Elstone's Everton Season Review

, Liverpool Echo , 20 June, 0comments  |  Jump to most recent

The Liverpool Echo features a lengthy interview with Everton CEO Robert Elstone, who offers his recollections of a memorable season at Goodison Park.

His mind is rarely far from matters of finance and taking the club forward off the pitch, but Elstone says that many of his highlights of last term married both events on and off the field.

And that, he agrees, is largely down to the influence of one man — Roberto Martinez.

Everything is an opportunity to him: even something like a player getting injured, he says. It's so refreshing to have someone like that and who knows if that culture on the field almost subliminally has an effect off it. I'd say it does.

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We've been doing a lot of things right for a long time but now we have a platform for some of it to shine through.

Securing Leighton Baines (contract) was important and sent out a strong message. Then getting 72 points — the best since 86/87 — was special. You had mixed feelings though because you look at that total and thought it would normally have been enough to get us in the Champions League.

For all the excitement of Europa League, Champions League is what it's all about. It was mentioned in that first press conference with Bill and Roberto and there's some real credibility about our aims there now.

We didn't fly out of the blocks and we were a bit unlucky against Cardiff when we should have had a penalty, he recalls. But it was the Chelsea win at Goodison when we got going. That gave us all the confidence and from that moment on, and I'm sure the fans would agree, we didn't go into a single game with an ounce of fear.

We were fielding young lads who had no fear and we had a manager who had none. No matter who we had up next, we believed we could do it.

Perhaps Arsenal in the Cup was the only game that let us down. We didn't do ourselves justice and it hurt particularly because the Cup means so much to Evertonians. We had dominated them at their place and then dominated them at Goodison later so that was a real shame.

United home and away was great, and we had some key goals. Ross's first at Norwich; the way he pulled the trigger and it smashed into the back of the net and then his stunner at Newcastle.

Reflecting as a CEO, you reflect as a fan too and it was great. For eighty minutes at Chelsea we were the better team and then got robbed.

One of the key factors behind Everton's progress last term was the club's use of the loan market, in particular the last-minute signing of Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry.

From a personal point, I look back at the last day of the transfer window, reflects Elstone. In the space of two hours, we brought in Lukaku, Barry and McCarthy. It was a crazy period and one or two eyes turned our way in a How on earth did they just do that?' sense.

We've had some amazing transfer windows when Jelavic came in and then Pienaar with five minutes left — so Goodness knows what's going to happen in August.

The Toffees are renowned for having to be resourceful when it comes to finances, but Elstone says that last year's bumper new TV deal from Sky and BT has given them more scope to build.

I spoke at the general meeting about how the financial landscape has changed with the TV deal, he says. We will be publishing some very healthy numbers and I'm sure that's not just peculiar to us, although a fifth-place finish and a good live game return meant we've done well.

It's also given us some choices. We're investing around 2.5M in Goodison around the close season. On floodlights, fan-related facilities, lounges and media facilities.

There are plans to extend Finch Farm. Roberto has mentioned the players' accommodation which we are pushing. We've never had that choice in the past because we used to squeeze the orange so hard in terms of supporting the manager in buying players that it was bone dry by the time it comes back to me.

It's less so now — not to say we'd never prioritise supporting Roberto and the first team. Now we can support matchday activities, or our marketing and community work. We have that option now.

There's two more years of the current TV deal and the landscape looks rosy beyond that too. It's good not to have the bank manager looking over your shoulder every day — that's how we probably were but not now.

When you get 80M a season from Sky, there's a temptation to get your feet on the table and puff on a cigar but that's just not the Everton way.

He may look back with warmth on the 2013-14 season but Elstone's eyes are now firmly fixed on the future of the club he has helped lead for the last five years.

Looking forward, we have the plans for Finch Farm and an academy blessed with a really promising crop of young players, he says. Their emergence will be interesting to see and we hope that promise is fulfilled.

We won't ever think we've arrived at where we're trying to get to though. We're not perfect. There's no cockiness or arrogance but what there is, is a determination to keep pushing.

It's a results game and we need to keep winning. But we feel confident. We feel we have the tactical, technical and coaching side right and the School of Science back. Roberto is phenomenally ambitious.

Everton have always cherished their illustrious past as they look to move forward, and that is also something their CEO thinks should remain crucial.

We've tried to picture what Everton was like in 1878, he says. Why it was formed and what it's objectives were? And actually those things still resonate today; about galvanising communities, being a force for good and bringing people together in a healthy pursuit. Giving a part of the city identity. Those things are still at our core. I'm not sure every club operates that way.

The [new] stadium will continue to be something of really high priority. There is optimism that we will deliver it. There clearly is one site we're doing a lot of work on and if things fall in the right way and we get commercial success; bringing on board support from the local authority and the public sector then we can be hopeful.

"The next six to 12 months on that will be really important for us. It will be exciting if we can bring it to fruition; there's lots of hard work but that's how you want it.

Ultimately fans vote with their feet. And in my decade here at the beginning of June we've never had so many fans saying they believe in where we're going and putting their money where their mouths are. We've never had so many season ticket sales and lounge membership sales at this point in the last 10 years. That's the barometer.

We've set a really ambitious target too; we hope that three out of every four seats will be sold before the start of the season. That would be a really healthy position to be with. I'm obsessive about filling the stadium every week. Last season it was nine out of 19 sell-outs and if we pre-sell three out of four, let's hope it can be even more. We're trying to create more Evertonians and that goes in hand with more loyalty. That's the key. Too many clubs talk to fans as a mass. It's easy to do that but it's harder to have individual connections. It takes work. But the rewards of that are far more long-standing.

Ross Barkely is someone who is an amazing talent and all Evertonians feel a real connection with. He has no arrogance to him or cockiness at all. He's just such a down to earth lad who it appears doesn't know quite how good he is and that's both refreshing and endearing."

Quotes sourced from Liverpool Echo

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