12 May 2013 07:30

Football on Merseyside is arriving at a watershed where it could be left even further behind the nation's elite clubs, unless action is taken now

Changing of the guard: But Everton must evolve to close the gap on the top clubs Changing of the guard: But Everton must evolve to close the gap on the top clubs

John Peters

Outside the ramshackle edifice that is Goodison Park, a plaque details milestones of Everton’s rich history.

A founder member of the Football League, the first club to play 100 seasons in the top flight.

The first club to break the £100,000 transfer mark in an all-British deal when Alan Ball joined from Blackpool in 1966.

The first club to be presented with the League Championship trophy.

The first club to have a player, William Ralph ‘Dixie’ Dean, score 60 league goals in a season. The list goes on. First ­scoreboard, first dug-outs, first ­undersoil heating ­system. And now? A feeder club for Manchester United.

Powerless to stop its best player ­moving up the road, powerless to stop a fine manager following him.

The school of science has become Old Trafford’s nursery. Ok, I exaggerate, but you get my drift.

Singing supporters like to swoon over Everton’s history – much like their brethren from across the park. Fine.

But Henry Ford – a man known in those parts – was right. History is more or less bunk.

On Friday, Everton were keen to stop journalists asking Moyes questions about Manchester United. If they didn’t want Moyes to talk about his new job then maybe they should not have given him permission to speak to United until his contract expired at the end of June. Simple.

But United can now come calling at Goodison without resistance. That much is glaringly obvious. The People’s Club was never going to prove a bigger attraction than the World’s Club to Moyes.

But the move underscores what has been becoming increasingly apparent.

Football at Everton, football on ­Merseyside, is arriving at a watershed – at a point where it is in danger of losing its grip on the coat-tails of the elite.

Last weekend’s insipid derby was ­emblematic of the state of the game in the city. Of consequence only for local esteem. A minor kerfuffle over sixth and seventh places. And remember, there was a time in the Eighties when – for seven successive seasons – the title did not leave ­Merseyside.

But history is more or less bunk.

David Moyes and Bill Kenwright, the Chairman of Everton Football Club, arrive for the Hillsborough disaster memorial service Going separate ways: David Moyes agreed his move with Bill Kenwright earlier this week

PA

 

Moyes was absolutely correct on ­Friday when he said Everton had made progress during his time in charge.

He said: “This club, when I took over, was bobbing along near the bottom of the Premier League. Now we’re competing around fifth and sixth every season.”

But have ambitions and hopes at ­Everton – and, possibly, Liverpool – been recalibrated so emphatically that a ­battle for the minor placings has become the best they can hope for?

Well, yes. United’s commercial ­juggernaut, ­Arsenal’s ultra-modern organisation and the lavish investment of individual benefactors at Chelsea and Manchester City has created a gap that only Moyes’ shrewd management and Liverpool’s own financial outlay has stopped becoming a chasm.

But Everton are powerless to fend off approaches for their talent and ­Liverpool have to rely on the allure of such an iconic club to attract blue-chip players rather than the genuine prospect of challenging for the title.

Which is why the urgency for development off the field has never been ­greater. Both clubs have been ­dithering over the future of their out-of-date stadiums for years. Both clubs – maybe one more than the other - haven’t seriously ­entertained the groundshare idea.

Whatever route they take, both clubs need to get cracking.

Until they drag their bases into the 21st century, there is a danger the clubs above will pull further clear.

Bill Kenwright’s immediate job is to find a replacement for Moyes. But ­finding a wealthy replacement for ­himself remains more important.

While over at Anfield, the Fenway Sports Group is yet to convince they are in it for the long haul.

Football and its support in the city is still vibrant. But Manchester’s latest raid on the blue half is another example of where the real power lies.

For the sake of all that history, let’s hope both clubs do something about it.

Filed under: Euro 2012

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