So, what a week for two of English Footballs heavy weights. In truth, it all felt rather predictable if not surreal. Predictable in the sense that many Evertonians have long suggested Moyes may one day take over from Sir Alex Ferguson but surreal in so much as he's become part of the furniture at Goodison, after an eleven year trophy less managerial spell that is almost unheard of in the modern day game.
Back in 1986 when Alex Ferguson - as he simply was back then - took over the Manchester United hot seat, the football landscape was very different. Putting aside the European ban, this was a different era of football and of football dominance, one in which I was still in my informative years and my own childhood expectations were that the great club I supported would always be winning silverware.
Everton had come narrowly close to completing a unique treble the year before, winning the 1985 League title, a fiercely competitive European Cup Winners' Cup (defeating German powerhouse Bayern Munich in an epic semi final along the way), and were only denied the treble when medallion rattler Ron Atkinson's Manchester United beat Everton 1-0 after extra time in the FA Cup Final, only days after the European final. But, as I say, it was a different time; Everton had played 63 games that season using little more than 15 or 16 players and the FA Cup Final, especially extra-time, took it's toll on what had been an epic season. It makes a slight mockery of the best looked after footballers we've ever seen complaining about too many games when they're in a squad of 30 players. Everton had been so dominant in 1985, they won the league title by - at that time - a record points margin and included a complete 5-0 demolition of Manchester United at Goodison Park. A year later, Alex Ferguson took charge of United and started his quest towards breaking up the Merseyside footballing monopoly. The decade finished with the Merseyside giants as the top two clubs in English league history, Liverpool winning the last of their 18 league titles and Everton having won the last of our 9 in 1987.
That tide started to turn at the beginning of the next decade. Ferguson's first trophy was the FA Cup in 1990, followed by his first league title in 1993, and we all know the story from there.
So, does Moyes have what it takes to carry on the incredible job Ferguson has done? It's truly a tough question. I think, with Ferguson still in the background, he has a much bigger helping hand than most in the game. He's going into a club that runs like a well oiled machine, one with a winning mentality, and one that has money to invest in world class players. That's not easy to balls up, but the weight of expectation and the long shadow cast by Ferguson will take some adjustment for any new manager coming in, no matter how tough their mentality. In that regard, Moyes is a solid choice. He has a steely resolve, commitment and strong work ethic, which will no doubt see him through. I would be surprised with the facilities, players and funds available to him, if he were to win nothing over the course of the next two years, but I don't expect him to be a raving success. If he is to win the United fans over, he is going to have to drastically change the footballing philosophies he demonstrated at Everton. Some may say, and Moyes may argue this himself, that he had to adopt certain footballing strategies as an approach to dealing with the restrained conditions he and his team were working under at Everton. However, I know plenty of Blues who share my opinion that he just didn't have that winning mentality, too often playing it safe rather than gambling and sticking his neck out when it mattered. He who dares wins, so said Del Boy via the SAS.
So, how is the mood amongst Evertonians? It's difficult to fully judge. I obviously know a lot of Evertonians having grown up in Liverpool, traveling home and away with the club extensively down the years. We all communicate with one another very regularly on all things Everton, and no less so than this week. The age of social media also means I can pick up threads of feeling from other Everton fans I don't know personally via platforms such as Twitter, and the mood is not - as supporters of other teams may think - despondent. Sure, there are a large proportion of Blues (most likely the lion share) who are disappointed, but there are a fair few that are, should I even say, delighted to hear Moyes is moving on. My seventy-four year old Father was no doubt dancing around the living room on Thursday. I don't know yet because I've not called him but my Brother - equally nonplus about the news - advised me the'Arl Fella had said, "I hope he falls flat on his face at United". A few years back, after more than a decade of total commitment, Dad and I both gave up our season tickets because we were tired of coming away from games constantly complaining about the same thing week in week out, disgruntled with the style of football Everton were playing, and the ludicrous team selections and substitutions by the Manager. Don't get me wrong, the results were far better than they had been through the darker days of Walter Smith, but it was not entertainment, more a sense of duty to our club, a duty to invest where our board was failing miserably and turn up no matter what. After more than a decade, especially with me now living away from the City, it became a little too wearisome. This was largely a response to Moyes despite the "good job" he had done in stabilising Everton and taking us away from being perennial relegation strugglers, back to a more palatable league position in the top five to eight teams.
For those of us who watch Everton week in week out and have done so for a very long time, there are common themes of disgruntlement in regards to David Moyes and his managerial style. There appears to be a self-perpetuating belief that he gives youth a go but when you truly analyse it, there are many occasions where he could have given youth more of a chance. Wayne Rooney was actually a very spectacular example of that. Looking back, it's easy to be critical because you also have to remember Moyes was a young manager, still feeling his way, a relative unknown, and was dealing with a Prodigious young talent for probably the first time, but many of us at the time felt he was underplaying Rooney and this argument seemed to bare fruit when Rooney joined United and scored a spectacular hat-trick on his European debut. There are more recent examples this season when a young Ross Barkley never seemed to get a chance, farmed out on loan, before coming back and playing very well in away games at Spurs and Arsenal, only to be unceremoniously dropped as soon as one of Moyes' old favourites become fit and available again. Duffy, Vellios, and Oviedo are other examples of potential young talents who have not had a look in, when first teamers like Heitinga, Neville, Osman and Jelavic have been going through the motions. That's not to say some youngsters haven't blossomed under Moyes, Seamus Coleman being an excellent example, but they are - in my view - far fewer than maybe there could have been. When you see the ability from a player such as Barkley, you wonder why he's not been given a longer run.
Then there are his negative tactics and late, late substitutions. I've lost count of the number of games where I've screamed myself hoarse seeing a change in the pattern of play, desperate for the manager to stem the tide, yet it only ever seemed to happen after we conceded the inevitable goal. Of course, by then, it's often been too late. Everton have drawn more games in the Premier league this season than any other team (15), and many of them have been from winning positions, where a vital substitution was not made until too late. Some may think I'm crazy given our resources and squad, but we should have comfortably qualified for Champions League football this season given some of the points squandered. I may sound like a loon from across the park with that statement ("Liverpool Logic"), but Blues will know there have been many points surrendered this season that were avoidable had it been for some more gutsy managerial decision making. There are very fine margins in football and the great managers demonstrate balls.
I've not even started on the many occasions Moyes bottled the big games, when lesser teams (albeit many have been relegated since) have won trophies and also gone to Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and United, and won; something Moyes was never able to achieve in eleven years. Quite astonishing.
I've had good debate with fellow Blues about Moyes down the years and respect what others believe about him. We're all welcome to our own opinions. I'm a little harsher in my summary than my Best Man for example, but much more balanced than my Dad. My own view is clearly in the minority amongst the football journalists and experts, but my belief is that he's a good manager, not a great manager. I think he's a top guy with many great qualities, so I have a great deal of respect for him as a man, as a professional and as someone who always had Everton's best interests at heart, but I've felt for some time that he had taken Everton as far as he was able and it was time for something fresh to see if we could push on to that next level. Careful what you wish for maybe but that's not what made Everton great in the past.
Only time will tell whether Moyes was a great, or just a good solid manager. I wish him well, but having developed a strong dislike for Manchester United at the age of eight when they stopped us from doing that treble I mentioned earlier, I don't wish him that well. Onwards Evertonians. Alan Newton
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