x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Money divides the Merseyside neighbours

While Liverpool have spent big, their city rivals have been able only to watch and try to hang on to their best players, writes Richard Jolly.

Everton’s Victor Anichebe, left, clashes with Liverpool’s Martin Kelly in last season’s derby.
Everton’s Victor Anichebe, left, clashes with Liverpool’s Martin Kelly in last season’s derby.

While Liverpool have spent big, their city rivals have only been able to watch and try to hang on to their best players, writes Richard Jolly

Geographically, Stanley Park separates Goodison Park from Anfield. Everton and Liverpool are half a mile apart and, in the last two seasons, the neighbours have been next to one another in the final Premier League table.

In another respect, however, they are worlds apart, divided by some £115 million (Dh659.4m).

The sum of Liverpool's outgoings in the past nine months indicates the different worlds they inhabit. Fenway Sports Group, the owners who charge themselves with reviving ailing institutions, have provided a level of financial support the lifelong Evertonian Bill Kenwright cannot.

While all but £40m of Liverpool's 2011 expenditure has been recouped, one Scottish manager, Kenny Dalglish, ranks among the big spenders; another, Everton's David Moyes, is the Premier League's resident pauper.

The nominal fee paid for the Greek teenager Apostolos Vellios represents his only outlay. In contrast, today's derby debutants in red could include Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Jose Enrique and Sebastian Coates. The returning Craig Bellamy, who arrived without a transfer fee but with a substantial salary is the other arrival in Liverpool's greatest display of extravagance.

With the additions to midfield, the 19-year-old Jonjo Shelvey, who has made 22 first-team appearances for Liverpool, joined the Championship side Blackpool on loan until December 31.

The consequence is that Dalglish is charged with reversing Liverpool's fortunes after two demoralising seasons, but granted the opportunity to improve. The task facing Moyes is to repeat past successes with lesser resources, a balancing act that is beyond most.

Everton's attributes, spirit and togetherness, organisation and determination, allied with no little quality, brought a memorable triumph in the equivalent fixture 12 months ago. Liverpool were not so much defeated as destroyed before Roy Hodgson further damaged his credibility by declaring it was the best performance of his time in charge.

To read Moyes's words that day, Evertonians could be forgiven for feeling nostalgic about their recent past. "In the past we've probably lacked the quality to match Liverpool," he said. "I don't think we do now. We've got players of real quality who could play for the top clubs."

Sadly for him, that proved a self-fulfilling prophecy: Mikel Arteta and Steven Pienaar, two of his class acts, now play for Liverpool's principal rivals for fourth place, Arsenal and Tottenham.

In addition, Tim Cahill, Everton's record scorer in post-war derbies, is in doubt with the shin injury he sustained in last week's defeat to Manchester City. A goalscoring midfielder by trade, Cahill constituted the one-man forward line at the Etihad Stadium.

It is in attack that the disparity is most pronounced. The £58m strike force of Suarez and Carroll might prove more expensive than Everton's team and substitutes combined. But, as Dalglish recognises, Everton can be obduracy personified, specialising in frustrating heralded opponents.

"You have to earn things you want in this life and if we want three points from Goodison then we will need to stand up and be counted because they will make it difficult for us," he said.

It is a meeting of Glaswegian managers who both played for Celtic, but with marked differences. If Moyes has too few selection options, Dalglish has too many. Dirk Kuyt, another derby specialist, may start on the bench, having lost his place during the expensive makeover.

"They have had a massive amount of money brought into the club to try and kick them on a bit," Everton's long-serving local Leon Osman said. "But for a few years now we have had a strong nucleus of players and a good side."

That core possess an understanding of what the game means. "I think it is one of the biggest other than playing for your country in a World Cup," Cahill said.

"The derby is magical. It is not only the day of the game, it is after, it is before, it is the grudges, the banter. For those 90 minutes the whole of Liverpool stops and you have countries around the world watching."

With ambitions downgraded, beating Liverpool ranks as Everton's major objective. Their rivals have other aims. "If we get another three points this weekend it can be a very good start for us," Enrique said. "If we play our football, we can beat anyone."

This, however, is not just any game, especially not, no matter how much he downplays it, to Dalglish.

The manager has come full circle. The 4-4 draw at Goodison Park 20 years ago was the last game of his first spell in charge of Liverpool, a stressed Dalglish uniting a city in shock by resigning two days later.

The turnaround in his fortunes has taken time, but while he rewinds 20 years, Everton's aim is to turn the clock back to 2010.

sports@thenational.ae