Sean Dyche is not sugar-coating what is at stake for Everton in the next four games. “Lives and livelihoods,” he said.
That is the grim, uncertain reality as he leads his Everton team to European hopefuls Brighton second-bottom and facing the daunting prospect of a Manchester City visit to Goodison Park next week.
Should the worst happen and Everton go down, the immediate focus will be on the players’ futures. Relegation has far-reaching consequences beyond the cosmetics of Premier League footballers wondering if the club has the finances to keep paying their wages in the Championship. Having gone through that experience at Burnley, Dyche understands the human impact.
“The next four games not only affect people’s futures but people’s lives and livelihoods,” he said. “That is football. That is the challenge. It is right there in front of your eyes. That is the reality. Our job is to create a new reality, but that is the current one.”
‘The negativity around the club has been there for a long time’
Dyche has had a dual role since replacing Frank Lampard in January, his immediate priority being results while vowing to put foundations in place to ensure the team moves forward no matter what division they are in. Bullishness seems to be his trademark position, and he sounds confident that he will be trusted to lead the rebuild even if his primary task of survival fails.
“The job when I got here – it is well documented. The noise and negativity around the club has been there for a long time. You can’t turn it around in one moment,” Dyche said.
“The key moments at the minute are in the games. Things around that in the departments, different themes we want to work with and alignment, still need to be done. Otherwise you are just putting a sticking plaster on something, thinking it is all done and then realizing it is not. There is loads to do and loads going on behind the results, but the results are still the key thing at the moment.
“We need to get the job done, get to the summer and then start all the big stuff. But the key at the moment is the games and that is the focus. There are things going on about the next step and the next step after that. Then the focus zooms back on the games.”
‘We do not want to be ‘just surviving’ – we want to be growing’
Dyche is certainly under the impression that he and director of football Kevin Thelwell are at the beginning of a long-term relationship even if Everton are relegated. Given how erratic majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri’s running of the club, it remains to be seen if he views it that way.
“The facts are there are certain core values about how a club should be operating and it is not about the plan of which division you are in. It should be operating that way full-stop,” Dyche said. “That is my opinion. That is what I am hoping to build over time.
“In the immediate future we need to win enough games. The bigger picture has to shape the whole club to get it in the right direction. It can’t just be, ‘Oh, we have stayed up again’. That is not building anything. That is just surviving. We don’t want to be ‘just surviving’. We want to be growing. That is a different ball game.”
Whoever is given responsibility to revive the team, there is bound to be an exodus if Everton are relegated purely because they cannot afford to pay Premier League wages in the Championship, and already have a charge for overspending against them. The English Football League will be fixing its gaze on Moshiri’s accounts in the event of Everton becoming one of their member clubs, so a fire sale is inevitable. Highly rated assets such as Jordan Pickford, especially, will have a decision to make should acceptable offers materialize.
Dyche seems to have his eyes open regarding the future and the imminent tough decisions on his desk. “Life continues regardless, one way or the other,” he said. “The alignment of a football club is the background. That is a big project from what I have learned since I was here.”
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