There's something about the eye-bulging, manic stare of David Moyes that provokes football-watchers to saddle him with lookalikes. Above is the contribution of P Maguire, self-styled internet "Football Poet", although his appreciation for the Everton manager was, no doubt, penned in more prosperous times. These days, as someone mischievously pointed out last week, a more apposite doppelganger for the Scot is the embattled centurion Lucius Vorenus in the BBC'sRome, a character also obliged to survey the disintegration of a once mighty empire.
Which may be stretching things rather when it comes to recent events at Goodison, particularly with a chairman like theatre impressario Bill Kenwright, who can make a profitable, entertaining drama out of anything, but is not likely to do so with his club's early-season form, the nadir of which was reached with the 4-0 eclipse by West Bromwich Albion.
Today, Newcastle are the visitors. Last season, a final home game victory against Graeme Souness's men secured Everton a Champions' League place. Five months later, security itself is a priority for one of the most mercurial of clubs, who began the season on the football couch imagining they were Champions' League contenders, but currently occupy a world where the championship is a more conceivable destination.
There has been mitigation. Despite £20m in outlay, one signing, the Danish defender Per Kroldrup, has still to play while the Dutchman Andy van der Meyde only made his debut recently. Moyes concedes that after last Saturday, he had wanted to go home, "just pull the curtains and put the lights out".
He smiles grimly, lest he had displayed weakness, and adds swiftly: "No, you have to move on quickly. If we beat Newcastle [today], we'll have won three out of four games. So, it depends what spin you want to put on our position. You could say to yourself, 'yeah, that was bad, the result and the manner of the result', but would I take three wins out of four when you're where we are at this stage of the season? Not half, would you. It would be great."
That had been the essence of his presentation to the club's annual meeting the previous night, when, more of a businessman than a tracksuited coach, he had employed visual aids to enforce the point that the club's progress graph overall, under his stewardship, was one that is ascending.
The morning afterwards, and Moyes looks a man who has received a gentle warning letter about his account drifting into overdraft, but has forcefully reminded his bank manager that he has, more often than not, been healthily in credit. He had been questioned on both his tactics and acquisitions - or to be more precise, the lack of them - by supporters at the meeting and emerged with Evertonians' faith in him, and his reputation, still intact.
"I'd hope that it was," he agrees. "But I've got to prove that, haven't I? I've got to put out teams that win. In the main in my time in football management, with Preston and now here, my teams have tended to be close to the top of whatever league they're in. I think that's not bad. I wouldn't consider any other jobs, because I'm Everton manager and that's where I intend to stay."
Yet, in the week that Ports-mouth's Alain Perrin became the first Premiership manager to be in receipt of ses cartes, and in a period when the position of the Rangers manager, Alex McLeish, remains still fraught, both issues possibly provoking a domino effect, uncertainty can creep insidiously into the subconcious of all but the élite few.
Moyes, who agreed a four-year contract this year, insists that dismissal, even if his team remain languishing among the lower orders "is not my fear". He adds: "You've got to remember, if you look at Everton's history, where they've been in the past. Then look at the last two, three, four seasons and there are signs again that Everton are getting better. It's going to be up and down until we can get the financial stability."
That will largely be dependent on future, and regular, qualification for Europe, although he believes there is still money remaining from the sale of Wayne Rooney. "I would expect so," says Moyes who is intent on supplementing a strike force that has garnered only six goals this season, and another goalkeeper. "There'll be a bit of cash left over for the January window, but I wouldn't say there'll be bundles, that's for sure."
Kenwright is still attempting to persuade suitable financial backers into the club. Moyes returned to that vexed issue when he emphasised: "Many clubs have signed several £5m-plus players. We've only signed one [James Beattie]. If you make comparisons like that, you'd have to say that Everton are doing a brilliant job with what they've done."
Today's lunchtime meeting will reinforce just what might have been, had the lure of Goodison enticed Scott Parker, Emre and, most notably, Michael Owen. "Yes, we tried for a while," Moyes said of his interest in the England striker. "We made an enquiry for him while we were still in the Champions' League, and I spoke with him myself just a few days before he signed for Newcastle." What a difference that signing would have made. "That's too hypothetical," he says. "Anyway, it was an awful lot of money. I think there was talk that there might be a loan at the time. Newcastle were always talking money. We know we can't compete. But we did try."
Was the frustration of missing out on four or five players not beginning to wear his patience thin? "There's been genuine reasons, either financial or they've chosen somewhere else, or I've taken responsibility and decided I'm not going to pursue it," he retorts. "We've attempted to get a certain level of player in, because I've tried to kick on. We've been keen on two of the boys [Emre and Parker] who went to Newcastle. It was good that we were even getting close because, as I said last night, in the past Everton haven't even been in with a shout of getting a lot of these kind of players."
He adds: "The fact that people like Phil Neville have chosen to come to Everton gives you an idea of how the club is seen. That's what I feel, anyway." And this is a better squad than last season? "I think there's no doubting it is. But picking up results will be the judge of that."
The question has to be asked, though, if relegation still loomed come May, would he consider his position? He declines to answer that directly. "I will always work hard, and do everything to ensure that wouldn't happen," he says. "I'm quite confident it won't. Everton supporters have been in this situation loads and loads of times. Probably everyone felt that 'we're on the move out of here, we're getting out of a situation that we've been in all these years', and 'maybe this is someone who has come to help us out, take us forward, get us out of that'."
He adds: "I believe the supporters still feel that, although they're probably saying 'shit, I didn't expect to be in this position'. Well, I have to say the manager didn't expect us to be in this position, either. I expected us to be further up the table, and we have to do that."
How capricious the game can be. A few months ago, Moyes was Manager of the Year and among the favourites to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Now he is linked with a possible Rangers' vacancy. The latter opportunity, if it arises, appears an unlikely one for the former Celtic defender to contemplate. Who knows how his stock will stand when Ferguson eventually departs United?
"Part of being a football manager in itself is an achievement, I think, for a lot of managers because it's such a job where you've always got to keep trying to move on," he says. "You've always got to keep moving on. I want to manage in Europe, I'd love to win a major trophy. I want to be involved in those kind of games. I'm sure I can do that with Everton. Last season was probably as good as I've had in football. But now five months' later, it doesn't look quite so rosy. You can never rest on your laurels in football."
As Caesar's centurion, Lucius Vorenus, might have said. There, one suspects, the similarity ends.
From Celtic to Goodison Park
BORN: 25 April 1963, Glasgow.
PLAYING CAREER: Celtic (1980-83) Scottish champions 1981-82; Cambridge Utd (1983-85); Bristol City (1985-87); Shrewsbury (1987-90); Dunfermline (1990-93); Hamilton (1993); Preston (1993-2001), Division Three play-off final 1994, play-off semi-finals 1995, champions 1996.
MANAGERIAL CAREER: Preston (1998-2002) 113 won, 63 lost, 58 drawn, Division Two play-off semi-finals 1999, champions 2000, Division One play-off final 2001; Everton (from March 2002) 59 won, 64 lost, 33 drawn; qualified for Champions' League 2004-05, League Managers' Association Manager of the Year.Reuse content