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.


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