Everton's season of promise has become a campaign of misery once again
In football, the trouble with having a rich and wonderful past is that the present can seem pretty tame. That is how things seem to be for Everton, whose fans appear to live in a constant state of angst, pining for the days when their team could genuinely mix it up with the best in the land.
The supporters know that that was then and this is now. They also realise other clubs have the spending power to blow them away, yet they're unhappy and have been for a few years now. They want at least a glimpse of success and a team playing stylish, successful football.
Older supporters remember the brilliant midfield of Howard Kendall, Alan Ball and Colin Harvey and the two titles in three years in the mid-1980s, when they also won the European Cup Winners' Cup. Yet nowadays, they seem somewhat lost, even when boosted by the funds of Iranian owner Farhad Moshiri.
Recent managers Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce were, to be blunt, hounded out. Now Marco Silva, seen as a bright young talent when he was appointed, is facing the music after losing eight of the last 11 Premier League games, including Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Watford, and losing in the FA Cup to Millwall. His team lack a clear identity, have had no natural goal scorer since Romelu Lukaku left for Manchester United and are suckers for conceding set-piece goals.
Was Silva such a smart appointment? Closer inspection of his Premier League record suggests he may have flattered to deceive. His Hull team improved but still got relegated, while his stay at Watford was too short to draw any firm conclusions. He was fired at Vicarage Road for fluttering his eyes at Everton and, in Watford's view, becoming distracted. Yet Everton saw something special in him and, since he's only six months into the job, presumably they still do.
Given the power of the top six, the Toffees would regard a "best of the rest" seventh place a success. Their chances of hitting even that target took a blow after losing to Watford, where Silva was labelled a " snake" by fans of his former club.
There's plenty of blame to go around beyond Silva. Moshiri cannot be accused of failure to invest in support of those lofty ambitions but many signings have played to mixed reviews (and that's putting it kindly). Yannick Bolasie, Davy Klaassen, Morgan Schneiderlin, Sandro Ramirez and Ashley Williams proved poor investments, while even Gylfi Sigurdsson, Cenk Tosun, Michael Keane and Theo Walcott have not looked quite the same players in Everton blue as they did elsewhere.
As bad as it is at Goodison Park, Everton can't go on firing managers and they're in no threat of being relegated, so what is the point in rushing to judgment? Silva's problem, it seems, is that he's at a club where expectations are high. He's charged with producing a team that is easy on the eye while also challenging for honours. No pressure, then.
In today's demanding climate, Silva may only have until the summer to prove he can get the club on the right track. If he fails, it will be another sign of the times at Everton. Keeping the customers satisfied at Goodison has proved to be a tough task at a great club that's almost been dwarfed by its own shadow.