At the back end of 2016/17, things were looking up. Ronald Koeman’s first season at the managerial helm had secured 7th spot and a coveted place in the Europa League. We could’ve battled for sixth but we hit a bit of inconsistency in May, although overall it was a much-needed improvement and our slumped shoulders could at last rise.
The end of the season is always a bit shit and leaves you counting down to the fixtures coming out and the transfer window opening. Last July, being a Blue was no longer feeling downtrodden, pessimistic, plagued by the obligatory doom clouds glued over our heads. Oh no. We dared to dream. We couldn’t wait to get started. We had lots of cash burning a hole in our arse pocket and the signings started to stack up. I pinched myself, then rolled with it even though a tiny part of me couldn’t quite believe it. Watching Sky Sports News was a delight and, for a while, it was all about us. We spent big and handed out cheques like sweets. Jordan Pickford and Davey Klassen arrived on the same day, Michael Keane shortly followed and the return of that infamous boyhood Blue Wayne Rooney to bolster the squad had us thinking we could maybe do something special.
To inevitably lose the previous season’s top scorer Romalu Lukaku to United was a blow but one we very much saw coming. We didn’t sign a sufficient replacement which was both frustrating and stupid. The long-drawn-out pursuit of Gylfi Sigurdsson from Swansea was a bit of a farce and dragged itself out into the start of the campaign. We scraped through the Europa League qualifiers and a stunning goal from the newly-arrived Sigurdsson against Hajduk Split was barely enough to offset the general feeling of ‘oh we’re still a bit shit then.’
Things started to gradually slide and we appeared to lack direction, ideas and goals.
The last straw was the home 5-2 defeat at the hands of Arsenal, the writing was on the way for Koeman. The Dutchman’s days were numbered, he was booted out and U23 coach David Unsworth took charge. He’d previously took the reins for the final game of the 15/16 season after Roberto Martinez had been sacked, and it was hoped he could bolster the battered confidence of the team. However, the problems ran far deeper and despite some encouraging fightbacks and comebacks, it was clear we needed a salvage mission of epic proportion to further edge us out of the dreaded drop-zone.
So we appointed Sam Allardyce, and a lot of us put our heads in our hands. Fair dos, the guy has a track record of hauling clubs out of the brown stuff, but he’s not a long-term solution, he’s a bit dodgy and dubious, but we were desperate so Sam was the man and he penned an 18-month contract. Whilst Big Sam watched on, Unsworth’s last game in charge was a 4-0 thrashing over West Ham, including a Rooney goal which is one of the best I’ve ever seen, which rounded off his hattrick.
He enjoyed a solid start which boosted us up to ninth. Come Christmas we were back in the mix, only seven points behind sixth-placed Burnley, but then it went tits up. He signed forward Cenk Tosun and the exciting Theo Walcott, but we were far from playing good, attractive or creative football. Yes, he did what it says on his tin, but Allardyce had an uneasy relationship with fans, defensively we were up shit creek and the confidence was still rock-bottom. Sam was sacked days after the long-suffering campaign came to an end, and a deflated defeat away at West Ham.
To sum up 2017/2018, it kind of promised so much but quickly fell flat on its arse and, apart from a few glimmers, delivered little. To think that we had such high hopes and come the end of 2017, our tattered season was to be rescued and salvaged by Allardyce. The optimism at pre-season was high and at the end, in total contrast, we were back in the gutter. We’re used to flirting with failure but with the squad we have, we expected and deserved better. However, with last week’s appointment of Marco Silva, surely the only way can be upwards and onwards? So, we’ll get ourselves up and dust ourselves off and we go again, ‘cause we’re Everton aren’t we.