Guest article by Tom Martin
Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s a miserable time to be an Evertonian. With hundreds of millions of pounds of investment to seemingly go backwards, embarrassed at the home of our neighbours by their third-string squad and another season seemingly over before the end of January; you can understand why some people feel compelled to “storm,” Finch Farm, and why some people won’t be attending tomorrow’s game at Goodison Park.
We’re very talented moaners, I’d argue we’re the best in the league at it. (Moaning Champions 19/20 is a trophy to be proud of), I’m guilty of it as much as anyone, but I thought to myself earlier this week; what would I do differently? How would I run this club? What needs to be done to ensure success? So here’s my blueprint for a brighter future – feel free to comment that I’m a no-mark who doesn’t understand the intricacies of running a football club (which is pretty accurate), feel free to shout me down when you see me in the Lower Gwladys for being a wham-chatting keyboard warrior (also accurate), but don’t forget; the good times can, and will come back. Believe.
Clear the dead wood.
This goes without saying, really. You don’t need me to explain it. But there’s members of the playing staff who come nowhere near to meeting our motto, and it’s time they were shown the door. Obviously; lengthy, lucrative contracts are an issue, but we need to be cold, devoid of sentiment and leave those behind that don’t make the cut. Then, and only then, can the rebuilding commence.
Invest in the academy.
On Monday this week it was interesting to hear Ancelotti discussing the quality in our academy. Let’s be brutally honest – we’re not Southampton or Ajax in terms of our ability to nurture academy talent and increase their value exponentially. However – this can be worked on. Identifying the right staff to take us forward and recruiting them to build the academy into something to be proud of is vital if we are to ensure a brighter future. From this, perhaps it would be useful to introduce an academy quota – our 23 man squad must include at least four academy graduates, for example? Only something like this would guarantee a clear pathway for youngsters, and only by providing this kind of experience do you ensure that when called upon, these youngsters are ready and able to meet the demands of the Premier League.
Brands has spoken about buying young talent, and moving them on for significantly higher retail value, but what happened to growing this talent ourselves? Increase the scope and quality of the scouting network, introduce a palpable ethos for the academy and build for tomorrow, not just today.
Hold the board to account.
This is perhaps the role of Farhad Moshiri – but outcomes from certain board members should be continuously evaluated. I’m not going to name names as that I feel that’s a bit crass, but I’m not convinced every single member of that board is striving to ensure the best outcomes for Everton Football Club. Moshiri, and perhaps his advisors, should be holding quarterly reviews at the least to ensure targets are not only being met, but being exceeded and bettered year on year.
A common complaint I’ve heard about Everton is that the “soft,” or its harsher cousin, “loser,” mentality trickles down from the chairman and the board. Whilst not 100% the reason behind such failures, the liability starts at the top and we need to be a focused organisation, unafraid to streamline and drive individuals (who are handsomely paid, by the way) to act in the determined interest of one thing and one thing only: Everton Football Club.
Identify the character of the players we wish to recruit.
What is the profile of the ideal Everton player? We could argue this for hours, but I believe it’s a simple equation – a hungry, aggressive, humble player that can play some good stuff and will run into the ground to get the three points. Recent examples are Coleman in his prime, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin and Tim Cahill. Whilst not world-beaters, they’re far more valued to the club than certain individuals who meander from payday to payday. Whilst I hate to wax lyrical about that lot across the park – I was struck to hear Jurgen Klopp’s transfer recruitment policy, and it’s to be admired. A friend of mine is adamant clubs live and die on their recruitment (thanks Louis), and he’s right – Liverpool’s has been near-perfect. So what is Klopp’s recruitment policy? Simple: he identifies the physical qualities of the player, finds players in that mould, and then interviews them. He believes within 10 minutes if they’re a “Liverpool player,” or not. Perhaps our recruitment could be more specific and perhaps instead of Brands etc selling Everton to the player, Everton should be buying the right player.
Identify the character of the players we don’t wish to recruit.
This is almost important as point four, if not more important. It is imperative we stop buying castoffs from other premier league clubs. If they’re not good enough for Arsenal or Man City, they’re not good enough for Everton. It doesn’t matter if they’re ‘proven winners,’ we need players who are moving here to win stuff, regardless of where they’ve come from. Conversely, ‘winners,’ aren’t guaranteed to have the hunger and desire of a younger, wider-eyed player. Under Steve Walsh we hired “proven Premier League talent,” on massive wages (which I’ll come to in my next point), with very little resale value. Just because someone scored a few good goals for Crystal Palace doesn’t mean they’re right for Everton. Frankly, it shouldn’t even mean they’re good enough. Also on this topic – another point from a friend (thanks Louis) – stop signing attackers with terrible goal scoring records. Putting it in the onion bag is the hardest thing in football, or so the saying goes; so why do people at the club believe someone with a goal scoring record of 1 in 6 or 1 in 7 is going to set the world on fire in L4? If you’re recruiting a goalscorer, recruit a goalscorer.
Introduce bonus-based contracts.
This one will probably cause some debate and I welcome it. (I’m not a contract lawyer or a football agent so I’m not going to blag more than my beliefs) Contracts at this club are proving to be a huge issue. This is the product of short-termism under Walsh and a complete lack of policy. Looking back, some of the contracts the players are on are laughable. However, in today’s market, is there a solution? I can only come up with one: bonus-based contracts. Sign players on low salaries but offer high commission for targets such as wins accrued, goals scores and clean sheets. Where does this high commission come from? The answer is simple – more wins = more success = more prize money = bigger club, etc.
How do we attract the best talent if we’re offering lower wages than other clubs? Simple – the commission is higher than any money they’d earn anywhere else. Dangle the carrot and the horse should gallop. I’m excited for some people with insight into football markets or economics to tear me a new one over this – but it fits in with this proposed transfer policy, lowers the wage bill and ensures it’s in everyone’s best interests for Everton to be a successful team. And if a player doesn’t believe they can make those bonuses? They’re not a player I want at the club.
This goes without saying really, and to be fair to Moshiri – he has been ambitious; the appointment of Ancelotti a statement of intent as much as anything else. But let’s be specific with this ambition. What’s the goal now? Europe? 5th? Top four? And let’s have a specific five-year plan, before we go into our new stadium. Regular Champions League football? Title challengers?
I’m not here to set the goals, but I do believe Everton should be as ambitious as possible. If we fail along the way we fail, but everyone at the club should be aware of the targets and everyone at the club, from the kitman to the captain, should be trying their absolute hardest to achieve it. To work at our club is a privilege that shouldn’t be taken for granted, and we as fans deserve nothing but the best.
Have I forgot anything? Probably. Have I chatted horse manure at times? Probably. Do let me know with comments and I’m looking forward to hearing what people say. Brighton tomorrow is a big game so let’s all get in there and up for it. Into these, Blues.
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