Everton’s last signing - excluding loans and free transfers - was over one year and ten months ago.
That’s just a fraction under three hundred days. Two seasons and two summers. Four transfer windows. During that time pockets of war have broken out across the globe and peace duly restored, tsunamis and earthquakes have shattered the globe, whilst in Britain a coalition government has been formed and splintered. When Everton last splashed out any cash on a new player (Johnny Heitinga in September 2009) Tiger Woods was considered a wholesome family man and people were so concerned about swine flu they’d taken to wearing surgical masks to buy their groceries.
There is even a website solely dedicated to the Toffees‘ long-dormant chequebook, featuring nothing more than a clock counting away the days that is pertinently called ‘Evertontime.com’. With no new arrivals on the horizon - and even the transfer rumour mill eerily quiet with regards to Goodison Park - it must be assumed that the clock will continue to tick on until at least January.
It’s taken the footballing world quite a while to realise the true extent of Everton’s financial woes - for a long time I assumed they were football’s Alf Roberts in Get Carter; a big club but out of shape. In fact it is considerably more serious than that. Reportedly forty-five million in debt their credit rating dropped last January to such an alarming degree that the club can now only deal in cash transactions; paying for a player in instalments - a perk that virtually every club indulges in irrespective of wealth - is no longer a viable option.
Profitable revenue streams such as merchandising and catering have been outsourced whilst their training complex at Finch Farm was sold but retained with a fifty-year tenancy agreement. These are short-term solutions that will only create further long-term problems. A band-aid on a broken leg. There has even been talk of Everton borrowing against the following season’s TV revenue; a risky venture that would have dire consequences should the club be relegated. Last year they skirted with the bottom three for long enough to at least be on first name terms.
Now talk is no longer of strengthening the side and holding on to their prized assets but rather who is most expendable out of Rodwell and Baines.
The intense anger felt over the sale of Lescott to Manchester City is possibly a little misplaced in hindsight when its considered just how close the club was to succumbing to administration around that time - allegedly - and potentially becoming a Portsmouth of the north. Certainly the £22 million was very gratefully swallowed up by the club despite Moyes’ Gollum-esque rumblings. It is also noticeable how the attitude of Evertonians has changed since then, as the reality of their precarious financial shortcomings truly hits home. Now talk is no longer of strengthening the side and holding on to their prized assets but rather who is most expendable out of Rodwell and Baines.
Their predicament is made all the more intolerable by the new-found wealth across Stanley Park. There was a great deal of comedy and comfort to be found in their neighbours prolonged skirmish with the Texan cowboys but now Liverpool look to be secure and content under the patronage of billionaire J.W. Henry and are actively recruiting an expensive ensemble of new talent for the coming season. Herein lies the rub. Everton are stewarded by theatre impresario Bill Kenwright, a successful man certainly but of very limited means in comparison to the owners of all of the clubs that Everton aspire to compete with. To his credit Kenwright has tried for years to find a suitable oligarch or Middle Eastern royal to bankroll a sizable investment in the club but to no avail. The ground issue doesn’t exactly help matters with the need to move from a cramped Goodison increasing with every year and a much-proposed relocation to Kirby denied them time and again. Nothing puts tycoons off more than having to splurge over three hundred million just to get the tracks down before they can even begin to play with their new train set.
But Kenwright himself is also part of the problem. Seemingly oblivious to the fit and proper test conducted by the F.A he appears to be on a one-man mission to entice the perfect squeaky-clean benefactor. Perhaps, with his stubborn, and arguably pious, over-protection of his beloved club that is so obviously in desperate need of capital Kenwright has now become the wrong man to find the right man?
Nothing puts tycoons off more than having to splurge over three hundred million just to get the tracks down before they can even begin to play with their new train set.
The depressing truth is that, unless Her Maj or the Duke of Westminister suddenly discover a passion for footy and Merseyside Everton need - and I stress the word need - foreign ownership. Black gold. Texan tea.
Because the harsh fact is that British ownership very rarely cuts it anymore in the modern game. They….we…just don’t have the silly money.
Consequently Everton are the paupers of the Premier League. Squatters in the golden palace. And when speculative bids for Klose and Bothroyd fall through - players who, for differing reasons, should be willing to crawl over broken glass to play for such a fantastic club - you know that something has to change. And has to change soon.
The really frustrating aspect is that - debt and ground issue aside - the rest is merely cosmetics. They undoubtedly have one of the best managers around and a squad that only requires a tweak here and there to be fit to challenge the top four on a regular basis.
But while they continue to awkwardly straddle two very opposing worlds - paying seventy grand a week for superstars whilst having the financial clout of a struggling Championship side - Everton will never progress beyond running to stand still.
And all to the chiding tick of an internet clock.
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