James Lawton: David Moyes' quiet sanity ridicules Premier League's craziest day
Moyes operates to the classic theory of bedding down your first team early
If the start of the football season had been any more shambolic, if some of the deals – and most notably the one that took Andy Carroll from his Merseyside misadventure to West Ham and the embrace of his old manager Sam Allardyce – had produced a little more evidence of dwindling spending power and mounting desperation, it might have been launched in a pawn shop.
So what is the antidote to the transfer anarchy which has made such a mockery of that old concept of teams coming into the season knowing who they are and what they are supposed to represent?
One obvious need is a set of new regulations which would ensure that clubs are required to clear their in and out trays at least a month before the start of the competitive season.
No doubt some numbskull will now leap up to say that English clubs start sooner than those in Spain and Italy and enforcing new rules would thus be impractical.
It's another nonsense attached to a situation which has sprawled out of control, making plenty of work, if diminished returns, for the agents who have talked their clients into one piece of brinkmanship or another, but left the average supporter never more bewildered about the shape and the possibilities of the team he or she has supported down the years.
The football traffic can never have been in such dire need of redirection and stabilisation and the transfer window could be closed west to east across the Continent, in effect taking the English game out of the trading market around the time the players are beginning their preparations for the new season.
That would provide the kind of symmetry – and sanity – which was so conspicuously missing up until the close of business last night.
However, in the meantime – and it could be a long one – there is another possibility of some light shining into the murk.
The bookmakers rate it at no better than a 125-1 shot but it was one in which there was no emotional or intellectual hardship making a modest investment yesterday. It was in the chance that Everton might just confound the plutocracy of the English game and win the Premier League title, with their splendid manager, David Moyes, operating on the classic theory that the sooner you bed down your preferred first-team unit the better your chances of gaining some serious momentum.
We've had just a fraction of the action but, with the exceptions of Michael Laudrop's seamless arrival in the footsteps of Brendan Rodgers at Swansea and Roberto Di Matteo's latest display of sound professional instincts, no one can begin to match the early impact of Moyes. His team look as well-equipped as ever to survive in the company of clubs with infinitely greater resources.
For more than a decade now he has been showing how you can stretch a passion for detail, and obsession with not just the talent but the character of a professional and his capacity to re-new himself in the face of a daunting challenge. It has never glowed so brightly than in recent weeks.
While Roberto Mancini bleated about the need for a major injection of new talent into the most expensive, best-rewarded squad in the land, Moyes displayed his knack for re-seeding a team that the bookmakers may discount – along with most of the rest of the universe – as title contenders but still offer only a niggardly 11-2 against them crashing their way into Champions League qualification.
Moyes, we are told so frequently, is Sir Alex Ferguson's idea of his soundest successor at Old Trafford and the time has long passed since this might have been considered mere Glaswegian kinship. With each new season, and whatever the degree of difficulty, Moyes has reminded us of his ability get under the skin of a player and make an assessment guaranteed to outlast mere novelty value.
His later acquisition, the Belgian Kevin Mirallas, suggests that he is a superior replacement for the remorseless Tim Cahill. Steven Naismith has brought an impressive certainty of purpose and with the return of Steven Pienaar, Moyes knows that he has regained possession of the kind of player whose craft and professionalism would enhance any squad. Nikica Jelavic came last January and has displayed the authentic touch of a natural-born predator.
It would be a formidable body of work in any circumstances and in those of Everton, the big club that appears to have become invisible in the eyes of big-time investors, it has become nothing less than an enduring miracle.
Hence, the optimism here that Everton maintain a presence at the serious end of the Premier League – a potential that could hardly have been announced more positively than in the defeat of Manchester United and the annexation of Villa Park last Saturday.
These were performances of authority and bite that could only be envied by the likes of champions City and runners-up United.
Yes, of course, you are right – the odds remain stacked hugely against a long run to the finishing post but that is no reason not to hope that along the way they will remind so many of their better-heeled rivals that there is another way to conduct business than with a scattergun.
Everton may never win back the best of their old glory, they may have to concede that the football life has, ultimately, turned against them. It could also be that the career of David Moyes will always be a statement about what might have been if a few more Premier League owners knew the difference between knowledge and achievement and mere celebrity.
However, the least they can demand, in this as in so many of the seasons that have gone before, is an understanding of quite what they represent. It is a remnant of football which still makes some kind of sense.
The Olympics should not now be overlooked
It would probably take most of an entire monsoon season to rain on the Paralympic parade and no one will complain too strenuously about this.
There is, however, an accelerating danger of overstatement that must provoke the worry that a lot of marvellous endeavour is in danger of being questioned for no other reason than a loss of perspective.
Lee Pearson, the star of British dressage at the Games, ran that risk the other day when he complained to the nation that his nine gold Paralympic medals had yet to earn him the knighthood enjoyed by Sir Chris Hoy, who has a mere six of the Olympic variety.
It was a hint of that worst fear that somehow the Paralympics would be seen as a mere continuation of the Olympics, that some consideration of the relative levels of competition, and the exactitude demanded by the latter event, would be swept aside on a tide of emotion and, let's be brutally honest, a serious degree of hype. The dedication and spirit required to compete in the Paralympics is surely implicit – and of itself.
Richards is lucky to escape from moral maze
There is a powerful body of opinion that says there is no luckier man in professional sport at the moment than Dean Richards as he starts his new assignment with Newcastle.
However, you could have been mistaken while noting the warmth of his reception after serving his suspension for the orchestration of the Bloodgate scandal that represented a complete abandonment of all the values that make rugby union and any other sport worthwhile. Richards, who takes charge of his first game against Bristol tomorrow, hardly dissipated unease over rugby's moral antennae when he said: "I've served my three years and that's it. If some feel it should have been longer, so be it. Some might feel it should have been less."
However long you look at such a statement it surely remains nothing more than the skull's head of what used to pass for right and wrong.
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