New Day Rising

By Lyndon Lloyd 15/06/2016  0 Comments  [Jump to last]

"Nothing will be the same" is the promise of Everton's latest marketing slogan. It's the latest twist on popular catchphrases evoking the Blues' past or themes embraced by Evertonians, an abbreviation of Alan Ball's famous quote about how the club gets into your blood but, by happy accident rather than clairvoyant design, it has turned out to be remarkably prescient.

Rewind to that uninspiring spell of Premier League games that followed the home defeat to West Ham and the FA Cup quarter final win over Chelsea in March – a five-game winless sequence before the nadir at Anfield – and recall that gathering sense of futility that many Toffees fans felt towards Roberto Martinez's reign. Back then, hovering in that void between the near-certainty of the Catalan's departure that was eventually realised by season's end and the fear that his tenure might be prolonged beyond the summer, was the gnawing feeling that the club felt like it was just spinning its wheels.

Despite the quiet assuredness exuded by the billionaire and the stealth of his near-takeover in February, the promise of a new era ushered in by Farhad Moshiri was still unfulfilled; his control over the boardroom and power to steer it in his direction was not yet apparent.

Either oblivious to the huge flaws in his methods or unable to admit to them, Martinez himself appeared to be clinging to the hope that he could get to the close season and spend his way to better results in 2016-17. In that atmosphere of simply not knowing what might happen, it was hard as fans to muster up much enthusiasm for the short-term future.

Fast forward a few weeks and the whole outlook at Everton has been transformed. Spurred on by the nightmare that unfolded against Liverpool and the huge missed opportunity at Wembley three days later, Moshiri's mind was made up that the curtain would be brought down on the Martinez era after the last match of the season. Events would dictate that he move the timetable up a few days to the 12th of May but Everton's de facto new owner was already making plans, with Ronald Koeman the man he had selected to spearhead them on the footballing side.

Only true club insiders will know how warm or otherwise the Dutchman was to the initial approach from Everton. On the face of it, the Toffees' rich history and dormant potential aside, there would have been little to tempt Koeman away from Southampton where his initial three-year plan was well on course for success.

A seventh place finish in his first season on the south coast was bettered this past campaign with a sixth-place berth and repeat qualification for the Europa League and, with promises presumably in place from Saints board that he would not have the rug pulled from underneath him again in terms of that club selling its best players, the ingredients were there for another good season at the St Mary's Stadium.

That Koeman elected to leave Southampton, however, at a time when they are out-performing Everton is testament to Moshiri and the ambitions that he has for his new club. It would not have been wholly surprising, given the experience of Robert Earl's unproductive spell on the board, had the Iranian-born businessman simply come in to gobble shares in a top flight club and wait for the valuation to rise before selling on.

Instead, Moshiri has come in with purpose and vigour, wasting no time in putting his plans for Everton into action with what could turn out to be a truly transformational managerial appointment. And Koeman has clearly been sold on a blue-sky vision for a club massive upside potential and latent support just waiting to be re-energised. Where David Moyes and Roberto Martinez were safe-ish choices, predicated on youthful potential rather than proven success, Koeman has a trophy-laden career behind him as both a player and manager.

The 53-year-old has either won silverware or guided his team to Europe at each of the clubs he has managed to date and now has a proven track record in England. If he gets the kind of financial backing that is being talked about in the press, he will have the conditions with which to make those dreams of one day managing Arsenal redundant. He could have Everton back among the elite as the Gunners' peers once more.

Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but, as that slogan goes, nothing will be quite the same at Goodison again, particularly if Moshiri does reshape the management structure along more Continental lines in the coming weeks with a Director of Football to work alongside the new manager.

Furthermore, if there is any substance to the reports that a waterfront stadium is back on the table as a viable option, then the club would appear to have the means to make a reality what would truly be a game-changing development for the club, its standing in the city of Liverpool and its long-term future. No longer shackled by an inferiority complex born of two scrapes with relegation and 21 trophy-less years, Everton are thinking and acting like a big club again.

Unless Moshiri is planning on lavishing the historic levels of transfer funds on rebuilding the Toffees' squad that are consistently reported as being in the offing this summer, the Monaco- and London-based businessman's arrival probably won't translate to instant success on the pitch in the form of sudden qualification for the Champions League. Any progress, however, would be a step forward from the stasis of Martinez's third season in charge and more than many supporters could have hoped for just a couple of months ago.

In just a few short weeks, Evertonians have gone from the despair of an uncertain future to bewilderment at the speed of change at Goodison Park and the sky-high limits of what could possibly be achieved under new ownership and a top-level manager. By luring Koeman to Merseyside, the rest of the Premier League have now got the first indication that the sleeping giant could be awakening and with the galaxy of managerial talent that is coalescing in the northwest, 2016-17 promises to be a fascinating season.

Again, there have been enough false dawns to check any Blue's unbridled enthusiasm but the ability to just dare to dream again is enough for now.

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