Everton managed another great escape yesterday beating Bournemouth 1-0 to ensure Premier League survival on the last day of the season – again.
This club really is using up all it’s nine lives and more. And, having gone into the final match of the campaign and avoided relegation for the third occasion, it absolutely must, must be the last time this appalling and disgraceful situation happens.
Simple law of averages would indicate that if Everton keep doing this they will eventually drop through that trap door into the Championship.
The scenes of celebration at the final whistle were mixed with exhasted relief and a desire never ever to have to once more undergo that experience at the end of a season.
Chants of ‘sack the board’ rang around the Grand Old Lady almost straight after the match, indicating clearly that Blues fans had not forgotten or forgiven those in charge of the club for bringing about this crisis.
I don’t know how often these fans can be expected to keep drawing from the well providing almost limitless levels of emotional support and commitment to the team.
It is mentally and physically draining to keep having to try and lift the team in these circumstances, year after year. I know I’m sick and tired of this cycle of constant strain and anxiety.
Yes, it is only football and there are of course much more important things in life, but this club does demand a particular kind of commitment and certainly seems to extract more than most from it’s fans!
So, now that we are guaranteed to see Premier League football next season in what presumably will be Goodison Park’s last campaign before the new stadium is opened, a comprehensive and thorough review and rebuild has to happen this summer.
But, the first question is who can we trust to conduct a review and lead a badly needed restructuring of the club?
Obviously, the people who are in charge are the key reason why things are in such a mess.
Farhad Moshiri and his board have presided over what has become a catastrophic decline in the Toffees fortunes since he first took control of the club in 2016.
At the time he became majority shareholder that February, Everton had been slipping from the position David Moyes had established after having consistently finished eighth or higher in his last seven seasons from 2006-07 to 2012-13.
Under Moyes managership the Blues had effectively become the ‘best of the rest’ among clubs outside the established Champions League contenders.
His successor Roberto Martinez – after a first campaign that ended in fifth position with the most points Everton have collected in a Premier League season – had then presided over a significant decline in fortunes on the pitch.
Since Moshiri took over though, the Toffees have never finished higher than eighth and the last three campaigns have seen a clear downward spiral from eighth, to twelth, sixteenth and now this season, seventeenth.
In the time he’s been in charge seven permanent managers have come and gone and something like £700 million has been spent on players and managers, a truly staggering sum.
To give Moshiri his due, he has put his money where his mouth is and has backed his managers to the hilt.
But, his judgement on managers in particular, has been proven faulty time and again and there has never have been a club with so much wealth that has ended up in such a spectacularly bad position.
Any other business run like this would be considered a catastrophic failure.
Moshiri’s ownership has been characterised by a lack of clear football strategy and no sense of coherent approach.
Big name coaches such as Carlo Ancelotti came in after a young relatively unproven manager like Marco Silva, and there has been a chopping and changing from more expansive-minded ones, then back to cautious and defensive types of coach.
The squad of players Sean Dyche had to work with is the consequence of so much upheavel and lack of direction, with a rag-bag of poor quality and underachieving individuals, some of whom have played under three or four different coaches.
Debts are huge after such spending and years of footballing underachievement, as well as the cost of the Covid restrictions.
All of which has led to the Premier League referring Everton to an independent commisison to look into their finances and decide if profit and sustainability rules have been broken.
This by the way is a potentially serious problem still lurking in the background.
If the commisson rule the Blues have broken the rules it could mean a hefty fine, a transfer ban or even a points deduction, which would be a potential disaster.
The board have also been hugely inept in their dealings with supporters as results went south.
They have made what seem as yet unproven claims of threats and assaults on their members and been prepared to get into ill-timed arguments with fans in public.
The empty seats they would normally occupy at Goodison yesterday was telling.
All this means that we can have little faith in the owner, his chairman or chief executive, finally getting it right this summer.
The one hope is that new investors or even a potential takeover does in fact materalise, something that we first thought could happen last year, but didn’t.
There has been a lot of talk of renewed interest from outside investment groups over the last few months and then again in the run-up to yesterday’s do-or-die game.
First one group, 777 Partners, were said to be close to a full takeover, then we heard another, MSP Sports Capital, have been granted exclusive rights to talk to Moshiri about investing.
Any potential move from them though was said to be dependent on Everton staying up, which they have now done.
If MSP or another group do in fact buy into the club, you would expect that given recent history and this past season they would want major changes to the club’s structure and personnel, presumably bringing in some of their own people.
Let’s hope that is indeed the case. If so, then I think that really everything and everyone at the club should come under scrutiny.
All the individuals, not just the board, but other executives, the Director of Football Kevin Thelwell and even the manager need to put under the microscope (although I’m not advocating Dyche should necessarily be replaced).
But, the question must be asked: are they the right people to turn this Titanic of a football club around?
All aspects of the club, it’s financial and football strategy and the short, medium and longer-term goals and aims (especially once the Toffees move into the new ground) need to be examined.
For me the key issue is what are Everton actually trying to achieve and what are the ambitions for the future? I don’t know the answer to that question, does anybody?
Is it a return to consistent finishes in the top six, is it just being secure, competitve and winning the odd cup, or is there room for a genuine belief that this club can get back to the top of the English game?
The last of these potential aims seems highly unlikely and just seeking a sort of mid-table competitiveness is dangerous.
Having said that, things can change very quickly in football. Just last season Liverpool almost won the quadruple and did claim both domestic cups.
But this campaign has thankfully, seen them in serious decline without a trophy and even failing to qualify for Champions League football at the end of the season.
The fact they regard a fifth place finish as a major failing, speaks volumes for the regrettably huge gulf that has opened up again between the two Merseyside teams.
Meanwhile the rise of clubs like Brighton and Brentford show that getting stability and the right sort of people into key positions within a club, can make a huge difference to performances on the pitch.
For me the model that Brighton have pursued is the one Everton should seek to replicate in the future.
That means strong and stable leadership at board level, having a clear football strategy, finding promising young talent, then developing it within a well-coached, competitive team before perhaps selling some of those players on for big profits to be reinvested in the team.
There are young players like Jarrad Branthwaite and Amadou Onana (if they aren’t sold), Nathan Patterson, James Garner, Dwight McNeil and perhaps others such as Tom Cannon and Ellis Simms who could form part of the nucleus for a more competitive team in the future.
Anyway, if this process of reviewing all aspects of operations has been completed, the outcomes must be communicated effectively to the supporters to ensure they can buy into it.
Of course, it is asking a lot for all this to happen in one summer while also bringing in the right talent needed to immediately improve fortunes on the pitch next season.
However, if this summer isn’t used effectively to make big and substantial changes that can genuinely reinvigorate Everton, then we will be back in this position again in twelve months time. And, the Blues luck would surely then finally run out.