For Everton fans it has been a week to remember and forget in equal measure.
At times it seemed that, if you blinked, you missed the latest significant development at Goodison Park — from the sacking of Frank Lampard on Monday, the frenzied search for his successor, a key player going AWOL in an effort to force through a transfer and a fresh round of speculation around the club’s ownership.
Even by Everton’s standards, it has been some seven days.
If supporters thought things were chaotic after their defeat by bottom-of-the-table Southampton on January 14 — the club’s board staying away due to safety fears, protests in the stands and players confronted by a handful of angry fans in the streets outside the ground — then events since last Saturday’s loss at West Ham proved they were just getting started.
The chaos truly began after the final whistle at the London Stadium when owner Farhad Moshiri, attending his first game in 14 months, was approached by TV cameras and told them the future of manager Frank Lampard was not his decision.
Chairman Bill Kenwright, standing alongside him in the car park, offered little indication of the board’s next move either, and supporters’ heads were left spinning.
Moshiri meant it was not ‘only’ his decision and that the final say would come after a brief period of reflection on Everton’s predicament with the board and director of football Kevin Thelwell.
The time for pondering ended on Monday, with news of Lampard’s sacking emerging in the media around five hours before the club officially confirmed his departure at 8.15pm, just short of a year after the former England midfielder had been appointed.
Former Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa flew into London for talks with Moshiri on Thursday.
As well as liaising with the club’s board and Thelwell, Moshiri leaned on the advice of other trusted associates, namely football powerbroker Kia Joorabchian and the former Everton midfielder Tim Cahill.
Moshiri was championing Bielsa, but it was always going to be a complicated deal to pull off given Everton’s predicament at the foot of the Premier League and the fact the squad did not seem obviously suited to the Argentinian’s brand of high-energy football.
Bielsa had been busy studying Everton at every level and told Moshiri he wanted to reshape the club from its academy upwards, as well as expressing concerns about the current fitness levels of the players. Bielsa had used Google Earth and Street View to familiarise himself with the location and layout of Finch Farm. He even expressed an interest in living in one of the semi-detached houses next to the Halewood complex’s entrance in semi-rural Merseyside.
Incredibly, Bielsa wanted to take charge of Everton’s Under-21s until the summer — with his staff taking charge of the first-team, so he had proper time to prepare before next season.
His terms were rejected by Everton and so they turned their attention to former Burnley manager Sean Dyche, who has been out of work since April. Dyche is seen as someone who can fix problems at Goodison.
Davide Ancelotti, son of former Everton manager Carlo, was also discussed as an option. Yet there was an acceptance that appointing the 33-year-old, who had never managed before, carried substantial risk — especially for a side battling relegation — and the interest went no further.
Dyche is likely to be without Anthony Gordon at Everton.
On Friday evening it was revealed that Newcastle United had agreed a £40million fee (plus £5m in add-ons) with the club to sign the winger.
After the first-team squad were given Monday off, the players reported for training on Tuesday led by Leighton Baines and Paul Tait, coaches of the under-18s and under-21s respectively.
Gordon, however, was one of two who did not.
The other was Amadou Onana, whose absence was agreed upon in advance with the club.
News of interest from Arsenal and Chelsea in the Belgium international, who only joined last summer in a £30million switch, may have unsettled some supporters but the midfielder has so far rejected the idea of a move this month.
For Gordon, it would seem to be different. Club officials said his absence on Tuesday was agreed but did not clarify why he failed to show up for training the following two days, amid further rumours that his representatives were negotiating with Newcastle in London ahead of a transfer, and accusations from fans that he had effectively gone on strike in an effort to engineer a move.
The 21-year-old has scored three goals and contributed no assists in the league so far this term and was one of the players confronted by supporters outside Goodison Park after the Southampton defeat. He did at least report back for training yesterday.
Gordon was required to submit a transfer request for his Newcastle deal to be agreed. The initial £40m payment represents £40m straight profit for an academy graduate — good business for a player who has flattered to deceive for much of this season.
Another who was at Finch Farm last week only to leave and not return was the Villarreal winger Arnaut Danjuma.
Everton had felt they were close to sealing a loan for the Netherlands international until their bad week was made worse when he promptly joined Tottenham instead.
As The Athletic reported last week, Danjuma was Everton’s priority in the window and the 25-year-old was keen to work with now-former boss Lampard and enthused by the challenge of trying to fire Everton to safety, much in the same way Richarlison did last season.
The deal with Everton was so far down the line that Danjuma had completed a medical and was at the club’s training ground on the same day the team were losing to West Ham. He was given Everton training gear, met with key senior figures from the club and it looked very much like all systems go.
Danjuma, who also attracted interest from Crystal Palace and his former club Bournemouth, still had paperwork to sign and some media duties to undertake but that was expected to happen on Monday. His representatives flew into Liverpool and waited to collect him from the train station that day, with Danjuma due to head north from London. However, he never came back.
Instead, Tottenham made their interest known and the player, spooked by Lampard’s sacking on Monday, changed his mind. Their managing director of football Fabio Paratici and performance director Gretar Steinsson — formerly of Everton — both worked on the move.
Spurs acted swiftly to get a deal done with Villarreal — despite the player having more lucrative offers from elsewhere. Danjuma had his medical later that day, completed the paperwork on Wednesday morning and was announced as a Spurs player in the afternoon, on loan with an option to buy.
He later described his decision to make the move to north London as a “no-brainer”, all of which should ensure a lively reception from the home fans when he makes the trip to Goodison with his new club on April 1.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 25, 2023
Wednesday had more drama in store.
Joorabchian went on radio station talkSPORT to issue a retort to Jamie Carragher, the former Liverpool defender who had criticised his alleged influence at Everton on Sky Sports’ Monday night football show.
After delivering some personal criticisms of Carragher, Joorabchian attempted to outline his role at Everton. “I’ve done three transfers of my players over the course of Farhad’s tenure at Everton,” he claimed. “Those three were Richarlison from Watford, which was a very successful transfer, a free transfer of Bernard, who came from Shakhtar Donetsk when his contract finished, and he was a player who wasn’t a complete disaster and did very well. We had Carlo Ancelotti who was the only manager they’ve ever taken on a recommendation.”
There was some positive news, though.
Later that day, The Athletic revealed how Moshiri was close to securing a deal to sell some of his shares to investors who would help complete funding for the club’s waterfront stadium and boost its commercial prospects.
Former sports agent Jeff Moorad and businessman Jahm Najafi were named by Bloomberg as being interested in a stake in the club on Thursday through their investment firm MSP Sports Capital. Moorad and Najafi attended the match against Southampton after being given a tour of key sites in Merseyside.
The previous day The Athletic revealed that they would want a representative with a seat on Everton’s board.
MSP have stakes in McLaren Racing and European football clubs Augsburg, Estoril of Portugal and Spanish side AD Alcorcon. They also have a stake in the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. They also agreed to buy ESPN’s majority holding in the X Games last year.
It all emerged after yet another head-spinning moment.
First, on Tuesday evening, The Guardian claimed Moshiri had placed the club for sale and had instructed Deloitte’s sport business arm to handle the process.
Twenty minutes later, Everton released a video interview between Jazz Bal, chair of the club’s Fan Advisory Board, and the Everton owner, who insisted the club was not actually for sale, but he was looking for the right partners to add vital funds.
“It’s just bringing more expertise in terms of global sponsorship, commercial development,” Moshiri said. “A lot of specialist sport investors have this pool of knowledge, and it’s to secure that for Everton.
“The club is not for sale but I’ve been talking to top investors, real quality, to bridge a gap on the stadium finance. I can do it (finance the new stadium) myself but the reason I want to do it is to bring top sport investors into Everton — for some of the reasons the fans want: improvement, more talent.
“I’m committed to this club, not just the stadium, but to join the elite. We are close to having a deal done. We are very close to stadium financing and I hope to be able to announce that to you soon. It’s not selling the club at all.”
By the standards of Monday to Wednesday, Thursday slowed down a notch.
Club hero and former assistant manager Duncan Ferguson was named as manager of League One club Forest Green and Everton’s talented young midfielder Tyler Onyango promptly followed on loan to the Gloucestershire outfit.
In a club video, Ferguson was asked about the club’s meat-free policy alongside eco-owner Dale Vince and was offered a vegan burger.
Looking rather awkward, Everton’s former striker replied: “They look lovely, don’t they? Very nice indeed. I look forward to eating that later…”
Not that the absence of tangible developments dampened the swirl of speculation around the club.
One UK sport radio station’s first three headline items were all about Everton at lunchtime, which pretty much sums up a week when Everton underlined their capacity to hog the limelight for the wrong reasons.
Dyche is on the verge of becoming the new manager, but with Everton yet to make any of the signings they so desperately need, anyone hoping for next week to bring some calm may be wishing in vain.
(Top Photo: Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)
Read the full article here