After Everton’s 1-1 home draw with Birmingham last Wednesday, one fan summed up the mood around the club perfectly on an internet message board: »Flat: our season, our play, how as a supporter I feel. Flat«. Poodler78 nailed it – after failing to beat all five of the bottom teams at Goodison Park this season, and having bowed out of the FA Cup to Championship side Reading recently, Everton’s season is petering out and the club are heading for the no man’s land of a mid-table finish. Again.
In many ways, that at least represents stability, something that under previous manager Walter Smith looked far from assured as the club flirted with relegation. But since David Moyes arrived from Preston North End in 2002, Everton have largely been able to aim higher, even finishing fourth in the 2004-05 season. It was a huge triumph for a club of limited means, but one that proved too great a burden the following season. A thin squad was quickly booted out of the Champions League qualifying stage and the UEFA Cup as well, whilst league form plummeted. It was a wing-singeing episode for a Premier League Icarus.
Everton struggled to compete financially
Everton are part of the top flight’s furniture, a permanent member since 1954, and winners of nine league titles. But in the Premier League age they have struggled to compete financially with the enormo-stadiumed Manchester United brand, the sugar-daddy-funded Chelsea, or the attractive N17 sophisticates Tottenham and Arsenal. More gallingly, it is local rivals Liverpool who have the wind in the sails at the moment and vitally, the financial muscle to build a new stadium.
Everton’s plans on that front have ground to a halt, though with the 40,000-capacity Goodison Park showing its age (and lacking enticing, lucrative VIP facilities), the need to move grows ever-more pressing. A mooted move to King’s Dock in 2000 flopped as Everton failed to raise the necessary money, and the latest proposal – one unpopular with fans – to move the club out of the city to a complex in Kirkby shared with a supermarket was scuppered by local government in 2009. Everton’s remaining faint hopes of a new ground were tied to England’s 2018 World Cup bid – and we all know how that turned out…
Elsewhere, Everton have much to be grateful to David Moyes for. He has operated shrewdly in the transfer market, extracted the maximum from key players such as Mikel Arteta, and blooded some excellent youngsters during his reign (not least Wayne Rooney). But a sense is creeping in that together, manager and playing squad have plateau-ed. With injuries biting hard, young stars either jumping ship (as Dan Gosling did in the summer when he left for Newcastle) or tiring quickly (the promising but jaded Seamus Coleman) and no chance of silverware after exiting both domestic cups, Evertonians have very little to look forward to. Moyes, the hardened battler with a withering glare, seemingly shares their disillusionment and is looking ever more resigned on the Everton bench.
Chairman Bill Kenwright, a theatre producer, has done his utmost to support his boyhood club, ceaselessly searching for fresh funding, busting club transfer records when possible, and wrestling the vexing stadium question. An honest and popular figure, you get the sense that he and Moyes will speak to each other frankly at the end of the season, and that Kenwright will not delude his manager. The club do not have the budget to match Moyes’ ambition and a parting of the ways seems increasingly likely.
Jack Rodwell will leave in the summer for £20 million
There is though a chance that Moyes will bide his time until a job he is often touted for finally becomes available. The Everton manger is seen as someone who could prosper at Manchester United, when his fellow Scot Sir Alex Ferguson eventually retires. That will only happen once United’s 19th league title is won, Liverpool are surpassed, and Ferguson feels he has no more records to smash. With every weekend, that day draws a little closer.
Concurrently, rumours persist that muscular defensive midfielder Jack Rodwell (who this week texted a picture of his penis to the same woman who sold her Wayne Rooney exposé to the tabloids) will leave Everton for United in the summer for around £20 million. It is a sale that few at Goodison Park would relish, but perhaps one that Moyes could use as the perfect transition: the funds would leave his successor a chance to refresh the squad, while Moyes would not be selling the player to a rival, rather to a potential future employer.
For now though, Moyes’ main concern is guiding the good ship Everton safely into port, without apathy taking hold and sucking them into the relegation whirlpool. In an atmosphere of diminished expectation, that alone would be a solid achievement – but one that few can deny feels, in the words of Poodler78, just a little bit “flat”.
An dieser Stelle erklärt Titus Chalk die englische Fußball-Kultur auf Deutsch
Folge 30: Squeaky bum time
OK, ich muss zugeben, dass diese Redewendung hart zu übersetzen ist, aber ich versuche es trotzdem: Quietschende Po-Zeit. Passt das? Der Ausdruck wurde in 2003 von Sir Alex Ferguson benutzt, um den gespannten Endspurt der Saison zu beschreiben. Es bedeutet leider nicht, dass Fergie einen sehr quietschenden Po hat, sondern, dass die Anhänger in ihre Kunststoffplatze winden müssen, wegen der Spannung. Deswegen quieken ihre Po. Und nicht weil sie am Freitag Abend vor dem Spiel so viele Pints und Curry versehrt haben.