When you support a team or just like when you love someone, objectivity often gives way to perhaps unrealistic expectation, and in the case of Everton, unashamedly I’m as bad as most in this respect.
Against the footballing odds, every year I’m expecting us to roll up to Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford, The Etihad, The Emirates, White Hart Lane and even Anfield and do the business – show the footballing world and the media that they’ve got it all wrong. We are “the greatest team the world has ever seen” and that Leicester are not unique in upsetting the Premiership apple cart. Even after Saturday I’ll probably tweet “Everton 2-0 winners v United, Lukaku & Barkley” sometime before kick off at Old Trafford – we all do it, or most at least.
Of course, the evidence suggests otherwise, and more often than not it ends in bitter disappointment. Our record against the top 6 is poor, particularly away from home as several statistical sites have shown us in recent days.
One of the theories is a fear factor that has pervaded the corridors of Goodison for the last 20 years, since the end of Joe Royle’s tenure. I don’t subscribe to that fully as it provides hiding places for individuals – I’d prefer individual accountability as mentioned in previous articles.
The fact is we have no right to win at any of these places (i) because that’s not how professional sport works, but (ii) and more importantly the gulf in resources is just so great.
There’s been plenty written about transfer budgets and net spend – how for example it appeared that we sold to buy in the summer for example – not something I subscribe to given the number of other transfer bids we made, albeit none getting over the line.
What’s often overlooked is the cost of growing and maintaining a top squad. This is the most important single measure of understanding how much a club has spent to get to the position it occupies.
In order to arrive at the figure we need to look at two sets of figures in the accounts (i) wages and (ii) player amortisation. This gives the most accurate report of the cost of putting together and running a squad. It’s a much more meaningful representation of investment in the team than net spend, gross transfers etc etc.
Before we look at the figures, a quick explanation. Players are in accounting terms “intangible assets”. Thus the moment they’re bought their value on the club’s balance sheet starts to fall in line with the length of their outstanding contract. (This has nothing to do with the market valuation of the player). So a player bought for £20m on a 4 year contract, will see a charge (amortisation) of £5m per year against his value. By aggregating the total amortisation we can get an accurate apples v apples comparison of what a club is spending to be competitive (or not).
In terms of caveats, one possible flaw to this method is the treatment of players brought through the academy. Take Ross for example, his value in terms of the balance sheet is zero, as because we never paid anything for him in accounting terms he has no value. (Obviously his market value is very different).
So, on to the figures:
Below is the amount of money each of the top 7 have spent on wages and accounted for amortisation of their players over each of the last 6 years:
Annual wages plus player amortisation, £m
In chart form it looks like this:
So the big question is what can be done about the above? The glimmer of hope is Spurs. Whilst they’ve spent more on wages (£579 m versus £414 m over the last 6 years) the difference is not so great as for example, Manchester City with £1.2 billion.
Spurs are proving that it is possible to compete on significantly less than their competitors through two main factors I believe – their manager Pochettino and secondly, the excellence in the way that Daniel Levy runs their club.
The questions for Evertonians is can Koeman compete at a similar level to Pochettino as a manager and coach, can Walsh deliver in finding value among less known players, can the academy deliver players capable of performing at the higher end of the Premiership, and finally can the business be run on a par with Spurs? I suspect we can match them for being parsimonious, but as I’ve often stated before, outside of the main shareholder and his representative we don’t appear to have talent and ambition in equal measures.
We’re moving forward on and off the pitch there is no doubt about it, we have a great manager, an improving team with real prospects, an academy that is the envy of many, but because even with Moshiri on board, resources in terms of spending on players is still limited by regulations in comparative terms versus our peer group (albeit it will be significantly higher than previously) we have to be smarter, and work harder than our peers.
The stadium is evidence of the smarter route, innovative and with what should be a contributory impact on the finances rather than a burden elsewhere. Spurs in fact are likely to suffer similarly to Arsenal at least in the initial years post stadium construction.
As with the players, each and every member of the Board, Executive team, and football management team must take personal responsibility and accept accountability in the years ahead.
If they do so, or are replaced by people more capable and more accountable, then the facts will support the expectation.
One thing is for sure, we shouldn’t change expectations, they should continue and in the eyes of others they should still be unrealistic, but need to change the facts to support them, so that the gap between objectivity and expectation ceases to exist.
We’ll get there, starting tomorrow, 2-0 the Blues.