There are a number of parallels between last night’s opponents Everton and Newcastle. These are both clubs with genuine ambitions towards rekindling some semblance of their former glories, but at the same time neither side has the financial muscle to do it in quite way either Chelsea or Manchester City have.
Indeed until yesterday only a couple of Premier League places separated sides that have sat on the cusp of European football for a while now, so you could have been forgiven for thinking that last night would have been a closely fought contest.
But you couldn’t have been more wrong, despite home advantage Newcastle were brutally taken apart by an imperious Everton side that look set to challenge Arsenal for that coveted 4th place come May. A 3 goal reverse for Newcastle doesn’t quite do the gulf between the sides justice, Everton are leagues ahead of a side that unless something changes are destined for mid-table mediocrity for the foreseeable future.
The most painful thing for Newcastle fans is that the gap hasn’t opened up because of financial firepower or a stroke of luck; Everton have grown because of patience and a genuine pursuit of a long-term strategy.
At Everton they make do with the resources available to them; everything seems to click. Even with the enforced departure of Marouane Fellaini they were still ably to seamlessly replace him with a combination of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy to fill the void. There never seems to be a knee-jerk panic under Bill Kenright, famously cautious in his expenditure with every dime spent there seems to be a purpose. For a club looking to succeed with limited resources this is the blue-print to follow, and if Roberto Martinez can clinch that 4th place I am sure the ‘toffees’ will get the recognition they duly deserve.
Newcastle’s financial backing is actually relatively large compared to that at Everton, which begs the question; why is the gap so big?
At St James’ Park there is not clear strategy, sure Alan Pardew is tied to his infamously long contract but even so every decision appears short sighted and ill thought out. Last years acquisition of largely second rate French talent was geared towards plugging holes, it certainly wasn’t the start of any great project in the north east. Pardew himself has even admitted he needs more English players in a foreign dominated dressing room, speaking last October he said:
“We need to look at British players because we’re starting to get filled up with perhaps too many foreigners.”
But this isn’t a question of nationality per se; it is a question of planning and building towards something. Newcastle structurally are a chaotic mess, Ashley’s willingness to spend is unclear and now that Kinnear has left it is difficult to gauge what the transfer policy even is. The sale of star man Yohan Cabaye to PSG this January epitomised this, with the ‘magpies’ left without time to seek out that creative replacement.
The scoreline aside though last night did show that Newcastle’s aspirations are far from hopeless. This was a game they had an opportunity of getting something out of for large parts, dominating possession without doing a whole lot with it. Everton though came with a plan, and they pulled off an outstanding away performance at what is still one of the most intimidating grounds to come to.
Rather than getting down on things, Newcastle would do well to take notice of the way Everton conduct their business, because it is a lesson to clubs like Newcastle on how to go about things.
Having a strategy and sticking to it is important when money is tight; focusing on youth and primarily English talent are key components of Martinez’s early work and these are things easily replicated over on Tyneside.
So is it time to stop burying those heads in the sand and starting take a leaf out of Everton’s book here?