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The Holiday Blues in Detroit

By Ed Bottomley :  26/07/2009 :  Comments (21) :

"Dee-troit has some great teeth… she’s just got a lot missing too."

The driver tossed this witty nugget into the backseat of the taxi, he was a small man whose mood could be entirely gauged by his grip on the steering wheel.

They say that if you want a good tour of a city, take a taxi. And I had never been to the centre of Motown so I thought I’d give it a go. This is a city with a rich history but a non-existent bank balance — a city whose (now ex) Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was someone definitely in the Peter Johnson mould, screwing Detroit out of money in a multitude of ways; slapping dishonesty on top of mismanagement in a gruesome layer cake of political skullduggery — and also a city that is 3,000 miles from my Blue Boys — but very close in many ways.

I took the taxi tour to try and distract myself from Everton, but I should have known better. Holidays have always been a time to obsess over football, with the absence of actual games being instead filled with relentless sound of transfer tongue wagging. Back home I remember descending into a summer holiday frenzy of day-long Teletext vigils, pouring over tiny rumours in the Liverpool Echo, and the evil and legendary Clubcall (where a titillating transfer ad lured you into an extortionate 5 minute call in which the utterly fictitious transfer target was only divulged after an excruciating wait.) Both Clubcall and Teamtalk were as ubiquitous as the Nigerian prince emailing for your bank a/c details, and oceans of adolescent football fans fell for this ruse.

When abroad on my July hols, I used to pour over overpriced tabloids, days old, the text blanched by the sun, but still redolent with bullshit. And therein lies the problem, the summer months are so lacking in any proper club football, that fans are baying for any transfer news whatsoever, and we work ourselves into such a crazed and ravenous state that any rumours will do. Rejections by players, whether perceived or real, therefore hurt more — we can’t wash away the pain with a 3-0 victory, we just sit there marinating in our own fears and worries, waiting for the season to start.

The summer is such a strange time to be an Everton fan. Despite constantly breaking our transfer records (AJ, Beattie, Yakubu, Fellaini) we still feel a sense of missing out. The grass is always greener next door, and the signings we narrowly miss out on are always the missing links — the players who would have propelled us to the “next level” — the likes of Sean Davis, Moutinho, Fernandes and Naughton. As the summer rolls by Evertonians' faces begin to grimace tightly like clenched fists, ready to blame the powers at be for inactivity.

The focus moves from our overachieving team, to the nebulous hunt for new recruits. David Moyes, the most dynamic young manager in the league, being headhunted by Man Utd as the Lord of the Ferg’s successor, somehow morphs into Dithering Dave in the summer sun; only eclipsed by Bill Kenwright — the potless refusenik who turns away rich investors in droves…

Like the spoiled kid who rushes to the door when a relative visits, hands out, demanding “what present did you bring me this time!?!” – we have a strong sense of entitlement at Everton. Most of us believe that it is our manifest destiny to be in the top four, even though as a team without money we are footballing Neanderthals walking amongst billionaire oligarchs. There is also an equally powerful demand for new signings, we wave away claims that returning stars will be “like new players” – even though returning Arteta, Yakubu, and Jagielka to a team is like putting an engine back in a car, and we discount the fact that our young team is growing and improving together.

Nope, the only thing that will slake our transfer bloodlust is signings, not loans, not freebies, big glittering signings. If Moyes had signed Jo for £20 million rather than somehow again bagging him on loan from City, maybe that would have shut people up. Just as Tony Hibbert still larrups the ball up to the ghost of Duncan Ferguson, we still demand transfers as if we were still the Merseyside Millionaires.

Every so often I would come back to the real world, and remember that I was sitting in the back of a Detroit cab - I couldn’t stop thinking about Everton but my mind needed occasional respite from worrying about the Merseysiders. I was driven past the crumbling facade of once glorious and historic Tiger stadium, Joe DiMaggio played there and it opened the same week that the Titanic sank. All of which pried open thoughts about Goodison, and Kirkby. It seemed that all roads in Detroit led to Goodison, even the most obtuse sight would trigger thoughts of my Blues.

The lavish beauty of Detroit's Guardian Building also woke me from my daydreams - an Aztec Art Deco skyscraper. It rivals New York’s Chrysler Building, maybe even betters it, but it is an unknown pearl. This ornate, pre-Wall Street crash, Babel is a 36 floor ode to the possibilities of a blank chequebook – but also a reminder that the sky is no longer the limit; a building of such glaring opulence couldn’t be built today. Are we as Everton fans asking for a Guardian building, when in our current state the most we should expect is sensible, solid and firm architecture?

Like Detroit, Evertonians are chained to the past, tied to Nil Satis Nisi Optimum – four Latin words which somehow trump Moyes’ hand crafted team. MacGyver Moyes has cobbled together a team of belligerent Gadflies, but still we want more, it’s in our blood, and the more we chant our motto like a mantra, “Nil Satis Nisi Optimum” , “Nil Satis Nisi Optimum” , the more we think it will come true. Marooned like Bligh, isolated like Kurtz, we are charting a unique course, the fourth most successful team in England, without the cash that is seemingly needed to play the game of football these days, but we’re trying.

We look distinctly Clark Kent during the summer, and its only when the season begins that we shamble into the nearest phone box and come out a chest puffing Superman. Detroit's gappy smile is shared by the rictus grin of rickety Goodison, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. As I left the city, and clambered out of the cab, the taxi driver looked at me with the same thousand yard stare, daydreaming about something, he was clearly somewhere else too…

Reader Comments

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John Conaghan
1   Posted 27/07/2009 at 13:56:56

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Superb stuff.
Dave Brierley
2   Posted 27/07/2009 at 13:59:37

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Loved it Ed. Made me smile although I think you pretty well got it spot on. Happy days.
Jay Harris
3   Posted 27/07/2009 at 14:16:00

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Great piece, Ed, with some good analogies... alas I fear it may be too late for some people to wake up and smell the coffee.

Kenwright’s path to oblivion motors on.
Mark Hanson
4   Posted 27/07/2009 at 14:19:30

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Brilliant piece - every Summer ’great players’ get snapped up by other clubs thanks to our ’lack of ambition’.

Think back on names like Alan Smith, David Nugent, Jason Koumas, Keiran Richardson, Joey Barton all thanks to Dave ’dithering’...

What a laugh! Clubs are built over time not through a flurry of transfers.

In summers gone-by we have genuinely panicked that clubs like Newcastle, Middlesboro, Charlton and Southampton have been overtaking us because they have been out-spending us.

A bit of sobre reflection is needed but the media can’t allow that in the ’dead zone’ of close season.
Patty Beesley
5   Posted 27/07/2009 at 14:25:31

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Frankly, I thought it as a lot of rubbish.
Ray Burn
6   Posted 27/07/2009 at 15:03:24

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Hmmm, I wonder if the owner of the Guardian Building is desperate to move to a 40 floor pre-fab on the border of Wisconsin?
Jon Beck
7   Posted 27/07/2009 at 15:09:39

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Cracking read Ed. As a piece of writing it was well worth a browse. Doubtless some critique will follow from the Agenda Merchants but it cheered up my day so thanks :-)
Richard Murray
8   Posted 27/07/2009 at 15:50:03

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top draw, matey

really enjoyed that one
Philip Rowe
9   Posted 27/07/2009 at 15:51:25

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Top class piece. I was getting totally depressed until I read this, especially when Cana went to Sunderland. I thought he looked exactly what we needed. However, we must trust in Mr Moyes. A little worried though that Peanuts has allegedly turned down a new deal. If I was him and just put in the season he has I would like to think the team could get some more quality in so the work could be shared a bit more so maybe can’t blame him. Let’s hope a couple of good signings come along in the next 10 days or we just might as well accept we will have to live with what we have, which in fairness, isn’t too bad, is it?
Craig Wilson
10   Posted 27/07/2009 at 16:09:15

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Great stuff, sums up a typical summer for a blue perfectly. Just wish some people would realise that most of the stuff is just rumours other than the Naughton story and on which note why should we be made to buy 2 players then loan one back just to get the player we want? We are talking about a 1st division right back not Kaka.......
John Brennan
11   Posted 27/07/2009 at 16:12:13

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We are all in a kind of limbo because of the Lescott situation. If he goes, we obviously need to replace him, but we will have a few bob extra to spend than if he stays. It's a difficult one, but rather than sit on the fence, I will opt for saying we should keep him.

If that turns out to indeed be the case, then we can concentrate on perhaps two buys and a couple of loans. (I read somewhere recently that we are not interested in signing Hutton and the chief exec or whoever of Elm's Swedish club say they have never received a bid from Everton for him).

It's also difficult not having much idea how much is in the biscuit tin, but it's pretty obvious there aren't too many tasty jewels therein. We might be able to get Morrison from WBA and possibly Bradley from Borussia MG but how they will be assimilated I will leave it to better schemers than me.

Like most posters, I really think we need an injection of pace down the right and I thought if he could overcome his fitness problems, Hutton could have provided some of this??? Another couple of loans/Bosmans for the other positions -- let's see!!!

Ray Robinson
12   Posted 27/07/2009 at 19:22:01

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Ed, sums up the mood of lots of Evertonians on holiday. I’ve just returned from Oz for 3 weeks and I shudder to think how much money I wasted searching the internet each evening in the hope that we’d signed someone decent. Given that we’re down on players from last season and we were woefully short then, I think we’re at least 5 or 6 players short of being able to compete on all fronts - and that’s assuming that Lescott and Pienaar stay. I’m not panicking yet - but something good news has to break soon surely?
Ciarán McGlone
13   Posted 27/07/2009 at 20:41:03

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And just like Conrad’s mutterings...it’s all a bit of a ’horror’.

Excellent piece.
Suzy Whitehead
14   Posted 27/07/2009 at 21:23:43

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I agree with most of what you written.

Very articulate and enjoyable to read. A natural i would say. Bet you were the first kid in class to be able to write your own name weren’t you Ed?
Steve Hogan
15   Posted 27/07/2009 at 22:05:17

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Probably the most evocative piece of writing to appear on here for months!

Ed has the knack of describing how all of us fall prey to the ’feeding frenzy’ of the media during the close season.

FFS we have a team that is the envy of most of the Premiership, sure we need to add to the squad but we are slowly but surely reaching the stage where we only need minor surgery not a complete overhaul ala City and Spurs.

I’m optimistic for the new season. Great article Ed.

Patty how you can describe it as rubbish is beyond me.
Ciaran Duff
16   Posted 27/07/2009 at 23:02:12

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Tell us what you really think Patty!

Cracking piece Ed. There’s a hell of a lot of sense in those well crafted words. It was worth reading reading for this line alone:-
...Tony Hibbert still larrups the ball up to the ghost of Duncan Ferguson...
Andy Crooks
17   Posted 27/07/2009 at 23:49:33

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Sorry, Ed but a nice piece of writing; sorry, a fine piece of writing. Can’t hide the fact that this summer has been typical second-rate shite.This season we will be found out.
Patty Beesley
18   Posted 28/07/2009 at 09:58:50

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Ciaran - you wouldn’t really want to hear what I actually think!! Sorry to be the fly in the ointment but as someone with an English degree, I thought Ed’s descriptive use of the English Language was over-flowery. Look at the first two sentences of the last paragraph......and he didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.
Ed Bottomley
19   Posted 28/07/2009 at 14:06:49

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Patty - your English degree trumps my history one in this area - and it is a common criticism whenever I try and blog - believe it or not this was me actually conscously trying to hold back on the flowery stuff...
Ciarán McGlone
20   Posted 28/07/2009 at 15:51:27

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Well, I liked it!

Pity your peer review didn’t go so well...
Jamie Crowley
21   Posted 29/07/2009 at 03:57:04

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If Jesus wrote on TW, Patty would criticize His parallel structure or some such nonsense.

Great piece Ed. Absolutley fantastic. Please contribute regularly.

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