A throughly up-and-down season for Everton comes to a close on Sunday with a trip to the impressive Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to take on Champions League finalists Spurs.
It was hard not to feel a tinge of jealousy when Tottenham, a side we were regularly finishing above not too long ago, beat Ajax on Wednesday to seal their final place against Liverpool next month.
However, it should also give Evertonians encouragement as Spurs have followed the kind of sustainable growth model we should look to pursue in the coming years.
They have a talented young manager in place who has built a side containing a mixture of home-grown academy graduates and astute signings, moulding them over several years into the team we see today.
Throw in the fact this has been done while the club have simultaneously been building a new stadium and it is little wonder Toffees fans are hopeful Everton will be able to repeat the trick in a few years’ time.
By all accounts the new ground is truly world-class and the benchmark by which we will set our expectations for Bramley Moore when the plans are released later this year.
It goes without saying, of course, that they will have our full support in Madrid next month.
Back to Everton and last weekend’s win over Burnley was not enough to keep the Blues in contention for a European place, with Wolves’ victory over Fulham securing seventh for the Black Country side.
It is obviously disappointing to miss out on Europe, but the early start for the qualifiers would have created problems in itself. The club need to take advantage of the clear summer to sort out a still-bloated squad.
The failure to reach the Europa League may well decide the fate of a number of fringe players, most notably Phil Jagielka.
The club captain was given a late cameo against Burnley, suggesting he may not be offered a new deal this summer.
The extra workload of European football would have required a larger squad with Jags a handy player to have in reserve. But with no Europe and Mason Holgate due to return from his loan at West Brom it seems likely he will be allowed to leave, bringing the curtain down on 12 years of loyal service to the Blues.
Just five years ago Everton finished ahead of Tottenham in the Premier League. Since then, while Everton have been in decline, Spurs have finished in the top four every season since and travel to Madrid next month to face Liverpool in the Champions League final.
The yawning gap between the sides was laid bare in December, when Everton were absolutely thrashed 6-2 on their own ground.
In this era of big spending, Tottenham’s approach has been refreshingly against the grain. They have spent money of course, but they have spent considerably less than their rivals and have instead relied on old school values of hard work, team spirit and astute recruitment.
The emergence of a genuine world-class goalscorer from their academy has certainly helped, but is pays to note that their semi-final win over Ajax was achieved without Harry Kane.
The progress of a side of a similar stature of our own should give us encouragement that the glass ceiling we have failed to surpass over the past 20 years is not insurmountable.
Ajax aside, Mauricio Pochettino’s side actually head into Sunday’s game in poor form, with three defeats from their last four Premier League games. Despite that run, the failures of the other teams around them means their top four place is all but secure bar a freak set of results (Everton and Arsenal both have to win with an eight goal swing).
It is an achievement made all the more remarkable when you consider Pochettino hasn’t spent a penny in the last two transfer windows. Instead he has extracted every last drop from his existing squad. It reminds me a bit of David Moyes’ achievements at Everton but just, you know, better.
Spurs will be without a number of key players on Sunday through suspension and injury. With that final to prepare for I would not be surprised to see other players with more minor knocks rested too.
As a result it could be the ideal time to take on the London side and end the campaign on a high.
Marco Silva has confirmed that Richarlison will miss out due to a rib injury while Dominic Calvert-Lewin is absent with a knock suffered in training.
Seamus Coleman is also an injury doubt but Andre Gomes is available after a three-game ban.
Tottenham are without Juan Foyth and Son Heung-min through suspension. Harry Kane and Jan Vertonghen are sidelined while Danny Rose and Victor Wanyama are doubtful.
The Toffees’ recent resurgence since February has given us all a timely shot of optimism after a pretty dismal winter. As a result, Sunday’s game matters little to the overall mood of the club and the fanbase. But it would be nice to end with a win to send us all off on our summer holidays on a high.