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A Little Realism, Please

By Steve Hogan :  16/07/2009 :  Comments (22) :
Like Marley's Ghost every Christmas, our club motto, Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, comes back to haunt us every time. It's probably time someone was brave enough to suggest a more realistic theme in the current climate, based on the fact that, as much as we would all like 'only the best', we currently can't afford it.

I have been watching Everton since the mid-sixties when the football world took a collective breath when we paid Blackpool £110k for one Alan Ball. We really were the 'Mersey Millionaires' then and on a par in terms of world status with our lovable neighbors. Since then, I have been lucky enough to see us win the league three times, thank God. I probably won't see an Everton side win it again in the next ten years if I am realistic.

The 'madness' currently affecting our game really does leave a sour taste in my mouth. When the aforementioned Alan Ball made his home debut for Arsenal after his transfer from Everton, me and a mate hitchiked down to London on New Year's Day to watch it! Can you believe that? — two starry-eyed kids wanting to watch their hero play for another team.

Compare then,nearly forty years later when I attended a recent night game at Old Trafford (to which I had been invited), I remarked to a colleague, "Why is there a collection of Bentleys and Range Rovers with their engines running parked outside the player's entrance?" The reason was that the Man Utd players liked to get into 'warm' cars in the winter! The mind boggles...

The point I am trying to make is that perhaps we should now finally accept the fact that, apart from our wonderful sense of history as a club, football has changed so much and the balance of power shifted so radically that we are no longer seen by 'neutral' observers as a 'big' club.

But large sections of contributors on TW are a little deluded I think if they believe we should still be able to mix it with the Sky four in terms of finance generated by these clubs, particularly the London based ones. Geographically and demographically, EFC is located in one of the most socially deprived areas of the UK — a major factor when trying to attract new investment as well as new owners.

As Alan Kirwan has pointed out many times, we have a very strong but limited local support. Since the 1960s we have struggled, even with much better teams than the one we have now, to average much more than gates of 30,000 plus. If we eventually made it to the Holy Grail of the Champions League, would we realistically be able to maintain our position on those gates?

On a recent trip to Bangkok, despite the presence of the Chang brand, I only ever observed two replica shirts with any frequency: one was Man Utd, and yes, you guessed it: the other one was Liverpool. Instead of constantly bemoaning the lack of cash, should the club not position itself as "Merseyside's true community based club"?

Sooner or later, the current 'cash rich' climate will evaporate; you simply cannot continue to pay the current level of transfer fees or the accompanying player salaries. I agree, it is galling to see Man City splash the cash in such a way, but I would not want 'my Everton' to be represented by a gang of 'mercenaries'. I guess I'm just old fashioned. Instead of NSNO, how about WTPFTP — with the people, for the people?

OK, I've got my tin hat on, let the comments roll.

Reader Comments

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Derek Thomas
1   Posted 17/07/2009 at 06:52:04

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Language, Timothy. In the cold light of day, I think you might have slight misgivings on the tone of your reply.

If the post was that bad (how come my call for a Knighthood for Dr David got binned) sharpen the pencil and apply it, you can’t have it both ways. Bill and train set, pot and kettle
Peter Benson
2   Posted 17/07/2009 at 09:26:21

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I think some at Everton would love us to lose NSNO so that they can get away with a lower standard easier.
Alan Clarke
3   Posted 17/07/2009 at 11:48:10

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Man City have a hardcore local support and very little world wide support but look at them. This is the reason football is such a shambles. It is not about support, it is only about money. You conclude your article well and I’m in agreement that I don’t want Everton to sell their soul but our lack of success has nothing to do with the fact only 36,000 attend home games.
Mike McLean
4   Posted 17/07/2009 at 12:02:44

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The big gates at other grounds are built on sustained periods of success or near success, not on the socio-economic rating of the areas.

Too many Evertonians get to their mid-thirties and suddenly realise, or believe, that they are being taken for a ride financially by a club which far too often has lacked ambition / vision / leadership. They stop going, and as a result the crowd is one of die hards and young kids.

I’d suggest that this has a real impact in terms of possible big money investors looking at attendances and merchandising turn over thinking, "Hmm. Not much happening there in any respect."

Sell our soul? Already mortgaged in terms of physical facilities. And hocked to the eyeballs in terms of the Kirkby move.
Tony Marsh
5   Posted 17/07/2009 at 12:44:22

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Steve, I think you and Alan Kirwin are stuck in Maggie Thatcher's 1980s mate. I don't buy in to the notion you both have that Liverpool is socially deprived and bankrupt. There is more going on in the 'Pool than there has been since the 50s and 60s.

Every where you look there is a new development taking place. If it's not the Echo Arena, then it's Liverpool One. If it's not one of two massive hotels being built down the front, it's a block of new apartments. Walk down any road in the city and there is a new bar or restaurant opening.

Yes, we have problems but which major city doesn't?You pair seem to think we are back in Derek Hatton's militant days were no-one works and the city is falling down. It's so far from the truth.

Many other clubs with smaller fan bases than our own from cities or towns more socially deprived areas than Merseyside have managed to rebuild their stadiums so why do you two use this as an excuse for the shortcomings of our chairmen and boards for the last 20 years?

Liverpool isn't perfect by no means but it sure beats the hell out places like Hull, Sunderland, Wolverhampton, Boro, Wigan, Bolton, Swansea, Derby, etc etc etc.

FFS, give up on the "Liverpool is a dump so no one will invest here" bullshit because I think the total regeneration of the city center these past few years proves you wrong.
Ray Roche
6   Posted 17/07/2009 at 13:26:34

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I have to agree with Tony Marsh here. Liverpool, as a city, is not the basket case some people would have us believe. Sure, Liverpool 4 is not exactly Notting Hill in terms of THE place to buy your loft conversion, but Anfield is only across the park and no-one would suggest that the RS have a problem over-filling their ground or that they come from a deprived area.

FFS, let’s not knock Liverpool, L4, Toxteth etc., the BBC and media do that all the time. Parts of Manchester are a shithole but it didn’t stop City from being taken over. Twice.

I know someone will come on here and spout the usual "it’s because they have a new stadium, we HAVE to move to Kirkby" crap but that would be the end of Everton as we know it. Everton's lack of investment is due to a problem much closer to home.

Tony Williams
7   Posted 17/07/2009 at 13:37:53

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"Too many Evertonians get to their mid thirties and suddenly realise, or believe, that they are being taken for a ride financially by a club which far too often has lacked ambition / vision / leadership. They stop going."

Can’t agree with that at all. Our season ticket prices are among the cheapest in the Premier League, the year before we finshed 17th I was paying £314 for my season ticket, this year I have paid £440, still cheap at about £24 a game.
Stewart Littler
8   Posted 17/07/2009 at 15:41:52

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Tony Marsh, whilst I disagree with your overall opinion re ground move, BK, etc., I fully agree with your assessment of ’The ’Pool’. Being from Preston, and living in Wigan, I currently see Liverpool as a very ’happening’ place. I don’t think us being in a ’socially deprived’ area has any impact on the issues raised in the article, and I don’t see Liverpool as the socially deprived place it may once have been.
Jay Harris
9   Posted 17/07/2009 at 16:17:18

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Steve, you’d better have a word with our new chief executive. He thinks there are 19 million Evertonians and he’ll have no trouble filling Desolation Kirkby... or at least that’s what he told the enquiry.

Anyone remember a little 2nd club in Liverpool that played in a corrugated roof tin shack of a ground and came up from Division 2 in the early 60’s never having won the FA Cup? I hate to say it but they are now one of the most supported clubs in the world. That took people with balls and vision (and a bit of help from the devil).

If we backed Moyes sufficiently he could become the new "Shankly" and over time we can grow again to be one of the top sides. Although the financial landscape has changed over the years sound business principles haven't and with a more capable and determined Chairman we can certainly start on the path to recovery.

Unfortunately bullshit and deceipt only identifies your limitations.
Ben Jones
10   Posted 17/07/2009 at 21:49:43

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I’m sorry Steve, Liverpool is a great place to live in and one of the most exciting in the UK. The city winning the European Capital of Culture has put in a string of investments and rennovations in the city.

If you want a reason, why we’re not attracting investors? It’s either gonna be the stadium situation or that Kenwright is bullshitting us.
Steve Hogan
11   Posted 17/07/2009 at 23:59:17

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Mike Mclean -’the big gates at other grounds are based on sustained periods of success’?

Just how do you explain Newcastle United regularly getting gates of 50,000 plus then, Mike?

Can’t remember them qualifying for the Champions League recently. Perhaps I’m missing something? Or is it just because they are the only team in a ’one team’ city scenario?

Tony Marsh, as usual Tony you fire straight from the hip without evaluating your response. Nowhere in my article did I portray Liverpool as a dump. FFS I still socialise there and work there most days, in fact my son is getting married there next year.

The point I was making was that Everton will struggle to attract additional support from the local population because of the massive attraction of a certain other team not a million miles away!

Tell me, despite the obvious improvement in Liverpool’s standing as a provincial city, how does that impact on Everton’s ability to put another 5,000 supporters through the gate?

We have just enjoyed our most successful season for over a decade, with possibly the cheapest available seats in the Premier League, then tell me why are their still season tickets available to purchase?

I’m really interested to know your solution Tony, you could have the answer we have all been looking for.
Dave Wilson
12   Posted 19/07/2009 at 09:49:39

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Oh dear... Another article from one of the growing band of "Realists".

Everton get 35,000 because that’s how many GP effectively holds, today’s fan is no longer prepared to pay 30 quid to sit behind a post. Put a 50,000 stadium at the bottom of Scottie Rd and we would fill it — that's one solution.

Did the demand for Wembley tickets escape you, Realist?
Didn’t we just witness thousands of "affluent" Chelsea fans accept offers for their tickets they couldn’t afford to turn down by their "poor, socially deprived" scouse counterparts?

And where did this idea that seats for GP are the cheapest in the Prem come from? I know they aren’t amongst the most expensive, but only someone who has no idea of what they are talking about could make such a statement

Please, spare us from these "Realists" — they all live in cuckoo land.
Peter Hall
13   Posted 19/07/2009 at 10:41:05

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OK Steve, but then why is this not a similar limitation for LFC? I can go back a bit further than you, and when I started supporting Everton, Anfield was a dump, they were in the second division and had been for years, and their gates were far worse than ours. And in those days nobody in Norway had heard of them. I’d like to know what Shankly would have thought of your ’realism’!

A great manager with good support (like Wenger, hopefully Moyesy) can break the mould by producing success that propel the club forward. When Wenger joined Arsenal their situation wasn’t that far ahead of ours when Moyes came here — and Wenger didn’t spend big.
Gareth Prytherch
14   Posted 19/07/2009 at 12:19:28

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There’s a few things here that I think are important. Firstly, the clubs decision to go back to Nil Satis and to move the ’People’s Club’ thing to the Ethos. This in my opinion is a brave but intelligent move to make. Brave because there are huge numbers of fans ready to beat Kenwright, Elstone, Moyes and Ethel the tea lady about the head with it at the earliest opportunity.

Intelligent because it is a statement of intent and again in my opinion it is something that the club have been trying to do for quite some time. Some successfully some not so much.

Secondly, Liverpool and the potential City Region does have some the highest scores on the indices of Deprivation which measure Social and Economic Development. Liverpool is the only City to be granted Objective One status twice as even with the initial investment we were still below the threshold. So do the two things impact on each other? I think so, economically, the club is at some point going to have to compete with Man Ure, Shitteh, The Dark Side, the Arses and Chelski.

In order to do that, people will only buy into quality and we have more to do than most to prove ours. History doesn’t really matter when it comes to investment — the future is all that matters. We have an ageing stadium that I adore but also recognise that it doesn’t really support the club going forward, we haven’t won a trophy for 15 years, and we don’t have Kaka or Messi lined up for the coming season.

Man City are not only attractive because of the money they are offering, they are also pursuing a dream of winning everything — enabled by the investment. Whether they will be successful is open to debate. Would you want Hughes managing your club?
Braam Cupido
15   Posted 19/07/2009 at 12:55:11

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As an international fan of Everton, my two cents is that the general poverty-stricken or not situation in Merseyside has very little, if anything, to do with a club’s international profile. Most of the folks I see walking around with Manchester Utd or Liverpool shirts (by far the majority) have no idea, and don’t really care about the local status of the club. I therefore don’t think that this would impact significantly on the thinking of an investor seeking to establish a club as such a brand. These are, however, important concerns, especially to those who don’t see football clubs as being purely a business, or a ’brand’.

The ability of a club to shift T-shirts and generate revenue ultimately comes down to success on the pitch and the exposure this generates, as well as the players attracted.

Positioning Everton as the ’true community based club’, whatever that means, may have resonance in Liverpool, which is great, but unfortunately nowhere else.
Braam Cupido
16   Posted 19/07/2009 at 13:15:22

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Btw, my comment should not be seen as a slur on the local base of the club, or diminishing it. Everton belongs to Liverpool and the people who have made it what it is. Us outside fans are basically hangers on, but that is the situation.
Steve Hogan
17   Posted 19/07/2009 at 16:13:22

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Dave Wilson — "Put a 50,000 plus stadium at the bottom of Scottie Rd and we would fill it."

Really, Dave? Based on what logic? Do you think 4,000 ’obstructed views’ then is the ONLY reason we don’t currently fill Goodison?

As for your Wembley ticket analogy, any club reaching the FA Cup Final will automatically sell their ticket allocation, I think you will find — just ask any Wimbledon FC supporter!!

Wake up and smell the coffee, Dave.
Dave Wilson
18   Posted 19/07/2009 at 21:08:46

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Steve, Two things:

First of all, not all cup finalists can sell their allocation —Wimbledon being the classic case. And secondly, we didnt just sell our allocation for Wembley, we were all over the place, the touts — the real people in the know — were selling tickets to Evertonians for 10 times face value, we could have filled Wembley without Chelsea. Chelsea — one of your "Big Sky Four" — couldn't fill their own end.

I get quite depressed when I hear the likes of you and A Kirwin say we are not a big club, we are enormous.

You "realists" epitomise everything that is wrong with our club. Howard Kendall used to say: "Think champagne, drink champagne; think pale ale..."

Steve Hogan
19   Posted 19/07/2009 at 22:21:55

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Dave Wilson — fine, we can sell ALL our Wembley allocation and more, can you just answer me plain and simple why we cannot fill our OWN ground on a regular basis then?

I’m intrigued...
Dave Wilson
20   Posted 20/07/2009 at 05:30:40

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Steve, I’ve told you already what I think, I believe GP holds around 35,000, that would be the number of seats without serious obstruction to your view. In the past, people put up with it because there was no choice, but now there are other options: they can sit at their PCs and watch the game for nothing, or go to the ale house, have a 2-3 pints, watch it on the telly, see the whole game without their view being obstructed, and still be 20 quid better off — tough call.

With all the various websites and Middle Eastern TV stations, I personally will be surprised if we ever sell GP out again. These obstructed views are ridiculously priced, the club still want to charge about £30 for them, they should cost no more than a fiver, or be given to kids FREE.

Give Evertonians a decent view in a stadium they can be proud of — Scottie Rd or a rebuilt GP — and they will flock. Try and force them into a ground they are embarrassed or ashamed of — Kirkby — and they won't.

You're quick to dismiss the demand for Wembley tickets, Steve... we didn't just sell our allocation and more; some Evertonians were paying up to 5-6 hundred notes for their tickets — imagine how many we could have sold if they were at face value? Wembley wouldn't have been big enough!

Matthew Mackey
21   Posted 20/07/2009 at 15:18:29

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Steve, Everton ARE a big club; Everton ARE steeped in history and tradition to be proud of... and one day, Everton WILL be back, up where we want them to be and where we belong.

Why? because being financially broke is temporary; having class is lifetime

In 10, 15, 20 years when the Arabs and the Abramovichs of this world have long gone, football may return to some sort of realism. Then when the begging bowls appear outside Stamford Bridge, Fratton Park, St James Park and White Hart Lane etc, because they’ve all been broke I’ll be laughing coz I wouldn’t even give ’em the steam off my piss.
Mike Green
22   Posted 21/07/2009 at 14:40:55

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Dave (Wilson) - your analysis of the Wembley experience is so far off the mark it’s not true, but I’ve got to agree 100% on your obstructed view point.

How can the club advertise the seats as inferior and still charge the same price as unobstructed views, it’s a joke. Giving them free to kids is a great idea - well done.

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