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The New Consensus

By David O'Keefe :  04/05/2009 :  Comments (6) :
The 1990s: boom time for football as clubs up and down the country put their sky chips down on their big money signings in the expectation of glory and the riches that will surely follow. Everton were doing the same and struggling to keep up with the nouveaux riche of the premier league most noticeably the nearly successful Newcastle. The consensus as expressed by my brother then was that you needed to spend £20 million on players just to stand still. Only that was not the case.

Manchester United won with the kids, they may spend £30 million on a player today, but they became the corporate behemoth that they are today courtesy of their kids. Money was gained and saved by the success generated, while many went on a Viv Nichols spending spree in an attempt to catch up, without fear of the rainy days that would eventually come.

Some clubs realised that such an approach was not working, as balance sheets and league performances repeatedly told them. In place of this they opted for a slow build through good coaching, limited spending and investing in youth development. Maybe they had no choice, but with the right manager it may work.

Others went for the quick fix; sacked managers after a few bad results, spent money that they didn?t have on big money players that were past their best, neglected youth development and appointed poor quality managers.

2009 and recession has returned with a vengeance, its belt tightening time. Newcastle are almost relegated and in danger of going the same way as Northern Rock. They have a squad of over the hill and overpaid mercenaries and have suffered from a series of poor managerial appointments, since sacking Bobby Robson, five years ago.

Everton in rejecting the quick fix have slowly built themselves up from an almost Newcastle?esque position of an over the hill squad of overpaid mercenaries: have broken into the top four, qualified for Europe and gradually improved their league positions to the point that they are now the biggest threat to the top four. They did this by good coaching, wise spending and investing in youth development.

There is a salutary lesson here that should be learnt by all and in truth should have been put in practise around the mid-nineties. Money should be used to build solid foundations. Newcastle, like Leeds before them, have built a house on sand and the whole edifice is about to collapse in spectacular fashion.

As for Everton, it has been a long, hard, frustrating slog, since Moyes took over in 2002, it?s not been pretty at times, but stability is its own reward. The foundations have been set and now it's time to build. Success may not come this year, but I do know that it will come next year, that?s what Phil Neville says and with a trip to Wembley this month, it?s hard to disagree.

So, lads, if no champagne this year, so be it, but be sure to give Rafa your order ? and don?t forget the ice. Were going to need it!

Reader Comments

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Matt Traynor
1   Posted 05/05/2009 at 08:50:53

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Not a criticism, but you could’ve made this into a thesis as there is so much more to the migration of football from the business echelons of SME to MNC.

But some brief points to consider:

- At the time, Serie A was seen as the "money league" due to TV deals through a media-mogul (Burlesconi)

- Many of the D1 clubs were in favour of breakaway from the Football League (our own Chairman at the time, Philip Carter, was an instigator). Some saw individual negotiations of TV deals, like Italy, as being the way forward for revenue development. The Premier League, with collective bargaining of TV was the compromise. All clubs would get flat payments, plus a graduated scale depending on TV appearances (thus rewarding the more successful / more high profile clubs) - a kind of uneasy truce.

- At the time, I don’t think anyone thought that players wages would escalate as they did, and with the emergence of "super agents" and operation of clubs as a business by those not really familiar with the economics of sport, some unwise decisions were made.

- The proliferation of cable / satellite TV, and the conglomeration of TV networks globally has served to drive up the price of the TV rights, as networks will bid more to prevent rivals stealing a march. Despite Scudamore’s protestations - the Premier League as a "product" is only partially responsible. To be honest, the standard of local football in many countries is so piss poor that the Conference on TV would be preferable. Don’t forget, that mainstream media and the subsequent obsession with celebrity further "enhance" the appeal.

In a nutshell, although Everton was one of the main protaganist clubs for this, the European ban, Kendall’s departure, and the ultimate break up of the team meant we were to be in decline on the pitch at just the wrong time.

Man U emerged from decades of mis-management, trying to develop off-the-field success and focusing on the team and development of the footballing side at exactly the right time. The glamour-side is now player driven - most own some or all of their image rights, and the club gains by brand association.

In short, I think Everton made as many mistakes as a lot of clubs. The only reason we didn’t make the catastrophic mistakes of some, was the money was not in the hands of the decision makers.

As ever, it’s much more complex than this, but a good article that should hopefully produce some interesting debate.
Alan Kirwin
2   Posted 05/05/2009 at 14:51:38

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An interesting article, David, and also excellent (& very relevant) observations from Matt. It?s a big subject riddled with good fortune (Man U, Chelsea) and bad fortune (EFC) at various stages. Some of it was indeed self-inflicted. Greed can be a capricious mistress.
Brian Baker
3   Posted 05/05/2009 at 15:50:04

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Everton?s fortunes in the 90s were mixed, leading a charmed life most seasons and avoiding the drop into the Championship.

Had we have been relegated in the 90s, would we have done a Leeds, with our debts, poor management, old ground, and aging overpaid squad?

At least Leeds had a decent ground.
Micheal Hunt
4   Posted 05/05/2009 at 17:45:08

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Very good article... The angle on this subject that is most interesting to me is not the historical perspective (though relevant), but how we are positioned for the immediate future.

Are our foundations good enough (and those above us vulnerable enough) to make the step into the CL group stages in 2010? I think right now it is doubtful, but with a couple of key additions to the team (e.g. more creativity and explosive pace from midfield), we could break in.

IF (that massive word!) we win the Cup this year, it really could be the launch bad to the crucial self-belief that will (with a bit more added to the squad in the summer) enable us to have a truly fantastic season next year.
All things considered, I feel we have a lot to thank David Moyes for. The change in direction and strategy that came immediately on his appointment has changed the course of EFC dramatically for the better. Moyes and his team are quite possibly legends in the making... COYB!

Matt Traynor
5   Posted 06/05/2009 at 00:38:53

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Michael, two sides to that coin.

One could argue there was precedent after 2004/05 when after securing an opportunity for Champions League Qualifiers (wish people would stop saying we qualified for CL - we didn’t!), the club were unable to invest in the squad and we failed to progress (tough draw and Collina aside).

That said, the current crop are more experienced and technically better as players, however my concern is that given the finances of the FA Cup are worth about an extra GBP 3-4m (incl TV etc) it won’t make a great deal of difference to the overall money situation.

Therefore unless there are some rabbits in hats, it could be more of the same.
Michael Hunt
6   Posted 06/05/2009 at 16:28:11

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I think you are right Matt, we are still just short in number and quality right now to really muscle into to the Prem’s hardy perennials.
Of course a Cup win will bring us total unbounded joy :-)
Sweeter still if it is the pre-curser to a summer that sees us capture the required targets to see us take another big step forward. Onward Evertonians...

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