I therefore seriously wondered if I should plough on with this article since it may be regarded as self-indulgent by readers of and contributors to ToffeeWeb. But I did, simply because the underlying sentiment to the article is one that I suspect is shared by many; the more so in the light of the teams frustratingly bad performances. That, plus the emerging critical analysis of the club's management, are stretching the support of Evertonians to breaking point.
This situation has led to a number of correspondents to go as far as to publicly record that this is “the end” for them. They have better things to spend their time and money on. I can see and empathise with their stance. However, notwithstanding all that, I continue to surprise myself that – despite not having attended a game at Goodison Park since the last knockings of the Roberto Martinez era – I remain to some extent emotionally wedded to the club.
My response to any question as to who I support is unqualified. No ifs, no buts. I have however shied away from watching any of the games involving Everton on live TV for fear of imparting the kiss of death on the team. My present affinity to the club is best summed up by my lifelong Evertonian friend Yoz (Graham Hughes) who expressed his predicament as follows: “I love Everton but I do not like the Premier League.”
These lingering emotional ties are therefore remnants of a more deep-seated affair with the club, that has been slowly ebbing away. No longer do I have an affiliation based on regular attendance. It is now an affair conducted at some distance based on reading newspaper reports and ToffeeWeb. Why has it come to this? Indeed a loving couple might say;”…must we part for the sake of us both.”Let me note at this juncture that this article is not based on a detailed rehearsal of the club's present difficulties or their fluctuating fortunes over the years since I first entered the portals of the Old lady. No, I believe that my present feelings towards the club are in equal part based on the wider changes that have been made to the game we all love and the way it is run. I say that because I do not want to be mistakenly castigated as someone who cannot stomach the low points that come about in the history of any club.
My active support for the team and regular attendance at games began in the early 1960s. The various teams were mostly composed of English, Irish, Scots and Welsh Internationals having played at one level or another. A good number of the players were homegrown, such as Labone, Harris, Temple, Harvey and Wright. Later came Husband, Hurst and Whittle. The club were acknowledged big spenders, bringing in the likes of Pickering, Gabriel, Vernon Young, Ball and Kendall. In 1963 and 1970, the first Division Championship was secured. In 1966, the FA Cup.
At the onset of each season, supporters always felt the team were capable of pressing for honours. During the second half of the 1960s, and into the early 1970s, the club enjoyed a reputation for elegant, stylish and incisive football. Those qualities fell away in the later 1970s and early 1980s and the club’s fortunes with them until Howard Kendall fashioned a more competitive and aggressive style that secured an FA Cup win, two First Division Championships, and the European Cup Winners Cup.
However changes to the nature and wider administration of the game were afoot during the 1980’s, whilst the Hillsborough and Hysell tragedies signalled the need for the better management of crowds. All seater stadiums and ticketing gradually became the norm for all top division clubs. I
n 1992 the Premier League was formed and the devils contract with Sky TV followed. In 1995 Sky acquired the broadcast rights to the games in the English Football League. Subsequent TV contracts between the clubs and other Digital Broadcasters became ever more lucrative resulting in a spiral of player wages and transfer fees as agents secured a just reward for the players (and themselves) as the stars of the show. S
uch was the money on offer that one could imagine club chairmen in their local parish churches going down on bended knee to pray that games involving their clubs would feature regularly in the TV schedule. What would it matter on what day and when such games would kick off?
The previous default pattern of the majority of games being staged at 3:00 pm (or 3:15 pm) on a Saturday, with mid-week games on Tuesday or Wednesday at 7:30 pm (or 7:45 pm was set aside. I need not rehearse the chaotic pattern of scheduling now evident to satisfy the Broadcasters. Whether this matters is a different debate. From my perspective, however, it goes hand-in-hand with all the other changes to the game which take no account of the supporters or paying customers.
Clubs are no longer sports clubs. They are commercial operations staging an unscripted show for a largely remote subscription-paying audience. Those who have continued to pay as spectators attending the games live are but marginal contributors to the finances of the club despite playing an almost vital bit-part role in the “show”.
I am somewhat uncomfortable with this state of affairs which the club I once enthusiastically supported has embraced but, to some extent without the enthusiasm of others, particularly those enjoying the comfort of riches provided by foreign investors, none of whom I suspect had any underlying love or affinity for the sport and its heritage.
All these changes have slowly loosened the ties that once bound me to top-tier football and Everton FC – no matter how the fortunes of the team unfolded each season. The players and the club now seem very remote, whilst the First Division as was, now the Premier League, has become no more than a 3-, or at most 6-horse race for the title and a place in European competition, with the rest no more than competing to stay in the Premier League and obtain a share of the TV largesse. Even the FA Cup has been reduced to a second-team competition among the more affluent members of the Premier League.
This is where Everton sadly now find themselves floating, like minnows in the shark-infested seas of the Premier League, picked off at will by the top teams each season, with the odd outstanding result when the sharks have an off-day. Despite all this, I will still anxiously await the results of all their games, read the reports and scan the comments and articles on ToffeeWeb.
There are still some loose ties and not all the love is lost. The history of the club and the fortunes of the team since my first visit to Goodison Park will continue to fascinate and engage my interest. As will the new stadium project at Bramley-Moore Dock.
Season’s Greetings to all, particularly those who provide us with this wonderful forum for all things Everton.
Reader Comments (47)
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1 Posted 21/12/2021 at 13:22:22
The Premier League. Apart from Everton winning stuff, the 1980s football experience had become nothing short of abysmal. Dreadful pitches, open warfare among fans, vindictive policing, dwindling crowds. It was horrible. Something had to change.
The Premier League is far, far superior in almost every aspect, except for those little nuggets of nostalgia that the old folks crave. It's amazing how these articles always harken back to the 1960s…
TV money is now just a (vital) fact of football life. Is it really a problem that the games are scheduled at different times? I just make a note of the kick-off time, put it on my calendar, and watch the game when it kicks off. Simples.
Spectators as bit-part? Yet up until Covid, the Premier League attendances were higher than ever. I just saw a note that Everton's waiting list for season tickets is 20,000. Yes, that's twenty thousand!!!
So the ones who are so keen to tell us they are staying away… well, seems there's loads more plenty keen enough to step in and take your place.
Now what really is bad is the way VAR is being implemented and the related atrocious refereeing. But that's a whole other ongoing repetitive thread.
But "the end"? I don't like any talk about degrees of Evertonianism... but for this I might just make an exception.
2 Posted 21/12/2021 at 15:04:31
Gas powered cars and airplanes enabled much wider travel and quicker journeys but accelerated global warming (alegedly) and made people excercise less.
Computers and the internet enabled all sorts of advantages too many to list but created antisocial behaviour and reclusism.
You have to embrace change and help to shape it rather than deny it otherwise we would still be living in caves with clubs and home made spears.
3 Posted 21/12/2021 at 15:14:26
As I comment many times, the management board has the club it deserves - the fans do not.
4 Posted 21/12/2021 at 15:55:55
The game has become a money fest where in my opinion its become nigh on impossible to break the dominance of 5 or 6 clubs.
Supporting Everton is similar to flogging a dead horse and hoping for some miracle.
As I have said many times before unless we can attract and keep the very best players we are never going to be on par with the Manchester and London clubs.
The only way we can do it is to do a City and have a owner who is prepared to spend a mountain of money, far more than the money that Moshiri has spent.
Other than that, forget it.
5 Posted 21/12/2021 at 15:58:10
I totally agree with you but the boards inability to seize the opportunity and benefit the club from it rather than themselves personally has caused our regression as a club and I specifically agree with the one penniless then but super rich man now as the main culprit.
6 Posted 21/12/2021 at 16:07:42
7 Posted 21/12/2021 at 16:16:06
It is interesting you call out the attendance going side of things. This season, in my experience during the match, the crowd are unified and behind the team. They may let them have it after many a poor result and performance, but generally they are supportive throughout the match. Obviously there's always that bloke who pays his money to scream abuse from the first whistle, but I wish the players had the belief and desire of the fans. What struck me at Stamford Bridge was the enthusiasm of the young following; those who have been denied any form of success and could be forgiven for not believing. They were bashing on the panels of the Shed End and belting out a song born in the 60s (Goodison Guys / Gang) like it was their own. Respect.
Breaking point? The end? Alien language to me as there never will be such a thing with Everton and no time or money spent will ever be wasted on them.
Michael makes a very good point about the state of English football before the Premier League. I may bemoan it and Sky TV as well, but I don't think we can deny it has improved the environment we now go to watch football in compared to when I was a season ticket holder in the 1980s and treated like a third rate citizen - at best, as well as experiencing the violence and poor facilities that we paid money for. The sad thing is, as much as we love Goodison, she's one of the few top flight grounds that has hardly moved on since then.
I kind of have a unique experience so can relate to your theme of following Everton from afar and in attendance. I spent time as a young kid in Germany being brought up on stories from my Dad and tuning into the the wireless to listen to our results. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance throughout the 80s as a season ticket holder but then followed again overseas during my military career. Now full circle, I am fortunate enough (yes fortunate) to watch first hand. Often due to the kind gestures of many on here who have become friends as well as fellow Evertonians.
I find your "sport club" reference interesting. The truth is that English Football Clubs have generally just been that. If you look at German clubs, many are titled SV (Sport Verein - Sports Club) rather than FC. Because they promote multiple sports. The one I played for as a child had football, tennis, waterpolo, hockey and handball as part of the set up. And they rotated us through the lot to see which one we were best at. I found early that I was useless at Tennis and didn't like water!!
Love for Everton will never be lost. That isn't possible. It can't happen. Neither can the belief or hope.
Michael K - I'm one of the 20,000. Until my day comes again, I will continue to beg and borrow (never steal) tickets off generous Evertonians and nab opportunities like the away section of the Upper Bullens being opened to home fans, which has given me 2 tickets for Brighton home on 2nd January. ToffeeWeb gathering?
8 Posted 21/12/2021 at 16:32:16
9 Posted 21/12/2021 at 16:36:49
As to Alasdair's observations about the modern game, I think many fans of a certain age, will be in agreement with them. It's very easy to dismiss the match-going fans, because their input to a club's finances are important but not vital, the new paymasters are the sponsors and the TV companies, without their financial input, it could be argued many of the well known established clubs, may have gone out of business quite some time ago.
Whoever pays the piper calls the tune, is an old adage, and it is more than appropriate for today's game. Television needs and enjoys controversy, the more of it the better as far as it is concerned, it doesn't need fairness, or quality, VAR like it or loathe it - I loathe the way it's used, but not the actual technology - is here to stay and it gives the Television another string to its bow, as it constantly seeks to attract an ever increasing market share.
People who watched William Ralph perform his Roy of the Rovers type heroics year on year, will always refer to that period as the Golden age of Everton and perhaps football itself, thirty years later it was Alex Young and Alan Ball et al who could not be matched no matter how much football Evertonians consumed in the coming decades.
Unfortunately since the last great team that Everton FC assembled there has been little in the way of great players and heroic moments for Evertonians to enjoy, which means the great players of the past will always improve in people's memories and they will naturally view today's players and the game itself as second-rate or lacking in quality.
Fans of other more succesful premier league teams will sometimes cast a nostalgic glance to bygone times, but they will ultimately be sustained by their more recent successes, it is the task of the owner, board and everybody involved with Everton FC to begin to take the club back to a position where it can truly be regarded as a serious contender and not as an innocent bystander who can do little about the situation that the club finds itself in.
The club needs new heroes and a triumph of some importance to begin that long journey to the promised land, as long as it tries to do so, the fans should be relatively content, if it has or does settle for being part of the Premier League furniture then it shouldn't come as a surprise that older fans may decide to take less of an interest in the club and the game of football in general.
10 Posted 21/12/2021 at 16:59:40
Hate getting soaked with all the ale been thrown into the air on the concourse before the match. But if, nay when, we win the cup in May, I'll strip down to my Speedo Mick's to enjoy it!
11 Posted 21/12/2021 at 17:05:20
12 Posted 21/12/2021 at 17:06:22
We, by comparison, are still trying to be one of the big boys without cottoning on to the fact that the world has moved on.
Nostalgic as it may be to recall the 60s and 80s, it gets us nowhere whatsoever. And it doesn't do a right lot for those under 45 who can't really remember any of it.
We can punch above our weight financially and be a club that competes. But we need to embrace innovation and commercial realities to do it.
13 Posted 21/12/2021 at 17:07:37
Very good summary that Robert, I heard they would never let on if Steve Bull was ever injured, because if people knew, it used to take around 5000 off the gate, in those very dark days for the Wolves?
14 Posted 21/12/2021 at 17:50:20
Brent. Image I can't quite get rid of!!
15 Posted 21/12/2021 at 18:12:25
16 Posted 21/12/2021 at 18:23:17
17 Posted 21/12/2021 at 19:05:34
Well, in my opinion, there are some simple reasons:
1. We did indeed have silverware on a semi-regular basis. Not with 27-year gaps.
2. Football has changed into a contactless sport, removing a large element of competitive ability of the lesser-skilled teams to attempt to negate the skill of the opposition through sheer combative endeavours. Hard to compete if you can't tackle.
3. Money. Insane amounts of it made by clubs and players through the televised rights process. The sense of community for a club is replaced with global branding, lessening the importance or consideration of matchday fans.
4. Global players, no longer teams of players with similar backgrounds or locations, similar drivers or expectations, but now interpreters are required to pass on a coaches comments or instructions.
5. Power of the televised game. Selected games are played at times selected by TV companies, based on viewing numbers and expectations, distorting a common, level playing field for all teams.
6. All teams are equal but some are more equal than others. Bias of reporting a Top 6 club against other teams. Officiating their games, exceptions to rules, examples never made of said Top 6.
7. The knowledge that, as a club, we cannot now compete with other teams who surpassed us years ago off the pitch as well as on it for commercialisation, money invested, grounds... we are a very long way behind the power, influence, capability and playing levels of such clubs.
8. We have a generation of fans who cannot tap into the delight of winning a trophy. We have several generations who long for the times when we could compete on and off the pitch.
9. Money is not the guarantee of success; how it's used is.
So you get the drift... the success of change depends on your perspective. Has the club benefitted from change? Financial income? Yes. But status and influence? No.
Is there a way back to compete at the elite level? That's a far more difficult question; it needs the right location, stadium, the right people running the club, the money to back it – unbridled by FFP, and of course, the right manager and team. That takes time and desire, drive and ruthlessness.
It's all we ask for, isn't it? But it's hard to fly with the eagles when you work with turkeys...
Which reminds me, Merry Christmas to every blue and their loved ones, no matter where in the world you are. Let's keep the Christmas well, be proud of each other and proud to be an Evertonian!
18 Posted 21/12/2021 at 20:20:04
I agree with everything you say but the answer is to not analyse footy in any way, shape, or form. Don't take it seriously – experience the joy of spectator hatred, abuse all concerned whether they be fans, players or board, and promote simple answers despite being utterly clueless about the facts.
Football is not for scrutiny – it doesn't stack up as a business and, as entertainment, is a yawn-inducing stupor; furthermore, its "heroes" are mostly brainless morons who wouldn't get a job stacking shelves.
Avoid soul-searching about volunteering for a lifetime of this unremitting misery – it is a faith and there is nothing you can do about it.
19 Posted 21/12/2021 at 22:42:15
On to your last paragraph: I hope you have a lovely Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year, very best wishes for the future.
20 Posted 21/12/2021 at 23:38:05
21 Posted 22/12/2021 at 07:48:52
Yes, the standard of football may have significantly improved. That's fine if, for you, watching football is no different from, say, watching a movie or reading a book. It's all about what looks good or stimulates the aesthetic in you.
If, rather, what you look forward to in a season is the possibility of your team winning and the outcome of a good many games being difficult to predict, then the Premier League has ruined things for you if you support anybody other than Liverpool, Chelsea and the Mancs, and that will remain the case for the foreseeable future.
22 Posted 22/12/2021 at 08:35:52
Rewind to 1999 / 2000 (well into the Premier League era) and ask a Manchester City fan where they will be in 15 years time.
Anything is possible with the right investment and leadership.
23 Posted 22/12/2021 at 08:37:42
Everton have tried to cling to the past to their own detriment. It will probably cost us a place in the inevitable super league. It's certainly cost us a place in the Champions League.
24 Posted 22/12/2021 at 09:06:40
25 Posted 22/12/2021 at 09:28:57
26 Posted 22/12/2021 at 10:14:28
I hope we find a cure someday
Very best wishes
27 Posted 22/12/2021 at 10:27:07
The mention of Kenwright, has got me thinking. Does anyone know when the Boys Pen opened? I can't help thinking Bill would have been an adult?
28 Posted 22/12/2021 at 10:32:00
We now because of TV scheduling have to turn up on Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday mornings or Sunday evenings or possibly Monday evenings; maybe that doesn't matter to fans who watch from afar but how that improves the lot of the average fan I don't know.
I don't believe that the football we watch every week is anywhere near as enjoyable as it used to be. I would go as far as to say that the players in the 60s and 70s were better players than today's.
Remember when if your team scored and the ref pointed to the centre circle we all went crackers? Now we have to wait while some anonymous person miles away from the ground decides if the goal should be allowed. While I accept it's hard to judge players from different eras, I think you have to remember how well today's players are grossly over-protected compared to the players from the 60s and 70s.
Yes the hooliganism that occurred was horrible but that was society's problem that caused many of those issues.
Finally when it comes to the ownership of clubs, how can anybody say things are better when the murdering Saudi Royal family get to own a Premier League club, and even sadder the Newcastle fans are delighted because of their wealth, and that tells you everything you need to know about how Sky has influenced football in such a horrific way.
29 Posted 22/12/2021 at 10:47:53
The Boys Pen has been moved around a bit, it was in the Lower Bullens Road, right next to the Gwladys Street End in 1948 when I first went to see The Blues.
But, wherever it was when Billy Boy claimed to have gone there, take it with a large pinch of salt... well, I do anyway.
30 Posted 22/12/2021 at 11:00:48
Moments like that, Gray's last minute goal, Branthwaite's goal and his delight in it, still matter despite the garbage. I think we all have the same vision for our club and the type of football we want to see. For reasons which I can't explain and in the teeth of the evidence, I'm now optimistic about it all.
31 Posted 22/12/2021 at 11:06:01
I am a fan of video technology because I got so frustrated with decisions going the wrong way too often. The problem is that the standard of official hasn't improved. Until that changes, VAR will have little of the impact it could have.
I must admit to not really knowing where the boys pen was unlike Mr Kenwright. To me, the closest I can get was being tied to and then tying my younger brother to, the front barrier on what was then the ledge between the upper lower Gwladys Street and the lower lower Gwladys Street. Check on him at half time with a drink and sausage roll, pick him up at full time. The amount of kids lined up on that ledge. They had the best view in the house secured only by a scarf!!!
The paper round money got stretched thinly, but I countered by recycling SaveAway tickets sometimes for months using those silver metallic pen things that were common in the 80s to save on travel costs!!
32 Posted 22/12/2021 at 11:33:34
Carrying on with VAR, then football will always be open to the accusations that it is bent and corrupt, until referees, have to explain their decisions in a similar way to Rugby Union, because what are the actual benefits to the watching spectators when they keep it to themselves, like they currently do?
33 Posted 22/12/2021 at 11:41:25
34 Posted 22/12/2021 at 11:57:26
35 Posted 22/12/2021 at 12:03:02
36 Posted 22/12/2021 at 12:11:15
37 Posted 22/12/2021 at 13:22:10
The Boys Pen was definitely in the corner of the Gwladys Street terrace, next to the Bullens Road terrace in the late '50s, early '60s. It was tucked under the Gwladys Street stand with a section of the terrace standing in front of it by the mid-60s.
There have been rumours of Kenwright originally being a red.
38 Posted 22/12/2021 at 13:34:23
I've been told it was the inspiration for the Vienna Boys Choir.
39 Posted 22/12/2021 at 13:44:46
40 Posted 22/12/2021 at 17:17:23
I hate the way the physicality has been taken out of football, VAR is a joke… and don't get me started on diving and play-acting.
As I said, unless it's Everton or the FA Cup I'd sooner watch the NFL or Rugby League any day of the week. I've never watched a Champions League group match. I preferred the way it was with only the Champions in it.
Brian @28, I couldn't agree more.
41 Posted 22/12/2021 at 17:31:27
Being treated like a 3rd rate citizen in shitty facilities behind caged fences and then herded like sheep by aggressive Stasi-like Police? No.
As a 14-year-old, knocked out by a 30 something Southampton fan on the Bullens Road without provocation as I walked towards Walton Hall Lane to get the bus into town. No.
I agree with your Champions League mention. It's not a Champions League in the way the European Cup predecessor was.
42 Posted 22/12/2021 at 20:11:58
43 Posted 22/12/2021 at 21:00:57
Someone on here recently referred to the digital and analogue ages - the mix of the two is working for me at present.
44 Posted 23/12/2021 at 13:56:20
It really is stretching it to say that it gave rise to better pitches and a decline in hooligan behaviour. Even as recently as last night, the West Ham v Spurs game was marred by hooliganism between two sets of fans outside the stadium. Nor could you point to any direct correlation between the new set-up and bigger attendances. Manchester City, serial Premier League winners, frequently play to much less than a full stadium.
At no point have I suggested I will not attend a home game. I fully intend to spend a Saturday watching one of the few 3pm kick-offs. The other days and times are just too inconvenient at 100 miles distant. Indeed I did journey north to view the Bramley-Moore Dock Exhibition and returned 6 months later to inspect the Planning Application in the Picton Library, so I could submit comments to the City Council. I have no intention of "staying away" as you suggest.
Thanks to all others who submitted their comments, particularly Danny O'Neill @7 and 31; Barry Hesketh @9; Christine Foster @17; and Brian Harrison @28. You have all reassured me that, in writing and submitting this article,I struck a chord with you and it was worthwhile.
Maybe I haven't been cancelled after all!
45 Posted 23/12/2021 at 15:23:47
I was 16 in the 1962-63 season, as that well known Carlisle United fan nearly said, bliss was it in that dawn to be alive but to be young (and Vernon!) was very heaven.
But the more I thought about it and read the replies by young shavers like Michael, the more I realised my day is past. On many of the Liverpool nostalgia sites, people wax lyrical about their fifties childhood. I always say, "Really?"
A shared bedroom with my parents, not even a hot tap, toilet down the yard, chilblains, food rationing, I even knew a kid who died of tuberculosis. Yes, we played on the bomb sites from dawn till dusk, but the acid test: Would I prefer to see my grandkids having the lifestyle they have, or the lifestyle we had? There's no comparison and not even a moron would prefer the fifties to now.
I remember gasping when Young – Alex, my favourite ever Everton player, not the best, but he had charisma in spades – pulled a ball down on his chest when some big yard dog (my favourite old football term) of a centre-half was trying to kick him towards the centre-circle. That was skill, but he was probably the only Everton player of that era who could do that.
Now watch any Premier League game and (I know: pitches, boots, balls are all better) and full-backs, they used to all be Banks and Hartle clones, now have a ball pinged at them from 40 yards and they chest it down without breaking stride. they cross, they score goals... full-backs! Jimmy Tansey, Eric Moore, Don Donovan, excellent players in their time, but they got vertigo if they crossed the half-way line. There's no comparison.
But in my mind if you ask me for a perfect Everton memory, it's 1962-63, Young and Vernon rule the world, I'm on our spec on the paddock, first barrier back, between the centre circle and the penalty area, Gwladys Street half. Powerful stuff this nostalgia, and my commitment then was physically greater, I was at every home match, I could even walk there if I wanted.
Emotionally, I'm still that 16-year-old boy, I tell my grandson about Young and Vernon, but I know in my heart of hearts that modern football is in every way a superior product. I do wish I could lose some of my allegiance because being an Evertonian then was a delight, now it often feels like a burden and I've passed it on to two more generations.
My 42-year-old son and 12-year-old grandson, know about, Young, Vernon, the Holy Trinity, Sheedy, Steven, Ratcliffe and Southall, but they've never experienced a mighty Everton team and I can't see another one emerging before I pass on and take my place in my spec on the paddock in the place above and Young and Vernon are there in their pomp and I'm 16.
46 Posted 23/12/2021 at 20:20:19
The thing that grabbed me was the statement regarding what football clubs have become, a nexus for tension between the locals and the wave of support abroad as well as the commercial interests driving the enterprise. You've added a nice voice to that reminiscing about the Everton of old which gives me another window's view.
For me, this episode of big money reminds me of when I joined up so it doesn't wear on me the same way. Keep it going and keep the faith, we will find a way up.
47 Posted 25/12/2021 at 13:38:25
Im in a similar boat, I feel like as if, they know and they know that I, know, football has changed, the world and life has changed.
Sadly in this time Everton FC, have been in decline as a football force for nigh on 30 years.
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