You can beat them but you can't join them... yet

In the context of the media's obsession with the top six, none of the biased coverage since Sunday has been surprising and it has begged the question among Everton fans this week: does it matter?

Lyndon Lloyd 26/04/2019 0comments  |  Jump to last

It would have been very easy for Everton to simply fold after the events at Craven Cottage the weekend before last and stewed in their own depression in the way they appeared to do for weeks after the punch to the gut they suffered at Anfield at the start of last December.

Professionalism alone should dictate that they wouldn't but it's to their credit, and that of Marco Silva, nonetheless that they reacted with what was arguably their best performance — and surely their finest result — of the season so far to thrash Manchester United 4-0 on Sunday.

It was a magnificent display and Evertonians are still on cloud nine but there has been one factor that has diminished the afterglow somewhat for many Blues and that has been the huge imbalance in the post-match analysis of the game, particularly by the television broadcast media.

While the print media, in particular The Guardian's Andy Hunter and Jim White (not that one) in The Telegraph, largely gave Everton their due for destroying the Red Devils, the analysis from the panels on TV dominated by ex-red players (from both ends of the East Lancs Road) or those simply in the thrall of what has come to be known as the Premier League's “big six” was almost entirely focused on Manchester United's collapse.

In the context of that obsession with the top six, none of it was surprising in the least and it has begged the question among Everton fans this week: does it matter? If we don't care what the Red Shite say, should we be bothered what their acolytes and those of the other media darlings drivel on about endlessly on Sky Sports?

In many ways it doesn't — Sunday was an occasion for Blues to revel in as they streamed out of the Grand Old Lady in the Easter sunshine and into pubs to bask in a terrific result. A performance to savour after the embarrassment of the 2-0 defeat to Fulham; a victory over a former peer; and another “big six” scalp taken without the concession of a goal making it four successive matches at Goodison with a clean sheet against that elite clutch of top-flight clubs.

The failure to give Everton their proper due for their mauling of United still irks on a number of levels, though, not least because our great club was a giant of the domestic game at the time of the Premier League's inception. No matter how much you want to ignore it for the most part given that we're no longer a big part of it, there is an ongoing national (and, increasingly, international) conversation and narrative around the country's top league in its biggest sport. It dominates the back pages and has endless hours devoted to it not just on Sky, the BBC and BT Sport but around the world from the likes of beIN Sport in the Middle East to NBC Sports in the United States.

In the wider context of the Premier League as a product — Sky's number one product, it should be noted — with hearts and minds of new fans to be won and the interest of prospective signings to be piqued all the time, it's a PR and exposure imbalance that favours a small group of teams. Logic would dictate that you would want as many stories from up and down the league ladder to be told but the conversation remains concentrated on the top end of the division; on six clubs currently enjoying the status of being the elite and with a lock on the Champions League places.

Some of that is a function of continuity. Leicester City's disruption of the status quo in 2016 was as fleeting as it was stunning. There have only been seven six ever-present Premier League clubs plus nouveaux riches Manchester City which, you could think, would organically lead to the notion of a “big seven” but Everton have flitted only briefly into the conversation when it comes to the top four, in particular, and they haven't won a trophy for 24 years.

Of course, Tottenham have just one two pots to their name in the same time frame, League Cup triumphs 11 and 20 years ago, but they have done what Everton have failed to do and that is vault themselves into the frame by mounting a serious tilt at the League title, establishing themselves as regular qualifiers for the Champions League and, this season, are just two games away from the final of Europe's elite club competition.

As argued in ToffeeWeb's report on Sunday, therein lies Everton's continuing challenge. It is up to our club to force its way into the conversation in the way that Spurs have done in recent years by making tangible progress, enhancing their standing with an impressive new stadium, and becoming a force in the top echelons of the domestic game that cannot be ignored.

The window for that continues to narrow, however, not just because of the disparity in financial resources between the “big six” and the rest that widens with every season but also because of the continued manouevering by the cartel of Europe's biggest clubs to tighten their grip on the Champions League or establish their own breakaway league.

Everton appear to be moving in the right direction again under Silva and Marcel Brands and, as such, another hugely important summer looms. Even at the height of our powers in the 1980s, Everton were never darlings of the national media and flying under the radar might suit us for now but adding some more bona fide talent and providing genuine opposition to the hegemony enjoyed by City, United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs next season will surely start to attract more of the spotlight to Goodison Park and represent another step in the restoration of the Toffees' image as one of England's biggest clubs.

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