These days, a football club changing its sponsor can be a real statement of intent. Especially if the new sponsor is based in an area where the club wants to establish a corporate presence. In the aftermath of the Japan/South Korea-hosted 2002 World Cup, Asia became a huge target area for English football’s top clubs. In the summer of 2004, Premier League outfit Everton signed up Chang as their sponsor.
Chang’s appointment came at a time when Everton FC was in a dire state on and off the pitch. In 2003/04, a disjointed Everton squad recorded the club’s worst Premier League points tally, finishing 17th in a league of 20 – the final ‘safe’ spot in the league above the relegation zone.
The club’s greatest talent in a generation, 18-year old Wayne Rooney was also set to depart the club, eventually ending up at Manchester United.
Everton were then considered favorites for relegation in 2004/05. Their opening game of the season seemed to justify those beliefs, with reigning champions Arsenal thrashing them 4-1 at Goodison Park on a hot August day. After a foul first week at the bottom of the league, Everton travelled to London team Crystal Palace, knowing that another defeat simply wasn’t an option.
Everton arrived in London having experienced no away win since December 2003. When Crystal Palace defender Mark Hudson scored an early goal, that run looked set to continue, but a long-range shot from Everton midfielder Thomas Gravesen levelled the scores. Gravesen then gave Everton the lead in the second half, before Marcus Bent made it 3-1 to ensure that the Merseyside team finally had lift-off.
From that moment on, everything clicked to great effect. While Everton will be in the middle of the long list when betting odds for the next Premier League title are released, the 2004/05 campaign was pivotal towards them regaining some of the respect they once commanded in England’s top league.
Between 28 August and 26 December, Everton lost only twice, and won 11 times. Every one of those 11 victories came by a one-goal margin, proving Everton’s efficiency in attack and tenacity in defence. The pinnacle of that run came on 11 December, when Everton beat hated rivals Liverpool 1-0 (in the 200th ‘Merseyside Derby’) for the first time in five years, opening up a 12-point gap above the Reds.
The winning goal, scored by midfielder Lee Carsley, was recently ranked sixth in the club’s official list of top ten goals scored against Liverpool in Merseyside Derby matches:
The start of 2005 brought about a dip in form, as Everton began the year by losing 5-2 at Tottenham. However, they did just enough to attain their target of Champions League football, with memorable wins at Aston Villa – their first win at Villa Park in 18 years – and at home to Crystal Palace (4-0) and Manchester United (1-0).
In addition to ending a ten-year wait for a win over United, the latter result has since gone down as one of the greatest nights Goodison Park has ever witnessed, and one of the best Everton performances this century. In the type of atmosphere that has been absent since the 2019/20 Premier League’s summer resumption, Champions League qualification was assured on 7 May 2005, when Everton beat Newcastle 2-0 through goals from David Weir and Tim Cahill.
The very first Everton squad bearing the Chang logo did not boast a great deal of natural talent, but they were like family on the pitch, each fighting for each other and their mutual cause. For that reason, it is unfair to single anyone out as the MVP of Everton’s fantastic 2004/05 campaign. That said, Tim Cahill is a clear standout player from that season, finishing it as the club’s top scorer, thanks to his aerial prowess.
Still hugely popular amongst Everton fans now, Cahill scored an incredible number of headed goals for a man under six-foot tall, but had a knack for being in the right place at the right time:
Behind Cahill, Thomas Gravesen was an incredible influence in midfield, doing everything from stopping dangerous opposition attacks, to roaming forward and playing key passes. His departure to Real Madrid in January 2005 heralded a quick downturn in Everton’s fortunes, and the efforts of veteran goalkeeper Nigel Martyn – a free signing from the year before – did much to ensure that Everton got over the line.
What happened next?
Everton’s presence in Thailand gained an extra boost in July 2005, when the Merseyside club – along with Bolton Wanderers, Manchester City and the Thailand national team, took part in the FA Premier League Asia Cup. Everton and Thailand faced off in the first semi-final, held at Rajamangala Stadium. Pichitphong Choeichiu and Marcus Bent exchanged first-half goals, with a 1-1 draw leading to a penalty shootout won 5-3 by Thailand. Jakkrit Bunkham scored the decisive penalty.
A short time later, Everton’s journey into the Champions League ended at the first hurdle in a two-game qualification playoff with Villarreal in August 2005. The start of 2005/06 – Chang’s second season with Everton – was disastrous, but a New Year revival prevented relegation. In the three years thereafter, Everton became one of the toughest sides in the league to beat, memorably reaching the FA Cup final in 2009.
Today, Chang remains Everton’s longest-serving main sponsor, with the shirt sponsorship deal ultimately running for thirteen years up until 2017.