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Here we go again, and again, and again

Filed: Monday, 27th February 2017
By: Paul Walker

Now stop me if you have heard this one before. Guess what? Yes, we are scouring Europe and our own backyard in Brexit land for a right back, oh, and a striker. Blimey, I would never have thought.

I think if I hear or read this statement once more from anyone within our club or part of the keyboard warriors who swallow any old nonsense from our owners, I may well pop across the pond to buy one of those machine guns you can easily purchase on any US of A street corner, to dish out some Kray-style justice in the old East End.

They wonít let me in? Thank God for that, I may have had to play golf with Donald Trump. But seriously folks, we are once again entering spin territory. Be it about annual accounts or the funny farm folk who run our transfer department.

Now one of my esteemed colleagues on KUMB has produced a (heavily flawed, he admits) survey which suggests that the lack of a proper right back cost us Champions League qualification last season, and is doing the same this term.

Last term we were four points shy of fourth placed Manchester City, having thrown away all sorts of good points because the brave and honest Michail Antonio was playing right-back. We had used Joey OíBrian, Sam Byram and Carl Jenkinson there at times, and then we sold the only player who had made a half decent fist of things, James Tomkins, to Crystal Palace for £10m.

This season, my colleague informs me, we have thrown away about ten points because we donít have a proper right back, such are the mistakes that continually happen down our right flank. Clearly Slav doesnít trust the likes of Alvaro Arbeloa or the constantly injured Byram.

The great irony in all this is that those ten wasted points would still not see us overtake seventh placed Everton if the footballing Gods had been kind to us. (I will get to Everton later!)

Now those statistics are hardly a great science, we all accept that (even the esteemed author) but we are all so heartily sick of the phantom right back problem, itís not surprising there is plenty of bitter, twisted rhetoric on the subject.

Basically, if you want to be really cruel, our transfer department can be blamed for failing to qualify for the Champions League and now not being able to even get above Everton, which just might see another dubious entry into the Europa League--the tournament we are always out of before I get back from holiday!

All this came to mind after I stood with 3,000 plus fellow Irons in the dark at Watford (they turn the lights off in the away end?) and seen another willing soldier/square peg Cheikhou Kouyate, shoved into a round hole to concede a clumsy penalty after just three minutes.

Caught out by allowing Mauro Zarate to run across his path and then slow down to invite the inevitable contact. I do hope, incidentally, that the former Hammer recovers well from his knee problem, it canít be often that fans of both clubs rise to applaud as a player is carried off.

Kouyate is there at right back because, like Antonio, he is willing, big, strong and an outstanding athlete. At a push he could play anywhere, just like Antonio. But we all know it is not right, if the transfer/finance department had done their jobs properly--and yes, I know it is a very difficult market out there--we would have a proper right back by now. Itís only been about three transfer windows that we have faced this problem!

And you just knew it wouldnít be done in the recently completed window when David Gold was going on about Byram being fit now so the need to spend on a right- back had receded.

And how about a striker? Surely the money would be spent there, and not on that injury prone lad that Slav didnít fancy but Tony Henry did, from Brentford. We have been constantly linked with Manolo Gabbiadini now at Southampton. Doesnít seem to have been a bad punt by the Saints, does he. But we ended up with Simone Zaza, a player I fail to believe was as bad as we witnessed. He was an Italian international from Juventus, for heaven's sake.

But we still have Diafra Sakho injured, Jonathan Calleri is not up to it yet, neither is young Ashley Fletcher. And guess what, big Andy is also injured again. Nothing to do with protecting himself with a possible move to China on the cards these past few weeks, is it. Nothing could be that devious, surely? Oh, and Antonio is now suspended.

Carroll has missed the last two games now, both very winnable, and thatís four more points wasted. Please gentlemen, letís spend big to get a right back and a striker, no more punts, no more loans, just do your job, as Jodie Foster was heard shouting at an anti-Trump rally last week.

And now the accounts Öand Everton. In years gone by I have had to plough through the accounts of Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool on too regular occasions. Such accounting fiction it is harder to find outside the football industry.

We are going to be told just how well the club is doing, even if they canít find the money for a striker without trying to sell an injured Sakho first. Or knocking out Tomkins for £10m, or saving the wages of Zaza and Dimi Payet--I reckon nearer £200,000 a week--and just buying a solid journeyman in Robert Snodgrass.

You can never accuse David Sullivan of wasting cash (well, apart from Zaza, Calleri, Gokhan Tore, Arbeloa and Havard Nordtveit, to name just a few). Somewhere along the line we are going to be told that giving Karren Brady a 40 per cent rise, is justified, that a £30m pay day loan (from a Virgin Islands company, same building as former Everton director Robert Earlís business) is ínormal accounting cash flow issuesí as it has been described.

The fact that our owners have clawed back some of their loans (plus interest at seven per cent) is actually small fry in the great scheme of things. They loan the club vast amounts because FFP wonít let them do anything else, and they are businessmen who I believe have never taken a dividend from the club.

But then there is the £8m profit from the sale of the Boleyn. I did flinch at that, but we are being softened up for that by suggestions that we only got £38m for the sale of the ground and land.

Now most folk, if asked for their gut feeling of what they thought we had sold the ground for, would have come up with something closer to £100m, and thatĎs without the knowledge of land prices in Upton Park. We have had to pay £15m rent for the OS and around £4m to tart-up the place in claret and blue stuff. So just £8m profit? I sense that may need greater explanation from our owners, who have never talked so far of how much they sold the old gaff for.

And now back to Everton. We are being told that we have now overtaken them in all forms of finance. Turnover, TV money, ticket sales, merchandising and sponsorships. And that our turnover is now the seventh best in the land.

That all sounds great, along with being I think 18th now richest club in Europe, fifth biggest average crowd figure but still out of the top 100 clubs in UEFAís criteria of success rate in major European competitions.

But Everton are still working on 35,000 plus gates, at an old but vibrant stadium (remind you of anything?), they have scored more and conceded less than us and their goals difference is 24 better than ours.

Everton look like they will have their own new stadium soon, well advanced talks about a new site in the old disused docks are taking shape and they may, at last, have a 50,000--60,000 seater new home. One they actually own.

Oh yes, and they have a proper right-back in Seamus Coleman and a youth product in Mason Holgate as his deputy. And they have a pretty decent striker who scores goals--mainly against us--and stays fit, in Romelu Lukaku.

So I donít think we should be boasting about overtaking Everton for a while. To reach our goals, the ones put forward to justify our move to Stratford, we must start spending big and persuading players that our business plan is a reality and not a pipe dream.

It brings to mind my old Nanís remark of "all fur coat and no knickers" when discussing someone (next door!) that looks great on the outside but lacks substance elsewhere. We run the risk of being labelled likewise.

Making money, bums on seats, commercial cash flowing is all well and good. But what about the team to go with it? The team that will take us into the Champions League. Is it really attainable in the modern game, will players be persuaded to come? Do they actually believe we can progress, big time?

Nobody else has broken into the top six and stayed there apart from Manchester City - and thatís a very different story - for decades.

The promises were there all last summer, while we were trying to flog 20,000 more season tickets. There is still a huge gap between us and the top six, and you have to ask whether it is really a gap that can be bridged. Am I the only one that doubts the evidence that we can one day make that jump.

So first things first. A right back and a striker. Itís down to the Davids because they donít have any other outside investment, like Everton have recently acquired.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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