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Merseyside derby mourning out of picture as Everton conspire against themselves

Conspiracy, it is most definitely due to conspiracy. I mean, for what other lucid reason could Everton possibly be where they find themselves right now?

An aged institution of English football, a doyen of the game which was present at the birth of the Football League, the club that resided at Anfield prior to their decision to dodge the rent demands of John Houlding, and the team of the legendary Dixie Dean.

While most of their brags are lodged way in the past now, they have no need to be humble about them. One of the biggest movers and shakers of the 1960s, they once boasted a team that was well-positioned to dominate the 1970s until it was allowed to spectacularly unravel.

Howard Kendall, having been a playing component of that great 1969/70 vintage, then as manager went and built a new team that was fit for trophy-winning purpose in the mid-1980s.

A decade later, meanwhile, one of his old team-mates, Joe Royle, created the Dogs of War, an uncompromising beast that averted the beckoning lure of relegation and carried off the FA Cup for good measure.

Fair play like.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 24, 2022: Liverpool and Everton players scuffle after a heavy challenge on Everton’s Richarlison during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 240th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by Lindsey Parneby/Propaganda)

Since then, Bill Kenwright has reputedly delivered ‘some good times’, all be them without any silverware.

David Moyes offered them over a decade of stability, but no honours, where he infamously proved you don’t need trophies to be a winner. There would be a heavy sense of irony should Everton slide into the Championship, that it could well be in the very same season that Moyes leads West Ham to Europa League glory.

Beyond Moyes, Everton have been regularly listless.

The only time they have looked vaguely compelling during the last nine years was when Roberto Martinez was at the helm, only for them to hit the eject button at the first sign of choppy waters.

Blindsided by over-ambition, before the appointment of Frank Lampard, Everton’s previous two managers could flash CVs that boast Champions League, UEFA Cup, FA Cup, Premier League, LaLiga, and Serie A winning successes.

Still, even the greatest of footballing minds have come to find that there is a shatterproof glass ceiling as far as the club is concerned.

Our blue cousins are in a parlous position, and it is entirely of their own doing.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 24, 2022: Liverpool's Trent Alexander Arnold tackles Everton’s Anthony Gordon during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 240th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by Lindsey Parneby/Propaganda)

Lampard is Everton’s seventh permanent manager in the last nine years, while both David Unsworth and Duncan Ferguson have been handed the reigns on a caretaker basis twice each.

Everton’s squad is a patchwork quilt of players brought in by managers with differing views on how football should be played.

Some players have been identified with expansive football in mind, others with pragmatism at the forefront of ideas. Some players were signed with notions of pressing football being played, others by sitting deep and hitting on the break.

It must be like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle, only to find that when you open the box there are pieces from seven different puzzles, and not only do most of the pieces not interlock, but many of them are not even the same size, nor age group.

Should the nuclear moment come, and relegation does descend upon Goodison Park in just under four weeks’ time, it would not only be apt that it might arrive just before Moyes’ finest hour, but also that Marco Silva, one of the seven men to follow him into the Everton hot seat, will be passing them on the way up from the Championship with Fulham, leader of a team that is playing some very attractive football along their way.

Utterly dysfunctional, Everton are offering the prime example of how not to run a football club that season-on-season should nestle comfortably within that cluster of clubs which reside just below the top six, coiled and ready to pounce for higher positions in the event of the self-destruction of an Arsenal, Man United or Tottenham.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 24, 2022: Liverpool's Joel Matip and Everton's goalkeeper Jordan Pickford clash during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 240th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by Lindsey Parneby/Propaganda)

It’s all about setting realistic targets and removing the pantomime of a local rivalry. The first part of that is achievable for Everton, but the second part isn’t.

Toxicity reigns and the relationship between the two sets of supporters is probably the worst it has ever been.

At Anfield, in the away end on Sunday, there were chants which matched those that were brought by United supporters five days earlier, while from young and old visitors alike, the hand gestures that mock multiple stadium disasters – something that has become an Everton calling card – were high in number.

Disorder aplenty, damage was wreaked to the toilets and along the concourses of the Lower Anfield Road End. It isn’t a good look, lads.

At Goodison, frustration has built up to a boiling point and if Everton do succumb to relegation, it might at least act as a pressure release, once the dust has settled, thanks to the enforced mothballing of the Merseyside derby.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 24, 2022: Liverpool’s Divock Origi scores their second goal against Everton during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 240th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by Lindsey Parneby/Propaganda)

This isn’t a new phenomenon either. It has been a decaying of relations that stretches back to around the turn of the millennium.

A good few years back when I was travelling everywhere to watch the Reds, we used to regularly bump into one of the senior, on the ground, Merseyside Police matchday officers, whose duty it was to ensure safety in and around the various away ends that we would tip up at.

Around a decade or so ago, we asked him which opposing set of fans caused them the biggest headaches. With a sense of dejection, he ceded that it was Everton’s. This being the candid assessment of a man who is a fierce Evertonian himself.

They might propagate a theory that it all stems from Heysel, but the most militant elements aside, Everton supporters were largely sound with us throughout the 1990s, when we were crap, but then the tipping point came when we started to win trophies again and plucked Nick Barmby from them.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 24, 2022: Liverpool’s Andy Robertson celebrates scoring the opening goal against Everton during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 240th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by Lindsey Parneby/Propaganda)

I know plenty of brilliant people who happen to be Everton supporters, many who have stood with us in our campaign for justice over Hillsborough, and I will be genuinely gutted for them if the team they love is relegated, but as a match-going collective theirs has become the ugliest of entities, one which I will not mourn the absence of, nor will I be in any rush to see them return.

Rather than flashing hateful glares across Stanley Park, Everton supporters need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

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