Ever wondered what’s going on at Everton? Perennially on the fringes of the big time, the club has now been leapfrogged by Manchester City and Champions League football seems as far away as ever. We spoke to a friend of GhostGoal, Colin Huntington, to get the lowdown on how it feels to be an Evertonian in 2011 …
Be careful what you wish for …
As an Evertonian who has just entered his 31st year, a quick scan of my club’s history reveals I am a member one of the more unlucky generations in terms of witnessing success. The 1995 FA Cup victory felt to me like a beginning rather than a pinnacle at the time; but the subsequent status of Duncan Ferguson as one of my all-time heroes confirms that feeling as entirely incorrect.
At this point in time though, my lack of experience of a table-topping and (occasional) trophy bagging Everton, perhaps allows me a more balanced and realistic outlook on our current situation compared to those generations brought up to expect the next successful season to be just around the corner. As I write this Everton are poised to again finish either top (or near top) of the table of clubs who are not in possession of substantial funds (admittedly a table which only has merit in my own head), yet the season will undoubtedly be viewed by many as one of failure and of missed opportunity.
It does not need me to outline to anybody the currency oligarchy in the English game and the consequences this has for a swathe of clubs who have proud histories. What really bothers me is that it seems the consensus is wholesale change is impossible and that a ‘can’t beat them?.. join them’ attitude manifests in fans (or the media portrayal of fans) hoping and praying for their club to be next in line for investment.
Bill Kenwright has reportedly reviewed and rejected bids from several parties interested in investing in Everton – and has been castigated by many for this. I am not party to the details of bidders but were I in Kenwright’s shoes I think I would be similarly reticent to hand over the keys. A brief look through the more recent purchases of Premiership clubs shows a well-known rogues gallery of oil-royalty, American sports investors and chicken farmers. As an outside observer, I would put forward only one single club who’s grass appears greener to me – Spurs. It is hard to separate their recent on-field success and measure the effectiveness of Enic in moving the club forward; but to me their model appears to be based around sustainable growth of the club, not a future reliant on a single petro-daddy.
My point is that the vast majority of owners are not ones I would like to see at my club. People can say to me ‘you’d think differently if it happened to you’ ‘til they are royal blue in the face but I will always maintain that I would not be at all comfortable with Everton competing regularly in the Champions League and challenging for the title based on spending way above the club’s income, financed by an individual/group who do not have any real connection to the club and can always just walk away.
That leaves wholesale change in the game as the only realistic way for me to see my team regularly competing for honours; essentially hoping that Everton can continue to perform as they are and that the other clubs will come back to us. I really hope that Uefa’s new financial measures not are not only effective but are also the start of many more changes instigated by those ruling the game, but I fear that will not be the case.
The recent Sky deal with the Football League highlights further the destruction of the essence of competition in English football caused by the formation of the Premiership (I accept my club’s part in that) and allowed by the governance of the FA. It is now past time for the government to step in a radically overhaul the game. A redistribution of income throughout the leagues and a reduction of the Premier League’s power should not be dreamland stuff, it should be a realistic solution. So what if the Premier League as an overseas ‘product’ is diminished? All league clubs would be more secure, competition would be more fierce and English clubs would still produce English players capable of disappointing in International tournament quarter-finals.
I appreciate that these views are not groundbreaking or even original, but how much longer are these sort of sentiments going to be the elephant in the room of English football? It seems the vast majority of the football-watching public (me included) are silently waiting for some sort of catastrophe to befall the top of the game, at which point the clubs such as Everton get a chance to have heroes which supercede their Duncan Fergusons.