Saturday 27th February 2016 may go down as one of the most significant dates in the recent history of Everton football club. On that cloudy, dull Saturday lunchtime reports began to emerge that businessman Farhad Moshiri had sold his stake on Arsenal in order to take over the Toffees.
Twitter was abuzz with excitement. Everton had been linked with a takeover the previous month and talks were held with an American consortium led by John Jay Moores and Charles Noell.
But news of Moshiri’s interest had come from nowhere, and before we knew it Everton had confirmed the Iranian-born businessman had purchased a 49.9% stake in the club.
After years of false dawns and missed opportunities it looked like Everton finally had found their man. And if his first 12 months in charge are anything to go by it feels like the team are on the verge of something special.
Moshiri has rarely spoken in the media about his plans for Everton, the odd interview with Jim White aside, but instead has quietly gone about his business of transforming the club and dragging it into the 21st century.
Exactly a year on, the result is a club that looks in better shape - both on and off the pitch - than it has done in a generation.
Here are the five key moments of the Moshiri era so far.
1) Changes at the top
Moshiri initially gave his backing to Roberto Martinez and must have been impressed when he saw the Blues live for the first time in a 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final win over Chelsea. Frustratingly that would prove the high watermark of the season as the team’s form nosedived and faith in Martinez ebbed away. Moshiri had hoped to wait until the end of the season before assessing the management situation but was forced to act a week before the end of the season. Martinez was sacked after a 3-0 defeat to Sunderland and before a planned protest at the club’s end of season awards.
Ronald Koeman was always Moshiri’s first choice and the Dutchman was lured from Southampton the following month. Completing the coaching restructure was new director of football Steve Walsh, who joined from champions Leicester in July.
Sacking Martinez and hiring Koeman and Walsh was an expensive exercise – costing the club upwards of £16m. But Moshiri knew a new big-name manager and modern coaching structure was the cornerstone to any future success.
2) Splash the cash
Moshiri sanctioned a spending spree the likes of which we have never seen at Goodison Park. It wasn’t quite up there with the early days of Sheikh Mansour at Man City, Financial Fair Play kept a lid on that. But the squad was bolstered with £50m worth of talent including Ashley Williams, Yannick Bolasie and Idrissa Gueye. Moshiri then gave the green light for further new faces in January with Morgan Schneiderlin and Ademola lookman taking Everton’s spending under Moshiri to around £70m.
3) Spruced up Goodison
Though we all accept a move away from Goodison Park is now almost inevitable, it is nice to see the Grand Old Lady given a spruce up. New cladding, lighting and murals of Everton legends now adorn the outside of the stadium. They may be superficial, but it is encouraging to see some pride taken in our ageing home.
4) Boosted the coffers
Reckless spending during the 1990s and early 2000s left Everton with crippling debts and charges that has restricted the club’s spending power. David Moyes spent a decade battling to build at team while simultaneously selling players to appease the banks. The ever-increasing TV money has helped to ease the pressure on the club’s accounts in recent years but various covenants and mortgages continued to weigh the club down.
Moshiri removed that in one fell swoop in the form of an interest free loan that wipes out the club’s debts, saving millions in interest payments alone. The club have also agreed a new multi-million pound naming rights deal for Finch Farm as it looks to boost commercial performance with a new shirt sponsor likely to be confirmed in the summer. The dramatic improvement to Everton’s bottom line frees the club to pursue what will without doubt be Moshiri’s greatest project……
5) Finding us a new home
Everton’s hunt for a new stadium had become almost farcical with a litany of failed projects over the past 20 years. Now with Moshiri in charge the club have the ambition, vision and – crucially – resources to build a new ground. The imminent announcement of a move to Bramley Moore Dock will be a truly historic moment, will define the fortunes of the club for the next half a century and will no doubt be Moshiri’s lasting legacy.
The club has failed to live up to its motto to far too long but it finally looks like we have the leadership to guide us from the doldrums.
Saturday 27th February 2016 could well be the date the sleeping giant of English football finally began to awake from its slumber.