Somebody call the waaaambulance! The boo-boys were out in force again at Goodison Park on Monday, loudly voicing their displeasure with Roberto Martínez and his Everton team. This time, it was Martínez’ substitution of midfielder Muhamed Bešić that irked the home crowd, though it was not the first time this season supporters have BOOOOOed the manager. After a whopping one season of soccer — one that combined entertainment with results for the first time in decades at Goodison — fans seem to feel entitled. Martínez is not without fault, but he must be wondering what happened to all the goodwill he earned last season.
After an impressive fifth place finish in his Everton debut, Martínez and his men have fallen off. The Toffees are currently lingering in 12th, firmly in the Premier League’s “This Could Go Either Way” zone. That is not exactly Borussia Dortmund-levels of underachievement, but it is still only four points away from the drop zone. With teams like Crystal Palace and West Brom looking poised to climb the table in the second half of the season, Everton could find itself in a late relegation scrap.
Even in the face of that harsh reality, some fans are coming off as spoiled brats. When David Moyes dumped Everton for Manchester United, a large portion of the fanbase didn’t exactly shower him in gratitude. In fact, they felt the club had upgraded to a more promising, progressive manager in Martínez. They took no shortage of pleasure in mocking Moyes when he inevitably struggled at Old Trafford, with “Stuck with Moyes” a popular ditty that now seems especially stupid. Moyes’ Everton teams may have never been sexy, but they were tough, well-organized, and reliable – qualities for which the current team is crying out.
With Moyes enjoying something of a resurgence in sunny Spain with Real Sociedad (San Sebastián isn’t technically that sunny, but stay with me), those Everton fans are getting a taste of schadenfreude. Moyes was clearly out of his depth at United, but his real legacy as a manager is what he did at Goodison Park. For years, Moyes kept Everton between fourth and seventh on a relatively meager budget. Maybe the consistency of the Moyes years coupled with Martínez’ instant success led to some to take their team’s place in the league for granted.
Everton supporters should know better than to act so entitled. The nauseating Premier League hype machine may not be right in claiming the league is “the best in the world,” but it is definitely one of, if not the most competitive. Many a team has quickly gone from around the top four to relegation fodder. The Champions League places may now be an exclusive club, and there is usually at least one relegation-doomed no-hoper every season, but the other 15-or-so clubs are arguably interchangeable. There is always the chance that some less-fancied club does a 2014-2015 Southampton, or that some well-established club does a 2003-2004 Leeds.
On top of that competitive nature, Toffees’ supporters also need to be realistic about their manager. Often overlooked amid the praise for Martínez winning the FA Cup with Wigan is the fact that he got the club relegated in the same season. Martínez is rightly applauded for the attractive brand of soccer that his teams usually play — “tippy tappy bollocks”, as Big Sam calls it — but he’s yet to show he can build a team that can defend to save its life. He is still a young manager, and Everton is by far the biggest job of his career. Hiccups should be expected.
But instead of showing a bit of faith in their promising manager, some fans have decided to throw their toys out of the pram. They want exciting soccer, they want to win all the games and they want it NOW. In time, Martínez may well get shown up as a fraud who is more likeable than he is capable, and those booing fans will get to say “I told you so.” But only a few months after guiding the club to within spitting distance of the Champions League, he at least deserves a little more patience. By all means, fans are entitled to question the decision-making of their team’s manager, but they don’t have to be whiny little prats about it.