As “we’ll sing on our own” rang around the Liberty Stadium, Swansea supporters taunting the away end, any neutral observer concluded that the comparative silence from Everton fans was fully justified. Singing for its own sake is empty. You need something to sing for, and there is precious little cheer for in this Everton team or their performances. Perhaps a choral elegy would be more appropriate.
This was not a disastrous result nor a disastrous performance; Everton are not interesting enough for that. The only aspect of this season that truly stands above any other is the apathy that has engulfed it. The sun may have made its first appearance for three months, shining some warmth on the pitches of the Premier League, but Everton are playing with the urgency of a team already sitting around the pool of Sam Allardyce’s Spanish villa.
They started sluggishly, as if somehow surprised that an opponent might have the gumption to try and attack them with some vibrancy. Swansea should have been at least one goal ahead before Lukasz Fabianski parried the ball onto Kyle Naughton’s head and referee Lee Mason’s watch allowed Everton’s players to celebrate. Some teams take the lead; Everton had a lead happen to them.
If goals are supposed to act as shots in the arm to a team low on confidence, Everton arranged to take that shot in both feet. Rather than push forward in search of a second, as a team might when it has nothing to play for but enjoyment and pride, they fell increasingly closer towards their own goal. Everton’s last shot on target came in the 43rd minute.
When a side that has proven itself incapable of defending for long periods (Everton have conceded 15 times in the last 15 minutes of matches this season) invites pressure, the result is an inevitability. Jordan Ayew wasted at least three promising positions before Tom Carroll’s mishit second-half effort ended at his feet; this time he fired the ball past Jordan Pickford. Quite how a team manages to defend so deeply and yet still allow a forward to enjoy five yards of space in the penalty area is a question worth asking Allardyce.
Allardyce, Everton’s blame deflector extraordinaire, did change the game. In bringing off winger Yannick Bolasie for central defender Ramiro Funes Mori, he left Cenk Tosun and Theo Walcott even more isolated than they had been for the first 75 minutes and made Everton more defensive. This was a manager settling for a point at the team fourth from bottom in the Premier League. Despite having nothing to lose and not even losing, Allardyce lost. That takes some doing.
Which all represents why Everton supporters are so sick of their lot. There is a inaccurate accusation that these fans – similarly to those at the Emirates – have unrealistic ambitions that blur into entitlement. That’s wrong. Everton supporters do not expect to win trophies or finish in the top six, but they do expect progress, or even an attempt at progress that is not undermined by their own actions and inaction.
Allardyce has clearly not been blameless in this mess, whatever he might concede. Having been given the biggest club job of his life in the autumn of his career, he was challenged to prove that he had unused gears and unseen tricks. Instead the old dog has chewed up his ball, put his paws over his eyes and ears and refused to countenance any new lessons. If Allardyce truly cannot understand the disillusionment of the travelling support, he is guilty of wilful ignorance.
Yet this is not all on Allardyce, whatever the chants of those supporters might suggest. He is a symptom of this Everton disease, not its cause. Allardyce’s appointment is what happens when one manager is backed before being sacked, and sacked before the club knew they could attract their No. 1 target. The subsequent vocal anger comes when a club appoints the wrong man for the wrong situation at the wrong time. If Allardyce was never the answer, the questions should be directed at Farhad Moshiri and Steve Walsh.
There is a misapprehension that football supporters want to have something to moan about, just another branch of capitalist consumer culture with its high demands and unrealistic deadlines. That isn’t true. Our expectations are simple: a club we can like as much as we will forever love. It shouldn’t be too much to ask.
Everton are not the only club in the Premier League living under a fog of incompetence. But with a new stadium on the way, a new billionaire owner in place and a tirelessly loyal support, there are very few who are falling so far short of their potential. While Liverpool rejoice at their accelerated progress across Stanley Park, Everton are stumbling and staggering in several different directions. This summer must bring change, but also coherence.
For the record, Everton supporters did eventually sing. “F*ck off Sam Allardyce” could be heard emitting from the away end over the course of the 90 minutes. They say you’d rather honesty over politeness; Everton’s manager might have a different view.