Bill Kenwright and Robert Elstone, the chairman and CEO of Everton, respectively, have been the whipping boys of Premier League supporters for the the last four years or so. For the most part, they've deserved the criticism that's been hurled their way.
Everton is in debt, Goodison Park is one of the worst stadiums in the English top flight, David Moyes let his contract run out at the club, meaning Everton got no compensation for his move to Manchester United and the club's top players keep leaving. This kind of stuff has been going on for a while and a lot of Everton supporters are pissed.
A decade ago, the Toffees had England's best young player in Wayne Rooney -- before they sold him to Man United. The next year, they broke their club record transfer fee for James Beattie, who was bad. They finished in fourth place in 2004-05, despite Rooney being gone and Beattie scoring just one goal, because Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta are magic. It's kind of just been downhill from there.
Except, despite what lots of very annoyed Everton supporters would like you to believe, it's been a slow tumble into mediocrity and financial trouble from where they were a decade ago, not a plunge off a cliff. They finished 11th in the season after making the Champions League qualifying round, but things have gone pretty well since then. Here are their Premier League finishes, in order, from the 2006-07 season until last season: 6th, 5th, 5th, 8th, 7th, 7th, 6th. In those last two seasons, they finished ahead of Liverpool.
While things haven't completely turned around financially for Everton, they've managed to keep things stable and avoid a firesale. The bank isn't beating down Kenwright's door, a lot of great players remain at Everton and they look like they're on track for yet another top-half finish, despite the fact that their stadium seriously limits their revenue.
Going into deadline day, Evertonians were less than optimistic that the club's brass would be able to do anything that resembled improving the club. Most probably expected to lose one, if not both of Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines, then bring in no significant reinforcements.
Until the last hour before the deadline, pessimism turned into outright dread, as well as a feeling of utter contempt for those in charge at Goodison. Fellaini seemed to be obviously on his way to United, but Wigan chairman Dave Whelan went on TV and radio to publicly state that Everton was not willing to meet his asking price for midfielder James McCarthy and that a deal looked unlikely. Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea's talented young striker, reportedly preferred a return loan move to West Bromwich Albion over a new challenge at Everton. Were that secured, WBA could have pulled out of a proposed purchase of Everton's unwanted forward Victor Anichebe.
Then, something exceptional happened. Fellaini handed in a transfer request, meaning he forfeited a £4 million loyalty bonus that Everton would have needed to pay him if they sold him without receiving that request. United also paid more than the previous release clause that Fellaini had in his contract before it expired this summer. Everton talked Whelan down to £13.5 million from his £15 million asking price and secured McCarthy. They convinced Lukaku to join them instead of West Brom. They got West Brom to pay £6 million for Anichebe. They got Gareth Barry in on a last-minute loan. All of this was finalized in the final hour of the transfer window -- and some parts of these deals after the window closed.
Taking into account a reported £3 million loan fee for Lukaku -- an absolute bargain if he can reproduce what he did at West Brom last season -- Everton made a profit of around £7.5 million in the market this summer, according to Transfermarkt. They let five first-team players go this summer and added seven, with Antonin Alcaraz coming on a free transfer, while Barry and Gerard Deulofeu came in without the Toffees having to pay loan fees.
Not only are the actual ins, outs and finances of the deals impressive, but the manner in which they went down were as well. Between Fellaini giving up his bonus and United paying over his old release clause, Everton made out around £8 million more off his transfer than they should have. Whelan got talked down after he publicly stated McCarthy wouldn't be going anywhere. West Brom got screwed by Everton twice. And, perhaps most importantly, the Toffees kept hold of Leighton Baines despite the fact that Manchester United have, more or less, a bottomless money pit. Everton arguably made their team better this transfer window and they made a profit doing it.
This could be a case of figurative blind squirrels Kenwright and Elstone finding their one nut for the next decade, but they've earned the benefit of the doubt from supporters after a nearly flawless window, even if they left their most important deals until the last hour of the transfer window. It will probably take a new stadium and an oil baron owner for Everton to seriously catch up to the Premier League's elite, but they're making the most of their limited means, and it's not as if all of their limitations are self-created.
It's time for Everton fans and neutrals alike to stop slagging off the club's leadership, at least for now. They seem to know what they're doing, or at least more so than the current leadership at Man United, West Brom and Wigan. Kenwright, Elstone and Roberto Martinez had a brilliant transfer window and they should be applauded for it.