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'Moving to the next level'

By Joe Strange :  28/01/2008 :  Comments (15) :
With moving into fourth place away at Wigan and the recent ?success? of reaching the Carling Cup semi-final, there has been much talk both in the press and amongst Evertonians, of the club ?moving to the next level?. The number of articles has been countless but what ?moving to the next level? actually means is debatable and in itself is bound to throw up a number of different opinions and ideas, three of which seem more widely backed than others.

Some would argue that ?moving to the next level? actually means a sustained period of European competition, namely, in the Uefa Cup. In order to achieve this, successive top six finishes would be required, something that hasn?t been done since the 1980s, when title challenges were more likely than a satisfactory European place.

Another definition of ?moving to the next level? could be drawn from the team?s recent exploits in the Carling Cup. Although the fact that we only defeated Sheffield Wednesday, Luton and West Ham on our way to the semi-final has been focused on since the defeat to Chelsea, reaching this stage of a major cup competition for the first time in over 12 years should not be overlooked. It could therefore be said that winning silverware in the form of a domestic cup would see a move onto another, altogether higher level.

The other, and most demanding view would seem to be that the only acceptable way of ?moving to the next level? is to break into the top four on a consistent basis. Although we achieved this in the 2004-05 season, we finished the following season in a very disappointing 11th place, failing to capitalise on the previous season which had promised so much.

So which of these three views is the correct one? Unfortunately there isn?t a right answer. There will always be dispute when it comes to a question like this, everyone has an opinion and who?s is right will always be open to interpretation.

Since the 2-1 win over Wigan which pushed us into the fourth Champions League spot, the national press and surprisingly even David Moyes himself, has edged towards breaking the top four as the next step for the club to aim for. Although this should be a goal for the future, financial restrictions when compared to Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool should really make this a ridiculous idea. Where the likes of United can go out and spend £60 million on players come the summer, Moyes will be lucky to have £20 million to spend. It is when you look at the difference in spending power, the fact we came fourth a few seasons ago and are even contemplating another fourth place finish this season seems so absurd.

Despite all this, most of us are probably relishing the chance to fight for fourth place, something which is testament to the amazing job Moyes has done and continues to do on what is essentially a shoestring budget when compared to the top four. Realistically we need another two summer?s worth of transfer dealings (without losing any of our top players) to create a side capable of challenging for a top four place on a regular basis. Moyes simply does not have the money to go and buy five world class players come this summer, at best we can hope to secure Fernandes, Pienaar and one other major signing.

There is no doubt that coming fourth or higher is achievable, possibly even this season, but in order for it to happen regularly Moyes needs to buy and sell shrewdly over the next couple of years. Where the top four are capable of buying a new team come every transfer window, Moyes must use the next couple of seasons to add to the current squad to turn it?s fantastic potential into something of substance. Breaking into and continuing to finish in the top four would be a huge step in restoring the club to where it once was but for this moment in time, it remains more of a fantasy than a reality.

I?m sure the hysteria of the recent Carling Cup run has caused many a fan to reminisce about the '95 FA Cup, the demolition of Spurs, Rideout?s header and all that. Being only seven at the time, my memories of the cup run and the final itself are restricted to DVD highlights and stories from my Dad. It was therefore particularly exciting as we progressed through to the Carling Cup semi-final recently, only to be beaten by Chelsea over two legs. Most fans, myself included, would have seen the winning of the cup as an undoubted sign of progress, combined with our generally improved league standings of the last five years.

One frame of mind, different from the fourth place finish one mentioned above, is that the return of silverware to Goodison Park would be the perfect definition of ?moving to the next level?. I completely understand this view but as we saw with Millwall a few seasons ago, a series of generous draws can result in a fairly easy passage to a cup final. Lifting the FA, Carling or even UEFA Cup in the next two seasons would be a fantastic achievement but, despite being a sign of progress, it should not define ?moving to the next level?. If we were however to achieve cup wins or final appearances in two or three consecutive seasons this would, to me at least, be a move onto a new level, a sign of consistency and quality ? something which has been lacking for a long time.

In my opinion, the most accurate view of the three was the first that I mentioned, a sustained period of European competition, more to the point, reaching the Uefa Cup via league placing year in year out. Since Moyes took charge we have narrowly missed out on a Uefa Cup spot, come fourth in the league and had a solid sixth placed finish giving us the European adventure we are currently experiencing this season.

Generally speaking, a top six finish in the Premier Leaguesis normally good enough for a Uefa cup spot. Could we really be disappointed with say three top six finishes and then three decent runs in the Uefa Cup? To me, this would be a definite sign of ?moving to the next level?. It may not suit those who are unhappy with our decline since the late 80s but the fact is, we are in the middle of a rebuilding programme. We seem to be heading in the right direction, looking on track for another European place at the end of this season. A bit of consistency plus regular European football and a chance for Moyes to build the squad to push towards Champions League qualification? Sounds like a plan to me?

Reader Comments

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Martin Cutler
1   Posted 29/01/2008 at 05:33:03

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As Joe mentions.....
For me....."the next level" would be consistently performing at the level we’re at now. No, I don’t mean losing to Chelsea.....I mean consistently competing in Europe by finishing in the top six at least. Competing in domestic cups (prefably the FA Cup)....getting to the SF’s on a regular basis. This will in turn generate more money, entice players etc. If we can throw into that a year or two of The Champions League then all the better...all the more money etc.
There is no doubt that Moyes has done a fantastic job (go on ... admit it!). In this present day climate where the availability of big money for the Top 3 (and Spurs) makes so much difference.....Moyes has done an incredible job under the circumstances.
He himself will admit that unless we actually win a trophy then we’ve done nothing......that’s true enough but he’s building a team to get there, no doubt about it.
Just imagine what he could do if he did have the money!
As I’ve said in another post.........I actually think we could go all the way in the UEFA Cup....with all our players available over two legs plus the final, yes we can do it!

Please remember.....if we get to the balloons around Howards goalmouth!!!
Michael Hunt
2   Posted 29/01/2008 at 06:24:13

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There is a big problem if we aim to finish top 6 rather than top 4 i.e. Money! Our likely rivals for the Uefa Cup spots next season are Man City, Pompey, Villa, Newcastle, Spurs, Liverpool and West Ham. ALL (with the possible exception of Liverpool?) these have massive financial backing that we don?t. Hence we are at a disadvantage in securing top players... unless we can offer Champions League football. Since CL group stages means big money too, if we can get 4th (or even 3rd - aim for the stars and you might reach the moon!) this season it can be the spring board to the top 4 place we crave. If we finish 4th, we?ll have two qualification rounds to reach the CL group stages, but we have the team, experience and knowhow to get there. If we do, I?m confident we won?t look back. Lets grab this great chance with both hands, starting with putting Spurs in their place tomorrow night.

I can see the RS dropping points at West Ham which will turn the screw on them and our other rivals. Other than Man City and Liverpool, the 6 pointers we have are at GP, so we should treat all 15 remaining games like cup finals. We are capable of getting 10 wins (or say 8 wins and 3 draws) which should guarantee 4th place and a launch pad to even better things next year. COYB!

Erik Dols
3   Posted 29/01/2008 at 07:10:03

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And don’t forget we need to do as good as we can in the Uefa, so IF we finish 4th, we have a relatively easy draw in the qualification round and have at least one team in the groups which we should and could beat.

Ok, I did a little research, and according to this uefa-coefficients-site ( we currently have 35.686 points for the coming season. Of course we can add to this by defeating Brann and possibly other teams after that.

Last year, the separation-mark where teams had a ’protected’ status in the CL draw was around 38.5 so we should be looking on getting above 39 or maybe even 40 points to be sure to avoid a team like Villareal this time. And last year, to get into ’Pot 3’ for the CL-groups, which means you have two ’stronger’ and one ’weaker’ team, you had to have approx. 51 points or more. To get into ’Pot 2’ which gives you two ’weaker’ teams and so a good chance to reach the final 16 in the CL, you needed approx 63.7 points or more. I guess that even if we win the Uefa we’ll neve reach 63.7 points, although the system is not really crystal-clear to me. I personally think that to reach the 51-mark to get into pot 3 will be almost impossible, but perhaps if we literally win every match in the Uefa we’ll get there.

Long story short: I really hope we live at least another two rounds in the Uefa, so IF we finish 4th in the league, we avoid another Villareal-drama. I would hate it if we finish 4th but threw away the money and glamour of the CL just because we lost to Brann...
Michael Coffey
4   Posted 29/01/2008 at 13:47:48

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There is another dimension to breaking into the top four. When we last did it, Jiggerry pokery by Uefa ensured that the RS qualified for the CL as well. The Status Quo was maintained by that much more than by our elimination.

Next time we qualify fourth it will deprive the RS of a place, and the revenues it brings. Watching the markets the last few weeks, we all know what a fragile thing financial confidence is. Given the increasingly desperate rummaging down the side of the sofa taking place at Anfield right now, missing a year?s CL revenues (and no evidence when they might return) could be the start of a downward spiral of loss of confidence.

By qualifying we actually start to change the financial dynamics of the big four. (Even if we blow it ourselves). Such is the zero sum nature of the system they have created.

How do you eat an elephant? - One bite at a time...
Tony Fryer
5   Posted 29/01/2008 at 13:58:44

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I know it’s a dream but everyone mentions how tight it is at the top but still never mentions that this tightness may not adversely affect us... Liverpool may end up not just out of Champs League but europe altogether. A wishful dream maybe but that would seriously dent their finances as they must budget on top 4 place... just a thought!
Erik Dols
6   Posted 29/01/2008 at 14:37:19

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Tony, if they miss out on European football alltogether it means they can and will have to focus on the league next season. I’d rather see them play a bunch of games in the Uefa just to tire them and to give the fat waiter the chance to focus on Europe and lose grip ont he league once again. And playing in the Uefa doesn’t make you that much money, certainly not in the first rounds.

Oh and another scenario of course is them winning the CL which under the new rules means we lose our CL-spot and they get to play in anyway. Now that wouldn’t do my blood pressure much good...
Phil Martin
7   Posted 29/01/2008 at 17:26:10

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The term "next level" has got to mean qualifying for the Champs league AND THREATENING THE TITLE...that is the next step.
However it isnt a realistic target with our current financial restrictions. Chelsea’s reserves cost treble our first team.
Moyes has done fantastic in taking this club from the absolute pits to 4th place while only spending midtable amounts of money.
He’s built the best squad for 20 years and everyone (bar Lescott) is tied down on long contracts. However we need that £15m ball winning, box-to-box midfielder, or that £8m pacey attacking right back, or that £15m explosive wide player with a great cross. Arse, Chelski and ManU all have them and we are almost there. However its the CL money which helps clubs afford these players year after year. Everton dont have a rich chairman like Newcastle, City or Spurs so we cant afford these players.
So we have to rely on Moyes signing young players with potential or rough diamonds and turning them into top class.
Unless Moyes can find 3 or 4 players in our 5-10M budget who can become real top class. How realistic is this?
Then targeting the top 6 and maybe a domestic final is about the limits we can achieve. Barring an extreme turn of events.
I’m not putting a dampener on things but if RS get rid of that fat spanish prick and get Mourinho in - then they will take that 4th spot for good.
I love the fact that we have beaten the RS to 4th a few years ago and that we sit there now- but in all seriousness we cant expect Moyes to maintain this year after year without the funding to match the teams above us.
Chelsea signed £15M Anelka based on being short of strikers during the African Cup. Man U bought two teenagers to sit on the bench priced at £17M a piece.

Going back to the question -next level in my view means being where the big 3 are now. However that isnt realistic. Not in this era of football -without adequate funding.
We really are only 3 or 4 players off being a side who can challenge for everything. But its those 3 or 4 players which will cost us the most money and without will prevent us from reaching the next level.
8   Posted 29/01/2008 at 19:07:34

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Firstly, well done Erik Dols (presumably aka Statto), that’s quite a mind blow of research done there, Lah, and quite heartening! On the main thread, I agree that "the next level" is more realistically constant top 6 finishes over the next few years. I wouldn’t rule out the odd FA / Carling Cup, but that’s just to help the feelgood factor, on the way. (was our 95 FA Cup win anything other than that? It was FANTASTIC, but surely nobody believed it was about to herald a "new dawn"?) Now a Uafa Cup win, though having no great financial rewards compared to the CL, would certainly raise our profile, and make attracting players easier, as well as promoting our "brand" (yuk, but that’s the world we are in!) to a wider audience. We stand a chance of the financial breakthrough of getting into the CL for next season, with the odds stacked better for progression (thanks Eric) but, I agree that this season is our best chance to qualify, before RS, Citeh, etc outspend and overtake us again.
Jon Stern
9   Posted 29/01/2008 at 19:58:49

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We are already at the level of 4th best team, so for me the next level means getting to a similar points level as the top 3 (rather than 12 points behind)
Andrew Laird
10   Posted 29/01/2008 at 19:43:20

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Football has become extremely big business and unfortunately in order to move to the next level whatever that may be, will need investment and the sort of investment that sees Everton’s squad growing in numbers with quality players every season and not decreasing which has happened in the last 5 years.
To win the premier league is out of the question at the moment as the gulf is increasing between the top 3 and the ’also rans’ each year, however we can certainly challenge for the 4th spot with a fully fit squad. The problem is that since the 2004 - 2005 season when we reached those dizzy heights before, Aston Villa, Man city, Portsmouth, Spurs (yo yoing I know) and to an extent West Ham have caught us up and the slow but steady progress might become something of a standstill in the next couple of seasons unless we can increase playing staff so that if we have injuries or suspensions to key players we will cope enough to get results.
James Martin
11   Posted 29/01/2008 at 23:52:02

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We finished 6th last year and are in a position to emulate that this season. A lot of fans are now demanding we move up to the next level. the emphasis seems to be on the literal interpretation of the words ’move up’, with respect to higher league positions. Personally, I think we need to consolidate our position at this level for the next three or four seasons as a top 6 side. That doesn’t mean to finish 6th every one of those seasons, as I’m optimistic we can crack the top four. but I don’t think it’s realistic to expect consistant top 4 finishes at the moment.
Alisdair Denny
12   Posted 30/01/2008 at 05:51:10

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In order to determine what the next level is for us, we have to first define what our current level is. I don’t think we can say what our level is during a competition, only at the end of it.
So, based on that, we can safely define our current level in domestic cups. One semi final and one 3rd round loss. That would suggest to me that there is still a certain degree of inconsistency.
Based on our last 3 league finishes (4th, 11th, 6th), I would say that we are a top 6 or 7 side, and it looks as though we may consolidate that this season.
As for Europe, we are going nicely this time around, but our last 2 campaigns (Champions league then Uefa cup) were both abject failures. This would lend credence to the inconsistency in the cups theory.

So, if our current level is a top 6 team who may or may not go on a decent cup run, "the next level" could be defined as breaking into the top 4 and/or reaching the later stages of the cups on a regular basis.
Talk of challenging for the league or even the top 3 is premature and is a couple of levels above where we are at the moment.

If we finish 4th this year, I would see that as progress, which could be interpreted as moving to the next level
Martin Anderson
13   Posted 30/01/2008 at 13:30:35

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Everyone fundamentally talks about more money being needed to send us into the top 4, but I still cling to the hope that a ?real team? can still do it ?with out spending a big fortune, like the current top 4.. When I say that I?m thinking back to the great Kendall and Cloughie?s teams ? built on sublime teamwork and not neccessarily the best players individually... (Dream on eh?!) The reason why this is ?probably? no longer possible is the sad thing about football today ? Money ruining the game, glory fans, vicious circle etc.... but If anyone can get us there Moyes can!
Michael Ward
14   Posted 30/01/2008 at 22:03:02

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Im sorry but I think retaining the form we have already been showing over the 3 previos seasons as well as our current form (apart from the 11th place) does not represent ’moving to the next level’.

Moving to the next level for me is definitely breaking into the top 4. We are already one of if not the best team outside of the top four. To be honest i would say that regularly competing for a top four place would be a major step forward and if we could get there or there abouts a few times (and get a decent run in the CL) this would both help us financailly and in our status around europe so helping us improve the squad and bring in some quality players, but it would also be detrimental to our friends across stanley park (being our most likely rivals for 4th place)

A cupwin would be amazing but it does not represent a step forward. Look at liverpool they won the CL but they still cant progress in the league. If we want to improve it must come from constant progression in the league and not just consistantly being top of the 2nd league of teams in the prem.
Scott McNabb
15   Posted 01/02/2008 at 06:45:17

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The point is, we aren’t going to break into the top 4 on a regular basis without a takeover from some ego-fueled, rip off merchant oil baron. And a true Evertonian would never wish that on the club.

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