It’s the sheer volume of coverage about Everton, a desperate and broken football club, which has resonated most with me this week.
If this were just another bottom-half Premier League side in the mire, there would have been some discussion and debate. But nothing on the scale we’ve seen. Maybe it’s a back-handed compliment, but the reams of analysis and hours of talk are a reminder that Everton are one of the great clubs of British football. That what has been unfolding at Goodison Park is a national football calamity.
You might be surprised to find me saying that, given I spent six of the best years of my life at the other end of Stanley Park. But Everton have always been a club that resonate for me.
Everton are in a dire state with the club’s demise having been covered in depth this week
Perhaps that’s because they were the very first English football club I visited. The Edinburgh Schoolboys team I’d been picked for were to play Liverpool Schoolboys at Goodison in 1967 but after we travelled down the game was called off because the rain had waterlogged the pitch. A friend of mine, Eric Carruthers, who later played for Hearts, and I decided to go and look at Goodison and Anfield because they were so close to each other.
We got a bus out there from our hotel near Lime Street and when we showed up at Goodison and told our story, some friendly Scouser let us in. We walked up the tunnel and onto the pitch. They were trying to protect it, rather than have a couple of schoolkids wandering around, but what an impression that place made on me as a 14-year-old.
When I went to play there with Middlesbrough, five or so years later, they’d not long completed the first three-tier stand in Britain. It’s dated now, but it took your breath away back them. The picture I’m trying to paint here is of a serious football club, with passionate supporters to match.
Everton are paying the price for poor recruitment decisions over the past five years
Everton owner Farhad Moshiri, left, and chairman Bill Kenwright, right, have come under fire
I arrived to live and work in Liverpool in 1978 and they were tough days. There was economic struggle and deep unemployment. It was raw. Football was their form of self-expression. A way of defying those who wrote the place off. People talk about football cities but that place and Glasgow are the ultimate ones for me.
Of course, Everton have discovered in the painful past five years that the one thing you have to get right above all else in football is recruitment. They’ve had a couple of good managers – people who have done very well elsewhere in football – but it’s been the classic case of a wealthy man, waltzing in, thinking he knows best and not listening.
Farhad Moshiri, like some other owners currently in our game, thought: ‘This game’s easy. I know about football.’ Foolish, lazy, complacent thinking, from an individual who has made so much money that he thinks that he, rather than proper football people, has got all the answers. He’s taking bad advice and it’s turned into a farce for the club and its supporters.
Moshiri has taken bad advice leading to a football calamity at one of the country’s great clubs
Former Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa turned down the chance to take charge at Everton
Moshiri decided that it was Marcelo Bielsa he wanted as his next manager and that one concerned me, until Bielsa took one look at it and decided it wasn’t for him in mid-season.
You could justifiably say that Bielsa turned Championship players into Premier League players at Leeds but he implemented a kamikaze football which, though very entertaining, was doomed to take them back down into the Championship before he left. An approach that was completely foreign to the players was not what Everton needed.
Now it seems that Sean Dyche will become the manager instead and I think that would be an appointment which gives Everton a very good chance of staying up.
Sean Dyche is set to take charge at Goodison Park and oversee the battle against relegation
Every manager is a gamble. For most of his reign Dyche did a good job at Burnley on a limited budget. My view on football management is the longer you’re in the Premier League the further away you should get from relegation. Though he would correctly point to his budget, that didn’t happen for him at Burnley.
But he will bring pragmatism and good organisation to a group of players who are feeling sorry for themselves. Some of those players are looking at other people in the dressing room and saying, ‘It’s their fault.’ That dressing room needs to be galvanised. Its players need to start looking at themselves.
There are still grounds for optimism because this discussion cannot conclude without referencing the supporters, who reacted in a way that got Everton over the line to survival at the end of last season.
Everton’s supporters can help the club stay up after inspiring their survival last season
They, like thousands of neutrals with a soft spot for a club woven into the fabric of our football, will remember the great team of the 1980s, who won the title twice in three years just after I had left Liverpool. They will recall the players who emerged at that time – Peter Reid, Graeme Sharp, Kevin Sheedy, Kevin Ratcliffe, Neville Southall. Serious players.
They will remember the ‘friendly derby’, when you paid your money and got in wherever you liked in the stadium – so chunks of the Kop were blue and chunks of the Park End were red. I only lost one league game to them in my six seasons – a match in October 1978 when Andy King scored the only goal at the Park End in front of 53,000 people. I was three or four inches away from getting a block on it. Andy was chased off the pitch by a policeman, while doing an interview live on TV!
These reasons and more are why Everton matter and why I am hoping they can find a way through all this. Hiring the right manager for this situation would be a good start.
Rashford’s ice bath looked more like an ice tomb to me!
The latest form of ice bath, a -140C machine which Marcus Rashford was pictured in this week, looks more like an ice tomb to me and is a long way from the kind of treatment I experienced as a player.
The only baths we had were the team baths, which were warm. The only ice we had were the packs you put on your leg after an injury. You would elevate for a few days and then get some heat into it. There was no science.
Marcus Rashford has been using a cryosauna to help enhance his recovery after matches
But I’ve found a different kind of ice bath, which I can honestly say I swear by. I live on the coast and swim in the sea, some days. The guys I swim with like an early start so at this time of year it’s dark and I’ll have a green flashing light attached to my cap and I look ridiculous!
Even in a wetsuit, it’s cold but the incredible feeling that half an hour in the water leaves me with is there for the rest of the day.
Darvel marvels are why we love the Cups
The ‘Darvel disaster’ is what they’re calling Aberdeen’s 1-0 defeat this week to a West of Scotland League team, five divisions below them, and I can certainly emphasise with the beaten team in that Scottish Cup tie.
It’s 36 years this weekend since my Rangers team lost 1-0 to Hamilton Academicals in a Cup tie at Ibrox and that result was still being celebrated with 30th anniversary pieces, six years ago! We actually didn’t play at all badly but it was just one of those freakish days.
Sixth tier Darvel pulled off the biggest upset in Scottish Cup history on Monday
Their goalkeeper, David McKellar, had an extraordinary game and we even ended up signing him a few years later, when my assistant Walter Smith had become manager.
I recall the pitch wasn’t at its best in the depths of winter, either. But none of that matters now.
The day belonged to a lad called Adrian Sprott who scored their goal and was being paid £50 a week to play at the time.
This is why we love Cup competitions.
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