Back in the summer preceding Everton’s 2011/12 campaign, The Toffees alarmed the national press for a failure to spend yet again: in fact, since signing Jonny Heitinga for £6.2m in the 2009 summer transfer window, Everton were yet to spend over £1.5m in combined transfer fees. Then, conveniently hours before Everton’s official site released a blog written by their chief executive Robert Elstone, detailing the club’s finances in the five seasons preceding the 2011/12 campaign, they signed Manchester United’s Darron Gibson on January 13th for just under £500k.
Yet, their transfer activity up until that to be turning point merely consisted of: James McFadden and Marcus Hahnemann on free transfers – who have both been released this summer; Denis Stracqualursi, Royston Drenthe and Landon Donovan on loan; and their only bought player, the aforementioned Darron Gibson. It was an Everton far flung from the free-spending side we saw in the second half of last decade.
When Wayne Rooney left Everton for Manchester United for £25m in 2004, Moyes went on to smash Everton’s transfer record 4 times in 4 years and spend over £40m on James Beattie, Andrew Johnson, Yakubu and Fellaini. Moyes’ ability to spend led to Champions League qualification in 2005, and UEFA Cup runs in the 07/08 season and 08/09 season, as well as an F.A. Cup Final appearance in 2009, finishing runners up to Chelsea.
However, a deadline day sale of Mikel Arteta to Arsenal for £10m and a series of comments from players and David Moyes alike, which suggested there still wasn’t money to spend, resulted in protests from a section of Everton fans not happy with the club’s progress under Bill Kenwright, nor the money available for new signings. The unrest began during preseason and having heard a telling interview from Sylvain Distin to BBC Radio Merseyside, where he stated that they have “a small squad” that is wary of injuries being able to threaten their campaign and if so they’ll “have to deal with it,” a phrase again echoed by Tim Cahill, questions started being fired from fans at the powers who be at Goodison Park, prompting January’s in-depth blog on their finances and most importantly further transfer action in the shape of Steven Pienaar rejoining Moyes’ side on-loan and Nikica Jelavic from Rangers for a fee marginally over £5m.
With Everton’s borrowing having risen from £22m to £45m from 2006-2011, an increase of 104.5%, and player wages increasing by £20m over the same 5-year period, despite an actual 4% drop in the proportion of revenue spent on player wages, it was clear that money for investment in the playing squad wasn’t readily available any time soon – however, without it, Everton’s repeated success in the top-half of the table may have dissipated, considering they had the third highest average squad age in the Premier League, something Elstone denies in his blog: “this is not an ageing, threadbare squad.”
Fortunately, Everton found the money to cough up just under £6m in the January transfer window and the 9 Premier League goals from the Croatian striker Jelavic and the 7 assists from returning South African Pienaar was the firepower needed to ensure Everton finished in the top eight of the Premier League for the fifth season on the trot. More importantly, they finished above Liverpool – something they hadn’t done since the 2004/05 campaign in which Everton finished 4th thus qualifying for the Champions League.