Journal De Bruxelles - Reality of relegation threat dawning on sinking Everton

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Reality of relegation threat dawning on sinking Everton
Reality of relegation threat dawning on sinking Everton

Reality of relegation threat dawning on sinking Everton

Everton's Premier League clash with Newcastle on Thursday has been labelled the struggling club's "biggest game for 20 years" as they stare down the barrel of a financially ruinous relegation.

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Frank Lampard's arrival at Goodison Park to replace the unpopular Rafael Benitez as manager has not had the desired effect.

A dismal run of eight defeats in their last nine league games has left Everton out of the relegation zone only on goal difference.

Games in hand on all their relegation rivals should offer some hope, but there is little confidence on the blue half of Liverpool that they can escape after taking only nine points from the last 60 on offer.

Following the visit of Newcastle, Lampard's men face four of the top six in West Ham, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea, plus a relegation six-pointer against Burnley.

"Everton's home game versus Newcastle is their biggest game in 20 years," said former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, himself a boyhood Everton fan.

"I don't think Evertonians believe they're going to stay up. Their fixtures are horrific."

Relegation at any time would be a major financial blow to a club that has lost a combined £260 million ($339 million) between 2017 and 2020, with accounts for the 2020/21 season also expected to show a huge deficit.

Making their situation even more grim, Everton have already lost a major revenue stream in Alisher Usmanov, who has been sanctioned by the UK government for alleged links to Russian President Vladimir Putin amid the war in Ukraine.

Everton have suspended sponsorship agreements with Usmanov's USM Holdings, which had naming rights to the club's training ground and first option on naming rights for the new £500 million stadium -- due to open in 2024 -- as well as Russian companies Megafon and Yota.

Years of mismanagement at all levels are coming back to bite the Toffees.

Everton owner Farhad Moshiri has funded over half-a-billion pounds in transfers since his takeover in 2016, the vast majority of which has produced little return on the field.

- 'Absolute disgrace' -

Many more millions have been frittered away in pay-offs for the sackings of former managers Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce, Marco Silva and Benitez as Everton have consistently changed not just the man in the dugout but what they are looking for in a boss.

"No matter what manager you are picking it is not working," added Carragher. "The players are an absolute disgrace at Everton, they really are."

Only Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal have won more English top-flight titles than Everton.

Their glory days of the 1980s may be long gone, but they have been a constant presence in the Premier League era.

Not since 1954 have Everton been out of the top flight and, despite Carragher's jibes, the players appear to appreciate how perilous their position is.

"There is nowhere to hide and it's time to step up," said Everton defender Mason Holgate after Sunday's 1-0 home defeat against Wolves.

"If you look at the squad we've got we shouldn't be anywhere near here."

Former Chelsea boss Lampard is only eight games into his reign, but there will not be many matches bigger than Newcastle's visit on Thursday if he is to avoid the embarrassment of a relegation on his CV.

"It has been a long time the players haven't won games. It's impossible to change that overnight, without working and fighting for something to go in your favour," Lampard said.

"If it goes in our favour on Thursday, it looks very different from today. There is a long road to get out of this, we can't rely on one result to change it in a positive manner.

"We can't take one result when we really wanted to win and didn't and feel too downcast."