Everton need to give supporters hope after another failed season
Everton making life miserable for former manager David Moyes has been a recurring theme since his 11-year Goodison tenure ended in May 2013. Moyes has lost all five league games against Everton since he left, with none of his new teams scoring a goal in the process, losing by an aggregate score of 12-0. Everton visit Moyes' West Ham on Sunday in hope of extending those sequences, but the fact that this season has only another 90 minutes left to run is likely a greater source of relief to many supporters.
In the grand scheme of things, the outcome of this final-day fixture has very little riding on it.
The season that felt like it might never end finally reaches its closing chapter this weekend, and nobody connected with Everton will want to revisit it in a hurry. The only thing to take from this season is what mistakes to avoid in the future.
This 51-game campaign is way down the list in terms of most Everton matches played in a single season, but this campaign saw the Toffees play their first competitive match in July for the first time in their history. Everton opened the season with a 1-0, first-leg win against MFK Ruzomberok on July 27 in the third round of Europa League qualifying. What has followed in the 290 days between that season opener and this final day trip to the London Stadium is something even the most pessimistic Evertonian could not have dreamed up.
Sitting in the relegation zone in October was not something supporters envisaged, though the shock of Sam Allardyce becoming the third occupant of the Everton dugout with the season barely four months old ranked as an even bigger surprise. Irrespective of the possible merits of such a move at the time as Everton flirted with a relegation battle, it was still a harsh dose of reality, a jarring reminder of how quickly and abruptly this campaign had soured.
Allardyce secured league status quickly enough but passed up the opportunity to push on or assess players on the fringes of the squad. This process of going through the motions means Everton finishing eighth or ninth is the only tangible thing to settle on the final day; Leicester lurk one place and two points lower in the table but face a trip to a Tottenham side trying to hold onto third place.
Some fringe players will be hoping for another opportunity in this match, especially with Theo Walcott doubtful and injury also denying Wayne Rooney a potential farewell appearance as talk of a move to America gathers pace. Others could also be appearing for the final time, with an uncertain summer ahead for many currently connected to the club.
At the head of that list is Allardyce, who claimed before the recent 1-1 home draw against Southampton that he had captured heart and minds while referring to football as an "entertainment game," but there has been nothing entertaining about this team all season. Allardyce also pointed to the way Everton have played and how they have beaten other teams. Allardyce can sell these opinions easily enough, but supporters are not buying them as the dull, soulless football they are watching on a weekly basis tells them otherwise.
Among the biggest issues has been the constant dumbing-down of expectations, which has seen a host of pundits and ex-players race to defend Allardyce and chastise disgruntled supporters. "What more do you want" is a familiar refrain directed toward Everton fans of late, but this is a club that has gone 23 years without silverware, and that frustration is the undercurrent for much of the discontent present among supporters, who remain loyal despite the complete lack of success in recent decades.
Patience has all but expired at this stage, which explains the lack of tolerance for Allardyce and methods that offer little long-term promise or hope of progress.
Everton and long-standing American sitcoms may be a curious fit, but there is a scene from "The Simpsons" that captures the current mood among Evertonians. "Hurry up and lose so we can get out of here," bellows Homer Simpson as his baseball team enters the field. A confused Lisa asks her dad why he hates his team so much. "Because I loved them once and they broke my heart," replies a now downbeat Homer.
The sport may be different, but the general sentiment is something to which Everton supporters can relate. Wishing defeat on Everton is a step too far, even at this stage of the season, but the desire for the season to end is widespread. No team does disappointment quite like Everton, and this has been a season packed with it.
Supporters need an Everton that does not break their hearts quite so often. Supporters also need their hope back.