By Dave Downie
Let me take you back just 60 days to the morning of 31st August 2017.
The transfer window is due to close in just over 12 hours time and Everton, you feel, are undoubtedly going to secure that much needed striker and final piece of an otherwise very well put together jigsaw full of creativity, youthful exuberance and defensive solidity, all of which is in front of a top class goalkeeper. Oh, and talented Croatian teenager Nikol Vlasic is completing the formalities of his move to the club.
Also on the transfer front, Oumar Niasse also looks certain to end his Everton nightmare by securing a late deal to Crystal Palace for a return that would remarkably recoup the bulk of his £13.5 million transfer just 18 months earlier.
Despite the blip against Chelsea a few days earlier, it’s just ten days since a very good performance at Manchester City which should have yielded a first away win in eight months. Passage to the Europa League group stages wasn’t without a hindrance or two, but an incredible goal from record-signing Gylfi Sigurdsson eased any fears of capitulation at the final playoff hurdle and the Blues were now looking forward to an exciting, albeit tough, run of fixtures to reach the knockout phase.
All in all, a general feeling of positivity emanates from the club with the exception of securing that key target man which has quickly become the key to the summer revolution, but surely Ronald Koeman, Steve Walsh and the rest of the board would box that off in the next few hours and Everton would be ready to make their mark after the international break.
Then, in a microcosm of what was to follow, Everton’s predicament began to unravel.
Constant refreshing and scouring sources aplenty would reveal that no deal for a striker was imminent – it was later discovered Olivier Giroud and his lovely partner decided the north wasn’t for them, which effectively crushed all of the eggs the club had naively put in that basket. And the pie in the sky dream of Diego Costa giving up beach football on the ale in Brazil for Goodison Park on a short term loan, was about as likely as Oumar Niasse getting a game under Ronald “If he likes to play football he must leave Everton” Koeman.
A blow to Koeman’s intentions with this squad then, surely morale couldn’t have been damaged any further?
Enter: Ross Barkley and Farhad Moshiri.
Almost like the level of drama you’d see from a Bill Kenwright production, Barkley had/did not have a medical at Chelsea, decided not to join the champions and travelled back up north to “re-asses” his options in January. It might’ve been a worthwhile trip had he met the Giroud’s whilst in the capital and sold them on life up here.
Farhad Moshiri then decided the notes app on his iPhone were no longer suffice so he took to a phone box under water to call his confidant Jim White to explain all that had transpired in the preceding hours to put everybody’s mind at rest.
Surely that’d be the end of a negative, amateurish collection of events…
Of course not. Ronald Koeman wasn’t happy with a back-seat role in this fiasco, so the Dutchman then set off on his own path of destruction, this time on the pitch, by playing people out of position, alarmingly deluded comments and to top it all off, telling Evertonians to be realistic.
Not to be outdone, Moshiri decided the notes on his iPhone actually were the best form of communication with Jim White after all and proceeded to tell everyone a home defeat to Burnley was the only unexpected loss up to that point.
But the stubbornness (ineptitude) of the manager knew no bounds. More tactical mistakes, formation changes and number 10s followed until a run of two wins in 12 games, one of which was almost single-handedly down to Oumar “he must leave Everton” Niasse, finally led to the board dismissing Koeman.
Fast forward to the present day and Everton, who spent more than £150 million in the summer, currently lie 18th in the Premier League with a goal difference of minus 13 and a squad that contains just two players who’ve scored a goal in the league. They’re also out of the League Cup, all but eliminated from Europe and don’t have a permanent manager.
So what’s next? A wrong decision by those charged with putting all of this right would be catastrophic. The difficulty in that is there doesn’t seem to be a perfect answer, certainly not in terms of a manager. Each of the mentioned candidates largely have as many pros and cons as any other.
Forgetting that this is Everton, could anyone have really envisaged this just 60 days ago?