Nevertheless it was to be an interesting night, made somewhat more intriguing by the presence of a small group of protesters looking to ask questions to those inside of Goodison Park.
Draped in Blue and Amber scarves, reminiscent of the Newton Heath colours now so prominent on the stands of Old Trafford. Their protest at the Park End entrance was not aggressive but it was there to cause stirrings, security became edgy and there were twitchings of the blinds from the onlooking rooms. Their agenda was clear, it was set out on an luminous flyer in the form of 6 factors identified as important unanswered conundrums.
As I entered "The People's Club Suite" I could see Ronnie Goodlass and Graeme Sharp were the aforementioned twitchers, clearly bemused by the rousing happening outside. CEO Robert Elstone, who had just finished an interview, presumably with EvertonTV, was looking relaxed and informal in a suit and polo shirt as he began to gaze over the flyer passed to him. The Yorkshireman could easily have laughed away the whole thing, taken no notice of what he had been presented with and focused on keeping to the script.
As the head table was announced one by one following a video proclaiming "What it means to be a Blue", Elstone must have been concerned by what sort of reception he would receive upon the announcement of his name. In truth, it was neither muted nor enthusiastic. Polite would probably be the best word. He said that "today is about talking to the fans", but his attentions were switched from those in the room to those who had set him, as the representative of the board, the task of answering the questions on the neon paper.
Although he appeared almost instantly tired by what was in front of him, he duly accepted the challenge. Credit to the man, as it would have been quite simple to discredit "Evertonians For Change" as troublemakers and not rise to their bait as many in his position would. The Barnsley native responded to each of the six questions in a fair and calculated manner, he probably let his guard slip a little further than he would have liked on reflection, with an honest account of the current state of affairs.
Elstone stated that there has been sustained investment in all area's of the club with 85p from every pound finding its way to Finch Farm, supporting either the current first-team squad, the future first-team squad or the scouting network that David Moyes has continued to widen, which has provided us in recent years with the likes of Coleman, Gueye, Vellios and Mustafi. He strongly believed that the board's main objective is to "give David a fair crack of the whip" and they "recognise that talent (Moyes) and will do all they can to back him".
There has been interest in the club as a commodity although nothing has come to fruition, one particular unnamed bidder did come close to agreeing a deal but "we walked away" as he intimated that something wasn't quite right. "For every good new owner, there are nine or ten bad ones, we don't want situation like with Hicks and Gillett, the Glazers or at Newcastle"
"We want to sell to the right person," he continued, before adding he was adamant that "Everton is a fantastic opportunity".
Development of the £10 million Park End project was currently on hold due to security issues but he remains "convinced it will still go ahead" and sees this as development for Goodison Park as a whole, although any changes to the ground itself are more problematic and not cost-effective enough to be considered, at this time, a viable option. The club are working with Liverpool City Council and are currently in discussions over 3-4 possible sites for relocation but ideally any project would require a similar blueprint to Destination Kirby where the club would work alongside another business.
He then took questions from the floor. Prior to the meeting it had been speculated that all questions were pre-prepared and vetted but I can tell you this was simply untrue, those asking were openly frank about the points they wished to raise, some were astonished by what was returned to them, one proclaiming he was now "really depressed".
Asked about recruitment during the close season, Everton's chief executive revealed that there was no budget for incumbents so player trading is inevitable but we "are no different to any other club bar four or five" but as far as developing and training those who are currently on the books we "are in good shape". He insisted David Moyes retains full control of the playing staff and Moyes alone would make every decision regarding who is bought and sold.
As the evening came to a close, following a meet and greet with Tim Cahill and Phil Neville and a polished performance on the mic from Kevin Ratcliffe, Elstone's body language shifted from the relaxed individual at the start to somewhat weary-eyed and depleted, although it was probably exhaustion from facing the same questions on a regular basis. I thought he fought his corner well, it was always going to be a tough crowd regardless of what had occurred earlier and those I spoke with at the end seemed appreciative of his openness in what must be a difficult position. I'm sure some remain uncertain of Everton's future and direction and still have questions unanswered but Robert Elstone made it clear that night that his door is always open.
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