He has only been at the helm for five months and 11 Premier League matches but there are already questions being raised by some sections of the fanbase over Ronald Koeman's suitability for the Everton job. Take it as a sign of the lack of patience pervasive in the modern game or evidence of the sense of injury supporters feel when such a high-profile representative of the club goes “off message” and expounds on the future prospects of the club's best player away from Goodison Park. Either way, it's massively premature in my opinion.
The shine has obviously come off the start he has made as Everton manager, a relatively poor sequence of results culminating in last weekend's disaster at Chelsea, and Koeman hasn't helped himself in terms of his fledgeling relationship with supporters with his comments over Romelu Lukaku.
Farhad Moshiri has tried to dampen the outrage that has been sparked by what Koeman said about Lukaku's future by saying his comments were misconstrued and, to a degree they have been. The less responsible elements of the media have obviously picked it up and run with it, twisting the manager's rhetoric to suggest that the Belgian will be out the door in January to the highest bidder.
And some Everton fans have reacted with anger at what they perceive to be Koeman's slight against Everton; inappropriate talk for a manager of our great club and a sign that he won't be doing his best to persuade the striker to stay when the next offers come in for his services.
Koeman mentioned Barcelona. Everton could win the PL title for the next three years and Barça would *still* be a step up for Lukaku— Lyndon Lloyd (@Everton1an) 10 November 2016
Based on the reaction from fans here on ToffeeWeb and the response to the latest poll on the site, I'm clearly in the minority in not being overly concerned with what Koeman said. No Blue wants to hear talk like that but, first of all, it's sensible to consider the audience — Koeman was talking to a Belgian newspaper about one of their star players — while, secondly, bearing in mind that he was talking about Lukaku being good enough to play for Barcelona one day. How many Blues expect him to still be playing for us in two years' time let alone when he's at his peak at 28?
Put simply, while he clearly as a wry sense of humour and a deep love for his family, the Dutchman doesn't strike one as being the type of manager to get emotionally invested in a club (although I imagine Barcelona is fairly close to his heart). After all, he has defied rivalries and loyalties in his own country by managing all three of the Netherlands' top clubs and he was able to transition easily out of Southampton just weeks after assuring their fans that he would honour the final year of his contract there. We Evertonians obviously hope that he will be highly successful at Goodison Park, that he will be forever touched by Everton and that “nothing will be the same again” for him but, just as he appeared to have ice in his veins as one the best defenders of his era, Koeman comes off as something of a "cold fish" when it comes to football management.
And that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Most fans were aware from the outset when he first joined from Southampton that Koeman would probably only be at Goodison Park for the duration of his three-year contract and that, at most, he would move to rolling one-year deals after that if he still had unfinished business.
Having lived through two seasons of Roberto Martinez's declining tenure and seen Moshiri land his number one target over the summer to replace the Catalan, most Blues were comfortable with the arrangement — the hope being, of course, that he could propel the club into the top four, depart for an even “bigger” project for himself, and leave Everton in the position of being able to attract a top-class replacement.
In the interim, it seems as though the trade-off will be having to get used to the Dutchman's somewhat detached demeanour with his references to “Everton” rather than “we”, something we're not used to as Evertonians. Alan Ball's old adage has proven so apt over the years but, perhaps like Lukaku, it doesn't appear at the moment as though Koeman is going to be bitten inexorably by the Everton “bug”. For both, it's likely to remain all business; a means to the next end but, as long as that elevates the club's standing in the process, supporters should probably accept it.
After all, Martinez had immersed himself in Everton's history and culture with the enthusiasm of someone in it for the long haul who was hoping to rebuild a dynasty. He bought into the Blues and talked loquaciously about our grand tradition and we plastered his image on the side of the Main Stand before handing him a new five-year contract but, ultimately, it ended in tears.
The modern-day Premier League has become cut-throat and very Darwinian. Despite Manchester United's floundering since Sir Alex Ferguson's departure and Chelsea's limp defence of their Premier League title last season, the elite clubs have been consolidating their grip on the upper echelons of the top flight — if not competing for the title, always able to finance the squad-building efforts that would, on paper, enable them to do so.
With Moshiri on board, Everton would appear to finally have some financial muscle to join them but a certain amount of pragmatism, ruthlessness and temporary abandonment of sentiment is going to be required to return us to the top table and Koeman would seem to embody that.
And, again like Lukaku, it may well be that Koeman is merely a transitory component in our bid to get back to competing among the top four; they certainly seem to see it that way, but both will have to perform and do well to ensure that their next move beyond Goodison will be a significant step up.
In the meantime, we have to let things play out. Koeman has spoken of needing two years to get the team to where he wants it to be. Together with Steve Walsh, he's had a solitary transfer window, one which did not go entirely according to plan by his and Moshiri's admission, even with the successful acquisitions of Idrissa Gueye, Ashley Williams and Yannick Bolasie. Given how difficult it can be to tempt clubs into selling players in January, they may need next summer to make really significant additions to the squad.
That flying start to the season imbued supporters with a false sense of optimism that Koeman could yield instant results when, instead, we're discovering that getting rid of Martinez was only part of the equation. The team itself needs further surgery before it is capable of taking the next big step forward. That will take time.
My love for Everton knows no bounds but I've lived through managers like Kendall and Royle with their deeply Blue blood, outsiders like Walker and Smith who never seemed to fully understand the club, and Martinez and Moyes who embraced it to varying degrees but weren't able to push the Blues to the next level. To the extent that they “got” Everton, it made little difference.
Obviously, some tact when it comes to speaking to the media would be appreciated but if Ronald Koeman, with Romelu Lukaku as his spearhead, is able to deliver on the promise of Champions League football and, perhaps, a trophy along the way before they moved on to other things, I think most fans would be able to live without either of them fully taking Everton to their hearts.
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