Benitez comments show unrealism about Everton crisis

Everton (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Everton (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images) /

Rafa Benitez has spoken in defence of his players following yesterday’s defeat for Everton at Brentford. But, did his comments accurately reflect the truth about his side’s situation?

Benitez was responding to the outpouring of anger at the end of yet another miserable performance and a loss that plunges Everton into further crisis.

He claimed fans couldn’t honestly complain about the effort of the players and that things will turn around again once all the injured players are back.

I’m not sure he is right. If we honestly look at the early season results, while some of the performances were good and we all enjoyed the increased energy and urgency of the football played, the Blues’ were facing weaker or average sides.

They generally beat those teams and that’s all you can do, but now the Toffees have just played defending champions Manchester City and they were well beaten and next face Liverpool in two days time before playing a resurgent Arsenal.

Then they have two difficult matches in London at Crystal Palace before taking on league leaders Chelsea. After that they host Leicester City, another team who are finding form at the wrong time for the Blues’.

That’s a seriously testing set of fixtures and I’m not sure even with a full strength side Everton would be able to get more than maybe four points at best from that set of games. I say this because the team’s recent record against the top teams is very poor.

It’s very difficult sometimes to be balanced and accurate in your assessment of your team as a supporter when looking at something that generates such emotional responses as a football club does – as I’m sure any club will for it’s fans.

There is of course a huge amount of emotional and pyschological investment in the club by us supporters and it makes any downturn in form and fortunes hard to cope with.

That’s especially true when you’ve seen millions squandered on mediocre players and failed managers and your nearest neighbours and bitterst rivals are yet again so infuriatingly successful.

This time is beginning to resemble the early eighties a little, which is not a good omen for Blues’ fans who remember those days.

Liverpool were rampant winning trophies season after season and the Toffees’ languished in their shadow battling for mid-table mediocrity at best and flirting with relegation several times.

Evertonians have a great regard for Howard Kendall, the manager at the time, and rightly so after the success he and his teams delivered in the middle of that decade. However, he was under huge pressure in the early part of his reign with a failing team lacking it seemed enough talent and character to compete and no end of poor results in sight.

There was talk of him being sacked in late 1983, a particular low point, but the board under chairman Philip Carter resisted the pressure and stuck with him. And, just a few weeks later the team finally turned a corner and went on to seemingly miraculous achievments just a year or so later.

Being absurdly optimistic, could the same thing possibly happen again? I don’t think so as there are major differences with the situation then and now.

First of all, the club’s hierachy was considered to be an effective board and although like now there had been several managerial changes and money splashed out on underachieving players, things seemed a lot more stable and there wasn’t the same level of alienation towards the people at the top.

Secondly, of course Kendall was an Evertonian. He had played for the club and tasted success winning the league championship in that outstanding 1969-70 team.

So, unlike Benitez he had that store of goodwill to draw upon. He needed it too because times were tough early in his tenure and he made some terrible early signings when he spent big (in those days terms anyway) at the start of his time in charge.

Finally, there were players who seemed to have the willingness to battle even if they were still losing football games. And, the team had several home-grown players who understood what is expected of footballers wearing Everton royal blue. That’s something which seems absent from far too many of this group of players.

The issues with this current team and the club’s culture are so deep-seated they seem almost impossible to resolve. The current manager’s problem is that he will – indeed he probably already has – become a focus for all the immense frustration and anger that supporters are feeling at this awful scenario.

This may not be fair but it’s the reality and this together with the growing animous towards the board, is what makes this situation so uniquely difficult to overcome.