I read and enjoyed Chris Hallenbrook’s piece “To Hate Everton Or Pity Them?” a couple of weeks ago. He outlined his reasonably complicated relationship with the blue side of the Merseyside Derby and listed a number of teams with which he finds himself more preoccupied. At a glance at the title, my first instinct was to conclude that it is the former. Can there really be any debate about our relationship with our oldest and closest rivals and the extent of the beef?
For me, the second the fixture list is released in the summer my eyes are immediately drawn to the Derby. It’s the one that puts butterflies in my stomach for days. The Everton match stirs the soul like no other. Manchester United runs a close second. The emergence of Manchester City and Chelsea adds a degree of weight to those clashes. But Everton is the team you just HAVE to beat above all else. This is how a local rivalry should be.
A Second Stay Of Execution
Last season, Everton stared down the barrel of relegation and nearly succumbed. A rejuvenated fanbase combined with an inspired Richarlison edged them over the line in dramatic fashion at Goodison Park. That moment will live long in the memory of a club starved of the more tangible successes their “younger brothers” have mustered in recent years.
This season there is a very real possibility that Everton won’t be as fortunate. Lightning will not strike twice even with Sean Dyche at the helm. The prospect of our neighbors being relegated to the second tier of English football almost felt too good to be true last campaign. However, the steady decline of one of the country’s worst-run footballing institutions has led them down this path once more. Chris alludes to it in his piece and cites how Everton’s potential relegation could split sections of supporters. Geographical factors are possibly in play. Locals who’ve grown up in and around the city are immeasurably more exposed to Evertonians and their unique attitudes than supporters further afield.
Would We Miss The Derby Too Much?
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Nevertheless, for me, ambivalence towards Everton is not a vantage point I can get on board with. My counterargument is to look north to Glasgow. Do you think Celtic supporters were saddened to see Rangers fall into administration? Better yet, did the Hoops shed a tear when they were relegated to the third division in Scotland? It made the Old Firm Derby a fixture in jeopardy for several years. Good riddance! Tribalism is part of what makes football so great and unique. Rivalries need cherishing and derbies are to be put on a pedestal with good reason. When Liverpool lost to Madrid in Kyiv in 2018, videos circulated with Everton fans draped in Madrid gear. They celebrated in The Brick Pub on County Road as though they themselves had just lifted the European Cup.
Looking Forward Not Back
This feud is far removed from the “Friendly Derby” of the 1970s where Reds and Blues coexisted with minimal crowd segregation. Perhaps that tag is partly to blame for Liverpool’s biggest rival remaining something of a grey area. It is worth remembering though that any pity extended to Everton won’t be met with reciprocation. It’s how a local rivalry should be.
Admittedly, during my school days, Manchester United concerned me more. The Red Devils won everything in sight that glory-hunting children attached themselves to. It was enough to put any sane person off the idea of following Liverpool as fanatically as I have done in the ensuing years.
Perhaps the decline of United since Fergie’s retirement has influenced the shift of my ire towards the blue half of Merseyside in my adult life. I almost refuse to accept the validity of friction with Manchester City out of spite. From what I gather, the quotient of City support in the States is far larger than over here. Conversely, encountering an Evertonian abroad, perhaps even out of the L postcode, is far less likely. The indifference for Everton outside of the Merseyside fishbowl is pretty understandable.
This Season’s Perspective
Right now we haven’t got a whole lot to shout about from our side of Stanley Park. Those of us with a desire to see Everton go down had the small matter of the quadruple chase to focus on just one season ago. The fall from grace on all fronts moves Everton’s fortunes further to the forefront of our minds this year.
Despite the bigger picture looking bleaker than it has for a number of years, this feels like the derby to end all derbies. The phrase “derby belly” refers to feelings of trepidation in the buildup. Mine has kicked in significantly earlier than usual as Liverpool’s current form has sped up the onset. Even if it doesn’t quite carry the same anxieties for you, please keep us Liverpudlians in your thoughts on Monday. Who knows? It might be the last derby we see for a while!