Waiting for Godot

As Everton’s search drags on into it’s 4th week, we are left with conflicting emotions; firstly the search has been chaotically organized but secondly that the end outcome has the potential to be positive. When we look at how the process has been conducted it is important to separate those two points. By the time this article goes out there is every chance Everton will have a full-time manager, and it could well be they’ve pulled off a decent coup of attracting Marco Silva. While he is a credible candidate he appointment shouldn’t cover up cracks for what’s been a chaotic recruitment process.

4 weeks feels much too long for trying to recruit a manager, particularly for a club that found itself in the bottom 3 at the moment they made the decision. As I indicated some weeks ago I sense part of the reason for the delay has been the desire to give the job to David Unsworth has been met with the realization that he may not be as certain to lead us away from the relegation mire as it appeared 4 weeks ago. The unconvincing win against Watford has only further muddied those particular waters, where on the one hand Everton was a converted penalty away from remaining in the bottom 3 but on the other performed a remarkable turnaround and could build some momentum going into a potentially rewarding set of upcoming fixtures.

I have sympathy with the board on this issue. I have long championed Unsworth and it was perfectly reasonable to think he could elicit the sort of immediate turnaround that managers such as Royle (on his staff) and Moyes, in particular, got when coming into the club at a crisis moment. What seems to happen, particularly for this board though, is that when things don’t go to plan their decision making processes go into slow motion. You could again make a case that such diligence should be seen in a positive light, as being indicative of a considered and thorough approach, though my own take on it is that we are hamstrung by a mixture of panic, inertia and an unwillingness for people to take responsibility for decisions they don’t feel they completely own.

A lot of the names they have suggested, looked at, potentially approached that have been leaked to the media have been underwhelming for Evertonians. Dyche feels like a throwback of 15 years to David Moyes while Allardyce feels like a throwback of 20 years to the worst aspects of Walter Smith. A part of me wonders if they will give Unsworth long enough to decisively succeed (or more likely fail) so there is more of an acceptance of the difficulty Everton are in and in the subsequent demoralization and desperation opinion becomes more favourable to Allardyce. It would be unusual for most board of Directors of Football clubs to operate on the basis of fans perceptions, clearly West Ham have avoided this decision in appointing David Moyes and are a good example of how most boards will do what they feel is right over what fans want, yet given the more fluid situation we have currently at board level it is questionable whether such confidence exists to make such a big call and have to face down the wrath of sections of the support base.

Again part of me feels sorry for the board, as this is a mess that they have clearly not planned for and there seems to be little understanding of how to get through it. They are not deliberately trying to upset Evertonians, nor are they deliberately making a mess of the situation, though their unwillingness to face reality is contributing to the difficulties we face. Evertonians expectations, for the most part rarely translate easily to the economic reality that we are faced with. We sit around 7th for wage spend, transfer spend (both net and gross) and turnover. This in many ways gives a false perception of where the club sits in actuality, as the gap between the 6 sides above is enormous, particularly with 5 of the 6 clubs. We are nearer to the side bottom of the league on those measurements than we are to the side in 5th. In crude mathematical determinism, it means we are more likely to finish 20th than to finish 5th and while such an analysis doesn’t always correlate as naturally to reality it gives an indication of the where the club sits.

This is for the most part in sharp contrast with the expectation Everton fans have for the club. An example of this may be David Moyes who is a divisive figure in spite of him regularly achieving in line with or even better than what may be expected of him when resources he had available to him are taken into account. While most of the frustration tens to be around his personal conduct, particularly on leaving the job it does show that again fans expectations at the club are very high, particularly in relation to the material reality the club exists in.

Within that context statements made by Farhad Moshiri are becoming increasingly unhelpful in the job search. That his board member pitched the requirement to have a “superstar on the sidelines” while appointing Koeman to the job and promised a summer where “nothing would ever be the same” it ended with Everton selling young centre-half John Stones and a deadline day shambles of bringing in a lad deemed surplus to requirements at West Ham. If this summer was supposed to be an antidote to that, we have seen more of the same, with this time our star striker leaving and not being replaced and in spite of promising early work being done, the squad painfully thin in some areas as a result. His own contribution to this debate appears to have been to get the message out that Everton’s main target is Athletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone, this while the club currently bumbles about trying to get Marco Silva out of Watford.

I don’t mean to be harsh on Moshiri. The injection of ambition, expectations and a qualitative shift in the expectations of the club has been something that has been desperately needed for 30 years. My frustration exists more on the inconsistency with which they are being acted upon as well as the timing of such issues. On the one hand, he is talking about trying to lift Everton to the next level, yet on the other precious little is being done to move on the fragments of the old board who had run Everton into a position whereby they were so far behind the top 6 Premier League teams. Again a reasonable argument could be made that what the old guard needed was more financial resources to turn Everton round, yet the last two summer windows must surely prove to any impartial onlooker that they are not the right people to lead the club forward in the type of aggressive growth of the brand that is necessary.

The statements that are being made by Moshiri do little to manage the expectation of supporters about where we currently find ourselves and the lack of action off the field amplifies these feelings of frustration as it doesn’t deal with the structural flaws that have led to the gap between supporters expectations and the financial realities that the club have found themselves in. If Moshiri is serious about attracting one of the best managers in the world (he is undoubtedly in the top 5) this needs to be matched by getting an equivalent talent in positions of CEO, DOF and chairman.

We are currently in a difficult position as fans of the club to speculate on exactly which direction is the best one for the business to head in. There is enormous speculation into exactly how deep Mr Moshiri’s pockets run and speculation from a number of wide and world known news broadcasters that there is involvement of some extremely wealthy individuals are providing support for the club. In truth, only Moshiri and a close circle of a few others will be aware of how true these allegations are and how deep his pockets run, though you sense there is serious clout behind his project if he is to publically target Simeone. Either that or is he an idiot.

While it is difficult to ascertain exactly how much finance is available to help close the gap on the sides above us what I can say with certainty is throwing money at a project without a clear plan is unlikely to result in short-term success. Manchester United have never spent more than over the last 3-4 years yet are further away from the league title than at any point in 30 years. For Everton an injection of cash alone is unlikely to propel Everton into the top places in the league. A plan needs to be devised for the club and within that, the managerial appointment becomes one strand of this.

When you look at the playing squad of Everton (overwhelmingly young with a fruitful academy) and the aspiration of trying to punch above our weight financially it would appear some key criteria should be drawn upon any managerial appointment. An ability to outperform the resources they have at their disposal should be central to this. This along with the composition of the squad should lead us to look at managers who are good coaches, able to improve/work with younger players and be willing to mould over a slightly longer period of time than is typical of modern managers would seem central features of any managerial appointment. Bonus points should be awarded to managers who have experience of the English game and for managers who have been in charge of “big” (or similar sized) clubs.

I firmly believe if you applied the above approach to a managerial search, it would look far more assured and controlled than what we have seen, and less bi-polar in the approach of veering from one manager to the next with little to link them. The favoured names of Dyche, Allardyce, Silva and Unsworth could not be less alike if you tried in their profiles and this has to be in part underpinned by the lack of a narrow and consistent selection criteria from those looking to recruit.

While there undoubtedly an issue with our ability to sell the club effectively, simplifying our method of generating targets should help that approach. If you are looking for a manager who can improve young players, be willing to spend time at the club and shows they can spend resources effectively you will find you are trying to sell to people who are likely to have a similar vision and aspiration to your own. For Everton, a big club, with a large fan base, who will soon be moving into a state of the art stadium, as well as having numerous talented players both under 24 and under 21 it ought to be a dream move for any manager who has aspirations to want to emulate the work Pochetino has done at Tottenham.

When you look at the criteria the obvious name that leaps out would be German Thomas Tuchel, who it seems unclear if we have approached. However managers such as Lucien Favre who managed Gladbach to the top 4, Garitano who has led Leganes from the 3rd tier to La Liga and solidified them in that division, Quique Setien who led Las Palmas to promotion and a decent finish in La Liga before continuing his good work this season with Betis are all names that could fit within aspects of the criteria. In terms of English managers Sean Dyche, while not a spectacular fit would fulfil many of the criteria points, as would Eddie Howe who although is enduring a difficult patch currently may now see it as a good time to move forward in his career. You also have the Portuguese trio of Jardim at Monaco, Fonseca at Shahktar and Silva at Watford who all look very talented young coaches, each of them looking likely to manage one of the top 10 European clubs at some stage in their career, though with the exception of Silva you could imagine them being difficult to attract.

Each of the names above to me would fit with a broader plan for the club and feel a decent fit. Had a spread of names, from various countries and clubs have been on the list of those appointed it would have filled me with more confidence that the more scattergun and ultimately quite a kneejerk approach to recruitment we have seen. It is very difficult at present to see any kind of shared vision for the club from the board level.

As a final point in this, I completely understand that many would say this article is overly harsh on our board (and I accept there may be others who feel it isn’t harsh enough!). With any business, communication and clarity remain centrally important and in the absence of this other forces will step into a vacuum that’s created. This article takes the position they wanted to give it to Unsworth but was unsure after his early start. We have to surmise from a lack of information and one tweet that referred to him as a “stand in” such is the lack of information provided. This is not just completely unfair to Unsworth and makes a challenging situation for him much harder (and likely to see more incidents of the Mirallas Schneiderlin one) but it also portrays the club in a needlessly negative light within the wider media.

You cannot run any public business in the 21st century, with the array and breadth of media outlets like the Politburu. While you may not like having to be accountable to fans, journalists and publications and view them as often hostile to what you are trying to do, sheltering yourself from this process is unlikely to make it go away. Had the club put an initial statement out covering the below all would have felt far calmer about the process;

a) David Unsworth is in charge for the foreseeable future
b) David Unsworth is an exceptionally talented coach whose accomplishments at under 23’s lead us to believe we are in safe hands
c) A thorough search will be going on alongside it, of which he is a candidate
d) We are looking for the best manager we can attract, who fits the vision of how the club wants to move forward, and we are prepared to wait if necessary

I obviously wait and hope Silva will come. In no small part would it be us getting out of jail if he does, getting the right man using the wrong method. Going forward you hope the next managerial search will start to look more professional in how it’s undertaken.

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