He spoke confidently to anxious fans who were hearing directly from the club’s owner in a rare interview.
In his London office, specially decorated with Everton memorabilia and history books, Farhad Moshiri tried to calm the frayed nerves of his supporters by answering questions from the Fan Advisory Board (FAB).
“We need a striker – we’ll get him,” he said. “We will strengthen the team and I have no doubt that the second half of the season will be stronger. This is our goal and our goal will be achieved.”
Seven days later, Moshiri’s reassurances rang hollow after a torturous transfer window that once again reflected the crippling dysfunction at the top of Everton. His promise was broken.
The club, which should have come out stronger in January, has become weaker in February. All they had to do was sell one of their best first-team players, Anthony Gordon, which should have been boosted before his £45m ($55m) exit was sanctioned.
Everton were the only club in the top flight not to add to their squad as their rivals stepped up to avoid relegation.
As director of football Kevin Thelwell and his recruitment team worked for nothing until Tuesday’s deadline, some fans gathered outside the club’s Finch Farm training ground in protest. Their gate banners featured Moshiri, chairman Bill Kenwright and chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale in clown make-up with the words “Liars” underneath.
There will be plenty more to complain about before and after Saturday’s game against Arsenal.
This is the story of a transfer window that started with anxiety and ended in disaster.
Frank Lampard said it until he was sick and tired of it. Everton needed new strikers.
“We need help,” he told the club’s official website on December 22.
“It would also be a job to get the windows,” he said. “It takes time and you can’t fix everything in one window. We have brought some really good players to the club but we need help in the January window.
“We’ve lost Dominique Calvert-Lewin, obviously. Hopefully that will change, but we’ll see if we can get a few more options at the top end of the pitch. We are looking into it.”
As time went on, Lampard’s responses to questions about the January transfer window became increasingly pointed. Behind the scenes, despite his and Thelwell’s best efforts, it wasn’t hard to see that help was getting harder and harder to find.
Money was tight. Proposals for new forwards were to be loans or credit agreements with further payment obligations. This has meant that Everton have repeatedly missed out on the clubs highest targets both financially and to make deals quicker and more efficient. Wolves have set a precedent by missing out on Mateus Cunha, a Christmas present for Julen Lopetegui.
Winger Dango Ouattara to Bournemouth, Hoffenheim’s Georginio Rutter to Leeds. Another target, German striker Kevin Schade, has chosen Brentford. Lampard was particularly unhappy when experienced Premier League striker Danny Ings joined West Ham United.
After the 2-0 defeat to West Ham, a result that decided Lampard’s fate, he called Ings “a great striker” and “a real team guy”. Everton approached Aston Villa for the 30-year-old but could only offer a loan. West Ham’s £12m signing David Moyes has highlighted what it means to him after beating his former club. “I’ve always had great support from the board and I have to say they’ve been really helpful,” said the Scot. “The purchase of Ings yesterday shows that they want to help and do what they can.”
No help would be on the horizon for Lampard. Two days later, he packed up, leaving him and his staff to focus on their financial landscape as Everton try to find his successor and sign new players.
The goals kept going elsewhere. Chris Wood has joined Nottingham Forest and, most dangerously, Dutch striker Arnaut Danjuma, whose proximity to Everton perhaps inspired Moshiri to be so confident in his interview, made a last-minute U-turn to sign for Tottenham Hotspur after Lampard was sacked.
The former manager was influential in negotiations, but with Lampard gone and his successor uncertain, the Villarreal forward’s mind began to change when Spurs stole the deal.
However, there was time to recover and find alternatives to begging.
The indecision and confusion of the hierarchy regarding Everton’s managerial situation further complicated matters. When it came to attracting players, Lampard was captivating.
In the end, the uncertainty surrounding his status added to the reluctance of some players to sign. Then the uncertainty of his replacement compounded the problems as Marcelo Bielsa failed.
With Gordon’s move to Newcastle linked, Sunday’s sale was completed after Moshiri was heavily involved in negotiations from London, taking the lead alongside his advisers in agreeing a deal with the north-east club.
Finally, it left a sense of uncertainty due to comments from its British-Iranian owner earlier this month.
“Not all aspects of football are controlled by the board,” he said. “We have a director of football, Kevin Thelwell, who is primarily responsible for recruitment, academy development, medical science…all those aspects of the business of football are managed by Kevin Thelwell.”
In the end, Thelwell did not agree to sell Gordon and did not say how much of the royalties he would have to spend.
Instead, he has had to make increasingly desperate efforts to avoid becoming a bleak final act to one of the worst transfer windows in the club’s history.
After Gordon leaves, a messy ending to the window appears.
Everton have been searching for a replacement in recent days and have ended up empty-handed.
Under ideal circumstances, Gordon would have sold before the window, reinvesting the money immediately. However, reason was not heeded and reason did not prevail. Other clubs saw them coming and raised their asking prices for the players accordingly.
Nor does Everton’s recruitment department seem to be in a position to fully reinvest the money. Such is their precarious position in the table that most of the purchase clauses within their potential loans can only be used if they survive.
The only exception to the rule was Chelsea’s unsuccessful pursuit of Conor Gallagher. The midfielder, who has previously been associated with Lampard, has made it clear that he has no interest in a transfer. Key figures in the hierarchy knew the move was always going to fail, but despite inquiries about a big-money deal, the news broke and Everton looked foolish. Interestingly, the central midfield position was not considered an internal advantage at that stage.
As with previous windows, it wasn’t always easy for those living on Merseyside to keep up with events elsewhere. Moshiri spent weeks in London trying to sort out the turmoil at the club. All of his presence was really a cloud issue. The delay in announcing Lampard’s departure comes as staff try to figure out what is going on at the centre. Most initially heard of Lampard’s dismissal through the media rather than internal communications. During key moments of the entire window, they were left in the dark.
Moshiri discussed the hiring process in an interview with FAB a few weeks ago.
“The football director or the manager suggests the player’s name, and after they both sign (the agreement document), the document is sent to the chairman and me,” he said. “I will sign after the chairman signs.”
That hasn’t always been the case with new signings or even managers. The summer tasked with making deals for Thelwell’s recruitment team seemed like a step in the right direction. However, in January, the borders were redefined.
Everton’s attempts to settle the situation have been hampered by inconsistency and the final days of the window have become increasingly desperate.
In the breathless final, Everton asked about Gallagher and his Chelsea partner Hakim Ziyech. They were beaten by Southampton to sign Rennes’ 20-year-old winger Kamaldin Sulemana, who had been on their radar since he was a teenager in Denmark. Udinese striker Beto has been questioned, but the Serie A club’s price tag has turned out to be too high. They checked the availability of Michy Batshuayi and Jean-Philippe Mateta and saw Watford’s loan bid for Ismaila Sarr rejected.
On the afternoon of the appointed day, officials ruled out moves for Thorgan Hazard, Victor Gioceres and Union Berlin’s Sheraldo Becker. Iliman Ndiaye was happy to stay at Sheffield United. Everton have failed in a late loan bid for Olivier Giroud, according to reports in Italy. The possibility of signing Anthony Elang, their top loan target at the start of the window, was revisited but they delayed a move to other clubs.
Lucas Joao, the 29-year-old Reading striker, has scored just five goals in 22 matches this season, according to media reports, but has not improved at Everton. Joao’s move from Sheffield Wednesday to Reading in 2019 was brokered by Kia Joorabchian’s Sports Invest UK agency.
New manager Sean Dyche stayed at Finch Farm until 9.40pm, but left as hopes of deals faded. Thelwell and club secretary Dave Harrison stayed on later, but the 11pm deadline passed without any new additions.
Everton fell short at exactly the wrong time. They retreated and others strengthened.
Now it remains to be seen whether they will turn to free agents to fill the temporary void.
They continue to be linked with Ghanaian Andre Ayew, but Goodison sources have so far played down suggestions of a move. It says a lot about the balance of power at Everton and past interference in football matters, despite this speculation. This is the level of confusion and uncertainty created during the Moshiri era.
The fact that the same mistakes are still happening, even though the staff is coming and going, shows the depth of the problems.
It’s hard to see how Ayew, 33, who was last plying his trade in the Qatari league, fits into their ‘young and hungry’ recruitment model. However, this is the only market available to Everton until the summer at the earliest.
The fall from the January window has already begun. In the midst of a withdrawal struggle, failure to act must be understood for what it is: failure to fulfill a duty. It gives the impression that the new manager has thrown Dyche into the sea without a paddle.
And the fans are unhappy that their promises have not been fulfilled.
But this is a modern day Everton. It was another window into why they are so threatened.
(Top photo: Alex Burstow/Getty Images)