By David Lynch
Manchester City's clash with Everton on Saturday throws together two clubs who once had a lot in common.
To start on an obvious note, both teams wear blue. They have also had to endure a local rivalry with a team in red who have won every honour imaginable in recent history. But, just when both appeared to have cemented their status as forever in the shadow of those rivals, the wave of a chequebook took City on a path vastly different to that which Everton still walk.
The arrival of Sheikh Mansour at the Etihad Stadium put the Manchester club on a trajectory which has seen them pick up the FA Cup and Premier League, as well as, albeit not too successfully, competing in the Champions League in just four years. Everton fans, like most others in the Premier League, will doubtless look on enviously at the winning lottery ticket City stumbled upon.
Unfortunately, unless such luck befalls the Toffees, there seems no way of breaking the current malaise at Goodison Park. Of course, David Moyes' team have started this season impressively, and remain a good outside bet for a top-four finish, but even the riches of one season in Europe's elite competition will not spark this sleeping giant; a level of investment which is currently not forthcoming is required.
Everton's owner, Bill Kenwright, insists he has been actively seeking to sell the club for some time now, though the lack of offers paints a telling picture. Fans groups have protested against Kenwright’s refusal to name his asking price, a fact which they believe betrays that it is above a reasonable figure.
However, though this can at times be difficult for fans to accept, Everton does not currently represent a sound investment.
Part of what made City such an attractive proposition was the fact they had a stadium prepared to take on – and take cash from – the number of fans a Champions League team possesses. Conversely, Goodison Park is a millstone round Everton's neck, a stadium with a capacity which damages the club's ability to compete.
There have been several aborted schemes to try and solve this issue. Plans to build a 55,000-seater stadium on the Kings Dock were scrapped back in 2003 after the club, rather tellingly, failed to raise the cash to fund it. The latest project, a move to Kirkby which would have been allied to the construction of a new supermarket, was knocked back by the government in 2009 despite having been green lit by Knowsley Council.
Things have gone quiet on the stadium issue since, meaning Kenwright is very likely now trying to sell a business which will need a significant amount of investment in order to flourish. Toffees fans will be familiar with the difficulty in doing this, having seen rivals Liverpool make a lucky escape from the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett – two men who had put an excessive asking price on a club which needed a new stadium.
In that case, the leadership of temporary chairman Martin Broughton allowed the club to pass into new hands against Hicks and Gillett's wishes. But it is unlikely that the same will be allowed to happen at Everton, even if Kenwright's tenure does not compare to that of Anfield's gruesome twosome.
This means that Everton find themselves perpetually treading water, trapped in a vicious cycle of needing investment to build a stadium but not attracting investment because they don't have a new stadium. It is a situation which has facilitated several high-profile transfers between Everton and the newly wealthy Manchester City, predictably in the Premier League champions’ favour.
David Moyes drove a hard bargain in securing the £22 million (€27m) sale of Joleon Lescott to City and was equally stubborn in demanding £18m for the services of Jack Rodwell this summer. These are the financial upsides of being a selling club, though it is a position the Merseyside outfit's fans will wish they were not in.
And so, at the Etihad Stadium, the Toffees face another harsh reminder of exactly what they do not have. They can match City's illustrious history and famously committed fanbase but they fall short on the most important factor in modern football. Money.
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