Yesterday (March 14) marked a significant anniversary in the history of Everton Football Club. It was ten years to the day that David Moyes was appointed manager. Only Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, of all current managers in the Football League, have kept their jobs longer. It’s well-known that being a top manager is one of life’s more precarious existences, and becoming more so. Hereford United recently sacked their manager, and that meant that more than half of the top 92 English clubs have changed this season alone. While Ferguson and Wenger have also been the most successful managers over that period – and therefore there’s a lot to be said for continuity – the general lack of longevity makes Moyes’ achievement all the more remarkable.
Ten years earlier in 1992, of course, Everton were one of the “Big 5”, having won two of the previous five championships. But of these clubs, Everton, through a failure to anticipate media-led changes and act accordingly, had fallen from their elevated position and by 2002 expectations were lower. This has helped Moyes undoubtedly, as his reputation rests in the main on his teams punching above their weight. Another thing in his favour is his relationship with Chairman “Blue Bill” Kenwright. Kenwright is rich by any standard except of that required for megalomaniac Premier football club owners, and would, I gather, love to sell the club to one of these people so that Everton can once again compete right at the top without having to make silk purses from sows’ ears. But Blue Bill, if nothing else, has the best interests of the club at heart and won’t just sell to anybody. It’s a hard sell, anyway, as the antiquated Goodison Park is a major millstone.
But Blue Bill has invariably kept faith with his managers – Walter Smith, who constantly bought badly for too much then played his team in wrong positions, stayed far, far too long. In the case of Moyes, this faith has clearly been for the better, despite not yet winning any silverware at all. (Although to be fair, I was at the game against Manchester United in 2004 where my namesake, Big Dunc, scored the 85th minute goal that virtually assured us of Champions League qualification, and it was just like winning the league).
Net spending on players has not been that bad – Everton rank 11th since the start of the Premier league, although only a tenth of that of Chelsea or Manchester City, this is about the same as Stoke, Bolton and Wolves, and about half that of Fulham, Newcastle or Sunderland. Clearly, performance has exceeded all of those clubs, not to mention that in the last ten years they’ve had an average of six managers each, and Newcastle have had eleven, plus caretakers. It’s only in the last three years, since the signing of Fellaini, that belt-tightening has taken over with a vengeance, though.
Moyes hasn’t got everything right by any means – Kroldrup, Beattie, van der Meyde (?!?) – and why he brought McFadden back is a mystery to me, but seems to have a talent for acquiring players thought just below the highest level and getting them to achieve that status, such as Cahill, Jagielka, Baines, Lescott, Arteta. I’m also not sure what striker best fits Moyes’ system, or even if there is such a thing. Hopefully Jelavic will prove me wrong, but apart from a short period of form from Andy Johnson, all Everton strikers since 2002 have ultimately been failures. And it seems that lack of goals have been Moyes’ and Everton’s biggest problem right through the last ten years. Who knows what would have happened had Rooney stayed? Having said that, it makes Moyes’ achievements with the rest of his system even more meritorious. With more prolific goalscorers Everton would surely be a European fixture and his reputation would be even higher.
He obviously has many managerial talents, as this BBC appraisal shows. But I would say his best quality is his determination to approach the game in an honest manner. We saw this only this week, after the disastrous result at Anfield, where he clearly accepted the score as a result of Everton’s own errors. In an occupation noted for excuses, Moyes’ approach has always been refreshing.
Every time one of the “big clubs” has a vacancy, Moyes’ name is in the frame – for good reason. It’s said that he’ll be off to Tottenham in the summer if Harry Redknapp takes the poisoned chalice that is England. I have my doubts that that will happen but the pressure on Moyes to cement his reputation with one of these clubs won’t diminish. I’m not sure what would happen should Tottenham or some other club with money to burn come in for him – there was talk of him going to Newcastle a little while ago, but that was never going to happen, as they’re not as big as they think they are. But I would like to think that he realises how fortunate he’s been, alongside his obvious talent. Everton have been steadfastly loyal to Moyes and he’s repaid it. Long may he continue to do so. Here’s to the next ten years!