On Saturday, Everton will host Southampton at Goodison Park in a bona fide relegation six-pointer between the 18th and 20th-placed sides in the Premier League respectively. However, this game represents so much more than a chance at three invaluable points for Everton Football Club and its supporters, as if any extra pressure was needed.
After one win out of the last ten games in the Premier League, the possibility of Everton’s first relegation since 1951 looms large on the horizon for the second consecutive season. This impending doom is beginning to feel inevitable due to the systemic issues which have been allowed to grow for years on end throughout the club. Thanks to the complete absence of competent leadership at board and ownership level, the fate of the club is well and truly on the line in the coming months.
Similar to the manner in which the Goodison Park faithful willed their team over the line and into safety last season, Evertonians have now had enough and are looking to take matters into their own hands and force the changes that have been needed for years. Supporters clubs, fan pages, former players, and media outlets, including us here at Royal Blue Mersey, have come together to create the #AllTogetherNow movement, which represents the most united front for change among Evertonians that we’ve ever seen.
The organization, led by NSNOW, is planning a sit-in protest after the final whistle of the match against Southampton, regardless of the result. Dozens of Evertonians have been preparing banners and flags with strong messages to owner Farhad Moshiri and the members of the board who have allowed the club to decay over recent years.
Four of the flags, all with fire safety certification pic.twitter.com/V65Cte3Usp— CHTB4 (@TopBalc4) January 9, 2023
However, as the campaign gains more and more support from Evertonians across the world, it has been met with continued tone-deaf arrogance from he who is in control of the club. After receiving an open letter from the EFC Fan’s Forum, majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri responded with a deplorable letter in which he essentially stated that everything was fine, everyone at the club was doing a great job, and that he would not be making any large scale change to the club structures which have caused this historic regression. He then followed this up by making a surprise appearance on TalkSPORT on Thursday morning, unbeknownst to anyone else at the club. When talking to co-host Simon Jordan, Moshiri stated, “I put my money where my mouth is and that is most of what an owner can do.”
This statement epitomizes why Farhad Moshiri is not fit to be the owner and custodian of Everton Football Club. His approach since assuming control of the club has simply been to throw money at the problem while simultaneously ignoring all of the procedures and sensibilities that are required to see his investments spent wisely, let alone run a successful football club and business. He also claimed to Jordan that he listens to the fans and sacks the managers that they want sacked, essentially trying to deflect the blame onto the supporters and their lack of patience.
Of course, he failed to mention his serial terrible appointments, the times in which he has gone over the heads of the football professionals he’s appointed, and the times he’s signed players simply because Kia Joorabchian told him to. His statements in response to the recent fan upheaval have been nothing short of us disgraceful and the Toffee TV Twitter poll regarding Evertonians’ opinions on Moshiri’s reply shows that, with 91% of the 8,590 respondents expressing their discontent. On top of that, multiple members of the Fan’s Forum have stepped down in response to the clear lack of direction, conviction, and accountability shown by Moshiri in his letter and radio interview.
This tension between the leadership and the supporters will reach a boiling point on Saturday when Frank Lampard and his team stare down a game that is as close to must-win as you can possibly get in a January fixture. The only sensible thing that Farhad Moshiri said during either of his two PR disasters this week was asking the fans to back the team, and that they will.
The 1878s have organized another coach welcome on Goodison Road; an event I was fortunate enough to experience twice during my three months on Merseyside in the fall. The team will feel the wholehearted support of the Evertonians on Saturday, as we all know just how critical this match really is. However, Moshiri cannot expect the same. The Grand Old Lady will be rife with hostility and frustration irrespective of the performance on the pitch due to Moshiri’s ignorant and downright disrespectful comments in the lead-up to the match which only succeeded in throwing further fuel onto the fire.
I fear, however, that Moshiri will continue to play his victim card, and that meaningful change within the club will be further neglected despite the efforts of this fanbase to enact the change that is needed. Although a win is paramount in Everton’s hopes for survival this season, it would provide another excuse for Moshiri to stick his head in the sand and maintain the status quo which got us to this point in the first place. At this point, it seems clear that the rift between the fans and ownership of the club is irreparable, but we also know Farhad Moshiri will not sell the club at least until after the completion of the new stadium.
He said on TalkSPORT that the project will cost him £760m, a steep increase from the previous “fixed figure” that it now seems we have been lied to about. Is that his idea of the “communication” he attested to in the interview? The man hasn’t even attended a game since October 2021, let alone communicate directly with the fans in any meaningful way.
And so, with all of that said, I head into this Southampton fixture with a heavy heart knowing that the club I love is ripping apart at the seams. The result, although so important, somehow feels so irrelevant. Three points would only serve to yet again paper over the cracks which threaten to irreversibly damage this football club, and subsequently, the amazing community that I have come to know and love over the past 10 years as well as during the months that I called Liverpool home. A win in this game cannot cut out the rot which has infected the entire structure of this historic footballing institution, nor can it comfort the ever-suffering yet ever-amazing fanbase that deserves so, so, so much more. That is the sad truth.
Although hope is fading fast, I urge all Evertonians to do whatever they can to get involved. Go to the coach welcome. Back the team. Sing your heart out before, during, and after the match. Participate in the protest. Continue the discourse regardless of the result. Support your fellow Evertonians. The soul of the club is at stake, and we are the only ones who can save it.