Ronald Koeman never really ‘got’ Everton Football Club. A fine footballing appointment during the summer of 2016, the stoic Dutchman rarely gave much away during his time at Goodison Park, instead seemingly happy to use the club as a stepping stone on the path towards his dream job at Barcelona.
It seems, however, Koeman underestimated what Everton fans expect from their manager, though he got a few hints when he had the audacity to decorate his Christmas tree with red baubles last December. For too long in the shadows of their neighbours across Stanley Park, and without a trophy in 22 years, Toffees supporters want a manager they can believe in and who offers them hope for a brighter future.
Instead they got one who downplayed the club’s expectations despite an encouraging seventh-place finish last season and a summer spend of £140 million. Slamming Jose Mourinho’s claims that Everton should be challenging for the top four was unedifying, but it also sent a message to those who pay good money to watch the team week in, week out: one of defeat.
On the pitch, the team of expensively assembled stars matched their manager’s dour attitude towards taking the next step and competing with the very best. Too many times they were torn apart defensively by sides many had tipped them to be competing with. Even against Burnley and Brighton they were second best.
Of course Koeman’s attitude was not exclusively what got him sacked. David Moyes routinely talked down Everton’s expectations in the media yet remained in situ for 11 years, though some fans never truly warmed to him. Where Moyes’s tenure differs with Koeman’s is that the Scot overachieved on a shoestring budget, with Bill Kenwright tightening the pursestrings at every opportunity.