Moyes at final frontier
He has turned Everton into top-four challengers but, the manager says, even victory today would just be the beginning. Glenn Moore reports
Saturday 30 May 2009
David Moyes struck a Churchillian note as he looked ahead to today's FA Cup final. A first Evertonian trophy in 14 years would, he intimated, not be the end; not even the beginning of the end, but, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
In the game there is a feeling that an Everton success would be well-earned reward for the way Moyes and his players have clung on to the coat-tails of the "Big Four". It would be a bone to chew on while the usual quartet picked up the bigger prizes. Moyes does not subscribe to such a patronising view.
"If we are fortunate enough to go on and win it, it cannot stop here," he said. "This is just the start of where it has to go, this is just the beginning for us and not the end. Not the thing where people say 'Oh, thank goodness Everton have won a trophy and David Moyes has won one'. This has to just be the start.
"The message I want to get through to everyone is we have to keep going. You can't stop when you have the momentum. We have a definite momentum around Everton right now, a positivity that is going through the club which we have to keep pushing forward. It's not easy and this season we've done better than we thought. If we are fortunate to win the Cup, it would be something for us to build on."
Time and again, as Moyes held court at Finch Farm this week, he returned to the theme. Defeating Manchester United on penalties in the semi-final "did not feel like success". Being in the final "makes me smile and inside I'm really excited by it, but I want it to be a win".
When Moyes arrived at Goodison Park in 2002 he inherited a club living on faded grandeur. The successes of the Eighties had given way to a series of relegation struggles. In the dressing room were Paul Gascoigne and David Ginola, both also in decline.
As a player Moyes had never approached their stellar careers. As a manager he had four promising years behind him, at Preston North End. The then 38-year-old Moyes later admitted he was nervous walking into that dressing-room, but he did not compromise. After hearing his ground rules Gascoigne decided he wanted out. He later confided that he should have stayed.
Everton have endured two mild relegation scares since, but every other season they have been tilting at the top, finishing fourth in 2005. There may not be silverware in the trophy cabinet but Moyes' location is concrete – or, rather, glass and steel – evidence of the club's progress. When Moyes arrived Everton still trained at Bellefield, the cramped, inner-city base where Harry Catterick built the champions of 1963 and 1970. Finch Farm is in the green-belt, a state-of-the-art training complex to rival that of today's opponents.
Moyes has been able to make some big signings, such as Aiyegbeni Yakubu and Marouane Fellaini, but for the most part he has had to spend shrewdly picking up Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill, Joleon Lescott and Steven Pienaar for less than a total of £10m, and bringing in young players such as Jack Rodwell, Leon Osman and, of course, Wayne Rooney.
Moyes has successfully bred an enviable team spirit, which has been drawn upon heavily this season as a series of key players have fallen lame.
"The players have really shown great qualities," Moyes said. "At the start the one thing we had going for us was knowing we had a centre -forward in Yakubu who will score you 15 goals a season. But we lost him. For a couple of months we had no centre-forwards at the club. We recovered from that and had a period of good form and then only go and lose our most creative player in Mikel Arteta.
"Then Phil Jagielka – probably our most consistent player throughout the season – goes down with a knee injury. We've just had to say, 'These are the tools we have to work with so let's make the best of it'. The players have been fantastic this year. They have always kept going."
Moyes is constantly linked with a move to Manchester United; the prospect of which would be significantly enhanced by a first trophy. He does, though, give every impression of intending to remain at Everton for years to come – which given Sir Alex Ferguson's desire to keep going may be wise. Moyes is similarly driven.
The pair share more than a Glasgow birth and a father who worked in the Clyde shipyards. Moyes' father coached at Drumchapel Amateurs, the boys club where Ferguson learned his playing trade, they both graduated from Largs, the Scottish coaching school, and both worked their way up as managers.
This is the second time Moyes has beaten Ferguson to the League Managers' Association's Manager of the Year award, despite the latter lifting the Premier League title. For all Moyes' achievements there is the smack of a sympathy vote. A trophy today will erase that sentiment. It will also make it easier for Everton to resist approaches for their players. It might even entice a buyer for the club. In short, as Moyes said, it could be a springboard.
"We have been knocking on the door," he said, "so hopefully we are due to win something very soon."
Moyes v Chelsea
David Moyes will be bucking personal history if Everton win today. He has faced Chelsea 20 times as a manager and is yet to defeat them. In 2002, Moyes managed a Preston team beaten 3-1 by Claudio Ranieri's Chelsea in an FA Cup tie at Deepdale.
In 19 subsequent matches as manager of Everton, Moyes has faced a succession of Chelsea managers without success, drawing seven games, losing 12. However, there are signs of progress. In his first season Everton met Chelsea three times. They lost them all, conceding 11 goals, scoring three. This season Everton held Chelsea to two goalless draws.
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