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One step from greatness?

By Daniel Gregory :  20/02/2008 :  Comments (38) :
We all have our different views on this current Everton side, and how much potential is actually there. Is it false hope that we can break into the dominant top four and reach the promised land of the Champions League again?

As a younger Evertonian I have seen mainly gloomy times at Goodison. I was there when Gareth Farrelly scored against Coventry to keep us up on goal difference, and when Kevin Campbell almost single-handedly kept us up on his own. So I find it hard to see us challenging for honours as I missed out on the glory days of Lineker and Sharp in the 80s. But I am still of the opinion that David Moyes only needs a couple of big signings, and to jig a couple of things about to make us a real threat to the top four?s thrown.

In Bill Kenwright we have a fantastic chairman, who is prepared to back Moyes to the hilt, and has done so on numerous occasions in recent years, notably with the signings of the YAK, AJ and Lescott. I am sure Kenwright will continue to place his trust in Moyes?s ability in the transfer market this summer. His record is second to none, Cahill for £2M, Arteta for £3.5M, Howard for £3M, all fantastic buys.... and what about Joleon Lescott? A risky buy what with his injury problems and no Premiership experience, but he has turned out to be one of the best defenders in the league this term. Especially with his versatility as a left back as well as a centre back.

Kenwright and Moyes need to go all out this summer to ensure our progression doesn?t falter. First job; keep Manny Fernandes this time, we mustn?t let him escape again. The boy oozes quality and would get in to most teams' starting eleven. Yes he has had his faults recently, but I am putting that down to a lack of match sharpness, given the rarity of his outings under Ronald Koeman at Valencia.

I genuinely feel this Everton side are two or three quality signings away from being top four material. I think we need to bring in a world-class right back, to complete the back line of Yobo, Jags and Lescott. Someone with real quality going forward, something that Phil Neville sadly lacks. I also think if we can keep hold of Manny, it will just take a quality winger and possibly a holding midfielder to replace the ageing Lee Carsley to make our side formidable. I would suggest an Ashley Young for the flank perhaps, and possibly a Tom Huddlestone or a Scott Parker to sit behind Cahill and Manny in the middle of the park, if they can be enticed away from London.

If we can spend big (but sensibly) in the summer, and keep hold of the squad that Moyesey has assembled so well, then why can?t we be challenging the top four for honours and European glory? The pessimist among us would say that the blue bubble is set to burst, and our season will petter out into mediocrity, as has been the case on a number of occasions. But look at the squad we have at our disposal now. I would point to three reasons that suggest we are onto a winner:

  • The firepower we now have: A four-prong strike force with Yak, AJ, Victor and Vaughany, complemented by Timmy Cahill when playing a five-man midfield.
  • The quality and creativity: The additions of players with real quality on the ball, such as Stevie Pienaar and Manny Fernandes, complemented by Mikel Arteta give us an added depth we have lacked for a while.
  • The squad and togetherness: How many players do you see leaving Goodison? I haven?t been heartbroken by the sale of a player since you know who jumped ship to Old Trafford. The togetherness of the squad has shone through during difficult circumstances, ties against Metalist Kharkiv (home and away), and Chelsea away spring to mind.

This summer is going to be a vital one in the progression of what is a fantastic opportunity for a sleeping giant to be woken up once and for all. In five years time we could have it all; the fantastic state-of-the-art new stadium, David Moyes continuing his Alex Ferguson style dynasty, and a side challenging for honours both at home and in Europe.

Reader Comments

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Ian Tunny
1   Posted 20/02/2008 at 15:25:22

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People keep going on about splashing out on a quality right back. I'd hate to be a side like Chelsea or Liverpool who have ran out of patience and only thinking of the short term or a quick fix. Moyes knows what he's doing, I don't believe a right back to be a priority; Neville with Hibbo for cover are decent enough for now.

I think over the next couple of seasons Moyes will be preparing to introduce young Gosling and Irving through for competition as well as in other positions such as Rodwell, Boyle, Agard and Baxter, even Kissock seems to be coming along nicely. We musnt forget that we are producing good young talent and they deserve a chance to prove themselves. I'd rather that than take a chance on a middle-aged merceneries on big wage packets.

David Nicholls
2   Posted 20/02/2008 at 15:46:53

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Spot on Daniel! A nice positive piece.
I’m fairly young,(28) myself and wasn’t bitten by the Everton bug until the 88-89 season. The FA Cup win aside I’ve had little to get excited about so the way things are at the moment are as good as it has ever been during my time watching football.
Now though we have an opprtunity to kick on and win some silverware.

The optimist in me agrees that we are only a couple of big signings away from gatecrashing the Sky members only exclusive country club! So, as we stand on the edge of greatness (oops, maybe I’m getting a little carried away), a top class defensive midfielder and a pacy direct winger with top class delivery would be top of my shopping list.

Over to Bill and Moysie to ’pull out a couple of rabbits’!
James Keating
3   Posted 20/02/2008 at 16:04:34

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If Everton had a backer with real money and good business sense I feel the club would really take off.

Unfortunately Moyes does not get the backing he deserves. He is left every season to look for bargains in the hope they pay off because we have nobody on the board with any financial clout. I have to laugh at some Evertonians saying Bill Kenwright is an excellent Chairman it really is comical.

Money doesn’t guarentee sucess but in the hand’s of the right man it will.
Trudy Boston
4   Posted 20/02/2008 at 16:05:32

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David is the best manger this club has had since Howard's first time around. Colin took over from his departure with a great sqaud although notable players had left from the 1984-85 team that did so outstanding. A fourth place finish and two Wembley finals was a creditable achievement and then Howard came back for second and third helpings. Add to that Mike Walker and the Royle stint and we have seen a pretty mixed bag. One thing i noticed about the Keegan thing, is that while he is regarded as the messiah on Tyneside, much like Howard is with Everton, but after one great or successful reign it all goes pear shaped when you come back to the club closest to your heart. It did not work out at all under Howard's second and third times in charge despite all the affection that was involved. His greatest day was seeing his beloved club rescued on the last day of the 1997-98 season which was to prove his last game in charge before someone saw sense and brought in Walter. The less said about that the better.

But back to Moyes, and what he has done in the six years in charge is nothing short of miraculous. With limited funds and a shortage of decent players following on from the Smith time in charge he has assembled a really good set of players. There is camaraderie and a bonding between the group of players and we are in the best shape of our lives that I have seen in many a year. A fourth place finish with another imminent repeat in store this season deserves credit and for me he takes all the accolades going.

Its worth noting that it took Ferguson nearly four years to win anything of note, although to his credit he did finish runners up in the old First Division soon after he took over from Ron Atkinson. No one can say for sure when, and not if Everton wins a piece of silverware but we are moving in the right direction, and with the despised shower across the park making a real pigs ear of things of late, maybe we could go back to being the best club on Merseyside. Surely if we finish above them that will count for something or go a long way towards bragging rights.
Brian Waring
5   Posted 20/02/2008 at 16:12:32

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The only problem is Daniel. Is that you have to remember when you say, that we are only a few players away from the top 4, is that the so called top 4 (and I know we are 4th at the moment) will splash the cash again in the summer, (and we know we don?t have the money to compete on their level ) which could then see them pull even further away. I just think for the forseeable future we are alway?s going to be in the 2nd tier, along with Pompey, Villa, City, Blackburn, and even though they have both been pretty poor this season, I can see Newcastle (that?s if the geordies are still in the prem next season?)and Spurs joining that group next season.
Greg Doyle
6   Posted 20/02/2008 at 16:48:03

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Good article Daniel. It is always nice to see some optimism on this website! I have to disagree with Brian Waring. No doubt Man U, Chelsea and Liverpool will spend a lot of money over the summer but this does not mean they will add extra quality.
Take Chelsea signing Shevchenko for £30m. This did nothing for their results, they already had Drogba. Everton are adding extra quality with virtually every signing.

I don’t think if Moyes had a huge budget he would sign that differently to how he does at the moment anyway.
Peter Manning
7   Posted 20/02/2008 at 17:33:41

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I could not belive (whatching the shite last night) that Patrick Veira has not been getting a game at Inter. What a signing he would be for our club. He might come back to the prem to an up-and-coming team (not London or the Mancs) as we are the only side to break into the top four.
Break the bank for this man if we get fourth
I say.
Brian Waring
8   Posted 20/02/2008 at 18:11:17

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Greg, Arsenal, Man u and Chelsea are light years ahead of us already mate, and the only so called top 4 side we have a chance of toppling is the redshite. The problem for us, is that the shite have the big bucks to spend, and they have better pulling power than us for the bigger names.
Matthew Lovekin
9   Posted 20/02/2008 at 18:04:50

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Nice optimistic article! I agree, I only caught the late 80’s and despite following the team for 20 years have just seen them struggle the majority of the time.

I also think that we are only a couple of signings away not from necessarily gatecrashing the top 4, but make it a top 5. The top 4 will still have their spending power and fanbase and therefore can afford to make mistakes in the transfer market which we can’t, but with the excellent work done by Moyes, we can be up there as well.

I think right back is fine for the moment. Neville is competent and Hibbert is ok for a back-up. New signing Dan Gosling looks a good prospect for the right back slot also. Manuel Fernandes will probably take over from Carsley if we can sign him permanently. If we can also get Pienaar in the summer, that makes an excellent midfield. The forwards look fine, except maybe selling Johnson and bringing in someone like Defoe (if we had moved before Portsmouth). Therefore our two signings could just be Fernandes and Pienaar.

Apart from that, you never know when an exceptional talent arrives that will help compete with the top 4, someone like Lyon’s 20 year old striker (Benzema of something like that). This type of player though will have to be world class which is the next step we have to take. Unfortunately these type of players normally cost 20m which we need to look at financing.

We have the basic squad quality now to compete (with Fernandes and Pienaar if we sign them) now we just need 1 or 2 world class players like the top 4 have.
Keith Glazzard
10   Posted 20/02/2008 at 18:38:29

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Call me old fashioned, but I’m not happy with the idea that a couple or four big signings are what we need.

If anyone could work out a "success per pound spent" equation I suspect that Chelski and the French/Spanish merde rouge / mierda roja would come below someone like Wigan, who themselves can flash cash. I was surprised when we bought Yakubu, not just because the club found the money, but it seemed to be a bit odd for Moyes to go this way. (I now think Davey’s wise old head saw a better player than his price tag - but that’s another issue.)

The present squad reminds many of us of the great teams of the 80’s. My memory is very rusty, but, with a couple of exceptions (does Andy Gray count) I don’t think that squad was assembled from highly priced ready-made stars. Of course, I know the world turns and things change, but there is a sense in which the more money you have to spend, the more problems you have. And the big one can be summed up in the word "rotation".
Kevin Jennings
11   Posted 20/02/2008 at 20:22:29

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Scott Parker is so over-rated it is unbelievable and Tom Huddlestone is a fat lazy pub player who hyas been hyped up recently in the London media thanks to a few "decent" performances.
Steve Ryan
12   Posted 20/02/2008 at 21:14:29

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Daniel, the phrase ’One Step from Greatness" is way over the top mate. On paper Everton have an impressive side however, the main difference between the top three and ourselves is CONSISTENCY. Until players like Arteta and Osman for all their eye-catching skills, start to perform consistenly week in week out against all opposition, we will not win a carrot. What’s the benefit in having great technique if you only produce the goods one in every five games and rarely against the best opposition?
Richie Blackman
13   Posted 20/02/2008 at 22:17:01

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Our main transfer priority should be to replace Lee Carsley. Hes getting on now and at tops we've got one season left out of him if we offer him a new deal. The role he plays is key to the style of football we play
David Edwards
14   Posted 21/02/2008 at 00:28:14

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Nice, positive article, Daniel - I?m excited too by Moyes and the boys. We are close - even with the current squad. I?ve been a fan since a young lad perched on the paddock wall in 1969, so I?ve seen all the good and bad times! The Man City game is crucial - if we win at Fortress Eastlands it will boost our confidence for the rest of the season and send out a signal to everyone! We must play our strongest team then and attack-attack-attack! Can I reserve judgement on the rest of the season until 10pm on Monday. That game is mega!
Jay Harris
15   Posted 21/02/2008 at 02:37:27

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I?m sorry to raise an old chestnut but I think WE ARE TWO STEPS FROM GREATNESS - Bullshit Billy and Fat Keith.
Replace those two incompetents and we really would be close to greatness soon
Jason Lam
16   Posted 21/02/2008 at 05:40:58

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Bentley would be a good signing.
Paul Boyce
17   Posted 21/02/2008 at 07:35:35

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Nice article. Why does everyone go on about BK and KW? Look at the shit across the park with the "businessman" backers they have. Better the devil we know...
Neil Alecock
18   Posted 21/02/2008 at 08:10:02

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I agree with most of what Daniel says except I think that Phil Neville is a great captain. Long gone are the days we say we need a leader on the pitch. I think he is worth his weight in gold to the team by his sheer presence and leadership. Yes he has his faults, but I think he is a formidable full back.
Moyes has done well with moderate resources. He learnt from his time with Rooney that the stick doesnt always work that to relax and foster team spirit can pay dividends. His policy is continuity, if players do well they play, if not he now has replacements. Look across the park. They have payed a fortune - somewhere between 150 and 170 million on players. They are 3 points back and we have spent a fraction of that. A big spending chairman is definately a bonus but does all that spending really foster team spirit? Does a club really need a massive expensive squad. If Bill had borrowed or sold would we be better off? Would we be at risk? Leeds anyone?

We have done it slowly, there are foundations and a skillful will to achieve. I really dont think the club is happy for mid table obscurity anymore.

At the moment my cup overfloweth - lets hope it become sliver this May. COYB
Ferdie Best
19   Posted 21/02/2008 at 09:27:37

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’One step from greatness?’,my arse!
’Kenwright a fantastic chairman?’
Richard Dodd lives on!
Dave Lynch
20   Posted 21/02/2008 at 09:22:12

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It's not just about signing players. it's also about affording the wages and pandering to the poor little darlings every whim.
We are light years away from the top 3 teams (They have broken away from the rest imo).
How many times have we heard the "We are nearly there" mantra.
Danny. I admire your optimism, but a dose of reality is also required.
The top 3 will continue to strengthen with a lot more quality players than we can afford.
Sad as it maybe. But honest it is.
Dan Johnson
21   Posted 21/02/2008 at 10:16:44

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I like Kenwright BUT I fucking hate Wyness with a passion.

As a business man he's fecking incompetent ? the recnt Chang deal proves that. He's a small fry business man trying to play/deal in an environment where he is way out of his depth.

Get rid of him and we have a fighting chance.
Paul Turner
22   Posted 21/02/2008 at 11:23:32

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So, if we are only a few players away, and the stumbling block is money... Paul McCartney has been confirming he’s a true Blue - Bill K, how about having a word with Macca?
Paul Lenehan
23   Posted 21/02/2008 at 11:11:12

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I don?t know how far or close we are to breaking into the top 3. But I do know there is no point in trying to compare ourselves to Utd or Chelsea. Previous posts are correct we will never be able to match them. That said Arsenal (particularily when building the Emirates) were not in the same same spending league as Chelsea and Utd but still managed to stay around them. I'm not saying Moyes is the new Wenger but what I am saying is we need to be clever in the transfer market, unearth a few gems, look further afield and who knows what can happen.
Mark Stone
24   Posted 21/02/2008 at 12:35:48

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I think Everton need to cement themselves as a good side before thinking about greatness. We?re not Uefa Cup regulars yet - lets be happy to get 3/4 years in Europe on the bounce and THEN let?s start to expect to be challenging for the top 3/4.

If we get in the Campions Lague this year, next year or whatever that?s a bonus obviously but remember you need to be able to walk before you can run.
Greg Doyle
25   Posted 21/02/2008 at 12:30:00

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Brian, Chelsea are 8 points ahead of us in the league. I wouldn’t call that light years. It is the same as the difference between us and Blackburn.
They have a few more quality players and a lot more money to spend yes. But is every player that they sign massively better than the players being replaced? No. Look at Pizarro for example, or Ballack. They are no improvement on what is already there.
Everton are making ground on these clubs.
Moyes is making quality signings time and time again and Everton are improving. This is the difference.
Why is it that so many blues will believe the hype around other clubs but be hyper critical of any optimism around Everton?
Ah well, you are in for a pleasent surprise.
Chris Perry
26   Posted 21/02/2008 at 12:49:22

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Jay Harris, when are you going to grow up, you are like a broken record. I would rather have them two looking after the club rather than a negative droning individual like yourself. The point raised was about the team not about the Leadership, who I am sure many other clubs would be pleased to have.
Steve Williams
27   Posted 21/02/2008 at 12:29:52

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Daniel,

Certainly an upbeat, optimistic post and all credit to you for that. But I really feel that it should be tempered with a splash of good old fashioned realism.

As noted elsewhere, we are nowhere near competing with Utd, Chelsea or Arsenal on footballing, financial or pulling power fronts. What we can do is attempt to build brick by brick so we can get in and around them often enough to pick up 4th spot.

However there is real comptetion for that prize from clubs that do have spending power and decent managers - City, Villa, Spurs and Portsmouth spring to mind (of course excluding the RS). A far more realistic target than the top three is to finish ’best of the rest’. In order to do that, Moyes will undoubtedly need to unearth more Cahills, Artetas and Lescotts because, however unpalatable as it might sound, we just can’t spend £30m on 2 - 3 players. We just don’t have it. We can probably do only one £10-15m player a year.

For what its worth, last season Fernandes performed only in flashes - and whilst it was tantalising - it was only flashes. This season he’s been awful so far. If HE wants to become an Everton player, then he’s going to have to improve dramatically and pretty soon. Because he doesn’t look anything like our one-off £10m player at the moment.

Anyway, keep smiling and praying - you never know, our team spirit may just be enough to make this a season to remember - particularly if others falter and we can pick up points against our primary competitors.
Daniel Gregory
28   Posted 21/02/2008 at 17:04:07

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I am not trying to say we are close to challenging for the title, obviously Man Utd are miles away, and Chelsea have enough money to keep buying their way to the top. I am saying we are a couple of players away from disrupting them, i.e finishing 4th or 3rd on a regular basis.

Barring Carragher, Torres, Gerrard and perhaps Mascherano, we have the players to match Liverpool, if we can buy quality close to that then we will be right there with them!!
Steve Williams
29   Posted 21/02/2008 at 17:22:53

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Daniel,

I understand and I really, really hope your vision comes to pass. But your listing of the 4 RS players would cost over £60m.

As I’ve said, brick by brick has to be the only way.
Lyndon Lloyd
Editorial Team
30   Posted 21/02/2008 at 18:44:43

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Ian: "I don’t believe a right back to be a priority; Neville with Hibbo for cover are decent enough for now."

If we are "one" or "two" steps from greatness then we have to rid ourselves of this acceptance of mediocrity and start thinking as a top-four club. The regular Champions League qualifiers don’t stand for "decent enough", they aim for quality throughout their ranks and if Everton are going to be mixing it up with the Milans and the Real Madrids of this world on a regular basis, you can bet your bottom dollar we’re going to need players who can move the ball about effectively and demonstrate far more ability on the ball that the likes of Hibbert and Neville.

Both players were fine for the days when we needed to scrap our way to European qualification by keeping it tight. We’re moving into a new phase now where we need to bring in real quality in all positions, starting with right back and defensive midfield.
Dave Randles
31   Posted 21/02/2008 at 19:51:10

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Lyndon, Words. Mouth. Out of.

As I’ve said on here before, EVERY single position in the side should permanently under scrutiny.

Hibbert and Neville have done a job for us, no doubt about that - but the reality is, right back is probably our weakest position. The better we get and the better we aim to get means mediocrity should become less and less acceptable.

Again, Carsley has been great and deserves his extension, that said, I would still rather see a new, younger and ultimately better player in the holding role at the start of next season.
Kieran Fitzgerald
32   Posted 21/02/2008 at 22:46:30

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David Edwards: the Man City game is absolutely crucial. I think the next game again is Portsmouth, obviously also huge.
With a fully fit squad at the moment I would be very confident of getting results in both games.

In relation to adding players to the squad I think that money should be spent in the summer regardless of whether or not we qualify for the champion?s League. To keep the squad together the club is going to have to show ambition, and that does mean putting your money where your mouth is.
Kostas Papathanasiou
33   Posted 21/02/2008 at 22:20:23

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Hi everybody! I?m a blue from Greece and I managed to watch Everton regularly on TV (about 20 games every season) for the last 6 years. It?s been a couple of years since I found ToffeeWeb and read the articles and the comments often. This corner on the web is my pub. A place to discuss about my second beloved team (the first is Aris Salonica).

All I want to say is that this season is my happiest season as an Evertonian so far (I was very young round the 80s). Unfortunately, money matters a much more these days in football. This makes Everton?s achievements worth twice as much. And makes me twice as proud that I support a team which has passion. The passion that I appreciated when I started to fall in love with British football. Treasure this passion and better days will come.

I?m feeling blue and it?s damn great...
COYB
Scott Eaton
34   Posted 21/02/2008 at 23:23:32

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Daniel, I remember the team of the 80s and I see a lot of similarities.Great work ethic, great team spirit and biulding a great team slowly. Moyes has already proved he's an excellent manager, now let's see him become a great one. And anyone who can even consider slagging Kenwright off is beyond me. Where would we have been if he?d have panicked and pulled the trigger when Moyes finished 17th in his 2nd season? I remember the Peter Johnson years, does anyone seriously want a moron like that back in charge??
Eric Myles
35   Posted 22/02/2008 at 01:02:28

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I stopped reading when it got to "In Bill Kewright we have a magnificent Chairman" I knew from then on it’s either a joke or delusional.
Daniel Gregory
36   Posted 22/02/2008 at 01:29:08

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Eric Myles, Would you rather have the farcical goings on from across Stanley Park? Bill Kenwright has only Everton?s best interests at heart. He is a fan and will always do what is best for the club.

We are now a stable club on the verge of breaking into the top four, you can't argue with how he has gone about it, now we have some money to spend, we have. £11M on Yak, £7M on AJ, £5M on Joleon. He is making sure the club doesn?t go the same way as Leeds Utd, or any other Premiership clubs who have gone that way also.

Football is a game of opinions and maybe you should allow people to have theirs without claiming them to be a joke.
Damian Wilde
37   Posted 22/02/2008 at 12:41:23

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Daniel, a good article. I think things are looking good, but we have to remember that Aresnal, Man Utd, etc. have took years to get where they are, so I agree with Brain Waring’s point. All we can do is keep pushing and keep building and see what happens. Hopefully we will keep progressing and keep everyone happy (though some people will always moan)!

As for Jay Harris and Eric Myles slagging off BK, good point from Daniel about BK. You two think BK is usless. Fair enough, you’re entittled to your opionion. What’s your evidence? At the moment it is fairly well recognised that we are doing well, better then we have done for a long time (anyone fancy going back to finishing 4th bottom every year?). What are the factors that contribute to that? Moyes? The players? The fans? Who bought Moyes in? Who secured the players on contracts? Who gladly got rid of the fat knobhead? Who has made sure our debts are more under control? Okay, he has made mistakes (don’t we all), but you probably exhibit the thinking error of ’filtering’ (focussing on all of the negatives and ignoring the positives). I for one certainly would not want some foreign owner who does not care about the club (like the RS) and would rather have someone who loves the club. We’re doing well under him. Are you saying he has contributed nothing to our present positive situation? Who would you have instead Jay/Eric?? Come on, who?? Are you putting yourselfs forward?! For goodness sake, stop moaning and enjoy the success.

PS Eric, there are other opinions apart from your own, so perhaps you should not be so disrespectful to other people’s articles/thoughts. Nice one Daniel.
Steve Brolin
38   Posted 27/02/2008 at 22:52:41

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Is it just me, or do there seem to be less people calling for Moyes and Kenwright to resign these days?

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