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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 July, 2004, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Everton in turmoil
By Phil Harlow

Everton manager David Moyes has little to be cheerful about

Pre-season is usually a time of optimism. Fans can forget last season's disasters and, rose-tinted spectacles in place, look forward to the forthcoming campaign with renewed hope.

At Everton though, it's a different story.

With the new Premiership season three weeks away, their fans made an attempt on the record for earliest-ever protest with a demonstration against the club's board after a 2-1 friendly defeat by Crewe.

Even the most sanguine of Evertonians would struggle to find the positives in the club's current plight.

Saddled with debts of 30m, the club are making an alarming habit of losing boardroom members while the mounting speculation about the future of Wayne Rooney, their main saleable asset, leaves manager David Moyes in limbo.

There are clear signs of player unrest, with striker Tomasz Radzinski highly critical of Moyes' management, while the departures of David Unsworth, Scott Gemmill and Paul Gerrard have left the squad looking seriously thin in both quality and quantity.

The club have only made one summer signing - Marcus Bent from Ipswich - and Moyes has been forced to plead with chairman Bill Kenwright for extra cash.

Even a matter as fundamental as where the team will be playing football in a few years' time is clouded with Everton's proposal of a formerly unthinkable groundshare option with bitter rivals Liverpool dismissed by the Reds as unworkable.

A year ago, it was all so different.

Moyes had guided Everton to seventh place in the Premiership, just missing out on a place in Europe.

Expectations were high, with fans believing Moyes was on the verge of returning the club to their former glory days.

But instead Everton endured a season of struggle. They finished in 17th place, one place off the relegation zone, grateful for the presence of three marginally worse teams in Wolves, Leeds and Leicester.

With so many problems, Everton's prospects for this season look bleak with a further struggle against relegation the most likely prospect.

So do Everton fans have any reasons to be cheerful?

FINANCIAL ISSUES & WAYNE ROONEY

Everton are believed to be 30m in debt.

Rooney, the stand-out performer in England's Euro 2004 campaign, is the subject of almost daily speculation linking him with a move to Manchester United or Real Madrid.

While his sale could wipe out that debt at a stroke, the sale of the club's talisman - still just 18 years old and a product of the Goodison Park academy - is hardly a move likely to placate the club's fans.

But with Leeds' predicament a constant reminder of the dangers of allowing debts to spiral out of control, can the club afford not to cash in on Rooney?

BOARDROOM UPHEAVAL

To lose one member of your board could be regarded as a misfortune. To lose five in the space of five months looks to be the sign of a club in turmoil.

Chief executive Michael Dunford, chairman Sir Philip Carter and vice-president Keith Tamlin have all departed, while new chief executive Trevor Birch lasted just six weeks before walking out.

And with director Arthur Abercromby the latest to leave, supporters will be wondering where the leadership and direction is coming from.

PLAYER UNREST

With matters off the field going from bad to worse, Moyes needs dressing room problems like a hole in the head.

So comments from Tomasz Radzinski that Rooney should go somewhere "he can improve and grow as a player - sadly I don't think that is Everton" were not what he was hoping to hear.

Elsewhere, Thomas Gravesen is set to see out the final year of his contract before moving on.




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