• Everton travel to West Ham on Saturday in 19th place in the Premier League after only three wins this season, and with supporter unrest and discontent at unprecedented heights.
• The game at London Stadium has been cynically dubbed “El Sackico” on the basis the loser between Everton manager Frank Lampard and Hammers’ counterpart David Moyes is expected to be in imminent danger of dismissal.
Everton have taken the chaos theory to extremes in recent years but nothing comes close to the current atmosphere of dysfunction and mistrust at the heart of the latest Goodison Park crisis.
Billionaire Farhad Moshiri’s arrival in February 2016 was designed to usher in a new era of prosperity and success — instead it has resulted in years of instability and decline that has left the club on its knees in both a financial and footballing context.
Everton travel to West Ham on Saturday in 19th place in the Premier League after only three wins this season, and with supporter unrest and discontent at unprecedented heights.
The game at London Stadium has been cynically dubbed “El Sackico” on the basis the loser between Everton manager Frank Lampard and Hammers’ counterpart David Moyes is expected to be in imminent danger of dismissal.
Everton scraped away from relegation at the death last season but for all the bold statements about a strategic review to reboot the ailing club and avoid a repeat, they are currently looking even more vulnerable to the drop into the Championship. And in the past 10 days, the relationship between the Everton board and many fans has become so broken it is not an exaggeration to suggest it may now be irreparable.
It came to a head before the home game against bottom club Southampton when Everton supporters announced plans for a large-scale demonstration and sit-in organised by 67 fan and social media groups, plus more than 20 official supporters’ clubs.
Everton owner Moshiri, long-serving chairman Bill Kenwright and chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale were the main targets for those demanding change in the boardroom.
Hours before kick-off, Everton announced the board, which also includes playing legend Graeme Sharp and chief finance and strategy officer Grant Ingles, would not attend because of a “real and credible threat to their safety”.
The protest groups stated throughout that their intentions were peaceful, with fans forming a welcome for the team bus before kick-off, while a subsequent statement from Merseyside Police said “no threats or incidents” were reported to them by the club before the game.
Social media footage later showed defender Yerry Mina in heated discussion with fans after the game and Anthony Gordon being confronted in his car. Everton then announced they were “reviewing all matchday and non-matchday security arrangements following the home game with Southampton” and that “enhanced security procedures and protocols are being put in place for the club’s players and staff following incidents at this and previous games”.
Far from calming the situation, it only created further division between the board and supporters who felt they were being painted as the villains of the piece by a hierarchy under scrutiny — supporters who rallied to drag Everton over the line as they were threatened with relegation last season.
It is hard to see how these particular fences can be mended and in what circumstances the board who stayed away against Southampton will return for Everton’s next home game against Arsenal.
And then there are the problems on the pitch, leaving Lampard fighting against the odds of becoming Moshiri’s sixth managerial sacking.
So how has it come to this? How has what was meant to be a dream been transformed into Everton’s worst nightmare?
Chairman Kenwright, in a statement that has now gained infamy among Everton fans, told the virtual annual general meeting in 2021: “One very famous football club said to me two or three days ago: ‘Whenever we have a problem we say: What would the Everton board do because they always get it right?’”
The evidence suggest the club in question, whoever they were, would have done well to steer clear of copying Everton’s boardroom template, such has been scale and speed of the club’s slide.
Kenwright, who bought the club in December 1999 and became chairman in 2004, has been a regular lightning rod for criticism, seen by those who want him to step down as a constant in the years without success stretching back to the 1995 FA Cup win against Manchester United.
In reality, Everton’s board have presided over years of managerial churn, horrendous decision-making and financial waste in the transfer market on an industrial scale under Moshiri’s tenure.
Moshiri has sacked Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce, Marco Silva and Rafael Benitez. The last appointment was a divisive, high-risk gamble in the face of fierce fan opposition that was destined to end in the sort of acrimony and dissent that it did when the former Liverpool manager was sacked almost exactly a year ago.
It has resulted in a Frankenstein’s monster of a squad - the starting 11 in the 2-1 home defeat by Southampton featuring players acquired by six different managers.
Benitez was sacked with Everton in 15th place with 19 points from 19 games. A year on, they are in an even more parlous position under Lampard, entering this weekend’s pivotal game one place off the bottom with only 15 points from 19 games.
Moshiri was powerless to prevent Carlo Ancelotti, his dream manager, returning to Real Madrid but the brutal truth that is central to the mood of rebellion among supporters is that Everton have regressed under his stewardship.
Everton were supposed to return to the elite with his backing, but instead they have returned to the status of being a selling club - an example being how star striker Richarlison was picked off by Tottenham in the summer for £60m. Matters were made worse as no natural replacement was lined up or has come in signed since. Neal Maupay arrived for £12m after being declared surplus to requirements at Brighton.
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, outstanding for two years, is yet to sign a new contract and speculation has already started about his future. Will he really see his career being enhanced at club and international level amid the maelstrom of life in the Premier League’s basement at Goodison Park?
The wild scenes of celebration that greeted the victory against Crystal Palace that secured safety last season were meant to mark the start of the road to recovery. Instead those same fans, whose role in Everton staying up cannot be underestimated, are in revolt and planning more protests at the next home game with Arsenal.
And, at this stage, it is hard to shine a light on an area where Everton’s long-term fortunes may improve.
The restrictions of Financial Fair Play means most of Everton’s spending power has been stripped away. So even if Moshiri wished to embark on another spree to correct the current massive problems, he is unable to do so.
Everton have yet to make a signing in this January window while those fighting around them — such as Southampton, West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers — are in the market making moves.
Moshiri, quite rightly, stated he has put his money where his mouth is, both in providing cash for transfers and also funding the £760m — his latest revised figure — for Everton’s new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock, scheduled to open at the start of the 2024-25 season.
This, and with talk of the club still being for sale despite Moshiri distancing himself from this discussion, only increases the increasing sense of panic surrounding the possibility of Everton falling into the second tier. Everton’s problems are not simply about now.
They are about the uncertain future they face. Manager Lampard has handled the situation with dignity and retains sympathy from many supporters but, inevitably, his future will be in serious jeopardy unless a run of dreadful results improves.
The stakes could not be higher for Lampard or Everton, particularly their beleaguered hierarchy, when they face fellow strugglers West Ham.