Everton Football Club, to this day, still remain one of the biggest clubs in English football, boasting nine leagues titles amongst their greatest honours. But following Wednesday’s EGM with the club’s main board members, who outlined the current situation and the future aspirations of the club, large sections of the supporters are left confused and foiled by the presentation of the meeting and have more questions on their minds than they did previously.
The club, under the 11-year reign of David Moyes, built up an image that every single season, the Toffees punch above their weight finishing inside the Top 8 consistently due to the lack of resources. In certain aspects, that is true. Everton’s Chief Executive, Robert Elstone produced a report which showed that out of every £1 the club makes, 85p of that goes on the Finch Farm training complex. The finance at the club is tight, with only seven clubs in the Premier League making less than themselves, which is crazy to consume considering they had just achieved a Top 6 finish in the greatest league in the world.
But due to the persona the club now holds, any strong Everton finish in the league is being stained with the tag of ‘overachievers’ when it’s not necessarily true. Everton have a strong and talented group of players that just need to be more attacking, added with a bit more depth to sustain a European challenge. Most of Everton’s starting 11 would get snapped up by their Premier League rivals, thus the tag of overachievers is slightly patronising. Under Moyes, Everton’s home record intimidated their opposition, in which very few teams come away with a result. After spending millions with Manchester City, Roberto Mancini only managed to beat Everton once home or away, therefore how can you keep on finishing in the top eight, whilst claiming a few scalps over the big clubs, and still be called overachievers? Bar Liverpool re-investing, what other team was seriously going to challenge Everton for a top six finish? Newcastle achieved fifth the season before but with the Europa League schedule, added to a threadbare squad, they were never going to realistically change for the same feat again. Martin O’Neill spent £30m with Sunderland but that squad isn’t as good as Everton’s and it showed it as they struggled.
The second major point to come out of the meeting was chairman Bill Kenwright’s announcement that Everton are currently opening talks over a new site near Goodison to build a new stadium that will hopefully attract better revenue. Although some will be excited by the news, as a new stadium is becoming a necessity to move onto the next level, where do Everton have the money? A large part of the meeting was spent discussing how the club don’t have a lot of funds, with the statistic that although revenue has went up from £80.6m from 2011/12 to £86.3m in 2012/13, the debt is also increasing thus we’re back to square one. It’s great news because although Goodison is fantastic, it’s slowly crumbling, however the news doesn’t seem to add up and it’s sounds more like false optimism in a night filled with depression and disappointment. It wasn’t long ago that the news broke that Everton had agreed a new deal for Finch Farm, which many thought the club owned but in fact they didn’t.
Later on in the meeting, Everton were quizzed about who is exactly on the board and what are their contributions to the club. Robert Earl’s name was mentioned and Kenwright admitted he doesn’t make it to all the games but does contribute, although he wouldn’t comment on specifics. Some fans are perplexed over Earl, who bought his shares in the club in 2006 from Paul and Anita Gregg, as he is understood to be quite wealthy after founding Planet Hollywood in 1991, yet appears to be a mystery figure to Evertonians. On the flip side, do most clubs know who is exactly on their board? Although most clubs don’t have as many questions as Everton fans do about how their club is run, it’s not rare that a club’s boardroom members and how they contribute to the club is known in the public eye. But considering Everton seem to sell to buy with men like him on the board, it’s a worrying actuality.
Some still argue Kenwright should leave and sell the club, but you only have to look at the last few takeovers in English football to know that sometimes it doesn’t always work out. They may have more money in the short-term but it’s yet to be seen whether they have the long-term ambitions to run the club and although Kenwright may not appear to be a popular figure because there is only small investment every year, it’s better to have a club safe and playing in the Premier League every year, than it is to sink into danger like QPR, Portsmouth and Birmingham.
For as good of a job David Moyes delivered at Everton during his tenure, the EGM highlighted that new manager Roberto Martinez wants to work with young players and this is something that some fans argue Moyes didn’t have enough faith in. With the likes of Ross Barkley, Jack Rodwell and Wayne Rooney all to come out of the club’s academy of late, it’s a wonder why Moyes turned down the fantastic opportunity for Everton’s academy players to enter the world-renowned Next-Gen series – the Champions League equivalent for youngsters.
Apart from Rodwell, Dan Gosling, Victor Anichebe, Magaye Gueye and James Vaughan, Everton’s younger players under Moyes were not given a lot of chances to try and impress him and the Next-Gen series is a fantastic tournament, thus it’s a surprise the Scotsman was reluctant to pursue it, whereas Martinez is. The Spaniard has openly spoken of his desire to work with the youth at Everton and wants to build a platform for them to eventually come into the first-team in the future, which is something Moyes never spoke about.
Kenwright also said there doesn’t need to be a spending spree in the market, as Everton’s squad only needs one or two players. The squad is strong but Martinez’s style of play is poles apart from Moyes’ and he will need a few players to surely get his attacking style of play going. It’s unsure whether the news can be seen as positive in the sense that Everton only need one or two to remain competitive, or whether Kenwright meant we don’t have money to get four or five new players in without sales.
The EGM, the first since 2008, highlighted the problems the club has and the vision they’re hoping to achieve one day. A new era is born in Roberto Martinez and he will need time, but fans have still been reminded once more that the club are desperate for new investment and more questions and confusion is still prominent in their thinking. Manchester United, Moyes’ new club, bid £12m for star asset Leighton Baines on Thursday evening, something Moyes himself would have scoffed at if he was manager – then again, he still is as his contract doesn’t run out until July 1.
Trying to keep hold of one of the best left-backs in the world, with one of the most successful club’s in the world chasing his services, will be huge test for a board that have been under scrutiny not just following the recent EGM, but for the last few years. Baines is irreplaceable for a club not blessed with money and unless it’s a forced transfer by himself, Everton should do all they can to keep the England international and furthermore highlight their ambition.