It has already proven to be a season of change for Everton but if Marco Silva is to really move the club into a new era they need to break off the shackles that seem to tie them down in the EFL Cup
We say it every year, but the Carabao Cup represents a perfect opportunity for Everton to try and win some silverware. But every year the competition brings nothing but disappointment.
Everton have never won the EFL Cup in all of its various guises and have often struggled to make any sort of impact. Brentford, Oxford Utd, Bristol Rovers, Norwich and Leeds are just a few of the lower division sides to progress at the expense of the Toffees over recent years.
Even when they have played Premier League sides they have flattered to deceive - a dismal 3-0 defeat at Swansea in 2014 a recent example.
The club did reach the semi-finals as recently as 2015 but that has proven the exception rather than the rule, only making it past the third round twice in the past eight seasons. I accept it is not the most glamorous competition out there but after so long without silverware we cannot afford to be picky.
What makes it so frustrating is the fact the club have so often been ideally placed to have a real go but always come up short.
Some previous managers can point to European exertions as a mitigating factor. While teams in the 1990s and early 2000s had the excuse of simply being not very good. But over the past 15 years Everton have rarely been in relegation trouble and only fleetingly in Europe, the ideal situation to have a go at this competition.
It’s a situation they find themselves in this season. The top six sides will pay little attention to the competition in the opening stages, especially as they fall during the busy autumn run of European group stage fixtures. As a result they often field reserve sides and only really take notice if they somehow tumble through to the latter stages.
Even so-called lesser teams regularly field much-changed starting XIs, giving off the impression that the competition is more of an inconvenience than a genuine chance of silverware. Many of those sides do so for fear of a cup run derailing their Premier League campaign and so become embroiled in a relegation battle.
Everton therefore find themselves conveniently placed in this sea of indifference. With no European football and no real fear of relegation, there should be nothing stopping the Toffees taking the competition seriously.
Then there is the impact winning the competition could have on the club’s long-term future.
Much has been said about Everton’s perception beyond its fanbase and in the media. The Toffees’ illustrious history is often overlooked, with the club seen as plucky upstarts and lumped in with mid-table sides such as West Ham and Leicester.
The supporters will rightly point to the club’s previous achievements as an argument against this unfair coverage but after 23 years without opening the trophy cabinet do we really deserve anything different? All too often the team has even played up to that image of plucky underdog, particularly in games against the bigger sides.
The greatest way to change the perception of a club is by winning. The sight of the players parading around Wembley would send out the message to the media, rival clubs and prospective players that the club is on the up.
The first trophy is often the hardest to win but can unlock future success - look at Howard Kendall’s side in 1984. In recent years Chelsea and Man City have used the competition to breed a winning mentality and culture. If Silva can lead the team to glory in early 2019, a cloud that has hung low over the club for over two decades would suddenly be lifted. Who knows where that momentum may lead us?
It may seem unreasonable to call for a trophy so early in the Marco Silva era, we all agree on the need to be patient after all. But despite all the changes both on and off the pitch the team remain well-placed to compete at a high level. And in a competition where many of our rivals will have one eye elsewhere, it would be amiss for Silva not to take the competition seriously, especially as the potential rewards are so great.
To do so though requires them to change the narrative of a competition that has brought 57 years’ worth of disappointment and heartbreak.