The thinking goes that with both newly promoted Fulham and Blackburn more than equipped to survive in the Premiership, Everton are next in line for the drop after performing an act of escapology at the fag end of more than a few seasons in recent memory.
The summer months suggested that Premiership well being is not going to get any easier for Walter Smith. First of all his prize striking asset Francis Jeffers headed south to Arsenal in exchange for a reported £10m, then, last week, highly coveted defender Michael Ball completed his switch to Smith’s former club Rangers.
The combined deals are worth an estimated £16m to the Merseysiders, but Everton are in debt and profits are more likely to be enjoyed by the bank manager than the team manager.
Smith was, however, allocated sufficient funds to secure the services of Canadian striker Tomasz Radzinski from Anderlecht. The striker was joined by boyhood Evertonian Alan Stubbs who joined on a free transfer from Celtic.
While the newcomers have yet to be judged, fans will accept that it would be a lot to ask for them to signal an immediate upturn in Everton’s fortunes — difficult to swallow for the faithful considering the buzz emanating from across Stanley Park.
The Goodison lull could not have come at a worse time for fans of a blue persuasion in a vibrant two-club city. Liverpool are stacking up the silverware with money seemingly no object, Everton are being forced to sell prize assets to balance the books.
Whatever the fiscal reality, such moves do not sit well with supporters.
To compound the doom, rumours swept the city in late summer suggesting Gazza’s days in an Everton shirt are over along with his career. This particular line has been denied.
Opening day victory at Charlton will do much to lift spirits and heighten the belief that this need not be a season of struggle from beginning to end.
Smith has to cut his cloth accordingly at present, but exciting times do loom. A magnificent stadium development on the Kings Dock is in the pipeline, a move that will allow Everton to once again grow as a club and compete with clubs who have left them behind in recent years.
In the meantime, Smith’s brief is simple, keep the club in the Premiership while awaiting better times ahead.
Season 2001-02 does not, on the face of it, appear to hold out much in the way of hope for Everton’s loyal band of supporters if the predictors of doom are to be listened to.