LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 01: David Moyes the manager of Everton looks dejected during the FA Cup 5th round match sponsored by E.on between Everton and Reading at Goodison Park on March 1, 2011 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Just like News Of the World employees didn't expect to lose their jobs when they got up yesterday morning Liverpool Echo reporter David Prentice won't have foreseen the tidal wave of fury to be vented in his direction following this article on Friday morning.
To say it touched a nerve is an understatement; as Evertonians voiced their disapproval both via the comments section below his article as well as on the various internet forums (I suspect the Echo offices will have got a few choice phone calls as well).
Admittedly there isn't a lot to go on at the moment in terms of newsy meat for a journalist to get his teeth into. Friendlies don't begin for another week and most of the squad are away from the training ground. But Prentice has to fill the paper regardless (it doesn't write itself after all) but I think he chose the wrong line to take at absolutely the worst time for supporters.
After all, one of the reasons there is nothing to talk about is that we have little or no hope of signing any first-team players this summer – again. Everton continue to be the lonely kid not invited to the party as they stand on the outside looking in on the Premier League spending spree going on this summer.
We have been told repeatedly over the past five or six years to be patient, to look on the bright-side and to be proud of the way the club competes despite inferior resources. But we cannot continue to be like that forever – we are not (with all due respect) a team like Blackpool, who have spent much of their recent past in the lower divisions and were delighted just to be competing at Premier League level, albeit for a sole season.
We are the fourth most successful team in English football and to be told to basically 'shut up and be grateful with what you've got', is never going to go down well.
The problem is that these concerns have been aired frequently towards the local reporters, the club and even the players on Twitter, and we are repeatedly told the same answers – to trust the board, they are doing everything they can with the best interests of the club at heart. Chief executive Robert Elstone can't help but look exasperated when he repeatedly has to defend the club's lack of financial muscle. And I admit they do have a point – I don't want the future of the club put at risk by reckless spending, nor be at the sole mercy and whim of a reckless – if wealthy – owner.
But it has got to a point now where we aren't even operating prudently. We are like a car running of petrol fumes. If Moyes has to sell before he can buy where is the Pienaar money? Or the Vaughan money? I know transfers are complicated but we are talking about £5million here that has completely disappeared.
The fans, who care deeply about the club and are passionate at the best of times, are getting increasingly agitated because they can see the decline slowly happening on the field. They saw David Moyes' face after the Bolton game in February, they know he is approaching the end of his tether, and if he goes the decline will be rapid.
I think it is that fear – of Moyes leaving, the squad dissipating and the club ending up back where it was 10 years ago – is what is driving many of the supporters groups that are springing up at present. It's like a car crash they can see is about to happen but are powerless to stop it. The clock is ticking and there appears no solution in sight.
It seems ironic that NoW journalist Chris Bascombe has written this article - the first journalist to highlight the fans fears - just as the paper shuts down, but it may be a sign that the national media have finally twigged.
Is it all the boards fault? It could well be, but conversely they could be just as frustrated as the rest of us (in fact they probably are), doing the best they can in a difficult situation while taking a tremendous amount of flak in the process.
But no-one seems to know what to do and just because there isn't one person, reason or situation to blame doesn't mean the anger and frustration will go away. And so when articles like this come out it is like prodding a hornets nest; all of a sudden thousands of fuming Evertonians, looking for somewhere to channel their anger, have suddenly turned their eyes in Prentice's direction.
But unlike some of his fellow reporters at the News of the World, Prentice has at least got the chance to respond to the fans claims, and to be fair he did respond fairly and quickly to some of the mud slung at him in this response later in the day.
In it he concedes he may have got the tone of the article wrong - which I think is what enraged the fans so much - and many of his responses were fair and valid. The crux of the issue though is that they are the same same excuses we have heard for years. We are again left to cross fingers and hope for a Moyes led miracle again, grateful that things aren't any worse.
But that doesn't mean the fans will do it quietly, more-and-more Evertonians are growing vocally angry at the apparent inertia at the club, and much of the vitriol directed at Prentice was not only a release of building frustration that would have been aimed at anyone putting their head above the parapet, but because - in some fans eyes - the local media have failed to make the fans' voices heard.
The fact that the club banned the Echo from the training ground earlier this year following a series of articles looking into the future of the club just shows how tense and sensitive everybody is, as well as the rock and a hard place the Echo finds itself in.
I admire Prentice's attempt to try and inject some positivity into this tediously depressing pre-season, we all need cheering up. But pretending everything will be ok the way it is will not wash with the fans anymore. But neither will the wall of silence emanating from the club.
Something has to give, we can only hope it is for the benefit of the club in the long run.