Everton majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri has revealed that the Toffees are close to appointing a new permanent manager and insists his "first priority" is to appoint Ronald Koeman's successor despite failing to do so for over a month.
The troubled Toffees have not had a permanent manager for nearly five weeks since relieving Koeman of his duties in October. Under-23 boss David Unsworth has manfully stepped into the breach, but the former full-back has overseen four defeats and just one win during his second spell as caretaker manager at Goodison Park.
A host of names ranging from Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone to former England boss Sam Allardyce, but the Everton board have not yet filled the void left by Koeman. Watford manager Marco Silva was deemed to be Moshiri's first-choice, but the Hornets told the Goodison hierarchy in no uncertain terms that they will not consider parting with the former Estoril boss.
The failure to prise Silva away from Hertfordshire was undoubtedly a setback, but Moshiri believes the beleaguered Blues are close to finding a new manager after a month of conjecture and frustration.
"The first priority is to stabilise the club and finalise the appointment of a manager. We are close," Moshiri told talkSPORT, relayed by the Liverpool Echo. "It's best to say nothing more until a new management team is appointed."
The former Arsenal shareholder also discussed a three-man shortlist that Everton are currently deliberating over, but it is extremely unlikely that a prospective new manager will be appointed before the trip to Southampton, which is looking like a six-pointer given the dire straits both clubs find themselves in.
Unsworth, who was originally Everton chairman Bill Kenwright's favourite to be handed the reins on Merseyside permanently, will be in the dugout at the St Mary's stadium and is poised to ring the changes ahead of the clash with Mauricio Pellegrino's side after overseeing a catastrophic performances by Everton's fringe players against Atalanta, who ran out 5-1 winners at Goodison Park on Thursday.
'Rhino' saw the Europa League dead rubber as a chance for some to showcase their abilities ahead of a gruelling fixture period, but, like the 13,000 Everton fans that saw their side concede five at home for the second time in just over a month, he was left appalled by what was served up.
"I'd like to think every single player is hurting the way I am at the moment and if they are not then they shouldn't be here at this great club," Unsworth was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
"The minimum requirement is 100 per cent effort. Only those players will know themselves when they look themselves in the mirror at night. The players who have been asking me for opportunities to play in the first team were given that.
"I asked the players to make it difficult for me to leave them out of the team on Sunday and the majority have probably made it very easy for me. The manner we capitulated just isn't acceptable and the players know that.