News of Everton’s impending takeover has unsurprisingly been met with a mixture of excitement and suspicion by the club’s supporters.
There’s obvious excitement at what the team may be able to achieve with long awaited investment but also concern at what may happen if things turn sour.
Toffees fans only need to glance across Stanley Park to find examples of what happens when owners fail to act in the interests of supporters. While the shambles at Aston Villa, a club of similar standing to Everton, is also fair warning of the consequences of failed leadership.
No-one was ever going to be completely happy with a prospective owner unless they were a long lost billionaire relative of Dixie Dean himself, ready to pile limitless funds into the club simply for the love of all things blue.
That’s not a slight on the Everton fans, more a reflection of how all prospective football club owners in this era of billionaires and big business come with some with strings attached.
Even Sheikh Mansour, who for many is the ‘dream’ owner, has had his motives questioned by some. Mansour may have poured millions of his Abu Dhabi oil fortune into Man City but he has also been accused of using the club to ‘launder’ Abu Dhabi’s reputation among the globe.
Nobody’s perfect in football ownership, it seems.
It is little surprise then that John Jay Moores and Charles Noell are currently being scrutinised by suspicious fans concerned about the welfare and future of their club.
Moores’ legacy as owner of the San Diego Padres baseball team is distinctly mixed, with some crediting him for the building of PETCO Park in 2004 and an upturn in results that culminated in an appearance in the 1998 World Series.
However, some Padres fans feel the side’s long-term prospects did not improve under Moores, who made a significant profit when he sold the franchise for $800m in 2012.
Then there’s the failed attempts to take over Swansea City, with the Swans’ Supporters’ Trust scuppering the move after growing suspicious of the duo’s intentions and concern the club may be saddled with debt with no significant investment beyond the initial purchase of shares.
But with Bill Kenwright’s tenure now in its 17th year, is it wise to turn our noses up at new owners after being so unhappy with the current regime for so long?
Kenwright, for all his faults, always had the best interests of the club at heart. After the failed NTL deal at the turn of the century saw Everton’s accounts plunge further into the red, Kenwright set about ensuring the club would live within its means, helped by the savvy work in the transfer market by a certain David Moyes.
But that steady progress on the field has been continually held back by inertia off it, with Kenwright’s great failure being the litany of collapsed ground moves.
The club simply cannot carry on as it is in a crumbling Goodison Park that, despite holding a special place in our hearts, is no longer suitable for the modern era and certainly not for the level we want Everton restored to.
Their commercial dealings are also embarrassingly poor when compared to rival clubs of similar size and standing. Goodison's ageing pillars and wooden seats are a neat metaphor for what has been going on at boardroom level.
Kenwright has held onto the club for so long partly because he has wanted to find the right owners with the best interests of the club at heart. And although rumours of ill health may have greased the wheels of any negotiation, he is unlikely to end his 27-year association with the club by selling to a gang of crooks.
It is time for us to put our faith in Kenwright to do the right thing, starting with ensuring any takeover does not saddle the club with debt and stipulates investment in a new ground or significant redevelopment of Goodison.
It is also time for us to take a leap of faith and hope Moores and Noell – should the deal come to pass - are a success. As venture capitalists they are in it to make money, of that is no doubt. But they will know that the best way to make a profit is to improve the prospects of the club both on and off the pitch. Dragging the side down towards the Championship would be very bad for business.
Is it a risk? Of course, but is it any more of risk than standing by and watching Goodison fall while rivals clubs that used to be considered inferior race off into the distance?
Seeing a born and bred Evertonian like Kenwright step aside would undoubtedly see the club lose some of its charm. Everton has always done its best to remain committed to the local community, shown by their vocal calls to cap away ticket prices at £30 at a meeting of Premier League bosses last week, something voted down by some of the division’s richest sides.
Seeing Everton ‘sell their soul’ is a principal fear of the supporters regardless of who it is that eventually takes over.
But even if Kenwright steps down there are plenty of people still involved in the club that should ensure it will never lose touch with its roots in the heart of a working-class city.
And if that people’s club mentality can be blended with some 21st century commercial vision, we may just be able to have the best of both worlds.