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A Case for the Defence, I Think

By Jamie Rowland :  28/09/2009 :  Comments (9) :

Before I start, let me state that this is my own opinion and it's based on my current understanding of football affairs. I am pro debate and I never take any reply personally and will sit and state my point with any fellow Evertonian in any given forum. My point is never hard fast and I am always willing to listen and if wrong, change my stance. All too often we reply to a post with haste, aiming personal insult at the author who has taken time express his/her views. Some of the responses are unnecessary and out of order.

Pompeii was once a thriving town, built as an overflow of Rome. Growing each year, it badly sought to be its own independent city. Its location was near perfect and it had attracted great wealth. However, the architects of such a venture built their foundations too close to danger and the result was total devastation.

Pompey has a similar tale to tell – although the volcano on the south coast is yet to stop erupting.

They arrived in the Premier League with little expectation. They surpassed all predictions and grew into a club that had good reputation, eventually becoming a Premier League regular. Winning a trophy and having some decent finishes each year, they attracted (or seemed to attract) some great wealth. Russian riches no less, during a time that every club and his dog where being bought out by suspicious looking ‘business’ men with shady pasts. None of it mattered though, to the Pompey faithful; they were looking to progress… Europe, FA Cup and maybe even the top four with a bit more effort from the boardroom.

But it wasn’t to be. As the recession kicked in, the hardest hit seemed to be those with the most to lose – and they left almost as quickly and generously as they arrived. Mandaric sold out and lowered his standards to some gangster-styled entrepreneur who showed about as much interest in Football as I do for shopping in Primark. The current owner had bought himself an asset that could be stripped down and regurgitated into cold hard cash to re-bolster short-term failing wealth.

Clearly, there was no interest in success. This close season, the Pompey boardroom obliterated their first team squad, swapping solid Premier League performers with unknowns and relegation battlers. Their ambition hit an all time low along with bookmakers' predictions about their ‘regular’ Premier League spot. The volcano was now in full flow… destroying the foundations of a club that seemed, on the outside, strong enough to survive.

Don’t take this all literally – Pompey may prove me wrong. They put up a decent display of football against us and perhaps with a bit more time to ‘gel’ they may well come together and survive. The likelihood however is small.

So why all this drivel about Portsmouth?

I am writing to put forward a case for the defence. The defence of our boardroom and its Chairman. Let me say that I am neither a fan or hater of Bill Kenwright and I often think that he needs to write his own press releases to prevent more contradiction and lip service that the more intelligent Evertonians can pick apart in an instant. He no doubt relies too heavily on a disastrous PR team that seem to think we are as thick as the average ‘Sun’ reader. We are not and it disappoints me when Mr Kenwright does not give us credit for it.

Moving on, we all want a billionaire backer (a millionaire backer would do) but I have to defend Mr Kenwright’s ‘look before you leap’ policy. While there may be several conspiracy theories behind why we haven’t been bought out (of which some ring true), let's assume that what we are told is true. As hard as that may seem, official statements, minutes and press releases have to be deemed the truth until someone can REALLY produce evidence to the contrary.

Had the board cashed in to Mandaric, for example, would we be in a better situation now? Or would we have had a wage bill that surpasses revenue, a bank debt that is unpayable and a want-away chairman looking to strip away every pound?

The same applies had we sold to the ‘highly experienced bankers’ who bought West Ham… where would Everton be now? Who would we be signing? What would be our expectation?

Man City are probably (but maybe not) in the same position. What will happen when they don’t win? What makes them think that they can win? Will the owners move back into Horse Racing once the buzz has worn a bit thin?

Boredom, financial markets, recessions, debts and tax dodges are not for Everton FC and I believe, regardless of conspiracy, that the policy of not selling up (to any old billionaire?) is the right policy. We are still in the Premier League, with arguably our strongest squad. We are still fielding a good first team with a good manager. We are buying players of quality and we are competing at a very good level.

Okay, we haven’t experienced the tremendous highs of signing a megastar but we haven’t had the squad sold from under us either. We have still finished 4th, 5th etc and had some good nights in Europe, an away day (or two) to Wembley and a couple of good derby days.

We can always ask for more and we can (and will) always expect more. After all, the club’s motto is ‘only the best’ but for me it applies to everything and I am not sure that foreign billions will give us what we crave anymore than a short sharp fix… then it’ll be deep in the doldrums, trying to desperately recover with little success. Everton is long term and success is in no way guaranteed in the short term by pumping in millions to then only claw them back at the club's expense.

Portsmouth’s ambition and expectation has gone from ‘Europe’ to ‘survive’ and I don’t want the same for my beloved football club.

So could it be a case of "better the devil you know than the devil you don’t"…?

Reader Comments

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Derek Thomas
1   Posted 29/09/2009 at 06:25:09

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We haven’t had our stars sold out from under us, well apart from Lescott, Rooney, Johnson, etc etc what has Bill Kenwright ever done for us, apart from voting Johnson onto the board, the Kings Dock, Fortress Sports Fund etc etc.

Tip: when you’re in a hole, stop digging.

But yes, I suppose it ’could’ be worse... but yes, it could have been a whole lot better... and just who has ’the comm’ of the Starship Everton???

Present your answers at the AGM, Oh, you can’t now can you.

Alan Kirwin
2   Posted 29/09/2009 at 12:31:20

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[Sharp intake of breath...] You’re a very brave man, Jamie. Coming on here, all balanced, could be worse etc. I suggest you sit down and wait for the tsunami of bilge.

Derek Thomas’s comments above are mild compared to what passes for normal on the Kenwright debate. But not even young Derek believes it "could have been a whole lot better".

Now, when Kenwright took over, we were a complete basket case on and off the pitch, crap team, demoralised, ageing farts abound, second or third class players throughout the squad, flirting with relegation every season and actually aspiring to mid-table mediocrity. Off the pitch, the bank had had enough with us, the chairman went behind the manager’s back to sell a player to keep us from folding.

And now? Well, finance is tight, much tighter than most would like. BUT we’re regulars in Europe, 5, 5, 6, 4 in last 5 years. A club admired by many both on and off the pitch.

So you have to ask yourself, or rather ask young Derek and his mates, how exactly could it have been a whole lot better? Is he suggesting we should be winning the league or something? When we were regularly heading towards the championship before Kenwright took over?

You see some people a) always see the glass as half-empty (although they like to call it "nil satis nisi optimum"), and b) have memories that are rather short and, oddly, seem to stop before any analysis can be done of what was in place at Everton before this "dreadful" reign of Kenwroght commenced.

So, in summary, despite you explicitly stating you are neither for or against Kenwright (as indeed am I), behold the shouts of "apologist!" from the myopic memoried hordes. The word apologist has taken on a life of its own on this site. What it basically means is, you don’t despise the individual in question as much (or at all) as the writer venting his spleen, so you must be an apologist. It’s a sort of George W Bush approach to diplomacy. If you’re not with me then you’re against me. All very playground and not worth a moment’s consideration.

Kenwright does have his faults Jamie. IMHO he’s too hands-on for a chairman and needs to de-personalise his role by handing over the reigns good & proper to Elstone. And of course it could be a whole lot worse. We could have had what Newcastle had, or Portsmouth, or West Ham, or Leeds. It’s strange how those who will undoubtedly disagree with your article don’t see any downside or any risk whatsoever when someone takes over a club. Despite the evidence.
Andy Crooks
3   Posted 29/09/2009 at 13:05:05

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Jamie, what you are really saying is we should be thankful for small mercies. Why? Of course things could have gone the way of Newcastle and Leeds, but we actually have been surviving and not much more. I believe the last five years have been years of wasted opportunity.
Neil Pearse
4   Posted 29/09/2009 at 15:27:51

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I met someone through my work this week who lived in Liverpool (after growing up a Manc) and was now in her sixties. We got to chatting about football, as one does, and she said with a smile: "Of course I lived in Liverpool when your lot were the number one team in the city".

Perhaps that in the end is what this debate is all about in the end? We are unfortunately not the number one team in the city anymore, and not in the top four (or five) in the country anymore.

Some of us say that, we should surely strive with all our might to get back there, but we should also be cheered that we are consistently now just below the elite footballing group in England, and not in danger of falling out of the whole top tier like we were ten years ago.

On this view, the Kenwright years have been a moderate success, and (unlike the other clubs Jamie mentions) we at least have a reasonably solid platform still to build on.

And some say that the only thing that counts is being back in the elite, and not remaining behind in our city. On this view, it’s very true, the Kenwright years have been a failure. We really are behind the elite.
Brendan McLaughlin
5   Posted 29/09/2009 at 16:23:23

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Whilst reading this article and the comments I wondered how other teams had fared during Blue Bill’s tenure at Everton. I know this isn’t very scientific but I glanced back at the final table for the 1999-00 season & the transformation is incredible. Eleven teams from 20 are no longer in the top tier of English football – Leeds, Leicester, Newcastle, Middlesborough, Coventry, Southampton, Derby, Bradford, Wimbledon, Sheffield Wednesday & Watford. Of the remainder two current premiership teams also spent some time in the lower reaches in the intervening years — Sunderland and (I think) West Ham.

From the other perspective the only team who were not in the top tier in 1999-00 and currently ahead of us in the table is (surprise, surprise) Manchester City. The remainder, despite Everton’s poor early-season form, are already below us in the table.

As I say this is only a snapshot and proves nothing but in the current “could have/should have been better/worse debate” I think I know which way I’m leaning.
Sam Hoare
6   Posted 30/09/2009 at 10:46:42

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A sensible balanced article and despite my personal dislike of Kenwright one that i agree with wholeheartedly.

The fact is that, rather like spoilt children who refuse to take advice that eating buckets of sweets, however instantly gratifying may prove damaging in the long run, too many people on TW have expectations totally unaligned with reality. Of course we all want to be the best, want to sign top class players and knock the football around with style and panache but does that mean we should bite the hand off the first suspect investor to wave some money at us?

I’m quite sure that Kenwright has his own personal agenda for not selling the club and I’m not a fan of the man as I’ve already said but the fact is that people who slate him for not bringing in a sugar daddy are clearly ignoring what has happened to the majority of clubs who have. Talk to Leeds, Wimbledon, Newcastle, West Ham and Portsmouth fans to name a few and see what they think.

People are far too quick to slag off Moyes and Kenwright without considering what options are realistically available to them. Just as Moyes is lambasted for playing Osman (with the mediocre and less experienced Gosling the only alternative) so the board is vilified for failing to bring in investment.

The ideal world and reality are sometimes further apart than we will admit. If a genuine Everton fan steps forward with a billion blue pounds enabling us to buy those players that will put us at the top where we belong then no-one will be more. But in reality I think we’re doing pretty damn good at the moment.
Ciarán McGlone
7   Posted 30/09/2009 at 12:00:29

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A very convincing argument against dodgy billionaires... But I doubt you’ll find anyone who wants that.

Oh and by the way... a convincing and somewhat contrived argument against a widely villified part of football is not a convincing argument for the continuation of an equally detestable regime at Goodison.

An somewhat obvious but overlooked point.
Stephen Kenny
8   Posted 30/09/2009 at 12:44:31

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I honestly don’t believe that the club is Bill Kenwright’s to sell. Those who have done a bit of research into this can almost certainly confirm this to be true.

No one can argue that we have moved forward on the pitch, but off it we have sold all our assets and are now in a situation where we have to sell to buy. If this continues how long do you think we will continue to progress?

In the article you lambast chairman who have loaded their club with debt and then seek to do a bunk after making a quick buck. But look at our debt when Bill took over? Where does that debt stand now? What is the net spend of David Moyes in his period as manager? What did Kenwright actually put into the club in terms of finance? He has done everything that any other dodgy chairman has done yet because he is a so called Evertonian he has got away with it.

One last question for Bill that won't be answered until the club is sold: If you are really an Evertonian looking for the best deal for the club first, yourself second, how much are we for sale for?
Derek Thomas
9   Posted 02/10/2009 at 05:54:58

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Alan Kirwin; Au contraire, I do believe it could, and should have been better.

Only ONE mistake ( among many ) needed rectifying and that can be summed up in 2 words.


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