Football: Kenwright the right man to lift those Blues

Jimmy Mulville, the actor-writer and Everton fan, presents a case for change ahead of the club's AGM
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The Independent Online
Nil Satis Nisi Optimum. The first piece of Latin my father translated for me. In fact, the only piece of Latin my father translated for me. He was very keen I should know what it meant. No, it wasn't my school motto. It wasn't a vital piece of religious wisdom which would strengthen my young soul. It was much more momentous than that. Nil Satis Nisi Optimum is the motto of Everton FC. It was his football team and he wanted me to love them as much as he did. That's why he took me to my first game when I was two. (It was against Bolton in 1958. As the family myth goes, I tried to throw jelly babies to the players from my seat. At least it wasn't the seat.)

All five of his brothers were Evertonians. I had no choice in the matter and I'm glad of it. I always feel slightly sorry for men who have had to invent a love for a football team in their adult years as as social accessory, even more so as they inevitably end up choosing the most successful club at the time.

For the first 23 years of my life, my father and I shared a passion for Everton; the good years and the bad. Then in 1978 he died, before the great Kendall years of the Eighties. Our Everton suddenly became My Everton. And now, 40 years after my first match, I still go regularly to Goodison Park with my stepfather, John. (My mother's prevailing good taste helped her choose another Evertonian.) We now have posh, heated, cushioned seats just a stone's throw from the chairman Peter Johnson. So, what's the problem?

Everton are beginning to take root near the bottom of the Premiership and the teams above are moving North for the winter. Ordinarily, this is nothing to panic about. It is still early days. But something is rotten in the state of Everton. Goodison is turning Badison. For the first time, I can countenance my team taking the big drop. Someone wake me up, pour a cup of cold Bovril in my ear, slap me in the face. Any minute now I will be conducting an orchestra of penguins with no trousers on and then I'll come to; Everton will be fifth and playing intelligent, attractive football.

Tell me Everton haven't been in a steady decline throughout the Nineties. The real Everton have been taken over by aliens who come from a planet where everything is upside down, which means that really we're top of the League.

I feel powerless. Every week, I and 36,000 others gather at the bed of the patient who three years ago was promised a lasting cure by a certain Dr Johnson. But recently the patient has been transferred to a hospice. Nevertheless, we all gather and pray and hope. Hope tells me that Mr Johnson might wake up one morning and say: "Only kidding, Howard, here's a blank cheque. Go and buy three first-class players who are fit to wear blue and white."

I feel like a kid whose Dad has just keeled over in the street clutching his chest, and in his panic starts running up to strangers. "Can you help me, mister? I don't know what to do. He's just lying there. Motionless.Don't let him die. He's not much, I know, but he's all I've got. I just want him back the way he was. I knew this would happen. He's been hanging out with some strange people the last few years. I knew they weren't looking after him. They said they were his friends and he trusted them but they've let him down. He's lost almost everything. His self- respect, his dignity and now his health. Won't somebody do something?"

As you've probably spotted I'm not entirely rational about all this. But rational is not what is required right now. Later, sure. But now we need emotional, we need passionate, we need angry, we need "not-with-my- club-you-don't-ness".

And so I am taking the opportunity to make a timely plea. Tomorrow is Everton FC's AGM. I hope it will be as well supported as the team is. I hope that when the minutes of the last meeting have been approved, when the accounts which show Everton to be still in heavy debt have been ratified, and when Mr Johnson has run through a few more delusional promises, the shareholders will, with as much decorum as befits a true Everton supporter, ask Mr Johnson to cash in his chips, take his projected pounds 40m profit and go. We Evertonians need to be left alone to sort out this mess.

Not that I have anything against Mr Johnson personally. I don't know him well enough to dislike him. We've never spoken. But then I don't feel alone in this. He has hardly spoken to any of the fans. He remains a cold, aloof figure, as tightly wrapped as one of the hampers out of which he's made his much-vaunted millions.Johnson and his henchman,Cliff Finch, haven't managed to keep their promises. If they had been elected by a free vote, they would have been kicked out of office by now. Football is a business, sure. But it is a business that seeks to entertain by providing fans with the success we at Everton expect.

Time is running out for Johnson and his sidekicks. But who will replace them? It was rumoured recently the Sultan of Brunei wanted it for his two boys, but apparently he got confused when one of them said he wanted a cowboy outfit for Christmas. A few years back, when the Moores family were foolishly persuaded to sell their shares to Mr Johnson, another contender was in the frame but gave way conceding that Johnson had the financial muscle to get Everton back on track. We all know that muscle has turned out to be rather flaccid.

The loser of that race was the theatre impresario Bill Kenwright. Is he the man to do it for Everton? His life-long support of the club reassures this fan that he would not leave any investor unturned in the pursuit of bettering Everton's future. Every week he's persuading hard-headed romantics to part with their cash to fund West End plays. Convincing investors to get involved with a Premiership veteran like Everton should be a cake-walk by comparison.

He may be a bit showbiz for some, but rather that than the undertaker's assistants who at present hold sway. He understands what it is like to be a fan, to be an Evertonian. And there's something else. Kenwright also knew from an early age the meaning of Nil Satis Nisi Optimum. "Nothing but the Best is Good Enough." Maybe there's still time for Mr Johnson to take a crash course in Latin.

Jimmy Mulville is managing director of Hat-trick Productions. He produced the football satire "Eleven Men Against Eleven" for Channel 4.

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