Saturday March 3, 2018 may well be the day when Evertonian patience finally snapped.
After yet another miserable performance the supporters made their anger and frustration known, with the rancour and vitriol towards manager Sam Allardyce all too obvious to see.
The former England boss was always a divisive appointment, so it’s no real surprise the fans have turned on him so quickly.
But with nine games still to go you wonder just how poisonous the atmosphere may get – there were only a few thousand Evertonian voices at Turf Moor after all. If Everton go a goal down early against Brighton next week the Goodison crowd will be on the verge of full-blown mutiny.
Plenty of supporters are calling for root and branch reform, to rip it all up and start again, and I can understand where they are coming from.
However, while considerable change is needed, I’m still convinced the foundations of a decent team is there.
Emotions are clearly running high but it is time for some calm heads from those at the top of the club in order to guide us out of this mess.
If we take Saturday as year zero (though I suspect there will be further depths to plunge before the season is out), this is my four-point plan to try and steer Everton towards calmer waters.
I hate to write seasons off but, sadly, all we have left is to get to 40 points and ensure we will still be in the Premier League next year. We barely deserve to be in mid-table given our performances but are fortunate the division this season is one of the weakest in years.
At present Everton are on 34 points and realistically need to get to 38 to ensure survival, 40 to be absolutely sure. Regrettably, Allardyce will probably remain in charge until the season is out as further upheaval may cause more damage. I agree that the current situation is excruciating but the sooner we can secure survival the sooner we can put this whole sorry episode behind us and the rebuilding can begin in earnest. There’s no time for protests – we need to focus our efforts on getting the team over the line
Clarity of vision at the top
Is it time for Farhad Moshiri to increase his 49.9% stake and take complete control of the club? He clearly makes the majority of the big choices but indecision at boardroom level has cost the club dearly this season. For the club to move forward there has to be a clear vision and identity, that starts from the top.
It can’t be denied that Moshiri has put his money where his mouth is but has perhaps been a touch naïve in his approach. The situation reminds me of the early years of Randy Lerner’s tenure at Aston Villa. Lerner continually hurled money at the problem but when that failed to yield results he suddenly turned off the taps, resulting in a slow decline towards the Championship.
There’s no suggestion Moshiri will do the same but he can’t keep throwing good money after bad. He needs to be better advised by experienced football leaders who know how to lead world class sporting institutions. Only once that cornerstone is in place can we truly move forward.
Changes in the dugout
Moshiri and the board’s first job this summer is to wave goodbye to Allardyce and his backroom team.
The next appointment should be made swiftly in order for the new man to bed in well before pre-season begins. This manager must fit in with the vision set forward by the board and be given the time and resources in which to do his job.
Steve Walsh can probably go too unless he can provide an attainable list of targets with solid and persuasive arguments as to why they will not flop like last year’s crop did. These players MUST address key deficiencies within the squad and fit in with the board and new manager’s vision of how we wants to play.
Targeted improvement of the playing squad
I hate this current team. It may not be the worst Everton side I’ve had the displeasure of watching (in terms of ability) but it is certainly the most brittle. There are some weighty arguments to dispense with the majority of the squad and start all over again.
However, as last summer proved, signing large amounts of players and trying to integrate them into a fully functioning side is a hugely difficult task.
I feel we shouldn’t be tempted to throw the baby out with the bath water. As mentioned earlier, the nucleus of a decent side is there and Moshiri should resist the temptation to simply embark on another wild spending spree.
What needs to be done though is targeted and measured recruitment focusing on quality, not quantity.
For me that is four key players: a left-back, two centre-backs and a ball-playing central midfielder.
Everton’s porous defence and inability to retain possession has hamstrung them all season. A reorganised backline, with Jordan Pickford in goal, would provide a solid platform for the club’s dizzying array of attacking players.
There would still be plenty of work to be done, for sure. But a phased approach over 2-3 transfer windows may prove more effective than one huge splurge.
Ideally we should also move away from buying players who are 29+, another trap Lerner’s Villa fell into. They are often looking for the final big contract of their career and that will automatically stifle their motivation. While you can also never be sure how quickly a player will decline once he is the other side of 30. Ashley Williams is a prime example of this flawed transfer policy, while tentative links to 31-year-old Jamie Vardy makes me fear lessons haven’t been learnt.
I admit my rather basic approach conveniently bypasses the immense complexities of running a football club. But the key point remains: if we are to get ourselves out of this mess, it requires cool, calm leadership from the top.
Over to you, Mr Moshiri.