Amongst the many things that have been written about Koeman in recent days, very little attention has been given to how welcome his appointment was greeted by Evertonians when he first arrived.
Koeman appeared to offer everything; a proven Premier League track record, experience across Europe, a reputation for organised, disciplined football. And as an antidote to the ‘head-in-the-sand’, sunshine optimism of his predecessor, Koeman was meant to be a competent bastard, a manager who would get results and ‘tell it like it is’.
In short, Koeman was the perfect fit.
While some might have hankered after an ‘Everton’ man, most viewed the arrival of the Dutchman as the club taking the grown up decision to appoint a manager who could take Everton to the next level.
And that’s what makes his abject failure so difficult. And make no mistake, the failure is abject. To reside in the bottom three, to be effectively out of the Europa and to fail to put together a single decent performance since pre-season began, marks the past few months out as one of the worst periods in the club’s modern history.
And all that from a manager whose appointment represented a sensible choice and one that was meant to mean such periods would be a thing of the past.
So where do Everton go from here? As the club casts its net to reel in yet another manager, what should the criteria be?
The breadth of potential candidates, from Allardyce to Ancelotti, reveal the scale of the task Everton face in choosing the next manager. There are different options open, none perfect and each with risks.
The appointment of another ‘outsider’, such as Tuchel, Silva or Fonseca, would not guarantee success and could further alienate the fans with the arrival of another boss who does not ‘get’ the club.
The appointment of a ‘Moyes’ figure, such as Dyche, Allardyce or the actual Moyes might impose a glass ceiling on the club that would effectively represent a de-facto surrender of any hope to crack the elite of the game.
And the appointment of an untested ‘Everton’ man like Unsworth would represent a huge risk for a team so bereft of confidence and one potentially facing the long, hard slog of a relegation threatened season.
So much of where a fan’s personal preferences lie is dependent upon how they see the club. For the more pessimistic (and I’d count myself amongst their number), the promise of safety under a ‘Moyes’ figure is seductively appealing. For those who genuinely believe the club could crack the top four, the transformative potential of someone like Tuchel is attractive. And for the romantic, the ones who want to see an ‘Everton man’ take the helm once more, the appointment of Unsworth must seem like the only sane option on the table.
Amidst so much uncertainty, what does remain certain is that this appointment has to go right. Everton are undergoing a period of transformation. Financially more powerful than for some time and with Bramley-Moore on the horizon, the next ten years represent a golden opportunity for the club to make up the ground it lost during the first decade of the Premier League. The right appointment, even one that does not necessarily yield silverware or top four finishes, can ensure that this period of transition is a smooth one.
Just over twenty years ago, Everton faced a similar period of transition. Money arrived at the club via Peter Johnson and ground redevelopment/relocation was mooted. Ultimately, a succession of poor managerial appointments (combined with an owner who lost heart), cast Everton into the wilderness. The club fell off the pace and never fully recovered. As fans, we still live today with the decisions that were made back then. Everton are no longer an elite club because of that mishandled period of transition.
Which is why this next appointment has to go right. The last two Everton managerial choices, irrespective of their merits, were essentially reactive ones. Martinez, with his buoyant positivity and commitment to attacking football represented a reaction to Moyes, a manager who seemed to put his sides out with a ‘protect the point’ mentality. Koeman, with his steady approach and commitment to more organised football represented a reaction to the cavalier approach of his predecessor.
Although both made sense from a certain perspective, neither appointment was obviously a success. And so, perhaps Everton should be thinking differently, beyond the immediate past and instead focusing on what the club actually needs in the coming years. And unquestionably, what Everton need more than anything else is some stability.
Although silverware and European football is always welcome, the Blues have had the latter and come close to the former in recent years but that hasn’t stopped the last few seasons being difficult ones for the fans to endure. It’s been a long time since we felt that Everton were in a safe pair of hands or that something was being built for the future.
Amongst the potential candidates for the vacant position, there are several who could offer stability and the potential to hang around and build something. They might not be the most exciting appointments or necessarily offer a medium through which the top four would be broken into, but after a spell of inconsistency, where the whiff of relegation has been occasionally smelt, might this not be the better option for a club that needs to at least stay competitive?
So far, for a variety of factors, despite the managerial shenanigans, Everton have not been punished too harshly in the league. The club remains in the top flight, boasts decent players and with a competent boss in charge, fortunes could dramatically improve. But football will not be kind forever. As Sunderland recently found out, if you keep on making the wrong decisions, eventually you are going to be punished.
Right now, Everton need a manager who can steady the ship. Otherwise, there is a very real chance that we could become Sunderland Mark II.