There’s a song called ‘The Hungry Years’, a not so famous masterpiece by the singer songwriter Neil Sedaka.
I’m sure, following the weekend’s embarrassing exit from the FA Cup, the lyrics will resonate powerfully with a lot of Everton fans.
One particular line – “Everything we wanted, was everything we had” – will no doubt be how a good few Evertonians are feeling right now, and how some might miss those hungry years before the arrival of their billionaire owner.
The club didn’t have a super-rich benefactor and hadn’t won a trophy for over two decades, which for Everton wasn’t good enough and of course the fans wanted more.
They demanded a new owner, one with plenty of money and one that could return the club firmly at the top of the English game again. They had watched Manchester City do it after all, and wanted the same.
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Previously however, the club had a passion, a commitment, a determination to challenge those at the top and above all an identity, especially under the demanding management of David Moyes albeit without silverware to show for it.
Say the names Weir, Coleman, Carsley, Cahill, Jagielka, Hibbert, Neville and Howard and you can argue that all of those players had those qualities, all wanted the best for the club and all gave 100 per cent every game they played whether their individual talent was enough or not compared to their occasionally more affluent opponents.
Teams knew what to expect from Everton, clubs knew what to expect when they came to Goodison Park, and the same could be said off the field too.
If you visited Finch Farm you knew how to behave but you also knew there would be an identity that was specifically Everton Football Club, there was a discipline around the place but there was also a welcome and a conversation or two.
Since the Moshiri riches, Everton have managed somehow to go backwards it seems, like the lottery winner who ran straight to the hot tub store, who chose extravagance over substance and exuberance over essentials.
Image: Everton must rediscover their identity
All the time losing sight of the fundamentals which helped steer the club through many rocky moments during the previous years of living pretty much hand to mouth in comparison to some others.
Gone are the characters from the team and the club, gone are the qualities laid down by those successful winners of the 1980s and those before them, replaced by many that have seen an opportunity of a financial windfall, a leisure centre instead of a training ground and a ladder to a future career somewhere better in the game on or off the football pitch.
Image: Everton have spent £563.2m under Farhad Moshiri
A telling line from the song laments “How could we know the ride would turn out bad”.
The hard fact is many could tell, many warned that this was not the way to do business, this was not the look of a successful football club on the way up, in fact before too long it started to spiral out of control which has resulted in where the club finds itself today through bad recruitment with both players and managers.
For the fans, to continue with the musical theme, Everton is their ‘Hotel California’, they can check out anytime they like, but they can never leave, unlike the many, not all but many who have, taking with them not only the majority of the invested riches but also the standards which were in place before they arrived.
Everton manger Frank Lampard believes that the busy fixture schedule is one of many reasons why his team are struggling.
Everton find themselves in a perilous position, they need to rediscover an identity and begin again building a club fitting of one on its way to brand new stadium and using the wealth more intelligently, they need to get back the hunger.
In Frank Lampard it could be argued they have a manager who encompasses good values, he’s of good stock, both personally and football-wise, he has a hunger, of course like every manager he will need results but he represents the chance to build again, like the early Moyes years but with the facilities and environment to deliver silverware.
This weekend he called out those players, he questioned whether they have the fight to meet the challenge ahead of them, he acknowledged some were playing to just 70 per cent of their capabilities, that won’t be good enough when you look at the fixtures for April.
Everton's remaining Premier League fixtures
- West Ham (A), April 3 – live on Sky Sports
- Burnley (A), April 6
- Man Utd (H), April 9
- Leicester (H), April 20
- Liverpool (A), April 24 – live on Sky Sports
- Chelsea (H), May 1 – live on Sky Sports
- Leicester (A), May 7
- Brentford (H), May 15
- Arsenal (A), May 22
- Watford (A), yet to be arranged
- Crystal Palace (H), yet to be arranged
Many over the past six years have eaten from a king’s table, indulged themselves at the expense of the true values and hopes of the fans and the club and in doing so have led Everton down a path which could be longer and darker than anyone dare imagine.
Those who can affect change, the players, the owner and the board, must do so now in order to avoid a future nobody envisaged back in 2014, the fans have always and will always play their part, their hunger is undoubted, it’s not for them to do it but it’s them who will suffer most.
The majority of Evertonians wanted the bright and prosperous future they craved when Moshiri arrived – and they could still have it – but for now all they have is how they miss ‘The Hungry Years’.
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