Tough times at Everton after Birch bows out

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The Independent Football

When Trevor Birch was appointed as Everton's chief executive, his chairman, Bill Kenwright, stated he would "become more the voice for Everton than I have been". Birch's resignation six weeks later suggested that neither Kenwright nor his business partner, Paul Gregg, much liked what that voice was telling them.

When Trevor Birch was appointed as Everton's chief executive, his chairman, Bill Kenwright, stated he would "become more the voice for Everton than I have been". Birch's resignation six weeks later suggested that neither Kenwright nor his business partner, Paul Gregg, much liked what that voice was telling them.

Yesterday's departure capped a miserable week at Goodison Park. It has seen Everton lose out on transfer targets, witnessed reports of a fallout between Birch and manager, David Moyes, and finished with a snub over a potential groundshare with Liverpool which the former saw as a key to the club's financial regeneration.

Birch's job was to reduce the club's £30m debt and find new investors. However, his preferred strategy of finding an outright buyer for the club, as he had done at Chelsea with Roman Abramovich, brought him into conflict with the board.

Kenwright and Gregg between them own 70 per cent of Everton via their shares in the consortium, True Blue Holdings. Instead of selling the club to an outright buyer, their aim was to raise £30m by changing the constitution of True Blue, allowing wealthy investors to buy into the club. This would be followed up by a share issue to fans. In a telling interview published on the morning of Birch's departure, Gregg said he and Kenwright would be prepared to dilute control of Everton rather than surrender it completely.

These plans, said Gregg, would "deliver the new academy, develop the opportunity to share a ground with Liverpool and allow David Moyes the chance to build an exciting young team".

Although plans to move to a new arena at Kings Dock by the Mersey had long been scrapped, Birch saw a new stadium as essential if Everton were to compete financially with the Premiership's top five. Yesterday's statement by Liverpool's chief executive, Rick Parry, that they would not countenance a ground-share with Everton, would have been a bitter blow.

Gregg was said to be frustrated by the lack of investment into Goodison while Moyes has been angered by the inability of Everton to attract new players.

Reports claimed Birch and Moyes were "at loggerheads" over transfer policy. Moyes is a long way from achieving his target of four new signings before their season begins against Arsenal on 15 August.

Although they began the summer by talking big, with a reported £7m offer for Alan Smith, the only successful transfer has been that of Marcus Bent from Ipswich for £450,000. Bent is a useful player but hardly Wayne Rooney's preferred strike partner.

Birmingham this week dismissed a £2.5m bid for Robbie Savage as "derisory" which they followed up with an announcement the Welshman had signed a new four-year contract. Marseille midfielder Bharim Hemdani's proposed move to Merseyside appears to have run into the sands, though Everton may have more luck with Millwall's Tim Cahill.

Crucially, Rooney's future is unresolved. Birch left his post without having received a response from the striker's agent, Paul Stretford, to their offer of a new five-year contract, worth an estimated £2.5m per year. Neither has their £500,000 offer to cancel Duncan Ferguson's contract, which represents their highest wage, been met with a swift reply.

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