If you have had the misfortune to sit or stand next to me at an Everton game, you’ll know I’m no shrinking violet.
Stood in the rain at Selhurst Park on Saturday was bleak, but the passion and the camaraderie was something to behold. As indeed it was in the King Arthur in Lyon where hundreds of ticketless Blues sang songs and cheered on the boys in the Royal Blue jersey, in what was effectively a “dead rubber”. No other club.
These are challenging times for Everton; make no mistake. More stark given the expectations at the start of the season.
After my family, Everton is the love of my life. That bond is unbreakable, that love is unconditional. It’s a weird relationship though, since it’s never reciprocal, how can that be?
Of late I’ve had a bit of stick for being “too negative”. Fair enough, everyone is perfectly entitled to their opinion, especially when it comes to football. I’ve tried always to be constructive with any criticisms and am eternally grateful to John and Paul for their support and guidance with our EBM pods.
The simple fact is I want the Club to be the very best it can be; just like I want my sons to be the very best people they can be. I don’t want to get too philosophical, but sometimes “tough love” is needed, however painful and however negatively it may be perceived.
To me Everton means Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, which does not mean perfection, it means striving to be the best you can be. It means paying attention to every detail.
So when a Fan Survey asks me if I’ll renew my season ticket for the season we are currently in, that makes me cross. When a “technical error” occurs on the website and tickets are offered accidentally for free, that’s annoying. When the Club emails Auto Cup members the day after losing in Lyon to say we’ve taken your money for Atalanta at home, steam comes out of my ears.
Now yes, humans run Everton, not computers, and everyone is fallible, I get that. Often businesses use common standards to help instil process and discipline. These may include ISO or Investors in People; Everton does not currently hold any accreditation or certification from either.
Details matter, the smallest ones, they make all the difference between elite and average performance. Any football coach or player will tell you that.
When the Club doesn’t think the fans and even employees can be trusted and so goes into radio silence, it’s infuriating. Worst of all when it uses “friends and allies” to patronise the fan base by telling us how complex everything is and how us fans can have “no idea” how a managerial appointment or a player signings works, I feel let down badly. But love remains.
Everton must never take that love for granted, though. The “just get behind the team” shout cannot be used to sweep deficiencies under the carpet. Evertonians are loyal, yes; foolish, no. They don’t believe every rumour, nor do they fall for propaganda from those with an agenda.
So when I am critical it’s just because I believe the Club can and should do better; the bar should be higher. That does not mean I don’t and won’t get behind the team. In fact the worse it gets on the pitch the more passionate I am in my support of the team. Unconditional love, that’s what it means.
No single blue is bigger than another; Everton for me is built on humility and respect, not arrogance. Pride comes before a fall, they say, and modern football is littered with examples of Clubs who thought they were too big to go down. I sat in the Top Balcony in 1994 at 0-2 to Wimbledon and will never, ever forget the eerie silence, the emptiness. Never again can we go through what we endured then and in 1998. Listen to Martin Tyler’s words as the teams run out in 94.
I can’t get to Goodison tonight, but I will be at St Mary’s on Sunday, and I guarantee I will get behind the team just as much as ever (apologies in advance to anyone nearby). We are a team, a Club built on a standard that is NSNO. Make that the goal and the rest will follow.