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… The More I See The Less I Believe …
by Shaun Smith
… as Terry Hall once famously sang during his Fun Boy Three days. Possibly it’s just me on my jack but I’m sat here waving a metaphorical white flag at the computer screen. I’ve just about had it. Sunday 14th January 2007 - the day Everton Football Club’s pride finally died. Along with another chunk of what, at one time, was my own unconditional love. Not that the club will be arsed one iota. The one consistent plank of the argument that has countered “Rome 77”, “Istanbul”, “five times” or, if looking 39 miles down the East Lancs, “1968”, “treble” and “every home game sold out” – we just batted such matters away as inconsequential with the one stock answer that they never really knew how to counter … . “… we’re Everton aren’t we?– we’re different …”
Like fuck we are anymore. Not after the farcical events of 14-01-07. And I’m not harping on about the 1-1 draw with Reading that was treated like a sideshow in comparison to what else was going on inside Goodison Park. Why? Because “the powers that be”, the “custodians” or, to give them their correct title, the “beauts” that run our football club allowed it to be reduced to the level of a Netherfield Road brass, prostituted as a Hollywood marketing tool. Perhaps I really do worry far too much. Maybe I’m the only person who not so much cringed as nearly combusted with embarrassment when Sylvester Stallone walked onto the pitch, greeted as though he were a member of the 85 Cup Winners’ Cup side, complete with scarf held aloft and Rocky Balboa adverts displayed all around the ground. “Stallone was introduced to the players in the dressing room beforehand” What? – was this a visit from a reincarnated John F. Kennedy? The Pope? No – a second-rate actor whose only tenuous link with football let alone Everton was some Richard Wright-style bad keeping in Escape to Victory. Is this how low we’ve really sunk? Founder members of the Football League ... one hundred years plus of top-flight football ... the School of Science … Rotterdam ... Eddie Cavanagh on the pitch at Wembley ... the Golden Vision ... and a support synonymous with passion, attitude, style and fear of nothing - be it the Red Army or the drink-induced cirrhosis that following the fortunes of Everton might bring to many of us in later life. Everything we stand for and everything we’ve ever held dear. Used and abused in the name of shameless, film release PR by someone who couldn’t give a toss about us. Is there any real difference between this club-endorsed pantomime and the National Front or Anti-Nazi League leafleting outside the ground years ago and attempting to use Everton – our Everton – for their own ends? I can’t see it. And they were both told in no uncertain terms to fuck off just as Stallone’s PR people should have been by the club. Different? Who are we kidding? Getting mixed up in shite like this makes us look just the same as any other modern day, money-fixated football club. Or about on a par with Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. New film or book to promote? “… Paul O’Grady’s booked up but we can get you Everton Football Club on a day that the Sky cameras are there. If you’re prepared to go on after some guy called Dixie’s family and before Girls Aloud – just wave a scarf and tell them that you dreamt of standing on the Gladys Knight terrace when you were a kid …”
A foretaste of the future? The new direction thanks to Robert Earl’s Planet Hollywood connections and the kind of razzmatazz deemed necessary to attract the potential investors to help take us to Kirkby by 2010? The way forward? Thanks but no thanks. The aforementioned Evertonian fear of nothing doesn’t include fear of change for this Toffee. If EFC really do have to move to a new ground to compete once again as a footballing force, then I’ll accept that as the ultimate price that has to be paid. Even though it will more than likely result in my own eventual absence – akin to breaking up with someone you love to bits because you know deep down it will never work out. But a new stadium at the expense of Goodison Park simply to help line investors’ pockets and pay Keith Wyness his CEO’s annual bonus? Fuck. Right. Off.
Let’s cut the crap and face the truth. It has already been decided, despite whatever spin the club may choose to put on it, that Everton Football Club will be leaving the city of Liverpool in the next two to three years for a new stadium, albeit only three miles from their current home. The infamous white flag, mentioned at the 2006 AGM as “handing over the city” to those at the other side of Stanley Park, will be raised as Goodison Park IS razed. Liverpool City Council certainly don’t seem to be too bothered whether the club stays in the city or not. Whether it will be for the better, no-one - including the board - can really know for sure. But if the Reading circus was anything to go by, then I doubt that the route the club is being led down has much to offer bitter old curmudgeons like myself for much longer.
Yes – you’ve guessed it. I’m one of those dinosaurs Bill Kenwright and the board would probably love to shed from the support. The type who choose to spend their hard-earned in County Road alehouses on matchdays rather than in the club megastore. A member of the generation who would perhaps have been a little more impressed if Sly Stallone had turned up, complete with
Rocky IV Hugo Boss sweatshirt as also modelled by Nicholls in Scally, “supporting” Everton two decades previously at somewhere on top to fuck like Spurs or West Ham. And one of those far too long in the tooth to believe everything the club tells them and who trusts the current custodians of Everton Football Club to get this right about as far as he could throw them. Kenwright, convinced by Wyness, believes that we’ll all go to the promised land of Knowsley and fill 50,000 seats at the best part of £50 a brief, sitting alongside [by my rough calculations] ten thousand £30k+ per annum-brewstered, middle-class new converts to the cause. There must be loads of them out in the fringes of the conurbation just waiting to discover Everton on their doorstep. Really? They’ll doubtless be happy to bring their 2.4 kids and hand a big slice of their disposable income over to the club coffers via the bars and shops at the new ground. But when the team don’t deliver a “winning product” on the pitch [Everton? with our reputation?] – what then?
A stark reality that the club board should try and face up to is that by choosing to leave Goodison Park they may well be leaving behind an out-dated football ground, but they’ll also be leaving a potentially larger number of existing and future “customers” than they might imagine. Including people who in the past would have travelled anywhere and everywhere to watch the Toffees but might not be prepared to travel three miles to see their club supplanted to an area dictated by Kenwright and co purely in the name of profit. Despite his faults, one thing I cannot argue with is that Bill Kenwright does genuinely love the club. But this is countered by the fact that he is a businessman. A businessman surrounded by other businessmen who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. They certainly have no understanding of the whole culture that is in essence Everton Football Club itself. They cannot – or choose not to – grasp the fact that Everton FC, Liverpool 4, and Goodison Park are even more intrinsically linked together than Kendall, Harvey and Ball. Or that Everton have never been just about the club employees in royal blue jerseys on a football pitch. The pubs and sidestreets around Goodison and the people who fill them on matchdays – they’re Everton. Wyness - can you dig it? As Silas pronounced in The Warriors – “ … because we’ve got the streets suckers – can you DIG IT? …”. William Ralph Dean’s statue, St Lukes Church, Brian Labone drinking in the Wilmslow, the ashes of countless deceased Blues spread on the pitch and surrounding track, bitter red-hating Blues, Goodison Road ticket-touting Blues, better Blues, County Road cutting moody Blues, chilled-out Rizla-rolling Blues, 500 Club wined-and-dined Blues, Lacoste-trackied teenage Blues – we’re all Everton … .
Knowsley isn’t Everton. Knowsley will be Danielle Lloyd trying to act like Lauren Hutton, a bit of tarty young fluff with pretensions of being a more beautiful, older, classier act. But no matter how much they try and dress it up, we all know that Knowsley will never be Everton. We’re not a brand that can be re-branded, nor are we the Brooklyn Dodgers, a franchise bought up and moved at a whim. Which is why the name “Everton” should be left where it really belongs – at Goodison Park and in the city of Liverpool, both allowed to die together with their pride and dignity intact. I’ve seen the future and it’s Knowsley St Domingos - a nod to our 1878 origins. I can hear people snarling even as I type but deep down you know it would be the right and proper thing to do. Because you’re Everton … and like me you know only too well that the board will do the same thing themselves a few years down the line if the right financial incentive is proffered … as Johnny Rotten once possibly sang … “… there is no future in Everton’s dreaming - no future for me …”
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