The 200% Premier League Pre-Season: Everton
Between now and the start of the season, we’ll be writing up all twenty of the Premier League clubs before it all kicks off again. If you’re here looking for all the latest transfer gossip, though, you’ll most likely be disappointed. Quite asides from anything else, it’s only the third week in July (a necessity borne of the fact that these have got to be written around work commitments, amongst much else), so most of the transfer rumours circulating at the moment are the result of the fevered imaginations of the sort of fifteen year-olds who spend their lives on Twitter pretending to be agents. Others will be along in the coming weeks to fill you in on that sort of thing, and we’re happy to leave that job to them.
Seventeenth, fourth, eleventh, sixth, fifth, fifth, eighth, seventh, seventh, sixth. After a shaky start, Everton under the managership of David Moyes were nothing if not consistent, but now Moyes has departed for Old Trafford, Roberto Martinez is the man in charge and nobody knows exactly how this will work out for the club over the course of the season to come. There are, perhaps, as many causes for optimism as there are for concern about the direction that the club may now take. Moyes is a talented manager, of that there can be no doubt, but there had long been a feeling around Goodison Park that it is possible that he had, considering the financial constraints under which the club has long operated, taken them as far as he could. Perhaps a new pair of eyes running over the players at the club’s disposal will spot something that he had missed that can gel a good squad into one capable of challenging for a place in the Champions League.
The default settings of the football supporter, though, contain a deeply ingrained fear of change, and a feeling of uncertainty after many years of stability may not sit comfortably with fans of Everton as we await the start of the new season. Roberto Martinez himself, of course, arrives at Goodison Park with something of a contradictory air about him. On the one hand, he led Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup at the end of last season. On the other, though, he also led the club to relegation after years of it battling against the odds and managing to defy them. His teams play attractive football, of course, and in the cut and thrust of the Premier League to have the ability to play through a team can carry considerable weight, as Swansea City, one of Martinez’s former charges, have amply demonstrated over the last couple of years. Still, though, with the departure of David Moyes comes an undoubted feeling that, no matter what, things will be different at Everton from now on. There is plenty of scope to do so.
The former manager’s ghost still walks the corridors of Goodison Park, though, of course, and since the transfer window re-opened there has been considerable speculation that Moyes would return to the club to poach Everton’s former players, with the names reported as being at the top of the list being those of Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini. What those two players might offer Manchester United is a subject for another day, but there can be little question that if they were to depart between now and the start of the season they would be considerable losses to Everton. That two of the club’s most important players might have been automatically linked with the former manager’s new club might be galling for Everton supporters, but it is worth reminding ourselves that two of the first four players that Martinez has brought in have been Arouna Kone and Antonin Alcaraz, both from his former club, Wigan Athletic. In these stories and rumours that we see the true nature of the football food chain, but Everton are at least well placed in that there aren’t too many clubs placed above them in England at the moment.
The biggest part of the reason why Everton have been unable to take that next step up to compete in a more meaningful sense for a place in the Champions League has long been considered to be financial, and the last set of club accounts, which were published for the calendar year of 2012 at the start of this year, hint as to why that might be. Wages made up seventy-five per cent of the club’s turnover in 2012, whilst revenues were at their lowest level since 2008 and the club has made a total loss of £52m over the course of the last seven years. In a league in which television revenues are reasonably evenly split, it is what might be described as “controlled revenues” – money that the club has raised itself from its own commercial endeavours – that gives Everton the opportunity to gain a competitive edge over those struggling nearer the foot of the table. The club’s annual controlled revenue figure has dropped by almost £4.5m over this period of time during a period when other clubs have been able to increase theirs, and this may be a cause of concern for some unless it can be turned around.
The flip-side to this is that the most obvious way of increasing it would be to raise ticket prices, and this is not something that has been particularly countenanced by the club just yet. The cheapest season ticket at Goodison Park for next season is £240 cheaper than the cheapest season ticket at Anfield and, as few Everton supporters will need reminding, Everton finished above Liverpool in the Premier League last season. It’s not a pleasant dilemma for anybody concerned. Premier League football clubs – particularly those with the internationally known name that Everton Football Club has – should be able to exploit this reputation without having to revert to the base position of increasing ticket prices on the off-chance that this might – for such things can never be guaranteed – make the the team more competitive on the pitch. So far, the signs haven’t necessarily been great that this will be easy to do. The club’s ham-fisted changing of its badge at the start of the summer ended in a climbdown of sorts, although it will be used next season for what were described as commercial reasons and some have even suspected that supporters might even need to follow up on this season to ensure that this doesn’t turn out to be a matter of somebody sweeping an unpopular decision under the carpet for another day only to be revived again in ten months time or so.
It’s a fine line between stability and stagnation, and much of the last ten years may well have taken on a feeling of seemingly perpetual déja vu for the supporters of Everton Football Club. Over the course of David Moyes’ time with the club Everton established themselves as a regular fixture in the top half of the Premier League after a decade punctuated by one FA Cup win but occasional battles to avoid relegation from the Premier League during the 1990s, and there is little to suggest that this will change under the stewardship of Roberto Martinez, even in the event of of Leighton Baines and/or Marouane Fellaini departing before the start of the season. The scale and grandeur of the club, which remains standing as one of the great footballing institutions of the professional game on these shores, makes finishing below mid-table is highly unlikely.
The flip-side to this is that the departure of that man Moyes has meant that upheaval has been inevitable and improvement upon last season’s excellent sixth placed finish may have to be postponed for a year while his replacement finds his bearings and imprints his own personality upon a team which had been built by one of the longest serving managers in the Premier League. There will be pressure on Martinez – the burden of history hangs heavy over Goodison Park, after all – but with a little patience at a boardroom level and the right balance of players on the pitch, there is no reason why the new man can’t continue where his predecessor left off. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss? Not at all. But even if the remainder of the summer doesn’t go as they’d wish in the transfer market, there is little for Everton supporters to be concerned about at Goodison Park ahead of the start of the new season.
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