Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Koeman's Blues back in business at Sunderland

No. 6 in a regular series of Everton articles
Image result for lukaku sunderland hattrick
The two match-winners; Koeman's half-time substitution and Lukaku's hat-trick won the match for Everton
Following the first half of Monday evening’s fixture at the Stadium of Light it was evident to Ronald Koeman that something needed changing.

The substitution of Ross Barkley for Gerard Deulofeu was the most significant turning point in the game. Much to the delight of Koeman and the many watching Evertonians, Deulofeu dug in and was far more instrumental than the man he replaced. Evidently the plan was to supply Lukaku effectively and trust him to do the rest and the introduction of the Spaniard allowed Everton to do exactly that. From that point onward Everton went on to play the most deadly and enjoyable football of Koeman’s reign thus far.

It was never going to be too long until Lukaku found his shooting boots once again; the Belgian looked relatively sharp in the first half yet was starved of adequate chances, except for one which resulted in an impressive save from Jordan Pickford. However in the second half the quality and intensity of the football enhanced. The opportunities carved out for him by the incredible Idrissa Gueye, the entertaining Yannick Bolasie and the re-energised Kevin Mirallas were perfect for Lukaku. It was his first Premier League hat-trick for the Blues and during the 11 minute spell during which the Belgian scored three times and struck the crossbar he appeared to be absolutely the player he believes he is.

Yet the strike-force was perhaps not even the most pleasing aspect of Everton’s performance; Koeman’s organised and astute defence, with the partnership of Williams and Jagielka at its heart, has turned Everton into a secure unit almost overnight. Add to that the cover from Gueye and Barry with Marten Stekelenburg between the sticks and the nightmarish defending of Martinez’s era seems a long time ago indeed. The Toffees have only conceded two goals this season and it was extremely satisfying to watch them cruise to their second clean-sheet in a row.

Everton’s excellent second half further highlighted the collision of the Blues’ past, present and future on the touchline. After his eleven years at Goodison Park I hope David Moyes does well at Sunderland, however it was impossible to ignore the difference in quality between him and Koeman and it represented the Blues’ change in ambition initiated by the investment of Farhad Moshiri.

Moyes is evidently aware his career has headed south somewhat since his departure from Everton and his reminiscent quotes in the build up to the match, specifically about what could have been achieved had he possessed a striker of Lukaku’s quality, proved exactly that. Furthermore, his comment that “the expectations at Everton have changed dramatically…with the money they’ve now got they’re in a position to really challenge the top teams” highlighted not only the changes that have occurred behind the scenes at Goodison Park but that Moyes’ natural level is that of Sunderland’s. He is an expert at building up the opposing team in order to assume the role of the underdog. On the other hand Koeman’s level is very much the opposite and the way the two managers and their sides approached the game proved this. Both men are intelligent realists, however because of the shift in ambition at Everton recently they naturally operate at different levels.

The Dutchman’s comments after the match were particularly pleasing and emphasised that there is a drive within himself and at Everton to continuously improve. Jokingly, he said “if we play like the first [half], I think we will be in 13th or 14th place”, yet it was obvious he was dissatisfied. "I was really disappointed about our first 45 minutes”, he went on to say. “From the start, it was not the Everton I like to see. We lost a lot of easy balls - too many players were not on our level in possession.”

When on form Koeman’s well-organised Blues look exciting, and examining the transfer window retrospectively, it ultimately does not matter too much at the moment that Everton for whatever reason were unable to make that marquee signing. That will come in time. What matters the most, and what is most pleasing about Koeman’s side, is that the performances of a group of players who largely underachieved last season have turned on their head. Thanks largely to the attitude of a certain Dutchman and the intelligent signings he and Steve Walsh have made, Everton display fine teamwork and a burning desire to win. By working continuously for one another Koeman’s side know how to attain three points in convincing fashion or by grinding them out.

And there lies one of, if not the, most pleasing aspect of the new-look Everton. So far this campaign they have been dynamic and adaptable; with Koeman in charge the Toffees are not afraid to alter their approach to a football match. Against West Brom the introduction of Lukaku and his holdup play midway through the first half proved as influential as Deulofeu’s exchange for Barkley at the Stadium of Light. The first team is strong, fit and confident and the Blues are facing a run of four very winnable games. No doubt Koeman will be targeting seven to nine points prior to what will arguably be the most testing fixture of the season so far away to Manchester City in October.

Koeman’s strive for excellence echoes the values present in the club’s motto that have been neglected for decades. No longer do Evertonians have to live with being relegation candidates or the underdogs or the overachievers. No longer do Evertonians have to live with a delusional fantasist in charge. The thoroughly enjoyable second half against Sunderland confirmed Ronald Koeman certainly believes that nothing but the best is good enough and he is not afraid to make bold changes in order to achieve that. While I am of course aware that it was in a sense only Sunderland that Everton defeated, what is most pleasing and most significant for now is the attitude of the manager and players, rather than the results or the opposition. Finally there is somebody in charge at the club who expects the same level of quality and dedication as you and I.

There’s no feeling quite like the one after an outstanding Everton performance. I hope it is one we become well acquainted with over the course of the season.



Sunday, 31 July 2016

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day

No. 5 in a regular series of Everton articles
Everton's Director of Football Steve Walsh and manager Ronald Koeman 
“Clichés are truisms and all truisms are true” – Jack Kerouac

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day.

For the past two decades, my faith in Evertonianism has been at times extremely testing. Of course, it has been rewarding in many ways, but during my lifetime at least it has on the whole been an uneven balance between ill-fated optimism and anticipated deflation. Ultimately, as much as I love the club, there had until lately always been something missing.

And that something is real, genuine progression.

I can only presume that since the golden era of the ‘80s many other Blues have shared such feelings. Evertonianism as I know it has been a fierce belief in integrity and tradition but has always been accompanied by an unshakeable desire for success and thinking, year after year after year, ‘that could be us’. While I wouldn’t swap it for anything, emotionally investing in this brilliant club which plays in that rickety old stadium has been full of what ifs and if onlys.

But as of earlier this year, that began, very slowly, to change. The vintage old sports car that had been left in the garage to rot away and gather dust was uncovered and saw the light of day for the first time in far, far too long. Mr. Moshiri, the reshuffled board and manager Ronald Koeman have begun to polish it and are starting to replace the dysfunctional parts.
Although, it is going to inevitably take some time before it is on the road and hitting full speed once again.

The investment of Mr. Moshiri suggests that the future will be very bright for the Blues. He is a shrewd, enigmatic businessman with valuable experience and the know-how which will propel Everton back into the big time. Now that the club finally has a direction, it is a genuinely exciting time to be an Evertonian – although that of course brings with it an element of impatience. Naturally, there is a desire for this period of time during which the old car will have to be given some tender loving care to be over and done with as quickly as possible. Every Blue obviously wants the best for Everton, after all.

Yet that is of course going to take time and it is important to remember where Everton have come from; it was not long ago the Blues were negotiating deals in instalments because the board had no other option. Now however, there are certain players being linked with moves to Goodison Park upwards of £30m, and for me at least the shift in financial power has not quite sunk in yet because it has happened almost in a blur.

There is no doubt that Moshiri, Walsh and Koeman have the best intentions and want to recruit better players. The links to Mata, Hart, Koulibaly, and Carvalho among others certainly whet the appetite for what lies ahead, however, the recent affair with Arnautovic – if indeed anything concrete actually happened – proves that there will be certain hurdles to overcome before a player would easily opt for Everton over a new contract at Stoke.

The first hurdle is, unfortunately, the ‘Martinez Effect’. While the Roberto Martinez era may feel well over and done with, the aftershocks of the over-complimentary and stubborn Spaniard’s era at the club are still being felt. The image of the club he left behind is one of drab mediocrity and an unsettled team. While the likelihood is that Koeman will get the pistons in the old car’s engine moving again, and begin to turn Everton’s fortunes around in the near future, it does not alter the fact that the perception of the club at this moment of time needs polishing.

Additionally, the influx of the £5.14bn TV rights deal means the Toffees have a large number of competitors when it comes to the transfer market. Thus, with the bulk of mid-table clubs (and make no mistake, after last season Everton will be considered within that bracket) able to spend more than ever as well as the wealth of the top clubs being enhanced, it is possible the migration of players within Premier League will not be as free as it was.

An element of realism is needed in order to avoid complete and utter meltdown; despite Moshiri’s investment, perhaps this summer Everton just aren’t one of the most attractive clubs in this league for top players. Perhaps a strong season with Koeman in charge is necessary (and concrete plans for a new stadium would also help) before Everton can enhance the rate at which they are already progressing.

And this is where the significance of Steve Walsh comes in. Arguably the signing of the summer, the man who recruited the star performers of Leicester’s famous title-winning team did so in a manner that is not dissimilar to how Moshiri handles his affairs: shrewdly, inconspicuously and seamlessly. Everton must be intelligent during this window and they must source a number of capable and quality players from unexpected places – for they may not have another option. Although, it would of course be ideal if Walsh and co. were able to coax a marquee signing or two to Goodison Park.

With the new season just around the corner now it is tempting to panic about the lack of pen touching paper going into the first fixture against Spurs. Yet while a strong start and a strong season is desirable, and silverware would be the icing on cake, the old car will get moving at its own pace and it is ultimately a case of what will be will be. While short-termism and a demand for instantaneous success dominates the modern game, the most important thing is that Everton have a real direction and are slowly headed onwards and upwards. It might take time, but we will get there. Someday, hopefully in the not-so-distant future, the old car will hit full speed once again.

For as they say, Rome was definitely not built in a day.


Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The Next Step

No. 4 in a regular series of Everton articles

Koeman unveiled
New Everton boss Ronald Koeman was unveiled to the media on Friday
Throughout Ronald Koeman’s first press conference as Everton manager on Friday afternoon, the straight-talking Dutchman was accompanied by chairman Bill Kenwright as he answered questions from the media.

However, it almost felt as if there was something – or rather, someone – missing: the real man of the moment, Farhad Moshiri, was not present.

Much of what Koeman and Kenwright discussed at the presser was influenced by the club’s major shareholder. Koeman spoke of “looking forwards, not backwards”, and how “everybody is hungry - the people at the club and the fans - to put Everton back to where we were”. He talked of “ambition”, of a “great project” and that he plays football “for winning”. He promised that “from the start, we will be a team who gives the fans nice things”.

Perhaps the most revealing quotation from the press conference that truly enforced the Toffees’ new financial power, was when the new manager declared: “the club is ready for the next step”.

Every single one of the above quotes is a consequence of the meetings and conversations Koeman has evidently had with Moshiri; without the new level of ambition that the businessman has brought to the club, Everton’s future would be looking nowhere near as bright. Despite being absent on Friday afternoon, he was the catalytic figure in the events which culminated with Koeman’s signing. 

This is why I believe the real man of the hour to be the one who was not sat at that press conference, and was not the one stating his intentions or making promises. It was and remains Farhad Moshiri, the billionaire whose money is beginning to put Everton on the right track to becoming great again.

Bill Kenwright

Kenwright said some questionable things at the press conference
Once the media turned the attention to the chairman, Kenwight said something which I found impossible not to pick up on. Smiling and half-looking at the new manager, he declared that “[Koeman] is a big signing for this club”.

To me this appeared to encapsulate the attitude which has been an issue at Everton Football Club for far too long. It suggested Everton were lucky to have the opportunity to recruit Koeman – yet it should be Koeman who feels lucky to be given the opportunity to become manager of Everton.
In fairness, it must be almost instinctive for Kenwright to treat the appointment this way. After the best part of two decades making the most of a small budget and being content with mediocrity, his attitude now appears to be the complete opposite of Moshiri’s and therefore the opposite of the new-look Everton Football Club.

Again, this is why Farhad Moshiri deciding to invest in Everton truly is the best thing to happen to the club for a long, long time – it is most certainly the most significant development for the Blues in my lifetime and therefore will be for a whole generation of Evertonians as well.

Summer recruitment
Lukaku could be Everton's most important 'signing' of the summer if he remains at the club
If indeed Lukaku is intent on leaving then the money from his sale, in addition to the funds Moshiri has entrusted the new manager with, has to be spent wisely.

Everton must start the new season with several new players. One of the most important signings of the summer could be a top-class goalkeeper. While Joel Robles is good at what he does, with the money available to Koeman he could recruit a ‘keeper with significant experience or potential if he believes he needs to do so. Tim Howard’s continued selection last season, and the continued mistakes which came as a result, proved just how important it is for there to be a reliable and confident figure between the posts.

The Blues’ defence requires, mostly, good coaching rather than an overhaul. Retaining John Stones should be at the very top of Koeman’s list, for there are significant similarities between the two: Koeman, being a world-class, ball-playing centre-back in his day will be able to coach and advise John Stones in a way neither Moyes nor Martinez ever would have been able to. Jagielka may not have too long left at Everton’s level, however perhaps some basic organisation and coaching will help to shore up the back four and make the Blues a real unit once again.

In midfield, at least a couple of fresh faces are necessary; Gareth Barry, despite being last season’s player of the season, will likely begin to fade sooner rather than later. While injury-prone Kevin Strootman may not be the answer to this problem which Koeman will have to deal with, an experienced and able central midfielder needs to be a priority. A quality wide-player would not go unappreciated either.

As for the forwards, the Lukaku situation has to be sorted out by Koeman as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Whether the Belgian stays or leaves, Everton will profit from the outcome: if he remains and stays fit, he will contribute 20-25 goals and be a huge player in the Blues’ charge for the upper echelons of the Premier League; if on the other hand he leaves, his departure should gift Koeman with £50m+ to recruit perhaps two quality forwards in his place. As for Kone and Niasse, I can’t imagine any Evertonian being particularly fussed if they are sold quickly and cheaply.

Ultimately, all of the above is mere speculation. Koeman must be allowed time to assess his squad and decide upon the components he requires to strengthen the machine. Aside from the inevitable discussions with Stones and Lukaku, if the Dutchman takes his time bringing in new players then so be it; naturally, his opinion and evaluation matters far more than mine or the rumours on Twitter.

This is a huge summer ahead for the Blues. And now it is time for Koeman to begin crafting a squad which will make Everton great again. 


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Changing Perceptions: Blues Appoint Koeman

No. 3 in a regular series of Everton articles
Koeman deal done
Everton announced the signing of Ronald Koeman on Tuesday morning 
The acquisition of Southampton’s Ronald Koeman by Farhad Moshiri is a very interesting and equally significant one to say the least.

It would be fair to say that managerial appointments reflect the financial position and attitude of the club doing the appointing. Roberto Martinez’s signing in June 2013 by Bill Kenwright and the board very much reflected the financial position and attitude of Everton Football Club at that time: limited funds and trying to make the most of it. While Kenwright may have played the Champions League card in order to try and convince the masses, he had ultimately appointed a relegated manager (and we all know how that turned out).

Fast-forward three years and the story could not be more different. The poaching of Ronald Koeman from Southampton who (as we have been reminded continuously by the media and a never-ending stream of Saints fans) finished above Everton for two consecutive seasons under the Dutchman, is a real statement of intent. It represents Everton’s powerful financial position in the Premier League and the new, ambitious attitude that Farhad Moshiri has brought with him. While Koeman may not have the status of Jose Mourinho, the club’s new investor has demonstrated that he has the ability to recruit his number one target.

And not only is it important that Moshiri has got his man – it sends out a powerful message that Everton now have the ability to persuade a manager to trade a tempting project and upcoming Europa League campaign for a squad which is in need of considerable amending and without European competition.

Moshiri, from Arsenal, evidently admires the Dutchman’s work. Koeman has been touted numerous times as the successor to Arsene Wenger, and so if he is choosing Everton over not only Southampton but perhaps the chance of managing the Gunners in the near future too then this adds to the significance of his signing. I’m not convinced whatsoever Koeman is tempted only by the large payday Moshiri is offering; there is evidently something special beginning at Goodison Park and the new manager has jumped at the chance to be able to play a central role within it.

Moshiri and the club are actively looking to resuscitate Everton's more successful days
Amidst the ‘bigger club’ debate that has not only been discussed sufficiently on Twitter of late but also by media personalities such as John Motson, there arises the issue of perception and just how exactly Everton are seen through the eyes of the football world.

Throughout the Premier League era the Toffees have been mainly average. This helps to explain why fans and media outlets naively believe Everton to be nothing special. Since 1992 the top flight has been dominated by Manchester United and an exclusive, accompanying handful of clubs with only Leicester and Blackburn proving the real anomalies; in the modern climate, ultimately, if a club desires to mount consistent challenges for the top four and the title, those at the club have to find serious investment from somewhere. Only Leicester appear to have found an alternate route to success.

While this method of buying glory is often frowned upon, if you can’t beat them, you really do have to join them.

Perceptions of the Toffees have been confused for some time – however now the Blues are steadily beginning to conform to modern-day ‘big club’ status, this will begin to shift. Since the 1980s Everton have slipped from European heavyweights and England’s finest to being a plucky club who frequently overachieve in the eye of the media. The huge change in the landscape between then and now certainly contributes to this and the relatively recent success of clubs such as Manchester City and Chelsea (in addition to Roberto Martinez’s final two years) has not helped the Blues’ cause whatsoever.

It has been hard to justify and argue that Everton are a ‘big club’ when the modern-day understanding of such a concept revolves around recent success. This is exactly why John Motson’s recent comments surrounding the Koeman story were quite so irritating: “I guess Everton is a big club if we can use that expression” he stated, “but I don’t know why we say that because they’re not in the top six”. 

What is most surprising about Motson’s views is that he has been commentating on English football since the early ‘70s and yet still does not feel that a ‘big club’ can be one which has finished outside the top six – despite one of the biggest and most decorated clubs in English football history, Aston Villa, finishing rock bottom of the Premier League this season.

It almost appears that Moshiri’s arrival at Everton, the investment he has brought and the ramifications of this has gone very much under the radar until now – and, brilliantly, it is ruffling a few feathers to say the least.

This is where the signing of Ronald Koeman comes in. This is the man who has accepted the task of restoring Everton’s reputation and correcting the skewered perception of the Blues which many in the media and countless football fans seem to hold. Ending the Toffees’ trophy drought and breaking into the top four is unlikely to be a straightforward venture and may well take some time. But one thing is for certain – Moshiri’s investment will certainly help Everton to do that.

It’s finally time for NSNO to truly mean something once again.  


Thursday, 2 June 2016

Koeman favourite for Everton job

No. 2 in a regular series of Everton articles

Various outlets are reporting Koeman has held talks with Everton
This time last week Ronald Koeman appeared almost out of the frame for the vacant Everton manager’s job.

However the recent Pellegrini and De Boer rumours have been quashed by the news that the Southampton manager may well be on the verge of signing for the Toffees (according to Dutch journalist Tim de Wit).

As Moshiri is now in charge Everton carry significant weight in the managerial market; rumours point to the Blues’ billionaire offering the next manager a huge sum of money for transfers to improve the squad in addition to a large wage. This could tempt Koeman to join the Toffees.

Regardless of certain opinions on Twitter, Everton Football Club is historically successful and one of British football’s heavyweights. The club has much potential for the near future. It would therefore be an exciting chance for Koeman to try and restore the Blues to their former successful status. Recent form does not mean Southampton are even close to being a bigger club than Everton – and I would imagine the Dutchman likely recognises that this move would be far from a sidestep.

With an already talented squad at Goodison Park, serious investment and the possibility of a new stadium on the horizon, it is an exciting time for Evertonians – if Koeman is indeed the man Moshiri wants above any other candidate then he would be missing out on a huge opportunity if he was to turn the offer down.

Although his assistant coach Sammy Lee may be better off staying at St. Mary’s.

The Right Direction
Everton's majority shareholder is rumoured to be on the lookout for a Director of Football
Another interesting talking point this week has been the rumours that Everton are also looking to sound out somebody to fulfil the role of ‘Director of Football’. After Sevilla’s Monchi (real name Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo) oversaw the Spanish side achieve their third straight Europa League victory, and his future became uncertain, he was linked to the role Moshiri appears to be recruiting for. However of late the rumours have died down and Monchi may well remain at Sevilla.

Providing the right candidate for the job is enlisted, having a DoF at Goodison Park could prove a productive and successful idea. He could provide a level of consistency when it comes to values, philosophy and recruitment. The coaching and playing staff would have to suit the DoF’s desires and ambitions (the role of ‘manager’ would become redundant and instead be replaced by ‘head coach’) and he would have significant control over the on-goings at the club.

Perhaps Koeman suits the man Moshiri has in mind – fellow Dutchman and Ajax DoF Marc Overmars has also been linked to the role.

Ultimately another week has passed since frustrations began to mount regarding the lack of news coming from Goodison Park. Hopefully today’s (Thursday's) developments suggest that the Everton board are indeed progressing with their thorough search to sign the right man to help provide true success for the Toffees once more. 

Everton could well have a new man in charge in the coming days. 

Alex Leonard. 

Friday, 27 May 2016

Moyes, Managers and Lukaku's Great Escape

No. 1 in a regular series of Everton articles

David Moyes
It would be fair to say re-appointing David Moyes would not be the best idea
David Moyes just won’t go away.

Ever since the darkest days of Roberto Martinez’s reign, the Scot’s name has been almost ever present on social media. It began with the comparisons – and understandably so. Martinez’s defensive flaws were compared to the security at the back that Moyes prioritised.

For fourteen years, Evertonians have known nothing other than the Scot and the Spaniard; therefore it was natural to compare and contrast the pros and cons of one with the other. And as Martinez’s tenure became increasingly unbearable, it was not uncommon to see the phrase ‘I would much rather have Moyes back than Martinez’. Of course, who wouldn’t have traded sixth for eleventh?

Once Martinez was sacked, however, that should have been the end of Moyes’ enigmatic presence. Yet someone out there seems intent on continuing to link him with the vacant managerial post.

Everton should not be considering a manager of Moyes’ calibre. The influence of Mr. Moshiri and his financial power has multiplied the club’s authority in the market and the days of mediocrity must come to an end. My initial impression of Moshiri is that he is shrewd and intelligent. He knew to sack Martinez before the final match of the season, making the Norwich fixture a relatively pleasant affair. Hopefully he isn’t daft enough to seriously consider bringing Moyes back.

Managerial candidates

Former Ajax coach Frank De Boer is a favourite for the Everton job
This brings us onto the actual candidates for the job. Currently, it appears Manuel Pellegrini and Frank De Boer are favourites. Main target Ronald Koeman has seemingly pledged his immediate future to Southampton and Unai Emery remains an exciting but outlandish possibility. 

It is likely Mr. Moshiri will be weighing up his options at the moment. Because of how narrative-driven the football world is now, it is tempting to panic because Everton have not yet recruited a new manager; yet that may be because the board are thoroughly considering the different managers available. The previous appointment was naïve and ultimately a huge mistake. I imagine Moshiri will not want that to happen again.

Personally I would like Everton to have a real authoritative manager in the dugout. One of Martinez’s fatal flaws was seeming too nice. The right balance of being an inspiration and a bit of a bastard is a common trait with successful managers. Just think of the likes of Diego Simeone, Alex Ferguson, and Jose Mourinho. I can’t imagine Koeman, Conte, Ranieri, Pochettino or Guardiola to put up with any rubbish either.

De Boer appears to tick this box, although whether he would make a successful Premier League manager is another issue altogether. Of course every appointment would be a gamble, but the Dutchman has numerous titles as player and coach to his name. He was a player at the very top level, is evidently a winner and is a significant name in the football world. His possible arrival may also provoke his stellar backroom staff to follow suit and Marc Overmars to arrive as DoF. 

As for Pellegrini, the apparent lack of charisma the ageing Chilean has is not exactly exciting. Yet his reign at City is relatively under-appreciated – he achieved a convincing league title and league cup in his maiden season and this year lead his team to a domestic cup, fourth place and the Champions League semi-finals despite being told he was to be replaced and therefore appearing barely interested. His Real Madrid side claimed a record 96 points in 2009-10 behind Guardiola’s Barcelona while he led Malaga to Champions League qualification in his first season there. Ultimately he would be a significant step-up in quality from Martinez and, being a proven Premier League manager, is therefore one of the better options out there.

Lukaku missed numerous chances to take Everton to this year's FA Cup final
This week has also seen a blizzard of Romelu Lukaku quotes regarding his future.

Evidently, the Belgian is making the most of being away with the national squad as well as Everton having no manager. Despite not being as good as he believes he is, I don’t blame Lukaku for wanting Champions League football. Yet the manner he is going about trying to leave is arrogant and disrespectful to the club which really believed in him and gave him a real chance. It has been common knowledge since he signed for the Toffees that the club would likely be a stepping stone in his career, however without the large fee paid for him in the first place the Belgian may well still be searching for loan moves or sat on Chelsea’s bench.

Perhaps the most irritating - and flawed - of all of his quotes is the following:

"We have a new investor at Everton and out of courtesy I will listen to what he has to say. But I have my own ideas in mind. I want to win titles.”

Indeed, if Lukaku had any real understanding of what “courtesy” means he wouldn’t be taking every opportunity to declare how much he wishes to leave. Furthermore, if he fancied winning “titles” then his performances in the two cup semi-finals could certainly have been better.

What would appear to be the best outcome for Everton is that they make sufficient money selling Lukaku, specifically as he appears set on leaving. With him still being under contract, the club should hold the stronger hand of cards. Yet the level of noise the Belgian is making may well be to force Everton into selling; I can’t help but wonder whether he believes not many clubs are going to want to pay £50m plus for his services and is kicking up a fuss in order to be sold for less.

Ultimately I hope everything falls in Everton’s favour – once Moshiri appoints Martinez’s successor things should subsequently begin heading in the right direction. The new man must assemble a strong squad, sort out the Lukaku issue as quickly and smoothly as possible and begin building towards what is going to be a very significant season in Everton Football Club’s history.


Thursday, 28 April 2016

Photographs from Bramall Lane

I have next to no knowledge of photography but over the last year have had a play around with taking some shots of Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United. In its own way it's a very beautiful football ground, yet has a habit of appearing very gloomy and sullen most of the time (who knows, that may reflect The Blades' rather underwhelming season in League One). The Lane is angular, consists mostly of grey concrete, and there are weeds poking out of odd places. The above photo was taken at half-time during an unconvincing 3-1 win over Doncaster Rovers in September 2015. 

This one was taken in passing. St. Paul's tower, the tallest building in Sheffield, looms in the backdrop, as with A; a fitting contrast of one of the city's most aged and working-class areas with the wealth and sleek architecture of the modern city centre. 

C I had just left the Lane after watching an utterly dire 0-2 loss to high-flyers Wigan and saw this scrawled on a garage door opposite. I don't know if it was a Sheffield United fan who had written it, but if it was, I wouldn't blame them whatsoever. Nigel Adkins' tactics for much of the campaign were enough to send even the most patient of Sheffield United fans over the edge. 

D A typical grey wintry day in Sheffield, reflected by the sleepy, subdued demeanour of the Lane.