I have always felt that supporters of Everton, Spurs and Manchester City shared a certain affinity. All three have the stature of big clubs and their shared histories and haul of honours are more or less comparable. They have passionate and considerable fanbases but yet somehow have always lived in the shadow of more successful and more widely supported neighbours. Then something happened.
A Digression: The three errant priests in Father Ted famously entered a fancy dress competition as The Three Ages Of Elvis to hilarious effect and if you will, please allow me a brief moment of theoretical descent into the realms of post-modern political allegory via the framework of sitcom gold in order to demonstrate how these three famous old clubs’ paths ultimately diverged.
Everton can be clearly identified as the Labour Party of old, replete with hush puppies, ideology and loyal to the traditions to which it was founded. Everton, it stands to reason, are Tony Benn. Move it on slightly and the Labour Party then re-imagined itself as ‘New’ and with it came a sense of modernism, hope and expectation after years of failure. It seemed to promise much, attempting as it did to marry two opposing strands of Socialism but it was accepted as a necessary evolution in order to rise to power. This would be Spurs, eager to play with the new powerbrokers at the top of the Premier League but hampered by elements of its past. Manchester City the metaphor clearly demands therefore, are the final years of Tony Blair’s tenure as Prime Minister having descended into megalomania and become increasingly detached from the people that voted for him in the first place. Nobody likes Tony any more. The same can be said for Manchester City. Convoluted analogy is now over. Rest easy.
All this of course is dependent on your political persuasion but Everton’s comparison to the halcyon days of the labour movement is tellingly apt because whilst other clubs are frantically dismantling their connections to the past, Everton make it a matter of honour to retain their sense of identity and continue to acknowledge those that have gone before. Everton for instance, continue to emerge from the tunnel on home matchdays to the theme tune of Z Cars. Many young Evertonians may not know where this tune comes from but it is nevertheless accepted as part of the pre-match routine. Over at my beloved White Hart Lane, we have eschewed the stirring hymnal of Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur for some anonymous faux-classical piece of synthetic bombast aimed at capturing some apparent sense of dramatic gravitas. We are living in the era of X-Factor and Sky Sports after all and Spurs are clearly in the ‘wannabe’ business.
Whilst Everton retain their Latin motto Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, Spurs felt the need to translate Audere Est Facere a few seasons back. I clearly remember looking up what those words meant when I was young. Years later, I can now see how enriching that tiny snippet of Latin was. I can imagine those Victorian romantic idealists forming a club with lofty aspirations and through their choice of motto sending an echo down the subsequent generations for how the club should hold itself. Now it’s just To Dare Is To Do, because it would seem we’re all too busy to run a quick search on Google. Arsenal don’t even bother having theirs on the shirt any more. It therefore makes somewhat of a mockery of the “And If You Know Our History” terrace chant because sooner or later, nobody will remember.
Everton chairman Bill Kenwright might have his fair share of critics for the failures of the re-locations to Kings Dock and Kirkby and many understand that in order to seriously compete, a new stadium is vital but as I see the sheeny plans for the re-development and demolition of White Hart Lane, I envy Evertonians their continued residence in that Archibald Leitch ground with all those ghosts rattling around. I’m not looking forward to saying goodbye to ours. City fans probably miss Maine Road.
Kenwright, whatever you may think of him, clearly bleeds Evertonian blue. There was something touching about watching him hold back tears as the club commemorated their deceased during their last home game of 2012 against Chelsea. I wonder if the Oligarch felt so moved during the moment’s recollection for Dave Sexton’s recent passing? As chairmen go, Kenwright more importantly allows his manager to do his job.
While his counterpart across Stanley Park has spent much of this week defending the actions of a cheat, David Moyes demands honesty of his players. He openly condemned Marouane Fellaini for headbutting Ryan Shawcross recently and he took the unprecedented action of fining his captain Phil Neville for diving in the Merseyside Derby. Yes, Phil Neville, model professional, fined. Moyes is not prone to management doublespeak and does not take refuge under the club’s public relations umbrella. He is what I call, an honest manager.
He has consequently created a club in his own image. A team that works hard, is apparently shorn of ego and is a fearsome match for anybody. But more than anything, Everton have a clear sense of identity and common purpose. Nobody who saw it will ever forget the emotional tribute the Blue half of Liverpool paid the lost souls of Hillsborough after it was finally proven that there was an institutional cover-up of the tragedy. In a very selfish way, I wanted to be an Everton supporter that night because the humanity on display was truly inspirational.
I’m fully aware that there are so many other clubs that do a multitude of good things within their communities. And there are sporadic moments where I am unabashedly proud of the conduct of my own club; the reaction to Fabrice Muamba’s on-field heart attack being a recent case. However, there’s something unique about Everton.
Maybe it’s because they have resided in the top flight for so long that I’ve just grown accustomed to them being a constant within my life? Maybe, like Spurs, they once inhabited the so-called Big Five but have found it harder once the money came in? Maybe it’s because they have a young girl give out Everton mints before matches instead of paying some galumphing idiot in a furry dinosaur suit to gurn for the cameras like they do over at The Emirates. Or maybe it’s because they don’t possess the monumental hubris of calling themselves Liverpool, seeing as they don’t represent the entire city. Imagine Chelsea calling themselves London FC. Oh, the horror.
Perhaps, it’s a combination of all those things. Or maybe it’s the knowledge that I will never in my lifetime see an Everton team run out to the insidious strains of Things Can Only Get Better. And if they did, it would at least be called Rebus Potest Tantum Adepto Melior. Google it.
With thanks to Matthew Davis, Colin Ferguson, Stuart Upson & Nathan Ward. Good Evertonians.
Further reading: Walking Alone: How Liverpool Football Club Lost Its Soul
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