Heading in to today’s Merseyside derby, it felt appropriate to pay homage to someone for whom this may his last involvement in the fixture – and a man who would rarely get such credit from the other side of Stanley Park. However, I’ll have to save my teary-eyed tribute to Jamie Carragher until he plays his last game for Liverpool, and instead talk about my begrudging respect for a man who has revolutionised Everton and dragged them by the scruff of the neck in to the 21st century. That man, of course, is David ‘ The Moyesiah’ Moyes.
Now I’m certainly not his biggest fan, and I wouldn’t ever want him in charge of Liverpool, but under his tutelage, Everton’s transformation over the past decade from relegation strugglers to European hopefuls is nothing short of miraculous, especially when it’s been done on such a continuously restricted budget when other teams around them, us included, have spent to lavishly. It astounds me, then, when talking to many of mates who are Evertonians, that so many are hoping that he does indeed leave, citing people like Roberto Martinez or Malky Mackay as viable alternatives. Sure, they may be talented, young managers, but they’ve not accomplished anything close to what Moyes has.
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side – and I say that as someone who was relieved when Rafa Benitez finally left Liverpool; now look at us – and this really is a case of you not knowing what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. I bet Villa fans would never have envisaged such a fall from grace when Martin O’Neill made them constant top six finishers, and he did so with significant investment from Randy Lerner, but now look at them. O’Neill may have won silverware, but few managers have ever managed to maintain a relative level of success for over a decade and for that Moyes deserves credit.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy taking the p*ss out of him as much as the next Red (although no Liverpool fan could ever take the p*ss out of him as much as the man who came up with the video below, or the image that accompanies the article. Yes, they’re both very real – but you can’t help but admire the job he’s done there.
Everton are never going to be a top four club unless they get an injection of cash from somewhere, so for them to be on the periphery of European qualification is again testament to job Moyes has done, and his ability to spot a bargain. Howard, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Pienaar, Arteta, Jelavic, all quality players who didn’t cost much. As with Gerard Houllier when he took over from Roy Evans in 1999, David Moyes has helped modernise Everton, and bring them up to date with the current state of football whilst making them competitive.
Three LMA Manager of the Year awards, a dodgy Pierluigi Collina decision from the Champions League proper, and a FA Cup Final. The third longest serving manager in the Football League behind only Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson, and both are the only managers to have won more Manager of the Month awards, too (Ferguson with 27 and Wenger with 21 to Moyes’ 10). It’s not bad going, and Everton fans are deluding themselves if they think whoever replaces him will take them to that next level; they’ll only go backwards.
Everton would be fools to let him leave, but nobody should begrudge him a bigger move. Whilst he may not be a legitimate heir to Ferguson’s throne at Old Trafford, to be in contention to replace Wenger when he leaves Arsenal, he’s done enough to deserve a shot at a job where the resources at his disposal allow him to really test himself at the highest level. He’s been batting his eyelashes at Germany recently, and I’m all for British managers – and players, for that matter - going out of their comfort zone and trying to prove themselves in Europe and adapt to a different language, culture and style of play. As fans we often forget the problems players and managers face when coming from a foreign country, and too many of our players and coaches stay in England because it’s easier, and because that’s where the money is.
Perhaps it’s the support the blue half of Merseyside have shown throughout the Hillsborough Justice Campaign – when I think of Everton the first thing I think of is that tribute they did before the Newcastle game where they played ‘He Ain’t Heavy’ by The Hollies at Goodison; it makes me well up every time without fail – but where there was once antipathy towards Everton, there is now ambivalence. I want them to do relatively well, obviously not if it’s at our expense, and I much prefer it when derbies have something riding on them other than bragging rights – we need to win tomorrow to have any chance of finishing above them, for example.
So, if this is to be his last hurrah, then so long, Moyesy. You have well and truly proven that you don’t need trophies to be a winner but you are a winner. Yes, seriously, that painting from Taffs Tavern is real, and yes, seriously, he did actually sign it.