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Everton's Fly-By Protest: Is It Not a Bit Toys-Out-of-the-Pram?

18/08/2015 20:10 BST | Updated 18/08/2016 10:59 BST

As the plane hired by Everton supporters to protest the club's board flew over St Mary's stadium before Saturday's fixture, I couldn't help but think: "You set of ungrateful b*******."

Little changed as Everton, spearheaded by £28m striker Romelu Lukaku, proceeded to dismantle one of last season's most eye-catching sides 3-0 on their own turf.

Their £30m-plus-rated defender John Stones was immovable at the back, while academy product and England international Ross Barkley showed the sort of form which had the big clubs circling not too long ago, scoring one and creating another of his team's goals.

Since Bill Kenwright's consortium paid £20m for 68 per cent of Everton Football Club at the end of the last century, the Toffees have finished in the Premier League's top half on 10 out of 16 occasions. In fact, last season was the first in nine that the club has failed to make the top 10.

After 112 consecutive top-flight campaigns, they are also seemingly immune to relegation. So, is the antipathy towards Kenwright not a bit toys-out-of-the-pram; an over-reaction, perhaps, to a sharp drop from fifth to 11th place in a year?

The fans have got a point, though. They want answers. Like why, as the rest of the Premier League's clubs tuck into their share of the record £5.136 *billion* TV rights deal, are Everton heading into the final two weeks of this transfer window having spent less money on players than Championship sides Derby, Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday?

Manager Roberto Martinez has assured concerned supporters that new signings will arrive before the transfer window closes, but once again it's Everton who are forced to scour through the refuse while the Swanseas and Stokes of this world beat them to coveted talents like Andre Ayew and Xherdan Shaqiri.

The fans have every right to question where the money's going, although the obvious response to this would be: Lukaku. What's £28m, though, when players like Andre Gray can have one good season in the Championship and suddenly be worth £9m to someone else?

Everton's net spend of £35m last summer, when the Belgian arrived from Chelsea, was extremely out of character and clearly aided by the £10m they raised the previous year in addition to the £6.5m sale of Nikica Jelavic to Hull in January 2014.

It was also the first summer since 2008, when Marouane Fellaini arrived for a then club record £15m and Andy Johnson was sold to Fulham for around £5m less, that Everton's transfer expenditure had exceeded their revenue through player sales.

An admirable approach, as many are quick to point out, but there is a genuine concern among Evertonians that the Stokes and Swanseas, West Broms and Crystal Palaces, who've emerged from the Football League to establish themselves in the top flight in recent seasons, are gradually overtaking the country's joint fifth most successful club and leaving them behind.

It's not just on the pitch that Everton are struggling to match up. Their Goodison Park home, where there's a hole in the Main Stand roof, the exterior is rusty and seats wooden, is in desperate need of cosmetic surgery. The club do not own either of their two megastores, at the ground or in the city centre and are tenants at their own training facility.

Kewnright had hoped to move the club outside Liverpool's boundaries to a new stadium in Kirkby before the fans, understandably, voted against it. Some suggest that Goodison's neglect is his punishment for that.

In the meantime, his self-proclaimed '24/7 search for investment' is yet to bear fruit and unsurprisingly so; it's like buying a car with parts missing. Why is Kenwright not striving to make his club as attractive to potential buyers as it can possibly be, with the money he so clearly has available?

The annoying thing for Everton fans is that it will have to get worse on the pitch for things to improve off it. And while they appreciate they are in good hands under Martinez and his players for the time being, they are also realistic. How long can Everton get away with standing still when football is evolving so rapidly around them?

They only need to look across Stanley Park to Liverpool who, in league terms, are still suffering from their lack of foresight 25 years after winning the last of their 18 domestic titles, as an example.

That Everton are a well-run club outperforming against the odds is exactly what Kenwright and co want you to think. But there's a bigger picture here, which only those immersed in it seem to be seeing. And they're the ones who matter.

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