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This Season is a Crossroads

By Simon Skinner :  01/08/2008 :  Comments (15) :

But For Whom?

I want to make it very clear from the outset that I am a huge Moyes fan. Under Moyes, I believe we have made huge progress. The average age of the team was been reduced by 5-6 years, while at the same time improving the quality of the players. We now have the beginnings of a European reputation, and we are at least able to consider a run at the Champions League places next season (even if we aren't quite there yet).

What I want to discuss is the story that Moyes has apparently demanded the funds for 6 players, for around £30m. I have seen many comments on ToffeeWeb saying that the board MUST come up with this money, and it would be a disgrace if they didn't. I strongly disagree.

I would argue that the Board's job is to form a long-term strategy (with the manager's input, of course) and to implement it.

The strategy chosen over the last few years has been to attempt slow but consistent growth. Our funds have been invested in young internationals (full or U21). We have not made any quick-fix purchases; we haven't brought in older players like Michael Owen, Sol Campbell etc. like a lot of similar clubs, commanding huge fees and/or huge wages. Nor have we bought players who provide only slight improvements ? it would have been relatively easy, for example, to spend £6m and get a player very slightly better than Carsley, but then, we wouldn't have been able to afford Lescott, who was a huge step up on Stubbs/Weir.

We have bought intelligently, and to a plan. Yes, there have been errors, but even there you can see the thinking ? Krøldrup was (and in Italy, is) the intelligent, ball-playing centre-half that we badly lacked, and Davies was the winger we needed at the time. Yes, they weren't good enough in the Premier League, but the plan was there. In fact, I would argue that the last player we bought solely because he was the best available at the time was James Beattie. There was no real tactical plan to introduce him into the team ? but we needed a striker that January, and who else was there? History showed this to be a mistake, and one which Moyes has learnt from.

Since then, our success has been consistent, but it has come at a monetary cost. We have broken our transfer record twice, and also spent heavily on our defence. We have borrowed money to pay for this (which is fine, by the way ? the interest payments are perfectly serviceable).

Less obviously, our wage bill over the past two years has spiralled. In addition, contracts given to new signings ? Arteta, Cahill, Johnson, Lescott, Osman and Howard ? have all been offered improved, long term contracts to ward off temptation from other clubs, especially West Ham last year it seems. You would imagine the first four are all on £40k to £50k a week (Johnson's original deal was £40k and he got an improved deal), and it's fair to say that the improved contracts for these six added around £8M to the wage bill, plus any signing on fee they may have received.

This is why other teams seem to have more to spend than us this summer. There is no "where has the money gone" mystery ? it's gone on wages of top players, and you weren't complaining when Arteta signed, were you?

Now, my main point: should we spend £30M just because Moyes said so?

The assumption being made is that what Moyes says must be best for the club. However, I think it is important to note that this season is more a crossroads in Moyes's career than it is in Everton's history. Moyes has built up quite a reputation in the last six years. However, he wants to manage right at the very top, and there's only two ways that's going to happen. Either he makes Everton into a top club, or he gets another job at a top club.

Recent history shows that big club owners (mostly foreign now) only offer such jobs to managers with trophies. So he needs to win something, somehow. From a purely career perspective, the best thing that could happen for Moyes is Everton to put their eggs in one basket ? i.e. risk their long-term future for one season. If it works, then both Moyes and Everton are winners. If it doesn't, then only Everton lose ? Moyes can get still get another job at an Everton-level club (Newcastle/City say) with his reputation intact. It's a risk-free gamble for Moyes.

The fact is, we don't have £30M. We don't really have access to £30M without security. We probably could somehow borrow it from the banks, but (a) at a terrible rate on interest and (b) with the bank having right of recall. In addition to the £30M borrowed, there are signing-on fees and additional wages to be paid. We need to find an extra £15M next season in income to cover this ? basically, this means reaching the Champions League next season.

What then happens in 12 months' time if we finish 7th, and don't even qualify for the Uefa Cup? Remember, even with an improved squad, it only takes some bad luck. A few injuries. A run of terrible refereeing decisions against close rivals.

The result is likely to be a fall in predicted income, and the bank recalling the loan. We would have to sell to cover it. Who can we sell to cover it? Lescott? Arteta? Cahill? Yakubu? Sold below market value, because we have to sell and people know it. Our less successful players we have to hold onto, because nobody wants them.

So we've sold our best players, we are broke and we have several players not performing on huge wages that are millstones round our neck. We are right back to 2002, and 6 years of consistent progress have been undone in one year.

These are the risks associated with a sudden change of policy. And make no mistake ? it is a very sudden change in policy. 6 months ago, Moyes spent £2M on Dan Gosling, a youngster with potential only. It was a transfer that fits in perfectly with our transfer policy ? a 17-year-old U-19 international who can grow into our team. As before, only time will tell if he was a good buy but it was at least a strategic fit.

If Moyes is now saying that we need to buy players ready for the first team, right now, then buying Gosling was idiotic. That's £2M right there that could be added to the Moutinho bid. It's no good buying players for the next 5 years if you are going to risk everything in the next 12 months. Remember that Moyes wanted to buy Gosling, and he knew the position in terms of squad numbers. If squad numbers were such a large concern to him, should Moyes have spent so much money solely on promise?

And that's why the most important thing the board to do is establish a long term plan and stick to it. If you want to make one big push, you plan ahead and make sure it's the biggest push possible. Changing your strategy on a month's notice is terribly inefficient and only gives you the worst of both worlds.

So that is my plea to supporters ? try to think ahead. Don't assume that spending money is always good; don't assume that the club should always look for short term success; and don't assume that any chairman who doesn't give his manager exactly what he wants has failed in his duty.

Reader Comments

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Lyndon Lloyd
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1   Posted 02/08/2008 at 06:06:33

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Well argued, Simon, but at a time when there is so much unfounded speculation flying around, it’s perhaps a little risky to predicate an entire article on an uncorroborated story that Moyes has demanded £30m for five to six players.

Assuming it’s true for the sake of argument, though, I think that Moyes is perfectly within his rights given what he has achieved on a relatvely small budget to ambitiously plan on ramping up key areas of the squad with top-quality players.

He as much as conceded after the Carling Cup semi final second leg defeat to Chelsea that what was stopping Everton from making the step up to the next level was money. And he is no doubt mindful that if he is going to put together a sustained run at the top four over the next two or three seasons, he needs to add that missing quality now. The likes of Tim Cahill and Joseph Yobo, for example? who represent a calibre of player that might cost between £15m and £20m to replace in today’s market ? are not getting any younger and there is an element of needing to strike while the iron is hot.

If we look at the players he has targeted, there is one star name at a star price ? formerly Arshavin, now Moutinho ? and then perhaps four solid, good quality foreign players in the £5m range (Topal, M’Bia). Sell Johnson, buy, those five and you’ve spent around the £30m you suggest.

I believe it’s a case of Moyes challenging the club’s financial backers to put their money where their mouths are. You want to build a top-quality stadium (well, that was, we hope, the original plan even if that isn’t the case now) and break into the Champions League, then this is what we have to do. Make it happen.

Yes, there is something to be said for the pragmatic approach but I believe that if we keep on that track, we will continue to just miss out each season and have to settle for finishing in that fifth to seventh range. There’s likely to be one team of those strengthening ? again it looks likely to be Spurs but who knows ? for whom the pieces will click and we’ll then be battling a top five instead of an out-of-reach top four.

Clearly, though, money is in very short supply and the approach you support is probably our only choice.

Nathan Snell
2   Posted 02/08/2008 at 18:22:09

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An interesting read Simon, only I believe the transfer startegy remains consistent and that there should be no Deviation.

We have invested large sums of money intermittingly throughout Moyes leadership i.e Yak (for £12M) - whom you’ll agree was money well spent, and Johnson for around £9M who arguablly has been a success.

We have to invest year on year in the squad and incorporate better players whilst bringing in talented teenages who you hope will have what takes to make it in the big time.

The squad is very short on numbers and in order to progress and imporve we need to invest. If the board can generate the funds why shouldn’t we spend it? Two quality established and young internationals in postions we have no experience or quality in.

This will allow our tallented younger professionals to develop with less preasure, and allow our consistent development to go forward.


Gary O'Brien
3   Posted 02/08/2008 at 18:55:36

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I can't believe Everton are the only team not to buy a player! What the fuck is going on Kenwright??? The season starts in 2 weeks... it's a fucking joke!
Jay Harris
4   Posted 02/08/2008 at 19:37:45

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Simon a very eloquently put argument and good reasoning but one statistic you forgot to include is that Moyes,who inherited a team of aged has beens, has transformed the squad by being given the ridiculous average of 4.5 million a year to spend on players in that time.

It is widely acknowledged throughout the game that he has achieved miracles which is why he has been given so many accolades by his peers.

At the same time other teams in the prem have spent significantly more but have also developed their "off field" income streams in a much better way than EFC because that is now the only opportunity to keep up.

EFC unfortunately some might even say criminally have amongst the worst commercial income in the premiership and have posted 10 million a year operating losses for the last 2 years.

That is why we cant compete not Moyes’s desire to spend.
Simon Skinner
5   Posted 02/08/2008 at 20:59:35

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Lyndon: I agree the story regarding the £30m is unfounded. However, in response to this many people have written opinions in support of the spending of £30m. If spending such money is risky, that deserves a response.

Further, I don’t think anybody doubts that there is SOME degree of pressure coming from Moyes regarding his budget. I felt that somebody should point out that Moyes has his own careers aspirations, and that while he has been wonderful for Everton, and that in theory we should do what he can to hold onto him, there is a balance to be struck with long term stability.

Nathan: We have indeed spent big money in the past. In those cases, though, it was big money spent on proven Premier League players, with money that we could afford.

You ask "If the board can generate the funds why shouldn?t we spend it?". My article was based on the extremely likely premise that Everton FC cannot generate £30m this summer, except through very risky short term borrowing. If £30m is really there, fantastic, spend it (preferably on quality young players). Do we really think it is there?

Jay: I have often read such comments from you, and there is clearly a lot of truth them with regards to Everton. However, I’m not really sure how we compare to other Premier League teams. You often bring up the example of Spurs in 2006/07, but they are a London based team with huge hospitality functions who made it to the latter stages of 3 cups and charge £60 per ticket (best £60 I spent last year mind). That year was exceptional for them, and the previous year they lost £10m before transfers.

And on a similar note, your £10m loss figure for Everton is misleading. Everton lost £3m last year before player transfers, which is a much more sensible way of measuring a club. This isn’t really as bad as it sounds.

Other than Spurs, how do we rank in terms of off field profit?

Incidently, with the huge increases in Sky money and sponsership coming into football over the last few years, such income actually is of less importance that it used to be, unless you can obtain the really big bucks from corporate hospitality (which Everton will struggle to do due to location).
Gavin Ramejkis
6   Posted 03/08/2008 at 09:02:30

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Gary O?Brien, before another smartarse pops in with an answer, Man Utd also have not bought a player but ? and it?s a huge 'but' ? they have a huge squad, so no signings will have little or no effect on them. Ignoring the quality of some purchases, we still have a squad too small to cope with one or two injuries or suspensions. Did last season?s limp over the line teach BK nothing?
Nathan Snell
7   Posted 03/08/2008 at 10:42:22

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Well thought thought and valid points Simon. You should send your CV to Bill.
Brian Donnelly
8   Posted 03/08/2008 at 11:44:08

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Simon, I agree with most of what you have written above. The trouble is that I strongly suspect that DM has been promised, presumably by BK, a large transfer pot. Then when it doesn?t appear he is understandably miffed and that is why his contract is still outstanding.

I know the above is based on few facts, except for DM not signing the new contract, but what else can it be?

We have a chairman who doesn?t do detail or long term strategy for that matter. Heaven knows what sort of bullshit he?s been spouting in any negotiations that he has had with DM.

If only we did have a long-term financial strategy other than "we are going to move to an out-of -town retail park, with insufficient transport links, but the ground is going to be full for every home match" bollocks!
Steve Jones
9   Posted 03/08/2008 at 11:40:58

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Good article SImon. Just one point........

"I would argue that the last player we bought solely because he was the best available at the time was James Beattie. There was no real tactical plan to introduce him into the team ? but we needed a striker that January, and who else was available?"

Dean Ashton went from Crewe to Norwich the same month, now hindsight is a wonderful thing but I always thought he would be a better option. Same type of player although a lot younger, unproven at the highest level at the time I agree, but so were Cahill & Lescott.
Stuart Downey
10   Posted 03/08/2008 at 12:04:34

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Good article Simon, just to respond to Lyndon on one point, we are continually breaking our transfer record, which hadn’t been broken since Nick Barmby. This shows a consistent growth in expenditure. Now, either this is (I hope) because we were playing good football, doing well and making money and able to spend - or - we were being financed in another way by outside money from Kenwright and co to push those boundaries.

If that wasn’t the case, then we should be able to continually be able to push our transfer record based on the fact that our economic situation should be at least the same if not improving (younger squad, smaller squad, improved season). There should be money available. Unless the football goes backward, shouldn’t the money be there?

Also, if you read the Guardian today, theres a lot of talk about Green and Earl and Everton, and even a story (which seems based on past facts and offers nothing new) about Everton being put up for sale if we get the green light on Kirkby.
Simon Skinner
11   Posted 03/08/2008 at 15:34:26

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Steve Jones

I agree with you - and I think you agree with me too. My point was James Beattie was the last player who didn’t fit into our strategy. Ashton would have been the player more in keeping with that strategy, but he was completely unproven at the top level. Asking him to lead Everton into the Champions League in his first season would have been a big ask.

It’s a difficult one to defend, James Beattie over Dean Ashton, given hindsight. At the time, though, Beattie had score what, 50 top flight goals in 3 season? And that playing for Southampton

I think most observers at that time would have expected Beattie to have been the better players in the first 6 months, which is really what he was bought for.
Simon Skinner
12   Posted 03/08/2008 at 15:34:26

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Our economic situation isn’t the same, for the reasons I outlined in my article. Our wage bill has increased when we bought top players, and when we offered existing players (Lescott, Arteta, Cahill, Johnson, Osman and Howard) new contracts.
Dave Johnson
13   Posted 05/08/2008 at 13:12:33

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Excellent article. Just one problem.Do we have enough players to field a FIRST TEAM week in week out .Maybe I will get a game in the Micky Mouse Cup. I will sign soon and tell the press that I signed because EVERTON are a MASSIVE CLUB bollocks bollocks bollocks.NO SURRENDER KEIOC
Dave Johnson
14   Posted 05/08/2008 at 13:35:21

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This is all BOLLOCKS. Reckon we all pose as gobshites and go on the red shite sites causing mischief until DK is sorted out.NO SURRENDER KEIOC
Dave Johnson
15   Posted 05/08/2008 at 13:41:26

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Lets start a rumour concearning the fat waiter and a Gerbil

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