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Monday, February 25, 2013

Everton’s financial past is casting a shadow over the future of David Moyes

In recent years thousands of planets have been discovered in our galaxy. For some, the fact that these planets haven’t actually been seen puzzles them, their lack of knowledge means these things are hard to accept. For others, who understand, it's simply observation and applied logic which dictates you don't necessarily need to see everything to understand what's going on, you just need to understand the evidence.

Tony Evans, Football Editor of The Times, has been observing planet L4 4EL and has applied a little of his own logic….

“Perceptions change quickly in football. A little more than two months ago, David Moyes had Everton climbing into the top four. One game short of the mid-season mark, Goodison Park hosting Champions League matches was looking like a realistic option. The next nine league games gave Everton a reality check.

From being level on points with Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in the race to finish fourth, Moyes’s team are now six points adrift of Spurs and five behind Arsene Wenger’s side. A late collapse against Norwich City on Saturday underlined Everton’s loss of form.

Moyes is out of contract this summer. When his team were riding high at the tail end of 2012, the subject of an extended deal was brought up. The Scot elected to wait until the end of the season before committing. It’s an easy leap to attribute Everton’s loss of form to the uncertainty created by this decision. Easy, but wrong. The roots of their inability to keep pace with the division’s big boys go back a long time — perhaps a decade or more.

The 49-year-old is in his eleventh year in charge at Goodison. He was condemned to struggle right from the beginning when Everton were unable to complete two deals that might have changed the face of football on Merseyside.

The first was not the club’s fault. A £30 million investment agreed with NTL fell apart when the cable TV company went into bankruptcy. Bill Kenwright and the Everton board reacted by borrowing money to fill the void. By the time the £30 million, 25-year loan is repaid, it will have cost Everton £68 million.

The second potential deal has had an even more damaging effect. Everton were offered a 55,000-seater stadium on the Mersey waterfront, largely financed by public and European money. Everton’s contribution was a mere £30 million. The club failed to come up with the cash.

After that, income has increasingly become a problem. Too many financial decisions have been made with the short-term in mind. Such a policy always catches up with the manager. It is showing in Moyes’s side now.

In a transfer window where Everton might have plumped to strengthen for a top-four push, they brought in one recruit: John Stones, an 18-year-old from Barnsley. He has plenty of potential but, for once, thinking of the here and now looked a better policy. Moyes has used 22 players in the first team this season, the fewest in the top flight, and the squad looks stretched in a number of areas.

Yet the money is just not there to spend. Everton’s wage bill was £63.4 million last season, 75 per cent of turnover for a club that lost £9.1 million. There is just not enough income to finance a spending spree. This is the best side Moyes has had under his charge. Looking at the balance sheet, it’s unlikely he’ll get a better one.

There has been some carping about Moyes’s salary. He is paid about £4 million a year but, in a league where positions in the table often mirror spending on salary, Everton are punching above their weight. Given the club’s outlay on wages, they should be vying for tenth place, never mind fourth. Moyes has earned his money.

It was inevitable that the weakness in the squad would have an impact at some point in the season. It is unfortunate for Moyes that it is manifesting itself in the second half of the season. A fine start is swept from the memories of potential employers by a stuttering end to the season. Other managers catch the eye — like Michael Laudrup yesterday. The lack of a trophy is perceived to be a huge blot on Moyes’s CV and the Swansea City manager feels fresher, more vital and youthful than his Everton counterpart even though the Dane is just a year younger.

What can Moyes do to change things? No much. He cannot turn the clock back on a decade of boardroom misadventure. The dips in form on the pitch are a mere symptom. The errors were made behind the scenes long ago.

The FA Cup now becomes even more important to Moyes. A win over Oldham Athletic tomorrow would set up a winnable quarter-final with Wigan Athletic. The Scot can regain momentum and confirm his credentials with a trophy. But the Champions League looks a place or two too far for even a manager of his ability.”

Tony Evans

The Times

25th February 2013

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