There are 1,000 reasons why Everton hold a precious place on our football landscape, many of them rooted in history and sentiment.
The distinctive criss-cross steel architecture on the Bullens Road Stand balconies. The vast murals of legends on the Goodison exterior, viewed from the walk up the terraced side streets to Goodison Road. The way supporters can switch from sullen to deafeningly defiant after one bad refereeing decision.
Everton could not have been further from that legacy last weekend. In the Gwladys Street Stand, where in the early 1990s I would sometimes watch the team, breathing in Everton spirituality and soul on good Saturday afternoons and bad, there was something unmistakably different.
An air of resignation. A fear that all is now lost. ‘Dreary,’ was Gary Neville’s word but ‘weary’ probably better defined it. A feeling that things may simply not get any better than this. ‘There are not many times when I have left feeling so sad,’ a good friend of mine said, after trudging away towards Liverpool’s southern suburbs, following those desolate few hours on the Gwladys Street.
That’s how you get to feel when an outfit called ‘777’, the very worst manifestation of the chancers now alighting on British football, are picking over what they see as a carcass.
There seemed to be an air of resignation around Goodison Park, ahead of their clash with Arsenal, amid fears that all is now lost for the Merseyside club
American investment company 777, led by Josh Wander (pictured), are set to complete a takeover at Everton – however their track record leaves a lot to be desired
Farhad Moshiri (L) struggled to find a buyer for the Toffees amid his £500m asking price
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One of the two Miami-based individuals running that outfit is Josh Wander, an entrepreneur frequently photographed in baseball caps, who sometimes discusses himself in the third person, which is never a good sign.
‘Is there anyone in the world that’s been more serious about buying football clubs in history than Josh Wander?’ said Wander, in all seriousness, a few weeks ago, alluding to the fact he has picked up six of them in the past few years, all so desperate for cash, post pandemic, that they’ve thrown in their lot with him.
Wander sees ‘his’ clubs becoming football’s equivalent of Tesco, selling fans every kind of financial product imaginable because it will have the team’s name plastered across it. ‘One day we’re not selling hot dogs and beers to our customers; we’re selling insurance or financial services or whatever,’ he told the Financial Times recently. Fans are so obsessive that ‘they want to be monetised’ he observed.
Could there really be a more graphic sense of Everton’s diminution under the so-called stewardship of Farhad Moshiri, whose delusion that he can sell the club for £500million has seen all the credible buyers walk away?
Everton are left with Wander and his 777 business partner Steven Pasko, whose only business successes have come in insurance and handling the payments of lawsuit defendants. The rest – including a foray into the aviation industry – has been very messy.
Where 777 will find the money for a job of Everton’s proportions is anyone’s guess. There was a brief hullabaloo on Tuesday after they let it be known that they had provided Everton a £20million loan. As respected Everton podcaster and writer ‘The Esk’ observed, that will cover a month’s cashflow for a club which is virtually insolvent.
Wander says a report on the respected investigative news outlet Josimar about lawsuits relating to leased aeroplanes and his own arrest in 2003 on a charge of cocaine trafficking, which saw him placed on probation, was the product of ‘haters trying to destroy you with things that are meaningless.’
But Everton are fading away in plain sight, spending more money than they earn, up against their credit card limit even after a summer of letting players go. And that’s before you even begin to factor in the £15million monthly costs of building a new stadium.
Moshiri’s tenure as Everton owner will be remembered sourly, especially with this ending
Everton have endured a tough start to the new campaign and have picked up one point so far
How to rescue such a club? Though those of an Everton disposition will wish to take no advice from Anfield, their neighbours’ experience does provide a salutary lesson.
The axis of Liverpool’s salvation in 2010, after Tom Hicks and George Gillett had driven them to the brink of administration, was a New York finance house called Inner Circle Sports, broker of the deal which brought Fenway Sports Group to Anfield and has since seen Americans buy Portsmouth, Dagenham and Wrexham.
Steve Horowitz, the partner involved in some of those deals, places a heavy emphasis on the cultural integration of his American clients with British football. ‘You’re just fiduciaries. You’re the stewards of this club. Don’t screw it up,’ he routinely tells them. I’ve never asked Horowitz outright, but I don’t believe he proposes the sale of insurance policies to fans.
Inner Circle and others will tell you that there are credible buyers out there at the right price because Americans consider British clubs wonderful and inimitable, as well as a means of extracting financial value. Everton will become a target when Moshiri sets a realistic price and that may be soon, given that the club going into administration would mean him walking away with nothing. That could be three months away, observes ‘The Esk.’
Everton’s weather may get worse before it gets better, but the picture can change rapidly in football when the ball finally bounces right. Because of history and sentiment, because of the superb new stadium on the horizon, because some care so much that they left Goodison not far from tears last Sunday, it can be said with conviction that Everton don’t need insurance salesmen to save them. In the words of the banner that has been raised so often at Goodison these past months: ‘Our club, not yours.’
Toffees fans will be hopeful that Wander and his group embrace the culture of the club
CHAOS IN MILAN
Same old same again on Monday as the lunatic fringe of Italian football ran amok. A Milanese gang in balaclavas, hacking at Newcastle fans with a machete, hitting a man on the head with a baton before stabbing and hospitalising his 58-year-old father.
It’s not actually that surprising to those of us who remember the Fedayn – ‘the devotees’ – an unhinged group of Roma fans who went for Liverpool supporters at Anfield because of some confected grievance.
This intellectually challenged Italian extreme is a stain on the sport. The nation’s clubs and authorities do nowhere near enough to expunge that stain.
Newcastle fan Eddie McKay, 58, was rushed to hospital after being stabbed in the arm and back during an attack by a group of knife-wielding thugs in Milan on Monday night
WEDNESDAY STILL FALL SHORT
The abuse still spills my way at times from supporters of Sheffield Wednesday, mortally offended by the testimony of Newcastle fans who felt squashed at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough, this year. There is still a reduced capacity at that end, on the orders of a Safety Advisory Group. Which rather suggests that there was a problem.
But a reduced capacity evidently doesn’t mean fans always being directed to the correct area of the ground. An Ipswich Town supporter tells me how, having entered through turnstile 14 with his five-year-old son on Saturday, possessing a ticket for the Leppings Lane upper tier, he found himself in the lower tier, with access to the higher level blocked off.
A steward referred him to a ‘supervisor’ who eventually let him through to the correct level. ‘Upper tier tickets shouldn’t work on lower tier turnstiles,’ he tells me. ‘If it had been a bigger fixture that could have presented a problem.’ Incredible to be discussing, all these years on, the testimony of a fan being ushered into the wrong part of the Leppings Lane stand at Hillsborough.
At the Depot Indoor Climbing centre in Stretford, Manchester, I tried to suggest where my three-year-old grand-daughter might place her feet as she scaled a wall. ‘I don’t need any help,’ she retorted, just as my daughter always did.
I know such generalisations are frowned upon these days but the girls in our family have been the one with the fiercest spirit of independence. I predict my granddaughter will run the country one day. Anyway, I digress. The Stretford Climbing centre – and others like it. Brilliant places, helping our younger people know full well that they can touch the heights.