I think everyone involved with Everton football club needed this break, even if it is as a consequence of the team’s abject failure.
The Toffees increasingly resembled a battered and bloodied boxer in the 12th round, trapped in the corner of the ring, taking repeated punches to the head while flailing their arms around in a vain effort to respond (yes, I watched Rocky IV last weekend).
Some time out to clear their heads, take stock, and move on was desperately needed.
I think supporters needed some time away too. Watching Everton became a desperate exercise, not helped by the cumulative effect of decades of disappointment making things feel ten times worse.
But while we have been free to pursue other activities (and lets face it, begin to appreciate what we were missing) I hope the players and coaching staff were busy coming up with a plan to lift themselves out of this slump.
A lot of pressure has understandably been on Marco Silva during this recent run, with calls for his sacking increasing with each passing week. I hope this break can draw some of the heat out of the situation, as things had threatened to boil over.
Not that I don’t have doubts over Silva – the jury is still out on whether he is the man for the long-term. But as the prospect of a fourth managerial change in three years looms into view, I can’t help but feel that the club needs to address much more pressing issues first.
Chopping and changing managers is why we find ourselves in the current predicament. In that time we have veered violently between different playing styles – with Roberto Martinez at one end of the scale and Sam Allardyce at the other. It is little wonder then that when analysing the team recently pundit Jermaine Jenas said “I don’t know what Everton are any more”.
Well, what they are is a bloated squad of players signed by five different managers having been deployed in a variety of styles and formations. That’s because, traditionally, the manager decides the style and philosophy of the team and recruits players accordingly. But as the demands of the modern game grow ever larger, so the remit of the football manager has been fractured.
It is now the director of football’s job to decide and promote such an overarching strategy, with the manager or head coach working within that.
Thankfully, Everton have belatedly moved with the times and appointed Marcel Brands, a man who, from what we have seen so far, seems to know what he is talking about.
But it will take time for the Dutchman to put his plans in place as he looks to unravel the mess created by Messrs’ Walsh, Koeman and Allardyce – 18 months of madness that will take at least double that time to sort out.
One of many criticisms of Silva’s reign has been his apparent reluctance to change style and formation to match the players at his disposal, with some suggesting he needs to take a more pragmatic approach in the short-term.
But it also can be argued that Silva was appointed to move away from pragmatism and only by persisting with that vision can the club truly change and adapt. The problem with that in the short-term of course is what we are witnessing on the pitch; with players not having the attributes to suit the roles given to them, resulting in disjointed and muddled performances that more often than not result in defeat.
Would a new manager necessarily do any better? Some players may be more closely aligned with his style but then others may be further away, putting us in the same predicament.
It is this culture of hiring and firing that has made pragmatic managers like Allardyce so successful. They are masters of football at a very basic level, eking out just enough results to survive and drag clubs out of crisis, but in a style that ultimately proves unpalatable beyond the short-term.
So that turns the attention back to Brands, who will no doubt be looking to re-model the squad over the summer and give Silva the team his style demands.
Only then, in my opinion, can the Portuguese be truly judged.
Getting those structures in place will also naturally negate the disruption caused by any future managerial change. As the role of a manager has developed into that of a head coach, so their longevity has declined. The days of David Moyes, Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger dominating clubs for decades, seem to be long gone. It is the director of football who stays for the long term now, with the men on the touchline fitting into a structure rather than sitting on top of it.
It was a strategy successfully deployed by Southampton for several years following their promotion to the Premier League in 2012, with Les Reed ensuring there was a consistency of culture throughout the club and that any new manager would be able to slot into that structure with minimal disruption.
That’s why I hope Brands, as well as scouting players, is also scouting potential managers who have the kind of attributes and tactical acumen we require.
That way, if Silva gets the players he wants and still underperforms, then there is a manager out there who could replace him without causing the kind of disruption that has got us into this mess in the first place.
Everton gave a fine lesson in how not to run a football club between 2016 and 2018. It sent the club into a tailspin that at first brought Allardyce and, if things don’t change, will only bring further decline and, possibly, relegation (see: Aston Villa).
I truly believe the club are trying to right those wrongs and set themselves on the right course again. But in doing so we have to endure a few more bumps in the road while things are corrected behind the scenes.
Given Silva is ‘front of house’ he is understandably taking much of the flak – and I can’t say some of it isn’t deserved (*cough* defending set pieces *cough*).
But I truly believe there are enough mitigating circumstances for him to be given more time and the opportunity to operate in the optimum conditions, not just to achieve success but achieve it in the style and vision we all want to see.