How the Moyes work ethic built a dynasty at Goodison

On slim resources the intense and driven Scot has re-energised Everton into top-eight regulars. Simon Hart asks how he did it

"Optimism was the new buzzword at a bouncing Goodison Park on Saturday." With the chance to climb above Liverpool in tonight's Merseyside derby and a home FA Cup quarter-final against Sunderland to follow, these words could easily fit into a report of Everton's 1-0 win over Tottenham at the weekend. Instead it was actually the opening line in the Liverpool Echo's account of David Moyes' first game as Everton manager, a 2-1 success against Fulham two days after his arrival from Preston on 16 March 2002, as the Scot set about re-energising a club which, in chairman Bill Kenwright's words, "had lost some of our belief".

If his famous "People's Club" line ensured it was love at first sound-bite for fans tired of their team's cash-strapped tag under Walter Smith, he quickly began imposing principles on his players that have yielded seven top-eight finishes over the last decade. "He promised he would work as hard as any player in the club to get things right," remembers Lee Carsley, a key figure in Moyes' midfield from 2002 to 2008. "People could see that with his work ethic and the way he went with his preparations, we were going to be successful. A lot of our drills early on were based around being hard to beat, being organised, having a good team shape and that is something that has carried on. All the teams that represent Everton represent the manager and what he is about. They are a perfect fit."

Key to the kind of classic Moyes victory that left Spurs with a bloodied nose last weekend – and there were nine, hard-earned 1-0 wins in 2004-05, the season they qualified for the Champions League – is fitness. When Moyes returned from the 2002 World Cup enthusing about the high-intensity efforts of the South Koreans, it offered a hint of what his Everton side would deliver.

Carsley, now coaching the reserves and under-18s at Coventry, says he was never fitter than at Everton. "On the Monday morning when other teams were doing a cool-down we would do a hard session and he would say, 'No one else is doing this now, that's why we're the fittest team'. That's why mentally we could cope with whatever was thrown at us." Former Everton centre-back David Weir, who recently assumed a coaching role with the club's youth and reserve teams, notes that the players "have to train properly every day or it will be noticed".

Moyes' coaching skills ensured he got the very best out of his players' ability, according to Steve Watson, a stalwart of the Scot's early Goodison years. "I had some tremendous man-managers – Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, Walter Smith – but Moyes would be by far the best coach. Look at the amount of players who have improved vastly in his time there," he says, citing the "underrated" Leon Osman. "People like Phil Jagielka, he has taken from other clubs and transformed them into internationals."

Watson, who was part of Lee Clark's backroom staff at Huddersfield, describes Everton as "a coaching club" and recalls Moyes, a centre-half in his day, taking separate sessions with his back four, "working on distances between players, covering positions. He would stop it and ask why. It was a really good coaching education for us all". The number of Moyes' old boys now coaching is no coincidence, he believes.

Weir argues that Moyes (left) "has taken all the excuses away from the players" by ensuring everything on the football side of the club is "top drawer", including the Finch Farm training ground, opened in 2007. And he highlights the manager's attention to detail. "Everyone knows how many games he goes to. He takes the time to analyse and with his football brain the longer he spends doing it, the more likely he is to come up with solutions. He just doesn't miss anything. He will find a way of neutralising who Everton are playing against."

This meticulous approach has paid off in the transfer market, too. Moyes offered one striking example when revealing last weekend that he watched Joleon Lescott eight times – on top of 16 other scouting reports – before signing him from Wolves in 2006. "It is knowing that a player has the right kind of attitude to fit into the club," says Carsley, who praises Moyes' ability to blend gifted "game-changers" like Mikel Arteta and Steven Pienaar, each bought for under £3m, with "the ones that do the nasty jobs".

There is a perception that Moyes has mellowed since his intense approach tested his relationship with the squad in a difficult 2003-04 campaign – "when he was quite a young manager you'd struggle to get anything more than a football conversation out of him," says Watson – yet his drive and ambition are intact. And the gloom that gripped Goodison before Christmas has given way to fresh optimism, generated by some astute January transfer deals and a rousing win over Manchester City.

Carsley has a simple answer for Everton's ability to turn their seasons around – "the manager"– and this week brings two challenges Moyes will relish: to claim a first win at Anfield and take a step closer to a first major honour. The worry for Evertonians is that this will be his last chance on both counts, given rumoured interest from clubs with far greater wealth. Yet Joe Royle, the last man to lead Everton to silverware, the 1995 FA Cup, says it is no foregone conclusion Moyes will move on.

"Early in the season he looked a little bit ill at ease with the situation but that seems to have gone now and he is back in full cry," he said. "It is only natural, 10 years in the job is a long time, but I think he knows equally he is working for a great club with a fantastic support and also a chairman and board that support him totally. That means a lot." Whatever the future brings, Weir has no doubt Moyes has proved his worth. "The success he has had, the infrastructure he has put in place with the resources he has had, he's got to be the No 1 of his generation."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness