Monday 11 August ~
It seems to be the widespread view on Everton message boards this has been the worst pre-season anyone can remember. Chief executive Keith Wyness departed for reasons that are still unclear and the club’s hopes of a move to a new stadium in Kirkby have been set back for at least a year by the government’s decision to call in the development plans. Meanwhile, a squad padded out with teenagers yet to make their League debuts has trundled through a series of uninspired friendlies while the Big Four and some of those clubs expected to press Everton for a top six place, such as Spurs, have been performing impressively. This culminated in a final pre-season fixture against PSV at Goodison Park on Saturday watched by barely 10,000.
It is now mid-August and the club is yet to make any signings, having already spent over a month in what appears to be a fruitless attempt to persuade Sporting Lisbon to release midfielder Joao Moutinho. There is now talk of movement in the market with a loan deal for CSKA Moscow’s Brazilian striker Vagner Love and the arrival of Rennes midfielder Stephane M’bia who is currently at the Olympics and so unlikely to available until the end of the month, while the prospect of the club becoming the latest to attempt to revive the career of the serial underachiever Alan Smith hinges on his accepting a wage-cut of up to £20,000 per week.
A few days ago there was also a weighty critique of owner Bill Kenwright by the Mirror columnist Brian Reade who ticked off the Everton chairman for commenting recently that the club had no hope of breaking into the top four unless they were bought up by a billionaire. Reade suggested that Kenwright’s reluctance to sell up was the core of the problem, given that several other Premier League clubs had attracted investors. They include West Ham, whose Icelandic board’s attempts to cut costs recently extended to paying Freddie Ljungberg £6m to tear up his four-year contract, and Manchester City, whose owner appears to be organising the firesale of players behind the manager’s back and who may be about to seek political asylum in the UK to fend off extradition to Thailand where he faces corruption charges. And let’s not even think about Newcastle.
In short, there is no reason to think that wealthy owners don’t cause more problems than they solve. Indeed, Everton had a moneybags backer a decade ago in hamper millionaire Peter Johnson who left the club with colossal debts. Everton’s finances have nonetheless been managed well enough to allow them to break their transfer record in each of the last two summers. In the meantime, a manager whom Kenwright has stuck by through some thin times has taken the team to three top six finishes in the past four years. Maybe David Moyes would have done even better if the club was owned by some international financier with homes in every continent. It’s equally likely that Everton would be on their fourth manager in as many years and marooned in the bottom half of the table, or worse.