Football: The spent force of Goodison

Peter Johnson yesterday succumbed to the vitriol of the Everton support and resigned as chairman of a club on whom he lavished pounds 70m but bought only failure.
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SINCE HE authorised the spending of nearly pounds 70m on transfers in just four years it is hard, at first sight, to understand why Everton supporters rejoiced yesterday at the ending of Peter Johnson's reign as chairman. Even taking last week's pounds 8m sale of Duncan Ferguson into account, the club have a pounds 30m transfer deficit under Johnson with a quartet of managers lavishing fees on the likes of Ferguson, Daniel Amokachi, Andrei Kanchelskis, Gary Speed, Nick Barmby, Slaven Bilic and John Collins.

However, that only Collins, (and Bilic when he is neither suspended nor injured), remain in the team illustrates one gripe. That such players as Marc Hottiger, Claus Thomsen, Mitch Ward, John O'Kane and Alex Cleland have also been foisted upon the School of Science is another.

The biggest complaint however, is that Johnson had no affinity with the supporters or club, a charge based on his former allegiance to Liverpool, compounded by his ham-fisted attempt to move the club from Goodison Park, and underlined by his sale of the cult hero, Ferguson.

That he reduced the club to a laughing-stock as a series of wild claims about prospective managers and playing recruits ended in failure did not help, nor did his aloof and arrogant image.

The belief was that Johnson was in it for the money and, at one time, he looked like making plenty of it. A rights issue of shares, soon after he took over, left him sitting on a paper profit approaching pounds 60m from a total investment of pounds 20m. The collapse in football shares, and Everton's own poor form, has seen the club's worth fall substantially and estimates of the value of his 68 per cent shareholding vary considerably. He could still make as much as pounds 30m but may have to settle for less than a third of that.

That is still a handy sum from the perspective of the Bullens Road Stand opposite the Goodison Park directors' box, but the divergence is likely to hamper Everton's plans to move on as Johnson will wait to achieve what he regards as a good price. Though no longer chairman, he will remain a significant presence as long as he combines a seat on the board with the majority shareholding. That the new vice-chairman, Bill Kenwright, who was the loser in the acrimonious takeover battle which brought Johnson to the club, is the man behind a possible buy-out is unlikely to help the atmosphere even if Johnson spends far more time in Jersey than on Merseyside.

Given the cost of buying Johnson out the new owners, whoever they may be, are unlikely to have much money left to invest in new players. Smith will thus have to make do with what he has but, as he has already spent pounds 20m since taking over in the summer, and inherited one of the best youth systems in the country, that should be within his capability. The departure of Ferguson should make it easier for him to create a decent side as the team had become one-dimensional with the big Scot leading the line.

After several years of fighting relegation it will take time to fashion a title-chasing team but Everton's supporters expect no less. The club's plummet from two league championships and five cup finals in the mid-eighties to the drudgery of the nineties has been a bitter blow and Goodison has become a strange place to visit. The supporters, still turning up in greater numbers than all but Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, have often had a note of desperation in their cheers and the extraordinary scenes after the final match of last season, when joy at their escape from relegation turned quickly to sustained abuse of Johnson, spoke volumes for their anger.

Behind those jeers was a well-organized campaign involving independent shareholders, the use of the Internet and a professional assessment of the proposed stadium move. As several other chairmen have bowed before a similar combination of vocal abuse and organized dissent, notably Peter Swales and Francis Lee at Manchester City and Bill Archer at Brighton, this would appear to suggest supporters, aided by the overwhelming media interest in the game, have more of a voice than ever before.

However, they are still dependent on a chairman giving in and stronger characters, like Alan Sugar, can dig in and wait until they finally appoint a successful manager and the pressure abates. Others, like Michael Knighton and Ron Noades, take the helm themself.

It may be, as Mike Walker, the first manager sacked by Johnson said yesterday, a change for the chairman to be the one to resign, but in the long run, it is likely to be no more than a blip in the gradual erosion of managerial control which has characterized the game since the days of the Busbys, Shanklys and Cloughs.

EVERTON'S TRANSFER DEALINGS IN THE JOHNSON ERA

UNDER MIKE WALKER

(7 Jan 1994 to 8 Nov 1994)

Buys: pounds 8.9m

*Brett Angell (Southend) pounds 500,000; *Joe Parkinson (Bournemouth) pounds 300,000; *Gary Rowett (Cambridge) pounds 200,000; *Anders Limpar (Arsenal) pounds 1.6m; * David Burrows (West Ham) est pounds 1.1m (swap with Tony Cottee); Daniel Amokachi (Club Bruges) pounds 3m; Vinny Samways (Tottenham) pounds 2.2m.

Sales: pounds 2.5m

*Peter Beagrie (Manchester City) pounds 1.1m; Tony Cottee (West Ham) est pounds 1m (swap with David Burrows); *Mark Ward (Birmingham) pounds 400,000.

*Deals concluded before Johnson took control.

UNDER JOE ROYLE

(10 Nov 1994 to 27 March 1997)

Buys: pounds 26.34m

Duncan Ferguson (Rangers) pounds 4m; Marc Hottiger (Newcastle) pounds 700,000; Earl Barrett (Aston Villa) pounds 1.7m; Craig Short (Derby) pounds 2.4m; Andrei Kanchelskis (Manchester Utd) pounds 5m; John Hills (Blackpool) pounds 90,000; Gary Speed (Leeds) pounds 3.5m; Paul Gerrard (Oldham) pounds 1.5m; Nick Barmby (Middlesbrough) pounds 5.75m; Terry Phelan (Chelsea) pounds 800,000; Claus Thomsen (Ipswich) pounds 900,000.

Sales: pounds 15.08m

Brett Angell (Sunderland) pounds 600,000; Gary Rowett (Derby) pounds 300,000; Stuart Barlow (Oldham) pounds 450,000; David Burrows (Coventry) pounds 1.1m; Paul Holmes (WBA) pounds 80,000; Daniel Amokachi (Besiktas) pounds 1.75m; Barry Horne (Birmingham) pounds 250,000; Gary Ablett (Birmingham) pounds 400,000; Matt Jackson (Norwich) pounds 450,000; Anders Limpar (Birmingham) pounds 100,000; Vinny Samways (Las Palmas) pounds 600,000; Andrei Kanchelskis (Fiorentina) pounds 8m; John Ebbrell (Sheffield Utd) pounds 1m.

BETWEEN MANAGERS

Buy: pounds 4.5m

Slaven Bilic (West Ham) pounds 4.5m

Sales: pounds 275,000

Paul Rideout (Huan Dao, Ch) pounds 250,000; Marc Hottiger (Lausanne) pounds 25,000.

UNDER HOWARD KENDALL

(27 June 1997 to 25 June 1998)

Buys: pounds 11.25m

John Oster (Grimsby) pounds 1.5m; Gareth Farrelly (Aston Villa) pounds 700,000 rising to pounds 900,000; Tony Thomas (Tranmere) pounds 400,000 rising to pounds 650,000; Danny Williamson (West Ham) est pounds 3m (swap with David Unsworth); Thomas Myhre (Viking Stavanger) pounds 800,000; John O'Kane (Manchester Utd) pounds 250,000 rising to pounds 500,000; Mitch Ward (Sheffield Utd) est pounds 850,000 (swap with Graham Stuart); Carl Tiler (Sheffield Utd) pounds 500,000; Mickael Madar (Deportivo La Coruna) free; Don Hutchison (Sheffield Utd) est pounds 1.25m (swap with Jon O'Connor); Matt McKay (Chester) pounds 500,000 rising to pounds 750,000; Peter Beagrie (Bradford City) loan; John Spencer (QPR) pounds 1.5m.

Sales: pounds 13.7m

David Unsworth (West Ham) est pounds 1m (swap with Danny Williamson); Graham Stuart (Sheffield Utd) est pounds 850,00 (swap with Mitch Ward); Andy Hinchcliffe (Sheffield Wednesday) pounds 3m; Claus Thomsen (AB Copenhagen) pounds 500,000; Earl Barrett (Sheffield Wednesday) free; Gary Speed (Newcastle) pounds 6m; John Hills (Blackpool) pounds 60,000; Jon O'Connor (Sheffield Utd) est pounds 250,000 (swap with Don Hutchison); Neville Southall (Stoke) free.

BETWEEN MANAGERS

Alex Cleland (Rangers) signed on free transfer.

UNDER WALTER SMITH

(appointed 1 July 1998)

Buys: pounds 19.4m

Olivier Dacourt (Strasbourg) pounds 4m; John Collins (Monaco) pounds 2.5m; Marco Materazzi (Perugia) pounds 2.5m; David Unsworth (Aston Villa) pounds 3m; Steve Simonsen (Tranmere) pounds 3.3m; Ibrahima Bakayoko (Montpellier) pounds 4.5m.

Sales: pounds 9.2m

Carl Tiler (Charlton) pounds 700,000; Duncan Ferguson (Newcastle) pounds 8m; Gavin McCann (Sunderland) pounds 500,000.

Total deficit on transfers under Johnson: pounds 30.475m.

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