Identity Crisis

Adam McCulloch 10/07/2016  13 Comments  [Jump to last]

There is change in the air. Whilst England’s politicians do their best impression of a Roberto Martinez set-piece routine, things are getting stirred up in the Premier League. Pep Guardiola is waltzing in and ready to show us how it’s done, like Beyonce actually hitting some notes alongside Coldplay. Jose Mourinho is all set for making another fickle fanbase that bit more fickle. And Sean Dyche is back: a man who sounds like a boulder come to life. Nice bloke though.

Most excitingly of all, we have a new man in our dugout. Coupled with the promise of cash to splash from Mr Moshiri, we finally have something to be optimistic about. Or do we? This week, I have seen Everton linked with names that would have me salivating – Wesley Sneider, Alex Witsel, Jaun Mata – and yet the reaction seems lukewarm at best. I think some of that is (naturally) a hardened cynicism, part of what makes us Blues in the first place. We’ve all heard rumours before. We’ve all been disappointed... Riquelme, Riquelme, Riquelme. But as one of my Facebook pals said “We had Gemmill, Pembridge and Simon Davies at one point.” Shudders all around.

Maybe this is part of a larger identity problem we face. We had years of Moyes instilling discipline and order but often at the expense of style and swagger. We were made to feel like finishing 8th was the stratosphere, and for a few years it almost felt that way. Especially considering what had come before. Soon it felt like stagnation, before some smooth-talking Spaniard had us feeling all better about ourselves. The “School of Science” was getting bandied around again, all the right noises were coming out of the club and even the media were praising our passing and possession-based game. But our holiday romance turned into a marriage we couldn’t wait to be rid of.

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There is confusion about what we want Everton to be. We had wanted to return to the days where we would dominate teams, playing them off the park. And yet we seemed to lack the bite, the intensity, the pride of pulling on the Royal Blue jersey. We were dissatisfied with the Moyes era, parking the bus away from Goodison, lacking the ability and ambition to be a major force. We were apoplectic at the lack of nous and flexibility under Martinez, his adherence to possession football and blind faith in his team and his methods.

What is certain now is that change is underfoot. Our new owner has made few noises but all the right ones. Stalwarts like Hibbert, Osman, Howard and Pienaar have moved on, and the season closer against Norwich showed us there are youngsters waiting in the wings to take their place. Even Goodison Park is getting a makeover. Crucially, our coaching staff has been overhauled. Koeman brings his brother Erwin, Jan Kluitenberg as fitness coach and Patrick Lodewijks to bring a Dutch flavour to the existing British core of Big Dunc, Unsworth and Joe Royle. Koeman’s Southampton side were solid at the back, full of energy and pressing, and still played some great attacking football. Anything along those lines will do nicely.

I think that, alongside our cynicism, last season’s bizarre campaign has tainted us. Anger at the team turned to outright disinterest. Soon enough, we will start to see the identity that Koeman and his Dutch team will be working towards. We will see a new style of play, and some new additions. Stekelenburg and little else might be all we have seen coming through the door, but when Bournemouth are splashing £15million on Jordan Ibe, is that such a bad thing? The one thing we can control is to shake off our hang-ups from the past 12 months. We are Everton. Let’s get together behind the manager and owner and start making our mark. Let’s forge an identity we can all get behind.

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Reader Comments (13)

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Alun Jones
1 Posted 10/07/2016 at 21:56:20
Not sure what this article is trying to say. All I want is
Everton to challenge at the top of the Premier League and get some silverware and some presence in Europe, I don't see any identity crisis about that
Chris James
2 Posted 10/07/2016 at 22:27:32
Some very good points here and I think the crux of the argument is spot on - Everton have definitely viewed themselves as challengers outside the top 4 or 5 and have to define a new identity that's not "dogs of war", "KITAP1", "the people's club" or "Barcelona VERY light".

I think we have to be aiming at a CL slot at least within 2-3 seasons (one of the few things Martinez got right) and play a pragmatic attacking style on top of a solid defensive framework (not disimilar to the Saints at times).

One thing I do however have to take issue with is the comment "We were made to feel like finishing 8th was the stratosphere" under Moyes. Whilst I know DM may have started each season saying 'let's get to safety at 40 points' and preferred to play down expectations, the historic reality is Everton under Moyes were challenging for a European slot (i.e. top 6) most seasons and actually had 2x 5th, 2x 6th, 3x 7th and just 1x 8th placed finish as well as the famous 4th spot and CL qualifier (plus an 11th and a 17th) - and all this without the sort of budget to buy 'finished article' players.

Not trying to deify Moyes, but I do think his version of Everton is a better bedrock to build upon.

Dennis Stevens
3 Posted 10/07/2016 at 22:56:29
& if you average all that out, Chris, you get somewhat nearer to 8th than 7th. So Adam's comment isn't too far wide of the mark.
Hugh Jenkins
4 Posted 11/07/2016 at 07:17:02
Dennis (3). Football is too emotive to consider the concept of "averages". Statistically, they matter, but emotively they don't. Take Leicester, as an example. Over two seasons their average EPL finish was 9th. However what people will always remember is that they won the league against all the odds in the 2015-16 season.

The problem really is that in football, as in many walks of life, you have to marry expectation with emotion, with perception, with performance and with viewpoint.

As far as I am concerned, Everton's recent progression (and I am talking here about 15 years, which, in terms of our long and glorious history, is recent), can be summed up as:-

Moyes – came in, steadied the ship, gave us back our self respect, stopped the relegation dog fights.

Martinez – one step forward, two steps back.

Koeman & Moshri – the promise is palpable but not yet tangible.

In these days of demanding instant success, will the Koeman - Moshri partnership be allowed time to achieve its potential? If so, then Everton's identity can be firmly re-established as one of the "Great" institutions of British Football.

However, once again, some time is going to be needed to form the mould, cast the team, cool it, hone it to sharpness and then let it do its work.

I fear that too many will expect instant success and in a very short space of time, on forums such as this, many will be, once again, calling for change of management / ownership.

I think it may take two or three seasons before we see the 'new' Everton and we rightly retake our place at the top level of football.

I just hope the majority has the patience to wait.


Dennis Stevens
5 Posted 11/07/2016 at 12:30:09
I wouldn't agree entirely, Hugh. Particularly when one is looking back at an era that is rapidly fading into the mass of the Club's long history.

In Moyes's time at the helm there was no League title or Cup win to remember him by. Most seem to remember him as Mr Consistency, sometimes overlooking the fact that it was his sixth season before he achieved back-to-back top-ten finishes & that he'd been something of a yo-yo manager up to that point. I'd also add to your assessment of the Moyes era: hung around a little too long after it had become obvious he would never win any silverware.

When one considers how patient Evertonians have been with the last three incumbents, & with the Club for almost 30 years of mediocrity (for the most part), I'm sure Koeman & Moshiri will get plenty of support & the time to prove their worth, respectively.

Tony Draper
6 Posted 11/07/2016 at 12:33:58
It's an interesting point, just what form of Everton are we set to become next?

Personally, I'd love "Total Everton". Football played in the style of the truly classic Dutch international sides. I think that would do justice to our heritage, in a definitive and classy manner, one that Evertonians would relish watching and fully deserve as inheritors of "The School of Science".

It seems that many of us are very taken already with Moshiri (and his so-called "henchman" Ryazanstev). Not wishing to pour cold water on their affection, but I'll be waiting for sufficient evidence rather than supposition and interpretation before I'm prepared to commit.

Okay, so the start seems encouraging, but, I take these opening stanzas as standard fare, whether they are board members or managers. The words are fine, but it's their actions and the results of those actions which will actually shape the identity of this next evolution of Everton FC.

"Total Everton" for me, please!

Paul Burns
7 Posted 11/07/2016 at 19:01:35
I just want a trophy. This is absolutely doable. Swansea and Birmingham among others have managed it in fairly recent times. No excuses.
Seb Niemand
8 Posted 12/07/2016 at 13:34:23
Small point - you and others were dissatisfied with the Moyes era. I was, on the whole, quite content with it. Granted, the last 6 weeks or so were unseemly, but considering the place we were at when he cam and that he may have been one of the very few men with the grit, patience and mental toughness to have pulled us back from the edge of the abyss (seriously, does no one remember how utterly shit we were under Walter Smith?).

I think folks would be better served to stop bitching about Moyes and accept that he gave us the best we could expect and maybe even a little better. And then that ridiculous buffoon, that clown Martinez did his best to piss it away. Now THERE'S an era to be dissatisfied with!
Clive Rogers
9 Posted 12/07/2016 at 19:19:17
Seb #8
The era I personally am dissatisfied with is the Kenwright era when the club was run by an incompetent buffoon only really interested in himself.
Seb Niemand
10 Posted 12/07/2016 at 21:01:59
Clive #9, Fair comment. If only we'd been able to hold onto Peter Johnson. We'd no doubt be Lords of Europe by now.
Steve Smith
11 Posted 13/07/2016 at 12:57:40
The days of long serving trophy-less managers at this club are gone, Mr Moshiri only needed three months to decide that Martinez wasn't the man. I'm guessing that top four or a trophy within two seasons is the only way our new man will be offered a contract extension.

The only identity Mr Moshiri wants is a winning one I think.

Clive Rogers
12 Posted 13/07/2016 at 18:18:05
Web,
Peter Johnson was a good chairman initially. He bought top players like Kanchelski and Barmby, won the FA Cup and put his own money into EFC.

It went wrong when the people he left running his company almost bankrupted him and he bailed out. Since then we've had the worst 20 years in our history. Every other club has at least improved their ground while we have completely stagnated.

What will Kenwright be remembered for? Absolutely nothing.

Paul Burns
13 Posted 18/07/2016 at 10:47:05
Kenwright will be remembered for telling lies, trying to drag us out of our city and kill the club and playing down the size, history and power of Everton FC for his own sneaky ends.

And hocking us off to Philip Green and others with Everton's interest at heart. The football equivalent of Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein.

Everton's identity is simple, I'm setting it now: Win trophies in whatever manner necessary. Nothing else will do.

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