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Now or never for Everton

In 1980s England people talked about the emergence of a ‘Big Five’ in football, consisting of Liverpool, United, Arsenal, Tottenham, and Everton. These grand clubs were supposed to dominate for years to come, and then the Premier League happened. The emergence of Blackburn Rovers as free spending trophy grabbers was an early warning shot – England’s famous old names could not rest on their laurels.

Since then, the fortunes of the old Big Five have varied, but it is Everton who appear to have fallen furthest behind, despite the fact that they have never in their history been relegated from the top flight. Yet, their turnover in 2010-11 was only £82million. I say ‘only’, but to put that into context, it was marginally more than Sunderland (£79million) and significantly less than Tottenham (£163million), Liverpool (£184million) Arsenal (£256million), and, of course, Manchester United (£331million)

Everton are not the only club that has struggled to adapt to the new world. In truth, both of the Merseyside clubs are victims of poor leadership. In Liverpool’s case, their short-term failings in the transfer market are compounded by a long-term failure to convert their enormous popularity into higher revenues. But, Everton’s problems are more acute. They have often defied their critics to finish on the fringes of Champions League qualification, but that in itself does not ensure lucrative rewards. Everton have a small squad, and any outstanding talent that emerges is generally sold on. Sooner or later, the well will run dry. But, before it does, Everton’s allure is that of a club still dragging one foot in the past, and for someone like me who’s a sucker for nostalgia, they’re proving hard to resist.

In Bill Kenwright they have a Chairman who is a genuine fan of the club; a man who would have previously been seen as a benign character, one of the good guys, but is now cast the barrier to progress for his failure to attract investment and secure a new stadium. It’s true that Goodison Park is out of date and isn’t doing Everton any favours , but with fewer and fewer of the classic old grounds left in England, it’s worth savouring. In its prime, fans would have gazed up in awe of its grandstand as they approached via the narrow residential streets that surround it. Hopefully they still do, because no one is building stadiums in locations like that anymore.

If Goodison is a burden, then Everton’s biggest asset is surely their manager, one of the most likeable in the Premier League. In a different era, David Moyes would have accumulated several trophies by now.He is not entirely free of the irritating over sensitivity that most successful managers display. But, he doesn’t have the demeanour of one so tightly wounds as Wenger, Ferguson or Dalglish. He rarely says things that have you cursing at the TV, and that’s a pretty rare thing to say about a Premier League manager.

As for the team, who didn’t enjoy the way Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas owned the left flank against Liverpool (apart from Liverpool fans)? This was classic wing play, with Baines pushing on from full back, and the skilful Mirallas tormenting his marker. And, it’s not just the left flank that’s impressive. Modern football has brought many ills to our national game, but even hardened cynics must concede that a six foot tall Belgian attacking midfielder with a giant afro is not among them – presenting the absolute wonderbeast, Marouane Fellaini. And when it comes to putting the chances away, Nikica Jelavic oozes class with his deft touches and poachers instincts.

Sounds like everything’s in place then. If Arsene Wenger is right and Fourth Place in the Premier League is the equivalent of winning a trophy, then this has to be Everton’s year to claim some (metaphorical) silver. And yet, just as Champions League qualification reveals itself as a real possibility, Everton become the draw specialists of the Premier League. No clubs have a divine right to succeed, but for those of us who watch the Premier League as outsiders, the occasional change in narrative is welcome. I think most non-Arsenal fans were able to enjoy Tottenham’s dalliance with the Champions League for this reason. It gets boring watching the same clubs play the same fixtures. And there’s the small matter or unfinished business, Everton’s last title winning side having been denied the opportunity to compete in Europe following the ban on English clubs.

Notoriously slow starters, this year Everton managed to get out of the blocks a bit faster. But, they won’t keep doing it, sooner or later something has to happen to take them on to the next level, or else they risk falling away for good.

8 Responses to “Now or never for Everton”

  1. DAVID WHEELER says:

    VERY INTERESTING PIECE WELL WRITTEN

    APART FROM THE HISTORY OF YOUR CLUB IF YOUR SIDE HAS NEVER BEEN RELEGATED HOW COME YOU WERE PROMOTED FROM TH SECOND DIVISION

    IN 1954

    • Michael says:

      Ah, fair enough, you’re correct – they were relegated once. I think they can claim the most seasons in the top flight, so still an impressive record. And ever present since 1954 is pretty good. BTW – I’m not an Everton fan, I just happen to like them at the moment.

  2. Ismail N says:

    They have a decent team but I don’t think the squad is big enough to challenge for top 4, unless of course they can go through the whole season without anybody getting injured.

  3. Paul H says:

    As an Everton season ticket holder and frequent away match go-er I enjoyed this article. It is true we have been relegated (twice actually I think, once in the 30′s and once in the 50′s) but we do enjoy the most seasons in the top flight (although the most consecutive seasons goes to Arsenal). I think for the most part your article is pretty spot on. Everton are currently in a position were we are just one or two pieces short of becoming a decent force. I dont think we need a multi-billionaire to come and spend over £100m every transfer window. Just somebody to buy maybe 2 or 3 top quality players (of the same ilk as Fellaini, Jelavic, Mirallas, Baines etc.) and a few good quality squad players to add a little depth and then on the pitch we would be able to compete. A fully fit, injury and suspension free, Everton starting XI can compete with anybody, results against Man United this season and Chelsea and Man City last season show that. Our biggest weight holding us back is the lack of a new stadium. Goodison is a fantastic ground, a proper old-school footy ground like you mentioned, but there is not enough hospitality available. Other teams have executive boxes all over the ground with plenty of capacity, Everton barely have any. What is there is of a very high, in fact award winning, quality – just not enough quantity.
    If we can get a new ground, or an update on the existing, and just a fraction of the money other teams are spending (for one Andy Carroll moyes got a Fellaini, a Jelavic, a Mirallas, a Pienaar and a Jagielka – throw in a Jordan Henderson and he’ll get you a Baines, a Distin, a Heitinga and a Howard, with change to boot) then we would definitely compete on the same keel as the ‘top four’

  4. Mike 'latchford' McIlroy says:

    Yes a great piece and well written. I too am an age old Evertonian and at 46 I remember the brief dally we had with success (never did retrieve my lost left Adidas Gazelle following celebrations at Carrow Road) and yes I would love the success year in year out. However, I think the advent of a sanitised, commercially prepared Man City has brought home the depressing realisation of how football is now a business and nothing to do with clubs’ history, it’s supporters, it’s community and most improtantly it’s pride. Where’s the pride in winning a championship that has been bought and not fought for. Of course City are only the most blatant of a bad bunch and even those steeped in historical success have had to court foreign investment or even emblazen their stadium with the name of totally unrelated business organisation. But with my beloved Everton yes we’re dog-eared, our players aren’t pretty and on the front of newspapers and the Grand Old Dame (no not Kenwright) herself has had better days, but look at it this way where else do you see wobbly camera shots as the whole stand rumbles to the chaotic celebrations of tumbling blues fans celebrating a scrappy 1-0 win against a bottom of the league struggler. The lack of silverware makes us hungry and passionate supporters. The celebrations following Arteta’s (god I miss him) goal against Fiorentina were a replica of those following the win against Bayern in 85 – I was transported back to my youth because nothing had changed. Yes the ranks of blue seats ensured I didn’t end up 20ft from my starting point like back in 85 but the Old Girl creaked and growned as 40,000 half-cut scousers bounced up and down on her beams. The match the next day made no impact on the national media because Beckham had a new hair cut or Rooney had dented his supercar … something like that … but this old blue brain had the memory etched on it until the grave. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m as proud of my club as I was as a teenager and I don’t need an Oligarch to tell me otherwise…. that ladies and gentlemen is a football club and I prey every day we always will be

  5. SUPA1878 says:

    Paul H, how can you say our hospitality is award winning quality when it’s a tent in the car park?

  6. Steve C says:

    A good piece.

    On a technical point, Everton’s turnover is perhaps not as bad as first indicated in that the Club has outsourced both its catering and its merchandising so that all that shows in its turnover is the guaranteed payment from the providers rather than the turnover generated (a difference of around £10m). Still poor though, and undoubtedly a refelection of the lack of available corporate hospitality at Goodison (the ground has only 9 private boxes for example).

    What does the rest of the season hold in store? As stated in the article injuries will play a big part. If injuries occur to the more attack-minded players how readily could the tactics be changed back to those previously successfully deployed, based upon a workmanlike and disciplined approach? Not easily I would suggest, whilst to pursue the current approach but with less capable players would surely doom the side to failure.

  7. Steve Barr says:

    Everton has been relegated twice in its history. First time in the early 30′s. and again in the early 50′s.

    In fact they recovered amazingly well from their first relegation … winning the 2nd division in 30/31 I believe, the 1st division in 31/32 and then the FA cup in 32/33.

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