Everton’s half a billion waste should be a lesson to Newcastle in importance of club structure

Without investment in the squad the Magpies look doomed, but poor short-term buys can have longer-lasting consequences

Tony Evans
Sunday 12 December 2021 08:19
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Match Preview: Leicester City vs Newcastle on 12/12/2021

Everton should provide a lesson to the English game but most of all to Newcastle United. At Goodison Park they like to be known as the ‘People’s Club’ but if you were making a film about their performance over the past five years, the title would be ‘How To Blow Half A Billion Without Really Trying.’

The profligate club is in a mess.

Despite their 1-0 victory over Arsenal on Monday, Everton go to Crystal Palace on Sunday feeling the faint, threatening undertow of relegation. For all the money they have spent in the five years of Farhad Moshiri’s ownership, they are closer to Norwich City than Manchester City.

Rafa Benitez is the man charged with sorting things out. Marcel Brands, the director of football, has been the scapegoat and left the club on Sunday. The Dutchman underperformed, certainly, but the blame should be spread around the club.

Moshiri has dabbled too much in recruitment. The Iran-born businessman formed close relationships with agents that coloured the process of bringing in new faces. Brands’ view – when it came to managers and players – was to build upwards. He was overruled on a series of decisions that brought high-profile bosses and superstar names to Goodison. Bill Kenwright, the chairman, was also keen to get involved in player acquisition. The boardroom big-shots should have left things to the experts.

The Everton experience should inform policy at St James’ Park. The Amanda Staveley-led, Saudi-backed takeover has excited the fans and made Newcastle – at least in theory – ‘the richest club in the world.’ Everton prove that money is not the answer, at least in the short term.

Newcastle finally got their first victory of the season last week when they beat Burnley 1-0 at home. Two months on from the buyout it was a rare bright spot. Unai Emery, the first choice as manager, walked away from the job. Eddie Howe was appointed and needs to save the team from relegation. He faces a difficult fixture away to Leicester City on Sunday. The transfer window should be a useful tool for the Tyneside club. That will depend on who is making the decisions.

One of the reasons that Emery turned down Newcastle was the owners could not answer simple questions: who would be the director of football and who was slated to be chief executive? He could see the vacuum at the heart of St James’ Park. The pre-takeover plans to put in a temporary football structure did not materialise. So much for strategy.

Meanwhile, agents have flocked to the newly megarich institution and suggestions remain that some of the ownership group are indulging the various player representatives and glorying in their perceived ability to have an impact on a Premier League team. But this is not a computer game. Real-life decisions have ramifications.

The best-run clubs leave football decisions to those with the correct level of expertise. When owners or executives take a different route it does not end well. Vanity buys are rarely successful. Roman Abramovich wanted Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres desperately at Chelsea but both strikers had an awful time at Stamford Bridge. At least the oligarch could afford expensive mistakes.

Christian Purslow, who is now chief executive at Aston Villa, personally brought Joe Cole to Liverpool on a contract that paid the midfielder £28 million over four painful years. That was a disaster. Purslow will be back at Anfield tomorrow with Villa. He is not remembered fondly.

Neither will James Rodriguez be hailed as a Goodison legend. Whoever sanctioned the Colombian’s £250,000 per week salary should be embarrassed.

There are myriad examples for Newcastle but newcomers to the game make the same mistakes over and over again. The new regime has not been quick enough to put an effective structure in place. Howe has his preferred targets in January and it would make sense to trust the 44-year-old but the urge to make a ‘statement buy’ is as strong as it is irrational.

Because of financial fair play restrictions, Everton need to offload players next month before they can bring in the reinforcements they need. Brands has taken the short-term blame and Benitez has moved into the line of fire but Moshiri is the man wearing the division’s dunce’s hat.

Newcastle cannot afford to be as wasteful as Everton if they want to become a power in the immediate future. The way forward at St James’ Park is not to dream of emulating City but to avoid the traps that the Merseyside club have stumbled into.

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