EVERTON know what they don’t want to be, but not so much what they want to be. One of English football’s most historic and esteemed clubs, the Goodison Park outfit harbour big ambitions. They’ve had enough of being Everton, plucky underdogs with more bark than bite. Instead, they want to be a bona fide member of the elite.
In holding this raw ambition, the Toffees have somewhat lost sight of their core identity. They have attempted to follow the precedent set by the likes of Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino, but have only succeeded in becoming a pale imitation of anything produced by either coach. Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman and Marco Silva were meant to modernise Everton. All they did was take Everton furtokaher away from fulfilment.
Duncan Ferguson is a product of this fragmentation of identity. The former striker who made over 200 appearances for the Toffees has been installed to hold the fort while the decision makers plot the way forward. But before Everton decide on their preferred candidate, with Carlo Ancelotti widely believed to be the frontrunner for the job, they must recognise why Ferguson has managed to get something of his players that Silva before him never could.
— Everton (@Everton) December 16, 2019
Against Chelsea and Manchester United, Everton have looked comfortable in their own skin again. Ferguson has revitalised the team on the pitch and those in the stands by going back to basics, by going back to what the Toffees have always done best. He has them fighting again. He has them looking like Everton again.
This isn’t to say that Ferguson should get the job on a permanent basis. There is little doubt that the Scot has reinvigorated Everton, but the Toffees need someone with a long term vision for the future of the club. Ferguson has yet to demonstrate that he has this beyond demanding full commitment from his players in the interim.
Rather than aiming to be a Man City or Tottenham, Everton should be looking to emulate the likes of Atletico Madrid. They too were underdogs in their own city for generations. This allowed Diego Simeone to adopt an approach that would have been rejected by more illustrious clubs with more entitled fanbases. Unprecedented success followed for Atleti.
Everton find themselves in a similar sort of situation. They will never be as illustrious as Liverpool, but that opens up a number of different options to them. Goodison Park isn’t the Emirates Stadium. While the Toffees’ support might not have relished the hoof and hunt game professed by Sam Allardyce, they aren’t a fanbase accustomed to free-flowing, passing football. They don’t have the same engrained hangups that some supporters do.
As he keeps reiterating, Ferguson will eventually return to a coaching role, vacating the manager’s position to someone with a stronger track record and a plan for Everton’s future. “'I think in the future I'll look to progress to be a manager,” he said after the draw against Manchester United on Sunday. “Now I know I can do it in one game, but of course it was only one game. It was emotional, exciting, fantastic, and in the future possibly I can move into management.”
“Hopefully the club will find the right [manager],” the Scot went on to remind anyone putting him forward for the position. “We want the best managers in the world managing our football club.” Nobody could ever accuse Ferguson of acting in his own self-interest. He is right to point out Everton’s need for a top tier manager. But whoever sits in the Goodison Park dugout next mustn’t ignore the success Ferguson has had in a very short space of time and the reasons for it. They must form the basis of what comes next.