As Nikica Jelavic slammed home Everton’s third against Aston Villa last Saturday to continue their emphatic start to the new Premier League season, it seems implausible that fans could feel anything bar jubilation.
Here was a side continuing where they left off from a superb 1-0 victory over Manchester United in their opening game. David Moyes’ dynamic, enterprising and superbly drilled side have come flying out the blocks so far and they finally seem to be producing the sort of good start that’s evaded them for so many seasons.
You would have thought that would have provoked an outpouring of optimism and in many ways it has. Everton are more than capable of pushing on to enjoy a fantastic term in the coming months. But when you watch the Toffees play like this, there always seems to be an underlying twinge of sadness. Not at the football that’s on display; but perhaps the capacity for what could be on show, at Goodison Park.
Everton chairman Bill Kenwright has spent what feels like an eternity in his fabled search for some desperately needed investment on the blue half of Merseyside. The theatre producer has huffed and puffed in what is seemingly a continuously loosing battle to bring some capital into Goodison Park, over the past eight years and beyond.
The issue of attaining fresh investment to a football club is of course, a far more complex issue than many give credence for and although Kenwright should be in no means immune from critique, it’s not something that suddenly falls out the sky. But as his shoulders have continued to shrug, David Moyes has continued to produce the goods on the pitch.
Their current outstanding start is testament to a manager who has almost single-handledly defied the odds for his football club year, after year, after year.
This time last year represented not quite a black day for Everton, but another wholly depressing installment in the latest round of reality checks. As Liverpool indulged in the signings of Stewart Downing, Jose Enrique and Charlie Adam, following on from their lavish spending in the January of 2011, David Moyes’ side couldn’t have existed in a starker contrast.
Everton were somewhat mercilessly stripped of players, just as it felt they were beginning to regain some momentum from the previous term. Mikel Arteta, Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford all departed for near on £15million. Only Darron Gibson was signed from Manchester United with the subsequent funds in the summer transfer window. Needless to say, optimism wasn’t particularly sky high.
Yet come May of this year, the paradox in emotion felt palpable up at Goodison Park. Everton finished four points clear of their rivals, in a superbly impressive seventh place. All the more impressive – or frustrating – when you consider they again made a net profit on transfers, while they only invested a quarter of it. That quarter of investment, however, on Nikica Jelavic in January, looks to be one of the shrewdest signings of the Moyes era. His goals during last season’s run-in were invaluable to their strong finish and both him and the team look to have carried on from where they left off last term.
Considering how gloomy the outlook was this time last year, finishing above a heavily backed Liverpool squad was something of an achievement and many Everton fans rightly celebrate it as so. But not all were sold on the idea of fervently praising a seventh placed league finish. Ambition is always something that bubbles under the surface at a club with the sort of history that Everton boast. And why shouldn’t they dare to dream, especially on the evidence of what we’ve seen this season?
David Moyes has ensured that Everton have always punched above their weight in this league. The stature of the club isn’t what determines this, more the basic terms of economics. You cannot stay still in the Premier League and although the Toffees have invested when the time has been right, compared to the spending of all around them, they have more or less stayed still. Supporters aren’t out of their rights to try and depict what Moyes would be capable of if he had ever received the sort of backing that we’re seeing Brendan Rodgers, Andre Villas-Boas or even Mark Hughes receiving.
And it’s here that the blame game begins to start asking some uneasy questions. It feels as if Moyes has been doing this job at the club for a lifetime, but it can’t go on forever. No one is claiming that the fans or the board are taking the Scot for granted, but should he move on in the near future, the realities could be a stark one. Not many managers could be able to pull off the continuous trick that Moyes performs on Merseyside and if one day a club comes calling that can offer him the backing he must have always longed for, it would be difficult to turn down.
Bill Kenwright has had his fair share of critics over the years and in recent times, those voices haven’t got any quieter. No one can deny that if you cut Kenwright, he would probably bleed blue, but that hasn’t prevented some fans from being split in their allegiance to the chairman. Fans have watched as several other Premier League teams have attained investment and Kenwright has been seemingly unable to raise a penny.
No one expects the club to live out of their means and Kenwright cannot be lampooned for refusing to put the club in jeopardy. But flashpoints seem to be occurring far more often. An argument over Kenwright’s inability to account for £24million in operating costs last year caused wild speculation, if not fury with some pockets of fans. It’s hard to buy into sinister conclusions aimed at a Premier League club who has its accounts signed off by auditors every year- but it gives you a scale of some of the unrest.
All the fans are sympathetic with reality, but some feel more seemingly disillusioned with stagnation. There aren’t any easy answers at Goodison Park.
One thing’s for sure, no one’s complaining with what’s going on on the pitch, so far this season. And as long as that continues, the shutters will be drawn on the boardroom issues- for the time being, anyway. Until real investment comes in, the club cannot shake the tag of the underdog.
How do you feel about what’s going on at Everton at the moment? Does the critique at Kenwright go too far or is this season’s start merely papering over the cracks of the boardroom’s regressing legacy? Let me know what you think on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus