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.
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