Everton: Still A Decent Club In An Indecent League

It’s been just over a year since I made the bold pronouncement that Everton are a rare breed amongst Premier League football clubs. The post was the most commented upon piece of writing I have published thus far and on reflection, I assume a lot of the positivity that came its way was due to the fact that it was written by a supporter of another club. Writing it forced me to look beyond the parochialism that afflicts many aspects of the game and to that end, I enjoyed not having to engage in much of the self-flagellating that I regularly indulge in when writing about Spurs.

However, my good intentions did not necessarily resonate with all Evertonians. Although they were by and large embracing of my central argument, many took the opportunity in the comments section to voice some highly critical opinions on the various issues that simmer beneath the surface of the club such as the chairmanship of Bill Kenwright; matters that may not be immediately apparent from an outsider’s perspective.

With that in mind and a year on, can we really continue to call Everton one of the only “decent” clubs in the league?

Before I tackle Everton specifically, perhaps it would be beneficial to define what I actually mean by the term “decent”. Is it for instance, a sense of common identity that unites those occupying the plush leather swivel chairs in the boardroom filtering its way down to those enduring the plastic slabs on a matchday? Or is it just a proud and cherished tradition, replete with a list of honours and accolades garnered throughout a club’s history? Maybe it’s the community links that a club goes to great lengths to foster, a practice that might readily be dismissed as mere public relations in the cynical world that we inhabit?

If it’s all those, then I’m sure a case could easily be made for many clubs. For me, it’s a question of minutiae; the little things that a club does that make you look on as a passive interloper and think to yourself, “Wow, I wish my club did things as cool as that”.

Mandatory self-flagellation begins – It’s not a great time to be a Spurs fan. There’s a strange mood prevalent among many a long-time follower of the club. Having accepted that AVB was probably not the right man for the job, many of us have nevertheless been left despondent by the hierarchy’s willingness to lurch from one crisis to the next, seemingly without any forethought. It’s finally dawned on us that the club is run as a money-making exercise and all the Champions League chest-thumping is merely a pacifier for those who pay through runny noses for their season tickets. While the club undoubtedly does a lot of outreach work and the majority of its supporters are fantastic, the sad reality is that I doubt many onlookers look at us and think, “Wow, I wish my club did things as cool as that”. I’ve come to view my own club as a joke without any foreseeable punchline. I ask myself would a non-Spurs fan take it upon him or herself to write nearly a thousand words acclaiming the reputation of my club? Unfortunately, I don’t believe that they would – Mandatory self-flagellation ends.

Talking with Everton supporting friends, I get a very different image of how a club can hold itself in an environment that does so much to wring out all sense of goodness left in the game. And as I said, it’s the little things. An example of which happened last week when Everton invited youngsters to shadow various members of the club’s staff from the groundsman to the stadium announcer; a move that clearly aimed to demonstrate to them that a football club is not wholly made up of superstars and millionaires.

When Roberto Martinez was appointed he apparently invited Howard Kendall in to guide him on the culture of the club. Martinez has also hung a picture of a legendary Everton player above each player’s locker to inspire those now wearing the shirt. That’s what I define as pretty “decent”.

While other clubs’ supporters might have treated the departure of a widely respected and long-serving manager with contempt, Evertonians were gracious in their farewell to David Moyes. Whilst reluctantly accepting the allure that led him toward Old Trafford, there was a clear acknowledgment and pride in the quality of the work he had achieved during his time at Goodison. As for his successor, you get the sense that he will be afforded time to implement his plans and that he is wholeheartedly trusted by his employers. A quick glance at the current league table is a clear indication that Everton are yet again stable in mentality and flying in the face of received wisdom. You can’t say that about many other clubs if the perennial reaping of managerial statuses is anything to go by.

I’ve always had the impression, and this is obviously tinged with a purely subjective viewpoint, that Evertonians understand that football isn’t just about results or trophies or the narrowness of what happens on the pitch. There’s a very real sense that they understand that there are other, more human factors that unite us all as fans. Perhaps witnessing their neighbours suffer such unspeakable tragedy has forced them to re-evaluate the very essence of the nature of rivalry. The Merseyside derby is undoubtedly intense but I have never felt it to be as poisonous as the North London one or meetings between Liverpool and Manchester United. The toxicity that dominates London football leads me to believe that such humanity might not always be as overtly expressed should such sadness ever fall on one of its clubs. I hope I never have to find out.

Maybe that’s what it is that makes Everton such a decent club. Perspective. Winning and losing make no difference in that regard. As long as the club exists and attempts to live up to its “nothing but the best” motto is all you can really ever ask of the football club. Silverware, however welcome it might be, is not the ubiquitous bottom line.

Everton are by no means perfect. I’m sure the club has its fair share of knuckle-draggers populating its fanbase. In addition, the plans to change the club crest without proper consultation with fans smacked of twenty-first century profits-driven avarice. However, in fairness, once the overwhelming sense of outrage filtered through to the marketing department, the club was swift to retract the plans and opened up channels of communication with supporters to decide on future plans.

When it comes down to this infuriating hobby we’ve all devoted so much of our time and money to, you can’t really go too far wrong if you support Everton. I suppose the clue is in the stadium’s name. Everton are just good. And that’s no bad thing.

For my own sanity, I’m imploring someone, anyone, to write some nice things about Spurs. I want to feel the same way about my club as I feel about Everton. To dare is to do.

With thanks to Colin Ferguson, Stuart Upson and Nathan Ward.

Further reading: 

Everton: A Decent Club In An Indecent League

Liverpool Football Club: Reclaiming The Perch

Follow Dispatches on Twitter: @Sofalife


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26 Responses to Everton: Still A Decent Club In An Indecent League

  1. Paul Dempsey January 20, 2014 at 9:31 am #

    What a lovely article! As a lifelong season ticket holding blue it summed up what I love about my club. Yep some don’t like Bill, yes we did feel let down by David Moyes with the transfer debacle but it didn’t take away from all he had achieved.

    My best mate is a kopite and whilst I don’t like his team I don’t hate it’s fans… And as an exiled scouser I am dismayed by the current love affair with money and avarice…will there ever be another club like Forest who rise from nowhere to win trophies?

    No we’re stuck with the football league we deserve….sky et al. Spurs are a good club with a fantastic history and a wealth of fantastic present and former players….maybe one day we’ll have our own title race circa 1984-85???

  2. Dave 1878 January 20, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    A very well written and dare I say, close to the truth piece.
    We do have our fair share of knuckle draggers, we also have many who will never be happy whatever the club, chairman does. The majority however were born into supporting our club. We are not filled with glory hunters (for definition look south across Stanley Park or east along M62) but with fans who love the club and it’s traditions.
    Our club looks after it’s own. From the ex-players foundation which helps those who have fallen on hard times to the reception given to ‘most’ former players who return.
    David Moyes got it spot on when he termed us ‘The Peoples Club’. He then got it seriously wrong when he agreed to takeover at ManUre whilst still our manager AND made a derisory bid for two of our top players.
    That’s the other thing – we never forget those who have wronged us!!

  3. Nick oakley January 20, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    Brilliant article. You are right there are a few morons at the club but the vast majority love what we are and feel we are genuinely proud of nearly everything about the club.
    There are a few people who always seem to want to risk what we’ve got as a club by getting in a billionaire. I think I am the same as the vast majority however, who love Bill Kenwright for loving the club and through his steerage, getting virtually everything right.
    Greatness on the field is returning as well – happy days to be a true blue.

  4. DannyMackay January 20, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    As a Spurs fan I can’t praise this article highly enough. Last couple of years I’ve looked at Everton and Newcastle as clubs who just do this football thing a bit differently to my club.

    Far from a money-go-round of players and managers like at Spurs, both seem to have decided to be a club, a collective, and something that fans from a bygone era would recognise as a football team.

    I never imagined other clubs were thus perfect, but Everton is an example of how I want my club to be again – an identity above all else.

    • tehTrunk January 20, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

      You’re having a laugh with the Newcastle part right?

    • Jb February 13, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

      Is this sarcastic?

    • Daniel March 19, 2014 at 10:02 am #

      Look at what Alan Pardew has said about Everton, then you might want to retract your statement about Newcastle.
      DM and RM would never say such thing.

  5. Gary January 20, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    Great article, and nice to see someone else noticing what Everton do behind the scenes, things that the main stream media choose not to write. One big example was recently, after the last home game before Christmas the lights in Goodison where left on and local familys who are not as well off where invited in with there children for a picnic drinks and a sing along, or like on every match day a few kids from the Everton section and a few kids from the away section are invited onto the Goodison pitch to have a game of footy, its small gestures like that, that makes a difference to a community and its children, not all the millions and egos

  6. Dave Roberts January 20, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    What a great article, it’s rare for someone outside your club to understand why someone supports a team. It isn’t just about winning trophies otherwise we would have all bought red black and white scarves or dare I say it to a Spurs supporter blue ones… No….trophies are what you strive towards not feel it’s your God given right to win.
    We live in an era where a select number of clubs spend hundreds of millions of pounds on squads and play against teams with a fraction of their money and the collective media pat them on the back and tell the world how wonderful they are when the beat another team or win something.
    If you look up the meaning of the phrase level playing field or the meaning of the word competition you will find it no longer applies to the game we love..end of rant.
    It’s comforting to know that the reasons you point out why we support Everton are the same reasons the majority of all decent football supporters have to support their clubs. They ‘get it’ as I suspect you do and I know that after the belief and pride of history Roberto Martinez has given us at Everton, he gets it too!

  7. Tufty January 20, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    The author really is a closet blue, but I like the writing style, even if I think his portrayal of Everton is a little wide of the mark. Don’t get me wrong, I love my club and I I do think their is something rather special about us, but we’re not quite to squeaky clean.

    We have a good feel about the place and I am well aware of some of the fantastic, community based initiatives undertaken by the club, which put our near neighbors in the shade. Our treatment of former players and even Bill Shankly, sets us apart and I love the fact that Martinez has hung a big picture of Mandela at Finch Farm to inspire, it strikes me that ours is an intelligent and compassionate club.

    However, I think that there have been many dubious episodes in the past (Johnny Carey, Kirkby, Sports Fortress, AGM’s behind closed doors) and a few in the present that suggest our board can mix it with the best when it comes mismanagement and cynical disregard. We’ve sold all our assets, mortgaged our future and have a crumbling stadium that is in desperate need of investment; the future is potentially very bleak, especially in the absence of a long term strategy for how we hope to recover any semblance of financial independence in the future.

    Still, I thank the man on the sofa for his kind words and intelligent observations of the inherent qualities most blues are blessed with, I just happen to think we deserve better.

    • Jacko January 22, 2014 at 9:24 am #

      And here lies said knuckle dragger who looks at the club and its finances like it is the be all and end all. To see to a billionaire who will invest would very probably tear from our club what this article spells out so well.

      About the article all I can say is thank you for this fantastic piece, if only some of our fans thought so highly of our club.

      • David Crewe January 22, 2014 at 9:05 pm #

        We do – I really liked BKs message the other week – said it all for me.

        I don’t want a big sale to someone or organisation who doesn’t have bluenose blood running through their veins.

  8. John Hanley January 20, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    Well done

    A lovely piece encapsulating all that is good about Everton, especially as it’s written from a neutral perspective.

    The Derby match atmosphere is not as toxic as pointed out as some are, but I feel that it’s EFC and LFC fans from outside who do not have that family based deep understanding, who can occasionally taint an occasion with below the belt chanting.

    Overall the article is excellent.

  9. Ray Finch January 20, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

    Thank you for the very kind words.

    We do have our issues and I am certainly not a fan of our present chairman but I have to acknowledge, in terms of community, we do it pretty well. I love the fact that Goodison Park is still one of the old fashioned, tightly packed grounds where the fans can make a difference and I love the way it is surrounded by good alehouses and chippys. It really feels like home. Roberto Martinez seems just right for how I remember us playing as a kid.

    In return. Spurs always have a certain playing style that tries to entertain and even though your fans have a reputation for getting quickly onto a managers back, you only seem do it when they are not trying to play good football. Something at least to be proud of.

  10. Catherine January 20, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

    I think you can tell how decent the club is when so many players seem to love playing for us and want to stay like Barry or come back, like Pienaar (sorry!). Tim Cahill still refers to Goodison as his home. Martinez has slotted right in and I loved seeing him visiting a 93 year old supporter for Blue Chrimbo. Couldn’t see Ferguson or Mourinho doing that. Don’t worry, things will turn round for you. We got rid of Johnson after years of misery.

  11. Dave Kelly January 21, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    Interesting and well constructed piece on the self proclaimed “Peoples Club.” It’s always welcome to receive acknowledgement for your peers.

    Evertonians and Everton Football Club have many things to be proud of, especially our peerless and multi-award winning Everton in the Community. The ground breaking Everton Former Players Association to name but two.

    Personally, I have always had an empathy with Tottenham supporters, who like us have the unenviable problem of having “nuisance neighbours” on the doorstep.

    Unfortunately, if you scratch beneath the rich and shiny veneer you are presented by a totally different picture. One that goes to extraordinary lengths to quell dissent.
    However, the Kenwright years will also be remembered for many things that don’t show our great club up in the same positive light.

    The cancellation of Shareholders AGMs, denying the owners of the company the opportunity to question the Directors on finances, on the release of the accounts, to Democratically elect board members

    Our unelected and unaccountable fans forum, club officials covertly photographing fans engaged in lawful peaceful protest and the shame removal of a middle-aged school teachers season ticket and customer reference number all because he campaign about the Everton Free School.

    When you also consider the ill-conceived decision to abandon Goodison Park and relocate out the Cities boundaries to a retail park in Kirkby, the ham-fisted attempt to ditch the much loved badge for the current carbuncle or deciding that our motto “Nil Satis Nisi Optimum was no long fit for purpose.

    So yes, we are all immensely proud of the History, the Heritage and Traditions of Everton Football Club but determined not to allow the custodians of “our club” to dumb down expectations or the ambitions of supporters.

    Maybe, just maybe on my visit to White Hart Lane in February you may well see me and other Evertonians giving you Spurs supporters an envious glance. Unlike Everton, Spurs seem to have afar more understanding of looking after “the core business interests” football.

    After all, we are all careful what we wish for.

  12. harry cleary January 21, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

    Makes me proud to be a blue. Just want to see us in europe again.

  13. ToffeeDan January 21, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

    Brilliant stuff. I’m a 43 years standing season ticket holder at Goodison and I should add, if it hasn’t already been mentioned – The Former Players Foundation (first in the world), The Everton in the Community organisation (with its multiple award winning programmes) and so on.. but on to more mundane things like..

    The manager and first team players showing up for a reserve game (free entry, 6,000 attending), the new openness of the Martinez era, the lovely little touches like thanking visiting supporters for coming and wishing them a safe journey home…and finally, for not being LFC.

    • Jeff Jones January 22, 2014 at 6:46 am #

      I just want to say this. I’ve been an Evertonian for about 63 years, and lived in London for nearly two years in 1970/71.
      During that time I usually went to White Hart Lane when I didn’t travel to wherever Everton were playing.
      Two traditional clubs, although Spurs are far more ‘moneyed’ than us, and it’s nice to be recognised for what we are as a club from a contemporary..

  14. Keith Young January 22, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    I am an Everton supporter and as such I wish to thank you for your comments. I want to return the compliment but I am hindered by time and the ability to match your article. In no way am I short of material to return the compliment that Spurs is a VERY decent club in the same league and mentality as Everton aspire to be. So please be patient with me as I gather the facts from my personal experience with Tottenham toillustrate just how decent ( in your terms ) your Club is.

  15. David Crewe January 22, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

    What a great article,

    I’m so proud to be a blue, always had empathy with spurs and looking forward to our trip to the Lane in February,

    We love the Old Lady (Goodison) but will be slightly jealous of their facilities and new ground development.

    It would make such a difference if we could do the same around Goodison but not in the way the other lot have gone about theirs.

    Nonetheless, no complaints and loving the club and the premier league for all it’s failings.

    As Alan Ball famously said , ‘once Everton has touched you nothing will ever be the same’

  16. Leonard January 23, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    A big thanks to whoever wrote this, and many of the subsequent comments from fellow Toffee’s sum up pretty much how I feel. Real politic would suggest that if a billionaire comes in to buy us,lot’s of the aforementioned positives could be lost.

    The PR at the club is good in terms of relating to the traditional working class fan base at Everton, but no one I fear can stop the ceaseless march to attract a more Bourgeois customer to the Premier league.

    Look at the situation with our lovable neighbours from across the park, the Kop now is totally unrecognizable in terms of it’s overall dynamic. Loads of people from outside of Liverpool and the U.K., They obviously spend copious amounts of money in the souvenir shop,but they have no concept of our city’s relationship with football.

    Spurs are a great traditional footie team, and that 1960’s kit, circa Danny Blanchflower is a classic.

  17. Alan January 23, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

    I love spurs away and that Irish club by the station

  18. Winston January 23, 2014 at 11:15 pm #

    Brilliant as ever. Such an overwhelmingly positive response and rightly so. It’s testament to a yid – our “man on the sofa”, that he naturally recognizes the good in a football club ethos, held by that club’s fans, which emobodies everything we collectively love about the game. Community, compassion, dedication, respect and good, hard football.

    Hope Ossie gets better soon.

  19. Mark H January 26, 2014 at 11:07 am #

    Lovely article. Everything that can be said both positively and negatively about Everton has been so I won’t repeat it. I’ll just respond to your request for someone to say something nice about Spurs instead. At the start of the season when Rooney left us we played Arsenal at Goodison. They beat us 4-1. As they raced away with the game their fans started a chorus of “You’re the Spurs of Merseyside”. I have three very long standing mates who are all loyal Spurs fans. I have taken them to Goodison. They have taken me to White Hart Lane. All four of us have remained loyal to our clubs through thick and thin.

    There is plenty of banter and baiting. But none of us have been tainted by the arrogance that became the hallmark of the supporters of the Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal (and now City) from the moment Sky decreed them as the natural contenders for the Champions League elite. That arrogance was revealed in the Arsenal fans’ chorus identifying us with Spurs and (probably unwittingly) showing their solidarity with the misbegotten hordes of Liverpool supporters who belong to the same Champions league invite only club as them.

    Their arrogance has since been rewarded by a failure to win anything since. By contrast the loyalty of Everton and Spurs fans has been rewarded by both of our teams gatecrashing the Champions League party and upsetting the established Sky Order. I hope we can both do this again and prove to the world that good football is not the prerogative of accountants and TV executives. It is the product of skilled footballers, well trained and organised by good managers and driven on to victory by the passionate support of good fans.

    The mark of a good fan is understanding football. The mark of the Sky generation of fans by contrast – summed up by the Arsenal chant at Goodison that day and echoed in similar chants by their “elite” compatriots – is arrogance fed by the handouts of billionaire owners or backers. Arrogance is based on ignorance – a belief in a divine right to success. And arrogance – as United fans, rather like the King of France back in the eighteenth century, are now finding out – will always get its comeuppance.

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