Special K


Today has been a big day for Everton. While it was rumored for weeks and finally made official on Tuesday, it took until today for the man to be introduced to the local press. The man I’d hoped for did not get picked for the job, but Koeman is hardly a bad selection for the Goodison hotseat, and might be the smartest pick in the end. There’s isn’t a terrible lot to glean from the first press conference but I walked away with a few impressions.

Koeman is a dead serious operator and has his eyes focused on big things. The former Barcelona center half has been ambitious from the start, and has cut a path through management that has seen atVitesse Arhem, Ajax, Benfica, PSV Eindhoven and Valencia initially. Before coming over to the UK, he had spells back in his native Holland at AZ Alkmaar and Feyenoord.

His arrival on these shores saw him come into Southampton, a club that, for my money, is among the best organized in the Prem. He came in to replace a popular and successful coach in Mauricio Pochetino, who since has seen his stature grow at Tottenham. To see so much annoyance at his departure from Southampton fans shows that he managed not just to maintain the good feeling at St. Mary’s during his brief tenure but build upon it. A well-organized club was able to replace one good manager with another, ambitious one, who has now apparently moved on to bigger things.

That he considers Everton a big next step tells me that he may not be done moving along just yet. He had signed a three-year deal initially with Southampton, and refused to renew at the end of last season. This deserves to be expanded upon: as a manager, Koeman has not spent longer than three years at any one club. Certainly he has had his share of the sack, but he saw progress professionally in his last two clubs and his profile has risen consequently. He has signed a three-year contract with Everton.

As much as I love my club, I can’t see Koeman seeing Everton as anything other than a stop along a path he is carving out for himself. For a man of his ambitions, I image he sees himself at the helm of a truly massive club, perhaps even Barcelona, where he had such success as a player. I can’t imagine this has not occurred to Bill Kenwright or Farhad Moshiri. The latter, in fact, might be counting upon Koeman’s ambitious streak to sell the club as a logical progression for the man: Everton, while now a shadow of the colossus it once was, still is a club with more silverware than Chelsea and Man City combined. Yes, thems was some years ago. As the saying goes, though, form is fleeting; class is permanent. Under Moshiri, you get the sense Everton are looking to bring back the good ol’ days to Goodison.

That Koeman could be the man at the helm when Everton gate-crash the top four in coming years would have been a selling point. We got the cash and the history, but we need a world-beater to help us be great again. Put that on your CV Ronny, and the big boys will be beating down your door.

My guess is we could see Koeman hang around for a max of four years, maybe extending his contract after the second year (depending on how we’ve done) and then eventually buggering off to Barca or Bayern or some such global heavyweight (I can’t imagine him going to Real. You’d get the sense that would be too big an insult for any legend of the Nou Camp). It’s a marriage of convenience, one brokered between a club on the ascent and a manager looking for his next big challenge.

Koeman has always worked under a continental-type setup, meaning a director of football will be the next major appoint from Kenwright and Moshiri. One name keeps coming up in the press: Monchi. The man largely credited with the rise and rise of Sevilla would indeed be a coup and a major throwing down of the gauntlet on the part of Everton. Such a move would be bigger than luring Koeman across from Southampton, as you would assume the goal would be to keep Monchi at the club for years to come. This would ensure a shift in philosophy at a sporting level at the club, recruitment and the academy. It would be a monster signing.

But back to Koeman… he was peppered with questions about possible signings from his former club and how he would tie down the likes of Romelu Lukaku and John Stones. His predictable non-answers were just the sort of expectation maintenance you’d expect from the new appointment, and that this all played out before a partisan crowd of local reporters made that easier to get away with. The real work will start after the end of the Euros. Lukaku has been making eyes at everyone from Chelsea to PSG; anyone, it would seem, other than his current employer. Koeman, known as a stern disciplinarian but also very good as a man-manager, will be asked to put all his negotiation skills to the test. My guess, though, is he will not stand in the way of Lukaku, should he push for a move.

I think this because the very appointment of Koeman, a former world-class ball-playing center half, was more than likely done (at least in part) to appeal to another, current star of the Everton squad who also happens to be handy with his feet and works along the backline. Perhaps Everton have it in mind to rebuild the team from the back, as any good team restructuring should be. Make sure the defense is solid – it’s what Moyes did well. John Stones, who agitated for a move last summer, could very well be Koeman’s first serious sit-down chat once the boys come back from the continental summer tournament. Much has been made about Stones’ natural ability and cool head on the ball, and a talent such as his can be in short supply in his preferred place at the heart of defense. He could easily grow and become a truly world class player at another club such as the Mans United or City, perhaps even Barcelona. All this would appeal to Stones, who is still only 22 years of age. If the goal is to build a team that can launch an assault at the top four, securing Stones’ buy-in is surely of greater urgency than Lukaku, at least for the long-term project. Lukaku has never made any bones about his desire to play at clubs bigger than Everton.  Maybe the doors aren’t thrown open for him to leave, but don’t exactly stand in his way either. Get a good 65 million pound transfer fee for the lad and plow it back into the team.

The second player to tie down and truly work on is Ross Barkley. That the boy shows flashes of world class is undeniable. His inconsistency, though, is a concern as is his mental toughness. Big Dunc can provide mentoring up to a point, but perhaps he needs a change of setup. There has been some chatter of seeing the schemer drop into a role a bit deeper in midfield, which could be an interesting to see. If he is to have a free role in the middle to deliver the killer pass, perhaps moving him farther back is wise. A change of formation wouldn’t hurt either – Martinez’s slavish adherence to the 4-2-3-1 often saw Barkley pushed too far up behind Lukaku. What if Everton were to switch to the tried and true 4-4-2, with Barkley partnered in the heart of the midfield with James McCarthy and given a free role to drift all across the middle? I could see Gerard Deulofeu on the right wing and maybe we retain Kevin Mirallas to operate in on the left. If Lukaku isn’t able to engineer a move away from the club, who could adequately partner him in a big ‘un – little ‘un setup? Oumar Niasse is still a complete unknown quality and has acquired a perhaps unfair association with the failures of the Martinez era that were big on promise but short on delivery.

While it’s not likely to happen, I’d argue Everton should try to tie down a return of Wayne Rooney at this time. It’s about as far-fetched a scenario as any, but there is some logic to it. It’s arguable that the biggest signings for Everton right now would be simply to retain Stones and Barkley. Bringing in Rooney could have the effect of keeping Lukaku at Everton simply to see where this goes. Lukaku has developed as a player but even he would concede he’s got a ways to go before he’s the finished article. Who better to learn along side than Rooney? Wages and transfer fee would be in the stratosphere but it would be just the sort of signing that would show the rest of the League that the Blue half of Merseyside are back to recover their mojo in earnest. If by some miracle we were able to lure him away from United… well that would be a thing, wouldn’t it?

That last bit is just a bit of fanciful thinking, but who can tell these days? Rooney himself already stated he’d never play for any other team in the Prem other than Everton. He’s been pictured at the ground plenty of times. His kids are growing up as Bluenoses. At some level, he must crave this triumphant return. I’d watch this transfer window. It could just happen, and if it did then it would be the sort of blockbuster summer no Blue would ever forget.

So much for good intentions

Argh is all I can say when I look in here. I so want to be good about updating this blog but sadly, I’m not doing the job.

I guess that’s just it too: it’s not a job, it’s supposed to be a fun thing. The Greenest Pitch is supposed to be my fun blog. I think it still is, and I suppose if I get to a point where it’s no longer fun, I’ll stop. For the more serious stuff, I can always update my other blog, theconstantnow.com. Maybe you, gentle reader, could have a look at it, too. After reading this entry, of course.

And now for a brief and utterly incomplete assessment of some of the main talking points of the 2016 Prem, some other bits of football news, some thoughts and what have you.

The 2015-2016 English Premier League season must, must, must go down as the best ever. SO much to be thankful for this year. The real story is, of course, the extremely unlikely ascent of humble Leicester City to the summit of the League. 5,000 to 1 outsiders on the first day of the season, this club comprised largely of bargain-basement transfers and also-rans rightfully earned their very first top-league trophy in their 132 year history. The sense of vindication for manager Claudio Ranieri, who came in last summer with some sizable question marks on his reputation, nevertheless engineered a winning side.  This was done by being content to give the ball to the opposition for the most part and hit teams on the counter with the blistering pace of striker Jamie Vardy, and the speed and intelligence on the wings of Riyad Mahrez and Mark Albrighton. To stop the analysis at this point is a tad disingenuous, as there were so many heroes on the team (Huth, Fuchs, Kante, Schmeichel et al) but there’s not point bogging this down now. So many others have said it better than I could, and so I will leave it to them.

Perhaps the other big story is of the epic, astounding meltdown at Chelsea. From taking the Prem at a canter last season to utter implosion this has been a sight to behold. Mourinho, who appeared to have the freedom of the city at Stamford Bridge, so to speak, was unceremoniously dumped in mid-December after a 2-1 loss to eventual champions, Leicester. The Portuguese schemer, who’d sunk to the depths of accusing his players of sabotaging his work, lost the locker room somehow, this man so touted for his man-management skills. The big story of the off-season so far is Mourinho’s latest gig at Manchester United. It is still unclear whether he’s able to overcome doubts over what some have considered to be a manager with a serious reputation problem. For my part, I think it’s a solid signing. The man practically guarantees silverware, which United desperately need in order to get their mojo back. Maybe more on that in a future entry…

To my utter disgust, Liverpool appear to be on a serious rebound under Teutonic troglodyte Jurgen Klopp’s tutelage. Two cup finals in just under eight months is not bad for a manager on his maiden voyage in the English footballing structure, but it could likely never have been otherwise for a man with his CV. Borussia Dortmund, the proud, massive club he managed for seven years and subsequently led to back-to-back Bundesliga titles (in 2011 and 2012) gave this young, passionate coach his chance back in 2008, and he did not let them down. His vigor, enthusiasm for the game and motivational skills are legendary, and is just the shot in the arm the loathsome Reds need to recover some of their pride. It’s enough to make any decent Toffeeman sick to his stomach. I’ve been mopping up vomit for months.

Another sore point this season has been the rapid ascent of the perfectly vile north Londoners Tottenham Hotspur. A club that up until a few seasons ago was on a par with Everton has, since then, mushroomed like an out of control bacterial infection, overwhelming its host. This season they pushed Leicester all the way to the finish line, and finished in a comfortable second place, above their hated neighbors Arsenal. That Spurs have continued to evolve and truly excel while my beloved Blues languish away and mutate into the new Wigan has been a bitter pill to swallow indeed.

Just to make to bile rise in the throat for sure, let’s have a gander at my beloved Toffees, who will see a massive walkout of talent this summer without any doubt. Roberto Martinez, a manager whose tenure seemed to get off to such a good start in the 2013-2014 season, succeeded in replicating his style of team management that saw him craft a capable cup-winning side at Wigan that also contrived to get relegated in the same season. This is when Martinez absconded from Everton’s north-west neighbors and set up camp at Goodison. A fifth-placed finish in the first season, coupled with an attractive, possession and attacking style of play had the Gwladys Street End faithful crowing about a return of the School of Science, with visions of silverware clouding their better judgment.

In the end, that first season only turned out to be as successful as it was due to the defensive solidity the players still possessed from years under David Moyes. A staunch defense coupled with that sort of passing play can deliver results. It’s just that Martinez hasn’t a clue of how to marshal a defense. And as such, we saw the first evidence of just what a leaky defense gets you if you’re unable to outscore your opponents in 2014-2015, and this season, without a European campaign to distract us, we managed only 11th in the League, which was about right for the abject performances throughout a season that promised so much.

It is hard to justify us holding on the likes of Romelu Lukaku, John Stones or even the likes of Seamus Coleman, Gerard Deulofeu or died-in-the-wool Blue Ross Barkley with the sort of philosophy that was on employ there. Everton lost more games from winning positions than any other team in the top flight, a statistic that, as the season wore interminably on, clearly ate away at the players’ confidence and belief in their manager. By the end, the terminally optimistic Martinez admitted that his players had let him down, something you’d never heard from him in the preceding three years. My guess is they simply gave up. There’d been too many empty superlatives used for poor performances to convince the players any longer. There’d been too much talk and no substance. A team that, on paper at least, ought to be pushing for the top four went out with a whimper. Like captain Phil Jagielka said, we will likely see a massive clearout this summer. It breaks my heart. Yes, there’s new ownership. But I don’t think Farhad Moshiri was necessarily looking to rebuild a squad from the ground up.

It will likely be a busy summer, not just for Everton but for all Prem teams. The bumper TV deal has kicked out more dough than most clubs in the top flight have ever come across, which could see the migration of some serious talent to the rainy isle.


Leeds I Predict A Riot

Some might have noticed old Davie Moyes was given his marching orders over at Real Sociedad. Full disclosure: I am rather partisan on the topic of Moyes. Many of my fellow and dear Toffeemen (and women) have basically written the ginger Scot off as yesterday’s news, that he was too dour, too conservative, too… well, you get the picture. There hasn’t exactly been a love-in of support for this manager who conjured respectability out of a transfer budget so slim it is a wonder he built any squad whatsoever.

But build he did and over an eleven-year stint. During that time, Everton finished in the bottom half of the league only twice, never sinking lower than eighth, with a fourth place finish and a subsequent qualification to the Champions League thrown in. All on a shoestring. He parlayed the loss of the generation’s greatest English star Wayne Rooney into that fourth place finish. Everton played in the UEFA League and its successor, the Europa League, in three of those seasons, getting as far as the round of 16 one year. It does not look like much on paper but is significant when one considers the outlay of England’s European regulars such as the Mans U and City, Chelski, Hottenham Tottspur and the red mob across Stanley Park.

In short, I believe Moyes was, on the balance, good for Everton. He came in and dealt with things, never one to whine. Was he a bit pragmatic or dour, even? Sure. But he is a very intelligent manager, a footballing realist who believes in himself. You have to have a set to move from a comfortable appointment at a big (if cash strapped) club like Everton (where he could have remained indefinitely) to take on the snarling monstrosity that is Manchester United. After that gig went caput, he did not hang around these shores but chose his next appointment to be in Spain, in Basque country no less, a culture as foreign and insular as could be found in Western Europe.

You can’t say the guy shies away from challenges.

That gig, sadly, did not go so well for the Glaswegian. A failure to adapt, to even settle in enough to find a house (he stayed in a hotel for the entirety of his 364 day stint) or learn the language more than likely contributed to the impression that he never thought he’d last anyway. If he’d managed to produce the results then great. Unfortunately, those antecedents mentioned earlier are usually what will buy you the goodwill (and thus, time) to get the results. His inability to do so is, ultimately, cost him that needed time.

Moyes continues to split opinion wherever he goes, but there are plenty who still wonder what could have been if he been given the chance to really bed down at the Theatre of Dreams. It’s all speculation now, which is great fun but hardly can be used for serious dialogue on the subject. What the record shows is that Moyes can do great things on a limited budget in a club of a certain size (and history) in a place where he can settle in to the culture.

Maybe that’s why there are rumors bubbling up around the hinternets that he is being sized up for the hot seat at Leeds United, should bajillionaire Steve Parkin’s proposed 30 million pound bid go through. So let’s look at a few things here…

Leeds were relegated from the top flight at the end of the 2004 season. They have toiled for the last eleven years in both the Championship and League One. That is quite the plunge for a team that, during the ten years prior to their initial relegation from the Prem, had finished in the top five at total of seven times. The Premier League itself has only been around since 1993. Who won that final season season of its predecessor, League 1, in 1992? Leeds. They won it two years before that too. If you go back further, they reached the final of the old European Cup in 1975, losing to Bayern Munich. There are movies about the club. Kaiser Chiefs are huge fans. This is a massive club, with a large fanbase and storied history.

My guess is they’d be right up Moyes’ alley.

So, what needs to take place for this scenario to come about?

Right off the bat, current owner and tax fugitive Massimo Cellino needs to sell up. This comes much to the delight of Leeds fans and staff alike, the Italian owner being not the most loved figure at the Yorkshire club. His agreement to sell has set the Elland Road phones buzzing with potential suitors, with local businessman and lifelong fan Steve Parkin one name bandied about in the press. Initially, Cellino had offered to sell the club to a fan group, but backed out of that, much to their fury. It will be difficult to predict what can take place until the ink is dry on the sale contract. All bets are off between now and then.

However, if Cellino does indeed sell and if it goes to Parkin, then you would have a serviceable arrangement for the fans, at least in my mind. The similarities here between Leeds and Everton only increase at this point. Like Everton, Leeds would be owned by a lifelong fan who, while very wealthy would not be in the league of, say, Roman Abramovich at Chelsea or the Abu Dhabi group at Man City. Rich, but not rich rich. Parkin’s fortune is estimated at around 190 million pounds. His up-front investment in the club would come in around 30 million, it is said. That is a fair chunk of what he owns. And then comes the fun bit of actually running the club. How would he keep cash-positive?

The article in the Express states that Parkin has floated the possibility of a partnership between himself and Cellino. This is would more than likely not sit well with the fanbase. If assurances are made that the former Catania owner would have no part in the running of the club and would, effectively, be a silent partner, then perhaps it could work.

All of that aside, this would be a decent platform for Moyes to reinvent himself. As alluded to earlier, I am not of the opinion that Moyes is a rubbish manager. I think he was screwed at United. It is an under reported fact that Moyes’ short amount of time at the United helm was adversely impacted by the appointment of Ed Woodward as the club’s CEO. Never having navigated the transfer market at any club, Woodward was given point on negotiating contracts and, as such, United made several disastrous moves during that first transfer window that ultimately came back to haunt Moyes. Had outgoing CEO David Gill stayed at the club one year longer, Moyes could still be standing on the Old Trafford sideline this season.

Moyes’ year in northern Spain must also be taken into context. It was always going to be a big ask for someone who never lived outside of Britain to go to a new country with a radically different culture and be successful. Some will point toward Steve McClaren’s successful spell at FC Twente in Enschede and criticize Moyes for not doing as well. There are similarities in both instances, but there are also some very extreme differences.

Firstly, McClaren’s hard-earned reputation was savagely torpedoed by the fickle and ridiculous English press. It is fair to say that his stint as England manager was extremely poor, but it must also be pointed out that expectations for the Three Lions are not in line with reality. England are not a global powerhouse and have not been for a long time. That McClaren was unable to motivate the troops is not entirely his fault.

McClaren to his show on the road after the England disaster, similar to another former Toon manager, Bobby Robson. He was very clever in taking over Twente because, frankly, no one had ever heard of them before he took them over. They were a smallish club in a league that has produced some significant brands on the European stage (Ajax, PSV Eindhoven) but is largely of interest only to the Dutch. McClaren went there and did very well for himself, winning the Eredivisie in 2010 and making forays into European competition. On the strength of these displays he was hired by Wolfsburg, which didn’t go so well. His return spell at Twente was not as successful as the first time out. His return to management in England came via Derby. he was hired by Newcastle this last summer in what has proven to be a very difficult return to the big time indeed.

McClaren really did fail with England and was subsequently tarred and feathered by the press. Moyes did not suffer such an ignominious public flogging as McClaren and still has his supporters. Secondly, his next job was in what is arguably the world’s most glamorous league. Glamour is different than competitive, though – it is arguable that there is greater competition between teams in Holland than Spain. Aside from the big four of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia and Atletico de Madrid though, there’s not much else going on in the league. The spotlight is much brighter, however, and while McClaren learned to navigate the Dutch league and assimilate the culture, Moyes never really fit in. That has to be on him. In Spain, you speak Spanish. The supremos at Anoeta saw in him real talent and drive, and he without a doubt has both in spades. His failure to adapt to the culture and to ever, really, unpack his bags speaks volumes.

So he’s done the Spain adventure. He’s been at the helm of arguably the world’s biggest club. He’s proven he can lead a former giant like Everton. He has bags of experience at this point. He could be just what the doctor ordered at Elland Road.

He will hope for better than what happened to McClaren at Derby, though. Remember, he got fired from that gig. Sure, he landed on his feet (so to speak) at Newcastle, but he has battled there. What’s to say Moyes will have a better run of it at Leeds?

The answer to all of these things is, at least in part, down to the owner. If the owner is patient and backs his man, there is far more chance of success. Moyes had that at Everton, just as McClaren had it at Middlesbrough and Twente. He did not have it at Wolfsburg. He did not have patient bosses at Derby. He might still pull it off at Newcastle, but everyone knows Mike Ashley is a blithering idiot.

If Steve Parkin takes over the club and behaves more like an owner who truly loves the club (like Everton’s Bill Kenwright or Middlesbrough’s Steve Gibson), then Moyes will be given every opportunity to come right. If Cellino hangs about, then maybe not. Good owners make for good clubs. I hope Leeds gets one who is looking to see the club be great because he or she loves that club, not because of the potential for revenue. I’d say Leeds is the kind of club I’d love to see turning out in the Prem. It will be interesting to follow this story.

The way of all flesh…


As is frequently the case, life has a habit of curtailing one’s passions, unless one’s passions are one’s life. As a father of three, husband and all-around working stiff, my passions, such as they are, often get pushed to the curb until such a time as the pile of it gets so… monumental… well, it gets time to pick up the rubbish and dispose of it.

Not that my passions are rubbish. Far from it.

WHAT a crazy season this has been so far in the Prem! Who would have thought Chelsea would be in the predicament in which they find themselves at this moment. Reports surfaced recently that Jose Mourinho is all out of time at Stamford Bridge, that the powers that be are awaiting until the end of the Stoke match this weekend to give the man the boot. This would have given them the international break to install his successor, a la Liverpool. It has since been reported that Mourinho retains the support of Chelsea’s deep-pocketed owner Roman Abramovich, but we all know how much that is worth these days. Chelski lost that game to Stoke, by the way.

This turn of events beggars belief, but is almost understandable given recent controversy surrounding the Portuguese schemer. Everywhere you look, Mourinho seems to be mentioned for all the wrong reasons: everything from the fallout of the Eva Carneiro fiasco to multiple stadium bans and fines, and even reports of a mutiny in the locker room led by everyone’s favorite sourpuss Cesc Fabregas (both deny the allegations). All signs point toward the Special One suddenly going from flavor of the month to something of a toxic asset. Where did it all go so wrong?

The Daily Mail, using its guise as an investigative news outlet, published this piece about all that has gone wrong old Jose. There are some pieces worth noting, though: Mourinho’s father, Felix, is apparently very ill and on his last legs. Mourinho has gone back and forth to Portugal often this season and one can see that the man is taking strain. One gets the feeling that a few misplaced words at the beginning of the season, coupled with the man’s mountain-sized ego and unwillingness to back down have contributed to what is becoming an untenable situation. I wonder if he had simply admitted he’d overreacted to Carneiro’s coming on the field to tend to Eden Hazard, if he’d defused that situation or, better, controlled his tongue and not said anything at all, whether he’d have a better grip on things right now.

Perhaps the problems started a little earlier, during the transfer window. Mourinho’s very public pursuit of Everton defender John Stones ended in futility, much to his embarrassment. How does a seemingly “small” club (when compared to the London giants) bat back such assiduous pursuit of one of their prize assets? Who do they think they are, Mourinho appeared to imply in his blustering comments. His inability to recruit adequate cover in that department, along with the ill-advised decision to allow Petr Cech to join Arsenal, seem to have called in to question his up-to-now unquestionable transfer nous.

How bad is it right now at Stamford Bridge, really? Does it make any sense in the world to sack a man who not six months ago brought home the Prem title at a canter with this same squad? Football is not the province of sense, reason or good taste, and as such the previous statements ought to be laughed off. This club is owned by none other than Roman Abramovich, a man accustomed to having everything he wants, right now, immediately, always. He went to some lengths to bury to hatchet between himself and Mourinho in order to woo the man back into the fold, and it now appears he may very well unearth it and bury the implement firmly in Jose’s back. It is so not beyond him it’s not funny.

The report on Mourinho’s imminent sacking came from a reliable source, and as such could not be discounted. Whether the latest pronouncement from the Bridge is a temporary stay of execution or a vote of confidence is to be seen. One hopes he hangs around, if for no other reason than the Premier League benefits from having a panto villian such as the Portuguese schemer. Still, Mourinho might have made his situation untenable.

It cannot be overstated that the situation with Eva Carneiro is unacceptable. In this day and age, a public figure of Mourinho’s clout cannot come across as a sexist pig, and there is no question that he did. The Football Association carried out an investigation, but never bothered to contact Ms Carneiro, which only further served to exacerbate the situation. How her input on this whole situation was deemed to be immaterial is truly beyond me, but it has now shown that the sexism is not focused simply on an individual, but is systemic. Carneiro was done very wrong in this sad debacle and goes to show that sexism in sport is not going to go away any time soon.

Mourinho’s inability to dislodge John Stones from Everton may have been the only well-publicized bit of transfer failure that we were made aware of. Chelsea did not reinforce their forward line, and Diego Costa showed that he has a niggle or two in him last season. We were all left to scratch our heads with the move for Colombian Radmael Falcão, who failed rather miserably to re-ignite his career at Manchester United last season. The Blues brought in Pedro from Barcelona for a significant outlay, but he has so far failed to make a real impression. We all know Loic Remy is just a backup. So Chelsea’s front line is, amazingly, in kind of a bad way. Perhaps Pedro was expected to hit the ground running. There have been reports that he is unhappy at the Bridge and wish he’d never left the Nou Camp.

Questions must be asked of Chelsea’s recruitment policy, if one indeed exists. The Blues currently have 32 of their players out on loan. That is not a typo. Chelsea have more out on loan than my beloved Toffees have on their books. While that last statement is not exactly true (it would appear the Toffees have 43 players signed up altogether), it does give one pause when you compare the roster of, say, Everton to Chelsea’s. Clearly, both clubs have increased focus on bringing in younger, unproven talent. It’s just that Chelsea have done on a much grander scale, and have sent the equivalent of a squad and its bench out on loan with a view to, potentially, plowing them back into the team.

Some get away. Everton has benefited from this policy, as has Man City (with Kevin De Bruyne, although via Wolfsburg). These aren’t exactly slouches. It would appear Chelsea’s scattershot style of recruiting young talent with great potential is netting results, but not for them. That is because these kids keep leaving due to annoyance at a perceived lack of chances. How many of this current loan crop will wind up back at the Bridge?

There’s a bit of arrogance in this policy: go out and scoop up as much young, raw talent and if they work out, great. At least the competition didn’t get them. The problem lies in whether they will live to rue the day they sold a world beater to a competitor or if they are unable to recoup some of the outlay. It’s a dangerous thing to spend a rich man’s money. If the results are good, then all is forgiven. If not…

That is probably where this is all going. Whether he’s acting like more of an ass than usual because of his father’s illness is neither here nor there. It is not up for debate whether Mourinho is everyone’s cup of tea; the man clearly divides opinion. If he continues to bring home the bacon, then much of his eccentricity can be written off. If not, then no. The Carneiro incident has proven he can be shockingly tone deaf to the mores of the times, while his spending can always lead to an inquest if the outlay does not net results. Pedro has been, so far, a costly mistake, while Falcão’s wages aren’t exactly bargain basement either. Fabregas was unstoppable last season but has not impressed this one. Nemanja Matic has not been at his best. Of course John Terry is slowing down, it’s why Mourinho chased Stones all summer. Expensive players, expensive contracts.

Still… Mourinho is a fan favorite. He is not going to be shown the door so soon. The recent vote of confidence might only be a stay of execution but really, who better is available? Rumors have circulated for what seems like forever that Abramovich’s deepest wish is to install Pep Guardiola as manager, but the Spanish tactician might be given bumper incentive to stay in Bavaria.

After having gone to such lengths to convince Mourinho to come back to the Bridge, perhaps Abramovich’s best bet is to allow this supposed top manager lead this team out of its rut. That being said, Mourinho could do worse than to polish up his public persona. He has always been a complainer, but this season he has managed to take that to new highs (or lows). As has been noted elsewhere, a bit of humility couldn’t hurt. Results are great, but character is better. I wonder if he has it in him?

Not for all the tea in China…

This summer has proven to be long and anguishing for Evertonians the world over. The “will he, won’t he” transfer saga of one John Stones (to either Chelsea, or now also the Man’s Citteh and United) has dragged on for three months, first with Jose Mourinho’s 20 million pound bid, which was followed two weeks later by one for 25 million, and then another for 30 million. As mentioned, this elevated amount of interest has drawn the two Manchester behemoths into the mix (blood in the water will do that), and it is more and more turning into a matter of not if but when (and to whom) the young former Barnsley academy grad will head up stream to greener pastures.

That Stones is destined to move on to a club larger (and more profitable) than Everton is a forgone conclusion in the minds of many. Manager Roberto Martinez is not one of those, plainly indicating his vision for the player: a center pillar in his plan to build up a new generation of Evertonian greats, future Everton captain, perhaps even the same role for England.

The eyes of the footballing world (or at least England) are on this young man who has had such a meteoric rise from Barnsley’s academy.

And then, just now, we hear that the young man has handed in a transfer request. Many Evertonians will be letting out howls of despair, clenching their teeth in anger and wondering what it’s going to take to be able to hold onto their prized assets.

As a Toffeeman myself, I feel annoyed and somewhat ambivalent. I can understand the boy wants to play for Chelsea. It’s regular Champions League appearances, Premier League titles, yearly runs at the FA Cup… I mean, wouldn’t you? So it’s not a matter of not being able to see it from his side.

To his credit, Stones has not once in the three games he’s played looked like an unsettled player or that his role at Everton is somehow beneath him. No, it has been much the opposite: he has been a model professional, playing extremely well all three times. So this transfer request is simply a young player who, understanding his brand is hot right now, will attempt to leverage the attention being lavished upon him to force through a move to a bigger club. The reasons are good, and beyond those stated above, any promising professional would want to be surrounded by the very best in his chosen field.

It’s not that Stones is in the wrong. It’s just that his request should be utterly ignored, bottom drawered, and he must be made to honor his contract if that is what the owner of it, namely, Everton Football Club, deign necessary.

Football is an odd profession. You have these binding contracts that players sign and are not allowed to simply walk away from. I work a job in a call center. If I get offered a better job with better pay, I put in my two weeks notice and walk away. My employer cannot force me to stay here. But John Stones, as much as he has a right to want to play at a bigger club, has signed a binding contract that he must honor unless the club releases him of that responsibility. The only way that will happen is if they get a silly money offer. But I have a feeling even that won’t be enough.

Odds are pretty good Stones will get his move. But Martinez now needs to make a difficult decision: does he try to put Chelsea over the proverbial barrel and extract a record fee for the youngster? Does he then turn it around to pick up two defensive reinforcements and a few other coveted players? Or does he dig in his heels and say no, not under any circumstances, and just ride this one out with a player who will likely become unsettled and unhappy with the turn of events? Either way, he must act immediately. You get the sense that it is now too late in the day to get adequate cover.

For my money, Stones is too important to the cause. And so, even if he rides the bench for a few weeks, Stones must be made to stay. He will get his move. Just not this window.

Furthermore, Everton must throw down the gauntlet here. There is something to be said about the nakedly provocative nature of Chelsea’s pursuit of the youngster. Comments by Mourinho, Chelsea captain John Terry and backline partner Gary Cahill cannot be seen as anything other than tapping a player up through the press. The London aristocrats should be made pay for their impudence by not only missing out on their number one summer target, but be made to watch their coveted prize sold to another club. Everton should make arrangements for Stones to be offered to the likes of Manchester United or even a club on the continent, such as Bayern Munich. You get the sense Stones would profit greatly (as would the Three Lions) from having played in Spain or Germany. At this stage, with so few cards to play, Everton must not sell Stones to Chelsea merely on principle.

that last bit there is a bit of my own spleen-venting. I’d rather loan him to Liverpool at this stage. Chelsea can go spontaneously explode for all I care.

Not that this is going to happen. The most likely scenario is Mourinho and Co. will come back with 32 million quid and a smug grin, and a deal will be hammered out. Chelsea will be in Goodison on 12 September, the first game back after the international break, and you can expect a mutinous atmosphere at the Old Lady. If I were Mourinho, I’d pick up a nasty cold or something and simply not show, so hot will the hatred be in the place for him. Stones would be advised to stay in London. And it will be an ugly, card-littered affair.

Even if the Toffees prevail in holding on to their star defender, you get the sense that Chelsea’s next turnout at Goodison will be an acrimonious one. If they lose him… it will color their meetings for years. David Moyes took immense personal satisfaction in beating Manchester City in the years following their successful luring of centerback Joleon Lescott. You get the sense that dynamic would be present again.

Martinez has spoken of his desire to build a team, and is recruiting younger players to do just that. There were six players on the pitch under the age of 22 in the last two games, and you get the sense Martinez has been prioritizing youth in this transfer window. At 21, Stones is central to his plans. As Everton’s legendary ‘keeper Neville Southall recently stated, what sort of message would selling Stones send out to the other young players in the team?

It’s a fair point. Here’s a counterpoint: holding onto Stones for the sake of it might be a bit of hubris.

I think, in the balance, it’s important that Everton hang onto Stones for this window and then reward him with improved terms on his contract. He has proven that he can be a professional and do the job even when his head’s been turned. He’s young, he can hang in for another year or two. It’s no train smash in his career if he stays a bit longer as he is so young now.

His very youth might be a card to play in this particular game. As good as he is, he he has a lot about his game to improve and he will have a greater chance to do so playing regularly every week. While Terry has seen his performances questioned in his last two outings (substituted in one and red-carded in the other), there is no guarantee that the old soldier is going to roll over and allow a callow youngster such as Stones to usurp his spot in the starting eleven. The far more likely scenario is Stones will find himself on the bench for the remainder of this season. That would likely mean he would have to prove his worth all over again to England manager Roy Hodgson, who will not select him if he is not playing.

If Stones has already thought this one through and he is insistent enough, then perhaps Martinez will have to just accept the inevitable. But the carrot of a starting berth in the Three Lions in next summer’s Euros and the promise of a move in the next summer transfer window could just be enough to keep the young man put, for now. Here’s hoping he stays…