Let's go back to Saturday, 27 February 2016. League Cup Final weekend. For Everton fans, this meant a weekend without football as the Merseyside derby had been postponed due to Liverpool's involvement in the final against Manchester City. An all-too familiar feeling over the last couple of decades for Evertonians, watching on as close rivals Liverpool made yet another final while Everton's only final appearance since 1995 was a 2009 FA Cup Final defeat against Chelsea.
What made it worse this time was that Everton perhaps should have been there with their neighbours, but Roberto Martinez's side, with the help of some dodgy officiating by Mark Clattenburg, squandered a 3-1 aggregate semi-final lead against Man City after a fine Ross Barkley goal looked to be sending them on their way to Wembley.
Back to the 27th, the date that the news broke that would potentially shift the balance on Merseyside and put Everton back to where they belong. The headline read, "Iranian Billionaire Farhad Moshiri buys 49.9% stake in Everton." A weekend in which Everton's name had been erased from the calendar turned out to be a game changer in the history of the club, with the Mersey Millionaires becoming the Mersey Billionaires and, to make the weekend even sweeter, Liverpool lost the League Cup Final on the Sunday.
Reason to be excited, Number 1: Farhad Moshiri
Everton's new majority stakeholder, Farhad Moshiri, has acted quietly thus far, leaving Bill Kenwright to pose for the photos and give the soundbites for the media. While some Evertonians have voiced that they would like Moshiri to address the fans, I'm sure that the majority will be more than happy for him to continue making things happen in the background.
So far he has already shown more action than in the previous regime by listening to the Goodison faithful and sacking Roberto Martinez. Kenwright's comments saying "What a manager" after the Chelsea FA Cup Quarterfinal were seen as cringeworthy by a lot of supporters and it makes you wonder whether Martinez, a manager taking Everton down to the wrong end of the table, would still be in charge if not for the investment from Moshiri.
After the sacking of Martinez, Moshiri then identified Southampton manager Ronald Koeman as his number one target. With Frank de Boer, Manuel Pellegrini and even former Everton boss David Moyes interested and unemployed, it would have been easier (and cheaper) to look elsewhere, but Moshiri was adamant on Koeman; with the power of persuasion and deep pockets, he got his man. By taking a Premier League rival's manager, Everton positioned themselves as big hitters again, much to the frustration of Southampton and certain voices in the media, but much to the delight of Everton fans who can sense that the new man in charge of the club is finally removing the unwanted tag of 'plucky underdogs'.
Reason to be excited, Number 2: Ronald Koeman
European Cup Winner, European Championship Winner, Barcelona Legend, Holland Legend, Everton Manager.
Ronald Koeman is, undoubtedly, a big name in football and with Man City, Man Utd, and Liverpool employing Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp respectively, a big name is exactly what Everton needed to compete with the rest of the Northwest. Historically, with Everton being the fourth most successful English team ever domestically, it is important that they do not get left behind any longer and Koeman is the man that the board trust to take the Merseyside club to the next level.
Since being the assistant manager of Barcelona, Koeman's managerial CV includes Vitesse, Ajax, Benfica, PSV, Valencia, AZ Alkmar, Feyenoord, Southampton and now Everton. 9 different clubs in 15 years suggests that Koeman might not be sticking around for too long but it also signals his ambition. If success at Everton comes before loyalty, leading Koeman to move on in a few years then so be it.
Last week, Koeman was introduced to the fans for the first time and his press conference was very encouraging. He remained coy when asked about the circumstances regarding his departure from Southampton and said he only wanted to look forward, which is what the Everton fans will want to hear.
The most encouraging words from Everton's new manager were his statement of intent and his ambition for getting the club back to where it belongs. "It is important to show ambition to win." he said. "Everybody at Everton is ready to take the next step. Everybody knows the history of Everton, it's a big history and it's nice to be a part of that. To win, to play European cup football, to win titles and everybody in the club is ready to take the next step."
This ambition, coupled with the financial backing from Moshiri, spells exciting times ahead for Everton football club.
Reason to be excited, Number 3: New Stadium?
In an interview with the Liverpool Echo, Bill Kenwright's eluded to Farhad Moshiri's plans for the club. He said, "Farhad absolutely has a vision for this football club. It involves the Champions League and a new stadium." This talk of a new stadium comes just weeks after Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson claimed that Everton will have a new stadium "within three years."
It has now been widely reported that Everton are currently considering the prospect of building a new stadium on two sites: Stonebridge Cross in Croxteth or the North Docks area of Liverpool's famed waterfront. For the fans, the North Docks area seems to be the overwhelming popular choice after the heartbreak of missing out on the club's Kings Dock dream collapsed in 2003.
While Evertonians have every reason to be skeptical after so many failed stadium moves, the Toffees now have the financial clout to back up their efforts, giving fans every reason to dream of a stadium on the waterfront. For now, though, Goodison is still standing strong and set for a summer makeover, which may include a statue for Everton's famous holy trinity â€“ Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey and Alan Ball.
Reason to be excited, Number 4: The players
Finally, to the playing field, where Everton will be playing their first game of the season at home to Spurs on 13 August with a potentially new-look playing squad. The team is facing transition, with stalwarts Tim Howard, Steven Pienaar, Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert leaving the club and more expected to follow.
England centre-back John Stones has been linked with a move to Man City while Belgium's Romelu Lukaku seems to be quoted every day with fresh intention to leave to a club playing in the Champions League. But, while Everton have scrambled to try and hold onto their star players in the past, this time it feels different. This time, the club has the money to offer new bumper contracts to star players and this time the manager and owner have a shared vision of the future to attract a higher calibre of player.
Money couldn't buy Chelsea Stones last year and Ronald Koeman will be hoping that he keeps hold of Stones, Lukaku and Barkley while adding real quality to the team this campaign. If rumours are to be believed, then Koeman will have a Â£100 million 'warchest' to spend on top of any money from player departures. Despite Lukaku overtly seeking pastures new, his agent seems to have had a change of heart, stating that, "EFC don't need money anymore. (Lukaku) wants to play for a club that can win trophies. Something's changed at EFC, there's a new project." This quote from the Belgian's agent aligns with further rumours that Lukaku is set to receive an offer of Â£140k a week to stay at Everton, where he scored 25 goals last term.
Everton have been recently linked with players such as Nani, Axel Witsel, Wayne Rooney and Kevin Strootman, leaving excitement over the changes that will inevitably happen at Goodison over the summer transfer window. Keeping Stones, Lukaku and Barkley whilst spending Â£100 million would be a real statement of intent from both Farhad Moshiri and Ronald Koeman.
Either way, it is certainly an exciting time to be an Evertonian.
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