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Stating the Obvious
Nick Armitage gives his opinions on the current state of play...

10 May 2004

It appears that there isn't a man connected with Everton who hasn't said we need a massive cash injection to sign new players.  Well, actually, there are a few men connected with Everton who haven't stated the obvious.  Unfortunately, these are the men who ultimately will have to allocate the cash to improve our squad.

An exasperated Moyes has finally conceded what we all knew when he arrived; you can't polish a turd.  He tried, and did remarkably well but, like all turds when placed under the spotlight, they eventually dry up and crumble away.  Our manager looks hammered.  He must feel like General Custer waiting for his reinforcements he deserves a break.

On the face of it, this season has been a shocker, especially after the highs of last season.  But in all honesty the cracks were appearing before the first day at Highbury.  The run-in to end last season was as bad as this one, but the euphoria of seeing ourselves in the top half conveniently airbrushed that from most memories.

Both full seasons under Moyes can now be consigned to the history books... but what about the future?  Well, we had a pretty good look at some of it against Bolton and I was encouraged by what I saw on the pitch.

In that team, we had a few players who should have good futures in the game:

  • Of course, there's Rooney.  Because the tabloids write so eloquently about our Wayne, I couldn't possibly add anything that they haven't already told us. 
  • Yobo has the ability to become one of the best centre backs in the world.  Concentration is the key with him.
  • Hibbert made a couple of mistakes but he looked to have regained a lot of his mobility and sharpness that we remember.  He's had some niggling injuries and, in the long run, the rest that he's had this season might do him good he's still learning.
  • McFadden seems to have completed his obligatory settling-in period that most Jocks need (remember Weir?).  He has been improving of late.  If he can stay focussed, he will have an impact on the Premiership sooner rather than later.

The player who impressed me more than the rest was Leon Osman.  It's been a long time since I saw an Everton midfielder pick holes in the opposition as much as he did.  He has very intelligent use of the ball and space and appeared to never stop running.  His timing is excellent and instinctive.  After all his setbacks, he's one lad that I'd love to see do well.

Add to that group of players Radzinski and Martyn for the next couple of years and our team has some genuine quality to build on.

Next up is our own Mr Jekyll and Hyde (or should I say Mr Maradona and Milligan).  Thomas Gravesen is mad, sometimes very bad, often infuriating, bafflingly inconsistent and frequently a total and utter liability.  He regularly provides us with glimpses of breathtaking brilliance that leave your jaw in your lap.  He is never anonymous; he's either man of the match, or should be sent for an early shower. 

The Clown Prince of Goodison never ever hides.  This season he has stepped up a gear and demonstrated his worth to the club.  He's far from perfect and he'll never change.  If we are lucky, he might even improve a bit more but he'll always be as mad as a bag of ferrets like it or not, that's the way he is.  I never thought I'd say it but we need him; badly.  His mistakes are the ones that are noticed, probably because he is trying to do something.

You don't see mistakes from Linderoth, but then again you don't see cones on the training ground making mistakes either.  I have been the harshest critic of Gravesen in the past (not that anyone ever listens to me) but this season he has changed my view of him, and for that I take my hat off to him.  He's a vital cog in the Everton machine.

Looking beyond the first team Gemmill, Gerrard, and Simonsen have all but gone.  The remaining dinosaurs of the Smith era will soon be departing.  The club needs them out as soon as possible.  Ferguson, Campbell, Weir, Carsley, Nyarko, Pistone, Watson and Linderoth all fall into the has-been or never-will-be category.  This will free up capital but will it be enough, and will it be soon enough?

At long last, the grossly mismanaged and undeveloped merchandising arm of the club appears to have been addressed.  The new kit gets a resounding thumbs up.  The corporate hospitality marquee in the car park is another vital income-generating scheme.

We have been poor this season but we have also been unlucky.  We haven't been outplayed, not even by the big guns, and that would indicate that the margins of error in this league are small.  There is a yawning gulf in class between the also rans and the top three but the rest of the Premiership are nothing special we proved that last season.

Fortunately for us, the Everton bug has bitten David Moyes and he appears to be in for the long haul.  The Everton Board of Directors watch what we watch and the Board know what Moyes needs.  Let's hope that some of the increased income goes on the pitch where it is needed... or history may repeat itself.  David Moyes could find himself managing a Nationwide club in the North West with a glorious past and a very uncertain future.  History may also repeat itself and David Moyes could find himself at the helm of a rejuvenated team challenging for Europe at the business end of the league.

In an effort to increase low summer circulation, the Liverpool Echo will once again hype this summer as the most important in the club's history.  For once, they may well be right.  What goes on in the close-season will have a major bearing on the future of our club.

Whatever happens this summer, one thing is for sure.  If we want to see Everton at the right end of the league, it's going to be a long hard and shitty slog.  The club needs our support and the first thing fans need to do is to renew their season tickets.  I know it is expensive, I know it was handled badly, but if it only gives David Moyes half a fighting chance then in my eyes it's money well spent.

Nick Armitage

Reader Responses:

Nick Armitage is suffering from the same delusions I harboured for many years. Look at the table Nick — it doesn't lie. 39 points sends you down most seasons. The game against Man City should be the final relegation place decider. It's only because of what happened to Leeds that we can finish fourth from bottom not third. We have an ageing squad of little saleable value. Only Rooney, Graveson & Radzinski would raise any kind of money. Leeds' failure was due to a massive bet on a highly unlikely situation — the extreme end of speculating to accuumlate. We have to speculate to survive. It would be amazing if David Moyes could attract another player of Joseph Yobo's quality to the club. We are a laughing stock. The business plan is heading us for the Nationwide. There is not enough money coming into the club. The board is part of the problem, their solution died with King's Dock. Nick that isn't the light at the end of the tunnel you can see it's the headlight on the approaching train — Dave Lennon

I was heartened by the article from Nick Armitage — as for once a balanced, intelligent and informed opinion hit the pages of Toffeeweb. It could have been written by our esteemed manager himself! Not that other contributors have nothing to offer, it's just that Nick's article gave an appraisal that I feel most accurately reflects the reality of where our club is at the moment. Although Everton have played appallingly on occasions this season, with a few breaks in those games we lost or drew in the last minutes we'd be easily in the top half of the table...and then the whole tone of the season would feel different. And while we do have a rump of older, more expensive players who we need to shed, David Moyes has the spine of something to work with. In Rooney, McFadden and Yobo he has 3 possibilities for greatness. Let's not forget Sean Davis could easily have been a part of Everton this season, and purely by gross bad luck he wasn't. Imagine Davis' energy, ball control, mobility and savvy combined with Gravesen.It might have made the difference this season ...and remember that was Moyes' vision — he just got very unlucky. So yes, buy those season tickets. And yes, continue to be critical of Mr Carter and the other useless old farts on the board....but we should take more than a grain of hope from from the names of Moyes, Rooney, Yobo, McFadden. — Nick West

Thank you Nick Armitage for an very informative and objective article on the way forward for Everton Football Club. I strongly believe that if money is made available to David Moyes on the level of £5-10m a season (should be possible due to off loading of high salary players and proper management of salaries moving forward) then he is the man to bring back a bit of pride to the club. Our performances haven't been consistently great this season (by any means). We have dropped a lot of points in the last 5-10 minutes (rather than picking them up like last season). This is an easy excuse to make as at the end of the day good teams win matches and poor teams lose them. Maybe now Moyes can better build on this season without the burden of inflated expectation hanging over his head. Good luck to the guy. Ian Ridley

2004 ToffeeWeb


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