This issue of the Raven marks our first Football Fansite Profile, in which we will hear from those on the masthead of our favorite football sites around the globe. We start with ToffeeWeb, a site Rog has been reading since the days of dial-up modems. Lyndon Lloyd, who serves as the site’s chief writer, designer, developer and co-owner, as well as the editor and publisher of 1878 Magazine, provides us with insight.
MiB: Give us some background on ToffeeWeb. The who, what, when, where and why it began. And how’s it’s grown since its inception.
Lloyd: Bizarrely enough, the site was started by a Finn named Marko Poutiainen in 1994 at a time when there were hardly any football websites around, let alone ones devoted to Everton FC! He “met” Michael Kenrick, a Liverpudlian ex-pat living in Seattle, in one of the early chat rooms and recruited him to translate historical content related to the Toffees for publication on the Web and things grew from there. With the addition of match coverage, news and profiles, it became a fully-fledged online resource at a time when the club itself still didn’t have a proper online presence of its own.
Around that time, I founded Evertonia.com as a side-project while I was doing my Masters degree at Swansea University, one which developed over the next few years as a more editorially and design-focused alternative to ToffeeWeb (as Michael’s site had now come to be known). Eventually, though, we came to the mutual realization that there seemed to be little sense in the two of us running such similar sites separately and in late 2000 we agreed to merge the two behemoths into one. We elected to keep ToffeeWeb’s name and Evertonia’s design aesthetic and so began months of gruelling content migration! The rest, as they say, is history — ToffeeWeb remains the longest-running and most in-depth independent Everton site on the Web with a thriving community and a legion of readers.
MiB: This season’s most surprising storyline at Everton is …
Lloyd: I would say the speed with which Gerard Deulofeu has become such a vital cog in our attacking machine. He has always had fantastic ability and was regarded as the hottest prospect of his generation in Barcelona’s youth academy, but questions have been raised over his consistency, his temperament and weaknesses in the defensive side of his game. Certainly during his first spell on loan at Goodison Park in 2013-14 and then at Sevilla last season it looked as though he might not fulfil his massive potential which is probably why Roberto Martinez was able to land him for just £4.2m this past summer.
I think many of us felt it would take him a while to settle back into the rigours of the Barclays Premier League but he has been a revelation for us so far. He still has plenty of room for improvement, particularly in terms of performing consistently week in, week out, but what we’re discovering is that he only needs to turn on the magic a few times a game to be hugely effective. Romelu Lukaku is certainly enjoying having him around — half of his goals so far have been created by Deulofeu!
MiB: The one thing I would change at Everton is …
Lloyd: It’s common knowledge that Everton need new ownership or significant outside investment to enable it to compete with the huge resources of those clubs that were once our peers before the inception of the Premier League in 1992. If there was one thing I could make happen with the click of my fingers, it would be that. There have been rumblings of interest from America, with Kansas Sporting Group holding talks earlier this year, but nothing concrete appears to be on the horizon.
With the right backers in place, we could resolve our ongoing stadium problem — Goodison Park is a wonderful sporting theatre dripping in history but it’s in dire need of renovation — and have the funds needed to build the team out into one capable of competing for and in the Champions League.
MiB: Look into your crystal ball. How does the rest of the season play out for Everton?
Lloyd: There’s a growing feeling that Roberto Martinez’s dynamic young side is really starting to gel and that there is opportunity to finally achieve this season. With Chelsea struggling, Arsenal hit by injuries and Manchester United still not finding their groove, the top four of the Premier League could be wide open this season. In the Capital One Cup, Everton are in the semi-finals and just three games from ending a 21-year trophy drought.
The question — as it was two seasons ago in his first season in charge — is whether Martinez’s team have the ruthlessness and the single-minded drive to keep grinding out victories or whether they will continue to drop silly points from winning positions and battle to beat the very top clubs in the division. My suspicion is that without the addition of a top-class attacking midfielder and, perhaps, a similar-caliber striker, in the January window we will fall just short of Champions League qualification in the League. But a cup final isn’t out of the question.