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What is Success?

By Nick Entwistle  : 13/11/06
Recent articles published on ToffeeWeb highlight supporters opinions on the way forward for Everton, and whether or not David Moyes is the right man.  With the number of articles increasing as the slide in form continues, most of the entries came out in favour of the man, but still asked questions of his overall ability (quite right).  But to what extent is David Moyes to be branded successful?

What is the zenith of not just his but Evertons capabilities?  Im afraid its not much.  Why?  Champions League.  The hitherto situation is, following the implosion of Leeds and the hiring policy of Newcastles Board, that the Champions League spots are now rock-solid certainties before the season has started.  Nothing new there, all the pundits say it. But why is it the case? 

To be one of the CL certainties in the English Premier League means you have much more money in abundance, therefore you have the higher quality players, therefore the more prestigious competitions to enter, therefore the CL money etc etc, a vicious circle. This has created a wide division among the CL teams and the rest of us in quality. 

But the talent gap on paper between players signing for CL teams and the rest that our division sign is wider still.  Its a gulf! And its financially insurmountable!  The Premier League has a world pool for talent spotting and signing, that is now normal, not the exception it was a 10 years ago.  The overall standard of teams compared to that time has risen, so no Premiership team, even the top four, can realistically buy what was once called an exotic player for X million and expect, as in the past, their foreign skills to run rings around our flat defences la Asprilla, Cantona or Zola Tal.

Of course, if you could, a player of this quality would go to a CL team, but what price a player that on his signing alone would make a competitive difference to a Premiership team?  Biggest signing outside the top four this season is The Bar Codes Martins  for 10M.  All they received was a player who moved further down the bench at Inter due to the arrival of Chelsea flop Crespo.  If youre a non-CL team and lucky enough to have 10M, the best it seems you can hope for is a CL clubs cast offs.

Its permanent catch up.  Take the best 30 of non-CL Premiership players and only then are you near the squads of our individual CL reps.  When was the last time a truly big world class signing went to anyone outside our beloved Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea or Liverpool?  You could argue Owen, though more a marriage of convenience with Newcastle, and you could argue Davids, but hes well into his 30s.  Other than that, whom?  Oh Tevez and the other one? Theres too much ambiguity going on for it to be straight forward.  We all might be in the same division but were playing different games.

Now, please, sit down.  I have something to say.  Brace yourselves.

Outside the top four theres no such thing as a big team.  You think were big?  Were not.  Were Charlton, were Man City, were Wigan or Fulham.  If youre not in the CL youre nothing.  If youre not going down, youre chasing at best 5th. The height of our ambition is a pleasing finish. 

The Uefa Cup doesnt stand for anything; its a joke. Boro played someone in the final last season and who are the Boro of all people?  You can win it 10 years in a row but that doesnt get you in the CL.  The CL has created an exclusivity for the big teams and thats just how the G14 want it.  And were all fighting for the scraps.

The FA Cup?  League Cup?  Nice to win but the prestige was sold off years ago.  Right here, right now, our history counts for nothing.  Were all the same.  Were in the no-man's-land of obscurity.  Were the shorter highlights on MotD.  Were other results on sports reports.  We are Bolton. 

Statistic: No one has broken the top four for the last three full campaigns.  Newcastle and Leeds are no longer a threat to The Arsenal, or Chelsea or Man Utd or Liverpool TV Show running midweek on ITV.  But of course, one team has done so havent they.  For all the doubts or praise directed at David Moyes, he is still the only manager to break through this wall.  The only manager post Leeds and Newcastle blowing it, to dare step into the elite circles of European qualification. The only English team never to be bank rolled into the Champions League. Praise indeed.

Can this happen again?  Maybe.  But its not just one CL you need to enter to hit the big time, its the next one after, and so on.  Our consistency will have to go hand in hand with someone elses decline.  That way, you break the stranglehold of (in my opinion to be the weakest of the CL4) Liverpool.  That means coming 4th two seasons running.  Once Liverpool stop qualifying for that tournament theyll have Stevey Me leave and re-budget their transfer and wage structures, settling for the Uefa Cup as Everton go onto the glory of prime time ITV as our new financial status reaps us superstar player after superstar player.

Is this realistic though?  Is it fuck! How can it be?  One fully fledged season in the CL, like a candle in the wind, burning bright or not, is really the most we can get from our great clubs possible future achievements.  Though weve almost been there havent we, and Uefa didnt take too kindly to us gate-crashing, and cheated us out of Europe.  Besides, Liverpool G14 members threw a strop, Stevey Me didnt go to Chelsea, and that chance of the watertight top four being breached lost.

Im the optimist but rarely look too far into the future.  Can Moyes do it a second time and take advantage of an inconsistent Liverpool to scrape us to 4th?  Maybe he can, but were not going to ever win the most important prize The Premiership.  And lets just say we snuck all the way through to the Euro final and won the dam thing.  So what?  As Liverpool know, whats the point of icing on the cake when youve got no cake? 

Before expecting the world from David, exactly what do you hope to achieve?  Not one non-CL team play what could be considered quality football.  The system we work in engineers it that way.  Unfortunately this is our reality; all our possible glory this season is for the right for brief mid-week TV exposure the next.  What a life we lead.  Somebody, please tell me Im wrong.


Nick Entwhistle has stated his definition of success as regularly winning a place in the champions league. If you are not in the CL you are nothing  However, I feel he has missed the significant, though subtle point, that success is not all about winning.

The dictionary defines success as The achievement of something desired, planned or attempted.  It does not mention winning.  For some Evertonians, success may simply mean reaching 40 points in a season so they can continue to be involved in the Premiership.  For others it may be reaching a cup final so they can enjoy a day out at Wembley.  For a friend of mine, paralysed after an accident, success is simply Everton continuing to exist so he can strive to once again watch the team he loves.

For me success would mean having a team that plays attacking football, so I can look forward to the game through the week, so the adrenaline builds up to kick off time. To watch a match where we may win 3-2 but are just as likely to lose by the same score and then to go to the pub on the Saturday evening and talk excitedly about the game.

No, my vision of success is not one of the overhyped, expensive, champions league where few spectators can afford to go to away games and subsequent Premiership games are played late on a Sunday. Do we really want to be like Chelsea, winning solely due to some Russian money, or like Liverpool, stuffed full of overrated Spaniards?  Would that be our vision of success for Everton?  I dont think so.
Mick Wrende

This is one of the most sensible articles ever written on ToffeeWeb. We can stamp our feet and scream as much as we like. But for the immediate future... that's where we are. We don't have to like it, and we should be aiming for more, but we shouldn't let unreasonable expectations or past glories blind us from reality.
Clint Wheeldon

Talk about hitting the nail on the head, Nick! Yes, I agree 100% that watching the likes of Everton nowadays is all about staying up, as it is far too much a risk for Boards to bankroll a spree into the Champion's League (look at Leeds and Newcastle; oh dear... I don't know who's in a worse/better position with those two...) You only have to look at Charlton who have pressed the panic button far too early and got rid of Dowie, which could blow up in their face — remember what they say if your bottom at Christmas...?

David Moyes could well have gone the same way last year, only for the Board (Bill!) to not panic. Yes, the football is awful at Everton, but even looking at, say, Liverpool, who got beat 3-0 at Arsenal at the weekend, signing players for x amount of money doesn't always work, so especially here at Everton, the patient building approach with Moyes, IN THE LONG TERM, could help Everton to sustain a challenge for the top six, in the coming years at least. I wonder how Charlton fans would welcome Curbishley back now...
Jamie Carroll

Nick Entwhistle's piece ("What is Success ?") articulated superbly what I've been thinking for a long time about our role in the grand scheme of things these days (and for the foreseeable future).  A depressing read, yes, but unerringly accurate.  The media and the club can talk up the prospect of "getting into Europe" all they like but the only reward for finishing fifth or sixth is playing Uefa Cup on a Thursday night in half-empty grounds against the obscure also-rans of Europe (and we'd probably be out by the end of September anyway). Whoopdy doo...
Andy Westlake

A good article but not necessarily one I agree with. Yes, there is a lot of money to be made from the Champions League and it may feel hopeless watching these clubs getting riches and a feeling that no-one else can ever break in, but it's here that I feel the article is looking too darkly at our future.

Yes, those clubs in the CL will earn more money, but will they necessarily buy better players?  And even if they do buy better players, will it make them an even better team?  The theory of diminishing returns say that if you are nearing an optimal position then you need to spend greater and greater amounts in order to make smaller and smaller improvements.  I think that most of our CL clubs are at that level now.

Everton, and a host of other clubs, can make dramatic improvements by spending a lot less, or even by taking a risk on the likes of Cahill, Lescott, Arteta, etc. But we've also seen that just buying better players doesn't make a great team Souness has proved this time and time again.  So its also down to the manager to motivate the team and get them playing effectively. We know Everton can do this, but we also know other teams can do it as well.  That's one of the reasons we don't win every week (or for several weeks if we look at recent form).

Another indicator of success over the years has been stability.  Man Utd and Arsenal have shown what you can achieve with a stable team over a long time.  Liverpool achieved the majority of their success when they had the consistency of the "bootroom" and have been a shadow of their former selves since Souness ripped it up. Having stability in the club, from Boardroom to Manager even to playing staff helps take a club forward, and if we can't use trophies to measure how successful the club has been then perhaps we can use performance?  Our football this season has sometimes been sublime, and its getting increasing so.

Admittedly its also been ridiculous sometimes, but other "Big" teams have also suffered from this.  As a club, the best that we can hope for each season is to improve and to remain solid and stable.  It need not be reflected in our league position each season, but in our football and our playing staff.

We haven't got the finances to go out and splash the cash each season so we have to do it gradually and we are: we are gaining in terms of performance on the "big" teams.  Once we get into spitting distance of them then it will no longer be a case of who has the most cash, or the better players, but who has the better team and the better manager.

Once we get there then we will compete with the top four, both in the Premiership and in Europe.  Chelsea have shown its possible to do this overnight with enough cash; without the cash it will take longer, but I honestly believe that, over the next 5 to 10 years, Everton will become the major force it once was, but only if we maintain the stability and the improvements in the squad.

What is Success?  For now, it is seeing great and exciting football being played by Everton once more.  And if you keep getting the basics right and keep looking to improve then the trophies will follow. Yes, it's going to be hard, yes it's going to take time, but that's why we need to keep the faith and rather than measure success in terms of trophies won, we should measure it by the pride in our football and in our club.
Real name withheld

With regards to your article, I can, I'm afraid to say, agree with every word.  It's a sad indictment of today's Premier 'League' system.  I am sure deep down anyone with half an intelligent brain knows that we are incapable of launching a sustained assault on the 4th place slot never mind the holy grail itself.  Moyes may sometimes appear listless when things are going pear-shaped, but I still believe he is Everton's manager for the foreseeable future.  Reality bites, but, hey, that's football.
Chris Lawlor

If we had a Hall of Fame of Fans Comment articles here at ToffeeWeb, this piece would be guaranteed induction!  A soberingly accurate summation of our current predicament and the widening gulf between the big four and the rest.
Lyndon Lloyd, ToffeeWeb

As accurate an assessment of the current footballing landscape as I've ever read.  It's sad that before a ball is kicked in August everyone can predict the top four clubs, with the only contention being in what order.  The effect is so great that most Prem teams' only chance of a trophy is the League Cup — but even then the CL teams' reserves are far better.  As for the FA Cup, who was the last team outside the CL four to win that?  Yep, Everton back in 1995.  Says it all really.
Andrew Wilson

An excellent realistic article, which is hard to fault. My only quibble is that it also struck me as the latest, in a long line of very well articulated pieces, with an agenda which carries the old IMWT mantra. Whatever happened to Rob Fox? I'm still waiting for his eternally rose tinted view on Moyes to come true.

There is much truth in Nick's submission that we seem doomed to be amongst the permanent also rans. Sadly this is the way of the brave new G14 world. However, does watching our team have to remain the ordeal, that Moyes has managed to create in his five years in charge? We may not be in a position to challenge at the highest level again but surely a little entertainment is not too much to ask? Frankly I doubt it matters how long Moyes is here he's not going to change. Moyes out!
Tom Collie

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