There’s something strange happening at Everton and fans of the Toffees are starting to get excited.
It’s been some time since there was genuine direction at Goodison Park – a structure in place on and off the pitch to provide short-term interest and long-term hope for those who spend their money filling the Gwladys Road End.
But over the past six months, things have started to change. Now there is belief. Now there is even the slightest hint of expectation.
Between them, owner Farhad Moshiri, manager Ronald Koeman and head of recruitment Steve Walsh have generated quiet momentum.
Moshiri has shown a commitment to investing his substantial wealth in the betterment of his team, both in terms of transfers and infrastructure.
Intelligent, money-sense moves have added millions to the club’s coffers annually, most notably the five-year bumper training ground sponsorship of Finch Farm which will net the Toffees £75million.
A new stadium is on the agenda, too, with blueprints for a 50,000-capacity arena on Bramley Moore Dock dragging the club well and truly into the 21st century.
A significant outlay is expected in the summer window, too, which will only whet the appetite of fans further.
With Walsh in charge, Everton have the right man to find cut-price talent hiding in the strangest places.
This was the man, after all, who plucked Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante from nowhere and gave them the platform to become stars at Leicester. He was also involved in the acquisition of Idrissa Gueye from Aston Villa weeks after arriving on Merseyside in the summer – the midfielder has turned out to be one of the most influential players in the top flight this term.
Add a bulging transfer war chest to Walsh’s proven track record and it’s little wonder there’s a buzz about Goodison.
Then there’s Koeman – a football thinker who toyed with his Everton team until he found the right combinations, brushing off early criticism and establishing himself as a shrewd tactician and strong manager of men.
His insistence on his midfielders being versatile – strong going forward but equally resilient in defence – has resulted in fewer goals conceded but just as many scored and whoever is selected in that central three has bought into his mantra.
The form book reflects that improvement. Everton are 12 points better off than the equivalent stage last season; they’ve found the net exactly the same number of times but conceded almost 25 per cent fewer goals.
Koeman has the fans behind him, too. And, as any football manager will tell you, that makes life so much easier.
Even the imminent departure of Romelu Lukaku – open and honest about wanting to progress his career away from Everton – has not dampened the enthusiasm at Goodison.
Though his 21 goals will be hard to replace, Moshiri’s millions, Walsh’s wisdom and Koeman’s common sense provide the perfect combination to find a suitable successor.
There are goals elsewhere in the team, too. Even taking out Lukaku, Everton have scored more than each of the bottom three sides in the division and only one fewer than 13th-placed Burnley. In fact, the Toffees have more individual scorers than any other top-flight side this term – Dominic Calvert-Lewin becoming the 15th man in blue to find the back of the net when he registered against Hull.
Finally, perhaps, after two years of sleepwalking under Roberto Martinez and the so-close-but-no-cigar reign of David Moyes, Everton are on the brink of challenging for silverware.