The Waiting Game

There´s still no new faces through the doors of Finch Farm this summer, and Evertonians are becoming more and more anxious as each day of this transfer window ticks by.

Much ire is being directed straight to the door of Bill Kenwright. Ever the target of ridicule by exasperated Toffees for his various pronouncements to the media (“watch this space” is a particular favourite) and his failure to secure a ground move on two occasions, not to mention the Fortress Sports Fund saga… well, we could go on and on.

Yet there´s no denying that on a business level he´s kept us treading water whilst other sleeping giants like Leeds and Birmingham have sunk like a stone due to inept ownership.

But how long can Everton continue to tread water? That´s the big question at the moment.

The reason for the increased militancy in recent months in the Blues fanbase may be because there´s a growing fear that Evertons inactivity in the transfer market is not simply due to a prudent manager, happy with his squad and astutely identifying targets before getting them signed up, but rather because there´s no money left, there´s no liquidity available to Everton to acquire players and it´s only matter of time before we succumb to administration when the well finally runs dry.

The truth, it seems, is somewhere in between.

Everton are not in imminent financial peril. Whilst we continue to operate on the bottom line, one criticism cannot be directed at the board – and that is that they are fiercely prudent.

Robert Elstone in a blog on the official website recently detailed the incomings and outgoings at Everton, and it´s difficult to argue with the numbers.

That said, I believe Everton expected to spend money on players this summer a lot earlier than has proven to be the case. The reason for the delay, I believe, is solely down to naivety over the sale of Joseph Yobo and Yakubu Aiyegbeni.

The Nigerian pair are no longer wanted at Goodison, and they command big wages. Whilst Yobo looked a dead cert to move to Fenerbahce, it didn´t ultimately materialise.

Other clubs have noted Evertons vulnerability and understand that we are definitively running a “sell to buy” policy. As such, time is not on the side of Everton when attempting to sell players. Teams will wait until the latter days of the transfer window to bid for our players for two reasons.

The first reason is simple – the closer to the deadline we go, the cheaper the players will be. Unless a bidding war commences, which is unlikely, come the end of August Everton will be forced to accept any and every bid that comes their way for the wantaway Nigerians.

The second reason is also financial, but one that is often overlooked by fans. Yobo and Yakubu are on an estimated weekly wage of £90,000 combined. By waiting until the end of the transfer window rather than signing the players earlier, clubs will save almost £1m on wages alone.

On the flipside, Everton are saddled with that £1m debt.

Hence the naivety. There´s no doubt in my mind that Kenwright and Moyes expected these two players off the books, along with around £9m in transfer fees, freeing up close on £10m for N´Zogbia, Ba, Vossen or whoever else we´ve had an eye on.

We can´t spend invisible cash. Whilst we all acknowledge new players are needed (notably a striker and/or left sided midfielder), this can´t be done without selling a key asset or getting rid of surplus. If no club wants to bid big for Rodwell, then that leaves us in a quandary. The story of this transfer window is that it is a waiting game.

David Prentice got slated recently for attempting a somewhat positive article for the Echo. I´m going to attempt the same, albeit with a slightly depressing twist on it.

So here it is. Our squad is good. We´re in no imminent danger on or off the pitch. Even if we signed Messi it would not give us a league title and probably not a cup either. Aston Villa have proved that blowing shedloads of money on players is not guarantee of even moderate success (Europa League qualification would be the aim here).

As it stands, Evertonians have to ask themselves a pertinent question. In the current footballing financial “bubble” which sees the mega-rich treat football clubs as chess sets to play one another, is it worth Everton abandoning a prudent financial model and risk going the way of Leeds just to appease fans in the short term? Or is it wiser to accept the way things are – Everton are an established Premier League side, nothing more, nothing less.

In my eyes, until Kenwright secures a takeover, Everton must continue to be prudent. Ambition is one thing, stupidity is another, and if Everton blew away £30m on players this summer via reckless bank loans, it could be a case of curiosity killing the cat.

The financial bubble that football currently operates in won´t last forever. Whilst Everton play the waiting game in this transfer window, we´re also playing a long term waiting game. We cannot compete in the current climate, but if that´s the case, let´s at least live to fight another day.

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