Have Great Expectations become Paradise Lost?

On the second anniversary of his arrival at Everton, a look at the Farhad Moshiri reign thus far.

Before a ball was kicked in anger at Watford on Saturday evening (which it wasn’t in fact by anyone in Royal Blue) I put a poll on Twitter to see how fans felt about the “Moshiri era”, with the Second Anniversary nearly upon us. Over 2,000 good folk responded, as you can see, and it revealed a 60/40 split between the Half-Full (or better) and the Half-Empty (or worse).

A number of people commented after the Horror of Vicarage Road that they would have voted differently; that is as maybe, but hard to doubt given the vitriol directed at the players and the Manager at the full time whistle. The fact is that a significant section of the fan base are at least “disappointed” with Moshiri’s impact so far.

The question is: How did this come to pass?

At the end of February 2016, Evertonians thought their ship had finally come in. A new billionaire major (not majority) shareholder had arrived, meaning at long last we could spend significantly in order to compete for honours, as the Premier League era demanded. Bill was staying as Chairman to ensure things were done “the Everton way”, and, of course, there was talk of a much-needed brand new stadium.

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The initial signs were great. Decisive action taken to:

  • Replace the fantasist (and future World Cup winning manager?) Martinez
  • Appoint our own Hollywood manager in Koeman
  • Poach the “brains behind Leicester’s title win” as Director of Football
  • Clear the Club of all external debt

We put to sea in summer 2016 on a super yacht, and in February 2018 we are limping back to the Pier Head in a rickety rowing boat, Big Sam sat back sunning himself, whilst Little Sam bails water out furiously.

We thought we had a chance to dine in a Michelin starred restaurant and, instead, find ourselves eating warmed-up leftovers washed down with slightly warmer own label Lambrusco (other wines are available).

I could carry on with analogies, but you get the idea. Let’s be clear, though, nothing was guaranteed, and we knew it would take time with a few bumps along the way. Nevertheless, with over £200m spent, and four managers in, the current scenario was inconceivable to the vast majority, wasn’t it?

How is it we have gone from Koeman the Messiah to Allardyce the saviour? For me, it all comes down to leadership, and the lack of it across the Board.

It’s human nature to look for people to blame, especially in the modern social media age. This season, fans have booed our own players, with Morgan Schneiderlin being the main target of late. Now I have no time for him, ever since he was spotted laughing at our final Europa League hammering, but why blame him? Blame the man who picks him, surely. Better still, blame whoever appointed the man who picks him.

So who did appoint Allardyce? Who in their right mind thought he was the man we needed? Yes, things were bleak, and we were looking like relegation fodder, but there was still more than half the season left. Surely we could have found a better fit. In fact, we were told by Moshiri that Allardyce was the “perfect man to take Everton forward”

You might as well pull down the shutters on the School of Science. No sign of Bill in the picture? Quite telling. Whatever you think of Bill, he would never have appointed Allardyce himself, in my view. Bill may be the Chairman, but Sam was Farhad’s man. And assuming he was, then his appointment means the current Board is dysfunctional; if they are just following orders from the major shareholder, then they have made themselves redundant.

After an initial (dead cat) bounce, which did not include the 4-0 win against West Ham by the way, chickens are coming home to roost. Sam’s media utterances are mixing the worst of Koeman’s arrogance with the delusion of Martinez and becoming an even greater insult to the fans’ intelligence.

As the face of Everton, the Manager’s comments are analysed more than anyone’s. It is quite clear that Sam is pursuing his own agenda; the Club has to do more to make sure he is on message. Before you can do that, though, you need to have a clear message; a message that all the Board is thoroughly bought into. That message only comes from a leader, a leader with ambition and confidence.

Crucially, for a football club, a results business, our results and performances have plumbed new depths of late, so much so that even the Echo has gone native (see inset).

Let’s look at one or two other decisions:

  • Warm weather trip to Dubai? Who thought that was a good way of rewarding the underachieving team, or even preparing for a freezing Saturday night in Watford?
  • The small matter of signings. We are nowhere nearer knowing how these are made and who signs off on them. The one constant of the Moshiri years is Steve Walsh. The man called Director of Football does not even sit on the Board; can he really be the man who approves all our transfer activity? If he is, you wonder how he is still in a job.

This brings me back to leadership, or rather lack of it. Whilst on pitch has spiralled downwards in Moshiri’s second full season there should still be plenty of good news off the pitch, notably the prospect of a new stadium (on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey). Even more reason then to accentuate these positives right now and to move things forward.

The Annual General Meeting  in early January seemed to do just that with the announcement of the innovative financing solution in partnership with Liverpool City Council. Now, we hear that the CEO may have jumped the gun, and, indeed, may not have actually said that two-thirds of the cost would be funded by LCC. Did my eyes deceive me?

Did the Board not all agree and buy into the CEO’s presentation? If they didn’t, we are back to a dysfunctional corporate structure.

Rumours have been doing the rounds that Moshiri may be about to take more control, perhaps exercising his options on the second anniversary over the remaining shares of Bill, Jon Woods etc, and Bill may step down. There are also rumours that stadium financing is nearing approval by LCC. Both would be welcome, of course, but appear less likely with every passing day. Still no pictures of Bramley-Moore, whilst Dan Meis is champing at the bit, it would seem.

For now we seem rudderless, lost at sea with nobody on the bridge, but lots of highly paid people shuffling deck chairs. Two years on, are we any nearer knowing and understanding the Moshiri plan? Crucially, are we any better on the pitch than we were when he arrived?

Two years on, if 40% of the fan base are half-empty it’s time for some clear leadership and  communication. Time for the major shareholder to stand up and take responsibility; time to explain the plan in detail and appoint the right people to deliver it.

Evertonians are cut from the very best cloth, and we’re smart enough not to be taken for mugs. The Club needs the fans more than ever; don’t risk losing them, then you’ll have lost everything. Ellis Short will vouch for that; he can’t give Sunderland and their Stadium of Light away for free.

Later this week John Blain, the esk and I will be reviewing the first two years of “Moshiri’s Everton” on EvertonBusinessMatters in EBM XXI. Do give that a listen, if you can find the time; till then, thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts, and do let me know yours.


You can read more from Rodger's blog at rodgerarmstrong.com

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Reader Comments (26)

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Jon Withey
1 Posted 26/02/2018 at 19:48:26
There seem to be many on the forums who often lay the blame at Kenwright's feet but it strikes me that he is losing influence and things are getting worse not better.

In that sense it is hard for me to be "glass half-full" as Moshiri's arrival has disrupted things, like we all wanted, but so far not for the better.

The club does remind me of old Newcastle and Sunderland at the moment – spending money but not very wisely. As if spending money on its own will somehow bring success – in reality, the less-rich clubs are just charging us more for the same old quality of player. This has been apparent from Bolasie onwards.

The team master-plan isn't working, but I still have to retain the hope that these are growing pains and that at least the stadium master plan will be more successful.

Ultimately, the fans wanted a new owner and we are in that transition, for better or worse.

Lawrence Green
2 Posted 26/02/2018 at 20:10:10
Jon (#1),

I think that's partly the issue, when a new owner/buyer was found it should have been a fresh start for Everton FC, with as many as practicable of those associated with the previous 20 years removed and replaced. Unfortunately, Moshiri's lack of football knowledge meant that he had to retain the old guard and that has led to in essence having two leaders at the club even if it wasn't meant to be that way in practice.

It's been an expensive lesson so far for Moshiri, but it's the club that ultimately pays for those mistakes both financially and out on the pitch.

If Moshiri doesn't assume full control in name and deed in the near future, I can't see how we can escape the downward spiral that we are on. Fresh blood, fresh ideas and a commitment to the project is what's needed right now if we are to make something respectable out of the wreckage that has been created in the last few years.

Brian Harrison
3 Posted 26/02/2018 at 20:33:22
I think the only criticism we can level at Moshiri is maybe listening to people who probably he shouldn't have taken advice from. Now I can only assume our chairman had a big influence on some of the decisions, maybe Walsh as Director of Football and maybe the sacking of Koeman.

But, as Brian Clough said to Sam Longsdon the chairman at Derby County, "Sam, you just sign the cheques and leave the football matters to me." And that is exactly what Moshiri has done. His backing has allowed them to spend over £200 million in the transfer market – the 6th highest spenders in Europe over the last 2 windows. He has purchased the land for a new ground and written off our debt. Not a bad start in a very short time.

So, in the pecking order of who the finger should be pointed at, then Moshiri comes way down the pecking order. Now it could rightly be said he appointed Allardyce – a man I would never have near this club but for me he thought "I do it protect my huge investment" and went for a man with a track record of never having a club relegated. This will no doubt be an expensive mistake that hopefully he will rectify at the end of the season.

Clive Rogers
4 Posted 26/02/2018 at 20:45:24
Moshiri's big mistakes are keeping Kenwright as chairman and appointing Walsh as Director of Football. Both of these mistakes should be rectified in the summer.
Kevin Tully
5 Posted 26/02/2018 at 21:01:12
The last person we should be pointing the finger at is Mr Moshiri. He's cleared a vast web of loans and mortgages that were strangling this club, and nearly seen us go into administration.

I know the figure of £200m is mentioned, but this piece in The Guardian tells us a little more:

So, who was responsible for wasting the biggest opportunity we've ever had to put us back on the map? Not a tax-exile in Monaco, that's for sure. Who brought "our boy" back on £150k a week, our highest ever paid player? As usual with Everton, when things are going badly, you don't hear a peep out of anyone.

Moshiri is a benefactor, even the Chairman said so himself last month: "The biggest benefit in world football is having a benefactor who says ‘yes',” said the Blues Chairman. “Someone has to say yes to those millions. But him (Moshiri) – I've never heard him in the two years we've been together say ‘no'. He says ‘yes' to the managers, to me – he's a true Blue. He's the difference."

Kenwright is still running this club, don't be fooled by him – again. Until he goes off to count the £43m he's made, and take the rest of his rabble with him, we will carry on making the same stupid mistakes.

Anyone wanting to blame Moshiri for any of the current malaise needs to take a serious look at themselves.

Lawrence Green
6 Posted 26/02/2018 at 21:02:50
There's nothing in the following link that we didn't already know but I'm sure the owner/Board won't be too happy with the situation and less so if the nationals are spelling things out.

Unhappy Fans: Terrible Team

Sam said 15 unhappy fans on the internet... hmmmm, might be a few more than that, mate.

Phillip Warrington
7 Posted 26/02/2018 at 21:02:56
Everton at the moment can't buy the best players, if they would willingly come to Everton at the present, so we have to be smarter and be a big club and not pay over the top prices for players closer to 30 than 20 years of age. We should have scouts on every continent and that's where the money should be spent.

Like Man City, we should buy shares or ownerships in a couple of clubs so that you can farm out some of the talents you pick up around the continent. At worst you make profit from the ones that don't make Premier League standards – surely that's better than paying £30 or 40 mill for a better than middle age has-been that, in a couple of years, their resale value would be 75% less.

For a club whose motto used to be "The School of Science, they are not acting very smart; there are at least 12 clubs that big name players would go to before us. So, unless we can show through a manager and a style of play, and the infrastructure to support and expand that style of play, we have no chance. Just splashing money around because we have some, without any plan or direction, will result in another Sunderland.

If you decided to sell the players we have now, how many of them could you really off-load? Except the young players who have come up through the system, how many of the players bought in the 2 years would Everton get even close to 75% of what they paid for them? And they are no better than the players coming through the Under-23s – that in itself tells the true story of where Everton are currently at.

Set up the best scouting network world wide, buy ownership's or partnerships in some clubs around the globe so that not only will you unearth some talent – this also gives the club a global foundation and shows future signings the club is heading in the right direction. That it is a club worth signing for and not an early retirement club which is what Everton are becoming – and it is in serious danger of loosing its highly talented youth.

Jack Convery
8 Posted 26/02/2018 at 21:26:30
I keep asking myself: Why didn't he buy 51% minimum?

Also, is he a front man for Usmanov?

The whole thing stinks to me. An awful lot of smoke and mirrors going on at Goodison Park.

Martin Nicholls
9 Posted 26/02/2018 at 21:43:55
Fingers have been pointed at successive managers, Director of Football, the players, Kenwright and now Moshiri but I wonder what long-serving director Jon Woods's role is in the shambles that is EFC?
Brian Denton
10 Posted 27/02/2018 at 00:16:39
Shouldn't mix Dickens and Milton. How about 'Great Expectations or Bleak House'?

Fee to my usual account.

Ian Riley
11 Posted 27/02/2018 at 00:48:57
Spend nearly quarter of a billion on players over the past two years. Our wage bill must be frightening to add up but, after Saturday's performance, I have no excuses. Something is very wrong!
Don Alexander
12 Posted 27/02/2018 at 01:31:38
Kenwright has been right at the heart of our club for all of our time since the Premier League was created, and it's been ever worsening for the club in every single year since.

Don't tell me that once finishing fourth was some kind of notable achievement. Moshiri needs to recognize that and act to be rid of him, immediately. He then needs to be rid of all the acolytes Kenwright's employed. They are little more than his useless yes-men. I guarantee none of them will be employed in future by any Premier League club, with the possible exception of Unsworth, as a youth team coach only.

What the rest of the board do is as mysterious as the dark side of the moon too, obviously apart from that nice lady who only seems to assuage the needy in our "Community".

Nice as EitC is, we deserve a helluva lot more than that, Mr Moshiri, as do you.

David McMullen
13 Posted 27/02/2018 at 10:17:53
The phrase "don't bite the hand that feeds you" comes to mind. Once people start laying in to Moshiri, I'd be worried if he will cut his losses. Really not a good way forward at all.

I can see there are issues at the club even to the average fan. We all recognise the lack of clarity on transfers and Steve Walsh's role. But this season has seen the club behave very amateurish – the revealing of Tosun at half time and the leaking of the team news just the latest.

Moshiri might well be wet behind the ears in the football world but he's not daft. He's been sloppy with the "unexpected losses" statement and the communication with Jim White. I don't personally blame him for the Allardyce appointment as we were going down and Allardyce came in and got those wins I dare say the 4-0 win over West Ham was influenced by his arrival. It had to happen.

Football wise we are seeing utter drivel which is the flipside of Allardyce I guess but also the players themselves are getting away with it time and time again. Cost Martinez his job and Koeman his and Unsworth wasn't getting anywhere with this bunch.

Kevin Campbell said we need a young hungry ruthless manager. That's what's going to have to happen in the summer when we press "reset" once again.

Kristian Boyce
14 Posted 27/02/2018 at 20:55:24
Where we are today, reminds me a lot like the early days of the Abu Dhabi takeover at Man City. With their new found wealth, they were big at throwing money around on average players, with not much cohesion on squad balance or direction.

After a year or so, the owners got down to business and restructured the whole club, hiring quality management, both on the playing side and behind the scenes. The biggest impact was bringing in Ferran Soriano as CEO and Txiki Begiristain as DOF. Their experience at Barca, made them more that qualified to run a successful club. It hurts to say, but when you look at Man City now, they are a well-oiled mega business that has a strong future.

With Moshiri's takeover, other than him installing someone on the board, not much has changed. Even with us hiring a DOF, that looks like a Kenwright hire, as it includes a tint of nostalgia as his brother used to play for us.

Someone posted the other day about a rumour of Allardyce getting the boot and the rest of the board would follow suit in the summer. I didn't think much of it, until I was reading the match report on Monday in the Guardian, which hinted at a full management change.

Moshiri isn't a stupid man; even if he isn't a 'football' person, he still is a very successful business man. I imagine he's taking a similar route to Man City, and using this past year as indicator to where improvements are needed. I think it's going to be goodbye to Kenwright and Elstone come the summer, with Walsh following suit. I could see Walsh staying in a chief scout position though, which he is widely regarded in.

I also foresee Allardyce on his way out, along with the abundance of under-performing players who've plodded their way through this and the last 2-3 seasons. I can see a very different Everton in the summer, one that finally becomes a profession business, not one that plays off cliches like 'the People's Club".

The club has hung on for too long to the romance of yesteryear. A departure from Goodison, considered both positively and negatively as 'what football used to be like' will add to this change. While many will not like the changes, it's the only real way of competing with the top competition.

Lawrence Green
15 Posted 27/02/2018 at 22:01:46
Kristian (#14),

Perhaps there is some truth about those rumours, perhaps not. John Blain, Chair of the Everton FC Shareholders Association, has spoken to the Echo about his first meeting with Farhad Moshiri some 18 months ago and his desire to arrange another meeting with the Iranian in the near future.

'I trust what Farhad Moshiri has said – but Everton shareholders must ask the question'

Ian Bennett
16 Posted 27/02/2018 at 22:14:05
The Director of Football model has failed yet again. How many times in English football has it worked?

We need to make the right managerial appointment with vision. Clear the decks and get it right. No more false dawns.

James Flynn
17 Posted 27/02/2018 at 22:19:19
Kristian (14) - Those last 2 paragraphs. I agree.

I'll add that Moshiri is a guy saw his fortunes soar as the main man for a fellow dines at Putin's table, Usmanov. So, he is no one's fool.

We should keep in mind that so much has happened since Moshiri bought in, it's easy to forget it's only 24 months he's been in control of the Club:

He's got rid of Earle (Greene?).

Taken on the Club debt interest-free.

Purchased the Liver Building.

Bought property on the docks and has the work there going forward. (With all that entails; including funding from the city).

All in 24 months, almost to the day. Fantastic business.

Moshiri realizes all his plans collapse if the product on the pitch is shit. Which it is right now.

He's left, in these 24 months, the running of the player-side of things to others. None of us kid ourselves; a big mistake staring (laughing) in our faces.

So, I'm with Kristian. Better days ahead.

Since he's seen his massive investment in players largely flushed down the toilet, I believe he'll make the moves to get competent football men into the fold. This Summer.

Ernie Baywood
18 Posted 28/02/2018 at 01:59:47
I was of the view back in the pre-Moshiri days that it would take a miracle for us to make the kind of step change we wanted without money.

Then came Moshiri. Yes, it's gone a bit tits up so far and he's made plenty of mistakes. But we do now seem to have money and ambition. That gives us potential that we didn't have before.

With the exception of his money and ambition there's really not been much to like. Some awful decisions, some embarrassing interviews, and no sign as yet of the club getting its act together.

But if we can address the basics... have an understanding of what we're trying to be, do our due diligence on signings, stick to a plan... basically the stuff we used to do reasonably well. Then we have some serious potential because money allied to ambition is a game changer.

So maybe that doesn't mean the end of Kenwright? He understood the basics of running a football club didn't he? Certainly we seemed to do more with less under his ownership. He just didn't have the money, the vision or the ambition and copped a lot of criticism for it. Moshiri seems to bring those things.

With both ownership and team management, we seem to be a Goldilocks club. We've got to get it 'just right' eventually?

Brian Murray
19 Posted 28/02/2018 at 06:10:03
James Flynn (#17), and Ernie (#18).

Let's hope me and thousands of others have got it totally wrong about Pantomime Boy and he is just misunderstood. For a moment, imagine them shysters and how would they handle our glorious failures in transfers and ambition? Would they stand for it?

Anyway despite Moshiri's mad comments, I'm sure you're at least half-right and he wont get his and our fingers burned... yet again. Here's to Eddie's Blue and White army. Or Fonseca's, or any other fucker's...

Rick Tarleton
20 Posted 28/02/2018 at 09:04:20
To continue the literary analogy, it's become more like "An Elegy in St Luke's Churchyard".
Roger Trenwith
21 Posted 28/02/2018 at 12:12:32
We do seem somewhat rudderless at the moment, and one can only hope that Moshiri takes full control in the summer. I'm not a Bill hater, but it is time he retired, as much for his own sake as anyone else's.

It is difficult to know who was responsible for hiring Sam, but Moshiri is not known for his deep football knowledge. Someone must have been advising him. Bill? Who knows. In any event, ultimately it was Moshiri's decision as it's his money being spent. No-one would invest what he has into buying up shares and making interest free no-term loans without ensuring control, even if technically he doesn't own the voting majority of shares, yet.

As far as player investment goes, expectations among the fans have rightly risen, as at last we are in a position to spend comparable amounts to those who we would wish were our closest rivals in the division. Unfortunately in the modern social media age, patience is not so much a virtue as a species on the verge of extinction.

I would remind the more impatient in the fanbase that it will take at least three close seasons of constant spending before we are capable of challenging for the top 6 on a consistent basis. It took both Chelsea and Man City at least that long, and our lovely neighbours have spent shedloads every close season for donkeys years and are still a way off from being title challengers.

Let's just get this nightmare season over, and take it from there, hopefully with a new young and ambitious manager at the helm, and Moshiri in complete control. What could go wrong? ;)

Eric Myles
22 Posted 28/02/2018 at 16:37:42
Ernie (#18), it was Moyes that understood the basics of running a football club and did more with less when he was here.
James Flynn
23 Posted 28/02/2018 at 23:22:00
Brian (19) – "Let's hope me and thousands of others have got it totally wrong about Pantomime Boy and he is just misunderstood."

I'm responding assuming "Pantomime Boy" is Moshiri. (Not sure why he'd be called that.)

Misunderstood in what way by you and your thousands? My view is that he had to give someone authority on player moves for all the reasons I listed above. He was working on, and has done, settling Club finance and getting the ball rolling on a new stadium. I'm happy with those dealings, so far.

"For a moment, imagine them shysters and how would they handle our glorious failures in transfers and ambition? Would they stand for it?"

Again I'm guessing, "them shysters" is the RS? Everton is not in their position. Despite not winning the league in forever, they have fielded many first-rate sides along the way; in recent years the Gerrard-led Champions League winners, the Suarez-led crew and Klopp's current one. Moyes did lead us to finishing above them in the Table a couple times. That's it.

"Would they stand for it?" Given their track record, it appears they wouldn't. What does that have to do with Evertonians' view of Everton?

"Anyway despite Moshiri's mad comments, I'm sure you're at least half-right and he wont get his and our fingers burned... yet again."

Fingers crossed, brother. I'm taking the view that Moshiri is savvy enough to realize throwing his money away based on Kenwright et al's opinions isn't working.

"Here's to Eddie's Blue and White army."

No! Fuck no! Eddie Howe?

"Or Fonseca" Yes, all day. Let's try giving a proven winner, Paulo, a go for a change.

Eric Myles
24 Posted 01/03/2018 at 05:33:03
James (#23), surely Pantomime Boy would refer to the theatre impresario on our board who has overseen the pantomime that EFC has become over the last 12+ years?
James Flynn
26 Posted 01/03/2018 at 16:04:24
Eric (#24) – Okay, thanks. Then the description "Pantomime Boy" makes sense.
Tony Abrahams
44 Posted 01/03/2018 at 17:17:16
Good article, Rodger. I would also agree that we are rudderless at the minute, and after reading Lawrence's link @15, I just hope Farhad Moshiri has got some very big decisions to make very soon.

I think Moshiri, has done a lot of very good things since he acquired Everton, but he's not without fault considering some of the people Everton continue to employ.

I heard that he acquired a lot of his wealth both through good fortune and also being very good at his job, and this is what Everton need more than anything right now.

We need to employ better people, both on and off the pitch. Players and a manager who are driven to succeed, and people who understand how to run a very successful football club, in the background. It's not easy, it never is, but if a fool and his money are not to be easily parted, then this is Moshiri's biggest challenge.

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