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What hope have Evertonians got?

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After a grim assessment of Everton's future by a financial expert, we ask whether the club can ever return to the top again....

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They say it’s the hope that kills you – even though in the paradoxical world of football it’s the hope that keeps you alive.

It’s the hope that makes you fork out hundreds of pounds on a season ticket every year. It’s the hope that makes you travel thousands of miles, at ridiculous hours of the day to follow the team across the country and beyond. It's the hope that makes you wake up in the middle of the night to watch them on TV – why? You just do.

For many supporters it is what gets them through the working week, helping them cope with all that life can throw at you, knowing that sometime and someday, Everton will make it all worth it.

For Everton is a club that just a generation ago was the best in the country, a club that won at least one major trophy in every decade of its existence. It remains the fourth most successful club in the land despite being in the wilderness for 20 years. A club with substance, history and tradition.

But it turns out that the hope of a return to the ‘glory years’; a hope we have been clinging to for close to three decades, is a pipe dream. And the grim financial reality of Everton football club could kill those hopes and alter our expectations forever.

A shareholders event held on Tuesday was not some PR stunt by the club. Joe Beardwood, the experienced business chief executive giving the talk, did not have an agenda. He was merely a passionate Evertonian with an in-depth knowledge of the financial realties of modern football and Everton’s position in the fringes.

We have gone over the details here, but the general view was that the grand old Everton we remember from the past is finished. The new Everton is no longer one of the giants of English football; it is a medium sized club with above average support

That means the David Moyes era, which brought regular top six finishes, European football and a FA Cup final, should be considered a golden period for the club rather than a solid platform upon which to build further success.

Hear that? That’s the sound of a thousand hopes and dreams being destroyed.

This all turns the heat on Bill Kenwright who, we are told, is not looking for investment but "donations". Though Beardwood’s grim assessment of Everton’s position in the footballing hierarchy does, in one way, justify Kenwright’s resistance to sell.

If ‘punching above our weight’ is the best we can hope for then why risk the club’s future by selling to someone who may not the club’s best interests at heart?

Beardswood believes only another Sheikh Mansour or Roman Abramovich would alter Everton’s fortunes so if they aren’t around, why would Kenwright sell to someone who at best would keep the club in the same place?

If you consider where Everton have finished in recent years compared to clubs who have spent considerably more than us then Kenwright’s record actually stands up pretty well.

But Kenwright’s greatest strength – his love for the club – is also one of his greatest weaknesses. It appears to cloud his decision-making and he has overseen a period of what could be terminal decline because of his stubborn refusal to move on.

English football has its fair share of disreputable owners and my worst nightmare is to have someone at the helm who doesn’t care for the club and run it into the ground.

But if that is one extreme is someone like Kenwright, a guy who perhaps cares too much, the polar opposite? Isn’t there some middle ground to be had somewhere?

Before we all give up there is - I believe - some hope. Like fellow RBM writer Brian I disagree with Beardswood’s conclusion that we need a new ground.

I agree that commercial revenue will not automatically shoot up just because we have a few new executive boxes and better facilities but it would allow room for growth, which is a start.

It would also appeal to investors currently put off by the Goodison millstone around Everton’s necks, hopefully persuading the current board, who have systematically failed to improve Everton’s off-field fortunes in more than a decade, to sell up.

There's no denying club's off-field activities have failed to keep up with our rivals. Deals like the ones with Kitbag and Chang are some of the lowest in the division, far behind clubs we should consider at the very least our equals.

Marketing and branding have also been poor. For example, despite having the USA's number one goalkeeper for the best part of ten years as well as their all-time leading scorer on the books for two spells, Everton have failed to promote themselves properly in America, missing out on all the opportunities that may bring.

Beardswood says Everton lack a "blue chip" board capable of maximising commercial opportunities. It's about time that changed.

The next positive is Everton’s academy. If we can’t buy success then we will have to nurture it.

England’s constant failure at major tournaments has put the issue of youth development under the spotlight in this country. Unlike other parts of the club Everton’s academy is up there with the best in the country and a clear path to the first team appeals to young players and their families.

Generations like Man Utd’s ‘Class of ‘92’ – Beckham, Shcholes, Giggs, Butt and the Nevilles – do not come around very often. Indeed a group of players like that may not come through at the same club at the same time again.

But world class players have to come from somewhere so why not Everton? If three or four talented youngsters can graduate to the first team together and improved finances because of the TV deal allow for three of four significant signings, Everton may be able to bridge that gap.

We would probably only have a small window – may be two or three seasons – before agents hawk our assets on to other clubs.

But in today’s game, where a skewed playing field is making the rich get richer and to hell with the rest, it’s the only chink of light we have left to cling to if we don’t want accept a life of permanent mediocrity.