Rinse and Repeat

Darren Arnold 30/06/2021 16comments  |  Jump to last

If, like me, you were at Goodison for the final home game of the 2017-18 season, you will recall that neither the football nor the atmosphere was very pretty on that occasion. The visitors that day were a Southampton side fighting for their top-flight lives, and they looked to be heading home with all three points until Tom Davies punctured those ambitions with what was virtually the last kick of the ball.

Davies’s equaliser caused rapturous scenes among the Goodison faithful, but the celebratory mood promptly evaporated as many in the crowd turned, not for the first time, on Everton manager, Sam Allardyce. Allardyce’s singular brand of anti-football had won few friends among Evertonians, although he had at least fulfilled his remit in steering us away from the wrong end of the table and into a fairly respectable 8th place.

Despite this, Allardyce was relieved of his position when he was just one-third of the way through his contract, and the club refocused its attentions on securing the services of the debonair-but-hapless Marco Silva. It may not have been a bad idea to let Allardyce work out the remaining year of his contract, and this time could have been used to seek out the perfect candidate to take us forward.


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If you’d told me that Sam Allardyce’s tenure would represent an apex (of sorts) that would outstrip anything achieved by the next two managers, I probably wouldn’t have believed you, and I definitely wouldn’t have believed you if you’d said that this surreal pantomime would culminate in us appointing a manager who’d recently, proudly taken the helm of that team on the other side of Stanley Park. So it goes.

As it turned out, neither of Allardyce’s flashier, much-fancied successors managed to improve on 8th in the Premier League, and at times both of those managers served up football as stultifying as anything we’ve seen (or not, given the vagaries of Covid-19) from an Everton team in the Premier League era.

Sadly, Carlo Ancelotti’s recent departure underlined how we’ve made zero progress since that day when Allardyce was effectively booed out of Goodison. Although both of Ancelloti’s seasons in charge saw his side enter a terrifying late-season tailspin, one that made us all extremely thankful we’d accrued points at a much earlier stage in the campaign, many of us clung to the idea that this was a “project” – one from which, after a summer transfer window or three, a proper vision would emerge.

But Ancelotti’s exit brings a harsh reality: none of us can honestly say that he’s left things in a better state than how he found them when he replaced the intransigent Silva in late 2019. If foundations had been laid for someone else to come in and build something on, I think we’d all be feeling a bit more positive about things. Yet here we are again, back at the start.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room. As I write this, we’re just an hour or two on from the announcement that Rafael Benitez is our new manager. I feel strangely apathetic about this appointment and, in many ways, my apathy is due to the sense that those who appointed Benitez have no real clue about the fans (or, if they do, that makes it infinitely worse).

Was he really, truly the last turkey in the shop? At least some, if not all, of the Everton Board of Directors must have known the feelings much of our fanbase would have regarding any ex-Liverpool manager?

I say “our”, but I understand that some are done with Everton for the time being, and I don’t really blame them; I can fully appreciate how this latest move might be perceived as the final insult for a section of our long-suffering yet remarkable supporters.

On the other hand, I have no big problem with those who’ve announced that they’ll get behind Benitez as he tries to get a tune out of a group of underachieving players, some of whom will no doubt view him as merely another manager whose sacking they can engineer.

And the sack will certainly come for Rafa, who I feel is unlikely to get more than halfway through his bumper 3-year deal… although of course he, like so many others before him, will be paid handsomely once we dispense with his services. Indifferent results will give way to poor ones, and the inevitable circling of the plughole will see Benitez’s head on a spike; the hunt for yet another manager will commence shortly after.

So why can’t we just fast-forward through this dreary soap opera and get to the part where we make a solid appointment, one that might see us properly kick on, new stadium and all? But the fact that we have to play out this absurd scenario, only to come back around to the same spot in a year or 18 months, is what really rankles.

Has Benitez been installed simply to ensure our Premier League status until the new stadium is ready? This all smells of yet another holding operation, which really is the last thing we need. In realistic terms and on recent evidence, it's not much of a prospect to consider that we’re probably at least two managers away from the ribbon being cut on our new dockside residence.

To consider our new manager in a slightly more balanced way: he does know this league inside out, and at least has experience of clubs at both ends of the table, which may be an advantage while Everton figure out what part of the table they wish to belong in.

He’s won domestic silverware in Spain, England and Italy, and has two UEFA Cups and one Champions League to his name; while his trophy cabinet has a bit more space in it than Ancelotti’s, he has amassed a nice haul of managerial honours.

On the other hand, excepting Newcastle’s Championship title of 2017, there’s a fair bit of daylight between Benitez and his last real success; even in China – a poor league, yet one with plenty of money sloshing around – he failed to deliver in his 18 months in charge of Dalian Professional, a stint which marks his most recent foray into football management.

Benitez’s Chinese adventure smacked of one last big payday, and may well have been an indicator that he’d reached the end of the line… but then, as we now know, Everton came a-calling.

Given that Benitez will be afforded little or no slack from the fans, you do wonder what he will offer in footballing terms: he’s a notoriously negative manager, to the extent where some of his setups have made George Graham look like Rinus Michels. This percentage-based, attritional style is exactly what saw Allardyce hounded out (strangely, the board seemed to acknowledge the fans’ feelings on that one).

Conversely, his authoritarian approach is exactly what some of these players need, and I for one will welcome him raising his stick to any player who continues to cheat the club and its fans. Whatever you make of Rafael Benitez’s appointment, just remember that, no matter what happens, we’ll all still be here long after he’s left the club, and this applies to every other player and manager who’s lucky enough to walk through our doors. That said… there is a very strong chance that Dunc will see us all off.

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Reader Comments (16)

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Clive Rogers
1 Posted 01/07/2021 at 09:24:14
He’s our manager now and I for one will get behind him. I am not bothered one iota about some throwaway comment seized upon by the press 14 years ago. His CV tells us he can’t be a bad manager and 61 isn’t old for a manager. What we need now is better signings than we have made over the last few seasons.
Ian Nulty
2 Posted 01/07/2021 at 10:01:08
I fully agree with you, Clive. All of us have made, I expect, some churlish comments or actions during our lifetime which we surely regret. I think Rafa's was a heat-of-the-moment job where he was just sticking up for his team and he would probably have said the same thing had the opposition been Manchester City or Fulham… but it was Everton, and Liverpool didn't win a very dour game.

Every person deserves a chance. Look at his CV, his knowledge of the game, he was the fella who I wanted straight away when Ancelotti walked. His understanding of the Premier League is to our advantage, what do those other foreign managers whose names have been mooted, know about the Premier League?

For a club of our standing, there was no question a manager of high calibre and experience was needed and I wish Rafa, who comes across as a gentlemanly and decent sort of a man, every success in his new role.

Jamal Paktongko
3 Posted 01/07/2021 at 11:08:25
I am happy with Benitez.

I think he is exactly what we need.

He is not afraid to use the stick.

He will make sure players deliver their best or it's the door.

Welcome Rafeal Benitez to the blue side of Merseyside

Alan McGuffog
4 Posted 01/07/2021 at 11:12:41
Be very careful Jamal...such positivity is frowned upon, on ToffeeWeb. You may end up being sent to a re- education facility.
Alex Kociuba
5 Posted 01/07/2021 at 11:16:55
Agree with all of the above. I think the controversy of his appointment itself may be the shock to the system we've needed for some time.
Peter Warren
6 Posted 01/07/2021 at 11:21:02
I’m more interested in signings and people being comfortable with a footy at their feet. Benitez signings have always been a mixed bag, bit like ours.

Can we finally get transfer dealings right? I suspect we will need a lot of luck. Aside from Godfrey and DCL, I genuinely see nobody in our team that I would be concerned about leaving.

Bill Gienapp
7 Posted 01/07/2021 at 11:30:25
I know this wasn't really the point of your piece Darren, but I have to take exception to the claim that Allardyce's tenure "outstripped anything achieved by the next two managers."

Silva finished 8th the following season with more points. And even though Ancelotti slipped to 10th, he earned ten more points than Allardyce did. It was a far more competitive season. Had Allardyce been in charge, we'd have been lucky to crack the top 12. And even if Ancelotti hadn't accrued more points, I'd argue that winning at Anfield easily trumps anything Allardyce accomplished.

Nick Page
8 Posted 01/07/2021 at 11:33:50
I've said it a million times - it doesn't matter who is managing Everton, all the same actors remain and nothing will change until they're well and truly rid of. So, in that sense, it is very much a holding position and likely until the new stadium is completed… which, knowing this club, probably won't happen.

But what if, by some miracle, it does happens? Does the magic football fairy descend upon Bramley-Moore Dock to cast a new spell over all things Everton? Does Blue Bill disappear in a puff of blue smoke? Does the Director of Football position actually become relevant? Do some coaches appear that can actually coach?

Don't hold your breath… Whisper it quietly but I would say (probably) the best way out this shambolic mess is relegation because that's the only thing I can see focussing minds and will rid us of all the dead-wood and hangers-on once and for all.

Michael Lynch
9 Posted 01/07/2021 at 11:48:39
Those who are berating fellow-fans for a lack of enthusiasm about this appointment are possibly not reading articles like this properly.

Sure, there are some out there who simply can't stomach an ex-red at the helm, especially one who seemed to insult us as a club during his tenure across the park. But the majority, I think, are unhappy because Rafa is - as Darren says in this excellent piece - "a notoriously negative manager, to the extent where some of his setups have made George Graham look like Rinus Michels. This percentage-based, attritional style is exactly what saw Allardyce hounded out".

He's yesterday's man, his football tends towards the turgid, and he wants to control signings, which will leave us with yet another squad of ageing misfits when he is - inevitably - sacked in 8 to 18 months time.

Jamal Paktongko
10 Posted 01/07/2021 at 15:30:07
Allan #4

I am one of those negative minded Evertonians that you are implying about.

And yet, because its such a good choice, I could not muster any negativity from inside of me to disagree with the appointment

Jay Harris
11 Posted 01/07/2021 at 16:10:24
A well written piece DArren and while vehemently opposed to Benitez I am prepared to wait and see on the grounds that on the law of averages Moshiri must get something right and at least Benitez will not be a puppet to Kenwright, Moshiri nor Brands which IMO is a good thing.

No more prodigal son returns, no more Iwobi's because he had one good game for Arsenal, No more fantasy football from the boardroom.

Jamie Crowley
12 Posted 01/07/2021 at 16:22:05
Great piece Darren, although I do take issue with one thing you said:

So why can’t we just fast-forward through this dreary soap opera and get to the part where we make a solid appointment...

I'm getting old, and I don't want to fast-forward through any part of my life at this point!

Serious question. Will anyone boo Rafa when he makes his first appearance at Goodison?

I need to state, for the record, no matter how much I oppose the appointment, I'd never, ever boo the guy first time out. Lacks class in my opinion. We have to give him time now that he's the man. I can't support the hiring, I'll never be a big fan of his, and I'll not laud his praises most likely.

But will anyone, or is anyone planning, on actually booing the guy?

Kristian Boyce
13 Posted 01/07/2021 at 19:31:07
I'm going to the Florida Cup games at the end of the month which will be his first games incharge. As it's going to be predominantly US based fans, and the feedback that I'm seeing from posts within the US fan groups, he's going to get a very warm welcome and a lot of excitement. This is partially due to a lot of these fans being newer followers to the game and only know him from his godlike status at Newcastle.

Many of the unhappy posts were from the ex-pat community as we brought up obviously that comment but also his poor management record over the last decade. Amusingly we were told we weren't real fans as we weren't behind the hiring, which was ironic as this was coming from people who had never stepped foot in Goodison.

I guess that I'll need to find Mr. Crowley in a few weeks so we can go to the game together and be grumps. Anyone know the Spanish for KITAP1?

Jamie Crowley
14 Posted 01/07/2021 at 21:25:51
Kristian -

You and a few others. You get a free beer on me at the game.

jamie dot crowley dot personal at gmail dot com

Email me and I'll put you on the list of people that plan to meet up for a pop or two.

Danny O’Neill
15 Posted 02/07/2021 at 09:46:18
I was hoping to travel out for that Kristian as I could have tied it in to a visit to my house out there.

But the uncertainty on travel and quarantine requirements etc meant I couldn't take the gamble.

I'll be out end of October, but no Everton to watch other than if they're on TV!

Barry Rathbone
16 Posted 07/07/2021 at 17:45:37
When we try to compete we eventually come unstuck as per Martinez latterly and Walter Smith historically.

The Moyes/Allardyce "success" is an ambition free blueprint well suited to meandering in mid-table - our natural habitat since the mid 80s.

Benitez should be a great fit utilizing minimal adventure and basic existence as a virtue a fabulous irony given his "little club" jibe was purportedly aimed at the Moyes method rather than the club itself..

Our rinse and repeat program is established because we lack the resources at board level and courage at supporter level to gamble. We are a huge Norwich City - "WHERE ARE YOU???"

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