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Stuff the critics - here's five reasons for Everton supporters to be positive right now

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 24: Everton fans support their team during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC at Goodison Park on April 24, 2024 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)


Given the timing of the Premier League’s letter to clubs warning them about their transfer dealings it was difficult not to take it as a dig at Everton.

After a week of false outrage that tended to be hooked upon the club’s sale of academy graduate Lewis Dobbin, and Tim Iroegbunam’s move in the opposite direction, the communication appeared to represent yet another shot across the club’s bow.

Anyway, while too much of the football world wants to cast more accusatory glances towards Goodison Park, let’s give them the last thing they probably want to see: those in Royal Blue smiling. Monday represents the start of a new footballing year and, while I cannot hide that big challenges still lie ahead for Everton, this feels like a good time to remind the club’s critics it is still standing and all of a sudden there are genuine reasons to be positive. Here they are. Enjoy.

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A clear transfer strategy appears to be emerging

I have long written about the opportunity this summer presents for director of football Kevin Thelwell to really start to shape Everton’s squad into a coherent group of players. He inherited a Frankenstein group of stars, a patchwork of the competing visions of the different managers and directors of football that characterised the early years of Farhad Moshiri’s reign. Addressing that takes time but big steps are now being taken. There may not be huge sums of money available but this can be a good transfer window at Everton.

The early signs offer hope. Securing the retention of Seamus Coleman, Idrissa Gueye and Ashley Young means Sean Dyche will enter next season with a core of professionals he can trust and who will set standards in the dressing room. Completing the loan return for Jack Harrison so quickly is another boost. They may be pragmatic moves but they are cost-effective signings that ensure the recruitment team has a strong platform on which to build.

And now that work has been done there appears to be a move to generate excitement. Iliman Ndiaye is an astute attacking player who would give Everton an option that was not available last season. The emergence of Jaden Philogene as a target, following on from the interest in Yankuba Minteh, suggests width going forward remains a priority and those players, coupled with the signing of Iroegbunam, show a desire to bring in young talent with big potential - something that is easy to get behind.

The club has been able to stand up to an early effort to exploit its position

There will be setbacks this summer, of course there will. For general financial reasons and because of Profit and Sustainability Rules, the ability of Everton to be proactive in the market is limited and the Blues are at the mercy of other clubs in some strategic areas. Whether the club will be able to comply with PSR for the first time in three years remains to be seen and the rules of those spending rules will bite even deeper in the new financial year, meaning a big sale remains a possibility. Internally, however, there is hope the club will be compliant this year, though its outstanding dispute with the Premier League over interest on loans said to have been used on the new stadium makes the calculations even trickier than normal.

The sale of Dobbin certainly does help, as does Ben Godfrey’s move to Atalanta. What we have not seen, however, is the Blues’ getting bullied or exploited because of the club’s financial vulnerability. There is a long way to go in the transfer window but the club has already stood its ground and refused to accept Manchester United’s derisory opening offer for Jarrad Branthwaite.

Pragmatism will be required with outgoings as much as incomings but Everton being able to stand firm in the opening exchanges is positive progress - it was this time two years ago a last-minute deal for club icon Richarlison was being signed off despite Tottenham Hotspur’s offer being £20m below Everton’s valuation.

The new stadium is edging closer to becoming a reality

The seats were installed in the dugouts at Everton Stadium this week. It is a small step but yet another that is helping to turn a building site into a football stadium. Like with the installation of the club crest in the Blues’ dressing room, it is one of many touches that is starting to make Everton’s new home feel increasingly… real.

If you want a more tangible sign of progress then there is the work on the barrel cladding on the stadium’s roof - the specially adapted panels creating a futuristic glint to cap Liverpool’s fourth grace and making it a truly unmissable sight on one of the world’s great waterfronts.

The potential for an end in sight to emerge over the club’s ownership

Resolving the uncertainty at the top of the club is the most important step Everton can take towards stability and then real progress. The Friedkin Group is deep into its due diligence as it delves into the club’s accounts and it has to be stressed that a deal for the organisation to take control of the club has not yet been finalised - and that we have reached this stage several times before in Moshiri’s two year search for an exit.

It also must be stressed that due diligence and scrutiny must be applied to the Friedkin Group, by the Premier League, the ECHO and other media outlets, fan groups and others - Everton is too precious for anyone to get the benefit of the doubt and the outfit’s intentions towards this great institution must be rigorously assessed. But it does not feel controversial to suggest Everton are in a better place than they have been for some time on this front.

The last season at Goodison Park will be special

We have the fixture list now. We have the template for history. Next season, the 133rd and last at Goodison will be special. My phone is filled with videos of Everton’s amazing fanbase being a credit to the club in away ends across the country. From Brighton to Newcastle, the memories are amazing and I am loathe to delete them. There are also many, many great videos from the Gwladys Street during its intense displays of defiance and celebration in recent years. The next 12 months will be emotional but they will be special and a year of shared, special memories that we should all be able to look forward to.