Much of what I’ve written about Everton for a number of years has related to the financial performance of the club. It has focused on the considerable under-performance of the club stretching back many years to the beginning of the Premier League era.
The under-performance has be attributed to a number of factors, lack of capital, lack of long term planning, lack of strategy, lack of commercial acumen, lack of ambition and the unsuitability of those charged with running the club. It is a lengthy and growing charge sheet.
By and large the footballing performance has escaped major scrutiny. Although the club has never reached the standards expected by the majority of fans and consistent with our club motto NSNO, the “best of the rest”, “plucky little Everton”, “knife to a gun-fight” mentality has kept many blues sufficiently satisfied as to not question further.
In February 2016 it seemed that the solution to many of our problems had arrived. The promise of funding, ambition, new manager and players was exactly what all Evertonians had dreamed about for years.
I want to fast forward to today and the position we find ourselves in. There’s no need to discuss in detail the difficulties of the first summer window, the winter window of 2017, and the latter half of summer 2017. Nor the scatter gun approach to recruitment, the loss of key players, not replacing Lukaku, the loss of players such as Barry, and the failure to remove many players who neither have the ability or desire to perform at acceptable levels for Everton. On top of that the reign of Koeman which promised so much quite literally fell apart seemingly in a few short months.
Just as with the scrutiny of our financial performance I want to ask some questions relating to our footballing performance. I want to ask the questions that should have been asked within the club and query why they were not, or why they were not acted upon?
One of the greatest criticisms of Koeman’s time was that “he never got us”. I sometimes feel the idea that it is necessary to “get us” is over-played. However in the case of Koeman, he was so isolated, so far apart from the club he was managing, so out of sync, it was clear that he was not engaged with us nor us with him.
However given the size of investment made in him and his importance in driving the footballing side of the project forward, what efforts were made to improve matters, and why did they fail so spectacularly? Who had responsibility for nurturing this relationship, identifying when it wasn’t working and putting in place a plan to resolve it? Koeman it appears was a difficult character, but how much of our behaviour was to blame in it falling apart at great financial cost, and perhaps more importantly, not only halting the “project” but throwing it into reverse?
Seen as a great coup, “the most influential man in the Premier League” (quote from Sir Alex Ferguson), our first foray into the DoF model could hardly have a more promising recruit.
Yet there is no evidence nearly 18 months into his appointment that either the model is working or that Walsh is the right person to drive it forward.
Similar questions as to Koeman above have to be asked. Who defined the role, who did he report into? Who has monitored his progress or otherwise? Who is charged with helping and developing Walsh and his role?
It has been reported that there was little or no chemistry between Koeman and Walsh, that the working relationship never got going. Again, who had oversight of this at board level, what did they report and what was the remedial action?
The departure of Koeman & temporary appointment of Unsworth
There were few Evertonians who were not relieved to see his departure. Perhaps in retrospect we should have kept him longer. However what no-one was expecting or prepared for was (i) the fact that there was no meaningful succession plan and (ii) the now evident unsuitability of a wonderful man, a wonderful Blue, honourable to the core, David Unsworth.
The absence of a succession plan can be attributed to the usual failures at Everton, lack of strategy, lack of planning, lack of contingency planning and thinking.
What is most puzzling, and I write this with the utmost respect to David Unsworth who stepped into the breach to do what was necessary for his beloved club, is that within the board no one was able to identify before his caretaking tenure that David was the wrong man for the job. Being a great U-23 coach, the most honourable of men, and a huge blue was not sufficient qualifications for the role.
Why did no one on the board realise this prior to his appointment?
The implications are huge. They’re huge for David in terms of his career progression. They’re huge in terms of our Premier League survival and all the implications of the possibility of being relegated.
The greatest implication is of course the next manager appointment. It’s probable that with an imminent appointment this article may age quickly, nevertheless if we were to appoint Allardyce to secure (as near as possible) Premier League survival what does that say about the club?
It lays bare all the hopes and ambitions of competing with the “big 6”, the peer group to whom we as fans aspire, to compete as well as we can on and off the pitch. It removes even “the best of the rest”, it puts us in the category for at least a period of time as possible relegation candidates, just survivors to enable us to feed off the incredible riches of the Premier League.
The Board & executive management team
We have grown used to the financial under-performance of the club, even accepting of the”best of the rest” footballing performance in the belief that with a new investor, fresh capital, a new stadium on the horizon and a new manager with many new player recruits would return us to the promised lands of footballing success.
Our inability to compete prior to Moshiri’s arrival was explained as due to the lack of capital, our relative paucity of resources, that we were a well run club just requiring investment.
Well that has been laid bare for all to see.
The people charged with advancing the club since Moshiri’s arrival have completely squandered the opportunity put before them. Not only have they failed to take advantage of the opportunity presented to them, they have put our very future as a Premier League club at risk (at least in the near term).
It has been evident that the commercial skills required have been missing from the business for years. It is evident now with the experience of the last 18 months that the skills required to run a successful football club are missing also.
Much of the Board and executive management team are proven as not fit for purpose. It’s been said many times they need replacing. There need be no further evidence required.
The decision sits with Moshiri. Not withstanding any agreements that might be in place, he has to take a leadership role and make the changes necessary. To not do so will not just see the club under-perform in a manner consistent with the last 25 years, it threatens our very existence as a senior club.
We are at a defining moment, we can recover from this situation and re-boot the “project” to compete at the highest levels, or we can sink without trace, a club with a grand old history but totally irrelevant to the modern game.
Only one person can determine our future direction.