He spoke with unspoken certainty about the fans who were finally hearing from the club owner in a rare interview.
In his London office decorated with pictures of Verton memorabilia and history books, Farhad Moshiri tried to ease the nerves of supporters in response to questions from the fan board (FAB).
“We need a striker – we’ll get one,” he said. “We are strengthening the team and I have no doubt it will be stronger in the middle of the season. That will become our goal and objective.”
Seven days later, after the end of the transfer window that ended at the top of Everton, Moshiri’s confirmations, at the top of Everton, the dysentery was reflected only anew, had proved empty. The promise was broken.
The club, which so urgently needed to emerge from January, limped into February weaker instead of stronger. The only task was to sell one of the first team’s better players, Anthony Gordon, to further help a position that was already in need of a $45m ($55m) exit.
Verton were the only club in the top flight not to add to their rivals’ squad to avoid relegation.
While director of football Kevin Thelwell and his recruitment team worked in vain until Tuesday’s deadline, some fans gathered outside the club’s Finch Farm stadium to protest. Moshiri, chairman Bill Kenwright, and chief executive Dyonisia Barrett-Baxendale, with their banners draped over the gates, make a joke of it under the slogan “Liars”.
Several others vented their frustration before and after Saturday’s game against the lineup.
This is the story of a window transfer that started badly and descended into disaster.
Frank Lampard said this until he was sick and tired of doing this. Verton need new attackers.
On December 22, the official leadership of the club said “we need help”.
“It was also going to be a job to get the windows,” he said. “It would be time and you can’t fix it in one window. We’ve brought some really good players into the club, but we’ve had help in the January window.
“We’ve lost Dominic Calvert-Lewin, of course. Hopefully, that changes, but we can see that maybe we can get more options at the top end of the pitch. That’s what we’re looking at.”
As the season wore on, Lampard’s answers to questions about the January transfer window became increasingly blunt. It wasn’t difficult to see behind the scenes, despite Thelwell’s efforts, finding help always proved more difficult.
Money was tight. It offers new advances made either to the borrower or to the borrower who has an obligation to pay beyond the line. It meant that Verton were often missing out on top targets for clubs with cash, and therefore could act more quickly and efficiently. A model was attached to Matheus Cunha’s birthday gift to Julen Lopetegui.
Winger Dango Ouattara will go to Bournemouth, Georginio Rutter of Hoffenheim to Leeds. Another target, German forward Kevin Schade, chose Brentford. In particular, Lampard was rushed when experienced Premier League striker Danny Ings joined West Ham United.
After losing 2-0 to West Ham, an event that sealed Lampard’s fate, Ins called him “a top striker” and “a real team man”. Verton approached Aston Villa to sign the 30-year-old but could only offer a loan. West Ham £12,000 and David Moyes has highlighted what he wants after his victory over his former club. “I had a great time off the board the whole time and I have to say, it really helped,” said Scott. “Even Ings showed yesterday that he wants to help you and do everything he can.”
There would be no help for Lampard in prospect. Two days later, he was discussing his affairs and negotiating a settlement package for him and his staff, which would allow Verton to have a workshop on their finances as they tried to sign his successor and new players.
He continued to make other targets. Chris Wood joined Nottingham Forest and, most importantly, promoted the Dutchman, Arnaut Danjuma, whose proximity to Everton players may have given Moshiri’s boldness in the conversation so bloody, he scored a last-minute U-turn for Tottenham Hotspur after Lampard’s sacking.
He had been a serious manager in business but, with Lampard gone and his successor uncertain, Villarreal then began to have a change of heart as Spurs hijacked the deal.
So it was time to go back and find an alternative reason to beg.
Hierarchy indecision and confusion over Everton’s manager situation further complicated matters. When it came to attracting players, Lampard was a cartoon.
Incerta’s position at the end of the line was added at the suggestion of some players to sign. Then the doubt about replacing him, when Marcelo Bielsa was wrongly judged, compounded the problems.
When Gordon’s transfer arrived in Newcastle, the sale concluded on Sunday with Moshiri heavily involved in negotiations in London, leading the lead advisers in a deal with the north-east club.
In the end, he left a feeling of uncertainty more than the British-Iranian owner’s words earlier this month.
“All aspects of football operations are not run across the board,” he had said. “We have a director of football, Kevin Thelwell, who is primarily responsible for recruitment, academy development, medical science… All these things are run under the eye of Kevin Thelwell’s football business.”
In the end, it was not Thelwell who agreed to Gordon’s sale, nor did he have a say in how much he was willing to spend on the fee.
Rather, he had to plow through increasingly desperate efforts to avoid a grim final act to one of the worst transfer windows in the club’s history.
When Gordon left, the end of the darkness was achieved at the window.
The last few days have seen a flurry of reinforcements at Verton, only to be emptied in the end.
In an ideal situation, Gordon would have been sold earlier in the window when the money was immediately refunded. But the advice did not fall on deaf ears. Other clubs saw them coming and raised their asking prices for the players accordingly.
Nor did Everton’s recruitment arm seem to have any intention of reimbursing the money in full. Such was their dangerous position in the party, most of the purchase clauses in potential loans could only be qualified in the event of survival.
One of the only exceptions to the rule was Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher’s absence. The midfielder, who had previously been asked by Lampard, had already made it very clear that he had no interest in the exchange. Key figures in the hierarchy knew the move was always doomed to failure, but inquiries were made carelessly over a lot of money, the message leaked and Everton ended up looking silly. Bizarrely, the midfield position at that stage was held to be the highest priority position internally.
As in previous windows, it has not always been easy for those based on Merseyside to get on with results elsewhere. Moshiri spent two weeks in London trying to solve the squalor of the club. All presence in the matter, though clouded further. The hesitation to announce Lampard’s departure came as the staff tried to find out what was going on in the city. Most initially heard of Lampard’s dismissal through media reports, not internal communications. At important times the entire window was left in the dark.
Moshiri discussed the recruitment process in an interview with FAB a few weeks ago.
“Either the director of football or the manager proposes the name of the player, once both have signed (the agreeing document), the document will be sent to the president and me,” he said. “Once the president signs, I sign.”
That doesn’t always happen with new brands or even actors. The summer felt like a step in the right direction, with Thelwell’s recruitment team negotiating deals. But in January the boundaries were disturbed again.
Failure on the night has hampered Verton’s recent attempts to resolve the situation and the final days of the window are increasingly desperate.
In a last gasp, Everton asked about Gallagher and his Chelsea partner Hakim Ziyech. They were beaten to the signing of Rennes’ 20-year-old winger Kamaldeen Sulemana, who had been on their radar since his teenage years in Denmark, via Southampton. There was an inquiry for Udinese forward Beto, but the Serie A club’s valuation proved prohibitive. They prevented the availability of Michy Batshuayi and Jean-Philippe Mateta, and saw a loan offer with an obligation to buy for Ismaila Sarr rejected by Watford.
In the late afternoon, the police also ordered the transfer of arms for Thorgan Hazard, Viktor Gyokers and Union Berlin’s Sheraldo Becker. Iliman Ndiaye is happy to stay at Sheffield United. Reports in Italy have suggested Verton have failed in a late loan move for Olivier Giroud. The prospect of signing Anthony Elanga – the top sign of the loan at the beginning of the window was revisited, but they left late for other sticks to spring reinforcements.
Lucas Joao, the 29-year-old striker, who has scored just five goals in 22 appearances this season, has been extended by the media, but is not considered an improvement on what Everton already had. Joao’s transfer from Sheffield Wednesday to Reading in 2019 has been broken up by representatives of Kia Joorabchian’s Sports Invest UK agency.
New manager Sean Dyche stayed on at Finch Farm until around 9.40pm but just as hope was fading away. Thelwell and club secretary Dave Harrison also stayed later, but the 11pm deadline passed without any new additions.
Poor Everton were failing at the precise moment of the season. They retreated, others strengthened.
It remains to be seen if they now look to free agents to plug the temporary gaps.
They continue to be heavily linked with Ghana’s Andre Ayew, but sources at Goodison have only hinted at a move. It says a lot about the balance of power at Verton and past obstacles to football in matters that continue to be the speculation of anyone. This is the level of confusion and uncertainty that was created during the Moshiri era.
The fact that the same mistakes are still being made, as personnel come and go, suggests that the issues run deep.
It is difficult to ascertain how the 33-year-old Ayew, recently seen plying his trade in the Qatari league, fits into the recruitment model claimed to be young and hungry. But this is Verton’s only market until the summer in the first.
The sterile windows of January have already begun. A failure to strengthen in the middle of a relegation battle should be seen for what it is: a dereliction of duty. It leaves the impression that Dyche’s new manager was thrown into the sea without a pin.
Fans, meanwhile, are angry at what they see promised.
But this version is now modern. And this was another window that showed why they were in such danger.
(Top photo: Alex Burstow/Getty Images)