The same week that Everton locked up a spot in European competition next year, Leeds United was demoted from England’s second tier league to its third. Earlier in the decade, Leeds was one of the top four teams in England, and even made it to the semifinals of the European Champions League. During this period, Everton was sweating just to remain in England’s premier league.
Unfortunately, Leeds incurred huge debts and had to sell-off a virtual all star team — Robinson, Ferdinand, Woodgate, Mills, Dacourt, Bowyer, Kewell, Keane, Viduka, Fowler, Smith, etc. Not only that, they had to sell their top teenage players — Aaron Lennon who now starts for England plus Scott Carson and James Milner who star for the under-21 England team. This year, the journeymen who tried to fill the void weren’t even competitive in the second tier of English football.
Everton was also debt-ridden early in the decade, not to the same degree as Leeds, but more so than any other English team. Somehow we managed to avoid disaster. The keys, I think, were bringing in David Moyes as our manager and later selling Wayne Rooney for something close to 30 million pounds. Through sound player selling and purchasing plus outstanding coaching, Moyes was able improve the team even as he was bringing down the debt. In fact, the year we sold Rooney was the year we jumped to fourth place.
Now, the future looks bright. Buying English football teams seems to be the fashion for foreign multi-billionaires. Everton isn’t far down the list of quality English teams that haven’t been purchased pursuant to this trend. It’s sad that money plays such an outsized role in English soccer these days, but it’s fun to think that Everton might finally benefit from this phenomenon.
The biggest cloud on the horizon is the possibility of losing Moyes. Fortunately, the top English sides seem to prefer fancy continental managers, but Manchester United may be an exception, and Sir Alex Ferguson won’t be there much longer. Celitc United, the giants of Scotland for whom Moyes once played, is another possibility.
The only knock of Moyes is that he has very little experience, and no success, managing in European competitions. But that may change next year when Everton plays in the UEFA Cup.
UPDATE: I feel bad that I didn’t mention Everton’s owner, Bill Kenwright. Among other contributions, he’s the man who brought in Moyes.
Ownership by a foreigner with unlimited resources is a nice fantasy, but it’s great to see Everton in the hands of a Liverpool guy who loves the team. When he became the owner, someone asked him if this was his boyhood dream come true. Kenwright answered that his boyhood dream came true when he first was able to buy season tickets.
Kenwright is an impressario who, so I’ve read, went to art school with Paul McCartney. Some fans hoped that Kenwright would be able to get an infusion of cash from the ex-Beatle, who comes from a family of Everton supporters. To his credit, McCartney prefers to spend his money on charities. Unfortunately, it now looks like he’s going to be spending a huge amount of it on his ex-wife.
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