In Defence Of Bill Kenwright

No-one wants planes flying over grounds with protest statements, fans don’t want protest marches down Goodison Road, we don’t want anti-board banners and we don’t want our club in the spotlight for the wrong reasons and we don’t want negative media interest.

There comes a point however when necessary evils can be justified and the long term goals can be pursued even if it causes short term pain. Whether the current actions are necessary, depend on your view of our board, and our chairman.

The mere name of Bill Kenwright is enough to cause heated debate in the bars and living rooms across Liverpool. Whether you’re pro or anti Kenwright or somewhere in the middle, every Evertonian has a view on the man and what he was done for this club.

After Everton’s decline from First Division winners to the the Johnson era and miracle escapes from relegation, Evertonians were crying out for a change. In stepped Bill Kenwright to save Everton from financial ruin and lead the club back to stability.

A lot of support for Kenwright stems from the original sale and where he took us from which regardless of your current view, he has to be given a lot of credit for. We as Everton fans at that time weren’t focused on European competition, we were just concerned about remaining a Premier League club. After a few rocky years under Walter Smith, Kenwright made by far the best decision of his tenure: To remove Smith and replace him with David Moyes. In the 11 years before his first full season in charge we’d only made the top 10 of the league once. Under Moyes in the next 11 seasons we’d make it 9 times. Moyes transformed the club but couldn’t of done it without the backing of Kenwright who allowed him complete control over the players and the transfer targets, allowing him to use the money to improve the squad year on year to lead the team to 4 separate European qualifications.

A lot of support also comes from him being a nice man, a safe pair of hands and an Evertonian. Being a nice man and an Evertonian are irrelevant. Of course they are nice things for your chairman to be but offer no substance in terms of running a football club. I’m sure every Evertonian would prefer the tea lady, to the groundsman, to the CEO to all be Evertonians but you don’t have to love a club to be a good chairman, as indeed you can love a club and be a bad chairman. A safe pair of hands though? That does have substance, and that is there the debate lies. You’re either on the Abramovich side or the Venky’s side depending on which takeover you want to add gravitas to your opinion. Evertonians aren’t looking for Sheikh Mansour or Abramovich however, they’re looking for a chairman would could invest at least some money whilst also maximizing commercial revenue.

The problem with any Kenwright/Board/Elstone out campaign is that there are a large group of fans who are only interested when the team are doing badly. When instead of blaming the manager, the fans turn to the board. When we are playing well fans are content with the security that Kenwright provides, but then it becomes a question of ambition. Are fans happy with finishing in the top half and qualifying for Europe once every few years? I doubt many are but some are happy to wait until Kenwright finds his elusive investor.

The Kenwright problem is a money problem. Always has been and until he is no longer our chairman, always will be. We needed the Rooney money, we couldn’t finance Kings Dock, we couldn’t invest in players, we had to sell Bellefield, we had to rent Finch Farm and we still have to sell to buy. Is it Kenwrights fault he can’t invest? No, he simply doesn’t have the money. But as chairman he has failed to bring any money into the club and failed to find a suitable buyer.

As an Evertonian I feel for Kenwright, there have been lies but at times it seems like the was lying to himself more than purely trying to deceive the fans, a lot of the time he probably believed what he was saying. To bring the club from the brink of relegation to comfortable league finishes and European tours and still be disliked by a large selection of the fans must be a bitter pill to swallow. There is a buzz word amongst Evertonians though, one that has been used many times and one the Oxford dictionary defines as to “cease developing”, to stagnate. At the moment Everton seems to be in a long period of stasis where we will forever sit in a hole outside the top 4 with our best players seen as prey for media rumour mills and big money bids.

History may be kind to Kenwright, I hope we can look back on his tenure and be thankful of what he did rather than what he didn’t do. There would have been a time where if he’d left he would be been lauded for taking us to safety and forgiven for Kings Dock and the rest, that time has most certainly passed. Is it time to go? Yes, but it has been for a long time. All Evertonians would agree that we need investment, investment that Kenwright has never, and will never provide. For investment we’d need a new ownership but any change made would be a gamble, no-one could be certain a change in board would bring us challenging for trophies.

As a fan, whether you want that risk to be taken or not certainly doesn’t make you more or less an Evertonian.

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