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The time for change, Bill, is now

10 March, 2002

Can there be anything more soul-destroying than watching helplessly as something you care about so much spirals out of control toward imminent oblivion? As devoted Evertonians we can do little but watch as the club's seemingly incorrigible tailspin accelerates the club towards the relegation trapdoor and the horror of demotion to the Nationwide League.

The quintessential top flight club, a Premiership without Everton is almost unthinkable. Founder-members of the original Football League 114 years ago, one of the 20 clubs to form the Premier League 104 years later and virtually ever-present in-between, Everton Football Club is part of the very fabric of English football's elite. How tragic it is, therefore, to see 48 consecutive seasons in the top division in such danger of coming to an end while the management appears to be "fiddling while Rome burns".

With just one win (and a mere six goals) in 13 league matches, Walter Smith's direction-less, spineless and passion-less side are taking on the appearance of an outfit destined for disaster. Despite the financial shackles with which Smith has had to cope, he has built a team boasting an array of international players with the potential to comfortably finish halfway up the Premiership table. The excuses about injury crises and lack of squad depth can no longer be served up to defend the abject dearth of imagination and purpose served up by Smith's one-dimensional and demoralising management.

The performances at West Ham and now Middlesbrough are the latest in a succession of miserable displays that lay bare just how bad the situation has become under Smith and Archie Knox. Whatever the reasons and whatever the excuses, it is clear that this pair are utterly failing in their attempts to arrest the slide and put out a team with any offensive capabilities whatsoever. Any talk of the players' respect for the management is in stark contradiction to the dross served up on the field. Put simply, Smith and Knox have reached the end of the road at Goodison Park. There appears to be nothing more for them to offer in order to save what was once a proud institution at the pinnacle of the domestic game; something has to be done now.

I therefore implore Bill Kenwright to summon the courage to act without delay and before it is too late to save Everton from the dreaded drop. Make no mistake, relegation from the Premier League would be catastrophic to a club already struggling with a large debt and a decade-long crisis of confidence.

If Smith and Knox will not do the honourable thing and exit gracefully, it is up to Kenwright to act as the catalyst for change and remove the hapless duo from control of team affairs himself. He has options at his disposal to get the club to the end of the season with their precious top-flight status intact. If a permanent candidate is not yet a viable option, install someone as temporary manager until the end of the season and worry about a full-time replacement in the close season.

George Graham, Terry Venables, Bruce Rioch, Joe Royle; all currently unemployed managers who could come in and act as a spark to motivate the current team and draft in reinforcements before the domestic transfer deadline in 11 days' time, by which time Everton must have a new striker in place for the season run-in if they are to have any hope of survival. In the likes of Gravesen, Linderoth, Blomqvist, Radzinski, Weir, Stubbs, Pistone and Naysmith, the Blues have the bedrock of a team that should not be worrying about relegation. Smith has assembled a decent team on a shoe-string budget but is clearly clueless about how to make them work as a team.

His increasingly baffling team selections, employment of players out of position and ineffectually late substitutions are producing predictable results. His modus operandi, so cruelly exposed by Rangers' failings in Europe during his time at Ibrox, of buying good players and relying on them and not his coaching abilities to produce the goods is useless now that the likes of Hutchison, Barmby, Jeffers, Collins, Dacourt et al are no longer around.

Now is the time for change. With 9 games left -- four of them against teams in the bottom five -- Everton's survival is there for the taking. However, Smith has lost the confidence of his players and the respect of the fans. There is nothing left for him to offer except his resignation and to provide a ray of hope for Everton's desperate supporters that a breath of fresh air can revive our hopes of staying where we belong -- in the top division.

For the love of God, Bill, take action immediately before it is too late.

Lyndon Lloyd

©2002 ToffeeWeb, 10 March, 2002


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