A new manager is not going to solve Everton’s problems. They run much deeper than that.
The chaotic selection process to find Rafael Benitez’s successor illustrates how badly the club is being run. Poor performances on the pitch are symptoms of mismanagement in the boardroom. Frank Lampard or Vitor Pereira will have their work cut out. A relegation battle is just around the corner. The pair and caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson reportedly each met with the Everton hierarchy in London yesterday for the final round of interviews.
Farhad Moshiri’s six years at the helm at Goodison Park started with promise but led to angry demonstrations this week. The fans are in revolt. The Iranian owner may wonder why they are so angry. Since Moshiri took control in 2016, more than £500 million has been spent in the transfer market, high-profile, highly-paid players have arrived at the club and two Champions League-winning managers have been and gone. Work has begun on a new riverside stadium at Bramley-Moore dock. Most supporter protests are caused by underinvestment or owners taking money out of the club. On the face of it, Everton fans have got everything they asked for from Moshiri yet they are still angry.
They are right to be furious. Goodison could not be in more of a mess had Moshiri arrived determined to cause as much mayhem as possible.
Dysfunction was established long before the 66-year-old pitched up on Merseyside. “A proper f***** up football club,” was how one source close to the situation described things. Much of the blame for that lies with Bill Kenwright. The chairman is a boyhood Evertonian but much of his influence has been questionable. The 76-year-old has been a constant presence during the most unsuccessful period in the team’s history. He brought his friend and “adviser” Sir Philip Green, the disgraced retail mogul, into Goodison’s orbit. Green’s advice did little to improve Everton’s prospects.
Kenwright’s involvement in transfers undermined Marcel Brands, the director of football who was sacked last month, and irritated a succession of managers. The internal structure at the club is disconnected. “You get no help from anyone,” one former boss said.
A good starting point for Moshiri would be to sideline Kenwright. He should tell the theatre impresario to turn up on match days an hour and a half before kick-off, leave 90 minutes after the final whistle and make that the full extent of Kenwright’s involvement at Everton. Talking to agents and making decisions has to be someone else’s job.
Goodison needs a purge. It is astonishing that Ferguson remained in the running for the manager’s role for so long. He is another Everton stalwart institutionalised by failure. The Scot would be more sensibly deployed in the hospitality lounges on matchdays than on the training ground.
The academy needs refocusing. David Unsworth’s under-23 sides have won their league in two of the past five seasons but Benitez felt that players were being signed with that goal in mind rather than producing first-teamers. The Spaniard is not the only one to express that point of view.
None of this absolves Moshiri. He is heavily influenced by Alisher Usmanov, his business partner and the club’s most prominent sponsor. Their decision-making has been awful, too. There are echoes of the Kenwright-Green relationship. Both men need to step back. What Goodison needs is a sharp-witted, savvy chief executive who can make objective decisions and form a working axis with any future director of football. Then the next manager might stand a chance.
It is hard to see any logic in the post-Benitez recruitment drive. Lampard’s experience under Chelsea’s transfer ban gave him a reputation for bringing youth players through to the first team. Given Everton’s financial situation and inability to dip into the market, his appointment makes a degree of sense. That is balanced by Lampard’s lack of tactical acumen at Chelsea and suggestions that he alienated the dressing-room. The suspicion is that 43-year-old would be in over his head if he was handed Goodison’s reins.
Pereira has no background in the Premier League but has a record of success elsewhere. He is another huge risk. The 53-year-old’s connection with Kia Joorabchian, the unlicenced super agent, worries Evertonians. If the Portuguese is given the job the atmosphere would be less fractious as under Benitez but it would not be the beginning of an era of optimism.
Goodison needs a serious overhaul. It needs to be done quickly. On the evidence so far, no one in a position of power at Everton has the slightest clue how to turn things around.
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