FALLOW FIELDS: EVERTON, RONALD KOEMAN AND PATIENCE

FALLOW FIELDS: EVERTON, RONALD KOEMAN AND PATIENCE

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What of your hopes for this year? How about a top half finish, no drama and one eye on the next few years… doesn’t sound exciting, does it? That’s what appears to be in the pipeline for Everton, in 2016/17, though. That may well be no bad thing, especially if the future looks as bright as phase one of Farhad Moshiri’s restart appears to have gone. The blues aren’t back – but you can see them from here. By Alan O’Hare.

Ronald Koeman’s holiday dominated the summer for Evertonians. It was mid-June before the worst kept secret in the north west was finally confirmed and the Dutchman was announced as Everton Football Club’s twenty third manager. Then the real work began. Or did it? Perhaps Koeman was the final piece of the first section of a bigger jigsaw that Farhad Moshiri holds in his hands.

“Where’s the money?” That’s been the question reverberating around Goodison Road for many years now. In 2016, though, although that question remained the same, it was reframed slightly to take in the supposed new millions available to the club following Moshiri’s buy-in. In truth, it become shorthand for “where are the big money signings and why aren’t Everton acting like the rest of the billionaire bullies in the Premier League”. The rub? They were.

The delay in announcing the Dutchman was clearly the result of the blues having to tie up a director of football before the new man moved into Finch Farm… and that cost the majority shareholder a lot of money, as Steve Walsh was taken from the champions, Leicester City, to the tune of £2 million compensation fees, and a similar amount in wages over the years of his deal. Then, to extract Koeman from his Southampton contract, cost the blues a further £23 million (£6 million per year, three year deal, £5 million to Saints). In between, ex-manager Roberto Martinez had to be paid off to the tune of £10 million, thanks to the alarming lack of foresight that was again revealed by Bill Kenwright in offering the Spaniard a new contract way too soon, and perhaps most importantly of all, Moshiri backed his instinct and bankrolled Koeman bringing his entire backroom staff with him. Which wouldn’t have been cheap.

It was no surprise, then, that once Everton had finally concluded the essential business of the summer, they were left behind in the transfer market and had to settle for promise, practicality and potential with their new signings for 2016/2017. Will that change in January? Probably not. Unless the blues are in the hunt for the title, top four or battling relegation, then expect the daft money signings to stay away from Goodison for another season.

Next year, though, that has to change. All the big clubs have a year off in the modern game – like the Glastonbury Festival, once in a while a fallow year is required for the oligarchs of football’s top flight to scorch the earth, plant new seeds and water them with money, money, money. Think about it: Chelsea gave up on last season before Christmas, Manchester United reset even after winning the FA Cup Final in 2016 and Arsenal and Liverpool have had more restarts in the last decade than a second hand car on a cold Monday morning. With that in mind, why shouldn’t Everton get everything in place to mount a meaningful challenge to the Premier League poseurs? After all, Moshiri and his millions could very well present the club’s last chance to rejoin the game’s elite.

It’s easy to know your history and talk about nine league championships and being the fourth most decorated club in the history of English football. But it’s also easy to Google stats that can reveal just three league titles in fifty years. Twist the truth anyway you like, but it’s crunch time at Goodison Park.

A new stadium has to be delivered, new signings have to come thick and fast to keep up with current crazy trends and massive money has to be spent on players that could be described as distinctly average in order for the club’s hit and miss rate to stay competitive. Football’s gone mad – it’s completely irrelevant how much Paul Pogba cost Manchester United, for example, as if he’s a success nobody will care… and if he fails, the Old Trafford plc have that much in the coffers, on paper and otherwise, that they can write him off without a second thought. The relevance? Value for money doesn’t mean a thing when the sport only knows the cost of everything…

Evertonians are desperate for their club to act like the bully boys and splash the cash. But, just maybe, they already are in this first phase of Moshiri’s reign – remember, Leicester (who just laughed Arsenal out of town coming in for Jamie Vardy) appeared helpless when the blues came for Walsh and Southampton were cut down to size when real opportunity came knocking for one of Europe’s most respected young bosses. Can you believe it’s been over twenty years since EFC stole the manager of a top flight rival?

Everton have started to take what they want, for a change, and it’s worth noting that they got everything they wanted for John Stones and kept hold of Romelu Lukaku and his very tangible twenty-odd goals per season, too. They’re only baby steps. But, for the first time in three decades, they’re definable steps. Sure, the club have wobbled at times while taking these steps – and may even stumble a couple of times over the next few months – but something is stirring in Liverpool 4.

And it’s not just people looking up at that shiny new stand across the park.

Pic courtesy Hollandse Hoogte

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