It’s time to go. After almost 9 years in charge, David Moyes needs to cut the chord and say goodbye to Everton Football Club.
Moyes came to Goodison in 2002, arriving from Preston with a reputation as an up-and-coming young manager with plenty of ideas and a great deal of potential. Since then, Moyes has forged a reputation for himself as one of the most respected and capable managers in English football.
After guiding Everton to safety in his first season, Moyes built on an impressive 7th in 2002/3 to break the domination of the ‘Big Four’ in 2003/4 with a hard-earned and tremendously impressive fourth place finish. Unfortunately all their hard work in reaching the final Champions League qualification round was undone in two games against Villareal.
The financial reward of qualification for the Champions League proper would have been manna from Heaven for a club that was,and is, in dire financial straits. As always seems the way for Moyes at Everton though, it was a case of so near and yet so painfully far. Since then Everton have finished in the top 6 three times (including 5th twice) and have been all the way to Wembley in the 2009 FA Cup Final.
What more can Moyes do than he has already, in a position where the constraints placed upon him by a penniless board have restricted his net spending to an eighth of Tottenham’s, a fifth of Villa’s and even a third of Birmingham City’s, who have spent two seasons in the Championship, since 2003?
It could be argued that, on the rare occasions he has been provided with reasonable funds, Moyes has failed to invest the money particularly wisely. Breaking the club’s transfer record 4 times under Moyes’s tenure, only Marouane Fellaini (£15m) can be reasonably seen as a good deal for Everton; £6m for James Beattie, £8.6m for Andrew Johnson and £11.25m for Yakubu (despite one very good season), given the return on the pitch from each of those players, all register as poor investments.
But the vital signings of key players, Tim Cahill, Phil Neville and Mikel Arteta (each signed for under £4m), as well as the bargain price paid out for future star Seamus Coleman (£150,000), suggest that Moyes is hardly without skill and, perhaps more importantly, shrewdness in the cut-throat dealings of the transfer market.
Indeed the success of Phil Neville, who was subject of a recent transfer bid from high-flying Spurs, is a testament to one of Moyes’s best qualities: his ability to bring the best out of his players.
Everton is not a team of superstars, far from it, it’s hard even to name a star player at Goodison Park, but it is a team, generally, of over-achievers. While a player like Arteta, who is clearly of a superior technical ability, could play for most teams in Europe, many of the other members of Moyes’s side have, through dedication and the tutelage of their manager, risen above what seemed to be their limitations to provide Moyes with credible and useful Premier League players.
Phil Neville left Manchester United with a reputation as a hard-working but limited penalty-magnet; under Moyes he has emerged as an inspirational first-choice player and club captain , who has made over 450 Premier League appearances (50 more than his recently-retired brother, Gary).
In 2004, Moyes plucked Tim Cahill from the relative obscurity of the Lion’s (New) Den at Millwall, and the attacking midfielder, one of the most effective headers in the penalty area, has become a stalwart for club and country. Moyes also helped to develop Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott (whose departure earned Everton a very tidy transfer fee) and Leighton Baines – all of whom have become England internationals. Equally, there are the largely ignored, yet quietly efficient Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert – neither of whom sets the world on fire with their form, but whose experience and work-rate help make the Everton team tick.
Nine years is a long time, especially in football, where it is sometimes hard just to keep up with who’s where, such is the frequency of managerial casualties, but the exemplary loyalty of Everton’s board should not be reason for Moyes to stay in a job to which he has given his all for the best of a decade, with little backing to show for it. Moyes has proven his loyalty by remaining as long as he has, but there comes a time where ambition will finally outweigh fidelity and that time is now.
Moyes, like his players, has over-achieved at Everton; the likes of Aston Villa, Newcastle, even Manchester City would fall over themselves for a 4th placed finish and a FA cup final appearance – two things that none of those clubs has achieved in the last 8 seasons, but that Moyes has managed to achieve in the face of an almost unworkable budget and the unhelpful, if understandable pressure from sentimental fans wanting a return to the golden days of the 80s.
The question then is where to? The likes of Arsenal and Manchester United have legendary managers who are extremely unlikely to get sacked at all, let alone soon. However both Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson are reaching the end of their illustrious careers; few would immediately consider Moyes for the positions they will leave vacant, but despite his experience, Moyes is still only 47 – a man with many years ahead of him in football management.
Tottenham too are likely to require a new manager in the next year or so, with Harry Redknapp the hot favourite for the England job in 2012 and while many would argue that Spurs would be a step sideways, the crucial difference at White Hart Lane is simple – money.
Tottenham have, under ENIC, backed their managers (rightly or wrongly) with large transfer funds – a luxury Moyes would surely appreciate. Moyes would almost certainly be better backed at Aston Villa and Sunderland too, should such jobs become available. A man of patience, Moyes would not have to wait too long before an opportunity befitting his standing came along; only last year Sir Alex Ferguson said of his compatriot,
“When you take everything into consideration, he’s done an incredible job at Everton. He has not had the resources of other clubs but…the signings he has made have been terrific and it means he has continuity for years.”
The frustration of his time at Everton is building, and though Moyes puts a brave face on in interviews and diplomatically side-steps questions about the club’s lack of spending, the shackles of Everton’s necessarily miserly board have held back the Scotsman too long.
Amazingly Moyes is, according to bookmakers, one of the Premier League managers most likely to be sacked, an extraordinary situation considering what he has achieved, but should Everton take such a step, it would lose the club one if its best assets, and free Moyes to pursue his ambitions and finally achieve his goals elsewhere.
Do you think Moyes should stay or go? Twitter: @stuartcfootball
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