Delving back into Everton’s glorious past is a familiar retreat for Toffees fans, none more so than in recent weeks as the club’s season crumbles all around them.
There’s a comfort to be drawn from revisiting the days where league titles and cups were the norm at Goodison Park. A reminder that things were once very different and – we all hope – may be different once more in the future.
But Evertoniansim isn’t all about reliving those times when we came out on top (there’s not enough to go around!). No, supporting Everton is often something to be endured, done through a sense of duty.
There’s an ingrained pessimism amongst the fans, a gallows humour to help ease the pain of another crushing disappointment. But, conversely, when they win there is no better feeling - ask any supporter after the final whistle against Watford earlier this month.
Supporting Everton is a lifetime commitment to follow the team through good times and bad. And although there isn’t always a happy ending, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
That’s the message contained within Jim Keoghan’s latest book: “Everton’s greatest games”.
In it Keoghan picks 50 of Everton’s most significant matches spanning the club’s 139-year history. There are glorious victories but also some inglorious defeats – including one so violent it was dubbed the ‘battle of Goodison’.
But what makes a great game?
It’s a question Keoghan wrestles with in the prologue. He talks about taking his son to watch Everton for the first time at Fulham in March 2014.
For the record Everton eased to comfortable 3-1 victory. It’s not a match that will go down in history, but for Keoghan’s young lad, it was the start of something magical - the first stop on a life-long journey following the Blues (before the cynicism grinds you down).
Seeing the game through his son’s eyes, Keoghan remembered what makes going to the match so special.
As a result the 50 matches Keoghan revisits aren’t always moments of glory, but a fluctuating journey featuring some extreme highs and punishing lows.
We begin by going all the way back to Everton’s birth and their first league game in 1887 – a 2-1 win over Accrington.
Matches from the Victorian era are given colour by contemporaneous reports and in impressive detail, helping to paint a picture of a sport light years away from what we see today.
As we move through the years we pass now familiar milestones in the club’s past – their first league title in 1891, their first FA Cup in 1906, Dixie’s 60 in 1928.
But by being told through the prism of matches, it’s a much more visceral representation of the club’s past. An official history covered in mud, spit and sawdust.
As we progress through the 20th century then Keoghan is able to draw on more sources, including many of the major players such as Joe Royle, Neville Southall and Roberto Martinez.
As well as a reminder of Everton’s numerous moments of glory it also highlights just how many times fate has conspired against the Blues. From two World Wars breaking up two title winning teams, Clive Thomas’ terrible decision in the 1977 FA Cup semi-final, Alan Hansen’s handball in the 1984 League Cup final and – perhaps most painful of all – the ban on English clubs competing in Europe denying the opportunity for one of the club’s finest ever teams to prove it on the continental stage.
We all know things take a turn for the worse in the 1990s – one FA Cup triumph aside – but there are still plenty of memorable moments as every decade in the club’s history is represented.
So if Everton’s nose diving form is getting you down then a read of this book will remind yourself just how special this club is, like that wide-eyed child watching the team ease past Fulham at Craven Cottage.
It’s a team that transcends generations, and although the glory days seem as far away as ever, the club has been here many times before and has always come through the other side.
You can win the review copy of Everton Greatest Games by liking us on Facebook and sharing this post. Or Follow us on Twitter and retweet this tweet. Closing date is November 30 with winner drawn at random!