With the fourth transfer window in my time as Everton’s Director of Football now closed, I wanted to share with you an update as we focus on the final three months of the 2023/24 Premier League campaign.
As I explained when I wrote to you in December, January was a transfer window we approached with pragmatism, in the knowledge there was unlikely to be a great deal of activity taking place. Indeed, it was a very quiet transfer window for the whole of the Premier League, with only eight clubs making permanent signings, and the total spent almost £800m less than in January 2023.
Whilst we didn’t add new faces, we believe we have a strong and robust squad capable of dealing with the challenges in the second half of the season. We have strength in depth in key areas, supplemented by several players capable of fulfilling roles in different positions. That has been demonstrated in the past six weeks as we have contended with a busier than normal treatment room.
We’ve seen players such as Ben Godfrey and Andre Gomes step into the fray and perform at a level that underlines the level of hard work and endeavour shown by everybody day in and day out on the training pitch. Jack Harrison, James Garner and Dwight McNeil have also demonstrated their versatility in fulfilling different roles to help plug gaps because of injuries and Idrissa Gana Gueye’s participation in the AFCON.
And the emergence of young talents such as the ever-impressive Jarrad Branthwaite, and the ongoing progress we are seeing from Youssef Chermiti and Lewis Dobbin, who are now established members of the squad, further illustrates the benefit of a streamlined group, where every player has a key role to play during the campaign.
Our hard-fought and fully deserved 2-2 draw against Spurs took us to eight wins and five draws for the campaign, a return that would normally put us on 29 points. Frustratingly, the asterisk that is currently placed alongside our Club’s name in the Premier League table means we are in the same position as a year ago, 18th. The scale of the progress made under Sean’s management is clear when you reflect that, at this same point of the 2022/23 campaign, we had 18 points with a goal difference of minus 18. A year on and we’ve doubled the number of victories, scored 10 more goals, and conceded four fewer. The fact our 26 goals have been netted by 15 different players also demonstrates that collective effort and shared responsibility.
At every level of our football operation, from the manager, players and coaching staff through to the analysts, admin support, ground staff, catering team and kit room, there is an understanding of what needs to be done and the role each of us play in supporting our objectives. But our confidence in the work being done at Finch Farm means we are looking forward positively to our remaining games - and our ability to secure the points we need in the face of the most unprecedented of challenges.
Ensuring we operate in a way that protects us for the future has been a key priority from my first day at the Club. It isn’t possible to change direction quickly within the constraints of PSR, but what has been evident over the four transfer windows I’ve navigated in my time at Everton has been an ongoing focus to make the Club more sustainable. In that time, a net receipt from player trading of more than £60m, a wage bill steadily and consistently trending in the right direction and outlay on agent fees vastly reduced continues to demonstrate our plan is being adhered to. Our football strategy is a long-term plan which we must remain focused on, even when the short-term reality can be incredibly challenging.
But what drives me is the future that we can deliver here at Everton.
Later this year, Laing O’Rourke will hand over the keys to the first stadium our club has built in more than 130 years. One of the finest sporting arenas in the world of football, it is a project that has placed significant pressures on the Club - not helped by unprecedented and unforeseen circumstances. But by pressing on and remaining focused on the vision - and its delivery - despite the hurdles, we know our club will benefit from far greater levels of freedom to develop our squad and footballing operation, whilst complying with the strict financial regulations, in the future. That is the boost to our footballing future the stadium will provide, thanks to the commercial sea change it will bring. Indeed, without the stadium, there simply would be no way for us to compete at the level this Club has become synonymous with since it was formed in 1878.
As a Director of Football, that reality makes the hurdles worth overcoming. And I know that is the same energy driving everybody at the Club - and every Evertonian.
We don’t yet know what the weeks and months ahead will bring - but I know the efforts of the manager and players will be matched by the passion of our fans.
That passion is always valued and appreciated by everybody at the Club – and never taken for granted.