The ball is played out of defence, into the feet of Idrissa Gueye. He takes a touch, then another.
“Move it on!” shouts some idiot in the crowd, thinking that Gueye will somehow hear, and obey.
I’m surprised to find that the idiot is me.
Why do we do that? As fans, we’re essentially just there to watch and show support – if we choose to. In a practical sense, we have no agency. We certainly don’t have the tactical nous to tell professional footballers what to do. My decade of experience coaching youth football doesn’t qualify me, nor my other talents of…well, basically, having an airtight memory of quotes from series 3-8 of The Simpsons. But there I am, muttering that Walcott needs to cut inside more and open up space for Coleman to exploit. It’s a perfectly cromulent observation, mind.
What we do is either mansplaining on an industrial scale, or part of a need to feel a part of things. Developments at Arsenal, with Stan Kroenke swatting aside fan interests to establish a controlling stake in the club, are a reminder that fan influence is waning fast. The crashing waves of big business have eroded the community spirit of football for many years now, let’s save the hand-wringing and protect fan involvement as and when it is put at risk.
Everton has done fairly well, as far as Premier League clubs are concerned, by keeping fans involved. The ever-increasing reach of Everton in the Community is also a real boon to the community. It might get giggles from esteemed social media banter merchants, but Everton in the Community is the single best thing the club is responsible for, even if trophies start rolling in.
At the bottom of it, every single Everton fan wants to feel that sense of belonging. Scouse fans retain that fierce pride in what remains a locally-focused club, while fans outside the city mostly try to buy into the club’s culture – that maintains the powerful connection between Everton and the city it represents. Evertonians in far-flung lands like America or Singapore don’t pick the club because of success – how could they – but because something about it seems right. They meet up in droves, and spend the sort of money coming to one match that local fans spend across the season. They are, frankly, mental. But also brilliant.
We’re a weird breed, as a whole. I won’t pretend that we’re the greatest fans in the world. Actually, the bickering is both maddening and enduring, not to mention that fatalistic streak. The Sun will collapse upon itself, and as the light in the universe is extinguished, a lone voice will call into the abyss: “Everton, that.”
Neville Southall has rightly pointed out before that Evertonians give an incredible lift, but can also kick a team most when they’re down. At the heart of it all is a real obsession with the club’s fortunes. We tracked Romelu Lukaku’s flight. We watched Andriy Yarmolenko play against some Ukrainian farmers on a dodgy stream. We’re actually a bit Glenn Close, if you think about it.
But no matter the overall outlook, we’re all about to come together to welcome in a new season, and we’ve all gone all Michael Corleone. Just when we thought we were out, they pull us back in.
Like it or not, the 90 or so minutes Everton play of a weekend has a big impact on the rest of it. Come half past five on Saturday all of us, whether at Molyneux or elsewhere, we’ll feel that same tension. We’ll be moved to disseminate our tactical opinions, loudly and frequently. And that Everton rollercoaster will set off all over again. We can’t control where it goes; we’re all just going along for the ride.
I feel nauseous. Does anyone else feel nauseous?