Monday, 14 March 2011

Is it time for David Moyes to leave Everton?

According to The People last Sunday, David Moyes is a "shock target for wealthy German club Hoffenheim". It might not have been the headline Everton fans wanted to read over their cornflakes, but let's be honest the time does seem right for their boss to pack up his bags and move on to a fresh challenge.

Moyes was appointed by Everton nine years ago today and there is a growing sense that he has taken the club as far as he can. Fourth place in 2005 was not capitalised on the following season as the Toffees failed to make the lucrative Champions League group stages and an FA Cup final place in 2009 ended in defeat to Guus Hiddink's Chelsea.

This season has been disappointing on the pitch and sparked a whole raft of speculation that the Scot is about to quit while amazingly some fans have been calling for him to be sacked.

Hurry up, Fergie

Worryingly for Everton, their manager is integral to their success. Since the creation of Premier League and prior to Moyes' arrival in 2002, Everton only once finished in the top half once while twice avoiding the drop by the skin of teeth. Since his arrival the club has only finished outside the top ten twice, including two fifth places and a monopoly-busting fourth spot.

However, the Scot has become increasingly hamstrung in the transfer market. Last summer saw him restricted to free transfers and the January transfer window saw Steven Pienaar sold Tottenham for £3m and strikers Yakubu Aiyegbeni and James Vaughan offloaded on loan with Moyes unable to replace them.

Everton's accounts, released last month, showed an increase in both borrowing and debt (from £37.9m to £44.9). This last figure would have been higher had it not been for the sale of the Bellefield training ground for £8m. The club is in need of a fresh injection of cash, but while effectively having been on the market since 2008, there have been no takers. Despite their fetching pink away strip, the future doesn't look too bright for the Toffees.

All this is a far cry from the Eighties when, in four glorious seasons, Everton won the title twice as well as the FA Cup and the Cup Winners Cup. Unfortunately that great side was never able to test themselves in the European Cup due to the post-Heysel ban but, none-the-less, the club was part of the 'Big Five' (along with Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham) whose calls for a break-away league led to the creation of the Premier League.

Yet, while once the club was once a driving force for change, now they seem stuck in the past. The recently-published 2009/2010 Deloitte Money League has seven English clubs in Europe's top 20. Everton are not one of them. They are the eighth highest-earning English (27th overall) some  £12.8m behind Aston Villa. But for Newcastle's relegation in 2009, Everton would have been a place lower this year; such is the revenue-generating potential of St James' Park (the extension of which is arguably the one thing the Toon Army's owners have got right over the years).

If anything, it's Everton's inability to fulfil their plans to relocate from Goodison Park which is really holding back the club. The importance of new ground is clear for all to see - Arsenal more than doubled their match-day revenue (from £44m to £91) in 2006/07 - their first season in The Emirates and this explains why so many clubs from Spurs and West Ham to Chelsea, Everton and Liverpool are desperate to find new, larger homes.

What might have been

Disastrously for Everton, in November 2009 they had their application for a new ground at Kirkby blocked and to date, no plan B has emerged, which creates a catch 22 for the club - potential new owners are unlikely to shell out knowing they will have to build a new stadium to make The Toffees financially viable, but a new ground is not possible without an influx of cash.

So where does this leave Moyes? As Jonathan Wilson points out in Sports illustrated, with Everton the cups present the best hope of silverware and, arguably, European competition but if Moyes prioritises them at the expense of the League, then a relegation battle awaits. Is that really what he should be aiming for at this stage of his career?

Because Moyes has been a manager for so long it's easy to forget that at 47 (a year younger than Jose Mourinho) he's still a baby well, maybe a toddler in managerial terms with a potentially great career ahead of him - Sir Alex Ferguson has already suggested Moyes should be his successor.

At the weekend, Everton owner Bill Kenwright said he wouldn't stand in his manager's way if Manchester United came calling. The reality is, Moyes might not want to wait at Goodison to see if that approach is made.

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