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Not all doom and gloom
Rob Fox analyses the current situation at Goodison

13 May 2004

Having read the deluge of recent articles on ToffeeWeb regarding the current situation at Everton FC, I have reacted with various nods and shakes of the head in response to the views expressed.  So, rather than develop some strange twitchyitis, I thought I'd respond in writing.  It's tempting to pick at the points people have made that I disagree with, but I think it'd be better to simply express my own opinions on what I have witnessed recently, so forgive me if I get a bit carried away.  EFC gets you like that.

First off, a few facts:

  • Everton won the First Division Championship in 1985 and 1987.  Biggest signings of the period were Adrian Heath and Gary Lineker at £800k apiece.  Not peanuts; but not astronomical either.
  • Since 1987, Everton have been on a gradual downward spiral.  Off the top of my head, I can recall TWO top 6 finishes in that time (under Harvey & Royle).  This is despite breaking our own transfer record on numerous occasions including the British record to sign Tony Cottee.
  • Due to poor personnel recruitment (managers and players) in terms of value for money, we have accumulated unwieldy debts.
  • Our revenue streams are insufficient to compete financially with the majority of Premier League Clubs.
  • Supporter loyalty is excellent with very high expectations in comparison to clubs with similar turnover, and even many with far greater turnover.

Seeing things like that, it hardly seems surprising we have endured yet another dismal season on the pitch.  But that's the crux of my article, as what we see on the pitch is our only real insight into what goes on at Goodison Park.  More or less everything else is conjecture and speculation.  I am not privy to what goes on at any level of EFC other than what I see during a match.  I would speculate that nobody reading this is either.  What then is the point of this article if I have so little factual information to draw on?  Well, like everyone else, I'm entitled to an opinion... so I'll just have to go with what I've got.

First off: finances.  It seems clear that none of the current Board of Directors are prepared to invest personally in the Club.  Whether this is through choice or necessity, I can only speculate.  Paul Gregg seems to be in most people's sights as our major problem at boardroom level, given that he is seen as being very wealthy but reluctant to part with his cash (altyhough he has already sunk a cool 7M into Everton via True Blue Holdings.  My knowledge of business is fundamental, but even I understand that having a large personal fortune doesn't necessarily equate to cash in the bank.  If Bill Kenwright's assets were valued, they would include his shareholding in EFC.  Does this mean he has that money nestling in his bank account?  Of course not and the same goes for Paul Gregg or anyone else.  I don't know how much Mr Gregg might currently have available to invest in EFC if he were so inclined and neither do you.  And we never will.

My point is that such speculation clouds the real issues.  The real problem as far as I can see is that the Board prefer to keep information private.  From what I have read, Sir Philip Carter is a staunch traditionalist who believes in protecting the good name of EFC by keeping as much as he possibly can in-house.  I also suspect that he and his cohorts (Kenwright excepted) are not comfortable in the spotlight and are unsure as how to deal with the media; hence the appointment of Ian Ross, a journalist, to deal with PR.  As a supporter, this is obviously frustrating as we all want someone to say "don't worry, everything's going to be OK."  But look around; who can truthfully say that to their supporters?  Arsenal or Man. U can't guarantee the title or the Champions League, which is where their supporter's expectations lie.  Even Chelsea, for all their new found wealth can't offer any guarantees.

We live in uncertain times, so what do we do?  Chase the gravy train and turn out either like Leeds or Chelsea; or keep our heads down and wait for saner times, which believe me will come eventually.  Every bubble bursts in the end.  Do we really want the likes of Colonel Gaddafi or Roman Abramovich using our club as his plaything?  This is not to say we shouldn't strive for success, but we should have a clear strategy to follow within self-imposed restrictions.  Do the Board have this?  I don't know... a quick scan says not; but there are a few signs that the club are gradually moving in the right direction.  Depends where you choose to look, and you can all do that for yourselves.  What I do know is it won't happen overnight.

Which brings us neatly to Season Ticket prices a thorny issue at the moment.  Let's look at the bald facts: Every non-Evertonian I have spoken to (not kopites, I hasten to add) think £393 is reasonable, dare I say quite cheap, for a Premier League season ticket.  Of course, the whole thing could have been handled a whole lot better, suggesting a knee-jerk reaction by the club to solving our problems.  Mr Dunford's comments regarding the timing, although partially accurate, are glib and have rubbed salt into the wounds for many Blues.  Maybe the comments should have been left to Mr Ross.

In broad business terms, it is difficult to argue with the new pricing; in human terms, it is bound to have a huge financial impact on many Blues.  However, if we had stuffed Blackburn 5-0, the medicine would have tasted a lot sweeter, but the financial reality would be the same.  Losing just brought everything into sharp focus.  However, once the dust settles, I suspect most Blues buoyed by being linked with a glut of players we won't end up signing will find the money in the end.  Dunford knows this, but should learn to keep such thoughts to himself and simply tell us what the increased revenue will be used for.  But he won't, so it's a leap of faith.  Either the money will be used to invest in players... or it won't.  Time will tell; the Board won't.  And truthfully, what would really be gained if they did?

If the Board tells the world "David Moyes will have £7,350,453.68p exactly to spend this summer," how would that help us?  Suddenly, Fulham would want £7,350,453 for Sean Davis (you can keep the 68p).  As for the romantic view expressed in another article that greater fan representation is the answer: it isn't.  The Board knows what Evertonians want and they don't feel the need to tell us whether were going to get it.  This makes them like the majority of boards in every business.  Does this mean they treat us with contempt.? Read the chapter "the Blues In Europe" in Andy Nicholls' book and make up your own mind. 

Do the words product, commodity and profit ring any bells?  Having said all that, I believe Bill Kenwright loves EFC as much as I do, so therefore at board level I pin all my faith in him. 

  • Everton make a profit = Paul Gregg happy.
  • The brandy is at the right temperature and the windows are shut to block out the noise = Phil Carter and his merry men happy. 
  • Everton win = Bill Kenwright happy.

That's how I see it and that's what gives me hope.  At times, this gives me sleepless nights also; but truthfully, what other choice do we have?

So who else can we can turn to to give us hope?  The manager is David Moyes, and I don't care what you think; I still believe in him.  My faith has wavered very slightly at times, but not often, not much, and not for long.  His latest comments regarding being embarrassed at our survival, not pleased, cement my faith.  People have said "Moyes is a winner."  He would say "I haven't won nothing yet," but I know that fact will piss him off and make him hungrier to succeed.

Yes he is on a learning curve — erm, what did you expect?  You really believed he was the messiah?  Grow up; nobody's perfect.  Last season, he walked on water; this year, he's out of his depth.  Ever thought maybe he's somewhere between the two?  Who would you swap him for?  O' Leary, McLaren, Bruce, Jones, Souness, Megson, Dowie, Hart?  I mention Hart because he was the Great White Hope 12 months ago; now he's a leper.  Knee-jerk reactions?  Look at the bigger picture... O' Leary?  He'd shit on his kids to keep himself clean; McLaren?  Smug as fuck; Bruce?  What will he do when things go wrong?  Walk away again?  Shall I go on?

The grass is always greener...

Do you trust Moyes?  I do; straight as a die, I would go as far as saying.  So why have things gone wrong?  Let's go back to the beginning: impact.  Moyes had one; he was a breath of fresh air.  Everyone responded, "that's what happens when someone comes in and shakes things up."  We got some momentum, surprised a few people with our style of play, then tailed off badly.  That poor form has continued into this season.  Why?  Let's break it down into what Moyes might have viewed what he had  work with:

The ones he started with were not good enough, brought in Richard Wright.  Big improvement on the others, still a bit to learn but lots of good qualities.  Iain Turner, great prospect from the Scottish Third Division; cost £50,000 well spotted.  Wright was then injured; bring in Nigel Martyn to plug the gap.

Threadbare.  Best defender in his 30's as is his sidekick; and the deputy is knocking on too; lack of fit fullbacks: overhaul required.  Yobo, looks class: young and dynamic.  Get him for a year with a view to permanent deal, at £4.5M a steal. Patch the rest up; bring in that young right back a bit raw but tenacious and eager.  Monitor the other young 'uns... hmm not convinced.

A hotch potch: no wide players.  Gravesen has got ability but is erratic; funny ideas but a decent lad the only one with any creativity.  Not much else.  Pembo's not bad but he's knocking on a bit; that Gemmill must be in his 30's too.  A few willing water carriers but not much drive or leadership.  Keep an eye on young Osman just coming back from injury.  Need reinforcements, but quality midfielders cost a lot of money.  Need to be patient...

On paper it looks good... but hang on: Ferguson's never fit, Campbell's past his best (wonder how much them two are on...) must only have a year or so left each, surley?  Radzinski; looks mustard... wonder why he doesn't score many?  That Chadwick's a bit raw, but not bad.  Bloody hell, that stocky kid's a bit good: great play, shame about the finish; still, that'll come.

So; an ageing defence, a pedestrian midfield, and a profligate, Securicor-sponsored, forward line.  So where does that leave me for the future?

  • Martyn, Wright, Turner - sound (all my signings too)
  • Yobo, Hibbert, Naysmith - need to flesh that out
  • Kilbane, Gravesen, McFadden, Linderoth, and that Chinese lad they sent me what was his name again? hardly Champions League material, but at least young Faddy might be top class, not gonna carry us through a season though.
  • Rooney
  • Osman (maybe), Clarke and Chadwick (same as what I've got really)
  • Weir, Stubbs, Campbell, Gemmill (too old)
  • Unsworth, Radzinski, Ferguson, Watson (not far off being also too old, and them last two are mostly unavailable)
  • Carsley, Nyarko (not good enough)

How much money have I got for reinforcements?  I see... can I get rid of a few?  No, not yet.  Oh, ok.  Go on then, smart arse, you do better?

This season he has had a number of fringe players waiting to go, senior professionals he can't rely on, and a very unbalanced squad.  Look at the money he has spent and I think he has done exceptionally well with it.

Yobo, Wright, Rodrigo, Martyn, Kilbane, McFadden, Jeffers - ~£12M.  (I've included £1M apiece as outlay for Jeffers and Rodrigo for a year let's face it, it's easy to criticise these loan deals with hindsight; but that's why they came in on loan!)

  • Diouf:  11M
  • Veron:  15M
  • I won't even mention Man City's outlay.

Moyes is on record as saying "I'm Scottish, so I'll be tight with the club's money."  A Yobo a year (plus a couple of other decent players) for 3 years and will he be complaining then?

In the last few months, he has tried to bring in Leigh Mills, Danny Szetela, and now Ashley Williams.  Do you see many other Premiership managers being that far sighted?  Only one: Arsne Wenger.  How much has he spent on most of his players?  Prudency sometimes pays off.

Now, you can mention tactics all you like, but we rarely get outclassed despite having a frankly appalling midfield.  I have seen games where I have been able to count the number of genuine tackles by our central-midfield pairing on one hand.  Joe Parkinson and Peter Reid put that many in during the warm-ups! 

Our only wide men are Kilbane, who has done well and cost very little, compared to say Stephen Reid (not set the world alight) or Andy Reid (a gamble at £6M) and Faddy, a talented player brought in for THE FUTURE.  Is it Moyes fault he inherited strikers who at times make Jigsaw look like Henry? 

An ageing, injury-prone defence?  Has he been given the resources to put things right?  Look at how the players he has CHOSEN (Martyn, Yobo, Kilbane) have performed.  Do you really think we wouldn't improve if he could continue to do bring his own choice of player in?

I have scratched my head at times at his team selections, but I don't know much of what goes on behind the scenes.  It would have been an easy decision to play Jeffers from the start against Spurs, but he made the right choice for the team, knowing the likely consequences with Jeffers.  Would every manager do that?  Or would they make a non-controversial selection to keep the peace?

Although this has been a dismal season, and believe me it hurts like hell being a Blue at the moment, that doesn't mean it has to be all doom and gloom.  If, like me, you believe in people, then hold on, as we are not dead in the water yet. Let's wait and see what the summer brings; then you can tell me you told me so.

Rob Fox

Reader responses

What a great in depth article, (from a supporter's perspective) by Rob Fox. Down to earth, and, in every aspect a true reflection on the two year reign of our manager.We as supporters are a fickle group, but, we at Goodison have shown in the past, and the present, that we will support our team through thick and thin, and I firmly believe that Moysey will turn it around in the coming seasons. Rob made the comment at how the players that Moysey signed, not loaned, have performed. Therefore, it should bode well that given at least some backing by the board in the terms of money, that whomever Moyes invests in, will compete, and, that is all we, as supporters ask for. The only contraversial point that I have is this: Birmingham City have just announced a 10 million pound deal with a shirt sponsor. Ours was, and still is, for 1 million? — Jimmy Daly


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2004 ToffeeWeb


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