It is good to see that we’ve made an encouraging start to the season but I’ve been wondering if there is any more that could be done to re-ignite the pride and passion that has been sorely missing over the last few years.
One of the pleasures about being an older Evertonian is that you can remember a time when it was routinely possible as a kid to bump into your heroes now and again, speak to them, and ask for an autograph. I’ve described one time on TW how my Dad once took me into Dixie Dean’s pub in Chester and the great man gave me a glass of lemonade, and I recall equally fondly a whole swarm of us 11-year-olds trying to win the ball from Colin Harvey on the field at Cardinal Allen, or knocking on the door of John Hurst’s lodging and asking his landlady if she could get his autograph for us; John came out himself, signed autographs, and chatted amicably and although he was not that much older he looked like a mountain to us! We were well impressed.
For various reasons, footballers have become far more distant these days, and, to be fair, not always by their own choice. In a world of intrusive social media, I don’t think I’d welcome people videoing me cutting the grass or shopping in Tesco and I can see why the concept of living in the bubble of a gated community and having other people do everyday tasks for you appeals. Nonetheless, we have lost something in this disconnect between players and fans and so it is all the more startling and uplifting to see Seamus Coleman, for example, being so completely approachable when the kids wait for him outside church on Sunday. While we can’t turn back the clock to more innocent times, and sadly unlike LFC our club does not encourage players and staff to live on Merseyside, there are ways, I think, to bridge the chasm that has opened and to strengthen the bond between players and fans to such a degree that it will impact positively on results on the pitch. I shall kick this talking point off by referencing a great team in a different code of football.
Most sports fans will readily acknowledge that New Zealand’s Rugby Union team is a byword for excellence. The All Blacks, as the team is known, have a long and distinguished history. In 2004, they could look back on 100 years of rugby and an incredible 75% win record in all matches they had played in that century. But they were not happy, they were not satisfied; they had failed to win the Rugby World Cup in the previous year, 2003. So a group of coaches, players and former players met and, after intense discussion, came up with a plan to present to the governing body, the NZRFU. This plan called for a radical restructuring of the management team and set out as its main objective the rebuilding not only of the team but the team culture.
Starting with the maxim, “better people make better All Blacks”, they committed the team to the aim of continuous improvement underpinned by the some core values: humility, excellence and respect. In his book, “Legacy”, James Kerr describes the period from 2004-2015 in which the All Blacks recorded a phenomenal 85% win ratio and triumphed in two World Cups. Kerr explains the crucial role of team spirit, or team ethic as he describes it, in which individual ego is banished in favour of the collective good, and the symbol of the team ethic, the iconic black jersey, is reinforced and raised to mythical status.
That the team ethic is paramount is vividly illustrated by what (still) happens in the changing room after each match. Picture the scene in the changing rooms after any game of rugby: mud, blood and beer all over the show. Now imagine it after the All Blacks have just beaten South Africa in a brutal contest between the most highly talented rugby players in the world; plenty of banter as the drinks flow and players are being stitched together or rest battered legs in buckets of ice; journalists sticking microphones in front of players and coaches, friends and family; and sponsors milling about. In the midst of all this the manager quietly invites everybody to leave the room apart from the players and coaches. Kerr describes how then one of the assistant coaches delivers a short de-brief along the lines of, "Okay lads it was good but not good enough. We are All Blacks, we can do better and so let’s not get carried away."
Following this Kerr is almost stunned by the remarkable sight of a couple of the senior players picking up some brushes and beginning to sweep the floor of the dirt, used bandages, and all the debris of an after-match dressing room. The whole team got to work until the room was as spotless as it had been when they arrived. Humility? Respect? Excellence? All of those things and more, I would say. The message is clear; we are All Blacks and we look after ourselves. Kerr was granted privileged access to watch the best rugby team in the world allow themselves to be criticised straight after a match they had won and to see them manifest their humility by doing their own cleaning up. They knew how to remain modest and magnanimous because there was going to be a next match and they could never take for granted that they would be selected to put on the sacred black jersey again. The late Ray Wilson told the story many years ago that Alf Ramsey would thank him and each player individually after every England game in a way that made them think they might never be picked by Ramsey again. So even the Great Ramon, at his height the best left-back in the world, kept his eyes focused on what he needed to do for next time rather than dwell on what was gone.
The jersey, The All Black Jersey; you get the impression that players would rather die than let down their teammates, their fellow wearers of the jersey. That is why every player who gets to wear the black jersey is made to feel he is part of something very special and as he is handed his shirt by a former player having been chosen for the first time to play for this team he is reminded that each wearer of this jersey has a sacred duty: “To leave the jersey in a better place.” This is why the book is called “Legacy”; each player knows that he is part of a great tradition in which each generation of players passes onto the next the call for excellence, for pride as well as humility, for respect towards opponents, fans and, most of all, themselves. How would it be possible to replicate a similar philosophy at Everton?
Well the first obstacle to achieving it is in the lack of passionate, intelligent Evertonians within the club. It is not enough just to be intelligent, it is not enough to be an Evertonian, still less a pretend one, and frankly there should be no place for anyone not passionate for Everton FC to succeed. We need people with intelligence, all kinds of intelligence by the way, not just the academic kind, who are also passionately committed to making Everton great and whose backs shiver with excitement when they hear the words, "We Are Everton".
At the moment I see little sign of Mr Moshiri recognising, let alone doing something about, the dearth of intelligent Evertonians at the top levels of the club administration. We need him to become a bit ruthless, more ambitious for us, less accepting of the prevailing narrative that being a “nice” club more than compensates for not being winners in the only place it should matter. Most of all he needs to root out the comfortable complacency that allows people to stay in post who are very happy indeed with last season’s 8th place finish, on the grounds that they maximise their end of season bonus without the bother of extra games and tiresome travel around Europe to organise. (Everton pays its staff a percentage bonus based upon where the team finishes in the table, and there are people there – I kid you not – whose idea of a great result is to finish one place below European qualification; good payout and no extra work next season!)
The prevailing culture on the admin side at Everton is one of ‘don’t rock the boat.’ But rocking the boat is exactly what we need on the playing side when I imagine the kind of former players who, like former All Blacks, could go into the changing room and hand on the jersey and the legacy. There is no place in this scenario for the guys who are afraid to rock the boat in case they are not invited back to do their hospitality jobs, nor for members of the bad boys club operating at Finch Farm.
The club needs to be brave enough to invite much more often lads such as Ratcliffe, Mountfield, Sheedy and Southall and listen carefully to their criticisms and ideas because they are passionate, intelligent Evertonians who would be catalysts in supporting Silva and Brands in changing the culture in the dressing room and on the pitch to a no compromise commitment to winning. You’d leave it to a panel of former players to decide on who merits it, but I can well envisage Neville Southall handing over the No 1 jersey to Jordan Pickford with some well-chosen, expletive-free, words of inspiration!
What I mean by “who merits it” is as follows: for all of us, The Royal Blue Jersey is every bit as revered as the All Black one, and so how about this for an idea? Personally, I hate seeing shirts with squad numbers like 93 or 52 or whatever, give me 1 to 11 any day. Of course you’re not allowed these days to swap numbers match by match but you could have a panel of intelligent Evertonians (such as any permutation from the likes of Ratcliffe, Southall and Mountfield , Sheedy, Harvey and Reid) who would decide if and when a player has earned the right to wear a Royal Blue Jersey with a number on the back that has been worn by many before him with pride and passion, and that demands of him that he knows his history and challenges him to live up to the tradition he has inherited and to leave that jersey in a better place as his own legacy. This ceremony would be witnessed by the whole squad and would aim to be both inspirational and aspirational.
With due deference to John McFarlane Snr, here are some of my own favourite Everton greats that spring to mind who’ve worn the shirt with pride and I apologise in advance if sometimes I may have put a wrong number on someone’s back, but you’ll get the drift:
No 1: Neville Southall, Gordon West, and for my Dad’s memory, Ted Sagar
No 2: Alex Parker, Tommy Wright, Gary Stevens
No 3: Ray Wilson, Leighton Baines
No 4: Howard Kendall, Jimmy Gabriel, Kevin Ratcliffe
No 5: Brian Labone, TG Jones, Dave Watson, Derek Mountfield
No 6: Colin Harvey, Tony Kay, Peter Reid
No 7: Alex (Chico) Scott, Trevor Steven
No. 8: Alan Ball, Bobby Collins
No. 9… Where do you start? Dean, Lawton, Latchford, Hickson, Royle – truly some legacy to live up to!
No 10: Roy Vernon, Alex Young (but he could be 7,8 or 9 as well!), Wayne Rooney
No 11: Dave Thomas, Kevin Sheedy
Only the panel would decide if a player was ready to join this distinguished company and the numbers 1 to 11 would be reserved to their decisions. Players would have to earn the right to wear any number between 1 and 11, and in being presented with a shirt with a special number in a ceremony that would remind the whole squad of who came before and wore that number with distinction, you’d be both passing on the baton and encouraging everyone to want that honour.
Of the present team, Baines and Jags are already wearing the right numbers with pride although neither has much longer to go. Pickford is a worthy No 1 and Seamus is a shoo-in for the shirt with No 2. This seems a something worth considering as a way to instil pride and the passion in the Royal Blue Jersey, the fans will certainly respond positively to any player nominated to take up a “legacy jersey”, and if something is worth fighting for it may produce the kind of Everton players that we long to see and who themselves understand what it means when we and they say, "We Are Everton".
Reader Comments (41)
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1 Posted 23/08/2018 at 03:27:40
However as to your wider point I do think that DBB has brought in that quest for excellence and proper strategic planning. Surely no coincidence that her promotion is immediately followed by the arrival of Brands – an appointment every bit as important as Silva's. I'm very much encouraged by the direction of the club.
As for the All Blacks – that is very illuminating – but didn't one of them (married) get caught shagging in an airport toilet recently (of course it caused an uproar which probably makes your point).
2 Posted 23/08/2018 at 05:00:37
The All Blacks are a national icon of what it is to be a New Zealander, they instill a national pride and a level of respect that is unrivalled anywhere else in the world. Having lived there for many years, I get it, completely.
It's a great aspiration for any sport but team games in particular, national pride. This is where the analogy falters with Everton though, the groundswell of an entire country is behind the All Blacks, but it is the pride of each and every player to wear the famous All Black jersey that stands out.
Do we really believe that foreign players care or get it? Do we believe that professional footballers of any background would understand or worse still, care?
When you wear an All Black jersey, you are acknowledged to be the best, or one of the best players in the world, that's a mind-boggling concept at our club were some players are not even the best in the club!
Culture has to be driven and ingrained in all that you do, that means in every single, solitary person in that club. Every single person should wear the club colours with pride every day.
It starts with a pride and is driven by passion. Everton are special, and is testified as such by our ex-players time and time again.
Personally, I would love the opportunity to create that culture in a club we all love, to make the world see not just a club but an ethos, a way of life, a pride in who you are and what you do every day of your life. To be an Evertonian.
3 Posted 23/08/2018 at 05:43:33
Everton cannot select players and coaches only from those born and playing within political or even imagined boundaries and in such a limited competition. We do not represent our City never mind the country and in this country clubs may use easily recognizable songs and signs and statues welcoming you to a ground and recognizing past glories and players. As for cleaning your own dressing rooms, the Japanese Blue Samurai and their supporters have been doing this for an equally long time, it may earn you some respect but it is no guarantee of onfield success. In football success and trophies is what gets you respect and dare I say it, tradition.
The All Blacks are recognized throughout the Rugby Union world and a lot of places that don't play the "Gentleman's Game" whereas English teams are known only for what they have won, that is football's history, ask a Notts County fan.
4 Posted 23/08/2018 at 07:43:31
5 Posted 23/08/2018 at 08:01:50
6 Posted 23/08/2018 at 09:08:03
I am not sure the All Black analogy is the right one due to the various cultural differences top teams have on their playing staff these days.
Going back a long way, in 1967 Celtic won the European Cup with a group of players who were all born within 30 miles of Celtic Park and it is that sort of background which would bring about the spirit you are referring to within the article.
However, your point is taken, Gerrard, and any initiative to bring pride back to "We Are Everton" has to be welcome.
Great stuff. Thanks.
7 Posted 23/08/2018 at 09:24:31
Anything that improves the running of the club is well worth considering not just a now thing but something that is continuous and ingrained for the future.
The club is definitely too comfortable and easy run, no-one disturbs the cosy atmosphere of the club. That is why there has been no real pressure to galvanise and change the way the club has stumbled along for the last 20-odd years, sleep-walking might be a better way to describe it.
Well Mr Brands seems a good choice to get the club to have a good look at itself, and start a different culture at the club. I think Gerard, the writer of this article, has seen how the club has been run from an inside perspective and, quite rightly, been far from impressed.
Maybe "Out with the old, sweep the place clean, and start again" could be a new club motto, it most definitely needs jumping into the 21st Century.
8 Posted 23/08/2018 at 09:26:13
With the odd exception, most only have allegiance to the weekly cheque... and maybe social media likes.
9 Posted 23/08/2018 at 10:14:38
10 Posted 23/08/2018 at 11:59:27
I also love that general principle of ‘better people make better All Blacks. Football in general needs more of that but its also somewhere that a club like ours can make up ground on bigger spenders.
11 Posted 23/08/2018 at 12:38:10
A GREAT read, Gerard. Thank you.
Whilst I can understand some objections to the All Blacks' model being applied to Everton - principally, you are talking about a national team in which all associated with the team share a common culture and heritage - that does not immediately exclude the possibility that a similar tweaked concept could be applied at Everton.
Our own 'Legacy' predates that of the All Blacks. They only played their first international match in 1903. History, we've got plenty of.
Even today in the age of Bingo-numbered shirts, the numbers 1-11 do resonant with supporters, recalling our great players from earlier times.
I for one like the idea of a rigid selection process before bestowing a hallowed number shirt in a ceremonial style as a means of making players aware of the lineage, responsibilities and aspirations they represent when pulling on said blue shirt.
Beyond that, I for one would also welcome something else Gerard alludes to: a more corporate, hard-nosed professional approach from every appointee at the club, whilst still retaining the caring community philosophy the club does so well. With the right leadership, a happy and effective balance of those two things can be achieved.
But again, a great read Gerard. Methinks I'll be getting that 'Legacy' book by Kerr sometime soon.
12 Posted 23/08/2018 at 15:38:25
13 Posted 23/08/2018 at 19:27:33
Your idea of a much respected ex-player presenting the appropriately numbered jersey to a current player is an excellent one. Far better, in my opinion, than the system that some clubs have adopted, of retiring the number, for example, West Ham United in the case of the Number 6 and Bobby Moore.
If I was a young centre-forward making my way in the game, I could find no greater inspiration than wearing the Number 9 jersey that had been worn with distinction by the likes of Dixie Dean, Tommy Lawton, and Alex Young.
I feel that you should approach Everton and put your idea to them, and I'm certain that you would have the support of thousands of proud 'Blues'.
14 Posted 23/08/2018 at 19:28:43
15 Posted 24/08/2018 at 08:52:25
John, you're welcome, and if you or others think the idea should go forward, please feel free to approach the club. Unfortunately, I am not able to do so as Barrett-Baxendale, somewhat vindictively, blocked my email access after I pointed out to her some anomalies between words and actions regarding the 'Everton Way'.
And John, given that other clubs' fans, especially across the park, regularly trawl this site, wouldn't it be a great pity if we soon start seeing Dalglish or someone presenting a shirt to Saleh etc. before Everton wake up to the idea!
16 Posted 24/08/2018 at 09:19:32
17 Posted 24/08/2018 at 14:53:26
pride, pride and more pride, is the reason why this shirt is so revered, and if you have got "real" pride in your jersey, then you should at times, be capable of anything?
This is why I never get tired of the brilliant Kiwis, because it's usually the humble that have the most pride, and it's why I wouldn't be worried too much about getting my e-mail blocked, Gerard, because you know how the bastards work!
18 Posted 24/08/2018 at 22:45:11
- to agree who makes up the panel (some of the best are long gone)
- to eliminate bias towards home grown players who 'get' Everton
- to smoothly withdraw the number from out of form players
- to handle unallocated numbers (constant reminder of recent mediocre recruitment?)
Would love some of our current squad to make up that future panel.
19 Posted 24/08/2018 at 23:16:57
20 Posted 25/08/2018 at 00:30:41
Would the All Blacks employ as a coach some muppet who spent his entire playing career failing to live up to the God-given talents he only occasionally displayed? No way.
Would the All Blacks take on as coaches ex-players who for whatever dubious reason let all their talent drift away to the extent that they couldn't even make Accrington Stanley's first team in the lowest division? No way.
Would the All Blacks continue to employ a youth development manager whose one success in recent years was to produce only one player good enough to make nearly 60 appearances in two seasons as a first team member. No way again.
But that's not the "Everton Way" under Kenwright, is it? Under him, they're all welcome.
It also disturbs me that Gerard (#15) has been banned by LBB from emailing her. So much for her own much-boasted "listening to the fans" mantra. Does she live on Kenwright's knee?
21 Posted 25/08/2018 at 01:12:35
22 Posted 25/08/2018 at 07:00:59
23 Posted 25/08/2018 at 08:11:39
This indeed is Everton, or more to the point, “Kenwrights sycophantic Everton” where it is better to keep your mouth shut or was it always this way?
Its early days, we all know talk is cheap, but its a very long time since Ive heard anyone connected to Everton, use a word like obligation, so maybe we might even begin to exist again to try and win trophies?
24 Posted 25/08/2018 at 09:00:51
Now Im not saying the individuals you dont name are themselves particularly good or bad coaches, I just dont know, but their backstory isnt what makes them unsuitable. It could, maybe, perhaps, even help. (Note that Im not saying it will help, my point is that they shouldnt be judged as coaches on it.)
I personally like that we employ people who have a connection to the club. You seem to consider ‘sentiment to be a wholly bad thing, but its only bad if it gets in the way of pragmatism and success. Im not sure it does, and having at least some people who actually care makes success more likely. After all, what is our affiliation to the club if not sentiment?
I think a successful model will try to blend some sentiment into its pragmatism, and as a fan, its good to see Duncan Ferguson, David Unsworth, Phil Jevons and Steven Schumacher involved. Personally I would like to have seen Hibbert and Osman given a chance to develop a coaching career with us.
Some of the most successful clubs in history have regularly produced their own coaches as well as players. Ajax, Liverpool (70s/80s) and Barcelona spring immediately to mind. Theres something to be said for having a coherent style, identity and emotional connection to the club (rather than the modern phenomenon of ‘who do I work for this season?) that I think can be something where Everton can make up ground on richer clubs. Frankly, success would be far more meaningful to me if achieved that way.
25 Posted 25/08/2018 at 11:41:43
Could you imagine the outcry if somebody asked for "Z-Cars" or "YNWA" never to be played. By all means let's look at ways of raising team spirit but don't for a minute think it isn't also a form of gamesmanship. Would you have sacked Rooney for visiting places of ill-repute or Maradonna for his indiscretions? What is it meant to achieve, the better neighbour you are, the better player you will be?
Bollocks; most teams today are nearer Leeds of the '60s but would never admit to it in the same way as the All Blacks use rule changes to their advantage. By all means look to some thing better and instill in juniors that there is something more to life than football but let's not kid ourselves that the nice guys can use that to be better than second.
26 Posted 25/08/2018 at 12:10:42
Kenwright has a lot to answer for in softening this club from top to bottom. Hopefully Moshiri realises this by his appointment of Brands. We'll see.
Three points today an' all. COYB!
27 Posted 26/08/2018 at 14:04:57
It's worth remembering that a number of people not afraid to speak their own opinions have left the club since she arrived. Certainly two I can think of were forthright, clear communicators and if we hear little or nothing of them these days, I can only wonder if they were given golden handshakes with non-disclosure agreements?
In my own case, I was a mere casual employee, and that matters at EFC, but of course some people make the mistake of equating 'casual' with 'not intelligent'. When it became clear to me that constructive criticism of Barrett-Baxendale was interpreted as treason, I left.
I only found out my emails had been blocked when some poor young person who'd named me as a referee in a job application to EFC pleaded with me to get a move on as HR was waiting for her letter of reference. I had thought I had sent it, of course, and in the end, I had to use my wife's email address to make sure the girl's reference got through.
This is no way to run a railroad and the CEO's "my way or the highway" approach will burden the club with 'Yes' men and women for years to come, all of them afraid to utter anything original or critical in case they upset her.
28 Posted 26/08/2018 at 14:14:23
With the greatest respect, my ma is a lifelong Evertonian and stands our corner against the neighbours. She wouldn't have a clue which stand was which.
29 Posted 26/08/2018 at 14:24:30
30 Posted 26/08/2018 at 14:28:23
I think Missus Barrett-Baxendale is around 46 years of age, so – if she saw that Derby game in 1979 – she would have been about six or seven. Maybe she stopped going after that game, but it seems to me she tells a tale closely to the way Billy Boy does...
31 Posted 26/08/2018 at 14:29:29
32 Posted 26/08/2018 at 14:38:49
The point I was making was about Gerard having to show her which stand was which. Her not knowing didn't disqualify her from being a lifelong Evertonian. I hadn't read her account of Sharpy and the derby game.
I think you know my thoughts on Kenwright, hopefully he has not influenced her to his methods.
33 Posted 26/08/2018 at 14:50:55
"Mam," I said, "what do you worry about Everton for, you've never seen them in your life?"
She replied, "Haven't I? I've seen something you've never seen."
"What's that?" I asked.
"Dixie Dean bringing the cup up Scotland Road!" she answered."
"Mam," I said, "I wasn't even born then... how could I?"
"Doesn't matter, I've seen Dixie with the cup, you never!"
Don't think I ever won an argument with me mam in my life — how could I with that logic!!!!
34 Posted 26/08/2018 at 14:58:31
My ma would tell you the other crowd are all phony, never go the game etc etc. A breed apart our scouse women.
35 Posted 26/08/2018 at 15:01:15
I don't know your situation with the club and don't want to impose if it is sensitive to anything ongoing. Can I read anything about it that is in the public domain?
36 Posted 26/08/2018 at 16:06:04
Like you I laughed at Daves comments. I actually took my Mum to the (very) occasional match as a reward for years earlier bagging a place in the queue for me at 6 in the morning in the days when we had to go the ground with a full set of vouchers in order to buy a ticket for a semi or a final. I used to bunk out of school during afternoon break and scoot down to Goodison, take the place she had saved all day, and she'd go home to get the tea ready. I think they only started selling the tickets at about 5 and the queue by then was all the way round the ground and it took ages because scallies like Dave used to forge vouchers! Like making a little mark to make 1 look like 11, but the staff on the box office were so bloody vigilant!
Dave, just pulling your leg, if youve still got my number give me a call and well meet for a pint. And at least your, Johns and my Mum all brought their sons up as Blues whether or not they actually could get to games themselves, which cant be said of all “lifelong Evertonians”. And as for derby matches in the 70s, nah not having that either!
37 Posted 26/08/2018 at 16:32:09
Yes I've got your card Gerard and we'll have a pint soon.
38 Posted 26/08/2018 at 16:51:31
All the best mate.
39 Posted 26/08/2018 at 16:56:33
40 Posted 27/08/2018 at 07:03:12
In many companies, once you leave, you are history, seen as tainted — especially if you say something someone doesn't want to hear. Remember, this is the club that canned AGMs because they didn't like the questions...
Whilst it's refreshing to see new people at the club running the teams, there is still the need to change the culture of some of it too and, until then, the club will never accept criticism as anything other than a personal attack.
41 Posted 29/08/2018 at 22:15:47
I had to get rid of a few of my staff in the last four months and the first thing I did was block all e.mail traffic from the second they left the building.
Did they like it? Of course not. Was it necessary? Too right it was!
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