Emotional blackmail?

By Les Roberts
Last updated : 14 August 2007

I read the article in the Daily Post, about the proposed move to Kirkby, which included comments from some of our players, and I have to admit that I was shocked and angered by it.

I felt that the arguments put forward were heavily biased towards a move to Kirkby, and all of the 'facts' listed were only used as a direct comparison between Kirkby and our current situation at Goodison.

I can understand that the directors might want to put their case forward regardless of bias, as some of them may be fighting for their jobs and reputations.

But, the part that angered me most was the addition of comments from some players, who were all in favour of the move, and once again their comments were only based on a Goodison .v. Kirkby scenario, not the broader issues.

The players should not be used in this way, as their comments could be regarded as emotional blackmail, engineered by the above mentioned board members.

Also, players who admit to being against a move to Kirkby may be regarded, by the board, as traitors.

Instead, the players should focus on what they do best and that's playing football, they should leave the politics to others.

It also angered me to read that a couple of players only decided to extend their contracts with us because of the new ground proposals.

My question would be: Is that the only reason they want to stay with us?!! If so, I'm not so sure I want them to stay.

Let's get it straight players are not Gods - even our players.

One day, they may turn out to be great managers, statesmen, musicians, or (hopefully) members of a squad of Everton players that can win everything in the world at club level.

In the meantime, they are ordinary young people that just happen to be good at playing football, and they should stick to that.

Most of these players will only be with the club for few years then they'll move on.

Most of them are not EVERTONIANS, with a lifetime commitment to the club.

So they can't begin to understand the level of pride that is involved in being an Evertonian.

It's in our blood and will be there forever as part of our culture. In fairness, one or two of our players are lifelong Evertonians, but these particular players should also know that Evertonians will never accept second best - especially when it means accepting something worse than Liverpool!! Nobody puts a gun to our head.

Everton fans are not idiots, blindly seeking to stay at Goodison come what may. We want the very best for our club and anything less than this is just not good enough.

Like the players and the board, we are ordinary people, but with a passion for our club that is rarely matched by any player or director of any club.

For many years, our directors have stood by and watched the likes of Man United build a massive empire, by creating and branding a 'marketing money machine' and a stadium capacity that is much bigger than everyone else's.

Their marketing machine became global, and it then enabled the club to buy twice as many top players in order to ensure years of growth. This didn't happen by chance. It took a massive leap of faith by a board to back the belief and vision of a few individuals. It was a planned strategy that started with their directors asking the question of - how can we bring more wealth and success to our club?

Also, the Man U. players are not always the best players, but the belief and work ethic at the club often turns average players into very good ones, because they buy into the club's belief system.

Some people seem to believe that Man U. has always been a massive club, but the reality is that all of this has happened in the past 15 years or so. They were never streets ahead of everyone else year after year. Sure they've had some good teams since the early 1950's, but they've also had some terrible teams, and they've also been relegated.

Everton have had similar experiences in my lifetime, particularly in the 60's, 70's and 80's. We've had fantastic highs, when our team was as good as any in the world and better than the vast majority of them (including the Man United's and Chelsea's) and some disastrous lows, but we have managed to avoid the drop - just! But, throughout this time, it has to be said that our board has never managed the club consistently well.

Before they make any decisions our board of directors should focus first and foremost on our club motto - Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, and realise that as we are Everton, nothing but the best is good enough!

Then they might realise the level of commitment that the fans have for the club!

Admittedly, prior to David Moyes' arrival at the club, we'd had a terrible decade, but a few years before that we were the masters.

A bad decade doesn't make us a second rate club and no Everton fan will accept this premise, regardless of the comments of foreigners, as to us being "a small club".

Our former period of mediocrity was brought about by a 'survival' mentality, rather than a 'winning' mentality, and this was totally at odds with our motto.

Thanks to David Moyes, we now have a team that is a match for anyone, but we still lack the most important ingredient in any competitive situation - BELIEF.

It is absolutely crucial that this attitude of mind permeates right through the club, and it must start at the top. The Everton fans have always believed that we are the best club in the world, despite our setbacks. But the fans' belief has never been matched by our board of directors.

Sadly, the board's lack of belief is showing once again in their current plans to accept a further dose of mediocrity, by moving to a bargain basement ground outside the city.

It's clear that I am speaking from the heart, and I make no apologies for that, and the board could argue that you can't run a business on sentiment. But I would disagree completely with this point of view.

Whether I speak as a businessman (with 30 years' experience) or as an Everton fan (with 55 years' experience) is irrelevant. A football club such as Everton cannot be run with a dispassionate approach, it has got to be taken personally, otherwise the club is in danger of losing its soul.

There are lots of potential sites for a new ground, if we have to leave Goodison, and the Bestway site sounds ideal.

This area was formerly known as Vicky Square, in between the old and new Paddy's Markets, between Scotland Road and Great Homer Street. This is just a stone's throw from the city centre and would be perfect for bus and rail connections.

Anyone visiting the city would see our ground before any other and it would also be far more likely that other events would be staged there, rather than at Stanley Park or Kirkby.

This area was decimated to accommodate the Wallasey tunnel, so it would be great to see it re-developed. Also, Scotland Road has spawned thousands of great footballers, most of whom were not even spotted by our two big clubs. Who knows, maybe the local talent will be given a better chance in times to come.

Also, in the not too distant future, the city centre will spread as far as our ground, at which time Everton will be one of a very small number of top football clubs with its ground in the city centre.

The question of whether or not Everton Football Club is in the city of Liverpool will never again be in doubt. The heritage of our club and city would be restored and could add to the growth of a positive belief system for the whole area.

Let's hope that our board of directors realise that any decision that they take today will last for a hundred years. They have an opportunity to make us great again, or to accept permanent mediocrity.

Which will it be? Let's hope it's the right one!

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