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It can be done

By Alan Kirwin :  08/12/2008 :  Comments (33) :
The debate, if indeed that's the right word, about the significance of money in sporting success, and football success in particular, is as old as the hills. It pre-dates the Chelski renaissance, and can be traced back, with varying degrees, to Man Utd, Everton (oh yes), Wolves and even Sunderland for Christ's sake.

Although Michael Kenrick would have one believe that money plays little or no part in the success of a team, I have hitherto disagreed with him and the overwhelming evidence shows that "big clubs", i.e.those with big gates, big gates, rich owners, large membership etc, win almost everything. Or does it? Is Michael actually more correct than even he might believe?

Since the greed-induced concept of the English Premier League manifested itself, it's a hard argument to defeat. Out of 15 seasons Man Utd have 9 titles, Arsenal 3, Chelsea 2 and Blackburn just the distant 1. The first 3, along with Liverpool, have also monopolised the various cup competitions in most seasons. Looks fairly bleak for those outside the elite, Liverpool included.

But for those who care to look, there is real evidence to the contrary. Every so often, a team comes along that shatters myths, tilts at windmills and does (or almost does) the unthinkable. And I'm not referring to situations where these achievements were themselves bought through the acquisition of expensive players. No, I'm talking about teams of relatively unknown players getting ideas beyond their station & fulfilling them, having a seriously good go at teams big & small and (this is the crux) being extremely well coached.

It happened recently in Scotland when Gretna (population 17) got to the Scottish Cup Final and only lost in extra time. It's happening now to some extent with Hull City. Some may remember Dundee United's past exploits, where they reached the semi final of the European Cup and final of the Uefa Cup, a sensational return for such a small club. And forgive me for bringing up the tragic figure of Mike Walker, but with all due respect his achievements at Norwich before he ballsed up at Goodison were extraordinary. I remember losing 5-1 at home to Norwich on my little brother's wedding day & that wasn't the only extraordinary result in a season where Walker caught everyone cold and took Norwich to 3rd.

Two strong characteristics define most of the teams I've listed. Firstly, astute and adventurous tactical management & preparation from the coach in question. And secondly, the technically pleasing and offensive, almost fearless, way that these teams went about their business. This, as opposed to the negative or blood & thunder approach that might be expected when the Davids meet the Goliaths.

Cast your mind back just a couple of months to the performances of Standard Liege against Liverpool. Easily the better team on both occasions. Unknown players, technically good, offensive style, no sitting back. Don't be surprised to see Liege lift the Uefa Cup. They are screaming through the group.

There was also a recent example of this over achievement in Germany a few years ago, when Klaus Toppmoller's Bayer Leverkusen climbed dizzy heights at home & in Europe, beating many of the greats along the way, as well as a comprehensive thrashing of Merseyside's 2nd team. Although the team boasted Michael Balack, Sergio and Lucio, amongst others, the reality is that at that time these guys were nowhere near the stars they eventually became.

And it's to Germany that this article culminates in homage to the current achievements of a certain FC Hoffenheim. Just 15 years ago, this small town club (population c 3,000) were playing in the 8th division of the Baden Wurtemberg league. Their rise from there has been steady and not necessarily spectacular. They were helped by investment from an alumnus who happened to set up the large German software house SAP.

Today, Hoffenheim sit top of the Bundesliga. The Bundesliga has the highest attendances and most goals of any major league. Despite a very unlucky narrow defeat away to Bayern in last week's table-topper, they remain on top & show signs that they just might stick it out and either win it or come dangerously close. Oh yes, and this is their first ever season in the Bundesliga.

Hoffenheim is the story that gives hope to us all. If you look through the Hoffenheim team you will recognise none of the names. Their success has been built on management, tactics, style, adventure and courage. They demonstrate just what can be achieved with the right mentality and the right coaching. Theirs is an approach in which it really is just a case of 11 against 11, whoever they are playing. Their game is usually an offensive 4-3-3, with tactically & technically adept players doing their jobs. And so it was with Leverkusen, Norwich et al.

And the moral of the story?

Well, I will return, if I may, to a game in October 2002 in Moyes's first full season. We went to Old Trafford where, under Walter, we always returned with tails between legs. Not this time. From first whistle to almost 90 minutes we gave way more than we got. It was a combination of movement, touch and passing. But what stood out above all else was our desire to go forward at every stage. Every time Gravesen or Li Tie got the ball they went or passed forward. It was a revelation to behold and it was beautiful to watch.

Yes, we lost that game 3-0, but in all fairness the result was a joke with 3 goals in the last 3 minutes. What mattered was the "we don't give a fuck who you are. we've come here to win" attitude that rang loud. I'd seen it done by Juventus and Barca at Old Trafford, but not by us. Moyes had been making noises since his arrival about winning every game, and why not (his words) since that's what he's paid for. Better to try and fail, than not to try at all.

Not sure what happened to that approach. It seemed to leave with Tommy Gravesen. Now all I hear from Moyes is how much money he wants, or how much someone else has got etc etc. And yet we have good young players that he rarely gives a chance to. Kids like Jutkiewicz, Gosling, Vaughan, Baines, Rodwell, Kissock & Agard. And what on earth has happened to Segundo Castillo?

I've had an epiphany on this subject now. It is my firm belief that, with the right coach, anything is possible. The idea of going to Old Trafford or Highbury and playing 4-3-3 seems madness. But why should it? If the team has the basic abilities and fitness, and are well coached, then you are giving your opponents far more to worry about than sitting back with just one up front, so that when (or if) you do break he's so far away that every attack breaks down & back they come at you.

It's a great pity Moyes didn't retain his apparent desire to attack every team & to win every game. OK, so you lose some. But you win more games and more friends and, just possibly, some silverware. I don't believe that Moyes is the man who can do what's necessary at Everton to make this happen. I'd love to be wrong, but I'm convinced we need someone who's more positive in every way to take us forward now. With the right stuff, it can be done.

Answers on a postcard.

Here's a great article on Hoffenheim from today's Times. It made me feel good.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/columnists/gabriele_marcotti/article5304151.ece

Reader Comments

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Michael Kenrick
1   Posted 09/12/2008 at 08:08:19

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Nice job, Alan. That was indeed my message, but you delivered it far better than I could.

It can be done... but it will be a miracle if it happens under Moyes.
Ciarán McGlone
2   Posted 09/12/2008 at 09:22:17

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Completely agree...
Albert Poissant
3   Posted 09/12/2008 at 09:29:53

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What else can I say but, Ralf Rangnick for Everton!
Simone Jones
4   Posted 09/12/2008 at 09:50:40

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But we?ve got Moyes for the next 8 million years on £60k a week. So get used to it. Everton can?t sack him. They can?t afford to.
Phil Martin
5   Posted 09/12/2008 at 10:00:16

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Alan,

Good article but you missed one thing. Hoffenheim is backed by a billionaire. This rise to the top has only started since one of the founders of SAP purchased the club.

You are correct to say they haven?t spent big to get there. However, they have spent a lot on a top scouting network to bring in young talented players from across Europe.

Hoffenheim have flourished because whenever they needed something - i.e. good youth players, new stadium, top facilities, the backing has been there from the owner. Can we say BK offers us the same?

Matthew Lovekin
6   Posted 09/12/2008 at 09:58:44

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Alan, very well put. This is how football and the English Premier League used to be and should be. Sure there are stories such as Hoffenheim, Leverkusen and even in England, Hull City.

This is even how Kendall formed his superb mid-80’s team with a mixture of expensive players, players plucked from the lower leagues, players from the academy and even journeymen. Kendall’s success was down to team spirit, togetherness, will to win, expert dealings in the transfer market and a have a go attitude.

However, the way football should be is getting more and more remote. Teams like Hoffenheim and Hull are getting fewer and fewer between because money is taking over, more in the Premier League than anywhere else.

The top 4 now have massive squads of world class players and the best youngsters offering huge wages. Whenever a quality player emerges at a ’lesser side’ they are instantly prized away with the guarantee of silverware and multi million pound contracts. There is no greater example than what happened at our beloved club. We had a 16-year-old shining light, a potentially world class player who we could build the team around and take us forward. No sooner had we gradually, carefully and tried to keep him under wraps, he was taken away by money grabbing agents and again with the promise of silverware and huge wages.

It happens at all the clubs outside the top 4. Look at Tottenham this season. They actually managed a trophy, spent a total of £100m in one year to break the top 4, then get Berbatov and Keane prized away, to...top 4 sides!

Moyes’ record shows he is a good manager who can generally get the best out of players. He also generally has a very good record in the transfer market. The one thing that does seem to be missing from his management style is positivity. He had it six years ago, but it does seem to be draining from him. If his mentality is changing to the same as the other managers that the top4 can’t be broken, then it never will. He needs to be couragous to try something different such as 4-3-3 with Yakubu, Vaughan and Anichebe all upfront together. He needs to be confident in his own ability to win games at Emirates (such as Hull) and Old Trafford.

If Everton can’t compete the way the Premier League wants us to, e.g. financially, then we have to try something different. Give the kids a go (Man Utd tried it with the Beckham, Neville, Scholes era), try a new formation like Mourinho did when he came to England. Try some unknown players from the Championship, like with Cahill and Lescott. Try something positive and different, you never know where it will go.
Jay Wilson
7   Posted 09/12/2008 at 10:43:22

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Anyone using Hull City as an example for how success can be acheived with little money needs their head examining. You only have to look at what happened to Ipswich and Reading to see what happens to a team that does well in their first season in the Premier League. Let's wait a few years before we judge them a success.
Tim Luke
8   Posted 09/12/2008 at 09:38:07

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Alan, I fully agree with you. I think it all boils down to attitude and belief. The manager must be convinced that his team can win, and win all the time. Then, he must transmit this belief to his players. Only when the team has this winning mentality, backed by all the other points you made about good coaching, fitness, etc, etc, can a team really take on the "Big 4". This was what managers like Brian Clough and Don Revie were able to do at Derby/Forest and Leeds respectively.

Derby under Clough were a small midlands outfit with no history of winning trophies and with little money to boot. But Clough was a winner and he transmited this winning mentality to his players. He also bought well. He bought leaders and winners into the club (whether it was Dave McKay or John McGovern at Derby, or McGovern, Shilton, Gemmill and Lloyd at Forest) and let their experience and winners attitude rub of on the rest of the team.

Managers like Clough and Revie also never seemed to let money decide who wins trophies. Their teams took on the money team like Everton, Man Utd, Arsenal or Spurs in the 1960s and 70s and won the league, even though they never had the same level of funding or fan support as these bigger teams.

And funding never stop them from aspiring to be European Champions even though they could never compete with the likes of AC Milan, Inter, Juventus, Barcelona or Real Madrid for either money or fan base. So it all depends on the manager and players having a winners attitude and a philosohy. Now, if only Moyes could see this, we?d have a very different Everton Football Club.

Phil Martin
9   Posted 09/12/2008 at 11:39:36

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I don't agree with people using examples from the 70s and 80s as evidence you can break into the top 4 these days ? without serious cash.
Football is totally different. As a previous post states - as soon as a club looks like threatening the top 4 a CL club will lure their best player(s) away.
Example Gravesen to Real a few years. Berbatov and Keane. Remember Scott Parker going to Chelsea. Charlton where 3rd and Chelsea 4th. Scott Parker then sat on the bench for most of the remaining seaon. Chelsea secured their CL place and Charlton finished midtable. Todays game is completely different -its all about how much cash you have.

I hear names Gretna (err ? didn't they impode?) and get relegated? Norwich (relegated not long after their manager left for a bigger club). Ipswich imploded and got relegated the year they qualified for Europe. Hull City will struggle next year no doubt. They haven?t secured their medium term PL future based on a good opening half season.

While it?s possible to have a magical season and achieve way beyong your means -aka Moyes with EFC and 4th place. Without substanstial long term financial backing the succes will not last.
The ONLY recent club to come from being a small outfit to a major European player IMO is Villarreal. But again their owner backed them with money for players, youth academy AND upgraded stadium. Again (as per my previous post), can we say BK has offered us the same?
Andy Crooks
10   Posted 09/12/2008 at 11:50:02

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Great article, Alan; yes it can be done. Look at what Alex Ferguson achieved with Aberdeen in a league that was even more polarized than the EPL is now. We just need a coach who believes.
Alan Kirwin
11   Posted 09/12/2008 at 09:52:26

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Albert - we could do worse, in fact a lot worse. Ralf doesn?t seem to stay more than 3 years in one role.

There is a naiive beauty to the Hockenheims of the world, and particularly so when one acknowledges that they are where they are through intelligence & inspiration and certainly not good fortune. I am attracted to them as much for HOW they do what they do as for the achievement itself.

Counter Hoffenheim with what appears to be developing at Man City. Rumours of bids for Kaka (£70m), Casillas (£129m), Torres et al. I?d never wish EFC to end up with more money than sense because such things come at a price, both financial and emotional. And when al?s said & done this is supposed to be sport. Even the Americans (that sounds SO patronising, it?s not meant to) appreciate the need for competition and some form of level playing field.

It?s quite fabulous that a so-called eccentric, Ralf Rangnick, has simply studied what truly works technically and aesthetically and implemented it. Arigo Sacchi produced his offensively minded pressing game with world class players, Rangnick has simply done it with unknowns. Those who remember that great Milan side will recall the beautiful marriage of style and effect. The idea that it might be possible (actually, no, is demonstrably possible) with almost any team is a beautiful concept.

But not with David Moyes I?m saddened to say. However, if Moyes or Steve Round is spoted in or around Hoffenheim at any point then I will be encoiraged...
Alan Kirwin
12   Posted 09/12/2008 at 13:08:18

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Phil:

The fact that lesser sides over-achieved and then "imploded" to use your word does not lessen their original achievement. Norwich was mid 90’s and they shocked everybody with a refreshing brand of attacking football and astute coaching. The fact that Mike Walker, Chris Sutton, Andy Townsend etc eventually moved to bigger clubs just reflects the sad reality that bigger teams always want your best players.

You seem to want to undermine all or most of these achievements. Gretna’s implosion was due to extremely unfortunate circumstances. Norwich may have gone on longer. It’s churlish to dismiss Hull’s impact this season, I welcome it. Sure, Dietmar Hopp (ex SAP founder) has been involved with Hoffenheim and has bankrolled their development to some extent. But come on, he’s helped them build a youth academy, a youth scouting network and, soon, a new stadium, and he’s appointed a relatively unknown & somewhat maverick coach. It’s not in the same league as even what’s happened at Aston Villa, never mind Chelsea, Man City etc.

Villarreal are another case that deserve mention. They may have some established players, but also many who made their name with Villarreal and the fabulous style of play promoted by Manuel Pellegrini. I have enormous time for Villarreal and their management. I believe their style extends off the pitch as well as on it and was hugely impressed by them during our meetings in the CL qualifier. Again, their achievements are not due to a massive investment by anyone. The president, Alfonso, is a local businessman who runs a tiles business for christ’s sake. Their turnover is just Û58m euros.

As regards your anti Kenwright point on youth academy, players, stadium. As far as I’m aware we now have an excellent first team & youth operation in place at Finch Farm. We have broken our transfer record almost every season of Moyes’ tenure and (although we may not like it) Kenwright is doing what he believes is the only viable solution for a new stadium. And as with my main post, we also have some excellent young players in the club, Gosling, Vaughan, Victor, Baxter, Agard, Rodwel, Baines etc.

This article is about what is achievable on the pitch without massive investment. I believe there is enough evidence there to demonstrate it can be done. I actually now believe we have a very good squad of talented, strong & mainly young players, with some excellent kids on the fringe. Enough, in my view, for an insightful coach to mould an offensively minded, pressing team that could rattle a lot of cages if they were only let off the leash.
Alan Kirwin
13   Posted 09/12/2008 at 13:35:09

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Tim:

Thank you for highlighting a major oversight in my article, notably the achievements of Brian Clough. You are right to point out the relative obscurity of both Derby and Forest before his arrival. He turned his players, most of them unknowns & has-beens, into champions. Even in those days, who could imagine the likes of Larry Lloyd, Kenny Burns and John Robertson wining titles and European cups.

I guess you either believe or you don?t. When Moyes first arrived it sounded as though he truly did. That belief has evaporated now and I don?t think we even get 100% of the new miserable Moyes. Seems to me he turned a corner in May and ever since has been too pre-occupied with wanting more & more, be it money or players. I think he?s maintained his principles, but lost the plot, the motivation and the dream.
Brendan McLaughlin
14   Posted 09/12/2008 at 12:54:46

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A bit too ?Roy of the Rovers? for me Alan.

Firstly you are correct that the significance of money pre-dates the Chelski renaissance but there can also be little doubt that money (particularly Sky-money) now plays a much greater role in football than in the pre-premiership years.

I also note that whilst you concede the recent dominance of the big three adds weight to the ?money = success? argument, you have to travel the width of Europe for examples which contradict this; indeed Hull City is the best you can come up with in the Premier League.

Football is full of examples of clubs and managers who have burned brightly and then faded. You give a perfect example in the guise of the Mike Walker. I also recall (I think) Swansea City under John Toshack. If my memory serves me right they achieved successive promotions from the old fourth division to the first and promptly returned whence they had come almost as quickly!

I remember the United game where we lost 3-0. I also remember the Arsenal game last festive season where we totally outplayed Arsenal and still lost 4-1(?) and many people would say that our performance against Villa on Sunday was our best of the season so far ?.and we still lost.

The reality is that if you try to attack every team and try to win every game, you won?t as you suggest ?win more games?. You might but in the real world but nothing is guaranteed.

What every successful team needs (and what your article lacks) is balance in all things both on and off the field.
Alan Kirwin
15   Posted 09/12/2008 at 14:15:59

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Brendan:

Your cynicism is valid (on a free forum) but sad and, in my opinion, misplaced.

Your brusque dismissal of my article as lacking balance is incorrect and irrelevant. The article is effecting a personal opinion, albeit in the main based on facts. This is not the BBC and I have no obligation to produce an article that you consider balanced. Such an approach would yield anodine drivel.

The fact that I highlight one team in particular from that backwater of a country (Germany) and that insignificant league (Bundesliga) is also irrelevant to the point I am making.

"The reality is that if you try to attack every team and try to win every game, you won?t as you suggest ?win more games?. You might but in the real world but nothing is guaranteed." ? is dismissive and confused. You say emphatically that you won?t win more games by attacking, then you say nothing is guaranteed.

Tim Luke offers the perfect repost to your myopia, namely Brian Clough. And it?s no use saying that he couldn't do the same thing today with the so-called Sky 4 because you don?t know, anymore than I do. Fact is he did it, as did Mike Walker, as did Klaus Toppmoller, as did Alex Ferguson (at Aberdeen) and Jim McLean (at Dundee Utd) in Europe as well as Scotland, and so is Ralf Rangnick now at Hoffenheim.

Fact is Brendan, your view is the easy view. In life the people that change things are the mavericks who believe, often against ridiculous odds, and refuse to accept the status quo. History is full of so-called mavericks who succeeded against great odds, Einstein, Bob Dylan, Richard Branson, Ghandi, Amelia Earheart and Barak Obama are just a few. Football has a few too.

It can be done and if you don?t try you?ll never know.
Phil Martin
16   Posted 09/12/2008 at 14:23:23

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Alan,

I agree a smaller club that achieives even one season of relative success should be applauded; however, I thought this article was suggesting longer term success is possible for any club ? rich or poor?

Which is where I disagree. All the examples I mentioned Norwich, Gretna,etc all had very brief moments of glory. Are we saying that is what we want? Because I believe getting 4th a few years back was that moment. For that season we rose above expectations and produced results far beyond our collective worth. However, without the finances to back it all up it simplly doesn?t last.

BK hasnt even put in a tenth into EFC what the owner of Hoffeinheim has done for them. He has spent $190M on Hoffeinheim so please dont tell me that BK is anywhere near that league. Our wage bill and player purchases are still leagues behind the likes of Spurs, Villa and Newcastle... not to mention the SKY4

EJ Ruane
17   Posted 09/12/2008 at 13:56:24

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There is no doubt (or I think argument) that any team on ’it’s day’ can get a result against another.

The history of the FA cup shows this.

However if you are talking about a team achieving any type of long-term or worthwhile success, WITHOUT having the financial back-up of some of their wealthier ’rivals’ - imo, absolutely no chance

Ludicrous amounts of money gave Chelsea instant pace and touch throughout the team AND reserves and...trophies soon arrived.

When they didn’t have loads more cash than everyone else, they didn’t have top players, so didn’t win titles.

Absolutely indisputable.

I remember when we got beat 3-2 by Chelsea at home a couple of seasons back (Drogba late winner), we played well, they didn’t...but they won.

Same with the away leg in the Carling cup.

Of course it IS possible to develop your own players with pace and touch but if they’re REALLY good....well, you know where that’s going

Enough money buys success...but if you don’t think so consider this.

Imagine there was no United, Arsenal or Liverpool.

Just Chelsea (WITH their present ackers and team) and the rest of us.

Does anyone think one of the other teams (or a few of them for that matter) would be REGULARLY challenging them?

Alan Kirwin says..

"Out of 15 seasons Man Utd have 9 titles, Arsenal 3, Chelsea 2 and Blackburn just the distant 1. The first 3, along with Liverpool, have also monopolised the various cup competitions in most seasons. Looks fairly bleak for those outside the elite, Liverpool included"

I agree....because it IS! (that’s why I didn’t really get anything after that.)

Basically nobody else is going to win the title although Man City can in theory (and come to think of it, actually!) buy Chelsea and/or United and put em’ in sky blue shirts (crazy? you think if they offer Ronaldo 250 grand instead of 150 he’ll turn it down!? NONE OF THEM WOULD!)

Of course the two domestic cups still CAN be won by non-’big’ four....but probably only if the big four are concentrating on the ’Champions’ League and therefore sending out their stiffs for the FA/Carling cups.

Grim?

I think so...and if nothing changes, I think over the next 2-3 years, there’s the possibility of a huge drop-off in people actually going to the game.

The near-sighted and morally bankrupt Premier League/Sky parnership will be to blame if it does.
Alan Kirwin
18   Posted 09/12/2008 at 15:33:45

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Phil Martin: You are correct that Dietmar Hopp has invested $190m in Hoffenheim, all of it on infrastructure, facilities, youth programs etc. That is his total investment since 1991. However you cut that cake, £120m over 17 years is not Chelsea territory and simply reflects just how small & under-privileged Hoffenheim was (current stadium cap. 5,000 of which only 1,200 are seats).

And can we please leave Kenwright out of this thread for once. How much he hasn?t put into Everton is pretty irrelevant as he doesn?t have it and never promised it.

Everton has a far bigger history, pedigree, squad, fan base, revenue stream, etc etc than Hoffenheim, so something might be possible. Kenwright doesn?t choose the players to buy, nor does he coach or pick the team.
Micky Norman
19   Posted 09/12/2008 at 16:27:07

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Oh how I?d love to agree with this article but unfortunately every year the Champions League qualifiers pull further away from the rest of us. I?d put good money on backing them (and possibly moneybags City) to be in the competition for the next ten years. The only thing which would stop them is a major financial disaster for one of them. You can guarantee that if Hoffenheim make it next year they?ll spend some serious euros.
Phil Martin
20   Posted 09/12/2008 at 17:14:28

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Alan, again I have to disagree. You referred to Hoffenheim as being an example of not spending big to gain success. Yet the owner has spent huge amounts on bringing the club forward. I mentioned BK as I firmly believe had Moyes been given £30M (not including outgoing player sales) to spend after qualification for the CL then we would've had a great chance at progressing. Similarly likewise this season.

My point was you can only tread water for so long then something has to give. We already punch above our weight and without financial backing we will NEVER progress.

Unfortunately in todays world of football History, Tradition and Pedigree doesnt get you far. Players follow the money and the glamour of CL. The depressing this is that all we can hope for is another blip of a season where we perform miracles. But again, it won't last unless we have the resources to build on it.

Alan Kirwin
21   Posted 09/12/2008 at 18:42:45

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Phil:

I don?t disagree with your assertion that we would/may have improved had Moyes been able to buy Moutinho etc. There?s logic in that.

However, there is evidence from Hoffenheim, Nottm Forest, Bayer Leverkusen, Villarreal, Norwich and more, that greater improvement is possible through coaching and tactics than through the acquisition of 1 or 2 superstars. The principle being that, in team sports, the sum is always greater than the sum of the parts. Just how much greater is down to the coach.

Even Arsenal, in some ways, reflect the philosophy that I?m referring to. Their record transfer fee is lower than ours. Despite a few aberrations this season, they have excelled for a decade (league titles, FA cups, CL final etc) with a brand of positive offensive football that, on its day, is arguably unequalled.

It all stems from the philosophy of Arsene Wenger, his coaching, tactics, motivation and the technical ability of his players. Wenger seems able to put out a team with a number of relatively inexperienced players and give anyone (and I do mean anyone) more than a game in their own backyard.

As for players, well you?re right again, they will almost always follow the money. That, sadly, is the poorest indictment of the Sky era. Almost all of the extra income goes into players pockets. Portsmouth's wage bill is 90% of their turnover! It?s unsustainable and a major elephant in the room. If clubs try to run themselves on prudent lines and within their means (e.g. Arsenal) then they risk losing their players to other "big" clubs, many of whom operate with levels of debt & operating losses that would be unacceptable in a real business environment.
Dave Wilson
22   Posted 09/12/2008 at 18:45:47

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Proper article, Mr Kirwin

Ok, it isnt 100% accurate and you overlook ? deliberately I suspect ? a few relevant points in order to support your argument, but you make a good attempt to prove success for the less wealthy is achievable ? if not sustainable.

And you're right, you're not obliged to put a balanced view across... Light the blue paper and stand back.

But why oh why make the comment about DM at the end of your piece ? Half the people who visit this site didn't want him to re-sign, myself included, but he has... and you?d have more chance of getting a taxi driver to turn up at Aintree after the last race on Ladies Day, than you?d have of BK sacking him; he won't quit either.

So talk of his shortcomings, or even his replacement, may be roundly applauded by the Moyes-hating editor, but they are hypothetical, meaningless. You and MK have done this to death - there cant be many others ways for you to tell us you're not happy with the manager, we?ve got the message.

Like I said, good article otherwise.

Brendan McLaughlin
23   Posted 09/12/2008 at 19:36:03

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Hi Alan,

Sorry if I came across as cynical or dismissive earlier, I was penning my comment as my lunch break was quickly coming to an end. The reason I felt your article was unbalanced was that you seemed to imply that money was not an important factor but I see from your response to Phil Martin that you do acknowledge that it is. Is it a more important factor than a good manager? ? well to a certain extent it really does depend on the amount of money available ? but on the whole I wouldn?t disagree with you.

Just one final point: ?The principle being that, in team sports, the sum is always greater than the sum of the parts. Just how much greater is down to the coach.? This really is just another way of saying that a good coach always gets his team to punch above their weight. Wasn?t there an article produced a while back which showed that relative to wage bill, David Moyes?s Everton were the best ?value for money? side in the Premier League?
Tim Keen
24   Posted 09/12/2008 at 22:18:42

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Sorry but it IS always money in the long run.

Hoffenheim are only where they are because a billionaire was able to buy Brazilian internationals and Nigerian starlets when they were in the second division. They may well be brilliantly coached and flying high but would they be there if they had to live within their means? No.

Hull City got given a brand new stadium by the council and have minimal debt after being taken over by a very rich businessman. I?ve seen nothing so far to suggest they will establish themselves as anything different from the Ipswich, Reading and Wigan teams that came up and got off to a really good start.

That doesn?t mean that I disagree coaching etc are vital but the teams that win things are the richest ? it has always been so.
Alan Kirwin
25   Posted 09/12/2008 at 22:54:43

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Dave Wilson:

The piece about David Moyes in my article was deliberate and relevant. In fact it is more poignant because of the way in which he began his stint at Goodison with the mantra about wanting to win every game and with some supporting evidence that he really did believe that (e.g. the game at Old Trafford in Oct 2002). It was a refreshing philosophy that struck a chord with me and with others.

I have no desire to ram home any disillusionment with David Moyes. Up until end of last season I was supportive of him. But things changed from May onwards. He changed, his ideas changed, his expectations changed, his demeanour changed. In my view he crossed some kind of line from which he has never truly returned, new contract or not. As JM Keynes said, "when the facts change I change my mind, what do you do sir?".

Moyes is still, to my mind, a man of good principles and on the whole a man who has come to be an honorary Evertonian. But my article was fundamentally about the value of a coach (any coach) who can regularly prepare & motivate a lesser team to perform above expectations, and in a style that is technically & aesthetically pleasing.

Daid Moyes contract situation is irrelevant in the context of a debate between fans about what, when, how & where for Everton FC.
Alan Kirwin
26   Posted 09/12/2008 at 23:06:57

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Brendan:

No worries sport. I too was more than happy with the plaudits Moyes was receiving last season. On the whole they were well deserved. I just happen to feel that things have changed where DM is concerned. I feel quite let down by his behaviour since May and would personally have been happy to see him replaced. I guess the new contract makes that much less likely.

My views on DM and my views on Hoffenhem etc are only loosely related.

Alan Kirwin
27   Posted 09/12/2008 at 23:15:32

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Tim Keen:

Given your dismissal of Hoffenheim?s achievements and their apparent "inability to live within their means", perhaps you could reveal the (big money) clubs you have in mind that live within their means.

You clearly don?t have Chelsea in mind, they having debts of £750m and never having made a profit under Abramovich. Liverpool and Man Utd also share a combined debt of £1bn.

It is most often, but not always, the biggest and richest that succeed. The EPL/1st division has been won in recent times by Derby, Nottm Forest, Ipswich, even Everton in 84-85 were rank outsiders (our average gate was just over 20,000 at that time).

Spain has Villarreal, Germany has Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen. And don?t forget Man Utd went 26 years without a league title, while Merseyside?s 2nd team haven?t won it in almost 20 years.

I, for one, just hope that more managers and clubs take heart from the likes of Hoffenheim. Success for smaller clubs will always be inconsistent by comparison with big clubs. But perhaps it?s that which makes it all the more sweeter.

Dave Wilson
28   Posted 10/12/2008 at 03:29:15

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Alan

I must have posted a dozen times in the summer calling for the offer BK had tabled to be withdrawn.
IMO, DM?s position has never seriously been threatened. I hated the way he was happy to leave team affairs on ice, while he deliberately set about creating a nice little no-lose situation for himself. Mild success will ensure he sees out his contract and by constantly pointing to the financial restrictions he has to work under, he has guarenteed himself a sympathetic "what chance did he have" reaction from the football community if he fails, nice job...

Davey boy is here, he?s going nowhere, forget alternatives, on this occasion there really isn't any ? not for the forseeable anyway. MK and your good self are perfectly entitled to abandon all hope of any success coming our way in the next five years, but has it ever occurred to you that a manager who, unlike his peers, works in a pressure-free environment might just be a good thing for our club? Since DM has settled the seemingly endless contract saga, I have seen signs of him at least attempt to rid of us of the desperate percentage game we?ve endured.

By success, I assume you mean to break the sky 4 stranglehold on the English game? How strange that both MK and yourself dismiss the chances of Everton doing this whilst under the management of... well the only man who has ever proved capable of doing it.

Neil Pearse
29   Posted 10/12/2008 at 08:13:25

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Alan, really thought provoking article, but I really have to disagree. Comparing the 2008 Premiership with either the Bundesliga, or the SPL, or England in the time of Mike Walker and Brian Clough - it’s just not valid for me.

Money now is far more important than it was, and far more unequally distributed. This means that, as has been pointed out by many above, the richest clubs can buy away the best players of the poorer clubs - even from the Spurs and the Villas (Barry will go eventually). This was not the case 15 years ago.

How on earth can you compete over the long term if your best players are taken from you? And if the richest clubs can maintain squads that make them effectively injury proof? (Chelsea just go out and buy Anelka when Drogba is injured.)

I wish you were right, and I’m sure it’s possible to give it more of a go than we mostly manage. But the odds against are really steep.
Alan Kirwin
30   Posted 10/12/2008 at 11:13:22

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Neil - agree with much of what you say, but I don’t underestimate the achievements of teams doing this in past decades to the same extent that you do.

The current climate is admittedly, and very sadly, a grotesque distortion in financial terms, and much more exaggerated than it was when Derby or Forest won the league.

On a different but related topic: I find it interesting that Michel Platini gets plenty of stick about his thoughts and suggestions regarding the future of the game & its competitiveness, particularly where money is concerned. It is no surprise that the vast majority of this stick comes from English quarters and primarily from that prick of a man Richard Scudamore.

Platini believes it is unfair that some clubs (Chelsea, Man Utd, real Madrid etc) can carry huge debt burdens and in many cases are almost insolvent. He feels that clubs should live realistically within their means on all fronts, including players wages. I think the man talks more sense than I have heard for many a long while. It’s about time someone stood up to the money monster and reminded everyone that this is about competition and it’s about fans.

IMHO if Platini manages to implement even some of his ideas then the game will be in a far better state for all concerned. In such climates can teh Hoffenheims of this world at least stand some chance of prospering.
Michael Kenrick
31   Posted 11/12/2008 at 03:33:33

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Dave, Alan’s point is that the Old Moyes we all loved WAS capable of doing it. Hell, he DID it! FFS!

But the New Moyes, the older wiser Moyes ? the one so perfectly described in Alan’s posts ? is fundamentally incapable. End of.

Dave Wilson
32   Posted 11/12/2008 at 06:07:23

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Michael, Let me try again

Liverpool had a desperate season when we qualified for the CL. I can't remember our points tally off hand, but it wasn't much more than 60.

Moyes ? and the rest of us ? know the shite wont be so poor again, so to have any hope of qualifying again we have to improve, we?re doing that, last year was our biggest ever Premiership points haul. I remember the game at OT that Alan refers to, I clearly remember a young WR coming on when it was 0-0 and looking at one stage like he might singlehandedly burst through the Mancs defence. It was exhilirating, but we eventully went down 3-0. We were much, much better last tme we went to OT. Isn't that progress?

I think the problem You and Alan have is your memories are clouded as you recall a certain young Evertonian causing GP to errupt merely by getting off the bench to warm up. Rooney's departure stunk, but that's another story.

Everton were every bookies favorite for the drop, but GP Stood as one in a fist shaking defiance as week after week we won 1-0. Wasn't it magnificent? ... well actually no, it wasn't, it was as ugly as sin, but we knew the score, we loved it and to a man we stood behind our manager.

DM had raised expectations, the success Alan refers to in his article had been achieved, but ? and this is the point both of you are both missing, IT WAS NEVER SUSTAINABLE. I see many examples of "less wealthy " teams achieving success, Alan names a few, but can either of you give me one example were that success has been sustained?

Within months, sections of the crowd began to turn on Moyes. When reality set in, the team he?d guided to the CL were now being thumped 4-0 at places like the Hawthorns.

fast forward to 07-08: Bent, Radzinski, Gravesen etc were replaced by better players, unfortunately Stubbsys legs have gone, Davey Weirs too, but can you honestly say we havent made progress?

I would bet a months wages on us ending playing better football ? already started doing that ? and accumulating more points in this "nightmare" season than we did back in the halcyon days when we played very well at OT ... but lost 3-0.

Arthur Jones
33   Posted 12/12/2008 at 06:57:51

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I?d have to agree with the article. On our day, the team that DM has assembled could beat anyone, home or away, injuries permitting. Unfortunately nowadays we normally know within 20 minutes from the start if the players are "up for it" ... Too often this season they?re not.


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