Transfer deadline day 2006. I am in Ireland camp ahead of the Euros qualifier in Germany when my agent’s number pops up.
Everton have agreed a fee of £2 million (€2.2 million) with Wigan Athletic. Pack your bags. I hung up and phoned David Moyes. You are going nowhere, Kev.
A few hours later the gaffer is back on. The deal has been agreed but he refuses to sanction it. You are staying put. Definitely? 100 per cent.
Back to the agent. Wigan were offering an extra 10 grand a week. Knowing Moyesy since I was 15, he deserved the bottom line, even wondering aloud if Everton could draw up a new deal to keep me at Goodison Park?
Absolutely not, came the reply, so I hopped on a 6am flight to Manchester, just as the Irish lads flew to Stuttgart.
Everton used to be a prudently run club. Mikel Arteta and one or two others were on higher salaries, but a harmony developed inside the dressingroom because most of the squad had similar deals. That’s partly how we finished fourth to earn a swing at Champions League football the season after Wayne Rooney went to Man United for £30 million. Rooney’s replacement, Marcus Bent, cost £450,000.
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Everton used to balance the books. Wigan offered the two million up front, perhaps taking advantage of how we did business. Either way, I signed before following Joxer to Stuttgart. We lost 1-0 after a Lukas Podolski free kick took a wicked deflection off Robbie Keane’s heel.
I returned home wealthier but no longer a Toffee.
Moyes was the ideal fit for Everton, lasting 11 trophy-less years by picking up some shrewd bargains like Arteta, Tim Cahill, Steven Pienaar, Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott without stretching the club to breaking point.
Since Roberto Martinez’s three seasons, after Moyes went to Old Trafford in 2013, no manager has survived for 70 games.
Everton was the biggest club I ever played for. They made me feel like I belonged in the top flight of English football, simply because Merseyside and the Premier League always went hand in glove.
Goodison under lights is an unforgettable experience. We’ll miss it when it goes next year. The crowd are on top of you. Skirting that left flank I heard some stinging abuse being levelled at right backs. This is nothing to mythologise, but Evertonians are tough as old boots, epitomising football’s 12th man.
That old magic disappears when they move to Bramley-Moore Dock. The new stadium is being built for a top European club, not a team on a winless streak that could tick into double figures against Moyes’s West Ham on Saturday, with Arteta’s Arsenal and the derby to follow.
Point being, it can always get worse. After seven years of Farhad Moshiri’s ownership, we’re witnessing a slow, almost inevitable march towards the Championship.
Fan patience snapped a while back. Director of football Kevin Thelwell cut a lonely figure for the 2-1 defeat to Southampton as the rest of the board were advised to stay away due to a “real and credible threat” to their safety.
Nine managers in seven years cannot be blamed on supporters, as Moshiri suggested last week on talkSPORT, when the billionaire sounded like someone bleating out a PR memo scribbled by Gianni Infantino: “I put my money where my mouth is and that is the most an owner can do.”
I believe that Moshiri has been hoodwinked into some catastrophic decisions that tally over £500 million in transfer fees. An out of control wage bill forced the sale of Richarlison to Tottenham a few months before the Brazilian’s value soared after that acrobatic World Cup goal against Serbia.
“All the managers who have left have been driven by the fans,” the owner claimed. If the mob made Moshiri sack six managers, who made him hire them in the first place? He’s also on his third director of football.
People who truly hold power do not need to talk about it. Sprinkle all the salt you want on Moshiri’s reasoning but Everton are going down unless several other teams implode quicker than Frank Lampard’s squad.
When Southampton equalised last Saturday the players looked to be gripped by fear as the 12th man understandably vented.
The choice of Lampard over Vítor Pereira 12 months ago was never going to work but a vocal section of supporters wanted the former Chelsea manager and the owner obliged. Even Duncan Ferguson seemed better qualified. Big Dunc is a club legend, twice filling in as caretaker boss when Marco Silva and Rafa Benítez were sent packing.
I cannot discern Lampard’s managerial style from his time at Derby, Chelsea and now 12 months into this gig. Plenty of luck, 10 Richarlison goals and some special Goodison nights staved off relegation in 2022. Just like Sam Allardyce guided them back to upper mid-table safety in 2018.
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Arguably, Silva and Carlo Ancelotti were unlucky appointments, but Benitez’s 22 matches in charge remains unforgivably bad business.
Moshiri has tried everything and nothing, all at once. Unlike Brighton, Everton are a selling club that lacks a cogent strategic vision. When Chelsea headhunted Graham Potter, Brighton wasted no time identifying Roberto De Zerbi. Almost as if they were prepared for it to happen. With Leandro Trossard’s representatives pushing a move to Arsenal, De Zerbi turned to an Irish teenager named Evan Ferguson – who Stephen Kenny should start against France on March 27th.
Everton under Moshiri feels like a Premier League club run like bingo night. By the time you read this Lampard could conceivably be sacked. Or Moyes might be gone from West Ham. Saturday afternoon’s gathering at the London stadium has both clubs level on 15 points with bottom of the table Southampton.
Leeds United, Leicester City, Wolves and Bournemouth are equally capable of total collapse, which would save Lampard or Moyes but it can always get worse. The Premier League is the most unforgiving football terrain on the planet. Everyone knows this, yet Everton still gambled on Lampard having the Midas touch.
Dropping Lampard and Steven Gerrard into big clubs, so soon, irretrievably stunted their growth as managers. Plenty of career coaches I know reject early managerial offers until they have enough credit in the bank to survive the inevitable sack.
Cautionary tales of great players being unemployed managers in their late 40s are everywhere around us. It is beyond rare for a world-class footballer to transform into Erik ten Hag in the blink of an eye. Zidane and Beckenbauer aside, a prolonged playing career eats into the years needed to learn how to run with the alpha dogs.
When Arteta retired age 34, he was offered three apprenticeship roles: the Arsenal academy under Arséne Wenger, assistant coach to Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs or Pep Guardiola at Man City. He chose door number three.
Everton FC has never needed a miracle worker or a faith healer. Moyes offered the base standard; someone capable of driving the club towards Champions League contention without the threat of financial ruin.
It’s not just Goodison Park that Everton leave behind in 2023. Everything is on the line these next few weeks. Even the derby could disappear.