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ToffeeWeb Viewpoint

The Slow but Steady Destruction of Everton FC

Your Responses:

Walter Smith
The impassioned article by the ToffeeWeb Editor this week has stirred the emotions on both side of the argument surrounding the attempts to sign Paul Ince, the Michael Ball controversy and Walter Smith's suitability as manager as a result.

Below are some of the responses we received from ToffeeWeb readers on the issue:

As usual, ToffeeWeb, I agree one hundred per cent with the views you have expressed....this time regarding Paul Ince. What a travesty! My e-mail has been sent to the club!

Pam Bayley

"Ince is a miserable, self-centred monster"

I agree.  Lets sign 11 like him and we might actually start intimidating refs and winning games instead of pissing around fighting relegation each year!

Tony Horne

Given our dire financial situation and lack of bite in midfield, Ince just might make sense!  Allowing all our future international stars to leave is simply unforgivable.  Nobody I have spoken to feels good about the coming season.  I hope I am proved wrong, but the thought of making 6 trips from Dublin to watch what Wally serves up is depressing me.  I will still come.
Wally OUT.

Peter Brooks

I agree that Paul Ince is definitely not the right man for the job, not to mention his age he is not fit to play on Goodison turf.

As for sacking Walter Smith at this present moment in time?  No, the summer preparations are well under-way and what manager would take the position?  Roy Evans, John Barnes..... I think not!

Bringing in a new management at this point would put us in danger of relegation, I think we should see how Mr Smith does this season and if its more of the same.

Oz Flanaghan

EFC will become the laughing stock of the Premiership if we are not already with the arrival of that nasty excuse for a footballer called Paul Ince.  We as a club, I believe, have never had anyone on the books as malicious as this man.  He is a nasty piece of work and would further drag our club down.

Ince does not come even close to our motto and when I think of gentleman players like Alex Young, Roy Vernon and the one and only Brian Labone the thought of that poisoned dwarf Ince pulling on the Royal Blue Shirt makes me want to vomit!

Stay away; we don't need you; we don't want you; you ain't good enough!  Ince in a Royal Blue Shirt will definitely make me think twice about making the 800-mile round trip from the North of Scotland to see my beloved Blues!

Dave Atkinson

In response to your article about Smith 'taking the piss':

I won't deny that Walter Smith is bad for Everton football club, however is there any real point in lambasting him as you did?

In response to your claim that Smith has bought badly (this is the man who signed Mark Hughes, Alex Nyarko, Peter Degn....), I have to stick up for the guy.  Matterazzi (now at Inter Milan on the verge of an international call-up), Hutchison, Campbell, Tommy Myhre (hor a time), Richard Gough, David Weir, Gary Naysmith, Steve Watson, Olivier Dacourt.  I also believe that Paul Ince would be exactly what our midfield needs.

Yes, he was a red, but that shouldn't colour our judgement of one of the best combative midfielders England have had in recent times, and he was Middlesbrough's player of the year last season.  On the subject of Michael Ball and Franny Jeffers, you can't stand in the way of them.

Why should we pay the earth for a player who has 18 premiership goals to his name?  And if Michael Ball is the Evertonian he purports to be, he would play for the 22k a week I know I would.  I wouldn't mind seeing the back of Smith I must admit, and I am as blue as they come, but there is no point in rubbishing Smith when, it is clear that a) Kenwright thinks that the sun shines out of his arse; and b) Who else could do a better job?


I'm with you.  Walter has failed to move the club forward in his time here and should go.  His neglect of promising young players is criminal and Ball seems to have been manoeuvred out by failure to offer him anything approaching parity with Campbell, a 31-year-old with dodgy knees and his best behind him.

Bringing in Ince would be insult to injury.  If Kenwright and the board have any vestigial shred of backbone, they must veto this deal.  You know, just when you think it can't get any worse, this club has a habit of coming back and kicking you in the teeth.

Steve Lee

What a nasty, unintelligent diatribe.  The piece of tosh about the possible signing of Paul Ince is an insult to all things Everton.

Mrs Drudge

I think your article stinks in the way you criticise Walter Smith you are not there for the day-to-day running of Everton Football Club.  I agree 1000 % about not signing the Guvnor Ince also known as the "Wanker".

I think you need to look at the big picture here, I think you are missing a few key factors on this whole scenario:

1) The Michael Ball situation is not as clean cut as you are making it out to be; you do not know all the details and neither do I.

2) Middlesbrough want Michael Ball for a cheap fee and are taking the piss by offering Ince in part exchange knowing he wants to be closer to his house in Heswall.

Steve McClaren wants to offload Ince probably on Alex Ferguson's whisper in the ear before left to join Boro as the Manager, remember "BIG TIME CHARLIE" so why not kill two birds with one stone?  Walter has not been quoted anywhere saying he wants to sign Ince, so drop the shit until he says otherwise.

I think you have valid points about some things, though: about key players leaving, but some of the signings Walter has made have been bad but what you seem to forget that even Alex Ferguson has made some bad decisions... but they are not as obvious because United are not in a financial mess like we are.

If you can't stand behind the man who is trying his best with little or no money, I think you should be ashamed to call yourself an Everton fan.  It is hard to watch piss poor performances week-in, week-out, but tell me what magic wand you would wave to solve this situation?

It is OK for you to sit at your computer and write witty little reports and moan about this and that but in the reality you wouldn't know where to begin.  So stop f**king moaning and encourage the fans to get behind the Manger and the team instead of screaming like a fuckin' poncy hairdresser.

John Webb

Without meaning to sound like an arrogant smart-arse, I've told anyone who will listen for the past two years that Smith is a fake.  Seven out of 8 at Rangers, but with the money at his disposal, and the absolute mess Celtic where in it should have been 8 from 8.  Celtic had no money, major boardroom unrest, and a manager who stayed only one season because of the problems there and they still won the league ahead of Smith's mighty Rangers.

Last summer, his arrogance and power-crazy ways led to Hutch going for 2.5M, with a good 4 or 5 years left in him.  Barmby wanted to go, but I too heard a rumour Smith had set the deal up to sell him to Chelsea; Barmby refused, and Smith said ''Well, where would you go?''  We all know the little tit's answer.

This summer, we've got rid of Jeffers, the brightest striking talent we've had in years, and at an age where things could really start to happen.  I personally think, 'Sod him, he wanted to go' but why did a supposed die-hard Blue WANT to leave so badly?  Following him was Jevons, for 150k, to Grimsby for fuck's sake!  Another lad who had showed talent as well as enthusiasm, but whose face Smith didn't like.

Soon, it will be Ball, so in the space of 4 weeks, Smith will have personally seen off the three brightest talents I've seen at Goodison, aside from McCann (who, surprise surprise went the same way as Hutch).  Add this to the last two season's performances.  'Negative' is a word used; I prefer 'crippling'.  We became a non-entity.

Defeats were the most predictable thing on the coupon.  We won 3 on the trot with a team this joke HAD to pick.  He played the same lot for 45 mins at a flying Sunderland.  We played well and did not deserve to be behind at the break.  What did he do?  Half-time, all change.  Tal missed a couple of sitters, so he was off and only sparingly used since.  Gravesen came on, and in 10 mins had played right-wing, centre-forward and both sides of centre-mid (get a copy of the game and look again if you don't believe me).  In that second half, it could have been 5-0 to Sunderland...

A few days later, at Man City, again with Smith's players playing his style, it was 5-0.  Yes, 5-0 to a team who had not won for six games (losing the majority, if not all as I recall), and who didn't win again for about eight games I think.  Ipswich at home: 0-3.  Three different formations tried in the first half, with Nyarko at centre-back.  Pistone, looking completely unfit and uninterested, playing right-back.  2-0 up at half time to Derby, and murdering them to boot, with a 4-4-2 formation.  Second half the players come out, a substitution made, playing 4-5-1 from the start.  We were lucky to get a draw.

Smith recently said it was because Derby changed their formation.  They didn't.  They simply brought on Sturridge.  Smith wanted to get the victory and didn't trust them, his team, to do it, so changed them about.  The man makes error after error.  Him and Knox are dinosaurs of the game, stuck in the days before players were earning Hollywood money.  Like George Graham.

They have not, and now cannot, adapt to the modern game.  He refuses to accept players now control their own destinies.  He is the equivalent to a dictator.  He is past it.  He is trying to sign that nasty little cunt Ince.  Duncan will rip his head off the minute he starts getting lippy (and don't tell me he won't) what will that do to the dressing room?  Sadly, Bill K is so far up his own arse with the stadium glory, he has totally missed the boat, and we are stuck with this f**ker to the death I think.

Greg, Walton

Personally I think the article about Walter Smith destroying Everton is way off the mark. You cant blame Smith for selling Jeffers (if he was a true Evertonian he would have accepted what was a excellent contract).

The Michael Ball situation is also the same, I think Everton are correct not to give in to his wage demands, this is a player who last year had not done anything (and still has not), and he expects to be paid a huge wage (EFC already offered to double his contract!!). Everton should not be held to ransom by players!!

The Paul Ince rumour I think if he joins Everton it would only be fair to give him a chance, if he plays well for Everton the fans will soon forget who he has played for in the past, it is only right to criticise Smith about this transfer if it proves disastrous!! I think the problems with Everton are from the Peter Johnson era, since then Everton have had no money to sucessfully compete in the transfer market, Smith may have signed some players who have failed (Nyarko (who was reccommended by Wenger, Houllier and Dacourt!! not bad!! ), Degn, S.Hughes) but what about the players who have been successful (Campbell, Weir, Gough, Gazza til he was injured).

You could probably write a novel on the positives and negatives of Smiths time in charge at Everton but to sum up, I dont think all the blame should be on Smith, you have to look at the way Everton is being run as a company through to what happens on the pitch!!!!


I'm not sure where to start in terms of your article about how Walter Smith is destroying Everton. Let's try to look at this logically:

Everton are in a better state in terms of squad size and talent than they were when Smith inherited a squad of, frankly, Nationwide standard. He has steadily worked to improve the overall standards of the playing staff, whilst working with minimal funding. To do this, you need to sell your more 'saleable assets'. I, for one, believe that both Barmby for 6 million and Jeffers for 10 million are great bits of business.

If you look at how Barmby fared over the last 5 years, he was not our 'best player' by any stretch of the imagination, and has not set the world alight since moving to the Pinkies. Jeffers has not figured enough in the first team to be judged as a world beater or not - only time and a long spell in the first team will show that. We also could not really afford to pay those wages to someone who is not a vital part of the first team. We can manage without him.

We also seem to have acquired an adequate replacement in Radzinski. Ball is a slightly different kettle of fish. He is a player of huge potential who looks comfortable at the highest level.

Yet a lot of the same logic applies - Everton need 6 million pounds more than they need another left-sided defender. We have another ready-made replacement there in Stubbs. Also, if the media is to be believed, we really do not want to be paying 30,000 a week to a young defender, no matter how talented. In case anyone has forgotten, we are trying desperately to reduce our crippling overdraft to allow to rebuild towards being a power in English (and dare I say it, European) football once again.

This is a long, slow process, but I believe we are going in the right direction to reduce it. The fans will forgive all if we have a successful team. I firmly believe that. I don't think any Evertonian could look me straight in the eye and tell me that they would boycott Goodison Park to watch an Everton team pushing for European places in April next year, regardless of whether it contained Michael Ball or Paul Ince. Which brings me on to the subject of Ince.

As I said at the outset that Smith has done well to strengthen the squad at little cost. This is another good example of this. At 33 Ince is past his days of bossing the England midfield, but he would still be able to add quality to a very poor Everton midfield. And on a free, we have very little to lose.

As for your comments that he is a disruptive presence in the dressing room, do you have any evidence of this ? My impression of Ince has always been that he is a leader on the field and a positive influence wherever he has been. So my advice would be to sit tight and see what the season holds. There can be little doubt that if things do not pick up as far as results go then Smith will not last the season. He will be more aware of that than most. We all want the team (and therefore Smith) to do well - let's give them our backing.

James Matthews

Once again a lot of rubbish has been written on your site, it seems you are willing to twist every little incident that happens at Everton FC in an effort to portray Walter Smith has some sort of evil monster that wants to destroy our great club, come on get real Walter is doing a very difficult job in circumstances where a lot of Managers would have jumped ship a long time ago.

I find it laughable the way you describe Paul Ince, you call him a "whinger" I would call him a footballer who detests losing, you say he causes trouble at every club he has been at, well just look at his medel collection that he won at Man Utd. take a look at the views of the Boro fans on the teamtalk site who are desperate for him to stay, those people who voted him their player of the season last yr. Oh yeh lets not forget the many England caps he has won, this really does sound like a profile of a crap footballer who is self centred and has been trouble wherever he has been,doesn`t it?!?.

You have to open your eyes,get real!! the only reason I suspect you don`t want him here is because of his past, the fact he played for Liverpool, the fact he has been captain of Liverpool...these things have probably clouded your sane judgement, it has to be this their is no explanation for such insane hatred for a footballer who has given 110% for every club he has played for, a player who bleed for his country, a player that never gives up...the only other reason I can give for such hatred is race related and I wouldn`t want to call you a racist!!.

If it is the Liverpool connection that is making you this way let me mention a certain Peter Beardsly. Here was a player in his early 30s, liverpool through and through considered past it. then he crossed the sea and jumped onto the Everton ship and proved a very astute signing who scored a winning goal in a derby for Everton, who became a Everton hero. his past was soon forgotten.

I would just like to end on this, if I said to you that we were buying a central midfielder who has won over 50 caps for England,won many trophies, been captain of most of the teams he has played for has played abroad, I guess you would laugh at me, say im taking the piss,we wouldnt be able to sign a player of this quality..

Well open your eyes, this is what we could be signing, a player in the same mould as Peter Reid, a player that could inspire us in the same way Peter Reid did, a player whos detest for losing can only be a good thing for a club whos midfield is looking very lightweight for this season. I urge you all to swallow your bitter pill and give him a chance, if he proves a bad influnece, I`ll be the first to write again and eat humble pie but lets give him a chance..

I am sorry for such a long mail but your sites constant anti anything smith is really annoying me and I could go on a lot more about issues like Ball,Barmby,Doherty.....all these departures down to Smith as you say,I have other opinions that I won`t go into now. I doubt your show any of my views as it won`t be good for your publicity to stop Ince coming to Everton. [Far from running a campaign, ToffeeWeb is open to views on both sides of this issue - Ed] But anyway I feel better that I have written and I have emailed the club with support for Ince and Walter Smith.

Matthew Williams



Shaun Collins, Liverpool

Paul Ince cannot be allowed to wear a royal blue shirt. He is the worst sort of red, that even the reds boo on a regular basis. If he was a guy you knew from the pub you would steer well clear, with him being a cheating low-life. Even the Mancs hate him; that is the lowest of the low.

I too have been baffled by Walter Smith's tactics and signings. You forgot to add Steven Hughes to your List of Shame, what a waste of time. And 3million? Jeez. Why doesn't he play Tal? Why did he play Gravesen up front? Why did he play a half-fit Campbell? But bearing all of this in mind, Smith should stay. For now.

My reasons are this: while the injury crisis is not really an excuse, it did hit key players. We missed three key summer signings through injury - Ferguson (controversial I know but the stats show that when he has a consistent and lengthy run in the side he gets the goals. Hard to believe but true), Alexandersson (again we lost him early on and I strongly believe that he could have made a big difference with a sustained run in the side) and Gascoigne (he showed a willingness to work hard for the cause and showed flashes of his former self). Fingers crossed, this lot will make a difference this season.

And I think that Smith has made a good move in buying Radzinski. I hope I haven't put the Hex on him by saying that..... Oh and to finish, why o why o why did we sell Gavin McCann? I argued this point til I was blue in the face (so to speak) when it happened but no-one listened. "He's just a kid, we don't need him" Bollox to that. He now has an England cap and we are short of quality midfielders. I point to exhibit A, THAT goal against Arsenal (30 yard screamer in case you missed it). Rant Over. Keep up the good work on your excellent site.

Paul Barrett

Summer is a joyous time, enjoying the sunshine and rising temperatures, enjoying the long summer nights and the sprightly mood that everyone reaches on a sunny Sunday afternoon in July down the pub. Lazy days by some Spanish resort pool, living it up in various pubs & clubs in some exotic island. All of these things are in abundance for most people during the summer.

They are experienced by Everton fans too, but all of these wonderful summer days are once again turning out to be as black as a winters day in the middle of December. Why? Well lets see now, Francis Jeffers who is possibly the best player to have been produced from within the Everton ranks for many a day has been sold off to lets face it a club which is light years ahead of us. I mean, it makes sense doesn't it, sell our best asset to a much more successful club so that they can become more successful and remain way ahead us in league positioning and in bank balance comparisons.

Lets face it though, big improvement on previous years transfers - selling Jeffers to Arsenal has been less painful by a great deal than selling Barmby to Liverpool. Another example of how screwed up things have become at Everton Football Club, sell our best player to our fiercest rivals so that they too can remain years ahead of us. And it now seems that Michael Ball is going to follow in the footsteps of young Jeffers. Home grown talent, nurtured and developed to produce the fine player he now is and loaded with bags of potential. I know, I know, we can say if players don't want to play for the club then they should just sod off. Exactly how much of this is true though.

Was it just an overnight thing with Barmby, did he just wake up one morning and decide that he wanted to leave a club which had saved his career? Same with Jeffers, at the club from an early age, just one day decided "ah sod this I'm off"? We can apply this too to Michael Ball and lets look at Gavin McCann, Sean Doherty and perhaps to a lesser degree Richard Dunne and Phil Jevons. Are Kevin McCleod, Tony Hibbert and Peter Clarke also destined to follow this path? Too bloody right they are, after all there is no room for youthful potential at this great club of ours. Oh no, we would prefer to watch the likes of Alex Cleland, Alessandro Pistone, Alex Nyarko, and Thomas Gravesen. And not only do we like to watch these footballing wasters but we just love to watch them play on our narrow Goodison Park pitch. Narrow so as to ensure that no creative play can take place. I mean we don't want a return to the days when Everton wingers were a catalyst in the success of our teams. A return to the days of Alan Ball, of Trevor Steven, of Kevin Sheedy, of Pat Nevin and of Anders Limpar & Andrei Kancheskis!! No, we prefer dull lifeless football, a team full of left footed utility players who are happy to pull in the cash and happy to not even dream about success.

How did we manage to get ourselves into this mess? Well that is clear isn't it - it was started by Johnson's heartlessness and now Walter Smith has taken over the mantle of Everton Destroyer In Chief.

Can we attribute the departure of Barmby, Hutchinson, Jeffers and any decent bit of footballing talent to Smith? In a word, YES!! Just look at the case of Stephen Hughes - reliable player with a hell of a lot of potential and he slings his hook because of the treatment he received from management.

Do you reckon Jeffers would have stayed had there been a management team with a bit of vision? Course he would 'cos a management team with a bit of vision would have fought tooth and nail to keep someone of his quality. And here lies the crux of the problem - the current management team does not have the vision or indeed the spirit to lift this club.

I don't know who does but it definitely is not a management team who believe the likes of Paul Ince will actually ADD something to the team and tothe club as a whole!! If we have a failing in the midfield area it is not the likes of Paul Ince who will fill the gap, we would be better asking a half-asleep Alex Nyarko!!

Patrick Kelly

Hi, I' m an Blue Disciple. I had a season ticket for three years at Uni. My father is, as was his, a True Blue. Show me the manager who could have saved Everton FC from relegation the last 3-4 years?? Don't sign Ince; Don't sack it?

Oliver Ferns

The viewpoint article by Michael Kenrick seems an almost neurotic assessment of Smith's role in Everton Football Club, stimulated by the likely arrival of Paul Ince. Michael puts forward the accusation that the current incumbent manager is systematically destroying the club. The article and points made were a poor assessment of the situation and as I have had 35 years WATCHING Everton (that's not my age), I think that I have reasonable grounds to comment.

Firstly, I am no admirer of Ince and his attitude for an international player was always suspect. However, those of you who criticised Nyarko and his weakness for battle cannot become hypocritical overnight when a manager seeks an alternative which is the complete opposite. Forget Ince's past. It is irrelevant here. Smith has to find a proven player who will not hide when is it inevitably going to get difficult. With Ince, you know exactly what you get. He will not allow his fellow players to hide and he will well and truly bollock those who make stupid errors. He is also FREE ! Smith has his hands tied here and it's a narrow path he treads when looking for players to add to his squad. Whilst he showed himself to be negative last season plus tactically inept, the accusation that he is systematically dismantling Everton just does not wear.

The cloud over Michael Ball's situation with the club is an unfortunate one. Up to last season, he was another player who could have possibly never realised his potential. However, he has blossomed and is now knocking on the international door. My question is : When is a request to TRIPLE one's salary a "reasonable pay rise" ? Which world do you live in ? I would suggest that the re-negotiation of contract was prompted by an agent or agents fuelling the boys head with cash. Any move to M/Boro would be catastrophic for Michael but if the impasse has been reached then Smith must do what is best for Everton FC and not for Michael Ball.

The Jeffers transfer was the correct piece of business to conduct. Clash of personalities or not, the lad had already indicated last year that he wanted to leave. He track record at the moment shows that he will be lucky if he remains fit for any more than 15 games a season. 8m for that is good business. If Jeffers fails to hold his fitness at Highbury, he will find himself warming the bench more times when he IS fit. Viera already has his doubts over his potential and I am somewhat surprised at Arsenal for paying that kind of money.

The game has changed beyond all recognition in the last ten years. Satellite has split the game into the Haves and the Have Nots. In the 70s/80s, there were at least 6 clubs who were capable of taking the old First Division title, now I think its between Arsenal or United. It makes me laugh when Peter Risdale is quoted as saying that if David O'Leary was to leave Leeds, he would be remembered as one of the club's great mangers. Ha ! What has he won so far ? Don Revie must be turning in his grave.

I've seen Catterick's great side of the 60s, I've been through the Gordon Lee period in the 70s and if you think Smith is bad, try watching his style of play. We were then totally spoilt by the style of Kendall's eighties side.

Everton's current difficulties go back before Smith. He is an honourable man who may not have all the answers but continues to look for a way out of the predicament that the clubs finds itself in. I will continue to support the club as I have done for these years and I will tell you this. I wouldn't want Smith's job even for twice his money and there wouldn't be a long queue behind him if it became vacant.

Tim Michael

I have to disagree with your point about ince. I don't like the guy, but he is still a good player, in my opinion, and during these tough times, we have to get the best we can. He would give us the strengtha nd determination that i think our midfield lacked last season. On the subject of Ball, i don't want him to go, but he has twice rejected contract offers, and the club can only afford so much. He will be missed, but i can't see how we can keep him if he won't sign !

Austin Rathe

I have been an Everton supporter for the past seventeen years and, like all toffees, am deeply disappointed at the present plight of the club both on and off the pitch.

An injury ravaged team, huge debts and the departure of some of our brightest young players highlight the present level occupied by the club - that of a mediocre bottom half of the Premiership side. I believe it is possible for the club to rise to its former heights again and the recent approval from Liverpool Vision to proceed with the Kings Dock project is a step in the right direction. I do not, however, agree with your scathing attack on Walter Smith in a recent Toffeenet article. The piece was brought about by the possible signing of Paul Ince, one that would be deeply unpopular with many of the clubs supporters.

Granted Inces history - he played for Liverpool and snubbed Everton in signing for them - and his style of play may not appeal to Evertonians but the days of the School of Science are long gone. We have little money to spend on transfers and are not an attractive club to sign for. Id certainly prefer to sign a British player such as Ince for a nominal fee than spend money on an unproven foreigner. Ince isnt a bad player, he was Boros player of the season last year and, in a midfield such as ours, he surely wont look outclassed. To my mind he has to be on at least a par with Mark Pembridge and Scott Gemmill.

Im not however writing in defence of Paul Ince or his qualities as a player. Im writing in defence of Walter Smith.

This, you say, is the man who signed Mark Hughes, Alex Nyarko and Peter Degn. Mark Hughes came in on a free and did a job when we had few other strikers available. Hes long past his best but at the time he did a job for the club that no fit player on our books could do. It wasnt as if Walter had even two or three million to spend on a player - and you wouldnt even get a good Division One striker for that these days - so he simply shopped where he could. In the free transfer area. He needed a stop gap player and he got one. Nyarko turned out badly but even the greatest managers make mistakes. Massimo Tiabi at Man Utd. was one.

Nyarko on the continent looked like a quality player and Arsene Wegner was even interested in him. He was recommended by Olivier Dacourt who felt he would fit in well and all the signs were that he would be a good signing. It didnt work out but thats football. Peter Degn didnt work out either but Smith also signed Davie Weir, Steve Watson, Kevin Campbell, Olivier Dacourt, and Marco Matterazi.

Some signings dont work out, some do and with the money Everton have to spend youre not going to see a stand out footballer making his way to Goodison Park. Walter has to sign players costing below the 5 million mark - anything above 4 seems to be pushing it - and when a premiership club are in the market at this level it will be rare to get a player who looks above the average standard on the pitch.

The departure of Sean Doherty is a blow to the club but I dont think its fair to say that Walter Smith was the cause of this. In quotes attributed to Sean he complained of people in the general area getting to know his name and the added pressure he felt this brought when he was playing for Everton. It seems he wanted to get away from all this. Why blame Walter for it. If he had a problem with Walter or didnt like his policy for youngsters surely this would have reflected on his father who is working with the youth of the club. I dont think Walter can be blamed for this, I think its just a case of a young lad wanting a change and wanting to widen his experience.

Anyway if I was a sixteen year old coming through the ranks I wouldnt be worried about Walter Smith and his tactics or policies. Id be more worried about the prospect of coming into a senior team two to three years down the line that is playing in Division One or continually struggling in the bottom reaches of the premiership. Or of becoming a senior player in a club racked by debts that has no hope of winning a trophy. Thats the way players think.

I dont agree that kids dont get a look in with Walter either. He played Jeffers at a young age and Tony Hibbert, Peter Clarke and Kevin McLeod all got games last year. Throw into that Danny Cadamarteri, Michael Ball and Richard Dunne and age doesnt seem to matter too much. Hibbert, Clarke and McLeod only played one or two games last year but theyre only out of the youth team a year and are still learning their trade with the reserves.

Even David Beckham took time learning his trade after he left Man Utds youth team and its simply good footballing sense to allow, if possible, youngsters time to adjust to first team football. As for having no idea how to utilise wingers I think that in the modern game the availability of players and the pressure for points dictates the system and how teams are willing to play the game. Walter doesnt seem adverse to wingers - he signed Tal and Alexanderson - but when youre in desperate need of points to win tense and tightly fought matches its not always wise to play with wingers.

When youre cruising in mid table, people are enjoying their football and youre not scrapping for points, players can relax and knock the ball about. Mentally its easier for them to play football and wingers come into their own. There are not too many team in the bottom six who play a wide expansive game using their wingers to the full and any teams who drop into that area in the league rarely play this type of game even if they have done so in higher reaches of the table. I dont think that Evertons situation in the past number of years has been conducive to playing the game with two wingers. Hopefully if was can get a few points and some confidence at the start of next season we can play with out and out wingers but for the past few season its been horses for course and a relegation scrap isnt the place for wingers.

On Michael Ball, I dont agree with his sale and I believe that he should paid the 30,000 he is rumoured to want.

However, I dont just blame Walter for this decision, the whole board made the decision and I wouldnt hang Walter out to dry for this. Im sure that a debt free Everton wouldve have paid Ball the money he wanted but were not debt free and there was more than one person who made the decision. Walter may have made the recommendation but I believe that the roots of the decision were firmly rooted in our present financial state.

As regards Jeffers, he may not have liked Smith but he didnt seem to like Everton either. He handed in a transfer request on the eve of the season two years ago because he wasnt being paid the money he decided he deserved. He then asked for a transfer at the end of this season and signed for Arsenal. He wouldnt even talk to Newcastle who were offering him huge money and he turned down the largest contract ever offered by Everton.

He went to Arsenal to play in the Champions League and win trophies. Everton did all they could to keep him but quite simply he could not see himself winning trophies with Everton. Why would he have stayed if Walter Smith wasnt the manager? Hed still be at a club with no money and one which he viewed as having little chance of winning anything. He made a career decision to move to what he saw as a bigger and better club, thats the bottom line.

As regards mismanagement, all the blame for last season can hardly be heaped on Walters shoulders. Granted some team selections seemed bizarre but the injury problems can hardly be categorized as poor excuses. If you lose up to fifteen of your first team squad through injuries you are going to struggle no matter what team you are. Losing a number of important players - Gough, Gascoigne, Campbell, Ferguson, Jeffers, Alexanderson, Naysmith, Xavier - for long stretches of the season and then having to play them when they were not fully fit was never going to produce good results. Unfortunately it was a situation Everton had to deal with and to expect any team to have a successful season with injuries such as we had would be asking too much of the majority of clubs.

Nick Barmby and Don Hutchinson were two players I didnt want to leave the club. I dont know why Hutchinson wasnt given the deal he wanted but I doubt that many people know the real story behind his departure. Maybe it was all Walters decision, maybe there were other influences there, I dont know. But whatever about Hutchinson, Barmby was always going to leave. I dont believe he left the club because of Walter Smith - he left because Liverpool are now a bigger club than Everton. It may hurt to admit it but it is the truth. He left for the same reason as Jeffers left - he wanted to win trophies at a big club.

Narrowing the pitch was done in an attempt to stop teams counterattacking and pulling an Everton side not blessed with pace from one side of the park to the other. It was done in an attempt to limit opposition teams ability to play their way through Everton and it is a sign of the talent at Walters disposal last season rather his preference for the way football should be played. This is the man who played Laudrup and Gascoigne in the same team at Rangers, where he had the freedom to play any style of football he wanted. If he had this freedom at Everton do you honestly think he would play on a narrow pitch with the type of players he did last season. The narrowing of the pitch was just another example of the situation Everton found themselves in, nothing more and nothing less. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Id prefer to play on a narrow pitch and stay in the Premiership than widen it and go down. As for taking the piss.... you cant be serious about this. It was a throwaway remark I presume because to suggest that somebody would put themselves through all the hassle Walter has simply to take the piss is ludicrous.

I havent heard the rumours about what Walter makes from club sales but maybe if less rumours and more facts were bandied about the club would be on a more even keel than it is now.

Mark Buckley.


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