Ashley Young settles in at Everton after being signed up by Sean Dyche – Getty Images/Tony McArdle
Sean Dyche’s need to be inventive in the transfer market has been vividly demonstrated as he embarks on his Everton rebuild by making 38-year-old Ashley Young his first Goodison signing.
A veteran Bosman deal on a one-year contract emphasises that the here and now is top of Dyche’s agenda above any long-term plan, especially as Young arrives days after a bright Academy hopeful – 17-year-old Ishe Samuels-Smith – was sold to Chelsea for a fee thought to be around £4 million.
Before veering dangerously into the realms of ageism, it should be noted Young is hardly a typical Premier League 38-year-old.
The former Manchester United winger started 23 of Unai Emery’s 29 games in charge of Aston Villa in 2023, making 32 appearances in all last season, so the cliche about age being no more than a number is more applicable to him than most.
His commitment to retaining an elite fitness level and professionalism will be a positive influence in and around the Everton training ground and dressing room, with the club issuing statistics claiming Young was in the ‘highest three per cent’ of players across Europe’s top-five leagues in terms of making successful tackles as a full-back last season. Dyche believes he will be a leader in the mould of Seamus Coleman.
“Ashley is a top-class professional whose record of team and personal achievements during a successful career make him an excellent addition to our squad,” said Dyche.
“I’ve known Ashley for many years, having been his captain when he first broke through at Watford, and his qualities both on and off the pitch will prove valuable.
“His impressive statistics from last season, which were among some of the best in Europe, highlight what he can bring to Everton.”
Young himself insisted: “I’ve always said age is just a number for me. I feel as fit as I have ever done.”
It has been a painful descent since Koeman was given a £150 million kitty
For all that, there is no disguising how the deal underlines the financial limitations upon Dyche in seeking to avoid another relegation battle at Goodison Park. As his predecessors Frank Lampard and Rafa Benitez can testify, successive Everton coaches are inheriting increasingly complicated situations requiring quirkiness to improve the squad.
Dyche wants at least another four additions before the start of the season, which will require all the ingenuity he demonstrated during his time at Burnley.
Such resourcefulness in the transfer market – seeking free transfers and bargains – serves only to re-emphasise how much majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri has compromised the sprawling vision presented when he arrived at Goodison Park. It has been a painful descent since Moshiri’s first Goodison appointment, Ronald Koeman, was given a welcome kitty of £150 million and the club thought they were buying next-gen talent.
Given the cloud hovering over them heading into the new season, Everton have to tiptoe their way through this transfer window amid the fear it could be the last available in which to recruit for a while, if October’s independent commission into previous alleged indiscretions imposes a transfer embargo. Even if Moshiri could spend his way out of trouble by dipping further into his personal fortune, risking potential breaches of profit and sustainability rules would not be the shrewdest strategy with legal eyes fixed upon him.
Before the move for Young, Everton’s biggest deals since May were outgoings.
Everton fans will be frustrated if Ishe Samuels-Smith becomes a success at Chelsea – Getty Images/Clive Howes
Senior players such as Yerry Mina and Tom Davies have left at the end of the contracts, and Conor Coady’s loan spell was not renewed or turned into a permanent deal – which should reduce the wage bill in the coming season. Youngster Ellis Simms was sold to Coventry City. Samuels-Smith’s move to Chelsea will be the most depressing if he fulfils his potential at Stamford Bridge.
As with Lampard and Benitez, Everton’s transactions appear in large part to be geared towards reassuring the Premier League that they are doing everything within their power to work within the spending limits, while ensuring they will only invest what they are earning this summer.
Part of Everton’s mitigation in October will be that their cost cutting has been obvious in recent transfer windows and they worked alongside the rule-makers so as not to overstep. Serious errors have been made in the past – especially during the first years of Moshiri’s reign and later when he indulged some of Carlo Ancelotti’s requests for high-salaried stars such as James Rodriguez when many at the club advised about the costs – but there has been a modest budget since the Italian’s exit.
Had Everton spent any less in the last two years, they would have been relegated, while if new deals had not been agreed with stars such as Jordan Pickford the club would be in the process of being asset stripped.
Thus far, Dyche has accepted the situation having joined Everton fully aware of the financial limitations. Indeed, last season he openly admitted that his reputation for getting the most from a team without having a fortune to spend contributed to him being appointed.
It remains to be seen how soon frustration boils over if results and performances signal another eight months of grind.
For now, Dyche is hoping his message spells out the reality and will buy him the time and patience he needs. There is no clearer statement of the market he is operating in than the recruiting of a 38-year-old and sacrificing of an academy player to fund further deals.
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