Grounds for Optimism but Reasonable Expectations

Ray Robinson 19/06/2017 86comments  |  Jump to last

As a long-suffering Blue who remembers better days when we were able to compete at the top end of the transfer market, I’m really pleased that we’re able once more to attract top players (perhaps, not yet the very elite – but small steps).

However, my enthusiasm is tempered by four factors:

Firstly, I don’t want us to blow the money like Tottenham did with the Bale money.


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Secondly, I hope that the squad gels quickly – always unpredictable when there is such a large influx of new players all in one go.

Thirdly, I hope that the heart of Everton remains, as embodied by players such as Jagielka, Baines and more recently Davies. I would have added Barkley too but I think he’s definitely on his way out. These are players that have the club at heart in exactly the same way as Kendall, Snodin, Andy King, Speed, Sharpe, Howard and Cahill (and many others) did in previous teams. I don’t want our team to be filled with mercenaries who just use us as a cash cow or a stepping stone.

Finally, I hope that we still afford a route to first-team football for young homegrown players such as Holgate, Calvert-Lewin, Kenny and Baningime (whom I rate highly).

In case anyone thinks that this article is in anyway pessimistic, it’s not. I’ve never been more optimistic about a new season for many a year. If Walsh and Koeman have done their research on players’ backgrounds and characters, if they’re willing to promote youngsters, and if we retain the likes of Jagielka (who for me, despite his “decline”, remains the best defender on the books), we could be in for a very good season.

For me, a good season would be one where we consolidate our position in the top seven (or six if another team drops away – Arsenal?). While this might not seem like progress, it would be if we can remain in genuine contention for a top four finish right to the very end instead of threatening for a while only to end up cast adrift in no-man’s land. I see this season as one similar to Man City’s first season with their new found wealth – one in which they improved the quality of the playing staff but which required several more iterations before they acquired a genuine title-challenging side.

So, my message is: look forward to the new season, hope that Koeman and Walsh have done their homework... but don’t expect too much too soon.

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David Ellis
1 Posted 20/06/2017 at 06:25:44
Very balanced OP. I agree almost entirely. I think we need better than Jags at the back this season... he relies a lot on his speed and I suspect that will now be deserting him.

I agree, we need a team that has heart. I am hoping that both Pickford and Klaassen have this and certainly have demonstrated it for their former clubs. We have certainly missed the character of the players you mentioned and I think this was missing from last season's squad (a major issue I have with captain Jags and Baines is that they don't seem to provide this leadership on the pitch).

It will be even more important with the injury to Coleman the one player we have who really has this quality and the experience/authority to lead the others. Tom Davies appears to be developing this trait but is too young for it to really influence the others.

As for targets a genuine run at top 4 and please please some silverware elsewhere. And a decent run in the Europa League – we need the ranking points and the experience of European football.

I would also like the press to acknowledge a "top 7" rather than the "big 6". Some already do given the massive gap between 7th and 8th. I think with our big early summer spending this will further change perceptions...and this matters for recruitment and sponsorship and TV coverage – all of which affects our finances and ability to attract the best.

I've not been so positive since... Walter Smith was appointed and we signed Dacourt and Collins. Hope it turns out better this time! Actually it feels very different, the planning of these early transfer moves, progress on the stadium, ability to shrug off the departure of players like Lukaku and Barkley (if this happens at all this summer) – we've come a long long way.

John Pierce
2 Posted 20/06/2017 at 06:38:14
Ray, I couldn't disagree more with the sentiment about not expecting too much too soon. We have as a fan base seen some pretty hopeless stuff across the last 25-30 years.

I expect Everton to win silverware this year. The influx of better players is welcome abut also necessary just to keep pace, or even have a shot at catching the six above us.

We have an edge in a cup competition for sure, a good draw and less games to win one. Part of the new regime is to expect more, be fiercely ambitious as a fan and not accept the dross we've endured because of our lack of acumen in the boardroom or paucity of finance.

Everton have a genuine chance to win the League Cup, and or the FA Cup and certainly put a big dint in the Europa League, which with the sparkly prize of Champions League on offer, we should stow most of our eggs in that competition.

This must be done whilst maintaining or improving our Premier League position or what was the point in the investment?

Time to get ruthless, time to deliver.

Gareth Clark
3 Posted 20/06/2017 at 06:48:59
I agree for the most part; however, Spurs did get in some great players with the Bale money... but they also got in some rubbish. We need to spend it a lot better than them, I agree! That's where Walsh will come in.

I 100% agree with the gelling of new players, hopefully they get that team chemistry going quickly!

As for Jags, if he stays, he will be a squad player, no two ways about it. I'd like him to stay for one more season & then he can go wherever he needs... top professional!

Baines will still have a big part to play; however, I think his long run at first-choice left-back is coming to an end. I think Koeman will get someone in to compete & eventually take his place. Someone like Chilwell would be my choice.

Davies will definitely be playing more off the bench & in specific games that Koeman needs his set of skills. I see Klaassen taking his position from last season. But he will play his part in a busy season.

With the current signings & Sandro, Sigurdsson, Keane, Romagnoli, Chilwell, Dembele & hopefully Iheanacho:

Kenny *Keane Williams Baines
Idrissa Schneiderlin *Klaassen
*Sigurdsson *Sandro

Robles, *Romagnoli, Holgate, *Chilwell, Davies, Barkley, *Iheanacho

Coleman to come back & take the captaincy! Baines or Williams to take it in the meantime.

The reason Barkley isn't signing is, I think he knows he will be used more off the bench than starting this coming season.

Chris Gould
4 Posted 20/06/2017 at 06:56:51
Ray, I agree with your sentiments. Yes, we're spending and it's exciting, but we have 6 teams in front of us who will also be looking to spend and progress.

I think Man City, Man Utd, and Chelsea will spend big, but I am hopeful of being in the mix and challenging for 4th, 5th, 6th right to the end. I think Arsenal and Liverpool are the most vulnerable of the current top 6 and I'm hopeful that we can gain ground on all of them.

Personally, I'm not so bothered about domestic cups. Winning one is great for the fans, but I never remember who's won them the following year. Top players won't be attracted by a domestic cup win. It's all about hunting down the top 4 and consistently challenging.

Everything is going in the right direction, but we shouldn't assume that we will be top 6 as none of those clubs are going to stand still and the gap was large last season.

Still, plenty of room for optimism and, with a bit of luck, the new players will all click and give us a season to remember.

Dermot Byrne
5 Posted 20/06/2017 at 07:18:25
Just do what I do each and every year – have huge over-the-top optimism and then have a roller coaster of emotions all season.
Kieran Fitzgerald
6 Posted 20/06/2017 at 07:31:59
Converting what has become a large number of draws each season into more wins would be nice. There was a gap of 15 points between us and Southampton in 8th. But there was also a 15-point gap to Liverpool in 4th, 14 to Arsenal in 5th, and 9 to Man Utd in 6th. If we want to keep pace with, and also catch the other teams above us, then we need to convert more draws into wins.

Chris @4 is right; Arsenal and the RS are the most vulnerable but 14- and 15-point gaps between us and them is ridiculous. Finding a way to grind out a win is a skill we are going to have to develop.

In terms of getting big fees in, I don't see us spending big if we sell Lukaku and/or Barkley. Maybe one or two more players, depending on what areas we still need to cover, but I can see a big chunk of money being put aside for the stadium.

If the city is aiming to bid for a Commonwealth Games in a set year, then the club will need to be able to step up with their share of the cash at the bidding stage. The stadium issue is starting to become real and we need to show that we are meeting our end of the bargain.

Phil Bellis
7 Posted 20/06/2017 at 14:14:56
Beating Liverpool twice rather than losing would've made a massive difference to that gap – if only, eh?
Raymond Fox
8 Posted 20/06/2017 at 15:18:54
Overestimating the quality of our team only leads to more disappointment later.

As Chris has already said, I doubt the teams that finished in front of us last season will not also strengthen their squad. They already have better squads than us and will probably outspend us, most of them.

The way I see it with the commitment to the Europa, I fancy we will end up 7th. That's what I'm expecting, any improvement on 7th and any cup win will be something to celebrate in my eyes.

The future looks brighter since Moshiri came on board but we are still some way off the usual top 6 clubs. Let's hope we can attract players that match the ones signed by Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd, because we are still signing players that these teams don't want.

We need to produce a few 'star' players from our youth system and then be able to keep them at Goodison Park.

Phil Walling
9 Posted 20/06/2017 at 15:28:17
When I wrote a similar piece, I was told 'even bloody Roberto got us to 5th'. I therefore rubber-stamp your view but it won't be popular on here!
Eric Myles
10 Posted 20/06/2017 at 15:55:31
David (#1), you won't have to worry about 'the top 7' when we're part of 'the Sky 4"!!!
Eric Myles
11 Posted 20/06/2017 at 16:01:53
Chris (#4), winning a domestic cup guarantees a shot at a place in Europe, and a bit of pride for the fans.

You might not remember who won the FA Cup last month, but I'll bet you can remember who won it in 1995???

Andrew Ellams
12 Posted 20/06/2017 at 16:26:22
I don't understand how you can be a fan of any team and not be bothered about winning cups. Why even bother?
Phil Bellis
13 Posted 20/06/2017 at 16:27:09
Well said, Eric... From Sandy Young through Stein, Dean and Dunn, "he's lost his jacket", one night in Rotterdam. History for most; some memories never to be forgotten for us lucky ones
Liam Reilly
14 Posted 20/06/2017 at 16:36:56
Chris (#4),

"Personally, I'm not so bothered about domestic cups. Winning one is great for the fans, but I never remember who's won them the following year."

The supporters of those clubs who won it do and the record books record it.

22 Years without a trophy and counting.

Thomas Lennon
15 Posted 20/06/2017 at 16:38:25
I agree that it will take a few years to challenge for top 4-6 but, when you look at it, we were in the mix with what – 8 games left before a couple of injuries happened that could not be replaced with similar quality players and the belief faded? We looked threadbare at home against Chelsea.

That big points gap between us and 4th to 6th places developed then, it certainly wasn't a chasm for the first 30 games, though there was a chasm in two of three games we played against the top two or three. A bigger, better squad will get us a lot closer without superstar players.

David Currie
16 Posted 20/06/2017 at 16:47:09
We need to win one of the cups this season; winning trophies is what this club needs. It will be tough to get into the top 4 as the best players will be signing elsewhere. Finishing 5th to 7th and an FA Cup or Europa League win would be success.
Ray Robinson
17 Posted 20/06/2017 at 17:06:48
I agree with those who say that we need to win something pretty soon but winning a cup is always a hope rather than an expectation. Let's hope this is the season!

Purely from a league position viewpoint though, we need to cement a place in a top seven or (six or five if other teams happen to fall by the wayside) – rather than being the best of the rest. There is a difference!

Success for me this season would be to finish much nearer the top four. Then next season, we try to improve again and get closer. I hope Moshiri has deep pockets and that the youngsters storm through!

Of course, we could do a Leicester but I doubt that will happen again any time soon!

Brian Williams
18 Posted 20/06/2017 at 18:09:06
Winning a derby'd be excellent progress!
Chris Gould
19 Posted 20/06/2017 at 18:39:41
Andrew (#12) – what's difficult to understand?

The domestic cups pale into insignificance compared to the league and European competitions. I would take top 6 over a domestic cup because it's a more significant achievement to make top 6 than win a domestic cup IMO. It's more likely to lead to better player recruitment and it will enhance our standing globally.

Winning a cup is great but the domestic cups have lost their glamour and significance in recent years. Remember when everyone would watch the FA Cup Final. You could choose BBC or ITV and coverage would start at midday. I rarely watch it now.

Just a personal opinion. Don't question my passion or how much of a fan I am. Nobody likes that.

James Hughes
20 Posted 20/06/2017 at 18:51:15
Sorry, Chris, I have to disagree with your last post. I would love us to win any sort of cup. Arsenal have nabbed the FA Cup three of the past four years, would you not be happy with one?

I am not questioning your passion but wouldn't you like a victory parade? Because right now I would settle for us winning the Zenith Data Cup.

Chris Gould
21 Posted 20/06/2017 at 19:01:30
James, I don't think the domestic cups are anywhere near as significant as the Premier League or European trophies. I'm not making a statement of fact, I'm just giving my opinion.

If we won a cup, then I would obviously be chuffed, but I wouldn't consider it a successful season if we didn't make top 6.

The Premier League is massive, the cups are a distraction. Sometimes a nice distraction, but usually shite.

David Israel
22 Posted 20/06/2017 at 19:12:20
Very good, balanced and sober piece, Ray.

David #1, let's not despair: it was not so long ago that the press used the term 'top four', or even, which is worse, 'Big Four'. The riches of the Premier League will tend to widen the number of clubs chasing the top spots.

Danny Broderick
23 Posted 20/06/2017 at 19:14:25
Deary me, Chris. Personally speaking, I'm desperate for us to win silverware. For all the revenue you might get for finishing 5th or 6th, you can't buy memories. Give me a cup any day.
Chris Gould
24 Posted 20/06/2017 at 19:28:01
Danny, why 'deary me'? That's more than a little patronising.

It's simply my opinion. I don't hold the domestic cups in high esteem. I want us to sit at the big boys' table, and to do that we need to become recognised top 6, preferably top 4.

Domestic cups are secondary to me. You want memories of winning domestic cups. I want memories of becoming one of the established Sky 6 and eventually top 4. I'd take memories of playing in the Champions League against Real Madrid or Barcelona over winning the League Cup any day. But each to their own.

Will Mabon
25 Posted 20/06/2017 at 19:37:07
"I would take top 6 over a domestic cup because it's a more significant achievement to make top 6 than win a domestic cup IMO."

However you paint it, winning six consecutive matches/ties at a mix of home, away and neutral venues, against varied and sometimes unpredictable opposition... is a significant achievement.

I love the cups, they represent a different thing altogether to the leagues. The impact is instant, there is no room for correction and improvement across a series of matches, games have to be won this time. Plus all the shocks and heroics etc.

Each to their own, but in recent years it annoys me to almost constantly hear the cups talked down in the media and other discussions, bordering on a considered undermining. Most people I talk with personally don't seem to take that view.

Dermot Byrne
26 Posted 20/06/2017 at 19:39:19
Judging by our reaction to the U23 title, we'd take 'owt !
Will Mabon
27 Posted 20/06/2017 at 19:39:22
Chris – I guess the phrase of the day is "Each to their own". Snap!
David Israel
28 Posted 20/06/2017 at 19:40:05
If we do well in the Europa League, I don't think I'd relish a good run in the League Cup. Too distracting, and too many games, in all. Not that I'm looking forward to the usual humble exit in the first couple of rounds we enter, but I'm sure everyone gets my drift.

The Europa League is now not just a consolation prize, since it provides a place in the Champions League. Jose Mourinho probably only went all-out in that competition because he figured, rightly, that getting to the latter through the Premier League would be a difficult proposition.

But the FA Cup is different. In spite of its devaluation over the years, it is still a competition everyone likes to win.

All that said, I agree that league improvement should be our top priority. The Europa League being, from a certain point on, a knock-out competition, it has a great deal more uncertainty than the league.

James Hughes
29 Posted 20/06/2017 at 19:43:59
Chris, each to their own. So we can finish 5th and win nothing or we can finish 11th and win a domestic cup. Either way, we are in the Europa League.

No way are we are dining at the top table soon, I will take a cup and a day at Wembley.

Will Mabon
30 Posted 20/06/2017 at 19:44:02
And there, David, you highlight the other side of things today: sheer weight of games.
Andy Crooks
31 Posted 20/06/2017 at 19:50:00
Chris, I have a friend who supports Motherwell in Scotland. They won the cup in the nineties and it was one of the great days of his life. Honest to God, do you really think that 6th place is better than thousands of Evertonians have a day to remember forever?

I don't think Danny is patronizing, I think he is as utterly gobsmacked as me. I think that the Champions League would be good as it would help to fund a new stadium etc. I never watch a game in it. Frankly, I would rather watch a first round FA Cup tie.

I want to watch our club play entertaining football and win games and cups. Sixth place? It doesn't mean a fucking thing.

John Pierce
32 Posted 20/06/2017 at 20:00:17
Since when have Everton won so much recently that Evertonians get to choose which competition to bin off? 👀

Let's be fair though the feeling of finishing 4th can't be anywhere close to winning a cup final .

It's all important and the mark of the new Everton is to be competitive in all competitions regardless of the challenges. If the supporting base don't move on then hard to chasten the club for not being ambitious.

Arsenal have celebrated 4th spot for donkeys years and look were that got them? Don't accept mediocrity winning stuff is worth more to me than 2nd or below.

Raymond Fox
33 Posted 20/06/2017 at 20:11:56
It's all very well talking about being a top 4 regular, but how difficult and against the odds is that?

We are up against 6 of the top 15 richest/biggest whatever the figures are, in Europe. Consistent success, ie, top 4, is about money spent on transfers and wages on players and coaches, history proves it.

Realistically a cup win, especially a FA Cup win (still difficult to achieve) would do for a start; it would give us something to celebrate and get us some much needed success for a change.

David Currie
34 Posted 20/06/2017 at 20:16:28
Quite right Andy (#31), I saw us win in 1984 at Wembley my first time seeing us win silverware. I was also there in 1986 when we finished runners up and second in the league, no EFC fans viewed that as success.

How times have changed when finishing 2nd, 3rd or 4th is viewed by some as better than winning cup finals. I have seen us play in 8 cup finals and want my son to see us play in at least one.

Life is about memories: '84, '85, '87 and '95 I will never forget.

Chris Gould
35 Posted 20/06/2017 at 20:26:30
Andy, 6th place means plenty. Far more than winning the League Cup. I see it as a more significant achievement. Although, it has to be part of sustained progress and lead to challenging for top 4.

Would you take a Domestic cup and lower league place over Champions League qualification? Because that's a 'deary me' opinion to me and incredibly shortsighted as your 'memory' has zero affect on the following seasons, whereas Champions League qualification brings greater opportunities, not to mention more money (which, by the way, is more likely to lead to your Cup success, as the Cups are usually won by the top 6.)

But, as others have said, each to their own. Raymond, as I said earlier, it will be incredibly hard to achieve, which is why it's a more significant achievement – it's harder to do.

Stan Schofield
37 Posted 20/06/2017 at 20:42:56
I think it should be dead simple: We should go out to win each game as it comes, rather than talking about winning silverware or attaining Premier League positions.

A winning mentality, with respect for, but never fear of, the opposition, regardless of who they are. Build that winning approach, and trophies will come.

Danny Broderick
38 Posted 20/06/2017 at 20:49:14

In no way was I being patronising. By saying 'deary me', I was simply expressing my disbelief that anyone could rate 6th place in one competition as being better than first in another.

The game is all about silverware. Ever heard the expression, 'first is first, second is nowhere'? Or 'show us your medals'?

Ask Neville Southall if finishing 4th, or 6th, would represent success...

Darren Hind
39 Posted 20/06/2017 at 20:51:35
Have I got this right?

We finished 7th. We've already spent more in the transfer window than anyone below us is likely to spend. The fans have done their part by snapping up season tickets in record time. Arsenal and Man United have been in steady decline. Pep is struggling to make his style fit the Premier League and Klopp is still failing to convince... and 7th is where we should be expected to finish?

I don't get this view that consolidating our position would represent an acceptable season. How??? Look at the cut of this Premier League. West Brom were the only team to give chase for most of last season and they gave up the ghost when they reached 40 points. It will take a rare degree of incompetency for us to drop lower than we finished last season.

How can 7th be acceptable to Evertonians when Southampton sack a manager for finishing 8th? Didn't he also get them to Wembley? What's happened to us? Where is our ambition?

The days of sending out cheap or free centre-halves like Stubbs and Weir to chase down thoroughbreds like Henry are now gone. We are spending as much as anybody, more than most.

I swear I would rather put the £100m+ we are likely to spend on players towards a new stadium than spend it to stand still. The chairman looks like he is prepared to do his bit.

The onus is on the Manager and the team he has assembled to make sure they do better than Davey Moyes's freebies. To do better than Martinez's first season.

I expect clear improvement; I want to see us score more than last season. Concede less. Play with more style and ambition, finish higher in the league, Parade a trophy through the city.

I watched a poor Man Utd side go on and win a cup last season, simply because they believed they should win it. It happens every year, Arsenal believe the should win the FA Cup... so they do. Neither club would have made it to the latter stages had they been burdened with our humble acceptance of mediocrity.

We really, really, really have to rid ourselves of this terrible expectation management.

Seventh would be okay? ... I could weep.

Will Mabon
40 Posted 20/06/2017 at 20:51:42
David @34, I attended all our finals between '77 and '95. Watford was fantastic, had my father with me, first success witnessed for me as an adult, too. Plus, my giggling mug was on TV in the lap of honour. Nothing like finals, like walking on air all day – when you win!

You're right, '86 stunk. Good as we were in the '80s we never quite got to crush the RS hoodoo. European football was an excellent bonus, a fantastic experience, but not everything back then.

"Each to their own".

Will Mabon
42 Posted 20/06/2017 at 20:54:41
Stan, that about says it all – the golden ingredient.
Aidan Baker
43 Posted 20/06/2017 at 21:21:57
Nice article, Ray, to which I agree with pretty much everything.

This morning I read an article on Everton in the Corriera della Sera's blog on English football 'In the Box'- Link (in Italian)

A nice article but in someways it left me with contrasting thoughts and emotions – i.e. the thought of success at any price. The so called 'Top 6' in England (used to be Sky 4 ) base their financial plans on getting into the Champions League – remember the stories about how much winning the Europa League was worth to Man Utd, their shirt deal with Adidas and their Share price. I don't know what Moshiris's thoughts and financial model looks like but I would hate to think that Everton became the sort of club which purely bases it's future on such financial models i.e. the only thought is to buy success.

Why you may ask, because Everton is a club based in one of the poorest areas of the UK and prides itself on serving the community which it represents. There are very few clubs throughout the world, let alone the UK which have the same sort of empathy with the needs of their fanbase that Everton have – poor fans and super rich mercenary players don't mix well. I want Everton to have success but not at the expense of loosing its very character epitomised by many players through the years (some of whom Ray mentions).

My Italian doctor is a huge Inter supporter who apart from medicine also knows a few things about football. He envies Everton's heart and soul which he says has been missing in the Inter team since Zanetti retired - to him they are all mercenaries - Icardi the captain had a huge argument with the Ultras last year, the new Chinese owners considered creating a separate European league when they realised that Inter couldn't qualify through UEFA rules – basically they thought that they had bought a cash cow with guaranteed success rather than having to earn it.

I would love Everton to get success but only with a few effective purchases mixed with the precocious youth of the club. Koeman has to mix the local players who understand what it means to be an Evertonian and what success to Evertonians really means with purchased players who understand what they are entering rather than seeing it purely as a means to live on in the many years after retirement.

Also, I would like the club to offer Jagielka a testimonial, I think he deserves it and Baines after him, they have shown that they respect and understand the club that they played for and it would send out a good message to the current crop of players that player loyalty should be repaid.

I would also at sometime in the future like to think the club could give Tim Cahill a testimonial (maybe when he retires) because he has and (via social media) continues to express a sincere respect and love for Everton.

Andy Crooks
44 Posted 20/06/2017 at 21:28:59
Chris (#35), as you say, each to their own. I am normally cynical but when it comes to Everton I see sentiment as okay. It is not all about money, Champions League, sixth place, building for the future, investment, sponsorship, kit deals.

It is about why we support our club. It makes no sense in the real world but sometimes supporting Everton gives me unexplainable happiness (misery also). A cup does; 6th place never, ever will.

Jay Wood
45 Posted 20/06/2017 at 21:36:04
Sorry, Chris Gould, but like others in this thread I find your position that you would trade a higher league position for a domestic cup a tad warped.

In saying that, I am not denying your right to hold that opinion or in any way being patronising to you as you accuse others for challenging your belief.

You made a very bold statement. Quite naturally, a number of posters are offering you a counter view.

On the one hand, I agree with part of your premise: Everton needs regularly higher placed league finishes to ensure European qualification every season, not just once every 4-5 years.

That possibility has not got easier with the riches of the new Premier League media deal cascading into the coffers of Premier League clubs, as perennial Champions League qualifiers Arsenal have just discovered. You can add United, Chelsea and the 'poo to those clubs who have all missed out on expected Champions League qualification in recent years.

As John Pierce @ 32 says, Everton is in no position to cherry pick which competition to prioritize in our 22 year wait for a trophy.

And as others point out, you may not recall recent winners of the League or FA Cup (I am likewise), but you can be damn sure supporters of the clubs who did lift those trophies most certainly do remember the year, the games, the day of the final.

I bet overwhelmingly the majority of Evertonians of a certain vintage can recall in great detail the final of 1995 when we beat United to lift our last silverware.

By contrast, how many of us can instantly recall the year when we last finished 4th to put us on the cusp of the Champions League, only to be eliminated at the qualifying stages? A considerably smaller number, I would wager.

The Premier League constitutes 38 highly competitive games over 10 months of the season. Of course the holiest of Holy Grails is to be on top of the pile when the final whistle blows to close the season. Next best is to finish top 4 to give yourself a chance to get your snout into the riches the Champions League offers.

The long standing cartel of Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and the 'poo having an almost lock out on those top 4 positions has long been broken by Man ity and Spurs now regularly assuming 2 of those positions. To step up and be another player in that elite group is going to be a challenge.

The club, the players and very much the supporters need Glory Days. Contesting and winning Cup Finals – domestic or otherwise –gives you that. And it offers you a quicker, much shorter path to a trophy – 6-8 games – and European qualification than the 10 month 38 game Premier League season.

I 'get' the money argument as to why regular Champions League qualification should be targeted. But as I've tried to demonstrate, that is no longer guaranteed for even the most wealthy of clubs in the Premier Leagu .

I'm not disputing your right to hold the opinion you do, Chris, but I'm guessing you are in the overwhelming minority when you say you would take a higher league finish over a cup triumph.

Dermot Byrne
46 Posted 20/06/2017 at 21:40:17
Depends on the cup. Europa League and FA Cup? Okay... but I would take the Premier League place over the League Cup. I've never rated it.
Chris Gould
47 Posted 20/06/2017 at 21:48:21
Danny, so you're saying you'd rather win the League Cup than come 2nd in the Premier League?!

Not for me, mate. A Champions League journey trumps a day out at Wembley – for me.

Andy, 6th place, followed by sustaining top 6 and eventually making top 4. Attract better players, become a team that no longer fears the big teams because it IS one of the big teams... and then we will start winning your cups. First and foremost, we need to cement ourselves as one of the league's elite.

Jay, if we won a cup then great. I would be delighted, but no way is it as important as league position.

Ask Koeman and Moshiri if they would prefer top 6 or League Cup and I'm pretty sure they'd go with league position. The game has changed. Domestic cups don't hold the same value as they once did.

If we win a cup this season but finish 11th, we will have regressed and Koeman would rightly be under pressure. If we get knocked out in the early stages of both cups, but finish top 6, Koeman will be under no pressure and we will have progressed.

Danny Broderick
48 Posted 20/06/2017 at 22:01:22

Yes, I would rather win the League Cup than finish second. For starters, it would signal the end to one of the longest, if not the longest, periods in our history without winning a trophy.

It would also give our supporters a taste of silverware, something you don't get by finishing second.

Jay Wood
49 Posted 20/06/2017 at 22:01:42
Sorry, Chris @ 47, but that is more warped logic for me.

Why does it have to be 'either-or'? Why can't it be 'and-and', like it was for us in the mid-80s when we doubled up on trophies, cup finals and high league finishes?

You seem to be arguing from a position that there are convenient 'grades' we have to pass before winning trophies, as in:

1) Establish Everton as a top six club;

2) Establish Everton as a top four club;

3) The first steps completed, trophies will follow.

It's not that linear, Chris. Indeed, the inverse is often more likely –success in the domestic cup competitions leads to success in the league. Since time immemorial teams have been winning trophies without such stepped progression you outline.

Indeed, it could be argued our great trophy winners of the mid-80s did just that. We reached 2 cup finals, losing one to 'them' and beating Watford in t'other the season before winning the league.

Maintain your belief Chris, but allow others to question it.

Chris Gould
50 Posted 20/06/2017 at 22:33:05
Jay, it's not warped logic at all.

I haven't said that we can't do both. I've simply said that I don't feel the domestic cups are as significant as the Premier League. I would prefer a top 6 league finish to a domestic cup win. Now if we won a cup and finished top 6 then fantastic, but I wouldn't consider it a successful season if we won a domestic cup and finished mid-table.

You can't argue over how I feel about something. You can't say it's warped or wrong to value one competition over another.

As I said, I believe the league will mean more to Koeman and Moshiri than the domestic cups. Would their logic and rationale also be warped?

Do you not think Arsenal fans would swap their FA Cup triumph for the Champions League? All of my Arsenal mates (and I work in North London) would swap it in an instant.

Anyway, no point in arguing about it. Nobody is right or wrong. The heart wants what the heart wants.

Ray Robinson
51 Posted 20/06/2017 at 22:37:29
It would be lovely to win a cup competition of any description (or even win a derby match!) – and we all want that – but winning a cup does not necessarily represent progress. It can do, as in our case in 83-84, but history is littered with examples of teams that have won cups and then achieved nothing further – some even getting relegated a short while afterwards.

I'm sure that Koeman and Moshiri would welcome cup success but they're buying to improve Premier League position. Only sustained high league positions will measure true progress.

I reflect on the fact that we could have won two cups in Martinez's last season but we were undeniably and alarmingly going backwards.

Pete Cross
52 Posted 20/06/2017 at 22:43:15
A cup win goes on the roll of honours; a 3rd-place finish doesn't!
Jay Wood
53 Posted 20/06/2017 at 23:50:14
Chris, to answer the further appendage @ 47 you made after I posted and your post @ 50, I can and will say your position is warped logic to me.

You can continue to throw up all the imagined possible variations and scenarios you like. You can invoke all the imaginary conversations you like, be that with Koeman and Moshiri or the Arsenal fans as you belabour your position.

I understand the perceived and actual 'value' of domestic cup success when measured against Champions League participation. You have quite categorically stated over several posts you would take a top 6 league finish over a domestic cup win (when, incidentally, 5th and 6th don't even get us to the promised land of the Champions League riches you desire. The Europa League – which I am extremely happy to have qualified for – is a very poor cousin to the Champions League).

And to make it 100% clear (although I've stated it twice already) I'm not 'arguing' as you describe it over how you feel about something. You are fully entitled to hold and express the opinion you do. I am simply contesting your position with counter claims backed up with clearly expressed rationale why I feel this way. That is allowed, Chris.

To me the rationale driving your position relates to the financial benefits you envisage will accrue to the club with regular European qualification, especially entry into the Champions League.

To that end, you are dismissive of success in the domestic cups as (presumably) you don't consider them either prestigious enough or lucrative enough in the prize money offered.

My perspective is evidently different to yours. Without question, financially Champions League qualification is the fatted cow we want to be suckling at. That 'benefits' the club bank balance and consequently (potentially) allows us to recruit better players, attracted by higher salaries, even though the likelihood of us actually lifting the trophy is an extremely remote one.

However, I consider you are too glibly dismissive of the 'benefits' that could also accrue to the club from landing one of the domestic cups you evidently deride.

Whilst you can put a monetary number on how much a club can earn from the Champions League depending on the number of victories registered and how far they can progress in the competition (and you do the same with domestic cup success), what is more abstract and more difficult to calculate is the 'price' you can attribute to having the name Everton etched on a domestic cup and the consequent benefits that could follow.

Our history, any club's history, is shaped and marked above all else by our honour's board. And my position is unequivocal: winning a major trophy is priceless. Incalculable. It would hugely galvanise the wider Everton family.

Not everything can be measured in how many 'beans' you have in the cash till, Chris.

Putting a nice shiny cup in the trophy cabinet beats a 2nd to 17th place finish in the league every time. I do draw the line at doing a Wigan, ie, winning the FA Cup but getting relegated.

David Israel
54 Posted 21/06/2017 at 00:59:19
Will Mabon (#40), 'here' goes back to 1966, which must surely have been our greatest FA Cup triumph, because of the way the match went.

I'll never forget that screaming Toffee being tackled, rugby-style, by a bobby. Used to know his name, too (not the bobby's, the Toffee's)! The School of Science!

Andrew Keatley
55 Posted 21/06/2017 at 01:37:47
It is going to be very hard to "establish" ourselves as a top 4 club. Last season, both Manchester United and Arsenal finished outside the top 4; the year before Chelsea and Manchester United. There are six teams who finished above us last year – and we are 10/1 to finish in the top 4 for the forthcoming season.

I am all for ambition – and I will be cheering the club on in every competition like normal – but I don't see how anyone can "expect Everton to win silverware this year" like John Pierce (#2) says.

It would be wonderful, and I think we have a decent shout in 3 competitions, but I think our hopes and expectations should be more towards progress and consistency than silverware. If we can compete with the top clubs in the Premier League over 38 games and be there or thereabouts come May then that would be – for me anyway – a very welcome surprise.

Steve Austin
56 Posted 21/06/2017 at 02:38:53
David Israel (#54),

Eddie Cavanagh... I do believe and if that is anywhere close to spelling his last name, I am sure someone else on here will correct my spelling, or if I got the gentleman wrong.

Chris, you poor bastard, sometimes it is better to keep your opinion to yourself... nah, it has been great reading the different views but, for me, give me a cup final, and all the joy/sorrow it brings.

Brian Wilkinson
57 Posted 21/06/2017 at 04:24:51
Finishing 6th over an FA Cup Final win? Cannot agree with that.

Try telling that to Eddie Cavanagh's family, or the fans at the '84 and '95 FA Cup Finals.

Bob Latchford's 30 goals will go down in folklore among the older generation of Everton fans, the very same season Everton finished 3rd in the league.

How many fans discuss our magnificent 3rd place finish that season? Not many.

How many remember Gray and Sharp banging in the goals against Watford, the parade round Liverpool on the Sunday, Rideout netting the winner in '95, the Blue noses as we paraded the cup around Wembley, yet some think finishing 6th is better than winning the cup.

Give me silverware any day of the week.

Daniel Lim
58 Posted 21/06/2017 at 06:41:47
Thanks for the clip, Eric.

What a moment, what a scene, what a roar when Capt Watson lifted the cup.

I would take bottom half finish but FA Cup Winner every season.

Paul Kelly
59 Posted 21/06/2017 at 07:16:44
Call me a greedy effer, but I want it all and I wanted it yesterday!
Peter Warren
60 Posted 21/06/2017 at 07:38:35
No point being rich, having the best players, if you win nowt.

As for Wigan, a small club, a rugby town. I would imagine they wouldn't have swapped FA Cup success for being in Premier League a few more years. They are FA Cup Winners – fantastic. Our clubs aims are rightly higher but I would rather win the FA Cup or Europa League than finish 2nd. Liverpool finished 2nd with Rodgers / Benitez – so what.

John Raftery
61 Posted 21/06/2017 at 08:03:04
Daniel (#58),

There was a time when clubs and supporters would have been happy to take a bottom half finish and FA Cup success. These days, managers get flack from supporters and ultimately the sack if they fail to meet expectations of success in the league notwithstanding cup success.

Many contributors on this site who wanted rid of Martinez were adamant an FA Cup should not save him. That is why managers like Koeman who place priority on league placings are happy to sacrifice performances in the cups.

Will Mabon
62 Posted 21/06/2017 at 08:11:29
David @ 54:

My father had been abroad for a time before that final, arriving back in London the night before for the match. His London-based Liverpudlian mate from schooldays failed to turn up to meet him at the ground with his ticket. (It later transpired he'd been taken to hospital.)

Walking back disconsolately along a quiet Wembley Way with no ticket, a car pulled up by him and the guy in it, a Londoner he thought, gave him a ticket and would take no money for it. He got in early in the second half, in time to see us go 0-2 down. The rest, you know!

I heard that story countless times.

Ernie Baywood
63 Posted 21/06/2017 at 08:16:03
I'd happily take a similar outcome to last season... but on one condition – that we become a bit more interesting and unpredictable. I would see that as progress. It might give us the ability to 'beat anyone on our day'.

Last season we knew our position from early on. It wasn't getting better and we weren't ever likely to pull off a nice away shock.

If we're going to be dull and one dimensional, then we'd better be successful. Otherwise, what's the point?

Will Mabon
64 Posted 21/06/2017 at 08:18:48
John, it probably borders on impossible now to actively chase the league and both cups in hand with European competition, with absolute fullest commitment, for even the most resourced clubs.

I wonder though whether Koeman actually was sacrificing in those two "performances" last season, against Norwich in particular?

Will Mabon
65 Posted 21/06/2017 at 08:22:12
Ernie, not happily, surely?

I sure agree on the need for some sparkle, though. Sadly missing.

Jim Lloyd
66 Posted 21/06/2017 at 09:00:17
It seems to me that, for donkeys years, our club had this "nice" reputation. We've sent out teams who were sometimes good sometimes hopeless and quite often reported on as "punching above their weight."

Quite rightly in one sense, we reacted like we'd won the cup on those two dramatic, nerve wracking occasions when we escaped relegation on the last day of the season.

Our last great side in the mid eighties was allowed to dwindle away with players and manager being allowed to leave and the club going slowly but surely into the non-entity status, as far as the national press and the media were concerned.

Instead of building up the team and stating our intention to remain a great side, the directors just weren't interested in keeping us as the top club in the league, or even in the top five (as it used to be).

David Moyes and Roberto Martinez, well we could argue all day about their relative merits or lack of them but the same "Small Club" (that prick Benitez!!) image and our beloved chairman loving his "Last Action Hero" museum, dreaming his dreams, while the club at best, stayed clear of relegation and rose towards the top but the gulf between us and the usual culprits, now joined by Spurs, was massive.

It looks to me now that we are in a position to become a great club again. "Great" in the sense that all we do, on and off the field, has class written all over it. That to me, is where I think we are heading.

As far as the team ethic, Well, we go out to win, whether it's the match, the league, any of the cups, or even the toss, we have installed in all that we do, the mentality that we have in mind our motto: "Nothing but the Best".

I think it's unlikely that we will get there this coming season,(but who knows as we haven't finished buying yet) but I'll be content if we see we are making strides towards the top again.

We might end up 7th again but it's what we do during the season and how we approach games against the ones who have perennially looked at games with us as 3 points in the bag! I want to see us go into games with those teams and for them to know they have a fight on their hands to get points off us.

That, to me, will be progress; if we win a cup that'd be brilliant. It is now, so important where we finish in the league, it cannot be an either/ or situation. Getting into Europe regularly is a means of gaining a reputation, it attracts better players and it makes the club money to help buy those players.

Winning cups would be brilliant because it gives all of us, especially younger fans a pride that "our club" is a winning club.

This season, I think we will progress but to get on equal terms with Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs, Man Utd and Man City, is going to take us longer than one season.

We've got the opportunity now, because we've got Farhad Moshiri. I think that we also have a top class manager in Ronald Koeman and given another two seasons we will be challenging all those above us for a place at the top.

What I hope we get now, are more players with the skill, the steel and winning attitude that we've seen nowhere near enough of over the last 30 years.

Jim Potter
67 Posted 21/06/2017 at 10:57:05
Winning a trophy is what it is all about.

No-one is knocking the importance of our league position. But, unless we do a Leicester, then the title is something we will have to build towards incrementally.

The buzz of a cup win for the fans is enormous. I want that buzz again. I don't care if it is the League Cup – I'd snap your hands off to have that feeling again – and for all those poor young fans I've converted into Blues over the years to feel what it's like to win something. An unbeatable day, an unbeatable feeling and one that lingers with you for decades (as many of us can testify to).

And the confidence instilled into the players will only help their self-belief to go on and do better.

With a bigger and hopefully better squad there's every chance we will improve on last season's league performance.

We cannot afford to dismiss the League Cup – or any game for that matter. We need to develop a winning mentality – which will make us more appealing to better players.

I agree Ray that it will be even better if we keep a core of local / developed players – and those who 'get' our wonderful club. After the U20s success, and with other upcoming age groups, I think we have every possibility of doing that.

Dowell, Walsh, Kenny and others all have probabilities of game time in a very busy season. Davies is going to get plenty of chances. Baines is still a top player. Coleman and Jags may not be locals but they are Evertonians who can help instil the 'way' to others.

Aim for the title by all means, that's what I'll be doing – but a trophy is what we need.


John Raftery
68 Posted 21/06/2017 at 11:25:06
Will (#64),

For the game against Norwich, Koeman rested Lukaku and others while selecting players on the periphery of the squad. Many of those who failed in that match have either already left the club or will do so in due course.

If Koeman's job had been dependent on winning silverware, I am pretty sure he would have selected his first choice eleven for that game. So in that sense, yes I think he did sacrifice performance.

Jim (#66) I agree it is going to take us longer than one season to get on equal terms with those clubs. Not all of this summer's signings will be a success but hopefully they will help us to keep moving in the right direction.

If Koeman builds a squad with more of the qualities you mention in your final paragraph, it is not unreasonable to expect the club to reach 70 points next season. That is only three more wins than we managed last season and would put us within touching distance of the top clubs.

If the team can also go to places like Anfield and The Emirates with a real belief they can compete, that would go a long way to re-establishing the club as one of the elite.

David Israel
69 Posted 21/06/2017 at 16:33:11
Steve (#56), thank you. I now remember his name well, and your spelling is correct.

Will (#62), that is a fantastic story!

I remember a few people around me and my dad asking "who's Trebilcock?" :-)

David Ellis
70 Posted 21/06/2017 at 17:18:28
Trophies over league position... absolutely!

Europa League is also very important for commercial revenue – especially if repeated (which of course requires a good league position..uh oh).

Anyway, it's a false choice – there is no trade-off between high league position and wining "lesser" trophies in practice. The clubs that do well in the league win the other trophies which is why we got into the Europa League on the back of a 7th-placed finish this season.

Lev Vellene
71 Posted 21/06/2017 at 17:34:37
There was this very nice rumour on NewsNow about Fenerbahçe wanting Mirallas! A good player on his day, but far too inconsistent.

Too bad he wants to stay, as such, but any promise to be a regular starter in Turkey just might lure him away. And we'd even get money in return, which could be used to pick up any younger cog in our future machinery...

Brian Williams
72 Posted 21/06/2017 at 17:40:03
Perhaps that was the reason he was given a two-year extension, Lev, to maximise his resale value. ;-)
Lev Vellene
73 Posted 21/06/2017 at 17:54:07
Brian, I really hope that is the actual truth!
Tony Abrahams
74 Posted 21/06/2017 at 18:06:27
Jim Potter@67, great post, mate, winning cups is what it should always be about!

Biggest shock I've ever seen in footballing terms came to me at Wembley, in 1984, and it was mesmerising to me, a football daft 14-year-old kid, who just loved Everton.

Not Watford in May, but against a top class Liverpool side in march, when Everton, completely took the game to them and should have been out of site, before Neville Southall, eventually became our man of the match. We never won the cup that day, but I left Wembley, soaked but very happy because I just knew that the team I had just witnessed playing (my team) were destined to go and win things.

I didn't expect to be Champions, 14 months later, well not until the October when we beat Man Utd twice, and Liverpool at Anfield, but winning breeds confidence, especially in people that want to win, and I can't wait for every young Evertonian to feel like I did at Wembley, when we beat Watford that May!

Brian Williams
75 Posted 21/06/2017 at 18:13:01
Me too, Lev, as I see him as a "luxury" we could well do without.
Will Mabon
76 Posted 21/06/2017 at 21:41:34
John @ 68,

I'm assuming Koeman thought the Norwich game would be a lot easier than it proved, and was using it as an opportunity to rest and try out players, and tactical changes. Not a deliberate sacrifice. As you say, the effect was the same. A lesser commitment perhaps.

Ernie Baywood
77 Posted 22/06/2017 at 04:03:24
Will (#65), I think "happily" sums it up. Below 7th I'd be livid... if we won something, I'd be delirious.

Very fine margins between despair and jubilation in football! Not much room for indifference.

Tom Bowers
79 Posted 22/06/2017 at 17:48:24
The competition for the top 4 is tremendous. The teams that have been there or thereabouts in recent years have all been money clubs except for Leicester who were a one-off.

It will be even tougher this year as teams like Everton and Liverpool are spending money big-time and especially Liverpool who want to spend 40 million on a Salah who has already failed in the Premier League . Go-figure that one out.

Many clubs will feel optimistic when they have new managers and new players but things will soon be clear when the usual suspects start to head the table and we all hope that Everton become a new addition to that bunch in a serious manner.

Will Mabon
80 Posted 22/06/2017 at 20:06:57
In other news, Innocent Everton Team Crest thread brutally slain. Police interviewing editors of popular football website.
Jamie Crowley
81 Posted 22/06/2017 at 22:34:38
I didn't expect us to finish anywhere other than 7th last season. It's kind of "where we belonged" to be honest. All six teams above us were simply better.

I believe this season we should finish above 7th. That shows progress to me. I'd still argue despite the signings, 7th is actually where we'll probably finish.


To be able to say we (and Koeman) are making progress, we need to finish above where we were last season. Whether we play fantastically and rise up the table, or any one of Chelsea, Spurs, Man City, Liverpool, Man Utd, or Arsenal shit the bed and drop down? I care not.

Just get to 6th or higher and I'll be happy.

Oh! and a huge pet peeve of mine – fucking make a run in the League Cup! I could care less if it's Mickey's Trophy! We've one fuck-all for as long as I've been following, fuck-all since 1995 or whatever the fuck year it was, and we've no fucking right to act like it's a sub-par tournament as we've won fucking nothing for ages!

Phew... posting can be so therapeutic sometimes!

We look good. I think we're on the up. Roll on.

Dave Wilson
82 Posted 23/06/2017 at 08:39:30
Only now are we beginning to see what a fantastic manager David Moyes was for Everton.

On a fraction of the budget afforded to the current manager we expected to challenge for top five. Now after spending north of £120m we are expecting to challenge top seven.

The biggest accusation directed at Moyes was that he dampened expectation. The current manager doesn't have to, we have so many fans who are doing it for him.

David McMullen
83 Posted 23/06/2017 at 16:16:19
We've had years of ambitions being dampened being told 7th is about all we can hope for. Apart from the transition under Koeman, we should now start dreaming of the title and cups. With Moshiri in charge instead of Softshite, we are allowed to dream again!
Raymond Fox
84 Posted 23/06/2017 at 21:04:56
Can we get one thing straight, we all want to win everything. Bigging it up on here saying we want to finish higher than 7th won't make a blind bit of difference at the end of the season.

To finish higher than last seasons top six we will need a better squad than at least one of them. Now, if you believe we will have, fair enough; but I for one doubt we will – does that make me a bad supporter?

Do I want us to? Of course, yes, but I take no pleasure in saying I doubt it. We are going to have to spend a lot more than the before-mentioned top six because we are starting some way behind them.

Ray Robinson
85 Posted 23/06/2017 at 21:15:12
Raymond, I agree – that was my the whole point in penning the original OP. We are going to have to spend a shedful just to bridge the gap to the sixth team and then a whole lot again to overtake it.

Are Moshiri's pockets deep enough to sustain a year-on-year investment?

To bridge the gap in one go is not necessarily feasible. Even Man City didn't do it in one fell swoop with all the Sheikh's millions. Optimism indeed but realism please! Let's hope for a few cups along the way meanwhile!

Barry Jones
86 Posted 24/06/2017 at 16:03:37
I think what Chris might be trying to say is that league position is what measures progress, not winning cups, and he would be right. There is an element of luck in winning a cup and it is not a benchmark for improvement at all. Many lower placed teams at least reach the final, most years.

This does not mean to say that we cannot achieve both, strengthening our league position each year and bagging a cup now and again would be ideal. That would really signify progress in terms of quality, consistency and a winning mentality. As Stan said, one game at a time with the intent to win each one.

If the squad does not have the desired strength and depth, then at times the manager will be forced to make some choices which may compromise the objectives. Hopefully this improves as we progress under the current management, so that we can compete on all fronts for the entire season.

In terms of league position, it is not only the place in the table but bridging the gap between the so called elite teams. We need to be in a position to launch a genuine challenge each year, and not being "lapped" by the elite but happy to finish above the other dross. Also, we need to be able to genuinely compete against the top teams when we play them, going into the games with a winning mentality.

If we win one cup this season, I want it to be the Europa League. It delivers obvious benefits, financially, and in attracting better players. In fear of contradicting myself, winning the Europa League would signify progress.

Michael Winstanley
87 Posted 25/06/2017 at 14:25:13
I think qualifying for the Champions League is the 'project' for Moshiri and Koeman. It's where the money is. We've spent a small fortune and yet it's nothing compared to the top players expected to go for £50 million plus.

Realistic expectations? Progression. I'll be happy with 7th again if we have a good Europa League run, the new signings raise the standard of play, more of our U23s step up and we qualify for Europe again, along with better away form in the league.

And Seamus and Bolasie come back in January and give us another boost.

David Currie
88 Posted 26/06/2017 at 02:08:33
Dave (#82), How can Moyes have been fantastic, he never won one trophy with us... crazy comment. Kendall (in his first stint) and the Catt were fantastic.
David Ellis
89 Posted 28/06/2017 at 13:52:26
David (#88) – I think Dave's comments were self explanatory about Moyes. Given the state of the club's finances when he took over he constantly outperformed. In another era, this would have won us trophies. I think he did do a fantastic job for us.

Now we have a once-in-an-era opportunity to break away from the clubs beneath us bolt the door behind us and join the Big 7. We have Moshiri, we have the new stadium, we have Europa League football, we have a great U23 squad, we have a top recruitment team and a big name manager. It's now or never.

We must break into the top 6 and stay there for a few seasons and win some games against them – and if we won the Europa League or managed to finish 4th that would be fantastic. These are now realistic aspirations.

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