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Farhad Moshiri’s three years at Everton haven’t gone to plan - but there’s reasons to be optimistic for the future

The Toffees majority shareholder has overseen a turbulent few seasons at Goodison Park

Everton v Huddersfield Town - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

If Farhad Moshiri’s grand three-year plan for Everton had come to fruition the Toffees would be on course for a Champions League place right now (stop laughing at the back).

Instead they find themselves in mid-table, exactly where Moshiri found them when he made his initial investment in the club three years ago today, despite going through four different managers and significantly increasing the wage bill.

That obviously points to some serious mistakes along the way, with Moshiri displaying all the naivety of a man who had little experience of owning a football club before buying into the Toffees.

Those mistakes made at the top are exacerbated as they work their way down through the club. They will also take some time to rectify and means that initial three-plan bit the dust a long time ago. But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been significant progress under Moshiri and there’s no reason why we can’t be optimistic about the future.

‘We don’t want to be a museum’

The supporters greeted Moshiri’s arrival at the club with great enthusiasm in February 2016. After years of being the paupers of the Premier League we had finally found a billionaire to back the manager and fire the club up the table.

During the 2017 AGM Moshiri famously declared that he didn’t want Everton to ‘become a museum’, music to the ears of Evertonians sick of the club being labelled ‘plucky Everton’ and longing for a return to the glory days.

Barnsley v Everton: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images

Moshiri also said that there was a small window for which Everton to achieve their aim of settling back alongside the Premier League’s elite and he was prepared to spend big in order to ensure they did not miss out.

To be fair to Moshiri he certainly put his money where his mouth is, but the problem is that money has been spent erratically and irresponsibly.

There were few dissenting voices when Ronald Koeman was plucked from Southampton following Roberto Martinez’s dismissal. The Dutch legend had a patchy managerial record but his success on the south coast suggested he was the man to inject a bit of discipline into a side that had been accused of being lax under his Spanish predecessor.

There was also logic in the appointment of Steve Walsh as the club’s new director of football. Walsh had just played his part in masterminding Leicester’s remarkable title success, being credited with signing the likes of N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy.

But it soon became clear the two men as a pairing simply did not work.

Everton v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

I still feel Koeman wasn’t a disastrous appointment, but his relationship with Walsh and the subsequent muddled transfer strategy was. It was apparent that Walsh had been over-promoted and lacked both the experience and authority required for the role of director of football.

A seventh place finish in the 2016-17 campaign was considered a success. But looking back it seems the goals of Romelu Lukaku papered over the cracks.

That makes the failure to adequately replace him that summer so baffling and irresponsible. In fact it bordered on dereliction of duty and highlighted the overall lack of strategy from the top.

Barnsley v Everton: Pre-Season Friendly

It was just one of a catalogue of errors in the transfer market that resulted in the squad being horribly ill-balanced and packed full of ageing players on long, expensive contracts.

The disastrous start to the 2017-18 season was therefore inevitable, with Koeman’s sacking no real surprise either.

The Dutchman paid the price as much for his poor transfer decisions as he did for poor results. The botched summer spend had resulted in a squad that even the best managers would have struggled to glean something from.

However, the timing of the decision – made by Moshiri - looked to be swayed by the supporters, who had been seen leaving Goodison in their droves after a 5-2 thrashing by Arsenal the previous day.

Moshiri should not have pulled the trigger until he had some sort of succession plan in place, no matter how unhappy the supporters were. But he didn’t, so in attempting to make things right, he only made it worse.

The light bulb moment

Moshiri displayed yet more naivety in his botched pursuit of Marco Silva, with Watford quite rightly resisting any attempts to lose a manager who had only been in the job four months.

With the Hornets rejecting each approach with increasing anger, Moshiri must have secretly hoped caretaker boss David Unsworth could steady the ship and maybe see the team through until the end of the season.

Sadly, he couldn’t and Everton found themselves in a tailspin. It is at this point I think Moshiri realised that playing football owner is a lot tougher than he first thought.

Burnley v Everton - Premier League Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images

That ‘light bulb moment’ has led to the changes we have seen over the past 18 months. But, first, Moshiri had to take drastic action to ensure Everton were not relegated.

He must have known that Sam Allardyce was a deeply unpopular appointment with the fans, but Moshiri clearly felt it was necessary to keep the club up, buy some time and start all over again.

The former England boss may have signed an 18-month deal but we all knew it was only a temporary appointment, but he exploited Moshiri’s panic to secure himself a bumper pay out at the end of it.

Whether those six excruciatingly painful months of tortuous football were necessary is still up for debate. But at least Allardyce was gone within days of the season ending with his job complete. Walsh soon followed him out of the exit door, though he really should have gone at the same time as Koeman given the role he played in the transfer farce.

Then, the most significant appointment of Moshiri’s tenure so far – Marcel Brands.

Everton v Huddersfield Town - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Brands is the sort of man Everton needed at the start of the Moshiri era three years ago. I’m convinced we would not be in this mess had that been the case. He is widely considered one of the best in the business and carries an air of authority befitting of a man charged with forging the direction of the club from top to bottom.

His elevation to the board in January is an acknowledgement by Moshiri that he couldn’t run things without expert advice.

It finally feels like there is some sort of plan.

Looking forward

I am sure Moshiri will admit he had made to errors of judgement during his time at Everton but he deserves credit for setting out to rectify them.

He has continued to pour cash into the club and although the purse strings have been tightened in recent months, that is more to do with Financial Fair Play and tidying up the bottom line than any drop in commitment from Moshiri.

With his original three-plan out of the window we are now back at year zero, though starting from a position further back than where we started in 2016.

The squad, though more expensive, is arguably worse or at the very least less balanced than three years ago, meaning Brands has a significant job to do in the transfer market in order to get a settled team again.

His early work last summer was encouraging and I’m confident that given a full transfer window he will be able to rebuild the squad to the extent that we can look forward to next season with genuine optimism again.

But while we have witnessed chaos and confusion off the field, Moshiri’s greatest legacy is likely to be off it. The Bramley Moore Dock project is arguably Everton’s last chance to re-establish themselves amongst the division’s elite by moving to a world-class stadium on a prime dockside location.

The club are understandably being very cautious after so many false dawns, but all the signs suggest the project will come to fruition.

And should the day come where Everton kick-off their season on the banks of the royal blue Mersey then Moshiri’s legacy will be secure, rendering the mistakes made during the first three years of his tenure mere bumps in the road towards a greater future.