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FANS COMMENT

If you know your history...

By Art Greeth  :  8/1/07
It was inevitable after the bruising FA Cup defeat that the clamour amongst those calling for drastic change at Everton has grown ever more strident and that yet others, previously continuing to express confidence in the club management, have begun to waiver.

It is only right and proper that people do express their concerns about something they hold dear — namely, the fortunes of Everton Football Club. Football is essentially founded on (often irrational) emotions and passion which cannot be simply turned on and off at a flick of a switch outside the 90 minutes of a game. That said, poor decisions and ill-considered words can result when emotions and passion are let off the lease. There is a need for cooler heads and stronger hearts in turbulent times, but such is the nature of the world in which we now live that every club, every manager, every player and each and every game is instantly analysed and surgically dissected.

I do not care for the excessively negative views submitted on ToffeeWeb. Nor do I subscribe to the cringeworthy sycophancy of contributors at the other end of the spectrum. What I believe I am is a pragmatist and a realist. And what I believe is the following:

Historically, Everton Football Club has until very recently been a great innovator in the game in England. That is no longer the case. Sadly, we have been the architects of our own demise and unless we wish to diminish further until we are little more than a quaint historical throwback to a bygone era, we have to change.

Our demise started in the wake of arguably our most successful period in the mid-1980s. Not only were we winning silverware in style, our club chairman at the time, Philip Carter, was also President of the Football League. We had status and respect throughout the game. Unfortunately, the majority of the clubs turned against Mr Carter and he was dismissed from his post when it was discovered that he was secretly negotiating with the TV companies to form the breakaway Premiership. This ensured that the rich booty that was starting to pour into the game stayed with an elite group, rather than filter down to all 92 league clubs as had been the case until then.

Did we as fans protest…? No… we were happy as the other select clubs to put our snout in the trough.

However, whereas other clubs who were founder members of the Premier League have maximised their new-found wealth and yet others who were outside the original exclusive group have followed good business plans to attain Premiership status, slowly, inexorably, Everton and its famous old stadium have succeeded only in growing shabbier and shabbier with each passing year.

Where other clubs have developed existing stadiums or moved to custom-built new ones, Everton have not done the same in seeking ways to maximise daily, multiple income streams at their home base rather than relying on a single match day every two weeks.

Similarly, whilst less glamorous clubs with a smaller fan base have attracted healthy investment, Everton — other than the Peter Johnson debacle — has been overlooked. Again, did we as fans protest PJ’s arrival? Did we buggery. My recall was one of universal delight amongst Blues that we had landed our very own rich sugar daddy in Hamperman… we were as happy as Chelsea fans when Abramovich bought into his London plaything.

The point I’m making here is that in the main, we Everton supporters are no more, no less than supporters from other clubs, in spite of the romanticised credo derived from the “Evertonians are born not manufactured, we do not choose we are chosen” line. If a rich benefactor came our way, we would turn him upside down and shake out all his spare change… and take his gold fillings for good measure as well.

In that regard, there has been a lot of parochial chest-beating here and elsewhere about a ground move. I don’t want to get sidetracked into a geological survey as was previously the case on here, but the arguments presented then that by moving to Kirkby we were abandoning the city and our fan base were, in my opinion, largely spurious ones.

I take a contrarian view. I think it is remarkable that our fan base has held up at all given our lack of success in the media-driven era of the past 15 years. We should be looking to broaden our fan base, not merely maintain it. And one sure-fire guaranteed way to gain wider appeal is… to have a successful football team, playing attractive football.

As an Evertonian of some 43 years now, I have seen some of the best football ever produced in this country performed by my team in blue. It may be hard to imagine for younger correspondents, but it is not sentimental nonsense — it is true. Sadly, I do not foresee the like of that again in my lifetime unless we consistently show greater business sense and professionalism than we have done since the launch of the Premiership.

Personally, given his starting point with the playing personnel and the finances he inherited, I think David Moyes has achieved a great deal in his tenure. Personally, I don’t subscribe to the infantile view that Bill Kenwright would sacrifice the club rather than give up his “train set”. That is not to excuse either of them or to give them carte blanche. Both are expendable. Both are replaceable.

That said, today Everton Football Club is at a crossroads. The simple solution is not to dismiss Moyes, as some would wish. It is far, far more complex than that. No manager, no matter what his pedigree, could deliver success on the back of how the club has been run in the Premiership era. I believe that to single out any one individual as being the sole reason for our current mediocrity is to pick on a single loose thread in the whole frayed tapestry that is Everton Football Club.

I want success. I do not accept annual relegation battles or mid-table mediocrity. I expect my interest in cup competitions to extend beyond the second week of January. I will not be appeased by a Uefa Cup or top four CL place in the league. I want us competing, regularly, for the game’s top silverware. And I want to do so playing stylish football. Anything else is a compromise.

No… it is time to put parochial sentiment aside. It is time that our professional football club was run like a lean, mean business, generating wealth and maximizing earning opportunities from the Everton brand name. Unless and until that happens, our glorious past will be forgotten in the sands of time. And central to that is… we have to relocate.

I started this piece by saying how, historically, Everton Football Club has until very recently been a great innovator. Amongst many other things, we were:

  • The first club to build a purpose-built football stadium
  • The first club to have all four sides of the stadium with double-decker stands
  • The first club to have a triple-decker stand in Britain
  • And, poignantly, the first club to win the championship on two different home grounds.
Where is the boldness, the vision, the ambition that epitomised Everton until very recently…? Let’s achieve another first. Let’s move, let’s re-energise this club and… let’s become the first club to win the championship on three different home grounds.

Forever optimistic… Forever Blue…

Responses:

In response to Art’s piece relating to the current state of Everton Football Club, I agree that the club has indeed been badly run for the entire Premiership period. Some would argue that it has been badly run for far longer than that.

The only time any major developments have happened in my time of watching was when the gates started to fall and fans vented their feelings in the early 80s. The people who have run the club during the recent past have taken us all for fools and will continue to do so as long as more than 30,000 pass through the gates on a regular basis. They don’t want our hearts and minds: they want our cash.

As money is the only thing that matters to these people, depriving the men who run the club of cash is the only way that the fans will be able to demonstrate that they are dissatisfied with the way things are.

Moving ground will not be a panacea for all the club’s ills; indeed, some would argue that it may in the long term exacerbate the problems and may saddle the club with partners who may not want the same things that the fans want. Whilst I am sure those people who have shares in EFC will welcome the opportunities that a new ground may present, the ordinary fan will find the cost even more prohibitive than it is now.

I don’t believe criticism of the club is a bad thing per se, but it doesn’t really achieve anything if those running the club fail to heed that criticism. There will always be knee-jerk reactions to any result but those who were writing in mid-September have on the whole been proved right. A professional football team that does not appear to work on the basics and has no set pattern of play, aside from throwing the ball up to the strikers and hope that something positive happens, deserves to be criticised.

A manager who, despite witnessing the same 90 minutes as the fans (albeit from a different standpoint), who regularly describes the game in a way which baffles those same fans deserves to be criticised.

Footballers are generally similar to most young men: they need to be presented with targets, they require leadership, and a sense of pride in what they are doing. Asking them to finish in the top ten will leave them feeling that they are on easy street. They will believe that tenth is good enough, and will not go that extra yard to achieve much more than tenth. They will believe that the odd defeat here and there is acceptable as there is no pressure. Sportsmen revel in pressurised situations; they achieve the best results when challenged to do so.

Everton Football Club and its supporters do face a crossroads, but I fear that the supporters are fragmenting and this is dangerous for the club. Supporters need leadership from the club or at least the right signals that the club shares most of its supporters' aspirations. I don’t wish Evertonians to be like the followers of the Reds and blindly nod approval at every thing that their club decides for them. I don’t want Evertonians to use the football club as some political soapbox to promote some injustice or free someone who is incarcerated. I want Evertonians to be what they always have been: free-thinking individuals who, whether right or wrong, call things the way they see it.

I also believe that maybe a solution to the current management problems may lie in giving David Moyes extended gardening leave. He could recharge his batteries, maybe have a fresh look at his situation and comeback a stronger manager. The Manager and players would perhaps realise what they have got and respond accordingly. It’s only an idea, but perhaps this is where Bill let’s himself down as a person with a lack of real imaginative ideas. — John Mcfarlane

I thought Art Geeth's article was splendid, it sums up exactly how I feel about the current situation at the Club. At last we have some positive thinking instead of the constant moaning from what seems like the majority of your correspondants. Come on you Blues! We have to keep going.
Mike Squires

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"Fans Comment" articles are submitted by outside contributors to ToffeeWeb. The views contained therein may not correspond with those of the site owners. Editorial policy



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