FLY THE NEST

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With two Premier League 2 titles in 2016-2017 and 2018-2019 David Unsworth and his team have been doing a good job at Under 23 level. But as always the question is what is the main aim for the Under 23’s and the answer is obvious to produce players for the first team. If this is not the case, then to produce players who can be moved on sold for a fee to have careers in the game at some sort of level. It is not to keep players around the club who have next to no chance of ever becoming a first team player. Which brings us back to those two titles. It will be three years on from the 2016-2017 title wining team when the new season starts. Who from that team has made it as a first team player? Tom Davies certainly has become part of the first team squad making the step up half way through the 2016-2017 season. Jonjoe Kenny is the only other player from the 2016-2017 team to make any impact on the Everton first team. After three years the question has to be asked why we still have so many players from that 2016-2017 team on the Clubs books, when they are nowhere near the first team.

Beni Baningime

Still only 20 Baningime was a major part of the midfield, which won the title in 2016-2017. Since then he has made 11 first team appearances and was with the first team last pre season but an injury meant he never got the chance to play in any the toffees friendlies. He eventually went on loan to Wigan Athletic. Injury and an inability to force himself into the Wigan team meant first team football was limited last season which was a right off for him. That said Baningime is probably the one player from the names below who if he can get fully fit may have a future at the blues, although another loan may have to be what comes in the new season.

Callum Connolly

Connolly has had one first team appearance replacing Seamus Coleman for 30 minuets against Southampton in 2017. He has also had loan spells at Barnsley, Wigan Athletic, Ipswich Town and Bolton Wanderers. He did nothing special during last pre season and is nowhere near the first team.

Kieran Dowell

Dowell has had quite successful loan periods with Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United but has never taken his chance when given cup games for the blues. Time has run out on Dowell at Everton. He looked the best prospect from the 2016-2017 bunch, but sadly his potential has not been realised at Goodison. A good career lies ahead for Dowell if he moves on.

Antony Evans

A year younger than most of the other 2016-2017 players Evans actually moved to Morecambe on loan for the 2nd half of the 2016-2017 title winning season. Has been one of the better players at Under 23 level in the following two seasons and spent the second half of last season on loan at Blackpool. A player with undoubted talent, but again can anyone make a case for him being anywhere near the first team?

Morgan Feeney

Feeney was one of the youngest players, which won the 2016-2017 title. He also was one of the many young players to play at Apollon Limassol in the Europa League dead rubber. Centre Back Feeney has been a main stay of the Under 23’s since the title 2016-2017 triumph, picking up a second title in the season just gone. Feeney is still only 20 so may have time to make an impression, but this season for me will be make or break for him at Everton.

Jonjoe Kenny

No need to cover Jonjoe’s record. A very competent player who should have made the right back spot his own during Seamus Coleman’s long injury absence, but lost his place once Coleman was fit and dropped from the first team picture. He has signed a year long loan for the new season with Bundesliga outfit Schalke. If he is not really in Marco Silva’s plans for the next season then I would rather we had tried to cash in on him than sending him out on loan. Will a good season at Schalke give him a chance to claim the right back spot in 2020-2021, maybe, but I have my doubts.

Matthew Pennington

Contracted to the club until 2021 Centre Back Pennington has made 7 first team appearances and always looked out of place in the first team in my opinion. While at the blues Pennington has had two loan spells at Prenton Park with Tranmere Rovers, as well as loans at Walsall, Coventry City, Leeds United and last season Ipswich town. Absurdly Pennington will be 25 in October, there are late developers but !!!!!!!! It is clearly time for him to find a proper home away from Goodison.

Antonee Robison

Left back Robinson moved on loan to Bolton Wanderers the season after the 2016-2017 title were he did well. Last season he spent on loan at Wigan Athletic were again he was a regular in the team. Robinson has also gained a number of full international caps for the USA. With Leighton Baines being given a one year contract to keep him at the club as back up to Lucas Digne for the 2019-2020 season Robinson will have a choice to either move on or take another season long loan.

Bassala Sambou

Signed from Coventry City forward Sambou overcame an injury to score 6 goals in the latter half of the 2016-2017 title winning side. He has been a leading light up front for the Under 23’s in the subsequent two season but looks a player below Premier League level. His contract is up this Summer, Everton are prepared to offer him a one year extension, why I don’t know, but it does seen that Sambou his looking to his own future and will be moving on from the Club which will be the right decision.

Joe Williams

Williams has had successful loan spells at Barnsley and Bolton Wanderers and appeared to be on Silva’s radar before joining Bolton on loan last season. He will be 23 at the end of this year and needs at that age to be finding first team football somewhere.

The question is can anyone really say that any of these players still have a future at Everton? For me Baningime has a chance and their may be a possibility for Robinson but that is it for me. With Marcel Brands now a year into the job and the whole academy structure working more to his liking it is hoped that in future earlier decisions on Under 23’s players will be made so we don’t have players hanging round the club for three or more years with no prospect of ever making a dent on the first team.

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CHOOSE YOUR GLASS

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The first season of the Silva/Brands era has ended with the blues finishing in 8th place, the exact same position as 2017-2018. So as we review the 2018-2019 season it is time to choose your glass, is it half full or half empty.

First lets look at the work, which was carried out in the transfer market during the Summer of 2018 both outgoings and incomings. . The number of not fit for purpose players piled up at Finch Farm was quite frankly staggering. Left overs from the Moyes, Martinez, and Koeman/Walsh eras had to be moved on by Marcel Brands, and moved on they were. Unfortunately most had to be loan deals, but at least they were removed from the squad, which new Manger Marco Silva had to work with. Many of these players will be coming back to the Club this Summer, but Marcel Brands has shown he knows how to move players on permanently or on loan. We can expect the same this time round for the bunch of misfits who will be rocking back up at the Finch Farm.

Secondly lets look at the incomings. During the Summer of 2018 Brands brought in Lucas Digne, Yerry Mina, Bernard, Richarlison and Joao Virginia on permanent deals, while Andre Gomes and Kurt Zuma came on season long loans from Barcelona and Chelsea. Virginia is a highly promising goalkeeper who has performed admirably in the Under 23’s and will in my opinion soon be the number 2 goalkeeper at the blues, although a loan spell may be the next step for him. As for the other four players Digne, Richarlison and Bernard have all been great acquisitions, while Yerry Mina has been unlucky with injuries but has the potential to become a valued member of the team next season. It goes without saying that both loan signings have been successes. Hopefully Gomes and Zuma can be brought to the club on permanent deals next season, but if not then Brands has shown he is an astute operator in the market. If one or both players do not return to the blues next season he will have replacements on his radar. Marco Silva has already said that Everton already have their targets for next season and with the work of Brands last summer we can expect some more astute signings to bolster and bring more quality to the squad for next season.

Concerning transfers the Club have the right person in charge with Marcel Brands and already it seems from the words of Brands and Silva targets are already lined up for this Summers window (Marcel Brands confirms Everton’s Summer transfer targets as Blues prepare for major shake up / Liverpool Echo 2 April 2019). By the start of the 2019-2020 season I expect an even stronger trimmed down squad with some new signings, while the deadwood who will be returning to the blues again being shown the door. Our work in the transfer market was a success last Summer and with Marcel Brand hand on the tiller we can have high hopes it will be the same this Summer. Another thing to note here is that Marcel Brands became a full Board member during the season, so we now have the Director of Football in the position were they should be on the Clubs Board, and reporting on all aspects of there work to the Clubs Board.

Which bring us to the just completed season. Without question the blues started the season well playing good attacking football and pressing the opposition. By the time the December derby at the shower across the park came around Everton sat 6th in the league. Apart from a disappointing early exit on penalties at home to Southampton in the Carabao Cup things were undoubtedly looking up. The only quibble Evertonians had, besides the Carabao Cup defeat, was the thorny issue of zonal marking introduced by Silva. Come the disastrous ending to the derby and things went in one word pear shaped. By the time of the shocking 4th round defeat in the FA Cup at Millwall many Evertonians seemed to be baying for Silva’s head. This was very short sighted. We had just endured a nightmare 6 months with quite possibly the worst manager in its history. A manager who had come in to be a steady hand after the car crash of Koeman/Walsh and who in taking the club to 8th in the league was also destroying its soul.

The first part of 2018-2019 season may well have been a new manager bounce for Everton with everything being new and with the players being released from the strait jacket of Allardyce. So when the blip came, and it certainly was a big blip, this was to a certain degree to be expected. This does not excuse some of the shambolic performances from December to the end of February. But this was a team, which after the new manager bounce, were actually trying to get use to what Marco Silva wanted, and the way he wants the team to play, which is light years away from the Allardyce and Koeman/ Walsh eras. So when things started to go wrong the team had to knuckle down work hard and embrace the way Silva wanted them to perform. The seventeen day break due to the early FA Cup knockout was an opportunity to in essence have a mini pre season. It would seem intense work was carried out during this period and starting with the win at Cardiff City at the end of February, Everton turned in some great performances (Newcastle United and Fulham away games apart). By end of the season Everton were a team playing football more in the Marco Silva mould and getting results in the process.

So to sum up were are we at the end of the season. We finished in 8th position the same as 2017-2018, while the aim was to do better than that seasons 8th spot. But in a season of transition this was always going to be a hard thing to achieve. But if not in league position then in most other ways the team and Club have progressed and performed better than the 2017-2018 season. That season saw Everton finish with 49 points, wining 13 drawing 10 and losing 15 games, a goal difference of -14 scoring 44 goals and conceding 58. This season Everton finished with 54 points, wining 15 drawing 9 and losing 14. Goal difference was +8 for 54 against 46. So the blues gained more points than 2017-2018 while also scoring more goals and conceding less. These figures do not show a massive change but what needs to be added here is some of the football the team played during the season, especially from March to May. The signs of a team finally gelling together and playing a brand of football which the fans actually want to watch is night and day from the football played by the Koeman and Allardyce zombies in 2017-2018.

More significantly has been the steep learning curve the first season as Everton Manager has been for Marco Silva. At just 41 years of age and with just a half season at Hull City and another half season at Watford under his belt, Marco Silva is in Premier League standards a novice, but a novice with rich potential, which the final part of the season began to show. Look at what people have said about Silva since he took over at the blues. “He hops around Clubs and cannot stay with any for the long term”. They use Hull City, his move to Watford after their relegation, and then his head being turned by the blues as evidence of this. Yet Silva has now completed a full season at Everton and is clearly set for the long haul with plans afoot to improve the squad for the 2019-2020 season.

The next chestnut is that “Teams start well under him, but as soon as they hit a bad patch he has no answers to stop the decline”. Again Hull City and Watford are used as evidence of this. Yet this season Everton started well and then had a horrendous three months. But Marco Silva came out the other end, clearly getting the blues out of the slump and playing the best football of the season between March and May. So he has shown he is able to arrest a slump in a teams form.

Finally we come to another claim about Marco Silva this one being “He cannot organise a defence”. As the blues struggled to come to terms with the zonal marking system Silva implemented quite a number of blues seemed to jump on this bandwagon. But as the team started to gel, this became much less of a problem. By the end of the season the toffees ending up with the 4th best clean sheet record. The record at the end of the season does not back the cant organise a defence claim up. The initial problem with the defence and zonal marking was a case of a new team having to get use to Silva’s methods and his zonal marking system. The longer this system was implemented the better the team got at playing it, which consequently saw the zonal marking complaints from blues diminishing as the season progressed.

So what can be said of the season just gone. The blues have had a season of transition were the football has at times been great to watch. We have a Director of Football and a Manager who have a clear plan and vision, and seem to know what they want and need from the up and coming transfer market. Finally we have a manager who has had a big learning experience during the season. He hit a really rocky patch in the middle of the season and came through this with the team looking like a real unit by the season’s conclusion, and with the possibility of improving in the forthcoming season. Not everything was rosy last season and the two domestic cup campaigns were absolute non events. But the Brands / Silva duo have a vision and a plan. The team was playing well by the end of the season and the signs for next season are good. So at the end of the 2018-2019 season is your glass half empty or half full.

For me it is certainly half full.

PLEASE NOT THIS SUMMER

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When one looks back to the 2017-2018 pre season two words come to mind disorganised disaster. After claiming a backdoor entrance to the Europa League for finishing 7th Everton’s pre season was a chaotic joke. This was due to a large extent with the early start to the season. Two Europa League qualifying rounds needed to be negotiated just to reach the group stage. This schedule saw the blues entering into competitive football before July was out. The Club had to play a two legged qualifying round against the Slovak side Ruzomberok during pre season, so disrupting the planning for the new season.

With a large number of recruits signed in the 2017 Summer transfer window, playing competitive games while trying to gel a whole new squad together was a recipe for disaster. All this led to a hastily put together pre season schedule. The toffees jetted off to Africa for a game against Gor Mahia on 13 July, a ridiculous marketing exercise that probably did nothing to get the players in shape for the new season. This was followed by games against Dutch side FC Twente and the Belgian outfit KRC Genk. Following this the team were thrown into the two legged tie against Ruzomberok. The only other friendly Everton played was the home game against Sevilla six days before the start of the new season. No one can say that this was anything but an awful mess of a pre season. With only four friendly games played, planning for the new season was half baked at best.

Following the opening game of the Premier League season at home to Stoke City the blues then had to negotiate another two legged Europa League qualifying round against Hajduk Split. The first leg came five days after the Stoke City game. The second leg away from home in Croatia came a week later, sandwiched between away league games at Manchester City and Chelsea. Although Everton qualified for the group stage of the Europa League, the blues went on to totally embarrass themselves with an abject campaign. The Europa League that season was a total hindrance to the team and disrupted planning for the new season. It was also no help to the new players the Club brought in that Summer. In reality the Europa League was not the only reason for the appalling start and dreadful season, which 2017-2018 became, but it was a major player in the disorganised disaster that was the 2017-2018 season.

Which leads us to this season. With three games left to play at home to Burnley and away to Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur, Everton sit in 9th position in the Premier League, just two points behind Wolverhampton Wanderers and 1 point behind Watford with Leicester City one point behind the blues. With just three points separating the four teams any one of this quartet can claim 7th spot. If Manchester City win the FA Cup by beating Watford in the FA Cup final this 7th spot will again become a backdoor to the Europa League.

If the Club do reach the Europa League then the same disruption as the pre season of 2017-2018 will be an inevitable consequence, with the season starting in July. If you look at Burnley’s fixtures in the Europa League this season they started on 26 July against Aberdeen playing the 2nd leg on the 2 August. They then played a first leg of another qualifier against Istanbul Basaksehir two days before the start of the Premier League season with the 2nd leg a week later. Following the Basaksehir games Burnley played two games against Olympiacos, all before the end of August, and which saw them fail to even reach the group stage. Burnley had a disjointed pre season and an awful start to their Premier League campaign. This bad start for Burnley dragged on into the New Year. It would seem the Europa League slog of trying to qualify for the group stage disrupted Burnley’s pre season and start to the new Premier League season, mirroring Everton’s the season before.

Which brings us back to the blues and the 2019 pre season. Besides the stock of deadwood plying their trade out on loan and which need to be removed, hopefully permanently or loaned out again next season, we will also have some incomings. As Marcel Brands has made plain these will be players in the younger age bracket, 25 years old or younger. The more time Marco Silva will have to work with these players, fitting them into the squad and the way he wants them playing the better. This is what pre season friendlies are all about. The Manager can experiment and get the squad gelling before the start of the 2019-2020 season. A Europa League campaign, as in 2017-2018 will totally disrupt this preparation, with competitive games having to be played and planned for during pre season. These competitive games will also have a bearing on the number of friendlies we can actually fit into the pre season schedule.

Secondly this pre season will be a big one for Marco Silva himself. He will have had one season in charge of the blues and will now have a more clear idea of how and were he wants the team to go. He will have aims to improve on his first season both in the league and in the two domestic cups. This pre season and the up and coming 2019-2020 season is thus a massive one for Marco Silva after a year in the hot seat. He does not need a Europa League campaign disrupting and interfering with his plans for the 2019-2020 campaign.

Ultimately with the changes which will take place at the Club during the Summer and with Silva ready to attack the Premier League and the domestic cups after a year at the Club, the Europa League will only overload the work load of the team, and scupper any good start the blues hope to have next season. The team is not yet ready for the challenge of Europe as well as a domestic campaign. The blues need another full pre season and domestic campaign under Marco Silva. This will lead to a European spot at the end of next season. It is then when Everton will be ready to tackle European competition again.

WHAT RHINO DID NEXT

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Following the Premier League 2 Title in 2016-2017, Everton’s Under 23 squad had a season of transition in 2017-2018, finishing 7th. A number of reasons contributed to this mid table finish.

Firstly a number of the players in the title winning team moved on to the first team squad. Tom Davies for example became a first team regular in the second half of the 2016-2017 while Mason Holgate also made some first team appearances. Jonjoe Kenny and Beni Baningime, mainstays of the title winning team were promoted to the first team squad during 2017-2018, while young acquisitions Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and Ademola Lookman also became members of the first team squad, Lookman also getting game time in 2016-2017.

Secondly during the summer of 2017 Everton signed a number of young players for the Under 23’s squad, Josh Bowler from Queens Park Rangers, Boris Mathias from Metz, Nathangelo Markelo from FC Volendam, Lewis Gibson from Newcastle United and Dennis Adeniran from Fulham. With Under 23’s Manger David Unsworth having to take temporary charge of the first team in the interregnum between the sacking of Ronald Koeman and the appointment of Sam Allardyce, disrupting his work with the Under 23’s squad, it was inevitable that a drop off would occur hence the 7th place finish.

Which brings us to 2018-2019 and the blues second Premier League 2 title in three years. It is a credit to the work David Unsworth has done at the club that a second title has been secured under his management in just three years. It can also be said that this season’s title has been a more impressive display of Unsworth management skills at Under 23 level than the 2016-2017 achievement. While the 2016-2017 title was won with players such as Tom Davies, Mason Holgate Benni Baningimme, Joe Williams, Kieran Dowell, Jonjo Kenny, Antonee Robinson, Callum Connolly etc, none of the 2018-2019 winners stand out like that team, were a number of players, as noted above have moved on to the first team squad, or moved out on loan during 2017-2018 and 2018-2019.

This seasons title has been won with a number of the young recruits brought in to the Club during 2017-2018, Markelo, Adeniran, Gibson and Bowler, stalwarts such as Morgan Feeney, Bass Sambou, and Anthony Evans (who went out on loan in January) and younger players moved up from the Under 18’s such as Anthony Gordon, Alex Denny, Fraser Hornby, Kyle John etc, plus the excellent Summer recruit Joao Virginia in goal. What stands out here is that this title wining team does not seem to have any outstanding players who seem ready to be thrust into the first team squad like Tom Davies, Mason Holgate, Jonjo Kenny, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and to a lesser extent Adeloma Lookman did from the 2016-2017 season. Adeniran. Markelo and Feeney have been solid throughout the season, while Josh Bowler has shown flashes of good form, especially in the later part of the season, including scoring the winner against Brighton and Hove Albion, which secured the title. But it is the younger players such as Ryan Astley, Anthony Gordon and Fraser Hornby plus Lewis Gibson from the 2016-2017 intake, who have stood out more, and in my opinion have a better chance of making the grade at Everton. When you consider that the 2016-2017 team had Omar Niasse banging in goals for them until his January move to Hull City, this seasons title win is even more impressive. Only Tyias Browning has been a regular at the over age limit, and he moved to China in January, while James McCarthy made a solitary appearance.

In conclusion what David Unsworth has achieved this season has outshone his title winning 2016-2017 season. This title win is testament to the wotk he has done with the Under 23’s. With the Under 23’s also in the quarter finals of the Premier League 2 Cup were they have a home tie against Blackburn Rovers on 23 April, a League and Cup double could well be on the cards. Which leads us to the question What Next for David Unsworth? Has he taken the Under 23’s project as far has he can?

Certainly if David Unsworth wants to become a first team Manager at some point in the future then the time, if it has not already arrived, must be quickly approaching. Oxford United were very interested in taking him as Manager before they appointed Karl Robinson in March 2018, but he chose to stay with the blues leading us to this seasons triumph. But he must now question what his next move will be. Is it staying working at Under 23 level, which would be good for us as a Club, or to strike out on his own? He probably harbors ambitions of managing the toffees at some stage in the future. This dream will not be on the horizon for quite some time. I am confident that Marco Silva is the right fit for us and will be with us for the long haul and hopefully success. So David Unsworth if he has ambitions to be a first team manager, reluctantly needs to move on from us, especially if he hopes one day to manage Everton. If he stays at the Club we can look forward to more good work from him in the future with the Under 23’s, but that will be were the rest of his coaching career will probably be at Under 23 level. A big decision will be looming for David Unsworth at the end of the season.

THE SIGUURDDSON CONUDRUM

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In the crazy summer of 2017 when we burnt money like there was no tomorrow and continued that in the following January with the signings of Walcott and Tosun, one of the signings which only now seems to be splitting Evertonians opinion is Gylfi Sigurdsson. To put my cards on the table I have always considered Sigurdsson as an average premier league player who has a good shot and can take a good set piece (not that we have seen much evidence of that from him this season). At £45 million we paid a grossly inflated price for him in 2017.

Sigurdsson has had two purple patches both at Swansea City leading to our long chase for his signature during the 2017 pre season. So in the just over one and half seasons that Sigurdsson has played for us what have we got? Some great goals it is true, which everybody knew he had in his locker, but what else? Work rate yes he will put a shift in but is he the creative player who can feed a ball through to our forwards? If so I have not seen it. He also in my opinion lacks pace to get the team moving. Admittedly last season he came to us without a pre season and was played out of position on the left to accommodate the disaster, which was Wayne Rooney. An injury in the later part of the season did not help. But did he produce the great set pieces, which was his trademark at Swansea? A few but not many, while at £45 million even if being played out of position I think we could of expected more.

Which brings us to this season. Although he is the teams 2nd highest scorer so far this season, in many games he has been non existent and creativity is lacking no matter how many stats the Liverpool Echo can put up to show the opposite, (The Stats that prove Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson is the Premier League’s most creative player, 12 January 2019 https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/stats-prove-evertons-gylfi-sigurdsson-15667133 ) Anyone who can believe that clearly is not of this world. Were has the killer pass been this season, or the great set pieces. True we are missing a proper number 9 for him to play too, but even with that excuse we should expect better deliveries than he has provided.

Many blues were happy to give Sigurdsson the benefit of the doubt last season due to the points noted above. This season though the caveats of his first season, (Watford away played out on the left apart !!!!) cannot be used as an excuse. This season the true Sigurdsson has come to the fore, an average premier league player who was a good fit at Swansea, but out of that South Wales comfort zone is not the same player. £45 million pound was a ridiculous price to pay for him, but that is not his fault. But if the Club is to move forward do we really see Sigurdsson as one of the players who can take us to the next level? It is all about opinions and there will be many Evertonians who think he is, which is fair enough, but in my opinion he is not and is part of the problem not the solution.

CAPACITY BUILDING

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With the survey and road show during November 2018 the plans for a new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock seem to be coming ever more a reality. Quickly following on from the survey Everton announced that they were looking at an initial capacity for the new Stadium of 52,000, with the ability to raise this to 60,000 if demand dictates. Before we go any further the Club say that the 52,000 figure

“Is our ‘proposed’ capacity and it is what we are currently working towards. It is important to emphasise that the final capacity and design will be subject to further engagement and consultation.”

(Everton club statement 20 December 2018)

So the proposed figure of 52,000 is not yet set in stone, but on consideration I think it is a good and realistic figure. Some fans say that 52,000 is lacking ambition and the club should be aiming for the 60,000 mark now.

It would be great to have a stadium of 60,000 or as we all would have 61,878. It is said by advocates of a bigger stadium that the Club has around 32,000 season ticket holders plus a 10,000 season ticket waiting list. So this would make 42,000 fans already in Bramley Moore, before away fans, premium seats, boxes and walk ups are taken into account. But when you look at it a bit more closely, what the Club has proposed seems to be a more reliable barometer for were we are as a Club.

Everton’s average attendances over the last ten seasons have been

2017/18 – 38,797

2016/17 – 39,310

2015/16 – 38,124

2014/15 – 38,406

2013/14 – 37,732

2012/13 – 36,358

2011/12 – 33,288

2010/11 – 36,039

2009/10 – 36,725

2008/09 – 35,667

Figures from the Liverpool Echo 20 December 2018

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/bramley-moore-stadium-capacity-everton-15579193

Even with such good healthy attendances we are still looking at a leap of around another 14,000 fans to fill a 52,000 seat stadium. This is were we can go back to the season ticket holders and waiting list. With around 32,000 season ticket holders a 52,000 seat stadium would still have 20,000 seats to fill. 3,000 would go to away fans and if we had 5,000 premium seats and boxes we are now up to 40,000. Although the Club have 10,000 fans on a season ticket waiting list, it is, as most lists not comprehensive. Not everyone on the waiting list will take up the opportunity of a season ticket. So if 7,000 fans on the waiting list take up a season ticket (which is about the norm), we now have 47,000 seats taken. This would then leave 5,000 seats for walk up. When you consider the club keep around 4,000 seats at Goodison for non season ticket holders, this seems about right. When one considers that most of the people who take these tickets are probably on the season ticket waiting list already, then these fans will already have taken a season ticket for the new stadium from the waiting list. So the majority of the 5000 walk up tickets will still need to be sold to entirely new people.

So it would seem that the 52,000 proposal covers the match going fan base (season ticket, waiting list, walk up and premium seating). Obviously success on the pitch and ticket pricing can influence the growth in attendances and I think that this is were the proposal to have the option to expand to 60,000 comes in. If demand can be shown to be there, which success on the pitch will bring, then the capacity can be raised. It is encouraging to hear Keith Harris at the January General Meeting stated that the Club is look at safe standing for the extra capacity if legislation changes in the future.

Before we finish it has to be noted that although teams such as West Ham United and Manchester City (with fan bases similar to ours) have bigger grounds than the proposed 52,000 the Club have floated there are two other factors to consider. West Ham are in London with all the attractions that brings, while the transformation of Manchester City by Sheikh Mansour came in another financial time and catapulted the Club on to a world stage. Evan with the above advantages both West Ham and City do not regularly fill their stadiums to capacity. As I watch the blues home and away I can vouch that empty seats can be seen when we play at both clubs. The Empty spaces around the Etihad when we played there in December were actually quite shocking.

52,000 seems a reasonable figure from the Club for an iconic stadium on the Banks of the Royal Blue Mersey with the fans up close to the pitch, which architect Dan Meis is adamant will happen. An iconic ground on the Banks of the Royal Blue Mersey, full to the rafters every week with the fans close up to the pitch to enable us to make it an intimidating atmosphere for opposing teams seems ideal.

 

HALF SEASON REPORT CARD

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We reached the half way stage of our first season with Marco Silva and Marcel Brands with a great performance and five goals at Burnley. So what can we put on the report card for their first half a season.

The Clear Out

A herculean effort was made in the Summer to free the Club of many of the under performing dead wood. Either permanently or on loan the Club managed to ship out a great swathe of players Rooney, Klassen, Mirallas and many more. I still think a number of other players could and should have been moved on Niasse, Stekelenburg to name but two but the work on the clear out in the Summer was very good.

B+

The Incomings

For the first transfer window one can say that Silva and Brands had an exceptional Summer. Richarlison and Digne hit the ground running and Yerry Mina has also slotted in seamlessly once he got over his initial injury. Bernard on a free transfer was astute move. He is a player who clearly is starting to ajust more and more to the Premier League and will only get better. The Boxing Day win at Burnley was by far his best performance so far. Kurt Zuma and Andre Gomes have been great loan signings in both defence and midfield, if we could sign both of them permanently it would be a no brainer. Finally the bringing in of 19 year old goalkeeper Joao Virginia from Arsenal was also a clever move. Virginia has been impressive in his appearances for the Under 23’s and in my view should be ahead of Stekelenburg as back up keeper to Jordan Pickford.

A

The Football

Here we can have no qualms in saying the football produced under Marco Silva compared to Allardyce is like comparing night and day. As we trudged home and away to watch the most turgid football under Allardyce, we now have a Manager who wants to play on the front foot. We have produced some good attacking football. The Leicester City and Burnley games both away being the standouts. This is not to say that we have not had ups and downs as we certainly have. Manchester City away, Newcastle United, Watford at home for example. We have also had disastrous performances against West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur while the Southampton Carabao Cup defeat was a lost opportunity. So it has not be plain sailing, but in six months Silva has turned the way we play around dramatically and we will hopefully improve even more in the second half of the season.

B

 The Manager

Marco Silva is a breath of fresh air compared to Sam Allardyce. We have a manager who wants to play attacking football and who is not afraid to change tactics. (Yes three at the back can work, depending on who the opposition is). But just as this is a transitional season it is also a season were Silva is learning more and more about the squad and his own managerial style, tactics and ideas. We will have bumps in the road such as West Ham, Manchester City and Tottenham as noted above, but Silva is proving to be a good attacking manager who will only grow into the job and get better as the months go by. We need to be patient, but we are definitely on the right road. As Silva improves as a manager, so will we as a team. From were we were under the nightmare of Allardyce, Silva has made a very encouraging start.

B

 Overall

Finally the overall mark. We are still a team in transition and need at least 2-3 more transfer windows before we will see a team, which has the full Silva/Brands stamp on it. We have had bumps in the road and there will be more. But the change from the Allardyce regime has been immense. The football is light years away from the rubbish of last season, we are in the top half of the league with a progressive manager who will only get better. It has been a good start under Siva and Brands. So their overall rating for the first half of the season is

B