Time for Everton board to put hands in their own pockets to back Moyes
by Tony Barrett, The Times Newspaper
January 02 2013 13:01PM
The month of January has been billed as pivotal to the future of David Moyes. That, though, is to underplay and individualise its importance – the next 29 days could determine whether Everton are able to rejoin the elite or begin the process of becoming increasingly detached from it.
Over the past 11 years Moyes has slowly but surely shifted Everton from relegation candidates to contenders for Champions League qualification. It is a story of achievement against the odds, of a manager making the most of limited resources and dragging a club that had been in danger of losing their way back towards the summit of English football.
“I might not have had the money but I’ve had the time to build the club and take it forward,” Moyes said last week. “Because of that, I hope it’s allowed me to make baby steps each year, if you want to call it that. We’ve done a little bit and added every year and it has given us a little bit of chance to keep progressing.
“You wouldn’t say Everton are a club that are up and down, now. I remember my first four or five years when we might finish seventh or eighth one year, fifteenth or sixteenth the next. We were a bit like that. I don’t think you see Everton like that anymore. I think you probably see Everton finishing in the top half of the Premier League.”
Moyes still may not have a trophy to show for his efforts but by restoring stability and raising ambitions, he has given Everton a prize that many in football thought was beyond them when he took over as manager in March 2002. But having built Everton up to what they are now – a team that massively out-punch their own financial weight – he knows better than anyone else that the time has come to at least try to turn those baby steps into a giant stride, or else risk stagnation and possible regression.
That is why Moyes has asked (and this word is key, because he hasn’t made any demands or issued ultimatums) whether the Everton board could release funds to him during the transfer window. He wants them to take a calculated gamble on his judgment and record in the transfer market by allowing him to speculate to accumulate.
Should Everton win away to Newcastle United tonight they will go within three points of Tottenham Hotspur who occupy third place in the Premier League. Even in the event of them losing at St James’ Park the gap will still be only six points, a far from irretrievable deficit in such a competitive league, particularly when it is taken into account that only Manchester United and Manchester City earned more points than Everton in the last calendar year.
Champions League qualification, therefore, is clearly within reach for Everton. If they were to jump aboard the European gravy train next season it could be the catalyst for them to become more competitive in the domestic game than they have been at any time since the mid-1980s. A potential transformation of their stature and ambitions is at stake but it could be an opportunity that is squandered unless Moyes is given the financial backing that he so richly deserves.
Moyes has always been adamant that he would never ask Everton for money that they do not have and that he wouldn’t dream of putting the club at the kind of risk that led to the downfall of Glasgow Rangers. Gambling with Everton’s future just isn’t something he would do. He would, however, want the club to do everything in their power to ensure that they are as competitive as they possibly can be, to recognise when the time is right to show ambition and invest in the future.
The reality is that over the past two and a half decades there has rarely been a better time than now for that to happen. The Premier League’s new and highly lucrative television deal kicks in next season and one expert on football finance
has predicted that Everton’s annual TV revenue will rise by almost £20 million as a result. Moyes would like a portion of that money to be made available to him now, not all of it, but a significant enough sum to allow him to make the additions necessary to give Everton their best possible chance of finishing in the top four.
In one sense, it appears an impossible request. Everton’s credit facilities would not allow them to borrow the money that Moyes is looking for. As a business, it is beyond them. But that shouldn’t mean it is the end of the matter, not when Everton’s board includes Robert Earl who features on the Sunday Times Rich List, having amassed an estimated personal fortune of £240 million. That is without even mentioning Lord Grantchester, their third largest shareholder and former director who is worth £1.2 billion, or Jon Woods, a non-executive director of the club who sold the Ocean software company he co-founded for $100 million in 1996.
There is money at Everton, but it is for the personal use of those who possess it rather than the greater good of the club. This, of course, is wholly reasonable. Clubs should be run as businesses rather than at the whim of seemingly benevolent billionaires and no director should come under pressure to fund signings out of their own pockets. But there can still be a halfway house, a way for personal interests to support those of the club. Given that one of his ancestors loaned Everton £1,000 to build the original Goodison Road Stand back in 1892, Woods probably knows this better than most.
There is nothing to stop any of these wealthy individuals from doing what the banks won’t – namely allowing Everton to take out a short term loan that would be repayable as soon as the club receives their first instalment of the new TV deal. David Moores, like Grantchester an heir to the Moores fortune, did something similar in 2006 when he went well beyond his role as the chairman and major shareholder of Liverpool by loaning the club £10 million to allow them to sign Dirk Kuyt.
The Holland forward went on to become a key player in the Liverpool side who reached the Champions League final at the end of that season and who continued to qualify for the competition until 2010. It was arguably the best loan deal that Liverpool have ever done and while the club enjoyed the financial benefits of their continued seat at European football’s top table, Moores was able to bask in the glow of having played his part before the loan was paid back to him in full.
Should one of Everton’s wealthier senior figures do something similar now it could help transform the club and it is hard to see how they would have anything to lose by doing so as a short-term loan could easily be secured against future TV revenues. It would also allow Moyes to conduct business now, in advance of other clubs who will wait for their income from television to increase before adjusting their transfer budgets upwards, an inevitability that will serve only to heighten competition for players and have an inflationary effect on fees and wages.
January could be the most cost-effective time to make a move, which means doing nothing or next to nothing this month could be a false economy. That is without mentioning the doomsday scenario which would lead to Moyes’s quitting Everton in frustration at the financial glass ceiling that prevents him and them from achieving their potential.
There is nothing to suggest that this will happen but, equally, there is nothing to suggest that it won’t, particularly with Moyes in the final six months of his contract. Were he to walk away at the end of this season, Everton would not only have to replace the best manager they have had since Howard Kendall, they would also probably have to pay for his successor to leave whichever club he is at. At a time when many managers have buyout clauses that can be as costly as players’ – Chelsea paid Porto £14 million for Andre Villas-Boas, while Liverpool stumped up £5 million to take Brendan Rodgers from Swansea City – it would surely be in Everton’s best interests to ensure they do everything to ensure that they do not have to enter that kind of market.
The limitations of Moyes’s squad were laid bare on Sunday despite Everton’s impressive performance against Chelsea. Trailing by two goals to one and with the clock running down, a supporter in the Main Stand beseeched the Everton manager to make a change. On the substitutes’ bench, Moyes had seven players to choose from who had started only 26 Premier League games between them. Having seen a depleted starting XI worth around a third of what Chelsea paid for Fernando Torres and Eden Hazard alone push the European champions so hard, Moyes was in the unenviable position of having no solutions available to him.
When that happens, when a manager doesn’t even have the sows ears he needs to carry on creating silk purses, then it is up to others to do something about it. David Moyes has done all that he can and more for Everton but as things stand Everton could not say they have done all that they can and more for David Moyes.
That could change this month. If the will exists and the opportunity is recognised, someone with the necessary imagination, resources and belief in their manager could give him the backing he needs to take Everton to the next level. Whether it will happen is another question. Is there anyone at Everton with the means and the acumen to act as Jon Woods’ ancestor did 120 years ago by using their own wealth to help the club achieve their potential?