Big spending and big coaches can't halt Everton's sharp fall
Everton fans hold up banners of protest for Everton chairperson Bill Kenwright and shareholder Farhad Moshiri after the English Premier League soccer match against West Ham United at the London Stadium, in London, England on Saturday. (Photo: AP)

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — The spending sprees on players and hiring of big-name managers haven't stopped Everton's slide.

At this rate, one of English football's most storied clubs might be playing in the second division when its new waterfront stadium opens.

Everton is searching for a new manager — again — after the firing of Frank Lampard, with the club fighting for Premier League survival after 69 years in the top flight.

It continues a pattern of decline so steep that Everton's directors were advised to stay away from Goodison Park earlier this month because of a " real and credible threat to their safety and security", the club said.

That, despite majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri spending around US$780 million in a bid to transform Everton's fortunes and return it to its glorious past when it regularly competed for major trophies.

"We longed for a billionaire owner to come in, thinking it would be the answer to all our problems. In the end it's created worse problems," Everton fan and author Jim Keoghan told the Associated Press.

"It feels like when someone wins the lottery and you hear these stories years later and they've just blown the money on gold houses. It feels like Everton were swamped with money and didn't know what to do with it," added Keoghan, who penned How to Run a Football Club.

Lampard was fired a week short of his one-year anniversary on the job, with his team second from bottom in the standings and mired in a relegation battle.

Everton has lost 11 of its last 14 games, winning just one during that run, with the final straw coming after the 2-0 loss to West Ham last weekend. Up next is a visit from league leader Arsenal on February 4.

Lampard, however, is just the latest to fail at a club that keeps getting it wrong.

During the 1980s Everton was one of English football's most successful teams, winning the league title twice, the FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup.

In all it has won 15 major trophies, but nothing since the FA Cup in 1995.

Moshiri's investment in 2016, when he bought an initial 49.9 per cent stake, was supposed to see Everton compete at the top again. His reign, however, has been littered with disappointment and upheaval.

Lampard is the sixth managerial casualty of the Moshiri era, following Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce, Marco Silva and Rafael Benitez.

Carlo Ancelotti was also appointed in that time but left to take over at Real Madrid in 2021.

Ancelotti — one of the most successful coaches in European football — is an example of the scale of Everton's ambition under Moshiri.

The other names on the list of appointments under him are evidence of the variety of profiles the British-Iranian businessman has turned to in his attempts to find the right fit.

The hiring of iconic former Liverpool Manager Benitez was a particularly contentious move.

"To appoint a manager who the fans already hated, who does that? It's so tone deaf," Keoghan said. "Because Everton, as much as we are Evertonians, we are also defined by our hatred of Liverpool. That's a massive part of what we are."

Everton Chairman Bill Kenwright hailed Moshiri's investment back in 2016.

"After an exhaustive search I believe we have found the perfect partner to take the club forward," he said at the time.

It has not worked out as fans had hoped, with a seventh-place finish in 2017 Everton's best performance in that time.

Last season Lampard secured Premier League survival in the penultimate game of the campaign after coming back from 2-0 down to beat Crystal Palace 3-2.

"It is one of the greatest moments of my footballing life and career," Lampard said on the night that was further evidence of how far Everton had fallen.

Everton's decline has not been for the lack of investment.

A transfer spend of around US$780 million compares to around $795 million from Liverpool over the same period.

"The club before he came in was known for doing things right. [Former Manager] David Moyes scouted really well, found bargains (and on a relative shoestring budget), and Everton were the best of the rest," Keoghan said. "What we thought Everton were lacking was money. We thought money would come in and turn the best of the rest into an elite club. It's been a disaster, really."

Still, Everton remains one of England's most famed clubs as a founding member of the Football League in 1888 and the Premier League in 1992.

It still enjoys fervent support and is due to move into a state-of-the-art new stadium next year, though fans fear it could host second-tier football with the prospect looming of relegation from the top flight for the first time since 1951.

Moshiri says he remains to committed to Everton.

"The club is not for sale, but I've been talking to top investors of real quality to bridge a gap on the stadium," he told the club's Fan Advisory Board before the loss to West Ham. "It is not selling the club at all, it is just bringing more expertise in terms of global sponsorship, in terms of commercial development — and a lot of specialist sport investors have this pool of knowledge."

Former Everton manager Frank Lampard (Photo: AP)

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