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The Holy Grail

By Peter Laing :  11/03/2009 :  Comments (25) :
Recent tabloid and media coverage of Everton's FA Cup exploits and our subsequent pairing with the Premier League's most elitist Club in the semi-final has undoubtedly brought with it an interest from many quarters into how the Club operates.

The semi-final is being billed as a David versus Goliath contest, the sorcerer against the sorcerer's apprentice, fashionable against unfashionable, two Clubs steeped in history and tradition but at opposite ends of the financial spectrum. Add into the mix an Everton side stripped through injury to it's threadbare bones, a United side boasting an Everton academy product in the form of the loathsome Wayne Rooney, and two Glaswegian Managers renowned for their motivational methods, then the tie has all of the ingredients of being a classic Cup encounter.

However, the purpose of this piece is not to analyze how Everton may plot to bring about Manchester United's downfall but to question how Everton may reach the top table of European football in the form of the Champions League.

Real Madrid's recent capitulation is symbolic of how the mighty have fallen; 9 times previous winners but a team devoid of all character and headed up by a second rate coach. The Galactico's may have gone but Madrid are clearly in danger of being seriously upstaged this season by the less fashionable Villarreal. Such a scenario smacks of comparison with the tale of the emperor's new clothes.

The strength of the English Premier League cannot be questioned by Europe's elite; five out of the last European finalists have been English teams and with the match-fixing scandal in Italy, the lack of appetite for club football in France, and the apparent financial crisis of clubs in La Liga have only served to promote the status of the Premier League.

With such a scenario, the Sky 4 are likely to continue to prosper and breaking into this cartel will therefore become harder given the current status quo. David Moyes's most recent comments would reiterate this notion, a notion that one would have to argue is impenetrable without a seriously wealthy benefactor greasing the wheels. Manchester City may undoubtedly have a cash cow but they have all the footballing charisma and credentials of a second-rate and spivvery-ridden phoney used-car salesman.

Bill Kenwright is clearly enjoying his day in the sun in respect of the FA Cup semi-final and who could blame him? Combine the Cup anticipation and Everton's current form, the attitude of the manager and the unity and spirit shown by the players, then the good times that we have savoured in recent seasons feel like they could become permanent.

Speaking personally, it would be great to progress to the next phase of our development in the same methodical manner of recent seasons under the stewardship of David Moyes. Moyes has clearly now served his apprenticeship and, given a little more power with the chequebook, would continue to work wonders with Everton. The progress we have made is remarkable, done the Everton way with class and dignity, hard-work and endeavour, the lows will always be low but the high's are always so much better.

I'm not looking for a Russian ogilarch, sheikh billionaire or American tycoon, given his 24/7 search for investment is Bill Kenwright also waiting for that special, if not mythical investor who bleeds blue blood?

This season, we have shown that we can overcome the odds, that Everton are once again great and our pride has been restored. As always there is room for improvement, we are 2-3 player's short of being Champions League contenders. The next step up is how do we achieve this without sacrificing our principles?

Reader Comments

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Lori Fekete
1   Posted 12/03/2009 at 09:13:21

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I my humble opinion, the Champions League is to blame for the current unfair distribution of wealth. The massive finicial gap between the Uefa (Europa) Cup and the Champions League is scandalous. Year on year, the same four teams can (almost) be guaranteed an extra £20 million to out-bid the rest, not to mention all the exposure and kudos that comes with it.

The rich get richer, and everyone else can fight for the scraps. Occassionally, teams like us or Villa may make a decent attempt to crack it but it would take getting to the group stage of the CL at least three years running to may a stable impact on resources.

I pray that there is a blue-blooded billionaire out there somewhere, but I can?t see it. So thus we go...
Alasdair Mackay
2   Posted 12/03/2009 at 09:48:30

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I would agree that we are only two/three players away from having a side capable of competing in the CL. Our goalkeeper is good enough, our back four is strong enough and we now have good cover in that area, with Neville able to deputise at RB, Yobo at CB and Lescott at LB. Our attacking six is versatile and we have several players who can play in different positions. I still think we lack a box-box centre-mid and two players with genuine pace ? one winger and one striker in the AJ mould.

In the summer we will more than likely lose Castillo, Jo, Jacobsen, Valente and Van der Meyde. If Irving can make another step up that will save us having to source a new RB. With two players able to cover Baines at LB, I can?t see there being any great need to replace Valente, so that leaves us with the three positions I mentioned.

I guess what it comes down to is how much money Moyes gets to spend. I really think that if we can secure enough investment for these three signings in the summer it will give us the platform we need to make a sustained challenge at the next level.
Phil Bellis
3   Posted 12/03/2009 at 10:21:38

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Traditionally, successful teams have bought from strength, to enhance, not maintain the team. Moyes is trying his best but we can?t do this as we did in the past... Kay replaced Harris; Kendall replaced Gabriel; Watson replaced Mountfield etc.

We are naggingly, constantly told we have no cash, despite increased league position and Sky money, so, wthout regular, unborrowed funds. (Where did the Fellaini £4-6m down-payment come from?)

Our hope appears to lie in Moyes getting transfers spot-on and youngsters either coming through our academy or being identified and brought in from others. NSNOers regret this is what we?ve come to but more regrettable is the apparent, current acceptance of buying players to maintain and, thereafter, hope they somehow improve the team.

Gareth Humphreys
4   Posted 12/03/2009 at 10:38:19

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The problem Everton have is that they are officially competing against 4 of the best 8 teams in Europe and haven?t got a pot to piss in. There is only so far that organisation and graft will take you and good cup runs like this and last season are about as good as we can hope for without investment.
Perry Umbown
5   Posted 12/03/2009 at 10:47:07

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Although in principle I don't agree with more than 1 team from each country in the Champions League, surely if the current success continues there will be a point in the next few years when, based on merit of performance of the English teams in the CL, the Premier League is awarded a 5th place in the competition?
Jason Lam
6   Posted 12/03/2009 at 10:51:57

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The unfair distribution of rewards between CL and Europa is obviously due to the fact that no-one bloody wants to watch the Europa. If your team’s out of Europa, would you watch it? By allocating consolation spots to the CL group stage losers, at least that will bring in more TV audiences as a whole.

I think Tony Marsh got it right this time. The FA Cup is more worthwhile, or it is because we’re still in it?
Ian Tod
7   Posted 12/03/2009 at 10:45:54

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I agree we are only 2/3 players away from being a top 4 quality team and I do think we can achieve getting these players this summer with the usual £18-22 million pounds we have to spend like.

So, a pacy winger (Joaquin, Valencia) £8million; versatile creative midfielder to take pressure off Arteta (Krancjar, Portsmouth) £8 million; and he needs to find another promising young English player from the Championship (£4-6 million) and a loan deal for a talented but out-of-favour player at a big club (Van der Vaar, Real Madrid?).

Richard Dodd
8   Posted 12/03/2009 at 11:13:53

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Bill Kenwright receives too little praise for bringing Everton to the cusp of greatness. True, David Moyes has done an unbelievable job too but, under any other Chairman, would not have been given the time to do it.

What Bill craves and spends every hour searching for is a fellow investor to share his burden. Everton do not need a oligarch or a sheik ? just a rich man to put the icing on the cake with those two or three players we need.

Let?s hope BB?s prayers are answered soon.

Anthony Dyer
9   Posted 12/03/2009 at 11:04:41

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"Money, Money, Money, it?s a rich man?s game"... or so the song goes.

If you compare this season's likely FA Cup Semi-Final line up to last year's, we can see that the Sky 4 have taken the competition very seriously, even the RS played their best players against us in the replay. The reason is the cash it generates from TV etc.

The last 5 years has seen a chasm open up between the elite PL clubs and most of the other European clubs. Attempting to break the CL monopoly from within the PL is far more difficult than it is for say a team like Villarreal in Spain.

Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez, Gerrard, Torres, Anelka, Lampard, Drogba, Fabregas, Van Persie et al are all players that could earn a living in any part of the world. When you look outside the gang of 4 in England, how many truly world class players are there in the remaining teams?

Everton have some good / very good professional players but we don?t have any individual that would walk into those teams at the top end of the league. Without major investment it is unlikely that we can seriously challenge and improve on what we have done or likely to do this season. Even with investment as Man City are finding out, it is difficult to prise the best players away from those elite clubs.

If City or anyone else are to replace one of the Sky 4 they will have to buy the top players from those clubs in order to compete with them. At the moment only Arsenal of the Sky 4 are likely to sell any of their major assets.

Everton can build slowly and surely but every passing season sees our better players a year older Cahill, Neville and they too will need to be replaced. Playing catch up in this League is almost impossible, unless of course we find a few more outstanding teenagers who can form the backbone of a future Everton team.

Nothing is impossible in football but attempting to build a team capable of challenging the status quo at the top of the league is probably beyond the capabilities of most clubs with or without money.

Phil Bellis
10   Posted 12/03/2009 at 11:32:25

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Do you agree Bill should hand over any ring-fenced cash he might be saving for some other purpose (whatever that might be) to further team building in the summer?
JP de Valois
11   Posted 12/03/2009 at 11:12:53

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Interesting & thought provoking Peter.

I think Lori?s comments are particularly insightful. We really shouldn?t be starting from here if we are truly interested in the game and in competition. The current model with Sky and the "Champions League" is self-perpetuating and, whilst it may serve to massage the egos of those that enjoy its riches, it is damaging to the game as a whole. Pity, the bigger picture has rarely been of such small relevance.

Let?s start with the so-called Champions League. It is neither solely for champions nor is it a league. What it does is extend its reach just far enough to sufficiently devalue Europe?s 2nd competition (UEFA/Europa). It plays into the hands of the big clubs by giving them oodles of games which are often meaningless, as a pre-cursor to the games that really count.

I?m afraid I don?t see the point in the Sky 4 playing Brondby, or Rosenborg, or Besiktas etc. They?d all get a more difficult game from Everton. And allowing 4 teams to enter the CL from the league is almost abscene. In the "old days" the top competition was for winners, not for teams who finished 20 points behind them in 4th place but who somehow manage to play better in Europe. The fact that the UEFA/Europa has teams that finish no higher than 5th in the EPL is one of the most stupid facets of this. The only thing more stupid is allowing a team in the CL who finished 3rd in the group stages to re-enter European competition at an advanced stage of the UEFA/Europa. How much more stupid, insulting or devaluing can it get.

Jason Lam has missed the point with his comment. What is wrong is the model and if it doesn?t change it will eventually destroy the whole essence of the game, i.e. true competition. Michel Platini recently proposed that we have 3 CL places from the league, and that 1 is transferred to our national cup competition. True to form, what seemed (to me) like sound logic aimed at broadening the competition and opportunity is shot down by Scudamore and his EPL accolytes who see only the down side for 1 of their favourite teams.

Peter is right to mention Villarreal. Ever since we played them I have developed a soft spot for them. They showed class on & off the pitch against us. They are a good club and a nice club. Pellegrini is a bit of a genius, something akin to a more urbane version of David Moyes. So sure, occasionally it can be done as Villarreal and (please God) Hoffenheim are showing. But again many people have the box the wrong way up. To me, it is sad to think that the only way we might realistically compete at Europe?s top table again is via the injection of zillions from a sugar daddy.

Surely the better, more sustainable and fairer model is to reduce the number of CL places available and get it closer to the concept of champions, than of a European league by stealth. Then also have the FA cup winners qualify for the CL. Then stop the nonsense of CL teams who finish 3rd "dropping" into the UEFA/Europa. Then implement Platini?s plans for all clubs (that play in European competition) adhering to a model whereby they have to be live within their means. A bizarre commercial concept I know, especially in football, but a far more noble one than the idea that Chelsea can exist with £750m of debt due to a favour.

Even in the USA, land of the free and the most money-focused society on earth, they recognise that sport is different. If you don?t have competition in sport then, ultimately, you don?t have sport. It?s that simple.

I say screw the billionaires, Peter. We?ll get there eventually. What?s the point in buying success, do you think it tastes the same? Time for the tail to wag the dog, because the dog is sick.
Richard Parker
12   Posted 12/03/2009 at 11:46:02

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@Anthony Dyer.

I think in all honesty we do have players that would get into the Sky-4 teams.

Yakubu, for one, is good enough for the RS and Arsenal and possibly Chelsea. Lescott and Jagielka are also good enough for a start in those 3 teams. Arteta and Cahill wouldn’t be too far off a place in the 18-man squads of those 3 either.

Tim Howard, for my money is on a par with Given and really only behind Cech and van der Sar in the top Premier League keepers.

I think we have the basis of an excellent team, but keeping them all fit has been our problem. This is the big challenge, the teams above us, Villa excepted, have 20 top-class players to make a starting 11 from. We have about 4 or 5 top-class players and 5 or 6 very good players.

3 new signings would give us a top-class starting 11 in my book. But to be able to compete in the league, cups and Europe, we’d need another 6 or 7 top players at least.

Having said all that, even after our horrific start and despite all the injuries we’ve had, we’re still in with an outside chance of 4th (very outside, but still....)
Stewart Littler
13   Posted 12/03/2009 at 13:56:36

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Excellent article, and just picking up on an excellent comment from JP de Valois ? agree with everything you said, but it?ll never happen ? they won?t take away those CL spots now, cos of the shit it?d cause ? you saw how the RS got the rules changed when we beat them to 4th. And I?ve got to say giving a place to the FA Cup winners is even more bizarre ? plus, the Sky 4 would simply make sure they were in with a chance in that competition.

What?s obvious, I think even to UEFA, is that the current model doesn?t work ? for the second season running, all 4 english clubs are through to the quarters, and it looks increasingly likely that we will have english representation in the final, for the 5th consecutive year.

Personally, I can see the CL evolving into a European Super League in time, where participants do not take part in their domestic league, but I think the best thing to do would be to go back to where we started ? the European Cup for LEAGUE champions, the ECWC for CUP winners, and a UEFA Cup for the rest ? there?d be enough big names in all competitions to generate the money necessary.

Peter Howard
14   Posted 12/03/2009 at 17:33:39

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Richard, Can you name the "20 top-class players" the RS have in their squad?
Michael Wylie
15   Posted 12/03/2009 at 17:41:17

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I think that if we continue to hold our place, eventually the cream will rise to the top.

The current money boom in football WILL end eventually. Nothing ever stays the same. Well run, solid and well suppoted clubs will come back into fashion.

I can only imagine where we will be once Roman has got bored, Ferguson has left Utd, the red shite have gone bust and Arsenal have to start playing some British players.

Maybe the likes of us, Villa, Forest, Sheffield Wed etc will have some good days again, and British football will return to normal.
Neil Farrell
16   Posted 12/03/2009 at 19:04:35

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Just a thought on the current monopoly of the Champions League placings. What about the places 4, 5, 6 in a play-off for the 4th place. 5 play 6 with 5 at home. Then 4 plays winner with 4 at home. This way would give MORE TV Ratings with such a prize on offer and to some extent crack the monopoly. YES I know the sky 4 wouldn't like it, but perhaps the TV companies might and as such, the FA might.
John Burquest
17   Posted 12/03/2009 at 20:35:40

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The best thing to do is have the League, FA Cup and League Cup winners in the Champions League as they have all won something as well as the second placed team in the league as that is an achievement (sort of). Third and fourth placed teams can enter the Europa League.
Eric Hardman
18   Posted 12/03/2009 at 22:21:01

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I would agree that the present basis of the Champions League is creating an ever expanding gulf between the rich and poor clubs, not just in England but right across Europe. Many eminently sensible suggestions have been made by posters above to reverse this trend but the question is whether any of these will get implemented.

In my view, the imbalance in revenue between the paying spectators in the grounds and the paying spectators watching on their TV screens is the main cause of this problem. Nothing will change on this. The cow has been bought and now she will be milked.

UEFA are no longer in control. The rich clubs can dictate the format in order to maximise revenue from TV rights, particularly in America and Asia.

Platini is only tinkering at the edges, trying to get more representation in smaller countries by reducing the number of qualifying clubs from successful leagues (England, Spain, Italy). The proposal to have a limit on foreign players may benefit national teams but it doesn?t stop the rich clubs outbidding for all the available talent. Every time a good player or manager appears on the scene the imbalance is reinforced with all the media clamouring for the rich clubs to buy them up.

At the back of this process is the threat of breakaway from G17 or its enlarged version. There is no outside body looking at this process and saying stop! its unsustainable; you are killing the game at the grassroots. Only the fans of the ever more impoverished wannabees like Everton are likely to complain. Let's face it, if we had done things properly and stayed at the top in the late 80s, we would be one of the rich clubs saying hands off. Unfortunately, the only answer for Everton is a billionaire. Otherwise, as soon as we get players good enough to challenge, the big clubs will make them an offer they cannot refuse. That is the flaw in David Moyes?s plan to build a team capable of challenging and I think he will be the first to jump ship if the opportunity arose.

So, if you can?t beat em, join em... but don?t hold your breath.

Ian Tunny
19   Posted 13/03/2009 at 00:14:11

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The Premier League is probably the strongest league and so we probably have just as good a chance of winning the Uefa Cup as Man Utd or an English club winning the Champions League.

Maybe our best chance of getting into the Champions League is to win the Uefa Cup.
Steve Ryan
20   Posted 13/03/2009 at 03:15:38

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Richard Dodd thinks that we are "on the cusp of greatness" . Are you soft or what? For fucks sake man we are sixth in the league and did you see our last 3 league performances. Talk about getting carried away.
Chris Brigden
21   Posted 13/03/2009 at 11:09:51

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Fully agree with you, Steve. Over-expectations cause unnecessary pressure and ultimately failings!
Mick Hard
22   Posted 14/03/2009 at 10:40:11

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I am fed up with goats like Chris and Steve, all you ever do is post negative comments. Let's look at our position positively.
Chris Brigden
23   Posted 14/03/2009 at 16:46:59

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I wasn’t being negative Mick.
I was just saying, ir’s a few more years before we are ready to challenge for the league and sign quality players like Walcott.
Mick Hard
24   Posted 14/03/2009 at 19:59:01

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Chris why do you keep going on about Walcott? You are a goat.
Chris Brigden
25   Posted 14/03/2009 at 21:12:56

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Because he’s the best player in the world in my opinion. Him and Stephen Ireland are easily the most talented players in the English Premier League.

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