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The night when I stopped being a football fan
Any latent enthusiasm for this Everton side has been sucked from David Flynn's soul

5 February 2004

So that's the FA Cup for another year then.  And with the team lurking uncomfortably near the relegation zone, the season bears all of the hallmarks of the reign of Howard Kendall III.  

Being an Evertonian who lives in London, I don't get to Goodison that often, but always manage to at least see a few London games each season in some ways I was more than happy that we needed a replay against Fulham, as it meant a second trip to Loftus Road inside a few weeks.  I left home last night with hope and expectancy, sitting amongst Fulham fans on the tube, thinking that a team which creates as many chances as we've been doing is bound to come good at some point....

Last night was a completely different experience to any Everton game I have ever been to.  I guess it was partly due to where I was sitting.  Unable to get an away ticket (a consequence of BK's generous offer to provide coaches to away fans), I ended up sitting in the main stand on South Africa Road, with practically a row to myself.  The Fulham fans around me were a quiet mix families, Kensington dwellers, and city boys.  All silently watching the match.  This atmosphere (or lack of) meant that I was watching the game with little of the emotion I normally feel when surrounded by fellow blues; none of the tense nail-biting, head in my hands fear that accompanies watching the team just a passive detached sense of watching men being paid to play football.  And after 30 minutes, I realised how truly awful we are.

Now I don't mean awful in the normal supporter's sense, when you are full of passion, emotion, spirit, slating the team one minute, and praising them the next (fluking an equaliser).  I remember when I saw us play Derby on Boxing Day a few years ago at Goodison, during Walter Smith's time a match where the words "entertainment" and "football" could not fit in the same language.  Even Stuart Hall couldn't wax lyrical he just said "Everton 0 Derby 0".  No, Loftus Road last night came up with all the reasons why I sometimes find it hard to get enthusiastic about being a blue the team was full of players I just didn't want to support, who I felt didn't deserve mine, or any other Evertonian's backing.

Let's start in defence.  Martyn is great, a Moyes buy, new to the side, exempt from any criticism.  Best keeper at Goodison since Southall.  But then there's the rest. 

  • Unsworth, a player who never fails to give 110%.  The only problem is, 0.5% is talent.  I was laughing my head off on the way home when Radio 5 praised him as a colossus, who gave an immense performance.  He did what he always does: stands in front of a striker, determinedly blocking them, and then whacking the ball back to the opposing side's defence.  The sooner his contract is up, the better. 
  • Hibbert great lad, does one good cross in 50, and would make a great First Division player. 
  • Pistone is class, but permanently injured, and looked it last night. 
  • Naysmith is alright, not great, not talented, just okay.

And then we get to the midfield.  I sat there wondering what they did all week.  From what I saw from Moyes, who was 30 feet in front of me and losing it only 29 mins into the game, he seemed to physically personify how I'd normally be feeling thinking that these players obviously do alright in training, so how are they incapable of passing a ball to someone in the same colour shirt? 

  • Carsley is good enough to play for Coventry. 
  • Kilbane is reasonably talented, always tries, and I've been impressed by the way he has turned round fan's opinions of him.  And then we get to the middle two: 
  • Nyarko, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he was as bad a player as I've ever seen (and I saw Francis Benali at Southampton when I went to college there).  He generally couldn't be bothered, miss-timed half tackles, had no positioning, and had little point in being on the pitch.  If only he wasn't the most technically talented guy we have... 
  • Finally Gravesen.  I have no time for him any more his concentration is worse than Rio Ferdinand's, he does the simple things badly, the hard things once a month, and I am sick of him getting our team in to trouble time and again, week in, week out.  I was actually laughing for most of the first half.  We could get some decent cash for him, and the sooner we do, the better.

Up front wasn't much of an improvement. 

  • Radzinski is a player I hate to love, but do.  He tries, he's quick, he scores some good goals, but only one shot in fifty goes near the six-yard box.  When he hit the post at the end of the first half, he was lucky.  It was a good chance, but Rooney was in acres of space.  Which takes me on to the next chance.......
  • Rooney..... how on earth did he miss that header????  The problem is, for all of the talent the boy has, he can rarely be bothered.  Yes, he's suffering from having an appalling midfield behind him that provides no service, but he rarely tries.  Only when he was trying after we scored did you see what he was capable of. 
  • I could say something about Jeffers, but won't (except to say don't buy him).

The fact is, our team is full of sub-standard players, guys who under other circumstances, we would be laughing at for other clubs having them in their team.  They are rubbish, and I'm sick of watching a group of idiots time and again.  This isn't why I started supporting them over 20 years ago I have no pride in being an Evertonian with the current side.  Last night, with the detached realisation of what I was seeing on the pitch, all of the hope, fear, expectancy, and passion that I have for my club was lost.  This morning it's just apathy.  I don't care that we got knocked out (something I thought I'd never say) as I feel that it would be a travesty for football if we won the thing.

So what now?  It's not Moyes fault, and I'm sure he'll be looking forward to certain player's contracts ending as much as I am.  He's inherited a team that symbolises everything that is bad with modern football players on huge wages who can't justify the cash in talent or performance.  The most depressing thing is it's us who have funded it all by paying a fortune for Sky, merchandise, and match tickets.  Depressing.

During the second half, I realised how lucky the Fulham fans are.  Nice little club and all that okay they haven't got a stadium of their own etc., but at least they have players who try, who work together, and in Malbranque, Inamoto, and Boa Morte, at least they have players worth paying to watch.  And finally Sean Davis.  I hadn't seen much of him when we tried to sign him, but I knew he had a good reputation.  In the last three games against us, he has been amazing head and shoulders above everyone else (except Malbranque).  Exactly the sort of player who'd I'd be proud to wear the blue shirt, and who would deserve my support.  If only he hadn't been injured last September...

So there we go.  I feel that I'm now an Everton fan in hibernation.  Yes I'll still follow the results and give some support.  But last night I lost all of the fun and hope that goes with being a football fan.  I can't wait until Moyes builds a team that gives me that hope back.

David Flynn

2004 ToffeeWeb


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