Kevin Thelwell says he has been encouraged by the progress he has seen from Everton this season, while revealing there are medium and long-term plans in place to keep the Club on an upward trajectory.
Thelwell, who was appointed Everton's Director of Football in February 2022, is the strategic lead for recruitment and all the Club’s football departments, including the Senior Men and Women's sides, Academy, coaching, sport science, medical services and analysis.
A large portion of Thelwell's focus in his role is on the long-term elements of the Club's football operation. However, reflecting on this season, he says it has been gratifying to see the team combine impressive performances with positive results.
"We've been really pleased [with the team's progress so far]," explained Thelwell. "We had won five of seven before drawing against Brighton, who are terrific opposition. So it feels like we are going in the right direction.
"We are not saying we have changed the story or the narrative just yet, but we are in a much better space than we have been.
"My role is about medium and long-term, but you can't ignore the short-term, either. The reality of everybody's circumstances who works in professional sports is to get results fundamentally. I'm pleased to see us winning more than we've lost. We're picking up some good results at the moment, long may it continue."
Thelwell has been Everton's Director of Football for little more than 18 months and has been tasked with balancing a multitude of challenges during that period.
He acknowledged one of the most signficant decisions came when selecting a manager who had the capacity to keep Everton in the Premier League last season.
The 50-year-old played a significant role in the appointment of manager Sean Dyche and believes the Everton boss had illustrated himself as a standout candidate who could help the Club achieve its short-term goal of survival while also having the capacity to grow with it in the medium to long-term.
"We brought Sean in because of our circumstances and we had to identify someone who had experience and could keep us in the league - but also because he is someone who we believe could come in and help us to build something in the medium/long-term," Thelwell explained in the Training Ground Guru podcast, which can be listened to in full here.
"He epitomises a lot of the working-class values that Evertonians - and we as a Club - hold so dear and he's also got the ability to evolve his game and philosophy to help us really get somewhere. As we sit here today, I think he has done a really good job.
"We get access to a lot of data and access to a lot of information around the Premier League. We've done a lot of research on 'What does great look like?' in the Premier League. What are successful teams doing that makes them successful? If you look at Sean at Burnley and Sean at Everton, he has already evolved - the data and the naked eye tell us that.
"In my opinion, we are heading in the right direction. Of course, there is more evolution to come - there always is - but he's done a really, really good job in difficult circumstances, while also creating a team that has not only got the mentality we've seen recently but also building out a team in terms of a philosophy, which is not easy to do."
Finding the right manager to lead Everton forward, and providing him with the necessary support to do so, has been one of Thelwell's primary tasks.
However, Everton's Director of Football explained how that had to be achieved while also simultaneously keeping focus on refining Everton's strategy in other areas - such as making the Club more sustainable.
"In my 18 months, we've gone through a very difficult period and supporting the manager to help us stay in the league has been a big part of my role," accepted Thelwell.
"But I don't think it's any secret that we have some financial issues that we need to resolve - and we are resolving. Certainly in my 18 months here, I've been focused on that - as well as other things - but, importantly, understanding our PSR (profit and sustainability) issues and finding some solutions to those has been a part of the process.
"Making sure we stay on the right side of the rules in that regard. We have spent plenty of money in previous times and the reality is you can’t continue to spend and not deliver transfer fees or build a better transfer structure.
"My role is to bring us back into financial balance and put in place a financially sustainable plan moving forward, while also building a team that is competitive - and something that people can believe in - in the most competitive league in the world - they're the two big rocks within my remit."
While we're now beginning to see the fruits of Thelwell's labour both on and off the pitch, the former Head of Sport at New York Red Bulls knows the journey is still in its infancy.
"Everybody at Everton wants to get Everton back where we all believe it belongs. The vision for a big club like Everton has to be how do we get back amongst the elite. How do we start competing for trophies? How do we start getting back into Europe?
"And of course, we have this world-class stadium so we want to build a team befitting of that. There is that to contend with at this very moment in time.
"That has to be the vision because we work at a very big football club where enough is never enough. If we finish 15th this season, then it needs to be 12th the year after and so on. Everybody wants more and that's not an issue for me. It’s a privilege to work for a big club like Everton.
On continuing to move the Club forward, Thewell added: "We have four strategic pillars. Who we are: every club's identity and culture is really important.
"We don't want to get too far away from our way, the Everton way; How we play: another big part and there are many examples in the Premier League and across the world of clubs having very clear ways of playing and the benefits they get from that.
"How we support: what we do in terms of our operational method, with things like coaching, performance analysis, medical services, sport science - and building a really strong best-in-class-type philosophy that runs through all of our departments; Staff development: I'm a big believer that you're only as good as the sum of your parts and if you have staff that you continue to develop, then they can provide better service and expertise to become better."