What now for Bill Kenwright and Everton?
As we approach the 8th year of theatre impresario Bill Kenwright’s tenure as Chairman of Everton Football Club, never have so many questions been raised about the direction of the club and his ability to steer the club through the toughest of financial times, in living memory.
It’s common knowledge that as a football club, Everton is “For Sale” but potential buyers or indeed investors, seem thin on the ground.
In the modern game, unfortunately, millionaires or indeed multi-millionaires are no longer sufficient and anything short of a Middle Eastern oil sheik or a Russian Oligarch with a portfolio in the billions, will no longer do. The days of the local football fan, turn wealthy businessman, buying the club as a labour of love are long gone. RIP Jack Walker!
So where does that leave Kenwright and indeed Everton, a team so steeped in real, trophy-winning, top-flight history, that you would assume long term investment would be a foregone conclusion?
Perilous would perhaps be the best description of their current plight.
The cupboard is very much bare at Everton and with a bank looking to recoup money rather than lend, it really is difficult to see how the club moves forward. Indeed, at the moment simply standing still could be classed as an achievement.
Back in 2009, Kenwright himself admitted that “Our debt is a big debt and a worrying debt but it is manageable because of our performance on the field and we do well each year as a business, thanks to David (Moyes)”.
With key players moving on in recent years, Lescott, Arteta and Pienaar and clubs sniffing round the likes of Baines, Fellaini, Rodwell, Jagielka and Barkley, can the club really hope to maintain performance on the pitch? And perhaps more importantly, can they realistically look to retain the services of David Moyes? On current form the answer is probably “No” on both counts, so therefore we must assume the debt is no longer manageable?
Indeed this was alluded to in Kenwright’s recently ill-fated meeting with The Blue Union.
Make no mistake, the natives are getting restless at Goodison Park – The Blue Union perhaps the best example - but really, who is going to buy Everton or indeed invest given their current plight and the financial climate generally?
It is often levelled at Kenwright that he perhaps loves Everton a little too much and he is finding it difficult to sell, as he doesn’t want to relinquish control of the club he loves. Really? For a long time Kenwright has looked like a broken man and the meeting with The Blue Union appeared to show a man very much at the end of his tether.
Is he asking too much for the club? I suppose we don’t know but to anyone who feels this is room for criticism, rest assured that whoever does buy the club – if indeed a buyer is ever found – will have more care for his bank balance and wallet than the club, so perhaps the fans will need to get used to that mindset.
At the time of acquiring the club, Kenwright told the media "Acquiring Peter Johnson's shares is only the first step to restoring a great club to where it belongs - to where it should be. If you are going to run a successful football club you need two qualities: you need to be realistic and you need a plan. I'm realistic and I have a plan”
Has he been successful? Unfortunately, the history books will show not. But you must temper that view and indeed view any success in relative terms, by considering the Premier League as a whole.
Let’s not forget, Everton were one of the “Big 5” who orchestrated the breakaway from the Football League and the inception of the Premier League. It would seem that the monster they helped create has chewed them up and left them behind.
Seriously, at the start of Kenwright’s tenure, did anyone really believe we’d be operating in a league where £35m is spent on a young centre forward with half a seasons top flight experience and players earning £250,000 a week in wages without anybody raising an eyebrow?
So to return to my original statement, what now for the club and its current custodian? Given that the number of question marks in this article is in double figures, clearly there are more questions than answers at the moment.
Goodison Park was once one of the most famous and impressive football grounds in the land, hosting numerous big names in the 1966 World Cup. Presently, Ol’ Gladys is the millstone round the neck of this once great club. Anyone looking to buy the club and move it forward knows they must not only find around £80-£100m to buy the club but somehow fund a new stadium, probably costing in excess of £350m. Any takers?
Trust me, Sheikh Mansour did not buy Manchester City because he grew up wearing a Man City Shirt and always dreamed of visiting Maine Road to stand on The Kippax, singing Blue Moon, whilst watching Uwe Rosler in the flesh.
Had the ridiculous Kings Dock project or indeed the much sounder Kirkby project gotten off the ground, things would inevitably be different. But they didn’t and something similar isn’t likely to in the near future.
Until such time as it does, or indeed the world’s financial problems abate, perhaps it really is a better a case of being careful what you wish for, as sometimes it is “Better the Devil You Know”.
Just ask fans of Leeds, Portsmouth, West Ham United, Newcastle United, Liverpool or Blackburn!
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