I have been an Evertonian since before I can remember. Even though we lived in Derbyshire at the time, my Dad would drive us to Goodison whenever he could. We would go to home matches in the early 90s, which weren't the best times for our great club. Now that I live in Ireland I have little opportunity to go and watch them. The first match I remember was at Goodison Park against Liverpool in 1993. We won 2-0 with goals from Mitch Ward and Tony Cottee, but the end of that season would see us just escape the jaws of relegation. A season later, and we had won the FA Cup. However, the league form still wasn't great.
My Dad would take me to a few more matches in the 1994-95 season and we went to every FA Cup game that was at Goodison, including a 5-0 demolition of Norwich City. That was when I was old enough to understand the passion and commitment that those 11 men on the pitch showed, and that's when I really started to fall in love with the club. We've been on many a stadium tour, and been greeted and shown around by the legend who was Dave Hickson. I still vividly remember him talking so passionately about this fantastic club, referring to Everton as magic. And what a true gentleman he was.
The booming first bars of the famous Z-Cars would send shivers down my spine back then and even does so to this day. We would usually sit in the Top Balcony so we always had a great view, and an image that sticks in my mind is of Dave Watson leading the team out of the tunnel, sprinting as he kicked the ball up in the air towards the goal followed by his enthusiastic team mates. The noise was deafening around the stadium, blue and white ticker-tape might be carried by the wind up into the sky as well as a few blue and white balloons. The chants would start then, "Everton, Everton, Everton"; and then the announcer would name the team, every players name met with a huge roar.
I am 30 years old now and that's such a powerful image in my mind. Everyone around the stadium sung their hearts out and the players on the pitch responded. The likes of John Ebbrell, Barry Horne and Joe Parkinson may not have been the most skilful midfielders in the world but they would put in crunching tackles against the hard men of the Premier League. They weren't scared to put their foot in against the likes of Vinnie Jones, Dennis Wise and Roy Keane.
Then there was Big Dunc, my hero. And the reason he was my hero was because he left everything out on the pitch, week-in & week-out, whether he was 100% fit or not, the passion shone through. You could see that passion in him and those all in blue around him. Every one of those players from that 94-95 squad played for each other. The quality may not have been as good at the time but I believe that team spirit won us the FA Cup and to see Dave Watson lift that trophy at Wembley was an amazing sight.
The quality we have in our squad this season is right up there. The likes of Rom, Ross, Geri and Stones all have great talent and potential, but I can't say I've seen much passion or team spirit from them this season. Every time Rom loses the ball he makes no effort to get it back, just throws his arms in the air and lets someone else deal with it. Big Dunc, Ebbrell, Horne and Parkinson would all hassle for the ball, push the opposition back and force mistakes to put them on the back foot and try their best to get it back when they lose the ball. The same for the likes of Stuart, Rideout, Jackson, Rhino and Hinchcliffe.
Roberto Martinez's first season in charge saw Barry and McCarthy doing an incredible job in the middle of the park. McCarthy would always hassle opponents, Coleman and Baines would be bombing forward to support the front men and McCarthy and Barry would be covering when they do. That doesn't seem to happen any more which means Rom is isolated up front. Apart from the odd cross from Geri, and a few through balls from Ross, he's been feeding off scraps all season.
Don't get me wrong, he's done fantastic with the goals with what little support he's had this season, but I can't help but think if we were more ruthless from the front, if we charged down opponents instead of sitting back and letting them carve us open, we would have been able to create more chances and therefore be so much higher in the table. At the moment this season is just petering out in the league with a team of individuals, and Baines was right â€“ there is a lack of chemistry there, every Evertonian can see that. Imagine what a player Rom would be with the passion and desire of Big Dunc.
We haven't seemed to get out of second gear in many matches this season. All too happy to pass the ball sideways, then back, then sideways again, until we make a mistake and give a goal away, or our full backs would get into good positions, but then somehow the ball ends up back to the goalkeeper from a potential attack. There's no urgency in anything we do anymore. We just don't take the game to teams from the start. And this is how we play for the total 90 minutes, with no Plan B when we go a goal down, then a defensive midfielder might come on for the last 10 minutes, or a mediocre striker who will have no impact will replace someone who actually is a threat. So it's no wonder the crowd get disgruntled. From kick-off that stadium is full every week, the fans deserve something to get excited about.
The passion and support from the Everton fans is second to none, but the players just don't respond to it. Martinez should at least change the formation, or do something different. I don't see how we haven't deployed a 4-4-2 or at least try to change it up when things aren't working. I'd have more respect for our manager if he took a chance here or there. I don't see what's wrong with playing two strikers and two natural wingers. We need to get back the fire in the belly which seems to have disappeared this season. The lack of passion is there for all to see. And we desperately need that going into a derby and then an FA Cup Semi-Final.
I would like to see some of the togetherness shown by the 94-95 squad, or the 2004 team that got us into 4th place, Tim Cahill being one of my heroes from that time, another passionate Evertonian. I'd have him back straight away. I can't remember an Everton team that lacked passion as much as this group we have now, and I blame Martinez for that.
With Moyes, the team spirit was there from the start, not that I'd have him back; however, during Martinez's time here, we are going further and further backwards. If he carries on with these same tactics, I'm afraid that togetherness and passion will be lacking for a long time. I compare Martinez to Mike Bassett â€“ there's no Plan B and no ideas. Although sometimes I'd prefer Mike Bassett to Martinez, at least Mike Bassett isn't afraid of the 4-4-2!