Kicking the Can Down the Road

In modern day language it means deferring, putting off difficult decisions, to postpone a difficult action. To me it singularly defines the last 12 to 18 months at Goodison Park.

Paul The Esk 19/04/2018 26comments  |  Jump to last

“Kicking the can down the road” forms part of the lyrics of Randy Newan’s achingly sad “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” written back in 1968, ironically when perhaps (and unknown to him for sure) Everton and indeed the City of Liverpool were at the peak of their powers.

In modern day language it means deferring, putting off difficult decisions, to postpone a difficult action. To me it singularly defines the last 12 to 18 months at Goodison Park.

For the last 12 months on the EvertonBusinessMatters podcast, and for a while longer on this blog, I/we have highlighted the areas of deficiency I (and increasingly many others) have identified within the club.

The list will be all too familiar, be it moribund commercial performance, appalling communications strategy, prolonged lead up to the financing and planning approval of Bramley-Moore, and on the pitch the poor manager and coaching team selection, the poor player recruitment, the inability to retain our best players, let alone an underwhelming and under-performing Director of Football, the complete destruction of any playing philosophy, the unwillingness of players “to put a shift in”, turgid tactics, performances and horrific result after result.

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In all the complete antithesis of Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.

How on earth does it come to this?

Farhad Moshiri is an intelligent man. He was identified and headhunted by Usmanov from what must have been many, many advisors clambering for his attention as the man to be entrusted with his growing metals, mining, telecommunications businesses and other interests. As a result, he grew his own fortune sharing a significant minority interest in Usmanov’s holding company. Today he still is Chairman of USM a phenomenally successful business despite the most recent difficulties Russian businesses and their owners face.

That’s all background, it doesn’t answer the question posed? Why is almost every area of the football club under-performing? His intellect and business skills have not seen an improvement in Everton’s footballing or corporate performance, in fact I’d argue the reverse.

Prior to Moshiri the club survived for many years on a risk averse basis, with a solid relationship between manager(s) & Chairman whilst sweating the asset as far as they (or more accurately the banks) would allow. This requires a different methodology and skill set to a business that becomes well-resourced and is looking to expand commercially and operationally.

Whatever talents the Board under Kenwright and the administration of Elstone and other executives had in tight financial conditions, they have demonstrably proven inadequate since Moshiri arrived. I stress this is not wistful thinking harking back to the dark days of the past, we stagnated under the previous regime whilst our major competitors raced ahead and that should always be remembered.

Lack of leadership

What is clear, is that from board down there is no leadership within the club at present. Moshiri almost certainly has a plan and he’s probably shared it with at least one or two directors, but it seems the rest of the organisation is either blissfully unaware or incapable of executing it.

There can only be a limited number of reasons why we find ourselves in the position we are in.  Either Moshiri has a plan or he hasn’t, but as stated above it’s impossible to believe someone who possibly will have committed nearly £500 million by the time the stadium is built and fully financed does so on a whim. If you remember he came to Liverpool FC on behalf of Usmanov in 2005 with a plan including partial ownership and stadium funding, so much of this is not new thinking.

So perhaps the plan hasn’t been articulated sufficiently to the Board? Perhaps there’s communication problems at that level? That seems unlikely given the close relationship between himself and Sasha Ryazantsev, the role Keith Harris plays from his London base, and his relationship with Kenwright.

Maybe the board, including two representatives of the senior executive team in Robert Elstone and Denise Barrett-Baxendale don’t communicate sufficiently in detail or frequency to ensure instructions are followed, and questions are answered when the executive team requires them?

Finally, perhaps communications are fine, but the people charged with executing the strategy are just not good enough across the business.

The need for change

Whatever the reasons, and from the outside one can only speculate and use experiences elsewhere to suggest possible causes, there must be change. We cannot afford to continue as is.

We’re faced with so many competitive issues. Our competitors are bigger than us, and continue to grow faster than us. It used to be the “Sky 4” who were bigger than us, then it’s become the “big 6”. For much of the last two years I’ve expected us to do the things we have to do to make it a “big 7”, then we gradually climb the rankings of those 7 back to where almost every Blue believes we belong and hopes we will return.

However, the longer we continue to “kick the can down the road” and not address the serious issues the business has the more difficult the task becomes.

Our competitors grow stronger, those below us close the gap and perhaps overtake us. We will find it more difficult to attract the right talent in the business, the best business partners, on the football management side and of course, on the pitch itself. The task of persuading a player to join us must be more difficult this summer than last. Even the goodwill, patience and loyalty of the finest supporters in the land are finite.

There’s an immediate requirement for change at the top of the organisation, be that an Executive Chair who is involved day to day, or a really heavy hitting CEO who for the next few years eats, sleeps and drinks Everton.

It has to be someone who can express the vision both within the club but also to all of the stakeholders outside whose engagement, and agreement to do business with Everton we must secure in order to advance.

It has to be someone who can attract fresh management talent and thinking into the business.

It must be someone prepared to take tough, and perhaps unpopular decisions from time to time so that we keep moving forward in line with the plan.

To not do so, particularly at this time endangers not only Moshiri’s investment (although that’s not necessarily our premier concern) but the very competitiveness of the club. Moshiri said we have a narrow window of opportunity – that extends on the pitch, it extends with Bramley Moore, it extends to our ability to do commercial deals. If we continue to do nothing to improve the situation, and by that I mean bring leadership and fresh talent into the business then all is at risk.

The song “I think it’s going to rain today” contains the lyrics “Tin can at my feet, Think I’ll kick it down the street, That’s the way to treat a friend”. The Everton can has been kicked far enough down Goodison Road, and back a few times, that’s no way to treat the friends of Everton in my opinion.

Allow change to happen whilst it can still make a difference, and frankly whilst the fans (or friends) still care enough to kick up a fuss. The moment we stop caring, it will be too late!

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Reader Comments (26)

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Colin Maughn
1 Posted 19/04/2018 at 21:15:31
Straight to the point.
Lawrence Green
2 Posted 19/04/2018 at 21:34:10
I can't believe that a person who invests so much money into the club doesn't have a plan to improve the club on all fronts.

It does look like Moshiri deciding to keep the old guard has proved unwise, most of them have been there for eons and like most people will be adverse to change, even if that change may be good for the business.

If Moshiri wants Everton to compete at the top, he has to hire the best people in all departments and areas of the club. It seems that there is some tension between what Moshiri might like to see and what the Ancien Regime's vision of the club is.

At the moment, the club looks completely lost and bewildered and, if it continues on its present trajectory, not only will it be unable to compete with the top six it may find it difficult to compete with most clubs in the Premier League.

Get a grip, somebody, the warning signs are there... take heed and do something and soon!

Steve Ferns
3 Posted 19/04/2018 at 22:13:38
Superb again, Paul. You really know your onions.
Dave Abrahams
4 Posted 19/04/2018 at 22:14:03
Elstone is going at the end of the season; how do Kenwright, Wood and Barrett-Baxendale help Everton Football club to do better on the field?

It's Everton FC I am interested in — not EitC, no matter how much good they do.

Paul Birmingham
5 Posted 19/04/2018 at 22:16:07
Paul The Esk, very well written and spot on. This summary should be given full view to the board.

As it stands all considered, at 22:07 hrs BST, 19 April 2018, perhaps the farce of the fan survey, is perhaps a mask to defer Bramley-Moore Dock to the back drawer?

May be this is the clubs way of saying what's the point of a new stadium, if the supporters don't rate the manager, coaches and board, which by rule of thumb, may be close to the truth for many Evertonians, and I respect all Evertonians' views.

Then the case the team is crap, so based on very piss-poor results this season and generally the last 30 years, is a good team more important than the finest stadium in the UK, with a feeble and poor 1st team?

I've not been on the ale tonight, but events the last few weeks suggest anything could happen between now and the start of the new season.

No longer disillusioned, almost resigned to mediocrity, but please let's hope salvation is found soon as the club is on the edge of the abyss.

The club is in a mess, and has lost its endearment to the fans.

Steve Ferns
6 Posted 19/04/2018 at 22:29:14
Dave, if Elstone leaves, then we need to redefine the CEO role. It needs the responsibility for transfer and contract negotiations taken away and given to either a technical director or to be encompassed into a more powerful Director of Football role. Steve Walsh has just been a glorified head scout so far, and his role needs to be redefined or to be split into two.

CEO – club finances, marketing and commercial activities.
Technical Director – transfers and player contracts
Director of Football – Recruitment of players and staff (but not the contractual side)
Head Coach – team selection and coaching

I'd have these 4 on a transfer committee, maybe with another scout or whatever. But the Head Coach should have final say on transfer activity. And I used a Lukaku example on another thread, Martinez sanctioned the permanent transfer of Lukaku at the expense of the budget for the next 18-24 months. Such a measure should only be taken where the Head Coach gives his authorisation and full understanding.

Don Alexander
7 Posted 19/04/2018 at 23:20:04
I fear Moshiri will wilt this summer on making any sort of right decision/s in terms of boardroom personnel because I was astounded he kept Kenwright in the chairman role.

I regret to say that everything I've heard Moshiri say about football as a sport has dismayed me. He seems to be at best naive on that issue, the only issue me as a fan is interested in, and I do want to be kind to him given the level of his financial commitment thus far.

Surely, given Kenwright's ill-health when he bought in, Moshiri must have had another in mind to chair the board in the event that Kenwright's health worsened. I'd be amazed and probably appalled if he hadn't (and I wish a full, swift recovery to anyone in ill-health by the way) so I just hope that by whatever means legally available Moshiri now realises that the boardroom "team" he inherited have skills that are modestly useful only to clubs where perpetually "knowing your place" and "being nice" are the only things that matter.

Those two features were in no way part of the mandate that Moshiri personally set out when he bought in. His (in)actions this summer will therefore hugely illustrate whether his mandate remains sustainable.

Mike Gaynes
8 Posted 19/04/2018 at 23:38:08
I think Moshiri's "deciding to keep the old guard", as Lawrence Green put it, made perfect sense when he was new to the club.

He has now been at the helm for just over two years. It's time for him to shed his training wheels and take full control.

A powerhouse CEO is clearly top priority, but bringing in new directors to support that CEO will be critical as well. A top executive requires more than owner-granted powers... he requires organizational support and commitment.

Moshiri should be shopping for that chief executive already, making clear that his first task should be to hire a new manager... and the second to hire an director-level marketing exec to communicate the club's vision to the world.

Over to you, Farhad. Time to step up... or step out.

Tom Hughes
9 Posted 20/04/2018 at 09:17:57
How much has Moshiri really invested beyond the cost of his shares, and any boost from new TV Money? Are we really sure he is anything but a frontman for someone else, a la Robert Earl and Pip Green?

I only ask because he's hardly an ever-present at games, and he left the old-guard in place, so who's to say what he really represents, what his real intentions are, and where his real commitment lies?

For many years, Moyes had the relative buffer of low expectation following enforced low expenditure, nurtured after years of this "kicking the can" and "sweating of assets" had left the club potless, and truly on the precipice. So this is not a new phenomenon at EFC.

That said, necessity being the mother of invention, the cash-injection from the sale of Wayne Rooney, and a good eye for a bargain allowed him to at least fashion a team (maybe 2 teams) from the mere morsels that he had to generate himself. He managed this despite the board, not because of it. There was at least a direction and an understanding, as Tim Cahill recently said.

Before the beginning of the season, a lot of people made positive noises about all our headline new appointments on and off the pitch, but it now appears that they were mainly duds. Costly duds too. Time will tell if Mosh has shot his/our bolt...

The solid sides that Moyes created on a zero net spend over a 10 year period seem a distant memory, and has been slowly whittled away to be replaced by a mainly dysfunctional collection of individuals of questionable quality. Most of whom offering us little or no return, nor appreciating sell-on value.

Martinez inherited a good side and was offered the absolute luxury of a real goal-scorer, and still fell short in the end. The Dutchman and Walsh were just more headline signings, to supposedly demonstrate the new policy of getting the right men for the right job. They were given a fortune to spend, and yet continued our decline by mainly squandering it.

Off the pitch, the stadium question seems to generate more twists and turns then ever, almost to the point of being little more than a distraction now (perhaps a convenient one). The process to date can be at best described as "muddled" and incoherent, with few if any of the usual landmark stages established.

I'm not sure that I can remember the precise chronology, but did Moshiri's involvement predate the initial mention of Bramley-Moore Dock? Or, was he (and/or his backers) simply enticed by the prospect of a quick ROI via a stadium project on top of a major waterfront redevelopment scheme? Was the misplaced motive of the Commonwealth Games too big an influence in the first place? To that end, was the acquisition of prime office space just another headine box-ticker in the mishmash of good intention, or just indicative of ulterior profiteering motives?

At what point do we stop merely generating headlines, and begin to genuinely move forward both on and off the pitch? That will require far more incisive process and decision-making than we have seen thus far.

Ray Roche
10 Posted 20/04/2018 at 09:21:53
I think with the sort of recruitment that is required, and by that, I mean from CEO downward, a "Payment By Results" clause should be inserted, a bonus scheme where success on the pitch, on the commercial side etc. should be rewarded. This at the expense of a high salary, which is paid regardless of any improvement. Make them, as the Esk says, "eats, sleeps and drinks Everton"

At the moment, we can see Lardarse not giving a flying one about our results now... feet up, job done, looking to his Spanish villa for some R and R, his arrogance stupefying. What a twat.

John Keating
11 Posted 20/04/2018 at 13:44:47
I think the CEO is key. We need a professional, no-nonsense, totally dedicated hard arse. Someone who will take no shit, a bit of a Daniel Levy plus. A top class CEO will bring in the management team that we are sadly lacking in all disciplines. Let Mr Moshiri source the finance and give the vision and leave the day to day running to the CEO.

Regarding the football side, I'm a bit "old-fashioned", I'm afraid, and believe the manager should manage the recruitment and style of play. I just cannot get my head around buying players who are not necessarily those the manager may want and trying to fit them into a style they may not be comfortable in.

Unless we get the boardroom right, then whoever comes in as manager at the end of the season will struggle.

Steve Ferns
12 Posted 20/04/2018 at 13:57:10
John, I don't see how the Director of Football can enforce a particular style on the manager.

If the Director of Football is responsible for the team playing a certain way, then it's by identifying the manager who can get the team to play that way, playing a part in the interview process by discussing playing styles (in a way that the board cannot as they don't have the technical ability to do so), and then making certain agreements that the manager will play that way. He can then identify players to fit that shared vision but the manager should make the ultimate decision on them coming in.

A Director of Football who favours possession-based football would not work well with Allardyce, and so should not hire Allardyce. He shouldn't be able to force Allardyce to play like Barcelona. That's just crazy and will never work.

John Keating
13 Posted 20/04/2018 at 15:41:56

What I am trying to say is that personally I do not want a DOF. Those clubs that have them, I do not think the DOF "enforces" a particular style but I just cannot see two people having similar views on styles and personnel. I just think the manager should have total control on the players brought in and the style to suit them. Players to fit the system – not system to fit the players.

I also think one good thing from the Moyes era was the thought given to players fitting in. Looking at our recent buys it appears to me they have little if any team spirit, whether playing under Koeman, Unsworth or Allardyce.

Anyway, my initial post wasn't so much about the merits or not of a DOF – it was about the utmost importance of getting the correct CEO, after which I believe things would come into place at all levels.

James Power
14 Posted 20/04/2018 at 18:26:28
I love it - let's solve the board room as well as the team and manager: “get me a CEO” not a run of the mill CEO... I want Dave Hard-Ass from the Hard Ass Business School, cracking skulls and taking names.

I want Pete ‘Market Rocket' from the Market Rocket School of Rockets to light a fire up everyone's Ass (but not Dave Hard-Ass's ass as it is so hard, he won't feel it) and I want blue shirts on every Chinese man, woman and child from Chongqing to Beijing to China town and Birkenhead market, ya hear me?

Get me blue pizzas, get me a calculator that spells ‘BooBs', get me an airport Toblerone sex toy with EFC written on it and shove it up everyone's ass so they are eating and shitting Everton Alps at the same time.

Get me 200 Adrian Heaths dressed as Smurfs, singing “Here We Go” and let's invade the Arkles with Father Abrahams on a massive Blue horse. I want total domination (idea for EFC ball-gags and zip-masks – get them made!) and then and only then will we top the league.

Get me Hard Ass on the phone now! [Puts feet on desk, lights cigar, pours whiskey from decanter, straight into the mouth...]

Paul [The Esk]
15 Posted 20/04/2018 at 18:34:00
You've got it in one, James (#14!)
Stephen Davies
16 Posted 20/04/2018 at 18:41:10
John (#13), I agree.

I don't think there was any real scouting done when buying Keane, Klaassen, Sandro etc. In Keane's case, he probably wasn't even watched – certainly not by the manager.

Contrast that to Moyes who thoroughly researched the player he required, including character, which is as equally important as skill.

Steve Ferns
17 Posted 20/04/2018 at 18:44:55
Koeman had at least three jollies to Amsterdam to scout Klaassen.
James Power
18 Posted 20/04/2018 at 19:47:15
Couldn't resist, Paul, long commute. Enjoyed your article.
Laurie Hartley
19 Posted 21/04/2018 at 00:15:50
Paul, you have hit the nail on the head – lack of leadership at the top is the problem and over the past 2 years that has filtered down through the club and onto the pitch.

I hold similar views to John Keating and think Farhad Moshiri should ask the old guard to depart gracefully, appoint a new chairman, and put his apprentice Alexander Ryazantsev in charge of the day-to-day running of the club.

As for a Director of Football – someone like Arsene Wenger would do me.

Alan McGuffog
20 Posted 21/04/2018 at 12:02:53
Great article, Paul, as ever. I can't be arsed anymore about this Fred Karno's of a club but love the music of Mr Newman. I may pour a glass of Sauvignon Blanchard and listen to Little Criminals. Cheers!
Rob Dolby
21 Posted 21/04/2018 at 13:01:14
James (#14), That's the most sensible post that I have read on here for weeks. Made me laugh.

Another great article by The Esk – keep em coming.

It's a big couple of months for the club under Moshiri. He isn't a football fan, he is a businessman who has spotted investment potential in the Northwest.

I think a lot of us are pinning our hopes on him being like an Abramovich and turning us into a force overnight but sadly, the longer this mess is rolling on, the more I am thinking that he isn't interested in the football club and is more interested in the potential asset. I hope that I am wrong.

Pete Clarke
22 Posted 21/04/2018 at 13:59:41

It's pretty clear that Moshiri is in this for money. Even if he spends a few hundred million, he will get this back due to the increased revenue being generated by the Premier League. He is only now learning, however, that ticking over in the Premier League is no guarantee and he could actually lose a few bob if we dropped.

Let us hope his lesson has been learned and he puts the right people in the right places to sort out this mess out... and he then starts earning top money with a team that challenges for titles.

Andy Crooks
23 Posted 21/04/2018 at 20:49:06
A fine article, Paul. Do you trust Moshiri? Surely he cannot be as out of his depth as he appears.

I know that you have a good deal of insight about our club so, what in your view is the relationship between Kenwright and Moshiri? How much influence does Kenwright still have? Was his being chairman for eternity part of the deal?

Dennis Ng
24 Posted 23/04/2018 at 04:01:09
Arguably that (kicking the can) has been the case for decades. Moshiri's investment added some optimism but his naivety during crisis time leading to the appointment of Allardyce dampened expectations.

Bramley-Moore will be useless to us and him if we're not playing at a high level. Hopefully he will have made plans A through Z this time to re-engineer ourselves over the summer.

Tony Rice
25 Posted 26/04/2018 at 02:06:38
Unfortunately, the fans are the can they've been kicking!
Tom Hughes
26 Posted 26/04/2018 at 11:38:46
We're the asset they can't sell haha.

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