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The devil and the deep Blue sea
If you really had to choose...

7 February 2002

The first time the possibility of relegation appeared this real to me I was in the USA with my now deceased dad, listening on the World Service as Everton fought back against Wimbledon in 1994.  We hugged and leaped about in a supermarket car park as each goal went home, in front of some very bemused New Jerseyans.  Like Evertonians all over the world that day, we celebrated as if Dave Watson was holding up the FA Cup.

A lot of metaphorical water has flowed under the proverbial bridge since then, but little has changed for the better at Goodison.  There have been other dogfights, and I find myself a little less afraid of relegation with each passing season.  I am not one of those who believe that relegation per se would somehow do us much good.  But I do believe that, if we had lost against Wimbledon and the unthinkable, the unspeakable had happened, the decline would have been halted right there.  It was what we needed, though we didn't know then.

With the exception of Joe Royle's magnificent FA Cup season, we have been allowed to decline steadily each year our belief in the future no more than the triumph of hope over experience.  The players have become a little older, the new signings a little shadier, the excuses ever more familiar.  When Walter Smith arrived some Evertonians, myself included, believed the renaissance would not be long delayed.  But Smith himself disabused us.  His plan, as he plainly told us in his first season, was to reinvent Everton as a mid-table club.  Mediocrity was and still is his policy.  Now the team that he has assembled the team that embraces defeat like an old friend will face the relegation dogfight yet again.  And most of us will pray for survival.

I have watched as Smith has sold off our young prospects like McCann, Jeffers, Ball and Dunne and signed players like Mark Hughes, Stephen Hughes, Ibrahima Bakayoko, Alex Nyarko, Alessandro Pistone and countless others none of whom made the remotest impact.  I worry less and less about relegation because I know I am already watching a Nationwide team.  All that is missing is Nationwide opposition.  Having turned over 55 million in purchases, Smith's proudest boast is that the players he bought were even cheaper and therefore even worse than the players he sold, and so somehow, no money has been wasted.  Some comfort!

He is possibly the worst catastrophe to befall Everton since the European ban after Heysel.

But there is hope.  It lies in Walter Smith.  It lies in relegation.  The single most important step that can be taken now is to get rid of Smith and Knox.  They aspired to mediocrity and failed to achieve it.  I doubt if any other club in the Premiership would put up with the level of incompetence, complacency and detachment that they have demonstrated in the last four years.  Kenwright has said he is determined to keep Smith, even in the face of shame and relegation, but I doubt it.  If we are relegated, I believe Smith will have to go.

And so I have come to embrace relegation the same way Smith embraces mediocrity.  Terrible though the prospect is, frightening though it is to contemplate, uncertain as the future will be... if that is what is needed to get rid of Walter Smith, then so be it.

Faced with a choice between relegation and Smith, I choose relegation!


Peter Fearon

©2002 ToffeeWeb

Some Responses

In response to 'an unpalatable choice', I feel certain points need to be raised.

  1) FACT - if we get relegated, SKY money will gradually disappear, season
                  ticket sales will go down, players brought in will be even worse in
                  skill and technique than they are now.  Division 1 is a hard division
                  to get out of.  Getting relegated will do nobody any favours.

  2) FACT - I am no Walter Smith supporter.  But HE HAS HAD LITTLE OR NO
                  MONEY  to bring better quality players in.  Lets be truthful, who in
                  there right mind would get rid of Dacourt, Collins, Jeffers, Ball,
                  Barmby, Hutchinson (hmmm), Materazzi et al.  Sorry, Kenwright
                  doesn't own Everton, the bank do!  They say poo, he says how

There is no need to accept relegation as a form of changing managers.  The next month could see Everton surprise us.  Its happened before, no reason to see if it can't happen again.  Am I happy with the current state of play.  No.  Would I like a change. Yes.  But not right now.  

Peter Reid's Left Boot


This is going to be short (said the Bishop to the Actress) so keep reading... ( I have been a Blues fan since the 1970 5-2 home game against Chelsea).

What is so wrong with Walter Smith?  Apart from the 3-4 years in the mid-80's under Howard the First, we, Everton, have been one of the weakest teams in the top flight.  Billy Bingham (no trophies), Gordon Lee (no trophies), Howard 1st (4 trophies),  Colin Harvey (no trophies),  Howard 2nd (no trophies), Mike Walker (no trophies), Joe Royle (FA Cup - yippeeeee), Howard 3rd (no trophies),  Walter Smith (no trophies)...

Notice anything we are shite, we have been shite for 30 years.   We belong with the Coventry's, Southampton's and Ipswich's of the English top flight.  Walter is the same as all the rest, he is not the problem.  Question is who or what is the problem????????

Are we seen as a soft touch by journey-man professionals, easy money for not much effort?  Remember the 70's when the transfer fee records were often set by Everton, and money was easy to come by?  And go.  Nothing was won by a succession of managers

A lot less money (in relative terms) was spent to assemble the 1984-87 team(s), but it was all too short-lived

As for the 90's, nuff said.  Decline both in money spent and performance.

My question is do we have too much turn-over in playing staff at Everton?  Latchford, Lineker, Alan Ball, MacKenzie etc have we always been too eager to sell good players and not allow a settled team to develop around them?  Is this the crux of our 30 year old decline????????

Mark Cullen


Before criticising Walter Smith et al, all Evertonians should ask themselves these five questions:

  1. Do you have any football management experience? (i.e. do you seek advice from a lawyer and then proceed to advise he/she on contract or criminal law when you don't possess a law degree).  If somebody came to your workplace, how would you view criticism from someone with no experience of the job.  Do you think that a manager who took Rangers to the semi-final of the European Cup, when it was a genuine competition has less tactical acumen than yourself.
  2. Considering the current squad at the club what would your First XI be?  With players suspended, injured or dissatisfied could you choose a team which might rise to supporter expectations.  The injury crisis, season after season is well documented, is it the managers fault or the boardrooms for not investing in modern training facilities.  Do you pick a player who complains about playing for the club, i.e., no ambition, hostile fans or insufficient wages or make a stand and make them sit in the reserves?  To hear some would-be managers they would prefer to let the tail wag the dog.  What choice did Smith have but to play Watson upfront when three first choice strikers are unavailable.  A career can be wrecked playing a youngster like Rooney under circumstances where every point is invaluable.  Youth players should be eased into the first team gradually where expectations are realistic and the same applies to Clarke. 
  3. Dacourt, Materazzi, Jeffers, Ball and many others, all quality first team players sold.  How do you replace them with insufficient funds available?  Yes there's been mistakes, but name me one Premiership manager who hasn't bought a dud, even Kendall made a few.  The lack of quality throughout the team lies solely with the board.  The problems can be dated back to the late Eighties and possibly before then, the sale of Lineker, then Keown in the early 90s.  Each time, class players sold without the necessary finances to replace them with players of an equal or greater calibre. Would this have happened at United or Liverpool?  Being an Evertonian is not enough to run Everton Football club, there has to be finances to fund team development, stadium and training improvements.  Our current board came to the party without the backing available to compete at this level; like Cinders waiting for the fairy godmother we can't afford to play ball.  Instead we rely on a 10M refinancing deal or the Kings Dock plan.  How many of you are really going to spend 20 pound to watch Everton v Grimsby even at the Kings Dock, without any guarantee of promotion.
  4. If Walter Smith gets sacked, who do you replace him with?  Firstly, sacking a manager now would surely be suicidal, but if Walter does go, if we are playing Premiership or Nationwide football next season who's the man for the job?  George Graham, not a bad choice and with a track record, but this man wrote the book on "dour" football how could this be seen as an alternative?  David Moyes, with one successful season at Preston behind him, the "Let's hire Mike Walker re-incarnate" brigade is in full swing.  How can this young promising manager be judged on these credentials?  Everton will either make or break you as previous managers and players for that matter can testify, but maybe an option for the future.  Alan Curbishley or George Burly both of which have done well on limited budgets, has their performance however differed greatly from Walter Smiths?  Could they handle the expectations that come part and parcel with Everton?  Charlton and Ipswich fans with all due respect do not have the history or cauldron of anticipation that comes with this once great club.  Let's face it either of these two would be a gamble.  Who else is there to run the club?  A foreign coach, promote from within?  The options are limited,  perhaps Walter Smith should be replaced but it has to be the right man, with a proven track record and capable of handling the job, and maybe that's why he was hired in the first place.
  5. Is barracking the players, manager or anybody associated with the running of the club going to help now?  With yet another relegation dogfight on our hands everyone needs to pull together to support the team and ensure we are playing Premiership football next season.  Then a decision could be made in the most favourable circumstances to attract a new manager or players.

Paul Mason



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