As the dust begins to settle on Everton’s own post-Cruyff era, much has been written about tactical shortcomings, selection errors and other on pitch problems. With my EvertonBusinessMatters hat on, however, I would like to look at the lessons to be learned for the Club off the pitch from this unfortunate denouement.
There is no doubt that the decision to relieve the Dutch master of his role was a seminal moment. A tough decision, after the money invested in him and the new signings, but the right one in the view of most fans and more neutral observers. Now the Club faces an even more critical decision in appointing a successor. Someone who can get us through that “window of opportunity” before it slams shut; someone who can lead us into Bramley Moore invigorated and challenging again for honours domestically and internationally.
Everton are not a “sacking club”, many would argue we have been too soft in the past however, but changing Manager twice in 18mths still goes right against the grain. The importance of the next appointment cannot be exaggerated. There are three key lessons, in my view, that the Club must learn and use to help make the very best decision this time around.
1) Due Diligence
I am not going to draw up my own wish list, nor offer an opinion on any of the names being mentioned. All I will say is that I want the Club to follow due process in the search. It is clear, in retrospect, that, with Koeman, Moshiri was seduced by the name. He was his first choice, to the exclusion of all others. Now I think we need to have a list of targets and start at the top, yes, of course. But, even if our #1 target is receptive, we need to check him out fully.
In business, prior to any senior appointment, you take up references and you take soundings from former colleagues, competitors and associates. I’m not convinced we did this with Koeman, we must with his successor. We need to know what their style is, how they communicate upwards and downwards. Will they tow the party line? Many things have subsequently come out about life under Ronald, and some appear quite unpalatable, especially his treatment of certain players such as Niasse and Lookman.
As I said earlier, the name was all important. People thought we would never get him, so Moshiri wanted to prove we could. The Manager was the marquee signing, but, as such, he had too much power in the relationship from the outset; he signed and went off on holiday; hardly the best sign of commitment! Did we pause for a moment and think “What has this guy achieved as a Manager?” “What has he won?”
We must do our due diligence better this time.
2) Club Structure
Throughout Koeman’s time at Everton we were never quite sure how the relationship with Steve Walsh worked. We (kind of) knew how it was supposed to work in theory, but all did not go smoothly.
Indeed Koeman was often disposed to “calling out” the Board; it forced their hand in getting Schneiderlin in Jan 2017, but definitely didn’t produce the Centre Forward in the summer. Recent comments in the Dutch press suggest he had no say in the sale of Lukaku and places the blame for not getting a “replacement” on others. We are no clearer on who runs our transfer dealings: a surfeit of Number 10s and no Centre Forward, no Left Back cover and a missing Centre Back are evidence of a broken system with no clear chain of command.
I wrote in Royal Blue Buck that changing the Manager was no solution in itself unless the Club addressed the fundamental issue of structure, roles, responsibilities and accountability. Where is the Plan? What is the Plan? Who is accountable for it? How is progress against that Plan to be measured? No senior executive worth their salt would join a company without asking those questions; the same will apply to our new Manager.
Arguably we are a less attractive proposition than we were in 2016. In order to attract the very best candidates we need to show that our corporate structure is best of breed and fit for purpose. That is how modern business and modern successful football clubs work.
3) “Getting” Everton
Our former Manager didn’t use the first person plural very often. He preferred “I” to “we”, and, indeed, preferred “Everton” to “we”. His detachment was initially seen as a positive to the super-keen, almost sycophantic Martinez. However, whilst all clubs have their own culture, Everton really does occupy a unique place in local, national and international football. The fans are the lifeblood of the Club, the most loyal customers and brand ambassadors you could ever ask for. They aren’t fools, though, they will see when things aren’t right, and they will tell you.
In business it’s important you buy into the culture of the company, especially if you are in a senior role. It’s part of the selection process. You don’t demonstrate that by just tweeting “Up The Toffees” on matchdays. Many will advocate Unsworth as the next permanent Manager, they will point to the fact that we only win trophies with former players in the hot seat.
For me having played for the Club, or been a lifelong Blue, matter less. The Manager, whoever he is, and regardless of his heritage, must get the DNA of Everton. That’s his own due diligence, as it were. He should in fact insist on having the chance to talk to officials, players past and present, predecessors, even fans (though that may prove difficult, in advance). There is more than enough information available in this multi-media age for any candidate to get a proper sense of the Club before signing on the dotted line.
If we learn these three lessons then I am sure the Club will be much better equipped to make the right appointment. An appointment for the long term success of the Club on the pitch and for the long term success of Moshiri’s (and other shareholders’) investment in the business.