Lots has been written about Alex Iwobi recently and, at the risk of boring everyone, here’s some more.

A friend of mine got an executive ticket for the Man Utd game in early October. He ended up sat next to  Iwobi’s mum and just in front of his uncle,  Jay-Jay Okocha. Given this heaven-sent opportunity to get the inside story of her son’s remarkable renaissance, he failed completely, but did describe Ma Iwobi celebrating for a full 5 minutes after her boy’s goal.

Alex Iwobi’s name might be the most mentioned at Goodison in the last 12 months. Up to March this year, if you heard his name at the ground it was probably accompanied by expletives and advice about future employment opportunities. From March it has probably been followed by ‘I can’t believe it’s the same player.’ He now appears to be first on the team sheet, our most creative midfielder and the player most appreciated by the crowd.

He is a fascinating case. He arrived for big money, made a good start with a couple of goals but then gradually went downhill to the point where he was regularly getting slated on various websites and seemed to have no future at the club. The crowd, it seemed, were just waiting for his first mistake, which was often closely followed by his next. There weren’t exactly groans when the ball was played to him, more of a kind of deflationary sigh, as the fans realised that the move was likely to break down. He never hid though and his effort never dropped.

Against West Ham in October 2021, an air shot with the goal gaping, just 6 yards out, summed things up – he couldn’t do anything right and there didn’t seem to be any way back. In fact, most Evertonians would gladly have seen the back of him there and then. If anyone had suggested then that he would be one of the most important players come the last 2 months of the season, they would have been quietly ushered away to sit down in a quiet room for a while waiting for the doctor to arrive.

But he obviously had something; every manager has picked him. The players, in a club website feature, picked him out as the most talented in training. How did it change on the pitch? A spirited performance and a late winner against Newcastle in March obviously helped. Later, talking about the win over Manchester Utd, he said the following to Paul McNamara on the club website:

“I was doing all right but then played a sloppy pass. The fans clapped the pass because they saw the intent. It was the first time that had happened for ages. To hear that change in environment, I felt, ‘Wow, that is kind of nice – as long as you are giving 100 per cent, if it doesn’t come off, they will stay behind you’.”

If he had played that sloppy pass against West Ham in October (and he did) he certainly wouldn’t have got that response. And he recognised the ‘change in environment’ too:

“That support removes the fear of making mistakes, you are prepared to try things on the ball.”

He added:

“I feel much more confident. My friends tell me about the positive comments and the fans singing my name, and my dad is always looking on social media to make sure everything is good.”

It’s interesting that he notices the crowd reaction to his efforts and checks (or his dad does for him) what is on social media. I really hope Iwobi senior never found the Live Forum on Toffeeweb. If he did, young Alex might never have left the house again, never mind play football. Clearly, Alex is a sensitive character who needs positive feedback to perform at his best – no surprise there, most people respond favourably to positive feedback.

Just before the end of the season, Iwobi threw more light on this. In an interview with Adam Jones in the Echo, he said, talking about being substituted:

“I still can't help, when I see someone is about to get dragged, thinking, 'Is it going to be Number 17?'.

“It is nice when I look over and see it's not my number. I think, I have another 5 or 10 minutes, at least….”

So, he clearly thought he would be first off and even if he wasn’t, he thought that it was only a matter of time and he was going to be next – a surprising lack of confidence?

There’s no reason why an individual with football talent should have the same amount of self-confidence to go with it. Of course, it helps. High talent plus high self-confidence will produce a great player (Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo, Neymar etc). Moderate talent but high self-confidence might still work (most Premier League players?). But high talent and low self-confidence might be a problem. Maybe the fans assume that a talented player must have the self-confidence to go with it; otherwise, he wouldn’t have got to the professional game in the first place?

So, in the case of Iwobi, it was the crowd and, in particular, their suspension of any negativity towards him – applauding the sloppy pass against Man Utd. Mason Holgate, in the last few months of the season, he too regularly got the negativity but found form in the last few games, playing a vital role.

There is no doubt that the Goodison crowd can be hard to win over for some players but, once they’ve accepted you, you are in for life. Even a limited player like Denis Stracqualursi found the secret of everlasting Goodison love. But what if the problem is down to lack of self-confidence? How do you correct that?

The England cricket team are an interesting example of a dramatic change in fortunes. One win in 17 matches up to March turned into 6 wins out of 7 in the summer, playing exciting, adventurous cricket. It was the same players but a new coach who had apparently done little more than tell them to enjoy what they do, play an attacking game and not fear failure.

Cricket doesn’t have the same crowd intensity as football, of course, but the ‘fear of failure’ issue is surely the same in any sport.

Sylvain Distin joined in the debate in the Echo:

“I hope that they (the fans) are going to realise the power they have got, positively and negatively. When things go wrong and you’ve got the pressure of the fans but the wrong type of pressure, it’s a tough one and some players will elevate their games but some will react negatively and start hiding as well.”

I went to the England v Austria match in the Women’s Euros at Old Trafford in July. A striking contrast with the men’s game was the atmosphere in the crowd, more of a festival feel than a football match. Amongst other unusual things, such as women in the gent’s bogs at half-time, there was a complete lack of negativity of any sort. Maybe that will change as the women’s game gets bigger and more cynical, but I hope not.

The suspension of negativity is what happened at Goodison from March onwards, forced by circumstances. The crowd knew collectively that there was no other option left. Get behind everyone, at every moment, no matter what happens and how many sloppy passes there are – or go down.

It’s not rocket science – most people react better to encouragement rather than criticism. Not many thrive amid negativity; Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon is one of those maybe, as he seems to thrive off the crowd’s support for his opponent.

The chief beneficiary of this change in the Everton environment was Iwobi, who clearly has all the talent needed to succeed but just needed the nurturing arm around the shoulder, not just from the manager, but from the fans also.

Thankfully, it has continued this season. The negativity hasn’t returned apart from some unnecessary bad feeling towards Anthony Gordon, apparently because Chelsea sniffed around him, not through any fault of his own. And Alex Iwobi is flourishing.

The connection made in the blue smoke of last season has remained. It can be seen in the players lingering on the pitch at the end of games and appreciating the fans.

Almost the last word to Seamus Coleman, also in the Echo:

“They [the crowd] played a massive part in maybe letting some people who were at the club and play for the club actually understand how big the football club is and how much it means to the people of that city.  I think that maybe hit home for some of the players. You can do all the talks you want, but when you see that emotion in the faces of grown men, grown women and children when you leave the training ground singing Everton songs with such passion, if that doesn’t touch something with a group of players, I don’t know what will.

Something hit home for the players (just in time) but also hit home for the fans. We too have some power over who plays well and who doesn’t. Amid the madness of modern football, with its frustrations, passion, excitement and rush to instant judgement, we might just have lost sight of that power. We have got a part to play in who succeeds and who struggles.

Performing live and unscripted in front of 40,000 people willing to give that judgement on every single move you make, is a pretty specialised art. Those doing it are not all the same, all have different needs to be able to do their best work. Alex Iwobi is a great example of that.

Almost a year to the day since the air shot against West Ham, in the same goal area, he attempts an outrageous back-heel and it comes off for Dwight McNeil to score a great goal. I can believe it’s the same player and I am looking forward to seeing him get substituted again, this time 5 minutes before the end of a comfortable 4-0 win. Imagine the reception he will get then.

Reader Comments (66)

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Barry Rathbone
1 Posted 24/10/2022 at 19:33:24
We would all like to think we see things rationally and react accordingly, but we don't. Football is based on emotion, raw emotion mixed with myth and legend things are said in a manner and with language beyond the norm.

It's great he's turned things round but that's the deal the devil makes with all players who chance their arm at becoming heroes.

Lee Courtliff
2 Posted 24/10/2022 at 20:08:16
Good article. I always try to be positive when at the match (or even watching at home) but it is very, very difficult sometimes.

As for Alex, well, he's simply getting better and better. No world beater, obviously, but a very good player who actually entertains as well as works hard. Long may it continue.

Mike Gaynes
3 Posted 24/10/2022 at 20:25:38
This is a great article, Peter, thoughtful and persuasive. I too have been a bit flummoxed over the years by the relentlessly positive comments by his mates and his managers' consistency in picking him.

There seemed to be only two possible explanations as to why the training ground impressiveness never translated to the games. One, Alex was being played in the wrong position on the wing, or two, he lacked confidence and focus.

Both were true, but not attending the games I never really took into account the crowd reaction to poor play putting additional pressure on him.

To me, the breakthrough was the gamewinner against the barcodes last March. The elegant first touch dribble and the confident finish off Dom's backheel demonstrated his quality. And, significantly, triggered the crowd explosion of the season to that point. It must have felt really good to Alex to hear that roar.

Now they're all hearing it, and it means a lot to guys like Onana and Mykolenko and McNeil who didn't know how they would be welcomed. That really does matter.

Mike Connolly
4 Posted 24/10/2022 at 20:33:10
You've hit the nail on the head, Mike.
Kevin Molloy
5 Posted 24/10/2022 at 21:07:54
I couldn't agree more. It is. a lesson very hard won. We had to be taken to the edge of destruction before the penny dropped.

I am convinced that the continuing success of the little darlings over the Park can in no small part be put down to the fact they realised decades ago that unconditional support, even when it sticks in the craw, can move mountains.

Fran Mitchell
6 Posted 24/10/2022 at 21:11:10
The metamorphosis of Iwobi is one of the great stories in the Premier League.

For 3 years, he was a symbol of everything we had done wrong. The long, illogical and ill-fated pursuit of Wilfried Zaha for an extraordinary sum of money ended with a panic buy. A player who had failed to develop at Arsenal, for a high fee.

He clearly hadn't been scouted much, as he was signed to be the fast, winger or /inside-forward we so much required for Silva's team.

But Zaha he wasn't. He was not direct, he wouldn't run with pace down the wing and beat a man. But he was asked to do that role.

Fans were on his back from day one, more for what he represented. The spurning of our millions on players we don't need. With our other record-fee player being our £45M Number 10 in Gylfi Sigurdsson (another long and illogical transfer saga). There was no place for him in the middle of the park, so he would play out wide and he looked lost. And his confidence dropped.

I remember one time, during Ancelotti's time, he made a social media post whilst on International Duty (where he has consistently played very well over the years, in his favoured No 10 position). In this post, he gave a rather blunt message along the lines of 'I am a central midfielder'.

This was put to Ancelotti, who had continued to use Iwobi out wide (James and Gylfi being the central midfielders that he had no chance of displacing at the time). And Ancelotti, in his usual laissez-faire manner, said 'he should tell me where he should play'.

Fans were not exactly welcoming of Iwobi's complaint. He was shite, useless etc. It wasn't long until Iwobi was dropped to the bench, and there he remained. And we expected he would remain, another high earner, dead wood, and if were lucky, some gullible buying may take him off our hands.

But from Day 1, Lampard had faith. With Gyfie gone, James gone, our midfield was in bits, zero creativity. And Lampard said how Iwobi was key, right from the start. The most talented player at the club.

Lampard put him in his position, and the gratitude was clear. It didn't pay off straight away, but immediately one thing changed. Heat maps showed how much he ran. The lad covered almost every blade of grass, he was hunting, chasing, and never giving up.

He was a little headless chicken, the press was a little OTT, but the fans saw the effort and that made the conversation around him change. He set the tone for how we would get out of the mire through sheer determined hard work.

This season ,he has added flair, he is more precise with his press – he doesn't need to cover every blade of grass as we have Onana and Gana who can help in there. So his press is higher up the pitch.

He has amazing skill, great touch, vision, and he clearly loves football, he plays in a way that few do, with a smile. And things like that backheel show that.

6 assists already this season. And the more he grows in confidence, the more that will come. When the fans sing his name, that will spur him on further.

He's a joy to watch, almost the perfect Everton player – graft, skill and he's a nice bloke.

Huge credit to Lampard for seeing what was there and having the faith to stick with it when the more conservative of managers would have played it safe.

In relation to the fans' impact as a whole, and the change in atmosphere. This is huge. For many years, we almost expected to naturally progress to the Top 7, 6, 5 (or however Sky choose to call it). Our failure to do so created a toxic environment. Our players were letting us down.

The battle with relegation has provided a stark reset at the club, we no longer demand success and expect to be served it. We saw our tangible influence at the club, and how we can have a positive, and negative impact.

The atmosphere of getting behind the team, of singing the players' names instead of calling players all the names under the sun. This makes the players want to try, want to succeed.

If a player isn't up to it – like Gomes and a few others, the fans won't have it. But if a player gives his all, he'll get the backing of the fans. And this will allow him to try, allow him to enjoy the game.

McNeil also has had a tough start, but that he made that mazy run rather than making the safe pass, he only did so because he knew that, if he got tackled, he'd be applauded (and yes, being 2-0 up would have helped). And Iwobi's glorious backheel also was because he knew he could try and he'd have been cheered.

The confidence of being able to test their own abilities, rather than being fearful and just playing the safe option.

We're a long way from where we want to be. But if players like Iwobi can continue to enjoy their football, and continue to test their abilities, we'll be in the right direction.

Tony Everan
7 Posted 24/10/2022 at 21:32:23
Thanks Peter, great article.

A psychology student could do his or her PhD on Alex. He has harnessed his confidence thanks to himself and Frank and maturity may also have something to do with it.

He has all the attributes to deliver consistently, first-class work rate, creativity, goals and assists. Add unshakable confidence and you have the ingredients for an elite player. He's young enough to develop further, he's naturally athletic and won't be slowing down for another 5 years.

Positioning is key to getting the best out of him, that advanced role on Saturday makes the most of his constant workrate. He can maintain the press for 90 minutes and is ready to create when in possession.

He is a dangerous player around the box, his flicks and short passes are not speculative, they are controlled. A couple of months ago I saw him score for Nigeria, again superb controlled one/two passing at pace into the box and scoring. There is a mine of goals and assists to be exploited from this talent.

The league is tight and competitive, there's no room for anyone slacking off. All the players have to be on their toes every week for us to progress. I think Alex is leading the way for this mindset. Well done to him, he's fought through some tough times and come out the other side a stronger man and player.

John Raftery
8 Posted 24/10/2022 at 21:43:05
Right-back, right-wingback, right-winger, left-winger, left-wingback, holding midfielder, attacking midfielder and central striker. Alex Iwobi has been deployed in all those positions since he joined us. Every manager appreciated him because they knew he would follow instructions and do his best for the team.

I think on Saturday he was used to best effect as an attacking midfielder close to Calvert-Lewin. That is where he can make the most impact on games.

I always thought the criticism of Iwobi was overdone. He never hid, always showing for the ball and always trying to play creative forward passes – unlike the ‘pass completion rate' merchants who play it square or backwards.

Sometimes, the players who seem to be struggling the most in a struggling team are not the root cause of the problems. For us, the problem lay with others; players without the skill, pace or physicality to operate successfully at Premier League level. Sigurdsson, Klaassen, Gomes and Schneiderlin would be four names which belong in that category.

Brent Stephens
9 Posted 24/10/2022 at 21:54:59
Superb article. It just shows how self-defeating a negative, sometimes vitriolic, fan reaction against a player can be; how it can shackle the confidence of a player. Leave any negativity to after a game, never during it. It's in our own interests.

So pleased for Iwobi. And his family.

Tom Bowers
10 Posted 24/10/2022 at 22:37:11
In a nutshell, players, no matter how talented, need confidence and that can come from a good manager or his staff.

Everton have had some big name managers since the Moyes days and none seem to have had much influence on so many players, young, experienced or new signings.

Iwobi is a breath of fresh air this season and it becomes infectious as was shown not just against Palace but in many other games. Couple this with the introduction of Onana and fans can be optimistic about the rest of the season despite those three games before Saturday.

There are other factors of course and if Lampard can keep up the great attitude of these guys on Saturday and the injuries stay away then they should be able to pick up a lot more points before the New Year.

Andy Crooks
11 Posted 24/10/2022 at 23:16:15
Great article, Peter, about a player I have always thought would come good. Great to see endeavour awarded. There are good times ahead and Alex deserves huge credit for making that possible.

The players seem to like each other and that is the key to building a team. Well done to Frank for making this possible.

Danny O’Neill
14 Posted 24/10/2022 at 23:51:01
A really good read that, Peter. Thank you.

No "told you so" moment from me, but I was always on the side of the fence that thought there was a player in there somewhere. He just had to find himself and his place at Everton.

I watched an interview with him and it is apparent that he is a humble person who I would imagine needs his confidence building to thrive. The arm-around-the-shoulder type of management and encouragement rather than tough love. But to repeat, even when that wasn't there, he didn't and doesn't hide.

I like the quote about the sloppy pass but the fan reaction and recognition of intent and what he was trying to achieve.

Slightly different context and no direct comparison, but it made me think of watching Peter Beardsley play for Everton. Quite often, he would play a pass that at first glance went astray. Very easy to criticise the player making the pass, but the fans appreciated the intent and would be more likely to bemoan the inability of other players to be on the same wavelength and read what he was trying to do and get on the end of it.

Really pleased for Alex. Still only 26. He is still to peak and can get better.

Dupont Koo
15 Posted 25/10/2022 at 02:36:55
Thank you for your well-written piece, Peter.

Hopefully other parts of the team can continue to allow Iwobi to be deployed in the Tim Cahill position that he played on Saturday.

Yes, he has yet to score like gangbuster Cahill did but his technique and work rate, along with his improving decision-making, would serve as the perfect hub for the front-line folks around him (Calvert-Lewin, Gordon, McNeil, Gray & Maupay).

Kieran Kinsella
16 Posted 25/10/2022 at 04:07:23

I hate to be the contrarian but, while yes, Iwobi certainly seems to be one who needs love to prosper, everyone is different.

We've had plenty down the years who go through the motions, get a few cheers and are happy enough. Case in point: Tony Cottee.

When we lost 6-2 to Aston Villa, he got two late consolations and according to Sharp while the rest of the team were humiliated he was as happy as Larry as “job done.”

Look at Dele Alli. Frank said he needed tough love. There are many who go through the motions unless you give them a kick up the arse. So I think it's a bit simplistic to act like endless positivity is the key to success.

Yes, it works for Iwobi but did all that support motivate Jack Rodwell or Francis Jeffers to improve or did it make them arrogant twats? Every player is different.

If you look at Crystal Palace, for example, they bang their drums and cheer from first minute to last but has Zaha gotten better or just sort of stayed at his level with occasional good games?

Ideally, we could get a psychological profile of every player so we know to cheer for Iwobi and get all over Andy van der Meyde's and Royston Drenthe's backs because they have different personalities.

Sean Roe
17 Posted 25/10/2022 at 07:18:45
Everything about the club was toxic when he arrived, and only really this season have the fuses of people's patience got ever so slightly longer.

Not a great environment for any employee in any job, particularly one who seems very gentle natured.

I wouldn't feel very confident if the best part of 30,000 people were booing and cussing my every move.

Good luck to the lad and may his new-found confidence benefit us all.

Steve Shave
18 Posted 25/10/2022 at 07:19:02
Great article, thank you. Fabulous post too from Fran @6.

I appreciate too Peter how you carefully remind us of the responsibility the crowd holds. Of course we have a right to expect commitment and effort; what I don't believe we are in anyway entitled to are results and special treatment from anyone.

Our history is incredible but it doesn't give us a right to expect the way we do – 35-odd years of mediocrity has seen to that. As the saying goes, "expectations are just resentments waiting to happen".

As you point out, resentment was strong for Iwobi early on, he was the panic buy and we paid waaaay over the odds for him. He might be a sensitive lad but even the thickest of skins couldn't have brushed aside the crowd vitriol directed towards him for so long.

We have a responsibility to get behind the team, to encourage our players and finally let go of the legacy of expectations set decades ago, it has held us back for so long (along with some staggeringly incompetent management of the club – any thoughts, Don?). Frank's biggest achievement in my eyes so far has been to unite the players and fans, no mean feat as we have been the Premier League's most toxic club for years.

I love watching Iwobinho fizzing around the pitch, I hope he signs a new contact and kicks on even further, he certainly has the potential to kick on again. COYB.

Sean Roe
19 Posted 25/10/2022 at 07:39:11
Or coming at it from another angle, him being crap is yesterday's news, it will be McNeil's and/or Maupay's turn this year.
Bill Griffiths
20 Posted 25/10/2022 at 08:35:17
You are definitely right there, Sean (#19).

McNeil has already been getting a certain amount of stick and vitriolic comments especially in the Live Forum and I definitely saw a post from someone who had spoken to either himself or a friend of his that McNeil had said himself he didn't think the fans had taken to him.

Personally, I would pick him before Gray as I feel McNeil can interact and combine better within the team while Gray is more of a lone wolf who does too much on his own.

Kevin O'Regan
21 Posted 25/10/2022 at 08:41:24
Huge credit to Lampard for changing the mood of the fans – and we are a moody bunch. That has definitely changed the stadium atmosphere to unite the fans among themselves and behind the team – that then in turn gives the players wings to fly and be bold and try new things and that is exactly what we have been missing for years.

We can't live in fear and certainly can't be creative in fear. Let this be a lesson to us fans too – give the players a break – ignore the wages and money and transfer fees etc... just get behind them and the rewards will come.

Lee Courtliff
22 Posted 25/10/2022 at 09:03:23
Danny O'Neil #14,

I have very fond memories of Anders Limpar in his pomp at Goodison. And, just like Beardsley, he would fairly often play a pass that drifted out of play or straight through to the keeper.

But, you could see that it was the right pass to play... if others were on his wavelength!! Two top quality players there, hopefully Alex can join them one day.

Danny O’Neill
23 Posted 25/10/2022 at 09:09:23
It's interesting how the squad dynamics have changed:

McNeil - 22 years old
Mykolenko - 23 years old
Patterson - 21 years old
Onana - 21 years old
Calvert-Lewin- still only 25
Iwobi - 26 years old
Gordon - 21 years old
Gray - still only 26

Combine that with the experience of Gueye, Tarkowski and Coady and there is a good blend of potential and experience. And in relative terms, at 29 years old, the centre-backs are about to give us their best years.

Be patient with these players. They will make mistakes. That's football and life. But I can see this coming good.

Michael Kenrick
24 Posted 25/10/2022 at 09:34:17
Sorry but this strikes me as being rather unjustified:

"We have been the Premier League's most toxic club for years."

Talk about unalloyed and gratuitous negativity – how do you even come up with such an accolade?

Dave Cashen
25 Posted 25/10/2022 at 09:41:49
Not sure how many nails you struck firmly on the head there, Peter, but that wasn't just a great article. It was one which needed to be penned and published.

Alex Iwobi is really quite unique. He has played for two of the most decorated managers in world football since he got here and has been badly ill-used by both. Carlo may as well have played himself or big Dunc at left wing-back than ask Iwobi to do it; it was an error he would repeat… often mid-game.

Benitez was meant to have complete dossiers on a million players, but that didn't stop him making the same error. This time at right-wingback. Both men managed Everton teams which were almost bereft of energy. They both decided to use Iwobi's energy to get up and down the line. The player suffered. The fans blamed him. How could these managers be wrong?

I'll confess up front that I had Iwobi down in the not-good-enough bracket, but then, like every other Evertonian, I had only seen what the managers had shown us. Even the most experienced get it wrong occasionally.

I've noticed Frank has gone down the same route as his predecessors on more than one occasion and asked Alex to cover the full-back position so he could put substitutes in midfield. A practice I hope we have seen the last of.

I'm so glad you mention Anthony Gordon, Peter. He is another. He too has been asked to play out of position. In Calvert-Lewin's absence, he has been asked to play in the most difficult position of all while still trying to learn his trade in his natural role. Since he attracted the attention of the big boys, his critics have certainly come crawling out of the woodwork. Being leading scorer despite missing games apparently means he's shit - "Sell the useless git for £40M". Wonderfully ironic

There seems, to me at least, to be a different dynamic to player criticism. What used to be a matchday slagging has now become social media agenda for some. Some are almost ritualistic in hammering their least favourite player. Throw enough shit and some will stick. These campaigns will inevitably find their way to the stands.

Iwobi was murdered on every Everton Website. Some of the criticism bordered on the obsessive. By the time matchday came around, large sections of Goodison were ready for his first mistake before he had even made it.

Thanks for taking the time to put this article together, Peter.

Steve Shave
26 Posted 25/10/2022 at 10:15:36
Michael @24 a sweeping statement yes, can I back it up with any proof? No, I can't. It's all about opinions but my view is that the relationship between fans and players had been awful for a long time. I am not remotely a negative person Michael and I think you will find most of my posts are quite the opposite in tone, thank you though for digging me out for one sentence.

As alluded to earlier in this thread and in the article itself, frustrated toxicity has impacted heavily on player and team confidence (I will add the words "in my opinion" here Michael before you jump in again).

How many years have we watched this team shit themselves and choke? Frank Lampard deserves huge credit for his role in changing the dynamics and relationship. Pre-Frank, can you name a Premier League team with a more toxic environment when things aren't going to plan and such a disparity between player performance and fan expectations? You can maybe mention Arsenal and Man Utd in that sentence but they have had successes in the not-too-distant past. So was it such a ridiculous statement?

Anyway, back to the crux of my post, Iwobi has been fab. I am happy to eat humble pie and say I got him wrong, I will gladly bow in respect to a lad who was in a pit with seemingly no way out, only to become our best player over the last 6 months. Huge credit.

Kevin Prytherch
27 Posted 25/10/2022 at 10:29:38
I have to agree with Steve here.

For years we were a great fan base. Under Moyes and Martinez we got behind the team and the players responded. We, as fans, were respected, knowledgeable and impartial. I'd say we were definitely one of the best fan bases in the country both in terms of support and knowledge.

It was also evident by how many young players came through. We accepted mistakes as part of players' and teams' development and we applauded effort and creativity that might not come off.

When Moshiri took ever, we suddenly had money and it was like we suddenly felt we were entitled to success. Gone was the support, instead it was replaced with an appetite for instant success, groans for misplaced passes, players written off after a handful of games, no focus on development when we could simply replace a player.

We became toxic, entitled and everything I hate about fanbases from the likes of Liverpool and Man Utd. It's also telling how few young players came through during this period and how many managers were replaced after losing the fans.

Only when Lampard came did we unite as fans again and go back to what we were before Moshiri – one of the best, if not the best, fan bases in the country.

Colin Glassar
28 Posted 25/10/2022 at 10:34:09
Hats off to Iwobi, and Lampard, for this amazing metamorphosis from a cowardly, clueless, waste of space (he was awful, admit it) to being one of the first names on the team sheet and a vital cog in the Blue Machine.

I still think it's early days to make him into an Everton legend but long may this run of good form continue. I still have my doubts, as I expressed during the Tottenham and Newcastle games where he was totally ineffective, but I'll back him 100% as long as he puts in the effort. Well done, Alex.

Steve Shave
29 Posted 25/10/2022 at 10:41:19
Careful Kevin, you didn't say "in my opinion" once in that post, you might get called out for making sweeping statements ;)
Laurie Hartley
30 Posted 25/10/2022 at 11:11:40
I enjoyed reading that, Peter.
Dave Abrahams
31 Posted 25/10/2022 at 11:29:15
Dave (25), not having that Dave, not for a second, Iwobi and Gordon might have been played out of position, so was Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but while Iwobi was very poor for two and a half seasons, the reason I slated him was for his pathetic pulling out of 50-50 tackles or even 60-40 tackles in his favour. You don't ever do that.

He still can't do a full-blooded tackle by the way, but now he definitely deserves his place in the team, Gordon was the same getting played out of position but gong in backwards with his tackles and getting booked for them. More noticeable this season, Gordon's work rate has gone off in the last few weeks.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin has always been slated by large numbers of fans and he has been played all over the place but his work rate was there for all to see. Although accused by many last season of not pulling his weight, when he was obviously playing through an injury, he is still not fully match-fit but had a good game versus Palac. Apart from an excellent goal, his holding up game and close control was there for all to see, if they wanted to see it.

Iwobi deserves all the praise he is getting now; he most certainly deserved all the brickbats he got during that very long spell of mediocrity and pathetic performances.

Peter Carpenter
32 Posted 25/10/2022 at 11:36:47
There's no problem with being a contrarian, I've got a membership of that club too, Kieran (16).

I think the point is not so much ‘endless positivity' but the absence of negativity forced by the dire situation we were in. There wasn't that ripple of anger around the ground when mistakes were made; rather it was a forget-it-and-get-on-with-it feel.

Iwobi still had to do something good to get the crowd behind him, in contrast to Andre Gomes. Gomes was in a similar situation with the crowd losing faith in him but he didn't respond with better performances and has now gone. In that regard, Iwobi earned the positivity (in fact, it started as early as the Leeds game, as Lyndon points out in his article).

I think the most interesting quote from him was the one about substitutions. If he wasn't first off, he fully expected to be next. I was surprised by this and thought it revealed something about his character – more complex than most footballers, maybe?

You're right that every player is different and there is more chance of success if the coaching team working with them appreciates that and tries to find out what the differences are and what each individual responds best to. Hopefully, we've got that kind of coaching team in place now. The kick up the arse might have some value, but only as a shock tactic, not a long-term strategy for everyone.

Finally, was Jack Rodwell really an ‘arrogant twat'? He always struck me as the opposite of that and could have benefitted from a bit more arrogance.

Danny O’Neill
33 Posted 25/10/2022 at 11:45:40
We are a very passionate fan base. You see that here every day. Mostly that is good and we are the best. Sometimes the frustration inevitably spills over.

It's nothing new, modern or unique and sometimes understandable even when I don't necessarily agree.

The infamous reported car park incident when Harry Catterick dared to drop Alex Young in favour of a young up-and-coming Joe Royle. Okay, that was apparently a few rather than the masses, but unsavoury.

The late 70s and the end of Gordon Lee era. The leaflets to have Howard Kendall ousted in the winter of 1983.

Last season was as toxic as I've seen it, but I spent a lot of time away but at times in the 90s it felt dark like a permanent winter gloom.

It's good we have a positive vibe about the club, even if results haven't been the best. Because we can see there is a plan. It's great that Iwobi and the players are responding. Let's keep it going. Management, players and supporters.

On the pitch and off the pitch. In about 21 months time, we will kick our first ball at our iconic new stadium.

I hope that by then, this squad and those players have developed into a team that is competing where we need to be and should be competing.

Lump in throat moment thinking about the stadium and Goodison.

Chris Williams
34 Posted 25/10/2022 at 11:54:17
After his signing, Brands said in an interview, that he had been signed as a Number 10, as an alternative to Sigurdsson. So that was clear.

Silva was interviewed and said that he had been bought as a wide attacker, to come in from the left. I think he may have been still expecting a substitute-Zaha, but we'll never know. So that was clear.

So no joined-up thinking there. But Brands was right. Iwobi himself has said this too. So he rarely had the chance to play in his best position.

Having said that, that was only one part of the conundrum, the other being his apparent lack of aggression, fight etc.

Frank seems to have accepted one, and remedied the other, and we're now seeing the benefits.

Steve Shave
35 Posted 25/10/2022 at 12:11:17
Chris @34,

No joined-up thinking indeed! Sadly that mistake has blighted most of Moshiri's tenure, seems to be getting more things right now though.

It has been widely speculated that Iwobi was Moshiri's signing and forced upon Brands and the team. It seems that this was one bit of his meddling that turned out well. I'd say luck rather than judgement but it's all down to Alex Iwobi's hard work and a young manager who believes in him.

Michael Kenrick
36 Posted 25/10/2022 at 12:12:35
The problem, Steve, as so often on here, is with the generalizations made.

The toxicity you describe may have been present in relation to certain players who were clearly not pulling their weight or simply not performing. The Everton fanbase has always had little to no time for such things (from Alex Nyarko to Morgan Schneiderlin, there are far too many examples) and quite rightly too.

However, at the same time, and all through these "toxic" years you claim, other players have pulled out their tripe (from Tim Cahill to Seamus Coleman) and it has been fully embraced with great adulation by a fan base that you are accusing of endemic toxicity.

Simply no.

Clive Rogers
37 Posted 25/10/2022 at 12:18:24
Steve, 35,

I don't think Moshiri is actually getting more things right. I believe he's decided he's not the expert he thought he was and is leaving it to people with better judgment.

Rolf Tomander
38 Posted 25/10/2022 at 13:06:31
They must give him a 5 year contract asap.
Christy Ring
39 Posted 25/10/2022 at 13:49:09
Superb article Peter, a great read. A complete transformation, but Lampard has to deserve the plaudits, for getting his confidence back, and finding his proper position in midfield. He's probably one of the first names on the team sheet now, and previously there'd be a groan from me, if I saw his name anywhere near the first 11.

Regarding the word 'toxic' been mentioned, I believe our fans always back you if you give 100%. As for any passengers, they'll let you know fairly quickly, but I would never say our fans treated anyone toxic at a match, but even now some of the comments on the "Live Forum" definitely are.

James Hughes
40 Posted 25/10/2022 at 13:54:09
First of all what a great thread and post from Peter.
Steve @26, you support an excellent post from the OP.

There was an article a good few months ago, from I think Ben Foster, about how they used to play to get the home fans frustrated and then they would start having a go at the players. A decent description of a toxic atmosphere.

Dave Cashen
41 Posted 25/10/2022 at 14:10:23
Fair enough Dave, but for me, 2-3-4 wrongs don't make a right.

For the last 30 years there has been a culture at this club of trying to force square pegs into round holes. you won't need me to tell you that.

Manager after manager has played players out of position and it's always the players who get the abuse from the crowd.

I thought Leon Osman was a smashing little midfield player, but for reasons I still haven't worked out. Moyes decided he was a wide player.Ossiesimply didn't have the tools and soon became a target for the boo boys. He could offer little or no protection to Tony Hibbert, especially against athleticism and to this day both players get singled out for blame whenever the cup final is discussed. I think Moyes was more to blame than the players. He'd seen enough evidence before he selected the team for that match.

Like you, my blood would boil when I saw IwobI pull out of tackles, but I always put it more down to uncertainty than lack of bravery. The guy can't tackle which makes the decision to play him full back all the more ridiculous. What Alex can do is pick a players pocket by tracking back and anticipating the play - Something "chocs away" Anthony will hopefully learn to do.

When players are repeatedly played so badly out of position. The manager has to accept a huge amount of the blame. Especially if he continues to flog an obviously dead horse.

Sean Roe
42 Posted 25/10/2022 at 14:41:56
Christy @ 39,

Rondon got booed coming ON to the pitch if I remember, that's pretty toxic in my opinion.

Danny O’Neill
43 Posted 25/10/2022 at 14:49:22
Dave Cashen, I thought about mentioning Leon Osman because I too couldn't understand why he was often played wide.

I call it English / British disease. Considered too lightweight and small, so put them out wide, out of danger rather than where they can be a danger.

If for some miraculous reason Messi would have made it in England (he wouldn't have - too small and lightweight), he'd also have been getting chalk on his boots on many occasions.

I still think Anthony Gordon can play more of a supporting role as a supporting forward. Number 10 I suppose we call it these days.

Tony Abrahams
44 Posted 25/10/2022 at 15:48:25
I thought Gordon was doing alright when he was played out of position, but had stopped working hard enough when put back out wide, although I never watched any of saturday’s game, when he might have worked harder?

A few people had commented on ToffeeWeb, that Iwobi, was being played out of position, and this has now been proven, but it cannot be underestimated imo, that from the moment Lampard came into Everton, there was suddenly a few more Cockney accents around the changing rooms, and I’m certain this will also have had a positive effect on Alex Iwobi?

Martin Mason
45 Posted 25/10/2022 at 16:09:41
I must be the only person on here who never had a bad word for him and thought he was wonderful from the get-go. I think I used words like "bound to come good in the end" or similar.

Well done Alex to have turned it round and become the exceptional and inspirational player that you are now. It's saved us many millions in replacement money.

Mike Gaynes
46 Posted 25/10/2022 at 16:23:44
Clive #37, that in itself constitutes "doing things right" from my perspective. Sometimes the best thing you can do is get the hell out of the way. It took a long time for that to sink in with Moshiri, but clearly now it has.

Christy #39, true, but the players and other fans don't read the Forum. The only people who see it are those who are on it.

I wish it were always true, however, that "our fans always back you if you give 100%." I never saw a player try harder than Oumar Niasse. Unless it was Yannick Bolasie. I think they'd both be much too polite to share how they feel about the "support" they got at Goodison.

Dave Abrahams
47 Posted 25/10/2022 at 16:30:38
Dave (41), yes Ossie was a cracking’ little footballer, better as an inside forward,never seen him pull out of tackles, Arteta got played wide when he first came, he wasn’t effective there as he was when he went centre midfield, but started going down too easily when he lost the ball and a lot of referees gave him a wide berth when he did this, sometimes when he had been fouled, same as Richarlison and the new lad Onona has started off on this foot, does my fuckin’ head in, it’s trying to kid the refs and Everton suffer in the long run.

Yes Everton fans can really get on some players backs,the worse I saw was with Gordon West in a European game at the Gladys St, end, they stunk as they did when they clapped and cheered Tom Cleverly off the pitch when he was being substituted, pathetic, same as they treat Rondon, not necessary.

With Owobi, Schneiderlin and Gomes I understood the crowd perfectly although I never booed them myself.

As long as Iwobi carries on the way he has been playing all he will hear are cheers!!

Tony Abrahams
48 Posted 25/10/2022 at 16:37:56
I always thought Arteta was a much better player out wide Dave, which just goes to show how opinions differ. I love a player capable of making time for himself, but little Mickey, used to slow it down, when it needed quickening up imo.
Dave Abrahams
49 Posted 25/10/2022 at 16:41:12
Martin (45)

I think I've said enough about Iwobi but “I thought he was wonderful from the get go”.

Ah Jesus, Martin, I know you don't get to watch Everton live, your TV must be bleedin' marvellous the way it let you see Iwobi for two and a half long years!!

Dale Self
50 Posted 25/10/2022 at 16:53:43
Yeah Tony, Gordon did work harder vs Palace and even showed some intuitive runs and passes.

I know you've been critical of him and I'm with that but Frank or someone seems to have had chat during the suspension and he looked less determined to do it on his own.

With his speed and McNeil's abilities when confident, and Gray, if he ever learns to link up, Iwobi won't have much problem finding an outlet or run, the legs are there.

His crosses are complete crap though.

Danny O’Neill
51 Posted 25/10/2022 at 16:54:38
Tony, that comment has just made me think about you know who but in the reverse. I won't name him because I bore people.

But a player who wasn't a natural wide player but made his name there very, very successfully. I thought he was better when he did play supporting forward.

As for Arteta. At the time, I used to think he was wasted out wide but then when he played central, he seemed to play within himself and more negatively. Maybe that was the tactics, maybe as you say, how we see it. But I'd agree, better in wider positions, which seemed strange given his ability on the ball.

Kieran Kinsella
52 Posted 25/10/2022 at 17:31:19

If as you say he was " wonderful from the get go." why did you need to say he was "bound to come good in the end"? Surely there's not much upward trajectory from "Wonderful" which is defined as
"inspiring delight, pleasure, or admiration; extremely good; marvelous."

Peter Mills
53 Posted 25/10/2022 at 18:14:51
Dave #49.


Neil Copeland
54 Posted 25/10/2022 at 18:20:04
Kieran #52,

Come on, mate, get with it.

He was wonderfully shite to start with but now he is wonderfully good……

Christy Ring
55 Posted 25/10/2022 at 18:32:46
Dave #49,


Lee Courtliff
56 Posted 25/10/2022 at 21:05:11
Arteta was far better out wide, that's why he won the Player of the Year award 2 seasons running. And it was never in doubt who would win those awards, imo.

He did okay in midfield but was never the same after that tackle by Nolan.

John Raftery
57 Posted 25/10/2022 at 21:35:07
There was no tackle by Nolan for Arteta's injury. It was just one of those freak twists of fate which did for his knee.

The tackle I imagine you are thinking of was by Nolan on Anichebe in the same match at Newcastle. That was a terrible, disgusting tackle. How Moyes could say after the game Nolan was ‘not that sort of player' beggared belief.

Tony Abrahams
58 Posted 25/10/2022 at 21:48:46
You know who, was an absolute joy when he went and played central midfield for a time during our last Championship-winning season, Danny.

I remember being on a coaching course and a Leicester City first-team player taking a shine to me.

He played the day Sheedy scored a sublime chip during the X-mas period. When I told him Reid was my favourite, he told me that at least he could kick him, but he couldn't get anywhere near you know who, meaning trying to kick him was impossible.

Sam Hoare
59 Posted 25/10/2022 at 22:27:04
I never thought he was quite as bad as many on here were making out. Even when we were struggling he was someone who always covered the yards and tried to play the ball forwards (though with less success).

It's difficult for any player to shine when they are moved around different positions, seldom given a run of starts or asked to play a role that does not suit their skill. Iwobi was victim of all 3 of these scenarios and I'm surprised that it took until Lampard for any manager to play him regularly in the middle.

Now he is comfortably the most creative player in our team, and currently one of the 3 most creative players in the whole league (with De Bruyne and Silva). I'd still like to see him add a few more goals but his ability to find space and deliver accurate passes in and around the box is crucial; plus his work rate and athleticism.

Long may it continue. He's just turned 26 so should have his prime years ahead of him.

Andy Crooks
60 Posted 25/10/2022 at 23:09:04
John @57.

That was the last straw for me with the appalling Moyes. The tackle on Anichebe was the equal of Cases's on Geoff Nulty.

Case was the lowest form of filth that ever contaminated football.
Moyes's defence of the odious Nolan stuck with me.

Kieran Kinsella
61 Posted 26/10/2022 at 03:24:59
Andy Crooks,

David Moyes: “Nolan ain't that kind of player. People say Stalin was a wee bit to the left and Hitler a wee bit to the right, och but Alec Ferguson gave me a signed piece of his used toilet paper so I don't want to rock the boat.”

Lee Courtliff
62 Posted 26/10/2022 at 10:12:39
Sorry, John, memory playing tricks on me.

And yes, that was an awful challenge and yet another, like Son, who "isn't that type of player".


Andy Meighan
63 Posted 26/10/2022 at 11:30:49
Kiran 16. The Villa game you're referring to, Cottee only got one. Beagrie got credited with the other although it was diverted in by a Villa defender. None the less one of the worst performances I've ever had the misfortune to witness.
Danny O’Neill
64 Posted 26/10/2022 at 11:42:58
I remember that Aston Villa 6-2 embarrassment but will bring up a game that gave the same result but in reverse.

Those who understand me know that I don't always focus on results.

We beat Swindon 6-2. On paper a fine result, but we looked awful and a shadow of our recent selves. The warning signs were there for me regardless of the result. I think Stuart Barlow got the last goal (ive not checked).

It was also the fixture I took my youngest brother to his first match in the lower Gwladys Street. The poor lad fell asleep half way through the second half. Says a lot despite the scoreline!!

Paul Cherrington
65 Posted 26/10/2022 at 12:26:15
Iwobi is playing really well and deserves credit.

As others have noted, I think he is simply playing in his best position now and this explains it. What a novel idea that is – someone should tell more managers about it.

Will Mabon
66 Posted 26/10/2022 at 18:21:05
Someone put this together on YouTube, showing Iwobi's involvement in the Palace game.


Dale Rose
67 Posted 27/10/2022 at 09:52:51
Great read. There was always a footballer in there and Lampard has pulled it out. Delighted he is doing so well.
Lee Robinson
68 Posted 28/10/2022 at 09:26:56
One thing that isn't highlighted enough about Iwobi is the fact he never seems to be injured.

He is always available, he must have played almost evey position for us apart from centre-back without question, and he ha always stood up, despite poor form, social media backlash and lack of confidence. That takes some courage........many would have folded.

We have a player there in every aspect, I'm over the moon for him.

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