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Everton for Dummies

Looking for a quick summary of the enigma that is Everton, here is ToffeeWeb's no-nonsense guide for the uninitiated.

In a nutshell...

One-time "Mersey Millionnaires" at the leading edge of the English game, Everton were a club living off an illustrious history and struggling to be recognised as mediocre as opposed to perennial relegation strugglers before current manager, David Moyes, took the helm. Thanks to a steady evolution and growth, the Blues enjoyed something of a renaissance, performing to a standard more befitting those wonderful traditions, that led to an almost miraculous fourth-place finish in 2004 and forays into the Europa League before the financial realities of the Club's attempts to permanently break through the glass ceiling and join the monied elite came home to roost.

Where is Everton?

Everton is a suburb of Liverpool, the fourth-largest city in England situated in the northwest of the country. Everton's home ground, Goodison Park, is in the adjacent district of Walton, though, the club having moved there from Anfield — yes, Liverpool FC's current stadium — in 1892.

How long have they been going?

The club was formed in 1878, first as St Domingo's FC before they changed their name a year later to Everton. Joining the Football League as founder members in 1888, Everton was the first professional club in Liverpool and the Reds were actually born out of Everton when the club split in 1892 over a rent dispute. One half went to play at Goodison Park, the other half stayed behind at Anfield where the forces of the Dark Side developed.

How successful have Everton been?

In terms of trophies won, Everton are the fourth most successful side in English history — behind Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal — with nine league titles, five FA Cups and a European Cup Winners' Cup. However, Everton have spent more time in England's top division than any other club and have therefore played more games there and won more points than anyone. They have spent just four seasons out of the top flight in 123 years.

Who's the manager?

That would be the afore-mentioned David Moyes, rated as the most promising young manager in the Nationwide League (as it was then known) when Everton prised him away from Preston North End in March 2002. He had no hesitation in accepting what he knew was a massive job at Everton when Walter Smith was finally removed from his post.  Moyes breathed fresh air into what had become a moribund and sterile defensive cloud that hung over the club under Smith and while he struggled for consistency to start with, his patient rebuilding effort at Goodison has mostly reaped comparatively rich dividends.

Why don't you hear much about Everton these days?

Ever since Joe Royle barred journalists from Bellefield (Everton's old training ground) in 1997, the media seems to have had it in for the Blue half of Liverpool. After a couple of close calls with relegation in the 1990s and continued stagnation at the turn of the 21st century, we became a national joke and a continuing source of amusement for the majority of the media who love to see a big club on the ropes. In the Sky Sports-induced era of "only the present matters" they seem to have forgotten everything the club has achieved in its history.

When was the last time they won anything?

Everton were surprise winners of the FA Cup in 1995 and entered the European Cup Winners' Cup the following season. They won the League Championship in 1987 (for the second time in three years) but were denied entry to the European Cup due to UEFA's ban on English clubs thanks to Liverpool fans' involvement in the Heysel tragedy. The closest they have come to silverware since was the FA Cup Final in May 2009 where they were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea despite Louis Saha scoring after just 26 seconds, the fastest goal in the Final's history.

If they were so good in the 1980s, how come they have struggled so much since?

There were many reasons but the overriding factors were two-fold:

  • Heysel and UEFA's ban
    Had Liverpool's fans chosen any other decade in which to riot with Juventus fans in the European Cup, Everton would have been alright. As it was, the governing body of European football slapped an all-encompassing ban on English clubs playing in UEFA competitions so the Blues were barred from either defending their European Cup Winners' Cup of 1985 or competing in the European Champions Cup on the back of domestic championship triumphs in both '85 and '87.

    As a result, top scorer Gary Lineker went to Barcelona, Howard Kendall went to manage Athletic Bilbao and Everton's fall from grace began.

  • Financial mismanagement
    Everton have always been one of the biggest clubs in Britain but the failure of successive boards to make adjustments for the UEFA ban and to invest properly in the club's infrastructure or the right players was to eventually take its toll. In debt to the tune of £10m by 1994, the answer seemed to have arrived in the form of millionnaire food produce magnate Peter Johnson, but he was a Red coming from Tranmere and by the time he'd been forced out, the club were nearly £20m in debt and new benefactor Bill Kenwright was left with a financial mess to deal with.

    The club was in better fiscal shape for a while under the Kenwright regime while turnover remained low for a club of our size but as many of the club's assets were sold off and debts mounted alarmingly on the back of rapidly rising player wages, the situation has become untenable. Everton is perhaps the biggest English club not to have been the subject of a high-profile, big-money takeover in recent years, most likely due to our long-term debt and need to either rebuild Goodison Park or move to a new stadium.

So, what now for Everton?

That's a good question. Kenwright has admitted that the Club is losing £5m a year and without significant investment or a buyer, that means Moyes will have to sell players to buy. A depressing cycle of selling our best young homegrown talent — Francis Jeffers, Michael Ball, Wayne Rooney — and our best players each season (Kanchelskis, Speed, Barmby, Hutchison...), was broken for a while as Everton managed a string of top-six finishes but, as the departure of Mikel Arteta in September 2011 proved, that strategy has moved back to centre stage. Kenwright insists he is looking 24/7 for a buyer but no one serious has publicly revealed their interest.

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