‘And if you know your history’, sing the Everton faithful. This is a club that knows its past, that revels in its traditions, ‘a grand old team to play for and a grand old team to support’, as the song goes.
But history, and more specifically recent history, seems to be something that those charged with running the club have struggled with during the past few years.
Since David Moyes left Merseyside back in 2013, the club have laboured to recreate the cohesiveness that characterised his regime. Moyes recreated Everton, rescuing the club from a period in the late 1990s and early 2000s when it had been dogged by dire football and the near constant threat of relegation.
Under Moyes a new Everton emerged; tougher, unyielding and greater than the sum of its parts. Everton had a model and a plan, one based on smart recruitment, player development and an unstinting work ethic. And with this came both a significant improvement in league form and stability for the club (which for one that had spent several seasons in crisis mode, was a welcome relief).
But despite all his good work, when he left the club, there was a feeling among the fans (and the board) that Everton had hit something of a glass ceiling. The higher reaches of the league appeared beyond the Blues, something attributed to both the club’s lack of financial power and the tactical approach that Moyes brought to the game. There was a feeling that his football philosophy had rejuvenated Everton but could not take them to the next level.
Everton’s history since Moyes is best defined as the club trying to solve the problem of this glass ceiling. The appointment of Roberto Martinez, a manager who had broken a glass ceiling of sorts when his Wigan side had improbably won the FA Cup, represented the club’s first attempt.
Martinez was the near antithesis of Moyes. Cavalier, relentlessly sunny, dismissive of rigour and organisation, the Spaniard began to create another kind of Everton. The Moyes template was thrown away as the club started to recruit more haphazardly, perusing the aspirational over the practical to service the manager’s high minded ideals. Although the gamble seemed to promise much early on, it ultimately failed. As the defensive muscle memory of the Moyes era faded, weaknesses were exposed. Sunshine Bobby never got to complete his plan, losing his job in 2016.
After Martinez, Everton pursued another approach. Continuity was again shown the door as Ronald Koeman became the new manager, the near antithesis of his predecessor. Serious, organised and disciplined, here was a throwback to what had been lost. But unlike Moyes, Koeman was given money. Evertonians had long believed that the absence of cash had held Moyes back. That if only the club had possessed a few more quid, greatness could have been achieved.
📝Marco Silva Is The Right Man To Get Everton Back On Track - Max gives us his thoughts and opinions on the possibke recruitment of Marco Silva and how he is the right manager for Everton— The Toffee Blues (@EvertonNewsFeed) May 17, 2018
✏️@Max_Carlyle https://t.co/wDQSI7EnrG pic.twitter.com/twRpg1bqxz
With the cash from the new billionaire investor, Farhad Moshiri, Koeman would be Moyes+, an organiser with the means to organise properly. But it never worked out. What had made Moyes and Everton so effective, player development, a team ethic, transfers guided by necessity, was as absent under Koeman as it was under Martinez.
Damningly, despite the addition of a Director of Football in the guise of Steve Walsh, Everton spent without direction. Positions went unfilled, other positions were over-filled, a chasm opened between what was needed and what was brought in. Form ultimately faltered again, and with relegation appearing as a possibility, Koeman was dispatched too.
That was six months ago. Since then, until his recent dismissal, the club has been largely in the hands of Sam Allardyce. Unlike his two predecessors, Allardyce appeared to have no long term remit. His job was to steady the ship and steer it away from danger. With that achieved, he was shown the door, leaving Everton at another crossroads and with big decisions to be made.
Whoever takes the helm next season, the club could do with learning a thing or two from its recent past. Although the principles that underpinned the Moyes template were designed for a club struggling financially (something which Everton no longer are), they remain relevant. At its heart was cohesion. The club was unified around an approach, with recruitment, training and team ethic working together.
Regardless of who has been in charge and irrespective of the club's financial heft, it is the loss of cohesion that has undone Everton in recent times. Comparing the Everton side that took to the pitch against West Ham in Moyes' final home game to the one that took to the pitch to face West Ham at the London Stadium at the end of last season was a dispiriting exercise for the supporters.
Where the former was strong, united and balanced, the latter looked limp, disjointed, and largely disinterested. No better example stands to illustrate the failure of the past five years than that. Despite the millions spent and the various managers tried, Everton have gone backwards, not forwards. They are further away from breaking the glass ceiling today than they were back in 2013.
If Everton are to avoid another season like this one, and at some point break that glass ceiling, then the spirit of the Moyes template should be revisited. The recent appointment of Marcel Brands from PSV Eindhoven as Director of Football, at the expense of the largely disastrous Steve Walsh, suggests that the club is already trying to remedy the lack of cohesiveness that has beset Goodison in recent times.
Evertonians have longed for the summer for some time. They have yearned for a period of meaningful change at the club where the foundations will be put in place to make that long awaited assault on the higher reaches of the league. Whether that happens, only time will tell. The one positive for the club to be taken from the last few years is that Everton now know what not to do. If the club chooses not to learn from that, then it will only have itself to blame.