They don’t forget, football fans...
And so, when Richard Keys, formerly the anchor of Sky’s football coverage in the UK, went public with a rather bold prediction last summer, it was always likely to come back to haunt him.
“Loving Everton’s business this summer,” he tweeted on July 9, 2017. “Here’s an early call – they finish above Liverpool this season.”
As shouts go, it’s up there with the guy who told The Beatles that guitar music would never take off. And, through the power of social media, Keys has been reminded of it daily.
In fairness to him, Everton were, at the time, receiving plenty of praise. They’d started the summer well it seemed, making a host of big-money or big-name signings. Michael Keane, Jordan Pickford, Sandro Ramirez and Davy Klaassen were all on board by the time Keys took to Twitter, while Wayne Rooney would join that day. The future looked bright at Goodison Park. They were ‘winning the transfer window’.
How premature such statements look now, with the Blues preparing for yet another summer of upheaval. And this one will be even more dramatic than last year’s.
By the time the new Premier League season gets underway in August, they will have a new chief executive, a new director of football, a new manager and, if jobs are done properly, a team full of new players too. Work to deliver a new stadium, meanwhile, goes on. This is a club that is changing, but into what?
Farhad Moshiri has been at the club for a little over two years now, and has just sacked his third manager. Sam Allardyce, perhaps the most unpopular appointment in the club’s 140-year history, will receive a £2 million bonus for keeping the club in the Premier League, as well as the majority of his £6m a year contract.
Staggeringly, that means Moshiri will have paid more than £20m to get rid of managers deemed not good enough. Roberto Martinez left just three months after Moshiri’s arrival on Merseyside, while Ronald Koeman, appointed amid much fanfare in the summer of 2016, lasted just 16 months. Allardyce departs after just six-and-a-half months, making his reign the shortest of all Everton bosses.
Probably the most unpopular, too. Allardyce’s win percentage at Everton (41.7%) actually compares favourably to Martinez, Koeman and even David Moyes. He leaves them in eighth place having inherited a side in 13th. Everton were performing poorly enough at the time to warrant genuine relegation fears, but they finished in a position of comfort – only one place worse off than the previous season, in fact.
Fans, though, found it impossible to warm to a manager whose modus operandi is about survival, one game to another, one week to another. Everton is a club which craves a long-term plan, identity and ambition. Allardyce offered none of those, he was a desperation appointment, in it for himself and paid handsomely to do a pretty basic job. His team got enough wins to secure a top-half finish in a low-quality league, but played dull, uninspiring football to do so.
With fans openly chanting against him in recent weeks – “f*** off Sam Allardyce” rang out from the away end at West Ham on Sunday - there is no question that Moshiri’s latest call is the right one.
His next one must be the right one too. Marco Silva is the preferred choice to replace Allardyce – though there is support at boardroom level for Eddie Howe, the Bournemouth manager. The Portuguese was targeted prior to Allardyce’s appointment, only for Watford to reject Everton’s advances. That turned out badly for everyone involved. Silva was sacked by the Hornets in January, their statement turning the spotlight on Everton for their “unwarranted approach.” The issue is not yet resolved, with Watford considering legal action if Silva is appointed this summer.
But, whoever the new man is, he has a big job on his hands. He inherits a bloated, imbalanced squad which must be addressed ruthlessly. Rooney’s future is uncertain with D.C. United hoping to lure him to MLS, record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson is recovering from a serious knee injury, while the £23.6m man Klaassen has played 61 Premier League minutes since September. Sandro, of whom so much was expected, spent the second half of the season on loan at Sevilla.
Leighton Baines, Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka are the wrong side of 30, as is Kevin Mirallas, another who was sent out on loan in January. Morgan Schneiderlin’s form has been patchy at best, James McCarthy is injured while the likes of Cuco Martina, Ramiro Funes Mori, Nikola Vlasic, Oumar Niasse and Yannick Bolasie could all be moved on. Ademola Lookman, a player of genuine promise, has been on loan at RB Leipzig in Germany.
A new director of football, Marcel Brands, is expected to be brought in, with Steve Walsh, the current incumbent, paying the price for an underwhelming two years in the job. Walsh came with a big reputation from Leicester City, but his hits – Pickford, Idrissa Gueye, Dominic Calvert-Lewin to a degree – have been outweighed by his misses. Everton signed three players to play in the same No.10 position last summer, yet failed to sign a left-back to cover or compete with Baines, or anyone who looked capable of replacing Romelu Lukaku. Cenk Tosun, a January arrival, has shown he can finish, but has been horribly isolated in Allardyce’s one-dimensional setup.
It will need money, that’s for sure. Everton need a striker, at least one centre-back, a left-back and a midfielder. And that’s just for starters. Brands, like Walsh, is respected for his work with PSV Eindhoven, but will need to transfer those skills into a Premier League environment, and fast.
In the meantime, Evertonians can at least look forward to a change. The Allardyce era is over at Goodison, and not before time.