The future of Walter Smith as Everton manager will be decided by fan power – and the biggest supporter of all, club owner Bill Kenwright.
Smith is facing the biggest crisis of his Goodison career and the deciding factor will not be how many more games he loses, but the response of the long-suffering followers. Kenwright is aware of growing discontent among the ranks – he travels back by train to London after every home game and is always willing to talk and listen.
As a genuine fan sworn to represent the fans, Kenwright will go against Smith if they turn.
Everton fans bayed in the home defeat by Charlton, but they did not call for Smith's head. But when that happens Kenwright will give it to them. There is even a theory – possibly even a hope – in some quarters within Goodison that Smith will fall on his sword if the fans want him out.
The canny Scot would not accept that set of circumstances and would seek talks with Kenwright to find the best way out of the door. Smith has 18 months left on a £1m-a-year contract, so Everton face a £1.5m bill to pay him off. But if the former Rangers manager became so unpopular that he could not stay there are possibilities of a compromise.
Kenwright would struggle to find the £1.5m to give Smith because of Everton's dire financial problems – and the price of replacing him. Everton would face a compensation bill for their next manager, with three bright First Division managers topping the list.
Preston's David Moyes has an escape clause if a Premiership side comes in, Gary Megson has a £300,000 'transfer fee' at West Bromwich while Wolves would want sizeable compensation for their Everton old boy Dave Jones. Moyes and Megson, in particular, have shown the ability to work on a shoestring. But there would still be extra transfer costs to find players to keep the club in the Premiership.
Everton are walking a financial tightrope. They are around £25m in the red and are also changing banks and looking to re-finance their debts. The Co-Operative Bank is pulling out of Everton, who will move to the Allied Irish Bank instead, while Kenwright is talking to potential financiers about a new loan.
However any new finance will depend on a move to the Kings Dock, Everton's prospective new home, and that is yet to be confirmed.
Despite these problems Kenwright has given Smith money to spend and is unhappy that the manager has been bleating about the lack of cash available.
Smith has held off spending until he knows the fitness of Kevin Campbell. He was being cautious with the money, knowing his next buy could have been his last.
Now the chance of spending has gone on ice until the next few games are settled – and the reaction of the fans is tested.Reuse content