David Prentice: Everton FC still making the best of a bad set of circumstances
Everton FC published their annual accounts yesterday – the day after a memorable away win. A few hours later a new contract was announced for Phil Jagielka.
Only the eternally naive would say ‘coincidence.’ But Everton’s desire to gloss over the figures is understandable. Annual losses grew from £5m to £9m and the club’s debt increased from £44.9m to £46m. The debt figure marks a continuing downward spiral which can only be checked if the 24/7 search for investment finally bears fruit – while the world is still officially in recession – or next year’s much awaited additional TV income doesn’t end up in the pockets of players. But is there light on the horizon? Can Evertonians dare to dream? Fortunes can change very quickly in Premier League football. And you don’t have to be a Blackburn, Leeds – or Manchester City fan – to understand that. It’s fast approaching the anniversary of a column I wrote on this page (January 13, 2012) explaining why Everton fans deserved an apology. A bleak analysis included lines like:
“Everton can’t keep pretending everything’s rosy in the garden.”
“Louis Saha, Phil Neville, Tim Cahill and Sylvain Distin are all nearing the end of their useful top flight playing life.”
“Maybe it's symbolic that this year is the centenary of the Titanic sinking. They have been steaming towards their own iceberg for years.” And
“An ageing stadium, an ageing and as a result increasingly injury prone squad, a decreasing fan base – with those that remain becoming more and more disenchanted – and an over-reliance on a magnificent manager. I fear for the long term future of Everton Football Club.” It was an unrelentingly gloomy outlook. Everton were 11th in the Premier League table, with a negative goal difference. Now they are fifth and poised for a realistic assault on Champions League qualification, an outcome which could genuinely transform the club. I repeat those lines not to highlight what a hopeless tipster I am, but to show how quickly fortunes can change in football. But sometimes it seems that outlooks don’t change as quickly as fortunes. Some of that “disenchantment” referred to seems embedded at Goodison.
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