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Watching Everton is starting to become fun again

There is still a long way to go, but the green shoots of recovery are there

Everton v Chelsea - Premier League - Goodison Park Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images

Full disclosure. I originally wrote this article last month, getting it ready for publication for the afternoon of 17 November.

There was a feel-good factor around the club after a win at Crystal Palace lifted them up to 14th in the Premier League, eight points clear of the drop zone, with the blessed relief of a season without the spectre of relegation on the horizon. Freed from those shackles watching Everton had started to become fun again.

Then the points deduction happened.

All of a sudden Everton were plunged back into crisis and this blog was unceremoniously spiked.

But what has happened in the three weeks since has been nothing sort of remarkable.

Everton FC v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Everton v Chelsea - Premier League - Goodison Park Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images

Three wins in the space of a week without conceding a goal has lifted the Toffees back out of the drop zone, nearly wiping out the entire deduction the space of four games.

Everton feels like a team transformed. The burning injustice of the points deduction uniting a previous fractured club.

That said, it would be doing Sean Dyche and his a players a huge disservice to pin their revival solely on the galvanizing effect of that extraordinary harsh Premier League punishment. Dyche has slowly been turning the ship around since the start of the season - hence my original blog.

But the fire and fury following the deduction, the feeling of Everton against the world, the terrific work of the 1878s. It has brought everyone together - on and off the pitch - in a way I have not seen for a very long time.

It feels like Evertonians have got their club back.

Everton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images
Everton FC v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Sean Dyche seems to have hit upon a style, formation and line-up that works, and it is finally giving Evertonians a team to be proud of again.

It contains elements of two of my favourite Everton teams from times gone by - Joe Royle’s ‘Dogs of War’ in 1995 and David Moyes’ side during the first few years of his tenure in the early 2000s.

Solid, aggressive, organised and tough to break down, with the occasional sprinklings of stardust. If feels now that an opponent will have to play well if they are to beat Everton.

That has always been the minimum expectation of the fans, but for too long it has been all too easy for opponent to breeze past the Toffees.

There have been fleeting moments of joy and excitement, the odd win here, a great goal to nick a point there. But all too often it has been followed by a crushing disappointment. Even the joy of winning a match, particularly in the latter part of the last two seasons, has been quickly suppressed by the worry that more points were needed to avoid the drop.

The most exciting time was probably the flying start made by Carlo Ancelotti’s side in 2020-21. But that was under the dark, looming shadow of Covid, with fans locked out of empty cavernous stadiums.

Fans are supposed to enjoy going to the match. Sadly, for many it had become a chore, or even an obligation.

Who can forget the double defeat at Bournemouth immediately before the World Cup break?

The miserable home thrashing by Brighton?

The only side to lose to Nathan Jones’ Southampton in the Premier League?

The hammering by Newcastle in April that made us fear it was all over?

AFC Bournemouth v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Maybe, just maybe, there is some light at the end of the tunnel and those days can be put behind us.

There are caveats of course. Dyche is relying on around 15 or 16 players maximum. Even a handful of injuries and the team is stretched. The weight of much of Everton’s attacking play still largely rests on the shoulders of Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

There is also still only four points between the Toffees and the relegation zone, with no guarantee their appeal will win back some of the 10 so harshly taken away from them.

Then there is the uncertainty of the club’s shaky finances and the protracted takeover by 777 Partners.

Everton FC v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

But if the last few years, hell the last few weeks, it has taught me anything about Everton, it is enjoy the moment, as you never know what disappointment is around the corner.

So, for now, just relish an Everton team that seems to have rediscovered its identity and got the fans dreaming of a brighter future once more.