Sleepwalking to Disaster, Part II — The Enigma of Brands

Amid calls for sweeping change from the top to the bottom of Everton Football Club, Marcel Brands is as much persona non grata as anyone else among the hierarchy but the exact nature of his brief and the extent of his culpability in bringing about the mess at the club is more than a little opaque.

Lyndon Lloyd 03/12/2021 48comments  |  Jump to last

If proof were needed that you can only push a fanbase so far it came in the aftermath of Wednesday’s derby debacle as those supporters who stuck the 4-1 defeat out to the bitter end chanted “sack the board!” in the direction of the Directors Box, a lone, frustrated Evertonian walked onto the pitch to express his frustration to three of the players and, in a video clip that quickly went viral, another aimed a passionate, expletive-laden rant at Director of Football, Marcel Brands.

Depending on your interpretation of Brands’s words, the brief exchange might have offered an unwitting glimpse into the lack of consensus that exists behind the scenes at Everton and the Dutchman’s own sense of futility, frustration and, perhaps, disempowerment.

Asked, “did you recruit them?!” in reference to the players that had just been torn apart by Liverpool and lost for the sixth time in seven matches, Brands replied with a question of his own: “Is it only the players?” Caught in a confrontational moment, it sounded like a reflexively defensive response that suggested the issues in the dugout — ones probably not of his making — were just as salient to the Blues’ sorry predicament as the lack of quality on the pitch.

Brands was hired to succeed Everton’s first nominal “Director of Football” in the expectation (at least among supporters) that he would be a more fitting incumbent of the role than had Steve Walsh. After all, Brands had fulfilled a brief wider than chief scout at AZ Alkmaar and PSV Eindhoven in his native Holland and arrived, it was presumed, as the full package.

Though the early part of his tenure at Finch Farm and Goodison Park was positive, the impression of Brands’s work at Everton has grown less and less favourable as the club falls further and further from its Champions League aspirations amid continuing recruitment failings and a succession of misguided managerial appointments.

Amid the calls for sweeping change from the top to the bottom of the club, Brands is as much persona non grata as anyone else among the hierarchy but the exact nature of his brief and the extent of his culpability in bringing about the mess at Everton is more than a little opaque.

The Director of Football

What is Marcel Brands’s role at Everton? It’s no longer an idle question; it’s one that has intensified in its relevance as frustrated supporters seek answers for the club’s continuing inability to push on. How much responsibility should he bear for the current chaos and where does he fit in an environment dominated by a headstrong owner and, recently, less compromising head coaches?

Three years ago when he arrived amid a burst of optimism and a burgeoning reputation following his successes at AZ and PSV after Moshiri had called time on Steve Walsh’s spell as Everton’s first Director of Football, it was an easy question to answer. Charged with taking control of all aspects of the club’s recruitment and over-arching strategy on the playing side, the charismatic Dutchman began the process of paring back a bloated squad while also adding targeted acquisitions to support new manager Marco Silva.

Everton’s current first-team squad, if you discount those out on loan and include Ellis Simms, is 27 players strong; when Brands arrived, it was almost 40, with many of them on the downslope of their careers and some of them on hugely burdensome salaries. With the departure in the past year or so of the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin, Oumar Niasse, Cuco Martina, Theo Walcott and Yannick Bolasie, only Cenk Tosun and Gylfi Sigurdsson were still at the club this summer among those players regarded as forming the legacy of waste from the managerial tenures of Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce and the oversight of Walsh (although there’s increasing merit in including Michael Keane in that category as well).

All the while, between 2018 and 2020, Everton, nominally under Brands’s stewardship, made 13 permanent signings and though his record has come in for mounting criticism, there have been some valuable additions that include Richarlison, Lucas Digne, Yerry Mina, and Abdoulaye Doucouré. Had he been able to persuade Chelsea to part with him on a permanent basis, Kurt Zouma would surely also have been added to that list while Ben Godfrey’s youth means that there is plenty of time for him to recapture the form that last season saw him lauded as another Brands masterstroke.

Things became a little muddier under Ancelotti when Brands’s clearly enunciated strategy — buy players under the age of 25 with potential sell-on value rather than ageing signings on long contracts who end up being a millstone around the club’s neck — was partially shelved and Moshiri sanctioned the purchase of Allan and James Rodriguez (both 29). As a quick fix to address some pretty glaring issues that the Italian had identified in midfield in his first six months in charge, it seemed to work and Moshiri’s deference to his highly-compensated and illustrious manager seemed to be vindicated.

Everton got off to a flying start to 2020-21 before everything quickly fell apart. James succumbed to injury and, it appeared, an accelerating loss of appetite for the game while Allan had his own spell out injured, as did Doucouré, a Brands target from Silva’s time as manager and one who has come into his own this season.

Ancelotti left in June to be replaced by Rafael Benitez, another manager who, arguably, likes to have his hand on the tiller when it comes to recruitment to an even greater degree than his predecessor. In the absence of any communication on the matter from the club hierarchy, the impression has set in that Brands is now Director of Football in name only; his brief reduced to membership of the Board of Directors and oversight of the Finch Farm academy while Benitez handles first-team strategy. While Brands was expected to have been instrumental in the hiring of any manager, it seems that, just like Koeman, Allardyce, Silva and Ancelotti, Benitez was very much Moshiri’s choice.

That all might be seen to represent a welcome change in tack for the critics and the mounting contingent of fans who are sceptical, either of the Dutchman himself or of the director of football model in general; would prefer a return to something more akin to how things operated under Moyes; or who just want to see changes implemented at Everton to address a strategy that isn’t working.

And Brands is by no means beyond criticism. After all, it was under his watch that the squad ended the last transfer window critically short in certain parts of the pitch, recruitment failings that have left the Blues reliant on ageing or inadequate players in vital areas of the pitch. Fans have quite rightly asked how on earth a club with designs on European qualification could go into a season with no reliable, experienced options at full-back or any serious alternative to the first-choice centre-forward.

Premier League Profit & Sustainability rules and the inability to shift Rodriguez before the deadline all combined to deny Everton the chance to follow through on their lengthy scouting of players like Denzel Dumfries and Nathan Patterson — not to mention the potentially explosive addition of either Leon Bailey or Luis Diaz — but the lack of a contingency plan reflects particularly badly where the buck stops and that is with the Director of Football. The optics of the club scrambling on deadline day trying to panic-sign Ashley Maitland-Niles from Arsenal were especially poor.

Still, it’s easy to forget that Brands came in with a long-term plan — to reduce both the size of the squad to a core of 25 senior players and its average age — one that has been consistently undermined by a lack of stability at Goodison Park over the past few years. He arrived at Everton with the appointment of Silva already a fait accompli, had to manage the transition from the Portuguese to Ancelotti (with the associated suspension of his overall vision) and is now working with his third manager in Benitez.

All the while he has been operating under the massive weight of a near-catastrophic transfer strategy implemented under his predecessor that saddled him with a number of players on long contracts and high wages; although there is little doubt now that this has been exacerbated by some further mis-steps in the market since Brands himself came on board.

Recruitment inherently carries a significant element of risk; there are no guarantees that signings will work out and that is true for the best scouts in the game. While the calculated moves for Fabian Delph, Bernard and Moise Kean didn’t come off as hoped, Brands at least realised trading profits on two of those while the third’s presence as an emergency option this season is proving rather valuable. He has also had his share of misfortune, most notably with André Gomes and Jean-Philippe Gbamin, who cost a combined £50m – if there is a criticism of Brands it's that Everton continue to pay over the odds for players for whom other clubs aren't competing – but both of whom suffered unforeseen and disastrous injuries that have had varying but lasting impacts on their time with the club. In addition, Mina’s inability to keep fit has eroded some of the success of that signing at a time when he had emerged as the best centre-half at Everton.

And Brands’s task has not been helped by a lack of defined boundaries when it comes to recruitment, amid rumours that everyone from managers (as we have seen with Ancelotti and Benitez), to the owner and the Chairman has dipped their oar in at certain times where signings are concerned. Nowhere does this appear to have been the case more than with Alex Iwobi, one of the most ill-advised acquisitions of the past few years, where the conventional wisdom is that Moshiri sanctioned a panic, £28m deal unilaterally from his former club, Arsenal, in concert with his close associate, Kia Joorabchian.

To his credit, Brands has offloaded a lot of dead wood, negotiated some big fees for certain outgoing transfers and, giving him the benefit of the doubt, the next phase of his grand strategy was probably undercut badly by the appointments of Ancelotti and Benitez — again, hands-on, assertive personalities when it comes to team-building — before the unstoppable force of Everton’s spending under Moshiri met the immovable object of FFP.

What he does next will largely depend on where the club sit in terms of the financial fair play rules — the restrictions on spending are unlikely to ease until next summer when the 2022-23 financial year begins — considerations over the funding of Bramley-Moore Dock, and how much control Brands has over transfers at the first-team level going forward. That responsibility appears to have shifted to Benitez which should allow the DoF to focus squarely on youth.

Some of the most promising players acquired by Everton since Brands came on board have been younger prospects like Godfrey and Niels Nkounkou, even if the former came at a relatively steep price. Continuing to work those scouting networks and finding the next hidden gems (Brexit obstacles to signing foreign players notwithstanding) should remain an important part of his remit.

However, in an environment where costs now have to be kept down, the need for a productive youth academy becomes ever more acute and Finch Farm has not at all been a reliable production line feeding the senior setup with fresh blood capable of playing for the club at the elite level or realise sizeable sell-on value. If the Academy is supposed to form the rump of Brands’s remit, it’s only in the past 12 months where it appears that he has started to make changes with a shift away from competing for Premier League 2 titles and more towards greasing the pathway from the Under-18s to the Under-23s in preparation for the big step up to the senior setup.

Only recently, it seems, has Brands impressed on the Academy coaching staff the need to make the U18s and U23s employ the same formations and tactics as the first team, a welcome development if true but one can’t help but yearn for a more deeply systemic entrenchment of core playing values and styles right through the youth setup down the very youngest prospects.

A recent video of a Manchester City youth side putting together a 22-pass attack that spans the pitch following kick-off, during which the opposition team doesn’t touch the ball once before the ball ends up in the net, illustrates the levels at which some of the top clubs are operating. Pep Guardiola’s DNA now runs through City’s academy, setting any players who following in the footsteps of the likes of Phil Foden up for success at first-team level.

Could the same be said at Everton where it’s “jobs for the boys” for a seemingly endless line of former players with varying success as players and character as human beings? It’s high time Brands drew on his pedigree born of one of the most fertile countries for world-class players in the modern game, one that produced the likes of Cruyff, Gullit, Van Basten, Koeman, Van Nistelrooy and Bergkamp, and began infusing Finch Farm with top-level coaches rather than whichever ex-Everton figure rocks up looking for rehabilitation of the soul or a cushy coaching gig.

It’s safe to assume that Brands did not come in looking to upturn the tables and make wholesale changes at Everton when he first came in, even if in hindsight that might have been the best thing he could have done. He clearly wanted to respect the club’s culture, one in which former players make the move to coaching after their playing careers are over, either as a way to preserve the Everton Way (whatever that might be these days) or simply because it’s the easiest, most expedient thing for all concerned.

In the face of the rapid modernisation of the game and in the absence of much proof that the Academy is sufficiently productive, that approach increasingly feels like an anachronism, one ripe for overhaul by an ambitious, clear-headed director of football who has a coherent plan for all aspects of the playing side of the club, from coaching to scouting to training to tactics, strategy and recruitment.

Under current conditions, with a meddling owner, reputedly over-bearing chairman, and autonomous head coach, Marcel Brands may not be able to exert the all-encompassing influence he would either want or should but if he is to remain at Everton, there are areas where he can make lasting and impactful changes if he so chooses and that’s at Finch Farm. And in the wake of mysteries like the Thierry Small situation, where one of the club’s best prospects felt compelled to leave rather than sign a professional contract with the Blues, and the bridge between U23s and the first-team is rickety at best, those changes feel urgent given the lag time before any noticeable effects will be felt.

It shouldn’t be forgotten, though, that he is also a club director and, as such, has an important voice in where the club goes from here. Whether he is on the wrong side of the numbers and doesn’t enjoy the support he would like or needs is another question. Moshiri should have shown the requisite trust in his DoF and given Brands free rein a long time ago. Instead, if the rumours of frosty relations in the corridors of power at Goodison are true, the Dutchman might become a victim of an impending purge. In that case, it might be time to ditch the director-of-football model entirely which would be a shame because we'd have no idea if it could actually have worked.

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John Zapa
1 Posted 03/12/2021 at 20:06:42
Moshiri wants to get past the current set of fixtures which he would call 'expected losses' and get to Boxing Day, when the fixtures are kinder, without the pressure of the crowd on his back.

I believe he will sacrifice Brands and make him the scapegoat for all the club's ills.

Sacking Benitez is both expensive and humiliating for him. Searching for an alternative is both tiring and time consuming. Getting rid of Brands is much simpler.

David Currie
2 Posted 03/12/2021 at 20:54:27
We should have gone in for Graham Potter instead of Benitez as I believe he is a manager on the up and his team plays on the front foot. He would also be good for the younger players.

Not sure he would come now but I would go all out for him. We have 2 points from 24 so, unless we get a win soon, things have to change.

Derek Moore
3 Posted 03/12/2021 at 21:50:14
You didn't include your take on the Rondon/King saga Lyndon, one I should have been interested to hear.

Indeed in some ways, King and Rondon is the very crux of the matter. Did Brands bring King in, and then Benitez insisted on his own version of the same player as the rumour mill maintains?

Even discounting his absurd hat trick against us, King has two goals and two assists in the league for Watford. Quite simply, if we're going to operate on the margins as it were we can't afford to make personnel mistakes like this.

The looming emergency board meeting will be very interesting. It's my hunch this meeting is to decide exclusively if we're moving forward with Brands or moving forward with Benitez - I don't think peaceful co-existence is an option.
Interesting times indeed.

Danny O’Neill
4 Posted 03/12/2021 at 22:02:37
I have defended Brands and continue to do so.

If you are going to have a DoF, then you have to let them do their job. Otherwise don't have it.

It will be an interesting week or so to see if he remains.

Behind the scenes is he laying the longer term foundations? Sorting the academy out? Ridding us of deadwood (40 down to 27 squad players)? Getting turbulent before it gets better in the long run?

Or do we just sack him and carry on as normal? And as normal as Everton have been for the past 6 or 7 seasons?

More questions than answers there.

Delete Brands insert someone else (e.g. Rangnick). If you employ a DoF model, let them do their job. Or don't employ one.

Lee Courtliff
5 Posted 03/12/2021 at 22:46:54
I understand that being a great player doesn't automatically make you a great coach. We all know that.

But, on the flip side, being an average player doesn't automatically make you a great coach either!!

Now, I'm an Evertonian of the 90s. I was a season ticket holder during the Dogs of War days when I was 13/14 years old. Meaning, I have a lot of affection for the players of that era but what have they ever actually achieved in the game as players and now coaches? One FA Cup win between them!!

I understand we have bigger problems at the min, but this has been bothering me for a while now. We bring in staff who couldn't do it themselves then ask them to teach youngsters how to be successful along with employing people like Jeffers as "finishing coach"...a man who never hit double figures in a single season!!!

It's just baffling. Anyway, with regard to Brands, if Benitez is in charge of transfers then Marcel should be charged with bringing in the best youth coaches he can find from around the world. At least that would be something.

As long as they never played for Everton.

John Raftery
6 Posted 03/12/2021 at 22:57:33
On more than one occasion in the past few weeks, I have heard fellow fans berating our Director of Football for the signing of players like Schneiderlin and Sigurdsson, whose arrival pre-dated that of Brands. He cannot be blamed for the carnage of our transfer activity in the summer of 2017, a year before he replaced Steve Walsh.

Making the Academy and Development teams use the same formations and tactics as the first team should be a given. Don Revie was doing that with Leeds in the sixties.

Our problem is that such a rapid turnover of first-team managers, each bringing their own ideas and coaching staff, has made it virtually impossible to embed a playing philosophy and system throughout the club. Stopping the revolving door will help in that respect.

Stephen Vincent
7 Posted 03/12/2021 at 23:04:58
John, we have formations and tactics????
Sam Hoare
8 Posted 03/12/2021 at 23:10:49
I had high hopes for Brands but it is becoming increasingly hard to defend him. Either he is not as good at his job as I hoped, or he is being paid to be a DoF whilst allowing his (non-footballing) boss to make the major decisions. Or both.

Yes, the last few windows have been more sensible but spending £50M on Iwobi and Gomes was borderline criminal, as was the lack of a new right-back over the last few years. Especially with the likes of Coufal, Livramento and Lamptey going cheap.

Brands should be implementing a recognisable style and ethos at this club but instead, we have lurched from young attacking, pressing coaches to defense-minded pragmatists to counter-attacking managers, with each manager allowed to buy a hodge-podge of former allies to suit his style.

This is why the squad is so unbalanced and incohesive. There is no consistency, no identity, no apparent plan. That falls on Brands.

Jerome Shields
9 Posted 04/12/2021 at 00:49:53
Brands has never been his own man, right from the start. Interviewing Silva after Moshiri had appointed him a week before Brands's own contract had started.

On Everton staff information, Brands as Director of Football worked with the Manager, Chairman and Chief Executive on acquiring players. The Head of Football operations was added to this list with involvement in negotiations and contracts, later becoming Director of Football Operations.

On player recruitment, he worked with Chief UK Scout, Marytn, and Chief European Scout, Stiensson. The latter he had worked with when Stiensson was a footballer at AV in Holland with Brands. When Marytn left, Stiensson became Head of Recruitment and Development.

Brands promoted Waldron from Academy Coordinator to Head of the Academy, after Waldron's dad got the sack. Waldron made way for Unsworth to double-job (another supposedly Brands decision) by becoming Chief Operating Officer for the Academy, but in October, he became Head of Academy Recruitment, reporting to Steinsson, Head of Recruitment and Development.

In summary, it looks like musical chairs for promotion and makes Brands look largely ineffective in achieving anything. No wonder Brands is an enigma, because he is probably not clear what his role is and, as Lyndon has indicated, it is near impossible to work out. Paul the Esk threw the kitchen sink at it trying to define a role which would have been impossible to do.

I will be kind to Brands by defining his role as a Board Director, who other Directors think is wonderful, who delegates most of his Director of Football responsibilities to people who then do what they like. He also has the remit from Moshiri to reduce wages but has to work within FFP rules in setting transfer budgets, which are targeted according to Moshiri.

He also found a role for Baines on his retirement, as Professional Development coach, according to the Chief Executive. Baines has recently been promoted on a temporary basis in October, as Under-18 Assistant Manager, probably with more wages.

Lyndon Lloyd
10 Posted 04/12/2021 at 01:30:14
Derek (3), it's my belief that the King situation was settled before Ancelotti left. He got no change from the Italian and both parties had probably decided that, in that case, it was better he just leave, even if his departure was confirmed 3 days after Ancelotti's.

Benitez, of course, didn't arrive until later, so there is no connection with Rondon, really. By the time he signed, King was already with Watford.

Bill Gienapp
11 Posted 04/12/2021 at 02:01:02
There was an article in The Athletic – and I'm sure there'll be a debate over how much credence we should give The Athletic in the first place, but regardless – it painted a pretty stark portrait of how little autonomy Brands actually has.

For some, that probably puts him in an even more negative light, as it would seem to suggest he's content to draw a fat wage while being sidelined and undercut at his job. Either way, it's clearly a frustrating and less-than-optimal situation.

Mike Gaynes
12 Posted 04/12/2021 at 03:13:40
David #2...

"We should have gone in for Graham Potter instead of Benitez...."

Who's to say we didn't? Who's to say we didn't make the approach? Who's to say we could have afforded to buy him out of Brighton? Especially because buying other clubs' managers has worked out so well in the past?

Brighton is now ahead of us in the table. Do you have any idea how much money (which we don't have) it would take to buy him now, even if he were interested (which he wouldn't be)?

Sorry, mate. If you want to sack Rafa, you have your choice of the unemployed as replacements -- Lampard, Favre, Valverde, Villas-Boas, Pirlo, Fonseca, Pulis, Rudi Garcia, even Zidane. But we're not buying currently employed gaffers. We don't have the cash.

John Raftery
13 Posted 04/12/2021 at 07:23:42
Stephen (#7),

Point taken! Our formation and tactics have mirrored our manager and player recruitment, very much of the scattergun variety.

As an example, Koeman talked about deploying a pressing style but signed players totally unsuited to do that.

Paul Hewitt
14 Posted 04/12/2021 at 07:48:44
Graham Potter. You having a laugh?
Frank Sheppard
15 Posted 04/12/2021 at 07:56:36
Two very detailed and distressing articles.

I am struggling to think of anything that could be classed as good news about our beloved club.

There is of course the new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock, which we don't want to be baptised as a Championship ground.

Phil Wood
17 Posted 04/12/2021 at 08:13:25
A sobering article and contributions.

Everton – a Marx Brothers script with the undertones of a Shakespearian tragedy.

Has given me food for thought on my previous "insight" into the workings of our failing football club.

Thanks everyone.

Kevin Prytherch
18 Posted 04/12/2021 at 08:31:40
Food for thought…..

David Unsworth moved from being merely the U23s Manager to Director of Academy (or whatever the title is). 1 year later, we see a transformation in terms of the age of players playing for the U23s.

We all assume it's Brands doing this but, when Unsworth stops being given the players to work with and starts to oversee the whole process, significant changes can be seen.

Brands or Unsworth?

Sam Mellor
19 Posted 04/12/2021 at 10:23:21
Paul (14).

I assume you mean having a laugh that Potter would come anywhere near us at the moment? He'd be brilliant, I wanted him when we got Ancelotti and I wanted him again in the summer.

His teams play good, progressive football, he improves players he has, and he plays young players. I honestly don't know why anyone wouldn't want him – aside from some sort of weird arrogance that we shouldn't be coveting someone managing Brighton.

Problem is, I really don't see why he'd come to us at the moment.

Anyway, Brands. I agree with everyone saying if you have a DoF, you have to let him do the job – otherwise, what's the point?

I guess we'll never know but my feeling is the big money signings haven't really been his and most of the stuff he's done has actually been alright... plus he's clearly trying to restructure the Academy but probably getting pushback. I'd back him and get rid of anyone in his way – but we know that won't happen.

Niall McIlhone
20 Posted 04/12/2021 at 11:01:07
Thank you for the detailed article, Paul. On a personal level, I find it leaves me with more questions than answers about Mr Brands: an enigma, indeed.

Despite the dire situation we are currently in, I still believe significant improvements can be attained with the addition of one or two astute signings in January, even if they are on a loan basis.

Let's face it, our image right now is pretty toxic, and the DoF has his work cut out to persuade top European players to come to the club, even those we are strongly linked with (Diaz, Gabriel, Stefanovic) always seem to opt to either go to the likes of Spurs or Arsenal, or stay put in their comfort zone.

In other words, we are not, at this time, a “go-to” club, and I think the best we can hope for is to look at short-term fixes with loans until our own burden of deadwood see out their contracts, and we can move on.

Dave Williams
21 Posted 04/12/2021 at 11:06:38
I agree, Sam. It seems to me that new managers have insisted via Moshiri that their favourite older players be acquired (which I can understand) but this used up cash which Brands could have spent on younger players.

This is the problem with the DoF model – the manager wants his own players because it's his neck on the line if things go wrong. The DoF is looking long-term… and philosophies clash as a result.

We can of course only guess and surmise based on what we see and what little we hear (surely there is someone on ToffeeWeb in the know on this??) but I suspect Brands has been overruled by Moshiri (eg, Iwobi and maybe Walcott) and Ancelotti (eg, James and Allan).

The guy tasked with keeping us out of trouble as far as FFP etc is concerned is the first who should be sacked, if he hasn't already gone, because he appears to have been guilty of dereliction of duty – unless of course he has been overruled as well!!

Jerome Shields
22 Posted 04/12/2021 at 12:02:42
Kevin #18,

Unsworth is Director of the Academy and Manager of the Under-23s.


John Williams
23 Posted 04/12/2021 at 12:35:01
For anyone interested in learning more about Graham Potter, there is an excellent article in today's Guardian.

He comes across as a very intelligent, grounded man with clear and (to me) sensible and realistic views on coaching and managing in the Premier League.

He is seems to be attempting to build a team and club at Brighton with a clear footballing identity and create an environment in which his players can improve and flourish.

I could see him at Everton working with Brands (as a proper DoF) on a longer-term team-building "project". However, I see little prospect of him being tempted to the shitshow that is currently Everton, with or without Brands. Unfortunately.

Tony Everan
24 Posted 04/12/2021 at 12:54:09
Another insightful article, Lyndon.

Nobody knows the full story but, to me, Brands cuts a frustrated figure; I think he has been in a straight-jacket virtually the whole time he has been at Everton.

Part of the dysfunctional mess with the club is down to the fact that Moshiri has little or no understanding of football and is ultimately calling the biggest shots. Brands should have always been left to the final decision, not an accountant.

The managerial appointments have just not been entirely compatible with the DoF model or even possibly initiated by Brands. Moshiri's intentions have been honest and admirable but there's a certain naivety in his misplaced decisiveness with regards how things will work in practice.

Along with the manager, I've got serious misgivings about Brands; at the same time, there is plenty of mitigation for both their situations.

With regards to Brands, though, it could be construed that he is weak for not putting his job on the line when he didn't like what the owner was forcing through, ie, Iwobi? Ancelotti?? Benitez??? Why not be strong and make a stand against it, rather than be a weak bystander waiting for the next paycheck to land in the HSBC account.

However, it's got to the stage now where one or the other has to go if there is no meaningful reconciliation.

It's possible the weaker Brands will fall into line, behind Benitez, with a different, hopefully clearer, remit. Either that or he will get a ‘Thank You and Goodbye' text from Moshiri, or will be glad to be out of it.

By the way, why is Bill Kenwright still at the club as Chairman? The immovable constant in decades of nothingness.

The club has to move on from his barren era.

Stephen Vincent
25 Posted 04/12/2021 at 13:10:07
John #13, that is surely the issue. We have no one saying 'this is the type of football we will play' then going out and getting people who will implement that plan.

For years, we have just employed managers ad hoc, no continuity or consistency. Coleman has played football under 7 different managers.

Ken Kneale
26 Posted 04/12/2021 at 13:25:09

Your penultimate paragraph sums it up – why indeed? The club has been razed by Kenwright and his continuing presence and method of running the club are continuing the spiral down.

Brands has been a significant disappointment to me – he just does not seem to be his own man. He has failed in his duties as a DoF as a result.

He should have grown a backbone and stood up for himself, and if not, like all men, decide if he wants to be part of this dysfunctional management or not. He seems to want it all ways at the moment.

Given he has a voice at the management table as well, it makes his conduct all the more reprehensible to me and, all in all, he has a significant credibility gap.

Ian Horan
27 Posted 04/12/2021 at 13:58:05
Any change at present needs to be Kenwright's and Barrett-Baxendale's resignations. The total clearout of the old boys network, including Ferguson, Usworth, Jose Baxter, Ebbrell, even Baines.

This "they get Everton" shite is why we aren't professional since the 80s... Our DNA is that of losers apart from a single FA Cup win in 1995.

Bring in coaches with a winning mentality. Only then can we move forward. Also tell Rafa it's Top 10 or you're gone at the end of the season. 2022-23 season, his target is Europe, then in the new stadium season: Top 4. Clearly defined expectations.

Howard Sykes
28 Posted 04/12/2021 at 14:54:52
Well, the problem is that we are skint. We did what Leeds did – wanted to play in Europe and spent the thick end of half a billion pounds to finance it... and went backwards. Leeds went down to the old 3rd Division of the Football League and spent a decade trying to get back.

I think that is ultimately the fate of Everton now. Fighting against relegation is the only game Everton will be engaged in for the foreseeable future. We don't have money to buy better players or a better manager without selling the good players, i.e. Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin, Pickford and maybe Mina.

Danny Baily
29 Posted 04/12/2021 at 15:10:19
Players will return from injury and performances (and results) will improve. With James gone we'll have room to manoeuvre in January. Chin up everybody.
John Kavanagh
30 Posted 04/12/2021 at 16:30:00
Great article – but it exposes the real core of our problems; namely the complete lack of transparency and accountability.

As the article itself acknowledges, much is speculation and guesswork, but what is clear is that there have been far too many different fingers stuck in the pie when it comes to recruitment and contractual negotiations.

I am convinced of one thing though, and it is that getting rid of Kenwright, not Brands, would be the first step towards moving the club forward. Additionally, Moshiri should stick to what he's good at and leave all football-related matters to someone who knows what they are doing.

However, I am not convinced that sacking Brands and giving Benitez absolute power over all recruitment is an answer, unless you believe that having more like Rondon is a solution.

The model of recruiting young ambitious players with a sell-on value* should have been adhered to and wasn't, which is what has got us into this awful mess.

[* Iwobi excepted.]

Kim Vivian
31 Posted 04/12/2021 at 17:03:41
Stephen - 25. It's actually 9 incl Ferguson and Unsworth (2X).

A record I would guess, that stat.

Bill Gienapp
32 Posted 04/12/2021 at 20:23:26
For the record, I'm a big Graham Potter fan. But I suspect he's not the right guy to drop into a toxic, dysfunctional situation, instructed to sort the mess out.

He'd be a good one to take the reins if we had a manager (like Koeman – hardy har) who laid the groundwork for success, then departed for greener pastures.

Rick Tarleton
33 Posted 04/12/2021 at 20:25:43
Brands and the manager must agree on the basic style of play, so that players recruited will fit in with the formation and tactics which have been decided upon.

However, that's the first snag: Brands keeps seeing managers come and go, so that, when asked by the first manager for, say a defensive central midfielder and he recruits him, usually on quite a long contract. Six months later and that player may be redundant to the formation and tactics of the next manager. And so it goes on.

Brands seems to have recruited quite a few turkeys, but I'm not sure what each manager asked him to find... and there's the rub. If, however, Brands recruits in collaboration with the board or certain members of the board, then it is a recipe for disaster. Do we actually know how things work behind the scenes at Goodison Park?

There seem to be certain players whom Brands has not recruited (Iwobi and Rondon are two obvious examples). And if this is so, then there is a huge schism in the way that Everton is run.

I've no idea really how good Brands is, but we seem to have paid over the odds for very average players: Tosun, Gbamin instantly spring to mind. Is it Brands or the manager who is signing these players?

How successful are the youth policies of many teams? Till Alexander-Arnold broke through across the park, who had emerged from the Anfield academy since Carragher and Gerrard 20 years ago?

I'm not giving any answers, but reiterating the points about the chaotic nature of the way this once-great club has been run since the 1980s.

I tend to feel that the best managers ought to be in control and the Brands role ought to be as an assistant, but the roles and needs have to be clearly stated and defined and at Goodison they are clearly not.

Ron Marr
34 Posted 04/12/2021 at 20:36:45
"Alex Iwobi, one of the most ill-advised acquisitions of the past few years, where the conventional wisdom is that Moshiri sanctioned a panic, £28m deal unilaterally from his former club, Arsenal, in concert with his close associate, Kia Joorabchian."

If this is true the club is in deeper shit than I thought. The Echo, for what it's worth, says it was Silva who pushed for Iwobi.

"Marco Silva was the man who pushed for his signing, less than two days before the close of the window when Iwobi was on a boat off the coast of Dubai, and there was no time to conduct a full medical.

Super-agent Kia Joorabchian had to get involved to help see the deal through in time. Everton would invest £28m, with the potential for that to rise to £35m, in Iwobi's signing.

Just days later, a pleased Silva would remark how much better Iwobi looked in training than he had anticipated he would do."

Echo story

Like Ell's excellent column said, it's not really clear who is doing what at Everton. Who was involved in signing Michael Keane until June 2025?

Paul Hewitt
35 Posted 04/12/2021 at 20:40:03
It's clear to me Brands and Benitez can't work together. One has to go, and for me, it has to be Brands.
Derek Moore
36 Posted 04/12/2021 at 20:43:51
The Director of Football model ideally would have the club playing with the same ethos and formation at all levels, from the youngest kids right up to the senior teamers.

It's only recently that our youth teams have started playing with the same shape – another minor indictment on Brands's tenure. It's taken 3 years to do something that ought to have taken 3 days.

Allied to that is the wildly changing direction of our managerial appointments. The style of football is supposed to remain constant if the DoF model is working properly. Yet we've had six managers in as many years, varying from a possession style approach under Martinez to a defend deep and counter-attacking style under the present incumbent.

Brands obviously does not appoint the manager, as there would be no way he would have accommodated such wildly varying styles from one appointment to the next. But Brands not appointing the manager is yet another solid argument to ditch the DoF model altogether – it's simply not being adhered to.

If the DoF model isn't being followed, there's no point having it. And at no stage have we successfully implemented the sort of model you'd imagine Brands would ideally want, nor have we shown any real inclination that we will in the future either.

Save at least one pay packet, get rid of one potential scapegoat and layer of confusion, and cut Brands loose. Even if we are ultimately going to correctly implement a DoF type model, it's obvious to me the part-time Richard Gere impersonator is not the sort of personality to establish it.

You need a more forceful type to establish things, I feel, before turning it over to the sort of operator Brands has proven to be. Some are builders, and some are managers, and I reckon I know which boat our Marcel falls into.

Danny O’Neill
37 Posted 04/12/2021 at 21:09:10
That's the drum I've been banging for a long time now, Derek Moore. Very well said and articulated.

The DoF model should see a system introduced throughout the club at all levels. It makes the transition for the younger players smoother and easier.

I've seen it work very well in the past at Schalke. And, as much as it pains, it's what Klopp has done across the Park. That's part of the reason why their kids can step up easier.

I would guess it's what has been going on at Man City. Did you notice how the young debutant (can't remember his name) stepped up seamlessly against us? Because they know what is expected.

But it takes time and consistency to see the plan through. Not constant change.

We have the left hand (multiple managers in multiple seasons) doing one thing... and the right hand (Unsworth et al) doing...? Well, something else.

And then, plonked on top of that, a confused owner being very poorly served by an incompetent board.

It's not aligned. There is no progressive plan or structure.

Bill Gall
38 Posted 04/12/2021 at 21:14:02

Who do you think would be the right person to sort the mess out? The present manager has been here 6 months, given no money, has some of his more influential players injured for a long period, but still gets his name on the chopping block with some questionable decisions.

I believe that Moshiri, after failing with other managers, decided to go with the DoF model. A model that will take more than one season to work, especially if he has to work with a number of different managers.

My understanding is the DoF works closely with the manager and finds the type of player the manager wants, and works with players from the squads lower than the first team to bring in young players that can adapt into the style the manager wants.

I believe that there are other supporters on here who have a better understanding of a DoF position but, at this time, I don't believe Brands has had any time to do what a DoF is supposed to do, never mind achieve any sort of success.

Bill Gall
39 Posted 04/12/2021 at 21:28:38

As you say, it takes time. I think Brands was hired as DoF in the beginning of the 2019 season and has had to work with Allardyce, Ancelloti and now Benitez. As you say, the model has to be used at all levels.

So the big question is: What use is a DoF if you are changing managers nearly every season?

Ed Prytherch
40 Posted 04/12/2021 at 21:50:18
Brands was most likely hired because Moshiri knows diddly squat about running a football club and he doesn't trust Blue Bill with his checkbook. But then Moshiri hired and fired managers on his own bat.

Moshiri is the only person who can sort out this mess. He has to decide on a management structure and get rid of the ones who do not fit into it.

Ron Marr
41 Posted 04/12/2021 at 21:53:02
Silva, not Sam Allardyce. He hired Silva shortly before Brands. Who knows if Silva was Brands's choice.
Clive Rogers
42 Posted 04/12/2021 at 22:21:32
Ed, 40, you are right, but the main culprit Kenwright is too crafty for that. The financier Keith Harris reportedly stated he had it in writing that he was chairman for life.
Bill Gienapp
43 Posted 04/12/2021 at 22:53:11
Bill (38) - if your question was directed at me (also Bill), then I agree that Benitez shouldn't be sacked. I don't think his tactics or approach has been particularly inspiring during this downward spiral, but you can't discount the key injuries and lack of investment, nor can you ride the managerial merry-go-round indefinitely. Also, for better or worse, his experience and his obviously thick skin would seem to equip him to weather this storm. If it is to be weathered, that is.
Ian Horan
44 Posted 04/12/2021 at 23:01:50
Moshiri should beg David Dein formerly of Arsenal to become chairman even just for 3 years transition to the new stadium. Shrewd operator, well respected across football globally.
Danny O’Neill
45 Posted 04/12/2021 at 23:25:07
There are many interpretations of what a DoF should be.

If you want to see what I would call one, watch Rangnick rebuild United and bring in a young first team coach and restructure the Academy (an already decent one).

The builder as he is known. Or also the football professor.

My choice in the summer.

We keep going for quick fixes and then not even sticking with that.

Have a plan. Have a strategy. And stick with it.

John Raftery
46 Posted 05/12/2021 at 00:20:03
Ian (44) I met David Dein on a train journey about fifteen years ago. I was very impressed. He knew as much about our players as most Evertonians. He also knew where the gaps were in our squad. The start of Arsenal’s decline coincided with his departure.

I very much doubt he would be interested in disrupting a hassle free life to take over from Bill, whom he regarded as a good friend.

Simon Harrison
47 Posted 05/12/2021 at 15:27:26
As of 15:03 today, 5.12.21; Marcel Brands has accepted a severance deal, and has left the club.

Brands goes!

Simon Harrison
48 Posted 05/12/2021 at 15:31:48
In my considered opinion, the wrong man has been thrown under the bus.

It should have been Kenwright given his cards, with DBB being moved out of the CEO post.

Then Brands would report directly to Moshiri, with Benitez speaking to Brands and hopefully all would have been well...

Now, there is on-one on the board with any genuine football experience, and Blustering Blue Bill will continue to interfere, and continue to wreck the club from within.

They've cut out healthy tissue, but missed the cancer.

Pete Clarke
49 Posted 05/12/2021 at 16:14:34
As much as I hoped that Bill would be first out of the door, it was obvious given his record that he would make sure others were made scapegoats first.
The pressure on Moshiri must be doubled now because I’ve got a feeling Moshiri is listening to Kenwright and he’s not even in Moshiri’s mind to be pushed out. I hope I’m fucking wrong on that one.
If that slippery fat faced lying gormless fraud is not ousted from this club then there is no saving us and Moshiri might as well sell up.

Come Farhad Moshiri
Please heed the fans calls
Get rid of Bill Kenwright
Once and for all
For he is a loser
He made this club stall
The fans outside are ragin
They will soon shake the windows
And rattle the walls
It’s the Chairman that needs a changin

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