[Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying About Roberto And Hate The RedShite]
So, I was scrubbing my hard drive squeaky clean recently (no sinister motive behind that, honest) and I came across an old piece I'd knocked up last season prior to the Anfield derby. I can't remember what it was for originally, but with us due to play that lot there again this week, I thought I'd regurgitate it here in the hope it retains some relevance.
Obviously, a lot has changed in the 18 months or so since then (particularly the general consensus about the manager), but reading through it once more helped remind me just how much I would love to see us finally get some long overdue payback at that accursed place and why I personally want Martinez (despite his many struggles and shortcomings) to be the man to do it.
I know everyone's minds are already wandering to Wembley and the Semi-Final (or stewing over the turgid snooze fest we witnessed on Saturday) but let's not forget the importance of the game we've got coming up first.
I'd also like to follow up by asking a couple of questions of the diverse ToffeeWeb crowd, the answers to which I would be genuinely interested in hearing.
Like many Blues, being an Evertonian was ingrained in me from birth by my arl fella, who himself had undergone the same paternal programming from his arl fella. There was no real choice in the matter on my part.Â
Made by an Evertonian and raised in the midst of more Evertonians, there's no mystery at all behind my lifelong allegiance. It was moulded in adolescence. As was my distaste for all things red with the accompanying rancid stench of shite.Â
When I was a kid my old man was a mystery to me. Glimpsed three or four times a year before flying off to wherever his work took him next. South Africa, Finland, Thailand, Dubai... Destinations that seemed so far, far away to my young mind that they may as well have had a fucking Death Star orbiting their twin moons and a short-arse named Yoda dossing in their swamps.
My memories of him in those days are few:
He bought me an 'Incredible' Hulk board game for my birthday once. It had a wind-up plastic Hulk that 'roared'. A game so cheaply naff, I thought the bloke who played David Banner had a damn nerve promising 'a SMASHing good time' on the outer box. Despite being beyond shite, it was still my favourite gift that birthday.Â
He sported a minty eighties 'tash that made my sister believe he was Tom Selleck who, tired of being on TV, had binned off his role as Magnum and turned up at our house to make us Heinz Baked Beans & Sausages while our old queen was out shouting 'full house' at the bingo.
He had a mate who called him 'Dangerous' and used to come with us to the laundromat, make jokes, do a mini stand-up routine while people sat waiting for the machines to stop spinning. He ended up on 'Stars In Their Eyes' and finished last.Â
He often tried to get me to watch the game with him, while I preferred to pick my own adventure by flicking through the pages of one of my 'Fighting Fantasy' books (Lizard Kings, Crab People, Dungeons, Deformed Ogres, Ian Dowie). Okay, I was a sad little git but, c'mon, cut me some slack. It WAS the eighties, where other choice entertainment to occupy a child's mind included computer games you loaded from a squawky cassette tape and the special-fx magic of fucking 'Manimal'.
I'd whinge and moan and make out like I didn't even like football. He'd say something along the lines of "It's Everton. You're an Everton supporter" and I'd be like "Huh? How did that happen? I don't remember making that decision".
Once, in a rage fuelled moment of rebellion, I thrust my finger at a random image of some frizzy haired ugly fucker called 'Sparky' Hughes, who was sporting an itchy looking red top in a full page spread in my new Shoot Annual. "For your information, I'm going to support these from now on" I flounced, and my arl fella, totally flabbergasted, just stared at me like he was about to spontaneously combust. Needless to say, my Man Utd phase lasted less than a minute.Â
Some other time... sitting on the settee, watching two guys on TV who were way too old to be snickering away like school kids flicking through their first sticky paged grot mag. My arl fella, nodding his head over to the TV, suddenly announced that Greavsie was 'alright' but the Saint was 'just a gobshite'. "What's a gobshite dad?" I innocently asked. That was it. The TV went off. He turned to me, rather more dramatically than the situation merited I thought (but I decided not to mention it). "Son" he said, leaning closer and ushering me in, "let me tell you about Kopites".Â
Imagine, if you will, Sean Connery spelling out 'the Chicago Way' to a kid, in a scouse accent. That's kind of what it was like.
My old man's tales of the Mersey Millionaires and the School of Science, the Holy Trinity and the Golden Vision, had gone and took root almost without me realising.Â
Now the natural enemy also stood revealed.
When I was blissfully unaware of them being anything beyond 'the boys who support that other team' they never bothered me, but after learning how they sneakily sprang forth from the innards of Everton like an uglier, slimier, more vicious and mouthy Chestburster from 'Alien' and swiftly spread their evil seed across the entire globe, those gloating, gobby shit-spewers swiftly became the bane of my young life.
The Milk Pup. The 1986 run-in and cup final. The 1989 cup final. Daglish, Grobelaar, McMahon, Molby, Ian bastard Rush... I honestly hated them with a passion.
That hatred persisted. From Aldridge to Fowler to Owen to Carragher to Gerrard to Sturridge to their 'chicks with nuts' chasing ex-boss.
My arl fella was always moe mellow about such matters than me. "Our time will come again", he used to say. Although, as he got older he clearly believed it less and less.Â
His wish-list gradually withered... from wanting to witness Everton win the league again, it scaled down to settling for seeing us lift a cup. Until, finally, as the cancer begun eating away at his bones, the more modest ask of staying alive long enough to see us beat those bastards at Anfield just one more time.
Under Moyes, he seemed to know this wasn't attainable. He wanted him gone. Didn't like his dour demeanour, his overly defensive tactics or the way he tried to downplay Everton's past history as nine times Champions and portray them instead as plucky underdogs.Â
The man my arl fella felt had the right stuff to take his place was some Spaniard whose team spent the majority of each season struggling to stay in the league. The guy who just happens to be gaffer now.Â
The then Wigan boss wasn't my first choice to be the next Everton manager, not by a long shot. I didn't see anything there that would point towards success. My arl fella did. He banged on about him every time his beaming little face appeared on TV. How he always sent his teams out to play football 'the right way'. To welcome possession of the ball, rather than simply punt it forward at the first opportunity. How he looked to attack any team and go for a win, rather than seek to spoil and contain. How he wasn't a miserable Presbyterian prick.
"You won't see Martinez fill his keks in front of the Kop" he said. "If he was manager of this Everton team, we'd go there and win".
He repeated all this to me after suffering through a turgid televised cup tie against Oldham. He'd dragged himself downstairs specially to watch, after spending the week unable to get out of bed. What he got in return for his effort was a dismal 2-2 draw.
Less than half the weight he was 18 months before, lips blistered from sipping morphine straight from the bottle to stifle the pain, permanently hunched over from having pillows piled behind his back propping him upright in bed, the disappointment at the poor display etched firmly on his thinning face.Â
62 years of age and in a right state. Not because of the illness rotting away at him inside, but because of the bitter realisation that his beloved Blues had blown it once again.
Once he got his post-match groans off his chest, I got up to leave. "Coming round for the replay?" he asked.Â
We never got to watch it. I was woken up by a phone call 2 days later to say he'd passed away. I spent the morning of my birthday staring at his body in the hospital, comforting my old queen, calling his brother to tell him the news. By the time I got round to opening my cards a few days later, the first one I came to was, coincidentally, from him.Â
It was a big card... with an Everton badge on the front.
He obviously never got to see his hope for Martinez to replace Moyes come to fruition, but I know for a fact he would've been all for it.Â
He would've loved watching it all unfold that first season. The change to a possession based game, fullbacks getting forward, the emergence of Barkley and Stones, some great goals, beating United at Old Trafford, tearing Arsenal apart, full houses and songs about the School of Science reverberating around the ground (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what we've had to endure since).
One thing he wouldn't have loved though is the battering Martinez took at Anfield. Not normally a sentimental or superstitious sort, I'd allowed myself to be swayed by my late father's firm belief that his fellow Bob would be the one to banish the Anfield hoodoo that had hung over the club since Kevin Campbell last struck a winner there.
Seriously, for the first time in... well, perhaps ever... I was sure we were going to come away from Scaramanga's secret shithole with the win.
That made it even harder to witness the way in which Martinez's men were swiftly torn apart. Caught napping on the counter, over-eager to make amends, completely outwitted by his managerial rival.Â
I swore then I wasn't going to sit through the torture again. I'd give the game a miss from now on. Wait until full-time before checking the score. See if jibbing it off would overturn the jinx.Â
Who was I kidding? I watched it last season, I'll be watching it this season... and I'll be watching in the belief that we'll win. Again.
I know it's going to happen under Martinez and I know it's going to happen sooner rather than later.Â
It's got to.
Me arl fella said so.
Now, undoubtedly, a lot of you are going to be thinking 'Your Dad didn't know Jack about football if he rated Roberto'... but, please, bear in mind he was speaking hypothetically, didn't have the benefit of hindsight, and was so jazzed up on drugs for long stretches that he was actually caught shadow boxing whilst sat on the settee, swinging at thin air and shouting "Just stay down, stay down!!".
Believe me, some of the wretched performances of the last two seasons would have had him spinning in his grave so furiously I'm surprised the entire fucking cemetery hasn't started rotating backwards like that cop-out makes no sense stunt Christopher Reeve pulls out of his Kryptonian bum at the end of Superman: The Movie... buuut, if Martinez can just snatch a victory at Anfield, at least I can say the the old bugger was right about that.Â
Regardless, the Roberto Martinez bit isn't really the point. ToffeeWeb is drowning in (justified) digs at the manager and has been for months. It's just repetitive venting at this point and results in nothing but further frustration (for me at least).Â
Let's talk about something different.Â
Let's talk about US and THEM.Â
I've never known such apathy towards an impending derby. There's no anticipation, no alehouse natter. It's almost as though nobody is even arsed this time around... and I don't like it. The derby game is still important to me and I absolutely hate the fact we always roll over for them. I nfact, I just hate them full stop. I don't care if that makes me 'small time' or 'bitter'.Â
So, with that in mind, what I want to know is:
(1) Who (or what) sewed the seeds of your Everton supporting life?
(2) Who (or what) first alerted you to the Antichrist like arseholery of the arch-enemy?