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Time for Everton to deliver

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Phil McNulty | 10:29 GMT, Friday, 26 September 2008

Everton and Liverpool devoured column inches and claimed headlines on a daily basis in a summer of sub-plots on Merseyside.

And while Saturday's first derby meeting of the season promises to be dramatic enough on its own, the events of the summer still provide an intriguing backdrop to activity on the pitch at Goodison Park.

Contracts, takeovers, signings (or lack of them) - accompanied by so many differing versions of events that one seasoned observer of Merseyside football told me "it's been like covering four clubs not two."

The stakes are always high in a game that shed its rather fanciful "friendly derby" tag many moons ago - but for Everton in particular, the coming days could shape their entire season.

Everton look a shadow of the side that finished fifth last term, going out of the Carling Cup at Blackburn on Wednesday with the jeers of their own fans ringing in their ears.

It was a reaction manager David Moyes said was fully justified - especially as it was estimated that the travelling contingent of Everton fans accounted for half of the 14,000 crowd at Ewood Park.

Throw in the fact that Moyes had to haul off his club record £15m signing Marouane Fellaini at half-time and you can gather that the mood around Goodison is not bursting with optimism and goodwill.

Fellaini has cut a tragi-comic figure in his early Everton games, a lost giant finding himself over-run by the little people. Everton's very own Gulliver.

Moyes will hope memories of his outstanding displays against Liverpool in the Champions League (which apparently did not, taken in isolation, prompt him to shell out a quite astounding sum minutes before the transfer window closed) will cattle-prod the big man into life against a familiar foe on Saturday.

If Standard had not already discovered how generous Everton could be when buying Fellaini, they certainly found out when they were gifted a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park in the Uefa Cup last week.

It leaves Everton on the brink of an exit in a tournament they worked so hard to qualify for, and one on which they had pinned many hopes this season.

But little has gone right for Everton since last May - and most of the wounds have been self-inflicted.

The club had a nightmare summer of transfer inactivity, a ground move stalled, chief excutive Keith Wyness resigned and there were laboured contract negotiations with Moyes that continue as I write this blog.

Any considered and precise strategy to build on last season's fifth place was conspicuous by its absence - although pointing the finger at a single culprit is an inexact science and there may well be more than one.

Chairman Bill Kenwright has been blamed for not providing enough cash, while Moyes has also been criticised for failing to take charge of the situation and being pro-active about signing new players until the shutters on transfer window were creaking into action.

The last day dash to Belgium to sign Fellaini may turn out to be an inspired coup, but it also had the inescapable whiff of desperation about it.

Moyes appeared to distance himself from the club's assertion that money had been available all summer when he expressed his regret at not having signings before the season started.

My information is that Moyes had a "flexible" £10m to spend from 1 June (flexible upwards presumably) plus anything he pulled in from sales. This will have left him with £20m-plus after Andrew Johnson's sale to Fulham.

This is not a bank-busting figure and the argument from those defending Moyes' management in the summer is that the serious money, accrued through Johnson's £10.5m sale, arrived too late to sign the sort of players needed to seriously threaten the Premier League's top four.

He has a valid point - but his policy of bringing in players so late was devastatingly flawed and has made a major contribution to Everton's uncertain start to the season. There was cash to spend £15m on Fellaini, although there did not seem enough to land Moyes' main summer target, the £18m-rated Sporting Lisbon midfield man Joao Moutinho.

Moyes' new contract has also cast a shadow over Everton this summer and, as ever with these things, becomes a matter for more debate when results are poor.

David Moyes

There is still hope he might even sign a new deal before Saturday's derby, but the clock is ticking and it is starting to fall into the "believe it when you see it" category.

I was informed from inside Everton in May that a deal had been agreed "in principle", the assumption at the time being that the principle was a guarantee of a major transfer fund.

I have since been told on several occasions he will be signing the contract "shortly" - and indeed the BBC was told last week that he was on the verge of signing a five-year deal.

The contract remains unsigned, with Moyes in the final year of his current deal, and my latest information is that it is still with the club, but will represent a £60,000-a-week deal if and when it is signed.

Presumably it is waiting final adjustments from Kenwright - although he might be tempted to make some interesting changes should Everton go out of the Uefa Cup next week.

Moyes' stock remains high with Everton fans, but supporters rightly judge managers on results and he might experience something of a credit crunch if they do not fall for him in the next week.

Kenwright does not enjoy Moyes' popularity with fans - they lack faith in the chairman and are never slow to let him know.

Many Everton supporters are openly hostile to a move to Kirkby and feel Kenwright has not delivered on new investment (despite what he once now infamously called a "24/7" search).

Kenwright's cause is not helped when Everton fans recall the fiasco of the ultimately non-existent Fortress Sports Fund in 2004.

He admitted at a recent Extraordinary General Meeting, called by fans unhappy at ground move proposals, that he wanted the club to have a new billionaire owner.

The only name linked, and this was vague at best, was Indian businessman Anil Ambani. Everton do not appear to be an attractive proposition to investors, especially when one of their first tasks could be to provide at least £100m to build a new stadium.

It could present an embarrassing scenario for Kenwright if he appears in front of Everton supporters this time next year and there is still no new investment and still no new ground, but do not bet against it happening.

Kenwright has asked the man who is winning a reputation as an investment "Mr Fix It" Keith Harris (no not that one) to find a buyer, but he has also been instructed to do the same by Newcastle so it may not happen in a hurry.

It leaves Everton in the sort of no-man's land that only good results can take you out of - but they can be sure Liverpool and Standard Liege will not be in the mood to lend a helping hand in what will be a pivotal few days for Moyes and his side.

Liverpool, their win against Manchester United apart, have not convinced this season and they have not been a picture of peace and calm either - with the relationship between chief executive Rick Parry and their turbulent manager Rafael Benitez a matter for public debate in the summer.

The club's supporters are in no mood to make peace with owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett and they also crave new investment, although Liverpool will have no difficulty finding it should their current American owners decide enough is enough.

Robbie Keane - vastly over-priced at £20m - has so far failed to settle, but he has punished Everton before and will see this as the perfect opportunity to ignite his Anfield career.

Everton will hope the sight of the old enemy will somehow spark them into reviving last season's excellent form - and provide the best possible diversion away from the current unsettled mood at the club.

Comments

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  • 1. At 11:50am on 26 Sep 2008, ChelseaSaffer wrote:

    Everton will struggle this season.

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  • 2. At 12:01pm on 26 Sep 2008, Mr Chelsea wrote:

    MOYESIE'S A GOOD MANAGER

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  • 3. At 12:01pm on 26 Sep 2008, mikelmadar wrote:

    Blimey ChelseaSaffer, sticking your neck out there! Do you have inside info?

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  • 4. At 12:03pm on 26 Sep 2008, toffeeman78 wrote:

    It's a rocky start, granted. However, when (I daren't say 'if') the new signings begin to gel and our injured 1st teamers come back into contention and we stop blooding the youngsters too early AND get the defence sorted out, get Moyes' new contract signed, sort out the stadium farce, find some investment from somewhere (if not to plough into the team, only to clear some of the loan debts) and continue to look as dangerous going forward as we have lately - then - we might not struggle.

    I do reckon we'll stuff the reds 4-0 tomorrow though and that'll be the start of it...

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  • 5. At 12:05pm on 26 Sep 2008, lien_cam wrote:

    If Moyes had been watching Fellaini for years he would have bought him before he played agianst Liverpool, as he would have been cheaper and available for the Uefa cup whilst Everton are actually still in it.

    I think this could be Moyes' last season at Everton - if they lose Cahill for a prolonged period of time, they will plummet down the table - he's already 'earnt' them 4 of their seven points this season. Without his input they would be 19th - below Newcastle(!) - at the moment.


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  • 6. At 12:07pm on 26 Sep 2008, nsm1979 wrote:

    Everton to raise their game for only one of two times this season. As we all know taking points off the reds is more important to the Toffees then silverware and league places.

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  • 7. At 12:08pm on 26 Sep 2008, Steven Broadbent wrote:

    Moyes and his drelling to make "less great" signings, has effected the team.

    Instead of buying players near the start and getting a few friendlys to gell, they were left with a week at the tops, where as Fellani came on the last minute.

    The Everton team (especially Howard and the defence). To say we conceded 3 own goals, and conceded 8 in 3 matches, yet scored 6, shows the Yak and a few others have shown up.

    If Lescott's "lets impress the fans" and get a clean sheet method fails, I see us losing both games, because so far all our defenders have been along way from the pace appart from maybe the Jag.

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  • 8. At 12:09pm on 26 Sep 2008, NorthernRule wrote:

    Trust McNulty to get the boot in just before a derby... Are you still banned from Goodison Phil?

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  • 9. At 12:13pm on 26 Sep 2008, MUFC_RED_ARMY wrote:

    Best of luck to Everton on Saturday, but I would have to agree with Phil McNulty and say that they are going to struggle this year. I just believe the likes of Villa, and even Spurs although they're also struggling, have bigger and better squads than The Toffees. In time Fellaini may turn out to be a good buy, but at the present time he is Everton's Robbie Keane - both were bought for at least £6 million more than they were worth and neither have delivered thus far.

    There's always been a certain degree of rivalry between United and Everton over the seasons because of the Mancunian-Scouse factor, but I have quite a few Evertonian mates and the weekends go in quicker when The Toffees win because then I don't have to hear them crying into their pints about the club's lack of money. For that reason I hope they can turn it round, starting tomorrow against the club we both love to hate.

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  • 10. At 12:15pm on 26 Sep 2008, OneKingRafa wrote:

    £15m for Fellaini and £20m for Keane, how can you make judgements on these players after less than 10 competitive games played between the 2 of them.

    Liverpool and/or Everton will come out of the derby with more problems. It is a must win game for both in order to shape their season. A draw will leave both of them with question marks raised.

    I'm predicting a close battle with Liverpool to edge it and don't be surprised if Keane scores/assists for the goal then Mr Mcnulty can eat a large portiion of humble pie again.

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  • 11. At 12:17pm on 26 Sep 2008, ChelseaSaffer wrote:

    sorry mikelmadar had to be first for a change! Anyhow, i dont see everton ending fifth, that spot could go to villa or man city! would like to see villa up there tho.

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  • 12. At 12:21pm on 26 Sep 2008, MOYESYSIDE wrote:

    It must really annoy you McNulty that Everton is a closed shop and you cant get any info from your so-called sources. Season after season the same old lines are trotted out about Everton and Moyes and time after time the team and its manager silence their critics with what they do on the pitch.

    The season is only a few games old, there is nothing from which you could possibly gleam from current performances how this season is going to pan out so why write a piece like this? Surely this is more appropriate as an end of season piece?

    I dont suppose for a second that we will beat Liverpool but we used this same fixture last season to go on a decent unbeaten run that for a time led us to think we might get back into the top 4 again.

    You're just a hack McNulty. I dont know how you keep your job to be honest.

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  • 13. At 12:21pm on 26 Sep 2008, Tee See wrote:

    "Everton and Liverpool devoured column inches and claimed headlines on a daily basis in a summer of sub-plots on Merseyside."

    -----------

    Of course, there wasn't much news to make this justified, it's just that Phil supports one and is obsessed with the other.

    Let's not overlook Everton and Moyes' track record. Everton have regularly been seen to yo-yo up and down and I think they will again, settling somewhere in mid-table (think Blackburn/West Ham last season).

    Moyes has a terrible record in the transfer market. Cahill and Arteta were good, but there's been so much waste - I'd be willing to bet that the £15m man does not live up to his billing. A great motivator Moyes might be, but it's not enough, not if he genuinely believes Everton can maintain their position (or even move on from it and head up).

    Villa have made great steps forwards and left Everton in their shade. What's happened this season isn't entirely surprising.

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  • 14. At 12:22pm on 26 Sep 2008, DukeOfSpuds wrote:

    "I just believe the likes of Villa, and even Spurs although they're also struggling, have bigger and better squads than The Toffees."

    I think this is the point. Everton just haven't progressed as much as other teams. Man City were improving regardless of Robinho, Villa are making their mark already this season and you can't count Portsmouth out of performing well.

    On the Robbie Keane front, as a Liverpool fan, i'm disappointed we spent that much on him. Central attacking options wasn't something we are short on. I still think we'll end up with Gerrard playing off Torres and a very expensive bench.

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  • 15. At 12:25pm on 26 Sep 2008, Where's?the?next?Kenny?™ wrote:

    Terrible piece yet again, paragraphs where there should'nt be just to fill up the space on the page, an awful read.

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  • 16. At 12:27pm on 26 Sep 2008, MOYESYSIDE wrote:

    DukeOfSpuds

    what do you mean Everton havent improved much? For us to improve we would need to become regulars in the Champions League. I dont see any other teams doing this either and we've come closer than anyone else without spending a lot of money.

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  • 17. At 12:31pm on 26 Sep 2008, ChelseaSaffer wrote:

    15. At 12:25pm on 26 Sep 2008, Where's?the?next?Kenny?? wrote:
    Terrible piece yet again, paragraphs where there should'nt be just to fill up the space on the page, an awful read.
    ----------------------------------------
    I think blogs are there to invoke the reader's opinion about the subject regardless of how the material is presented. No need to gove phil stick about something your not really interested in.

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  • 18. At 12:32pm on 26 Sep 2008, NorthernRule wrote:

    the yo-yo comments make me laugh BTW, in 4 out of 6 seasons Everton have finished in the top 7..lets have it right eh!

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  • 19. At 12:33pm on 26 Sep 2008, thewelshboycott wrote:

    In football terms, the road to Liverpool is no more than a place to stop for a quick cuppa and a slash on the way to Manchester.

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  • 20. At 12:34pm on 26 Sep 2008, DukeOfSpuds wrote:

    MOYESYSIDE

    I've always considered Everton as the my favourites for 5th place, or at least rivalling for 4th, as they have done before. To me it just seems more difficult this year for them to maintain that threat because of the improvement of the teams around them.

    Maybe saying they haven't improved was a bit harsh on my part. Maybe not improved as much as the others?

    I still rate Everton as a decent side (a rarity for a Liverpool fan). Yakubu, Cahill and Arteta are class acts, and I'm a big fan of Jagielka.

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  • 21. At 12:35pm on 26 Sep 2008, bullyboyblue wrote:

    Everton were chronic in midweek against our second string. I have never known an Everton team be so easy to play against. In the first half, Everton hardly saw the ball.

    Blackburn played some superb one and two touch passing football, but I think you can only do that if allowed, and Everton did not impose themselves on the game at any stage.

    Good luck Everton, I fear it'll be a tough season thisone, but you have got to stick with Moyes

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  • 22. At 12:38pm on 26 Sep 2008, DukeOfSpuds wrote:

    "Terrible piece yet again, paragraphs where there should'nt be just to fill up the space on the page, an awful read."

    Who reads blogs for the grammar? It's just opinions and thoughts...

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  • 23. At 12:39pm on 26 Sep 2008, NorthernRule wrote:

    thewelshboycott if thats the case mate then how do you explain merseyside being the most successful football region of the country..... some people need to think before they type!

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  • 24. At 12:42pm on 26 Sep 2008, lightother wrote:

    what a load of biased cobblers!! grow up Phil, thanks to you and the fat waiter, club relations are at an all time low!! nice timing

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  • 25. At 12:54pm on 26 Sep 2008, JCON82 wrote:

    Tee See - "Moyes has a terrible record in the transfer market."

    Really?

    Yobo, Lescott, Yakubu, Jagielka, Arteta, Cahill, Pienaar, Howard.

    The base of a solid top 4 team there with little funds available.

    Hardly a terrible record especially when compared to the likes of Benitez.

    So far this seasons main signings: Fellaini, Castillo and Saha, have all looked promising from the little we have seen of them.

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  • 26. At 12:56pm on 26 Sep 2008, MOYESYSIDE wrote:

    lightother

    good point. these sort of pieces are there just to wind people up and its worked to a certain extent. we dont need all these little asides from managers and players to whip up a frenzy before the game. imagine if the derby actually counted for something other than pride? there'd be real violence involved the way some people talk up a storm like this.

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  • 27. At 1:03pm on 26 Sep 2008, adam-o wrote:

    You have to say this article is biased. I am not a regular visitor to this site, but whilst reading it I thought the blogger would be a red. Reading through the comments it seems I am right.

    Sort it out BBC!

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  • 28. At 1:13pm on 26 Sep 2008, lien_cam wrote:

    Everton fans need to realise that they had the smallest squad in the PL last season, that they lost at least two players from it at the end of the season, and that the only real replacement they brought in was Fellaini - and that was an extremely rushed purchasel; Jacobsen won't play until January.

    The other teams around Everton have brought in more players, or promise to in January. Relatively speaking, Everton have gone backwards - see the inability to field a completely experienced midfield earlier in the season, the utterly poor pre season etc.

    If you want further evidence, most people expect Blackburn to be poorer this season than they were last. Last season Everton drew with Blackburn twice. This season they've lost to them twice already - once against Blackburn's second string.

    By all means, be positive about your club and its future, but if you are seriously expecting the same kind of season as you've had recently, I think you are setting yourselves up for a fall. Just how big a fall remains to be seen.

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  • 29. At 1:14pm on 26 Sep 2008, Scottishscouser wrote:

    You have to say this article is biased. I am not a regular visitor to this site, but whilst reading it I thought the blogger would be a red. Reading through the comments it seems I am right.
    ---------------------
    You couldn't be more wrong!

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  • 30. At 1:15pm on 26 Sep 2008, Tee See wrote:

    25. At 12:54pm on 26 Sep 2008, JCON82 wrote:
    Tee See - "Moyes has a terrible record in the transfer market."

    Really?

    Yobo, Lescott, Yakubu, Jagielka, Arteta, Cahill, Pienaar, Howard.

    The base of a solid top 4 team there with little funds available

    --------------------

    Little funds? Little funds like:

    Andy Johnson - £8.6m
    James Beattie - £6m
    Andy van der Meyde - £2m
    Per Krøldrup - £5m
    Simon Davies - £3.5m

    These are the ones off the top of my head, and I'm not an Everton fan. I'm sure you could name more.

    Above Moyes has blown £25+ on players who quite frankly weren't good enough. Yes he's recouped some money, but what will that go on?

    Moyes has done well wheeling and dealing with the lower leagues and others on the cheap, but he can't produce the big name signing, the player you really need, someone with the quality to see you break the big four.

    When it comes to big spending Moyes gets it wrong. Johnson had a shocking goal rate, Beattie wasn't good enough. Yakubu, a decent goalscorer but prone to being lazy, you overpaid because Moyes clearly had nobody else to go for.

    Fellaini at £15m? Good player, but are you telling me you were seriously happy with him coming in at £15m??? Clear panic buying if ever I saw it. The same with Saha. His track record througout the United years have shown he simply doesn't play games.

    Nothing will convince me Moyes is good in the transfer market.

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  • 31. At 1:15pm on 26 Sep 2008, ph0u203b wrote:

    terrible record in the transfer market???? are u being serious?? following the sale of rooney, moyes has shaped everton into a solid team capable of attractive football with inspired signings throughout the entire team....howard, jag, lescott, arteta, cahill but to name a few. This column is a shocking read!!!!

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  • 32. At 1:18pm on 26 Sep 2008, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    Banned from Goodison Park? A biased red? It's not just journalists who should check their facts.

    On the more serious point, I suspect David Moyes will try to stop the rot by putting Phil Neville in midfield alongside Marouane Fellaini tomorrow.

    Segundo Castillo, one strike against Standard Liege apart, has not looked built for the cut and thrust of the Premier League - and certainly not equipped to cope with Gerrard, Alonso or Mascherano.

    If Everton have hope, it is that Yakubu has stated the season superbly and Louis Saha has demonstrated what everyone knows - if he can stay fit (the biggest if in football) he is a genuine quality performer.

    What do Everton fans think will be their line-up and how do Liverpool fans think they will approach the game?

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  • 33. At 1:20pm on 26 Sep 2008, Tee See wrote:

    ph0u203b - Selling a world class forward and replacing him with Marcus Bent isn't exactly a masterstroke, is it?

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  • 34. At 1:26pm on 26 Sep 2008, mikelmadar wrote:

    I'd be more satisfied if Neville was dropped to the bench.

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  • 35. At 1:33pm on 26 Sep 2008, NorthernRule wrote:

    yeah banned from Goodison Park for being a trouble causer...funny that.. deny it all you like mate :-)

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  • 36. At 1:33pm on 26 Sep 2008, StJohn_Red_Legend wrote:

    David Moyes is a good manager - he's achieved some very good results and steered the club well, despite being hobbled with a board who haven't walked the walk after Kenwright talked the talk.

    The significant signing of Fellaini does look to be a 'figleaf' to cover the poor performance of the club over the summer in failing to sign anyone from the list that Moyes must have submitted to the board. And given his initial performances resemble Bambi-on-ice, this can't have helped to relieve the building pressure of Moyes, and more significantly, on the board.

    I know that as a Liverpool fan, I'll be derided as having a view on the boardroom of Everton, but as a club that I want to do better for the benefit of the city of Liverpool, to return them to the 80s pomp, when the two clubs bestrode the league and Europe as titans, I hope that they get a good businessman in soon. Kenwright has mostly been PR, and he's taken the club as far as he can with that...

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  • 37. At 1:36pm on 26 Sep 2008, finch_the_rover wrote:

    What I absolutely love about reading these articles (well the comments) is the amount of people who slag off Phil and his articles (I think they make great reading) yet they keep coming back and reading them week in, week out. If they are that bad why read them? There really are quite alot of idiots out there, no suprise really

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  • 38. At 1:44pm on 26 Sep 2008, AdrianSean wrote:

    As a Liverpool fan il pretend to ignore the following comment:

    .."and their turbulent manager Rafel Beneitiz"

    as your arguments (or rants) against Liverpool are always poorly justified..just like the other media press hoggers looking to make a quick buck @ the expense of the club.

    David Moyes went down in my estimation last season when before a uefa cup game (cant remember the oppositon off the top of my head) a reporter asked him if this was the biggest game of his managerial career...he replied "No". That was a silly answer..Everton should now be pushing for honours in the cups and europe should be a strong priority for them to go and win..why not?! they call themselves a big club...PROVE IT!

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  • 39. At 1:52pm on 26 Sep 2008, AkiraSnake wrote:

    In '05 Everton qualified for the Champions League, then in 06 they struggled and were too close for relegation. Last season they did well and tjis season they will struggle. They seem to have a good season followed by a bad one. They lack season consistinsy. Moyes should stay, he is a good manager but the board need to give him more money.

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  • 40. At 1:57pm on 26 Sep 2008, lightother wrote:

    errr Phil you don't get more serious than allegations of abusing position, and having hooligan type football bans!! add to that your laughable attempt to start some 'football talk' about team choice!! get back to the echo and start again!

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  • 41. At 1:59pm on 26 Sep 2008, NorthernRule wrote:

    lightother..thats exactly what I'm talking about..denying it happened is laughable !

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  • 42. At 2:03pm on 26 Sep 2008, levdavidovich wrote:

    Everton's qualification for the UEFA cup in two successive seasons (so not one good one bad season as someone above suggested) was a big achievement with the players the club has compared to other teams. It is difficult to continue to compete without the financial resources of the other clubs.

    This season Everton have conceded too many goals, often from set-pieces. They should have the players to deal with that: Jagjelka, Lescott, Neville and Yobo are internationals. The loss of Carsley is the difference.

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  • 43. At 2:08pm on 26 Sep 2008, therealeverton wrote:

    No InMoyes' FULL years Everton have had one bad season where they finished 17th with 39 having miraculously finished 7th with 59 points the season before.

    They had one AVERAGE season where they finished 11th with 50 points and nowhere NEAR relegation. Other than that they have had a 4th placed finish with 61 points, a 6th placed finish with 58 points and a 5th placed finish with 65 points. 4 of Everton's 5 best finishes in 20 years have come from Moyes, 1 aveager finish and 1 poor season, his 2nd FIVE years ago. Everton have been the 5th best PL team over the past 4-5 seasons. The good year/ bad year thing is a Myth, and a poor one at that.

    Good
    bad
    great
    average
    good
    great

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  • 44. At 2:12pm on 26 Sep 2008, lien_cam wrote:

    Northernrule/lightover: Get over yourselves, it was your beloved Joe Royle getting a bit precious, nothing more.

    'The truth hurts' is a saying applicable to both the comments above (in terms of defensive Evertonian's) and what actually happened to Phil McNutly at the hands of Mr 'dogs of war'.

    _______________________

    http://www.toffeeweb.com/season/96-97/papers.htm

    The nadir, so far as Everton are concerned, was their ignominious dismissal from the Coca-Cola Cup by York City at the second-round stage last month. After being held to a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park in the first leg, the Merseysiders were beaten at Bootham Crescent more easily than the 3-2 scoreline might suggest.

    Complaining about this surrender to a mid-table side from the Second Division, a football writer on the Liverpool Echo, pointed out that Everton had been eliminated from the competition before Liverpool had even entered it. His punishment for being so outspoken was to be banned from Everton's Bellefield training ground. Surprisingly, the exclusion order was issued by Joe Royle, a manager not noted previously for being unduly sensitive to criticism. But suspicions of paranoia began to be voiced when Royle was outraged by a match report in the local morning paper, the Liverpool Daily Post, which appeared to call for his head following Everton's struggle to beat West Ham 2-1, at home, on Oct 12.

    The latest episode came last week when Royle failed to attend the Echo's presentation of the Merseyside Footballer of the Year award to Andrei Kanchelskis. The Russian international was the first Everton player to win the four-year-old, fan-generated prize, and it is said the Goodison Park hierarchy were not best pleased by their manager's absence.

    Royle himself is unrepentant. "I fell out with them," he admits.

    "I wouldn't say they've been disloyal exactly, but I feel they've certainly been wrongly scathing at times. While I felt I'd given them a very special service, I don't think they were giving Everton a special service. I'd kept them informed of everything. They've rung me at midnight and first thing in the morning, and I've rung them in time to beat deadlines. I've also made them very welcome at the club: they can speak to anybody. Then they turn round and stab me in the back."

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  • 45. At 2:15pm on 26 Sep 2008, Caz4278 wrote:

    "Fellaini has cut a tragi-comic figure in his early Everton games, a lost giant finding himself over-run by the little people. Everton's very own Gulliver."

    Thats hilarious Phil I really rate that coment and this is exactly how Everton will feel this season with all the so called smaller clubs over-running them!

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  • 46. At 2:17pm on 26 Sep 2008, CantonasCollar79 wrote:

    As an unbiased United fan (scouse teams don't win Premier League titles) I'd have to agree with the majority of posts - this blog is seriously biased, and it's not the first of its kind.

    It does seem that Mr McNulty is making a concerted effort to cover up the fact that he supports Liverpool, but it isn't washing, and I would rather read an article by him about teams with whom he has no quarrel.

    Also, I'm not being funny, but although I'm a season-ticket holder at Old Trafford and enjoy reading about the so-called larger clubs in the top four (although how Chelsea belong to this group each season now is still weird, it'll be City soon, can you imagine?) I wouldn't mind an article about some of the other teams in the Premier League - Hull, for instance, have made a terrific start to the campaign. Blackburn are building a new team under Ince, Zola, Stoke, North/South divide, etc.

    I'd write one myself, but I'm paid to do so by another sports site.

    My prediction for the match tomorrow would be 1-1. Saha is quality (a player I can't help but root for) and I think he might open his Toffe account, with Gerrard doing something brilliant for The Reds as usual to grab parity.

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  • 47. At 2:18pm on 26 Sep 2008, chappyseagull wrote:

    Everton will settle. The players did come in late and we have had some injury problems. A big few weeks coming up with Liverpool, Liege, Arsenal and United and it could make or break the season.
    Even as reds many of my mates tell me they would prefer Moyes as manager to Benitez. I know he wasn't everyones cup of tea, but I think the biggest problem for Moyes has been the loss of Lee Carsley. He sat and broke up so many attacks which protected the defence. Personally I prefer him at right back but I think that Neville will move in to that role when Hibbert is fit.

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  • 48. At 2:19pm on 26 Sep 2008, NorthernRule wrote:

    Jeez there are some bitters on here.. this is all you get from articles like this... just an excuse for people to have a pop at Everton...

    Imagine if Everton win tomorrow... what will the fickle 606ers be doing then?

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  • 49. At 2:21pm on 26 Sep 2008, therealeverton wrote:

    Phil, Are you trying to say, in your capacity as a journalist, that the reports in March 2008, saying that we were trying to buy Felliani (price apparently £10m) were not true, and that we in fact had shown no interest in buying him at all untill the CL tie with Liverpool?

    If not, why allow the inference to continue?

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  • 50. At 2:23pm on 26 Sep 2008, Scottishscouser wrote:

    I find it so funny that McNulty is being labelled as a red. Asd a Journo / pundit, he shares his contempt for Liverpool and Benitez only with Mr Richard Keys.

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  • 51. At 2:25pm on 26 Sep 2008, MOYESYSIDE wrote:

    Are you serious McNulty?

    You write a load of poisonous drivel and then expect a football discussion when people call you on the bias.

    I always thought you might be an Everton fan. Which is it? where do your loyalties lie?

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  • 52. At 2:49pm on 26 Sep 2008, GreatFeetForABigMan wrote:

    Decent blog, but why tack three fairly bland, stereotypical musings on liverpool at the end of an article that has been entirely about Everton's trouble? Granted we are playing each other this weekend so the liverpool connection has a tenuous relevance but the opening bold-type statement seemed to foreshadow a much more double-pronged piece than this.

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  • 53. At 3:13pm on 26 Sep 2008, Carcharias wrote:

    Where is all the money going?
    Am i the only Everton fan wondering why we have so little to spend? Granted we don't have the ability to match the big four which can't be doubted but how is it that Sunderland, Portsmouth,Middlesbrough etc are able to spend more on players than Everton can?
    We have sky money coming in, finished fourth and fifth in recent seasons, had a decent run in the UEFA cup last season....
    Do we really have that much debt? Even after selling Rooney because we sure as hell didn't spend his transfer money on any players.
    Kenwright is a joke..... just a fan with a few million in the bank and no where near enough to push us forward.
    How a club can finish fifth and qualify for the UEFA cup and make no signings until the 11th hour of the Tranfer Window is ridiculous. This is an absolute farce and Moyes is not free of blame. He has made some extremely poor signings in the past and in fact the vast majority of the poor signings have been the ones he's spent most money on.
    He is extremely over rated as a manager who has relied on fortunate 1-0 wins for the past few years. His football teams play with no real flare whatsoever and would be labelled boring by supporters of any other club(with justification). We've gone backwards yet again and are just about to go out od=f the UEFA cup at the first hurdle.
    The defence is an absolute shambles... Lescott and Yobo have been exceptionally poor and Phil Neville and Tony Hibbert are a complete waste of space.
    Just frustrated by how you can turn a brilliant season(fifth place finish) into an utter disgrace overnight. Only at Everton can you see such stupidity in abundance!!

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  • 54. At 3:20pm on 26 Sep 2008, therealeverton wrote:

    53. At 3:13pm on 26 Sep 2008, Carcharias wrote:
    Where is all the money going?
    Am i the only Everton fan wondering why we have so little to spend?


    What money?
    We make a loss.
    The real question is how long can we keep borrowing money for transfers.

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  • 55. At 3:24pm on 26 Sep 2008, Neil Anderson wrote:

    Phil McNulty I congratulate you.....

    You have this brilliant insight into Everton and Liverpool.... you are quite obviously a talented writer too. After all it takes years of practice to be able to write the drivvle that you do and make it seem like a quality article.

    Do us all a favour, Go to a game and then speak to board members, management and player and then talk to fans. Your articles reek of a person who watches games from his arm-chair and then thinks he knows everything.

    Give up your day job and go find a job in Liverpool one.

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  • 56. At 3:41pm on 26 Sep 2008, 1878sfblue wrote:

    I see how you've criticised Everton but not touched on the problems across the park.

    Funny that, with the derby tomorrow...

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  • 57. At 3:45pm on 26 Sep 2008, lien_cam wrote:

    I love that Phil gets pulled up for his "drivvle" (sic) but when people actually post articulate well thought out comments, no one replies to them.

    Replace 'youtube comment' with 'derrogatory comment about a blog's quality'

    http://xkcd.com/481/

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  • 58. At 3:47pm on 26 Sep 2008, lien_cam wrote:

    'ScrewMcNulty' - There are three paragraphs about Liverpool's failings at the bottom of the article.

    How did you miss them?

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  • 59. At 4:03pm on 26 Sep 2008, Zephyryx wrote:

    Has anyone else noticed the utter lack of respect that people have for Mr McNulty's blog? I wish the Mahir Bose would...

    Robbie Keane 'vastly over-priced at £20m'? I wonder which Robbie Keane some of these people have been watching over the last few seasons. Keane is a technical, clever player and was effective captain of Tottenham ("Ledley Who? You mean the guy on the stretcher?"). £20m was no bargain but 'vastly over-priced'? I for one think Liverpool paid the going rate for what they needed.

    Everton's problems are no mystery. They've not progressed as a club in 15 years. Goodison's needed replacing/renovating since time immemorial. They have no money, can't get out of debt and have somehow found themselves with the 'unfashionable' tag.

    I'm a Liverpudlian but I have to admire Moyes. He's done superbly but he can't work wonders indefinately. He needs money. Everton are where they are based on grit and heart. If they want to go up a level they need sacrifice a little of that for technical ability and become a better footballing side. Moyes has been trying to do this on a shoestring, give the guy a break. Interestingly, although non of my Evertonian friends are happy, I've not heard a bad word spoken of Moyes. They know what he's done.

    If I was a billionaire, and not a red, I'd look at Everton. Build a new stadium/renovate in a BIG way and pump £100 into the team and the fans would love you forever. £400m? Abromovich has spent far more than that...It won't happen of course but I hope Everton find a way forward. I like the club.

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  • 60. At 4:07pm on 26 Sep 2008, Sparkle wrote:

    Fellaini has hardly played Phil, how can you judge him so harshly?

    It's not the derby which counts so much as the 2nd leg against Liege. If they can pull that one off it will set them up to kick on.

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  • 61. At 4:17pm on 26 Sep 2008, Jabonski wrote:

    I agree with a lot of this (for once). But I cannot believe there are Man U fans on here saying Keane is vastly over priced. Berbatov anyone??? how much did Whiskey nose wanna pay again??? Anyway back to tomorrow I think if Everton are not up for it tomorrow then they are in worse difficulties than we currently think, I don't for one minute think Moyes will allow this though so it will be a tough game, I think we will just sneak. Unfortunately Mike Riley is in charge so there will be red cards again. As for Fellaini I am sure he will become a very decent signing in the future I just hope he doesn't start showing it tomorrow.

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  • 62. At 4:18pm on 26 Sep 2008, lightother wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 63. At 4:24pm on 26 Sep 2008, lien_cam wrote:

    lightother - no, I just dislike bitter blues like yourself.

    As I'm sure you've said to your fellow bluenoses (regarding Newcastle fans) "They need to realise they aren't a big club"

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  • 64. At 4:29pm on 26 Sep 2008, Jabonski wrote:

    Chappy Seagull, I don't know of any of my red mates and I know absolutely loadswho would have Moyes over Rafa to be fair mate. Good manager but I don't think he would cut it a a very top club with money to spend, as a lot of his big money signings have been his worst. Tactically I don't think he is anywhere near Rafa either (especially in Europe, but domestically to). This was shown against Liege, at home Moyes said himself he was treating the game like an away leg, that is just awful.

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  • 65. At 4:38pm on 26 Sep 2008, lightother wrote:

    Mmmmm, your last comment sums you up!

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  • 66. At 4:42pm on 26 Sep 2008, therealeverton wrote:

    Interesting, technically he's only made 3 "big money signings. Felliani, who nobody can judge for another season at least, Yakubu, big success and AJ, I'd call him a success, many would also though many wouldn't. £5m - £6m signings, whilst a lot of money to Everton are NOT big money signings. So where are these big money flops you're on about? I assume you mean Beatie? who we sold for £4m after spending £6m. Not a real success, but hardly a disaster. Ofset by the £5m Lescott. Krouldrop, playing in the CL now I believe. Not all foreign players settle in another country, as every club who has bought foreign players can confirm. The only real flop, and hardly "big money" at £5m. What about Jagielka at £4m? is he "big money" then? The impressive Howard at £3.5m "big money"? come on be serious here.

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  • 67. At 4:46pm on 26 Sep 2008, sirdrewboy_uk wrote:

    It is simply too early in the season to comment on its likely outcomes as there are many nuances, changes of direction etc. that will happen over the coming weeks and months.

    Already this is shaping up to be a vintage season - we have three clubs (in Hull City, Stoke City and West Brom) who are all capable of competing, as evidenced by their recent form.

    We have major clubs (Newcastle and Spurs) in serious trouble, and less major clubs (the 3 promoted sides, Wigan and Fulham) all on the up.

    Everton are not in trouble, and neither will they be in trouble this season. They just have not made the best of starts. I think the local derby tomorrow will be most interesting, and I foresee plenty of action and, critically, goals!

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  • 68. At 4:47pm on 26 Sep 2008, GRHForeverEverton wrote:

    Hate to admit it but Phil's article is pretty accurate. We've won two competitive games all season, both of which against teams who were promoted last season and would be favourites for the drop. We've been thrashed by Portstmouth and beaten by Blackburn at home and neither team has set the world alight this season either. Our home form is the main concern. If Moyes can get the defence organised, we'll be all-right as there's plenty of goals in the team. Trouble is, Howard and Lescott look pretty flaky and only Jagielka has been at the races so far.

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  • 69. At 4:49pm on 26 Sep 2008, MrKatanga82 wrote:

    Am I missing something here or are everton 9th in the table and only 5 points of the top and only 5 games into the season.

    if you really want to write an article about a troubled start to the season i think your really barking up the wrong tree with Everton especially when you look at the starts from newcastle and my club Spurs.

    Anyway just thought I would take the opertunity to wish all Everton fans good luck against Liverpool.

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  • 70. At 5:02pm on 26 Sep 2008, arnie_99 wrote:

    Man Utd game aside, Liverpool haven't looked convincing. I reckon the occasion could spark the everton players to up their game. As long as the referee doesn't decide the game like he did last year!

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  • 71. At 5:45pm on 26 Sep 2008, bluescouse2502 wrote:

    Chatting broken biscuits as usual Phil, then again you give the other side something else to read than the norway times. We know we haven't had the best of starts but give it time and we'll come through.

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  • 72. At 6:06pm on 26 Sep 2008, bridlington bob wrote:

    Mr McNulty,

    Are you paid by the written word ?

    In summary:

    Everton v Liverpool, tomorrow lunchtime. Orrite ?

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  • 73. At 6:17pm on 26 Sep 2008, Ozzy87 wrote:

    i know it is way too early in the season but i think moyes has taken everton as far as he can. a bit like allardyce with bolton.

    i think villa and man city (when they buy god knows who in january) will finish in 5th and 6th.

    knocked out of the carling cup. on the verge of being knocked out of the uefa cup. looks like all they can look foward to is a run in the fa cup unless they shore up their defence.

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  • 74. At 7:06pm on 26 Sep 2008, davehibbertis God wrote:

    You can't blame Bill Kenright for not putting in more money. He's said publicly it would need a billionaire to take over and do what the fans think is needed, he's done as much as he can and is open to approach, but what about the two Liverpool clubs seriously talking about a stadium share ?60,000 size and get the revenue up to match the top 4. In the long run it's revenue that will buy the best players, not the billionaire godfathers who, especially if they are from elsewhere might give up and walk away if they get bored

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  • 75. At 8:23pm on 26 Sep 2008, RedIsaac wrote:

    I find it very amusing that there are so many Man Utd fans coming on to criticize McNulty for his pro-Liverpool bias. That is further evidence of how some have such a distorted interpretation of things. But then again, what can one expect from people who completely wipe out over a hundred years of English football just because Sky managed to get its greedy hands on the beautiful game and they think they can gloat more this way.

    And Phil, don't you think you can save your criticism for later in the season? Despite being a Liverpool fan I rate Moyes very highly and think that even if Everton only finish 8th this year, he has still proven a success for the club. How can he have success in the transfer market when enough funds haven't been made available for him? Having said that the January transfer window should be used by Benitez to get another decent winger.

    And rest assured, Liverpool will sort out the stadium and ownership situation. It is inevitable because the size, fan base, history and worldwide appeal of the club make it such a hugely attractive business proposition.

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  • 76. At 8:30pm on 26 Sep 2008, G_is_God wrote:

    'Everton to raise their game for only one of two times this season. As we all know taking points off the reds is more important to the Toffees then silverware and league places.'

    now thats what I call ambition.

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  • 77. At 10:49pm on 26 Sep 2008, loansam wrote:

    I'd like Phil McNulty to submit a precis of his recent blog. For one thing it is far too long. It dances around the real problems at Goodison and is careful to limit advice to a few fundamentals, but it is far too............l o n g.

    Fellaini's problem is similar to Andy Johnson's and James Beattie's. Mr. Moyes wants Fellaini to play in a certain way. Fellaini, from my observation needs a great deal of freedom. He is not an Arteta. Nor is he an Osman. And he certainly isn't a Carsley.

    Why can't Moyes take his players and study their strengths and abilities and create an environment where all the Everton players can flourish and enjoy the game of football?

    A happy club will be a winning club. Moyes should Make his players happy by using the skills they brought to the club with them. David should recognize his own limitations and stop trying to change the players. Permutate them but don't postulate.

    Read my article "Stan Did it His Way".

    Each player should be groomed so as to feel that their particular skills can be added to his teammates' skills, eventually exhibiting that free-flowing style of football they would feel proud of producing. Hopefully leading to an abundance of goals.

    If the manager or chief coach cannot create that kind of milieu at present, then let him read, study and work until he can.

    A footballer's career is a short one and so much time is wasted by Moyes using his favourite phrase " I'm bringing them along". He's an excellent blatherer, like SAF.

    As far as McNulty's recommendation that Neville be returned to the midfield, pshaw! Neville can't pass the ball to advantage more that three times in a game.

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  • 78. At 11:28pm on 26 Sep 2008, GreenTeaBags wrote:

    A very long-winded-learn-nothing article and then this gem:

    "their turbulent manager Rafael Benitez"

    could it not be just simply:

    "their manager Rafael Benitez"

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  • 79. At 07:00am on 27 Sep 2008, itsallgoneblue wrote:

    I think it will take quite a lot for the fans to turn on Moyes, however it would be difficult to claim not to be mildly troubled by the start to the season, particularly the defence leaking goals so frequently. Lescott hasn't looked the player of last season and, Jagielka aside, the whole defence looks unsure of itself. I do still have high hopes for Fellaini, however he has looked a little lost during most of the games so far. He may be able to pass a ball, but the concern must be that he will go missing during the more physical games as he doesn't look equipped for it....which means the absence of Lee Carsley leaves an even more obvious hole in central midfield. Neville is a good player, but he is hardly capable of grabbing a game by the scruff of the neck and much depends on where Arteta plays. I hope we win tomorrow, but I'd take a draw now. Think the line up will be Howard, Neville, Yobo, Jags, Lescott, Arteta, Osman, Cahill, Fellaini, Castillo, Yak....with maybe Saha on for Osman/Castillo after 70 mins or so

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  • 80. At 08:39am on 27 Sep 2008, Red Lenin wrote:

    Mr McNulty, the phrase "friendly derby" does not refer to what goes on on the pitch - it has always been a hard, physical game with no room for 'girlies'

    The phrase actually refers to the fans and how they mix with each other. You will even see them in each other's parts of the ground.

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  • 81. At 10:03am on 27 Sep 2008, J@vier 8tev1e X@bi wrote:

    Yes Phil, we are all fully aware of your craving for Liverpool to come unstuck today vs Everton so why dont you come out and say it.

    For once, actually write a balanced, we'll researched article on Liverpool or better still, try another club.

    You haven't wrote on on the Hicks / Rafa situation in a while.....

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  • 82. At 10:39am on 27 Sep 2008, Kopahoop wrote:

    As a Liverpool fan on a year's sabbatical in Australia, I was looking forward to reading this blog for some insight into today's derby.
    Therefore, you can only imagine the level of nausea flowing through my entire body when I was cruelly duped by Mr closet blu-nose McNulty, into reading some boring drivel about how Everton are hard done by.
    Shame on you Phil.

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  • 83. At 11:17am on 27 Sep 2008, midinho wrote:

    McNulty articles always make me laugh because he is always so wrong! remember the blog just before Croatia vs England! Complaining about Capello not selecting Owen.... A decision he might live to regret! LOL...having said that I hope Everton wins today and finally expose Rafa's weaknesses...This guy is the luckiest manager on earth! Every time he flops a team selection something happens (like an injury at the right time) so he has to finally select the right players or change the shape of the team! Remember Kewell in CL final...(That's just one of the many examples)..anyway..come on Everton!!

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