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Kirkby or Bust

By Greg Hunt :  22/01/2008 :  Comments (0) :

I voted for Kirkby. There, I?ve said it. Don?t be so surprised ? there?s a lot of us out there, even, whisper it, a majority of Evertonians. It?s just that we don?t make such a lot of noise as those who are opposed to the move.

I can only speak for myself, but I imagine the things that I thought about before voting are the same as for a lot of other pro-Kirkbyites. So this is what we think.

I?m not enthusiastic about leaving Goodison ? voting for Kirkby is giving Goodison its death sentence and I hate that idea. Not only has it been Everton?s home for 116 years, but it?s been the place I?ve watched Everton all my life. The place is full of memories for me. I was a bit of late starter at 12 years? old ? my first match was a dull mid-week 0-0 draw with Man City in late ?89 (Kendall?s first match back in Britain). Sharp hit the post from 20 yards and that was pretty much it.

But I loved it. We were sat in the Lower Bullens I had two City fans sat in front of me, talking about Gary Megson?s square head. I laughed at this, but my brother stared at me, saying I shouldn?t laugh at a former player. I loved the smell of the cigarette smoke in the stands. My mind often wanders to thinking about midweek games at Goodison under the lights whenever I catch a whiff of tobacco.

There are so many memories: the oohs and aahs that could be heard pretty much whenever Beardsley touched the ball, him scoring the winner against the Reds in the derby; Johnston smashing an 88th minute winner against Villa after an amazing and unexpected dribble and crossfield pass from Ablett; Ferguson v Liverpool (take your pick), Kanchelskis?s goal vs Leeds after Watson?s sending off; the roar that went round the ground when Parkinson scored vs Villa; Radzinski vs Southampton? I?m going to stop now, I?ve got goose bumps.

These memories are an essential part of my childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Everton?s been a close companion of mine and Goodison has been the place I went to visit the club. But it?s Everton I love more than Goodison.

Primarily, and above all else, I want Everton to be successful. I want Everton to win the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League. All in the same season would be nice, but hey, I?m not greedy. I would like us to: go to the new Anfield, thrash Liverpool and listen to Beneathus?s excuses; go to Old Trafford, watch Vaughan stick three past United and see Rooney?s face; and tonk Arsenal and listen to Wenger complain about the referee afterwards.

I can?t see all this happening this or next season, but this should surely be our ambition. Be realistic, you might say; I am, I just don?t see why we can?t set our sights high. Realism is a subject I?ll come back to.

How could Everton achieve this? The simple answer is sign and retain the best players.

The Premier League has catapulted English football onto the international stage and it has changed its make-up from what it was in the mid-80s whether we like it or not. Unfortunately, Everton haven?t adapted to this change in the same way as, say, Arsenal have, a club of comparable size and history.

Since the inception of the Premier League Everton have signed some great players, (e.g. Ferguson, Kanchelskis, Dacourt) but generally haven?t been able to hold onto them. The reason: we either needed the money from the transfer or, in the case of Dacourt, we didn?t have the ambition to be a great team at the time ? or the money to do so, which is pretty much the same thing.

We?ve also signed some terrible players as well, with the terrible ones outnumbering the great ones. Think Brett Angell, Claus Thomsen and Mitch Ward. Remember them? I still have nightmares about watching David Ginola make Ward look like he was running backwards on his way to scoring an admittedly good goal against us at Goodison for Spurs (Christmas ?97, I think). I think the other two were actually worse players than him though.

Why did Everton sign these players if it must have been pretty plain beforehand that they had limited ability? The fact is Everton simply didn?t have the money for better players at that time. The amount of money available to each team is generally reflected in the standard of players at the club.

You may have noticed a recurring theme here: money. If you want Everton to be successful, they need to be able to compete for the top players, which means being prepared to pay big money when necessary in transfer fees and wages. Everton pushed the boat out this season to sign Yakubu and they have been rewarded. They paid good money for a good player and he has played well.

Some have questioned how we were able to pay this and some have speculated that Robert Earl may have provided funding with the expectation that he will be able to recoup this and more when Everton move to their new stadium. I think this is a reasonable assumption, as otherwise, it is difficult to see how Everton could have afforded the fee.

I would like more Yakubus, Johnsons and Howards, and no Gareth Farrellys or Tony Thomases and, hey, less Mark Pembridges. Solid players aren?t enough if Everton want to compete at the top end of the table. All Evertonians want this (I hope).

Returning to the theme of being realistic, this is only possible if the club can earn more money than it does now. The obvious way to do this is by building a bigger and better stadium. To suggest otherwise is sticking your head in the sand. Anyone who thinks we can stay at Goodison in its current state and win trophies is living in a dream world. Most people who voted against the move accept this. The problem is, I believe, there are some people who are vehemently against the move, know the club needs to do something, but have no idea what that should be. These people need to wake up because if you?re not part of a solution, you are part of the problem. If Kirkby doesn?t happen and the club doesn?t have the money to pursue other options (likely), the club will stagnate, then go backwards. We?d never win a trophy again. Well, maybe the Championship ? maybe the sight of that trophy will be enough for you with all the memories it will rekindle.

But, if you know the club needs more money, but you?re against Kirkby, the options are: the Bestway site, some other site in the city of Liverpool or redeveloping Goodison.

The Bestway site has some good points: it?s in the city of Liverpool, even in Everton, and? well, that?s it. You don?t have to be a qualified architect to realise that it would be prohibitively expensive to shoe-horn a 50-60,000 stadium onto that site and remember Everton would want to have space for other facilities, car-parking etc. Perhaps this hurdle could be overcome if we had a commercial partner with enough wherewithal and determination. Does anyone honestly think that the producer of those wonderful Best-in products you can buy at the corner shop is that partner? Put it this way, if Kenwright had come up with that one, the criticism would be deafening. There?d be no KEIOC, just a Kenwright must go campaign. The Kings? Dock project was a much better plan than the Bestway nonsense and we all know how that ended.

As for other sites, where are they? How would we pay for a stadium to be built on such a site? No sensible suggestion in this regard has been made. Speculating about this kind of thing is like thinking about what you?d buy if you won the lottery. It?s nice, but how likely is it? Presumably, the Bestway site was the best the Council could come up with. Well, whup-de-doo. That site is a joke, but I?m not laughing.

Redeveloping Goodison would be everyone?s dream, including mine. It would be fantastic. Again though, it would be very expensive, we?d need to knock houses and the school down ? getting agreement for that would not be easy ? and would see a reduced capacity at Goodison. Where does the money come from to pay for this? It?s all very well saying we should redevelop Goodison, but unless some mystery Everton billionaire drops us a few hundred million quid, it isn?t going to happen. Get over it.

That?s why I voted for Kirkby. Don?t get me wrong, I have my concerns. I don?t like the fact that we have to move out of the city, but we?re not far from the city boundary (about a mile, maybe a little more) and if you?ve ever met anyone from Kirkby, there?s no doubt they are Scousers, no matter where the administrative boundary is. Is Alan Stubbs not a Scouser? Peter Reid, a Scouser or a ?Huytoner?? It would be better to be closer to the city centre, but this is the deal we?ve got. Not to go to Kirkby will mean staying a dilapidated Goodison long-term. If you say you wouldn?t go to Kirkby to see Everton play cos it?s ?too far?, then sod off and watch Tranmere seeing as distance is all you care about.

We need to use our heads here, not just our hearts. Memories are great. I want more of them. If Kirkby gets kicked in the head, though, because of all this negativity, with no viable alternative being put forward, I think my son?s memories will be of forwards like good old Brett and midfield generals like Claus. Other clubs have already moved ahead of us, we need to get the stadium sorted now, not wait for some fairy godmother. Those who continue to be against Kirkby are letting their hearts rule their heads and, what?s worse, it could damage Everton?s future.

What do you want: Everton winning the Premier League in a new ground, or competing for the play-offs in our nice, quaint stadium?

Note: The stadium debate has again descended into squabbles between intrenched viewpoints so we've declared a moratorium on submissions on the topic for at least a week. Luckily for Greg, he gets the last word for a while... and with comments off to boot. Who says we don't give the "Pro-Kirkby" side fair treatment?! ? The Editors

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