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Another Day At The Office
Robert Elstone, 24th December 2013 - 12:11
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Another Day at the Office
We started 2013 in 6th place and we will go into the Christmas period one poor penalty decision at Cardiff City away from joint-top (and if we'd have got what we deserved on derby day, it would have been even better).
It was a calendar year in which we again underlined our credibility and consistency at the business end of the Premier League. We challenged for a Champions League place for the majority of the season and never slipped out of the top seven from start to finish.
But that of course tells only a fraction of the story of Everton's year. It certainly fails to do justice to perhaps the most exciting and eventful year in recent history.
We certainly didn't plan to finish 2013 without David Moyes and Marouane Fellaini but then again, as I've said in these notes on many occasions, in football, you never know what's around the corner. Challenges and opportunities leap up at you, unpredictably, and hit you in the face and make anything other than very short-term horizons impractical. Last summer we faced our biggest challenge for many years.
A New Gaffer
As a consequence of making good decisions in the past, we were inexperienced when it came to changing our manager. However, as you'd expect, we did our homework, we worked hard, we asked the right questions of the right people and we negotiated hard.
We'd been equally fortunate to have a settled, well-established ‘back-room' and had to adapt quickly to the knock-on effect of managerial change. Indeed the summer saw unprecedented, wholesale changes at Finch Farm and, understandably, some nervousness about how it would all bed in.
Those nerves just made us work that bit harder to make sure everyone was made to feel at home and given the support they needed to settle in as quickly as possible. Without being complacent or taking anything for granted, things are working out well, payback for our efforts but also a reflection of the calibre and attitudes of the people we've brought on board. We should thank the new members of our team for the way in which they have adopted our Club and embraced the expectations of Evertonians. I hope we're just as rusty the next time we have to do it.
Most managerial changes happen when you don't want them to - with failure. Of course, ours was anything but, and I'm sure Roberto would be the first to agree he inherited a great squad, a productive youth system, skilled support staff, processes that worked and fantastic facilities.
We'd all readily agree in return that he and his team have moved things on, making us even more competitive, removing any fear and above all else, making us believe. Let me tell you that special feeling - belief - is shared in the offices as well as on the terraces.
With Roberto on board, we made our move early in the summer window and started to prepare for the season; the dazzling Gerard Deulofeu, thanks to the confidence Barcelona had in Roberto, supplemented the signings of Arouna Kone and Antolin Alcaraz from Wigan, and Joel Robles from Atletico Madrid.
Unfortunately, it was never going to be that straightforward. Not only do we never stop looking to strengthen our squad, and always work to the very last moment of the window, we quickly found out we had a battle on our hands. Our former manager wanted two of our best players and we rolled up our sleeves!
What happened was pretty well reported in the press and we all know how we ended up. Of course, time will be the judge of our success but most commentators think we played our hand pretty well. The City fans I know are sore about Gareth Barry; universally, we have been congratulated on getting Romelu to Goodison and all of us must be enjoying the desire and machine-like brilliance of our player of the month for November, James McCarthy.
Proud to be Blue
After all of that it seems very appropriate that we should celebrate the year borrowing from Morecambe and Wise. In cold and dark December it feels like the sun is shining on Goodison - a Spanish sun fuelled by positivity, optimism and belief.
But what's most pleasing to me is that it's a reflection of what we've been trying to do off the field over recent years. In previous notes, I might have referred to the simple mission underpinning our work. Staff have been asked to judge what they do by reference to ‘making Evertonians proud to be blue', and I can see that happening.
This time last year, the Daily Telegraph described us at Premier League's most likeable club. I can see we've lived up to that billing. I've definitely talked about, as part of our four-pronged strategy, the focus on making matchdays more memorable and, I've consistently celebrated the way in which Everton in the Community allows us to get closer to our fans and tell everyone what the Club's all about.
Reading about the Fulham game in the papers, it seemed as if it had just happened that day and it had all fallen into place ‘as if by magic'. Maybe I'm being too prickly, but without the author knowing it, he had acknowledged the plans we have had in place for a while and recognised the hard work that's going into making the Club the best it can be across everything it does.
The Year Ahead
I'm sure if I look back on everything I've written at this time of year, I'll have said there's reason to be positive. I always meant it then and on the whole, it's been proved right. More than ever, however, I'm excited about the year ahead. We will have a busy January as we look to strengthen our squad.
We have a couple of excellent new partnership deals to announce for 2014/15, and, we continue to work with the City Council on the search for a new stadium; lots to keep us busy, lots to be positive about. Next year is shaping up really well.
I hope you enjoy Goodison at Christmas as much as we do. Sadly, if you haven't bought your tickets for Sunderland and Southampton, it's too late (it's not too late to help send us on our way on an FA Cup run). I also hope you're enjoying us ‘turning the streets blue' and helping the City celebrate a ‘Blue Crimbo' and, I hope, we're making you proud to be blue.
From a sunny Goodison, nothing but the very best wishes to all our fans from the Board of Directors and all staff at Everton.
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