Now in his third month in his role as the Blues's Director of Football, Steve Walsh has been laying out his initial plans at Everton as he familiarises himself with the club and, specifically, manager Ronald Koeman.
Walsh was tempted back to his native northwest of England by Everton in July as the second significant personnel hire of the summer after Koeman's move from Southampton the previous month. Widely credited with recruiting the star players who underpinned Leicester City's stunning march to the Premier League title last season, the acquisition of the sexagenarian was seen as a significant move by new major shareholder Farhad Moshiri.
Given his track record in player recruitment, much is expected of Walsh and expectations of his ability to transform Everton's squad in just six weeks between his appointment and the end of the summer 2016 transfer window were perhaps a little too high. Many supporters were left frustrated that key positions in the team — most notably a creative midfielder and another reliable striker — were not significantly strengthened before the deadline but, as he himself says, it is going to take time for him to get onto the same wavelength with Koeman.
"I'm getting to know Ronald,” Walsh says in the latest edition of Everton Magazine. “He's very driven, he's very positive and he has high standards. He's been a great player and understands what he wants. He knows systems and structures of play and knows how to get the best out of players.
"It's forming that relationship and getting into his way of thinking in terms of what he wants in a player. It's got to be a joint venture — there's no point in me bringing players to him and then he's not going to play them. I've got to make sure we are on common ground. And so far, so good.
“How I see it is to get involved first of all with first-team recruitment and make sure that area is good. Once I get an opportunity, we will look at what's further down with the Under-23s and the Academy.
“Because most of my expertise is in recruitment, that's taken up all my time,” Walsh continues. “I've got to get that right and make sure we have got a squad that is fit and capable to go forward.
“Obviously, I'm here for the long haul, I'm here to lay foundations but my initial business is actually making sure we've got the right people in place. I intend to immerse myself gradually."
Attempts to sign the likes of Rachid Ghezzal — seen as very much a Walsh-identified target and dubbed in some quarters the new Riyad Mahrez as a result — Manolo Gabbiadini, Lucas Perez and Moussa Sissoko all fell through in the closing days of the window but Walsh's ability to spot a player was illustrated when Everton zeroed in on a cut-price deal with Aston Villa for Idrissa Gueye.
Arguably the Toffee's most impressive player in the early weeks of the 2016-17 season, Gueye was snapped up for just £7.1m and, if comparisons with former Leicester and current Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kanté are any judge, he could be one of the most significant acquisitions the club has made for many years.
The Senegalese midfielder has been a revelation in central midfield alongside the veteran Gareth Barry and he already looks to have been the bargain signing of the summer.
“I told the manager to have a look at this lad (Gueye) because I think he can do all the things we want him to do,” Walsh explains. “We earmarked the fact that we were looking for a bit more energy from that part of the field. He moves the ball quickly and runs with the ball. He is good at pressing and good at intercepting.
“Don't put too much on his shoulders but he is a little bit like Kanté. You'll see that when he presses. He just needs now to show a little bit more discipline and he'll be a really good player for us, we believe.”
With his settling-in period over, Walsh is busily planning for the January transfer window, one that is already being viewed as crucial to the team's prospects of qualifying for Europe and/or finally landing silverware this season.
“Once the window closes, it's information-gathering time again,” he says. “You are out and about. I'll be at all our games but I have to go where my job dictates.
“If I have to miss a game because we have got to make a crucial move on a player, I'll do that. Otherwise, I'd like to be at our games, getting a feel for how we play.”
The October edition of the Everton Magazine hits shelves in the week commencing Monday 10 October. Grab your copy, priced at £3.95, from Everton One, Everton Two, your local Merseyside newsagent or around the ground on matchday. Alternatively, buy online by clicking here or subscribe for 12 months here.
Reader Comments (30)
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1 Posted 04/10/2016 at 19:25:18
2 Posted 04/10/2016 at 19:54:26
I would have liked to see an ex Everton player in this role.
What exactly are the qualifications for Walsh's job? Crossing the right palms with silver maybe, or greasing some wheels.
Can't wait to see who Walsh 'discovers' next, let's hope it's some hidden treasure for a couple of million and not an over-rated Newcastle mercenary off to the highest bidder.
3 Posted 04/10/2016 at 20:24:22
4 Posted 04/10/2016 at 20:50:43
I heard a journalist the other day saying that Arsenal had scouted Perez and discounted him, but as soon as Wenger heard Walsh was interested he had another look and signed him. Now I don't know if this is true but if it is it just shows what high regard he is held.
Paul, I don't know why you attach any importance to wanting an ex-player in this role, surely we want the best that there is for this position. His record at Leicester and Chelsea tells us that Moshiri has pulled off a coup getting Walsh.
5 Posted 04/10/2016 at 21:02:10
6 Posted 04/10/2016 at 21:06:29
7 Posted 04/10/2016 at 21:27:50
The top players that everybody seems to think we will automatically get because we have millions to spend, will look at the fact we have no European football to offer them and for the past couple of seasons we've been mid-table rubbish (see Sissoko). He'd rather get to know Koeman, his system and what he's looking for before rushing in buying a player who is decent on YouTube or Championship Manager.
As Brian says, he is respected in the industry and we must trust in him to do good work.
8 Posted 04/10/2016 at 21:36:49
Does this mean they haven't looked at the younger players? Holgate and Davies have had a run so the quote doesn't quite make much sense.
9 Posted 04/10/2016 at 22:53:21
Unfortunately, Koeman was reluctant to give the younger players a look in at Southampton. And the youth team and Academy set up at Southampton is pretty damn good. I hope he gives some of our younger players a look-in; Davies would have improved our side last week for sure.
10 Posted 04/10/2016 at 23:09:01
I found this article interesting. When we started looking at a DoF, I'd hoped it wouldn't just be a glorified scout. I thought we might have gone for someone who actually shaped our long-term footballing strategy that a manager would work to (given managers are typically short term).
When we appointed Walsh, it obviously looked like we'd gone somewhat down the route of a chief shout, and this article seems to finally confirm that.
So who sets the style? Bobby had free reign. Is it now Ronald? Are we going to fundamentally change our club every time we change manager? Will Barkley turn into a grock under Martinez, then a marathon runner under Ron, and then to something else under the next guy?
Personally, I'm disappointed. We had scouts before, so what's new? This seems like it's just a new job title and not quite the step change in our club that we needed. All hope rests on Ronald now, for as long as he's here.
11 Posted 04/10/2016 at 23:26:33
Koeman has only been here slightly longer and even though we have not played anyone the table still looks good going into the international break.
We still have the £30 million Sissoko money to spend in January so, apart from the African Cup of Nations, we have a lot to look forward to.
12 Posted 05/10/2016 at 03:46:29
As Bob Dylan said "All these experts out there... they seem to know how to do it... Let's see them all go out there for 50 years night after night and keep it going."
What's so wrong with us having/ hearing some positive spin for once, FFS???
13 Posted 05/10/2016 at 06:52:41
Walsh said something that I thought was very interesting when commenting in the past week about what Bolasie brings to the team. He said words to the effect that he helps us get the ball up the pitch quickly and this helps the team as a whole to move further up the pitch.
I remember Sir Alec Ferguson commenting after a game against us that Everton move the ball out of defence and up the pitch very quickly.
This was the style of play of our great teams of the '60s and '80s and is the traditional style of the club. When we get it right, it is almost unbeatable. It appears that this is the Koeman style.
So Paul (#2) What exactly are the qualifications for Walsh's job?
Pure speculation on my part but, in the light of the above, I would say:
Have a high degree of understanding of the technical aspects and skills of football / footballers;
Have the ability to set up an effective network of scouts;
Have the ability to identify the type of player the manager is looking for / wants to add to the team..
Like many of us, I would like instant results but, after having sat back and taken stock of things so far under the Koeman - Walsh team I feel we are definitely on the right track on the football pitch.
That being the case, the backroom boys can leave that side of things in capable hands and get on with the business of getting us a new waterside stadium.
All will be well.
14 Posted 05/10/2016 at 08:21:52
Apparently, by now, we should have got the Premier League sown up, Champions League in the bag, the FA Cup, Grand National and Eurovision Song Contest (well, we ARE terrorising Europe) and Miss World Contest under our belt and all the players have come back from Rio with Olympic Gold medals, or in Gibson's case, Paralympic Gold medals.
Have some bloody patience for Christ's sake!
15 Posted 05/10/2016 at 09:08:04
Changes have been made at the club, and things are happening. We just have to give the new people some time, have a little patience and see what happens.
January is still quite a long way off, but I am sure Walsh isn't sitting in his office typing on ToffeeWeb! I'd better get going!
16 Posted 05/10/2016 at 09:17:17
Essentially to expect the fella to have picked a few players in the 6 weeks of non-playing football is daft. I guess he will be watching virtually every European game, every French game etc from the start of the season. The only issue is the inflated market in January. Either way, we need to move in it given the fact that Gueye and Bolasie will be at AFCON.
I believe we will do the following:-
1. Get a striker in to replace Lukaku before we actually sell him. Selling Lukaku before signing someone will be insane the price will go through the roof.
2. Get a Number 10. I don't think Ross is a Number 10. He will be better deeper next to an experienced mentor like Barry.
17 Posted 05/10/2016 at 10:28:21
18 Posted 05/10/2016 at 12:01:01
Bolasie is one which still remains to be seen. At the moment, I think he's the best of all our wingers despite his lack of goals but I can already see a good understanding between him and Rom and he appears to work harder than Mirallas or Deulofeu and is good in the air.
I think we need to accept that we will have to pay over the odds for our targets like we did with Bolasie and I hope a striker in is No 1 on their list as well for January as, if Rom is out, we are in trouble.
19 Posted 05/10/2016 at 12:39:04
This lad has everything; top ball control, dribbling and passing plus goals as a bonus! He would lift every Everton fan off their seats and galvanise the likes of Bolasie and Lukaku.
He is exactly the type of player I would love to watch in an Everton shirt.
20 Posted 05/10/2016 at 13:19:51
why do I believe? Because we never issued a hands off warning. We stayed quiet and Lukaku and his agent awaited offers that never came...
Lukaku knows he needs to earn his move of which he will likely try as he usually does till January... he hasn't been offered or signed a new contract as far as I know.
I believe he has been told to "earn your move whilst we look for a replacement".
I could be wrong...
21 Posted 05/10/2016 at 13:58:16
I am certain there will be some business, as Ronald will want to push on and get us into Europe; that, as we all know, then helps attract better players and aids our progress.
22 Posted 05/10/2016 at 14:29:12
Expecting three major signings in January is lunacy, Brian (#1). The January market is a bad market and we are not going to get teams to relinquish a major asset half-way through the season. How many major transfers, relatively speaking, have happened in January in recent years?
We will need to wait until the summer, and we need patience. Koeman and Walsh cannot reconstitute our structure and direction in months it will be a lengthy process requiring patience on both sides. With no major tournament in the summer, players won't be jostling to the same extent to leave their clubs for first-team football either, and an African Cup of Nations will diminish squads across Europe.
Our best bet will be to take on loan, or on permanent transfer, a player sidelined by a major club who can satisfy our need for creativity in midfield. I dreamt about Mata, and still hope that Mkhitaryan's return to fitness will relegate him to the peripheries. But I expect that a transfer back to Spain may be more likely, in an attempt to penetrate that wonderful Spanish midfield ahead of the summer 2018 World Cup.
23 Posted 05/10/2016 at 15:04:15
There seems to be a common assumption on TW that Lukaku will be sold fairly soon, perhaps circa end of this season. But I've seen no evidence that he will, beyond assumptions stemming from media reports whose reliability might be questioned.
24 Posted 05/10/2016 at 15:17:36
The version I heard from a journalist on the radio was what I said in an earlier post. Now you may have more knowledge of what happened than the journalist I was only repeating his story.
Also, I never mentioned about 3 signings in January... I don't know where you got that from.
What we do know is that Walsh recommended to Koeman that we sign Gueye. I think, come the summer, it might be harder to keep hold of him than Lukaku. The boy has everything; what a gem for Walsh to find.
25 Posted 05/10/2016 at 15:54:44
Algeria seem to be the new Belgium with so many great players coming through. I wonder will we hear from Yacine Brahimi again? It looks like he's not getting his start at Porto now.
26 Posted 05/10/2016 at 16:17:05
27 Posted 05/10/2016 at 17:15:20
There is a good piece in the Liverpool Echo were Walsh lists the transfers he has been involved in and, which ever way you look at it, the list is impressive. The list includes Drogba to Chelsea, then there was Mahrez, Vardy, Kante plus Huth and Simpson to Leicester.
28 Posted 05/10/2016 at 17:19:24
Even if he says so himself.
Also, would love to hear about the ones that didn't work out (wonder if any were Niasse-like).
But, overall I like the cut of his jib. Given time we can judge. As we stand, I don't think too many players inherited from Martinez are good enough mentally so would like to see what Walsh and Koeman bring in, hopefully not to the detriment of the exceptional bunch of kids Unsy is bringing along very well indeed.
29 Posted 05/10/2016 at 19:51:45
30 Posted 05/10/2016 at 20:23:07