Fans hope Everton is a closed shop in January
Generally speaking, I am not a fan of the transfer window system. I can understand why it was introduced, but I feel it merely causes a mass panic around the two respective deadline days (hyped up by a certain sports channel admittedly) and encourages stockpiling of players by the wealthier clubs, much to the detriment of those further down the pecking order.
January 2nd, 2013
However, from an Everton perspective the fact that clubs are prevented from signing players for nine months of the year is a good thing, for the nerves if anything else; given the Toffees’ relatively shaky finances, the gossip columns are regularly filled with stories linking players with moves away from Goodison Park, only fading once the window has shut.
A lot of these are pure speculation, with transfer fees seemingly plucked from mid-air, but the more these rumours appear, the more fans fear there is substance in them.
This January the speculation will once again surround Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines. Fellaini has been outstanding this season; his assault on Ryan Shawcross aside. His sheer strength, height and excellent close control make him an asset very few players can replicate. This fearsome weapon has unsurprisingly caught the attention of other clubs, most notably (apparently) Chelsea, who are reportedly fishing around the big Belgian.
But far from being concerned over these reports, Everton fans on the whole are pretty calm. If he stays, then he can carry on spearheading the club’s challenge for a European place. If he goes; well, given he still has three and a half years on his contract, Abramovich will have to dig deep. Such funds could then be invaluable for a manager like Moyes, who is adept at making maximum use of every penny. The Scot could easily bring in three or four players with the cash, and with it prove that no player is bigger than the club.
Leighton Baines is another whose signature is reportedly being ‘chased’. Chelsea (again) Man United and PSG the names mentioned. All those clubs are meant to be after left-backs so they may have looked at Baines (and who wouldn’t, given his outstanding form?) but again he is under contract and very happy at Everton so I cannot see anything in those rumours either.
One player who might leave is Johnny Heitinga. The Holland international (he played in a World Cup final you know) has endured a turbulent relationship with the club, pushing for a move one minute, collecting the Player of the Year award the next. But news about his latest bout of “unhappiness” will not cause Everton fans to lose sleep.
There has always been a feeling that the 28-year-old is not as good as he thinks he is. So, as a saleable asset commanding a decent transfer fee, he may be the one Moyes opts to offload in order to fund deals elsewhere; for while outgoings are a concern, for once, so are incomings.
For the first time in four seasons Everton have made a positive opening to the campaign, and at the time of writing head into their final game of the year in fifth place, level on points with Spurs in fourth. In the recent past their usual post-Christmas surge has lifted them into the safety of mid-table, but with a kind wind and even kinder injury list, a good run this time could take them into the Champions League.
The top four, so often a closed shop (only six teams have finished in there since Everton did in 2005, and one of those spent half a billion pounds to do so) a flicker of an opening has got the supporters excited. It is going to be one hell of a challenge; with Arsenal, Spurs and this year’s surprise package West Brom all laying genuine claims to a top four place.
But if Moyes can somehow add to his thin squad – as he did last January with the signings of Darron Gibson, Landon Donovan, Nikica Jelavic and Steven Pienaar – then there is no reason why the Merseysiders cannot sustain their challenge for fourth right up until May.