching football. But Everton Summer is an idea that lives in the nirvana of my headspace and it can last forever as far as I’m concerned. It’s that odd Evertonian intersection of affiliation, hope, delusion, inside jokes and conspiracy-mongering that feels a bit lighter when the sun is out, the beers and such are flowing, and there isn’t a fixture in sight. I LOVE it. I would marry it.
So as overjoyed and dizzy as I was by the much needed seismic shifts throughout the club today, I’m almost a bit sad that they all happened in such a quick, deadly precise succession because aren’t I supposed to suffer a bit (lot) more into June and July before I get THIS MUCH of what I wanted? I’ve been conditioned not to expect things to happen quickly, if at all—not with Everton and certainly not as a club outside the formerly Top 4 and currently Top 6. And yet here we are today. With a series of decisive appointments—regardless of how it all turns out—we’ve got what appears to be a well-thought out approach to operating like a mature organization. Don’t get me wrong, we haven’t actually done anything yet. But the approach rings true upon first glance. We appear to have made some sound choices to both organize an operation and foster a much needed internal culture and mindset shift within the club. Other people can provide more in-depth insight than me on the new Board re-alignment with Denise Barrett-Baxendale at the head and our incredibly well-regarded incoming DoF, Marcel Brands. But make no mistake, this appears to be the most promising indication yet of Everton’s intent to begin operating like a truly modern football club.
And the point of it all appears geared toward playing football that is both winning and entertaining—something currently designated as the sacred birthright of the “Top 6”—a cartel full of success and entitlement the likes of which this sport hasn’t seen since they were a Top 4. So if we’re going to break into their sweet yacht party, the first step is to start operating in the sort of sophisticated manner that they (usually) do. The actions of today are promising—and in many ways more important in the bigger picture than the choice of the next manager. We’ll soon land one of the handsome, tactically-progressive Portuguese we’ve lusted so hard for and he may work and he may not. But without the necessary infrastructure behind the scenes, neither Pep nor Jesus himself could manage us to glory on their own. Props to Everton for trying to grow through a thoroughly reconsidered approach.
And in doing so, I say death to the old order. I’m bored already with the state of the Premier League in a Top 6 world. Aren’t you? This league has been kinda awful for a couple seasons running. So ignore all the bullshit from the same robotic media hacks saying that teams outside the top 6 wanting to play attacking football “better be careful”—speaking to us too much like we’re ungrateful little children who should be estatic at the prospect of the occasional pat on the head for securing the odd Europa League place. Let our club aspire to whatever its fans and collective consciousness long for. You worry about your own team, you(z).
The status quo comes complete with its own trademark narrative which reinforces a cautionary, unadventurous message of lowered expectations and an even lowered prospect of enjoyment. That widening gap between the top 6 and everyone else? It used to all be down to money, and that’s still a big part of it, no doubt. But maybe it’s also due to the reality that far too many clubs fall into line with said narrative for the fear of losing it all. Fear might be a justification for altering an approach when a given season turns against you and you’ve got to act accordingly. But fear can’t and shouldn’t be an ongoing operating principle. Seeing Everton—or any club and their supporters—attempt to align aspiration and organization into a coherent path both onward AND upward should be celebrated.
If Everton or any other side chooses to try to fight their way to the big boy table by acting big in regards to spending, planning, AND being willing to play entertaining football, AMEN. If there are more teams that entertain, the league will be more entertaining, hence the league will be better and alas, more valuable. I want Everton to operate with intelligence and imagination and I want to love watching this sport again as opposed to merely being caught up in it out of custom. And it’s genuinely heartening to see the club begin to take a more logical, strategic approach to its operation in pursuit of being inspirational once more. Hell, I’m pretty excited at the prospect of the club operating with exceptional competence. Yeah, I’m a romantic. Bottom line, I welcome Everton’s new, promising adults in the room. Maybe just the idea of them and what they bring with them puts me at ease enough to begin to dream big and dumb again. And we’ll all laugh about the inevitable heartbreak of it all later because hey, this is sports, but at least I can imagine us finally being well and truly in the game for a change. That’s right, I’m diving headlong into that sparkly blue pool of not-totally-merited faith in Everton eventually coming good and I didn’t bother to wait a half hour after eating. Yeah, I’ve got the summer fever, alright. Long may it last.