GRAEME SOUNESS: Everton are a desperate, broken club – their plight is a national football calamity
It’s the sheer volume of coverage about Everton, a desperate and broken football club, that has caught my attention the most this week.
If this was just another Premier League bottom half team in the mire, there would have been some discussion and debate. But nothing on the scale we’ve seen. Backhanded compliment perhaps, but the tons of analysis and hours of conversation are a reminder that Everton are one of the great clubs in British football. That what has been unfolding at Goodison Park is a national football calamity.
You might be surprised to find me saying that, since I spent six of the best years of my life on the other side of Stanley Park. But Everton have always been a club that resonates with me.
Everton are in dire straits with the club’s demise being covered at length this week.
Maybe it’s because it was the first English football club I visited. The Edinburgh Schoolboys team I had been picked for was to play Liverpool Schoolboys at Goodison in 1967, but after traveling the game was canceled as rain had flooded the pitch. A friend of mine, Eric Carruthers, who later played for Hearts, and I decided to go see Goodison and Anfield because they were so close to each other.
We caught a bus from our hotel near Lime Street and when we turned up at Goodison and told our story, a friendly Scouser let us in. We walked through the tunnel to the field. They were trying to protect it, rather than have a couple of schoolchildren wandering around, but what an impression that place made on me as a 14-year-old.
When I went to play there for Middlesbrough some five years later they had not long completed the first three-tier stand in Britain. It’s dated now, but it took your breath away. The picture I’m trying to paint here is of a serious football club, with passionate supporters to match.
Everton are paying the price for poor hiring decisions in the last five years.
Everton owner Farhad Moshiri, left, and chairman Bill Kenwright, right, have been criticized
I came to live and work in Liverpool in 1978 and those were hard days. There was economic struggle and deep unemployment. it was raw. Soccer was his form of self-expression. A way to challenge those who discarded the place. People talk about football cities, but that place and Glasgow are the best for me.
Of course, Everton have discovered in the last painful five years that the one thing you have to do well above all else in football is recruiting. They’ve had a couple of good managers, people who have done very well in other parts of football, but it’s been the classic case of a rich man, coming in, thinking he knows better and not listening.
Farhad Moshiri, like other owners of our game, thought: ‘This game is easy. I know soccer. Silly, lazy, complacent thinking of an individual who has made so much money that he believes that he, rather than the football people, has all the answers. He is following bad advice and has become a farce for the club and its supporters.
Moshiri has followed bad advice that has led to a footballing calamity at one of the country’s biggest clubs.
Former Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa turned down the chance to take charge of Everton
Moshiri decided that Marcelo Bielsa was the one he wanted as his next coach and that worried me, until Bielsa looked at him and decided it wasn’t for him in the middle of the season.
Bielsa could rightly be said to have turned Championship players into Premier League players at Leeds, but he implemented kamikaze football which, while highly entertaining, was doomed to send them back to the Championship before he was gone. A completely detached approach to the players was not what Everton needed.
Now it looks like Sean Dyche will become manager and I think it would be an appointment that gives Everton a very good chance of holding on.
Sean Dyche will take over at Goodison Park and oversee the battle against relegation.
Every manager is a bet. During most of his reign, Dyche did a good job at Burnley on a limited budget. My take on football management is that the longer you are in the Premier League, the further you are from relegation. Although I would correctly point out his budget, that did not happen to him at Burnley.
But he will bring pragmatism and good organization to a group of players who feel sorry for themselves. Some of those players look at other people in the locker room and say, ‘It’s their fault.’ That dressing room needs to be galvanized. His players need to start looking at themselves.
There is still reason for optimism because this discussion cannot be concluded without reference to the fans, who reacted in a way that saw Everton survive the end of last season.
Everton supporters can help the club stay awake after inspiring their survival last season.
They, like thousands of neutrals with a soft spot for a club woven into the fabric of our football, will remember the great team of the 1980s, which won the title twice in three years just after I left Liverpool. They will remember the players who came up at that time: Peter Reid, Graeme Sharp, Kevin Sheedy, Kevin Ratcliffe, Neville Southall. serious players.
They will remember the ‘friendly derby’, when you paid your money and went where you wanted in the stadium, so parts of the Kop were blue and parts of the Park End were red. I’ve only lost one league game against them in my six seasons: a game in October 1978 when Andy King scored the only goal at Park End in front of 53,000 people. I was three or four inches from getting a block on it. Andy was thrown off the field by a policeman while doing a live TV interview!
These reasons and more are the reasons why Everton are important and why I hope they can find a way through all of this. Hiring the right manager for this situation would be a good start.
Rashford’s ice bath looked more like an ice tomb to me!
The latest form of ice bath, a -140C machine Marcus Rashford appeared in this week, looks more like an ice tomb to me and is a far cry from the kind of treatment I experienced as a player.
The only bathrooms we had were the team bathrooms, which were warm. The only ice we had was the pads you put on your leg after an injury. I would elevate it for a few days and then give it some heat. There was no science.
Marcus Rashford has been using a cryosauna to help improve his recovery after matches.
But I have found a different kind of ice bath, which I can honestly say I swear by. I live on the coast and I swim in the sea, some days. The guys I swim with like to start early so this time of year it’s dark and I have a flashing green light attached to my cap and I look goofy!
Even in a wetsuit, it’s cold, but the incredible feeling that half an hour in the water leaves me is there for the rest of the day.
Darvel’s wonders are the reason we love Cups
The ‘Darvel disaster’ is what they call Aberdeen’s 1-0 defeat this week to a team from the West of Scotland League, five divisions below them, and I can certainly emphasize with the team beaten in that tie from the Scottish Cup.
This weekend marks 36 years since my Rangers team lost 1-0 to Hamilton Academicals in a Cup tie at Ibrox and that result was still being celebrated in 30th anniversary pieces – six years ago! Actually, we didn’t play bad at all, but it was one of those weird days.
Sixth tier Darvel pulled off the biggest upset in Scottish Cup history on Monday
Their goalkeeper, David McKellar, put in an amazing game and we even ended up signing him a few years later, when my assistant Walter Smith had become manager.
I remember that the court was not at its best in the middle of winter either. But none of that matters now.
The day belonged to a lad called Adrian Sprott who scored his goal and was paid £50 a week to play on it.
That’s why we love Cup competitions.