It was a quiet, regular Saturday afternoon for me. Made all the better by Everton claiming their first three points on the road, making back-to-back league wins for the first time this season.
Brazilian duo Bernard and Richarlison dazzled an often bemused Leicester City defence, while Gylfi Sigurdsson scored a goal worthy of winning a cup final, let alone a league fixture.New signings look to be gelling. Richarlison continued to, so far, prove his worth *yes Paul Merson that is a not-so-subtle swipe at you* with a seamless transition from winger to central striker, while fellow Brazilian Bernard, a free transfer from Shakhtar Donetsk, is quickly becoming a darling of the Gwladys Street. These are not the only new faces that deserve a mention, but I will get to that.
Marco Silva, who has drawn a lot of support from Blues as well as his share of criticism, is a young, hungry manager with a mantra of playing attacking, exciting football. The Goodison supremo has instilled a pace and energy amongst his team and some optimism, albeit cautious, with the fanbase.
But there is another that deserves kudos. A man who assumed a role that still causes much debate amongst the hard-boiled football fan and the more modern thinker, Marcel Brands has come under the spotlight following a behind-the-scenes video of the Dutchman embracing each and every player as they made their way from the pitch to the dressing room. A simple act, but one that has seen supporters and media outlets heap praise on his actions, as well as make me really think about what a Director of Football is, and should be.
I was always sceptical about such roles. Having been just about old enough to remember traditional managers such as Brian Clough, who would have surely welcomed such an appointment to his backroom about as warmly as another approach from Leeds United, my philosophy was one of the manager picks the team, runs the team and directs the football; a theory that was given even more credence following Steve Walsh’s disappointing tenure in the very same role last season. But this made me see things in a different light. Management, like the game on the pitch, is evolving. Bosses are now Head Coaches and assume different roles, while delegating different responsibilities.
It is no longer Silva, rather Silva and Brands.
While I am not privy to the rudiments of the role, 56-year-old Brands clearly understands his job and has hit the ground running. Speaking of the club’s passionate fans and ambitions of Everton owner Farhad Moshiri, the former PSV Director of Football has made real progress in cleaning up a messy squad, full of high-earners and square pegs for round holes. Working alongside Silva, the Dutchman has addressed the wage bill by outing a lot of squad, while the incomings he has overseen have certainly improved the frailties so glaringly missed by last season’s administration.
Leighton Baines, a stalwart for Everton and one of its most dedicated servants, has long since been crying out for a replacement at left-back. While Walsh and Koeman attempted to corner the market on number 10s, which included record signing Sigurdsson, positions such as the left side of defence went unnoticed. That was until a Baines injury saw Cuco Martina, hopelessly out of his depth, assume the role and become a target of frustration for Evertonians.
Much like Ashley Williams, whose form took a frightening nosedive along with the Toffees clean-sheet record, the aforementioned duo exposed obvious problems that simply weren’t addressed.
Fast forward a few months and Lucas Digne, who joined for an initial £18m from Barcelona, and Kurt Zouma, a deadline day capture from Chelsea, have bolstered the ranks and earned positive reviews. Everton’s defence is by no means rock solid, although many Blues will hope that Yerry Mina will go a long way to solving that problem once fully fit, but there is a real sense that problems are at last being dealt with, rather than a scatter-gun approach of buying because we can. There is still work to be done, but my fervent belief is that Silva Brands (I like the sound of that) will already be addressing that as January looms. Everton have money, but these two seem to know where it needs to be spent.
So Mr Brands, consider me a convert of what a Director of Football does and feel free to carry on directing my football club in the right direction for a very long time.