Ronald Koeman knows quite a bit about football. He could play as an attacking defender or in midfield and both his passing ability, shooting and deadly free-kicks enabled him to star alongside native Netherlands greats van Basten, Rijkaard and Gullit. He played for and managed each of the top three football clubs in his home country, winning numerous honours.
Ronald also knows quite a bit about coastlines. He located the east coast of Spain and scored the winning goal for Barcelona in the 1992 European Cup before it became the Champions League. We remember Ronald for this reason in much the same way as we remember Howard Wilkinson in those grainy television days before Sky gave us the Premier League’s lazy commentaries on ‘Super Sundays.’
Ronald’s reputation across Europe grew and grew but he never forgot his love of a good coastline. In 2014 Ronald joined Southampton after most of their best ships had sailed to the North-West of England yet navigated them to their best-ever Premier League finish. Being at Southampton of course means failing to finish what you start – it must be some kind of contractual clause that all new managers sign – and so he headed for another new coastline and swapped the Solent for the Mersey by joining Everton.
Things had looked very good for The Toffees for a while until they didn’t. Roberto Martinez just didn’t seem to be tough enough and his (often mysterious) tactics eventually got stuck in everyone’s teeth before he ended up in the much softer centre of Belgian chocolates.
Ronald knows quite a bit about history and acknowledged straight away that “Everton is a club with a great history and real ambition.” Even accomplished managers and players like Ronald, with a great wealth of maritime knowledge, know that it takes much more than ambition to turn ships round – especially if players cannot raise their anchors and run a bit faster, pass a bit better and shoot a bit more accurately.
The squad he inherited had lost their compass but, much worse, had stopped sniffing the sea air, bracing themselves for the battles ahead and saying to each other ‘we could conquer the world.’
Ronald saw that things were holed below the waterline and so brought in three players who were aged 27 and two others in their 30’s. Unfortunately, they seem to be suffering from rust (and Bolasie wasn’t that good before his injury either) or are held back by the twisted tentacles of football agents.
On the plus side, Ronald has thrown Niasse overboard and is making Cleverley walk the plank to see if there are any signs of life. Gueye could be the new Kante and Tom Davies shows youthful promise and seems to want to win which is always a bonus. Lookman may also have arrived with the ambition to be the new Lukaku… at least he won’t have to keep on playing for Martinez.
The real issue for Ronald, though, is that he keeps harping on about Morgan Schneiderlin and the need for new players. Another Flying Dutchman was eventually grounded for trying to do the same at Manchester United – you know, a few miles inland along the canal.
So, if Ronald doesn’t want to make that kind of history at Everton perhaps he needs to focus on his charts a bit more. Is he searching for a blueprint for an exciting long-term future for the club or just using the stars to navigate safely back to port and a nice mid-table finish?
It all seems a bit of a mess at the moment. Everton fans may already be rather sick, not of the sea and the rollers that Ronald has brought with him, but of going ahead at ‘small places’ like Watford, only to lose; or against Champions Leicester in the Cup, only to lose. That is not the kind of consistency that is needed to help Everton win something after more than 20 years on the rocks.
Ronald is at the helm and needs to show much more about why he is the best captain they could have and why he can lead them to the front of the flotilla, rather than blaming depth charges, scurvy or even his own players (and not just Ross Barkley) as he did on Saturday for his own failure to get the best out of each and every player to wear an Everton shirt.