James Lawton: Moyes is the perfect fit, but when did that ever matter to Abramovich?
Moyes is a scrapper never known to draw back in the face of uncomfortable truths
What price David Moyes to inherit the fractured empire from which Andre Villas-Boas is the latest to be expelled? A leading bookmaker says 12-1, which is only absurdly long if you forget it is the job Luiz Felipe Scolari – who was burnt in effigy in the streets of Rio and Sao Paulo before winning the World Cup for Brazil and going swiftly to the sword at Stamford Bridge – was yesterday describing as hell on earth.
Moyes, 48, has every quality required to make a dynasty except the larding of football celebrity and that ultimate achievement made possible by the financial means he has never enjoyed. Nor is he a friend or crony of Roman Abramovich.
He understands, however, and better than most anyone you can think of, the realities of football, the need to get players performing at optimum levels, to win their respect and a little of their fear and, most of all, the need to be the master of his own situation in a game to which he devotes arguably more hours than any other man on earth.
He has done it so well in 10 years of shoestring existence at Everton that he has been voted by his peers of the League Managers Association manager of the year three times – the same number as Sir Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager in the history of English football.
Early in his Goodison Park reign, he took a team containing some gnarled and out-of-contract old pros into the Champions League when most hard-eyed judges would still have considered avoiding relegation a major achievement.
Moyes, whichever way you look at it, has the kind of proven competitive integrity which you would have to back in any circumstances and, certainly, it is not his fault that the only ones relevant to any genuine assessment of his career concern an astonishing ability to fight off the most imposing odds.
He is a scrapper for professional principle who has never been known to draw back in the face of uncomfortable truths, as he has reminded us on frequent occasions, not least when he cut through his former player Joleon Lescott's preoccupation with a move to Manchester City, and took successful legal action against his departed charge Wayne Rooney when the young superstar's autobiographical recall didn't quite square with his old manager's picture of reality.
So why wouldn't the oligarch invest in a football man many see as a natural successor to Ferguson at Old Trafford? There is one outstanding obstacle. It is the potential availability of Jose Mourinho, a man who might well have flowers thrown at his feet should he deign to return to the place from where he was so bizarrely ejected.
A reclaimed Mourinho, one much more aware of his need to lay down his own operating terms, would plainly be the perfect fit for a Chelsea owner who might just have learnt something from his latest managerial fiasco.
But then maybe this is too much of a reach, perhaps Abramovich is indeed incorrigible in his belief that one day he will stumble upon the winning solution. If this is true, if going back to the Special One would indeed require too much of an admission of killing error, the Moyes option surely begins to glow.
At the weekend Moyes said that an overture from England in the event of a cooling, on either side, of the love affair with Harry Redknapp would command his serious interest. The same would surely be true if emissaries of the oligarch came calling.
There are only so many times you can play the odds that seem to get a little tougher with each new failure by Everton to land the level of investment which could persuade Moyes that mere survival was no longer the No 1 item on his agenda.
Of course he would listen to a proposal from Abramovich, explain to him the way he saw a job that has been at the centre of his thinking from early in a playing career that stretched 20 years and saw him battle, as an obdurate defender, as hard for the likes of Hamilton Accies and Shrewsbury Town as he ever did in the early days of higher promise with Drumchapel Amateurs and then the mighty Celtic.
Abramovich would be encountering a professional so absorbed with the challenge of his work even his old friend and team-mate at Bristol City, Spurs coach Joe Jordan, considers it remarkable. The former star of Leeds, Manchester United and Milan, whose own obsession with professional values is not inconsiderable, recalls conversations with his flatmate Moyes that stretched towards the West Country dawn.
Jordan sometimes tried to switch the discussions away from the game, perhaps to a new film or a particularly fine wine he had discovered in his days in the Veneto with Verona, but it was almost invariably futile. Moyes was as relentless then as he is today. It is an enduring passion which has already picked up some impressive endorsements.
Pat Nevin, the brainy old Chelsea and Everton winger, says Mourinho, sure, but if not, why not Moyes? A man with whom you could trust your team and your money, a man you could ask to go out and build some kind of dynasty, certainly one founded on impeccable professional standards. Gary Neville, who knows about the value of strong and profoundly focused management, told the nation that he was shocked not to see Moyes among the two or three leading contenders.
There is a compelling case, no doubt, and quite a number of football men seem prepared to make it. But then when did that ever make a difference at Stamford Bridge? The best case for David Moyes is to say that if it doesn't now, it probably never will.
Redknapp has earned the burden of expectation
Already there is a certain revisionism in the matter of Harry Redknapp and his chances of making something of the England team.
It is, though, as predictable as it is absurd, and there is reason to thank Sir Alex Ferguson for pointing out that Spurs, minus two of their most brilliant players, Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart, outplayed his United for much of an extraordinary match. Redknapp has won his favourite's status on the back of several years of superb team-building at White Hart Lane, and two defeats and a lacklustre FA Cup performance at Stevenage hardly destroy any of that. Nor should we forget the extent of the turbulence Redknapp has experienced in the last few months, including heart surgery, courtroom drama that could have resulted in the loss of his freedom, and his unexpectedly sudden casting as the saviour of the nation's football.
By any standards, it has been a rather heavy load. We can only hope that a natural-born football man, whose team has brought so much grace and adventure in the last few years, is not gripped by a sharp but understandable desire to put at least some of it down.
Tiote's antics are, sadly, par for the course
There is no doubt that referee Mike Dean made the right decision when he showed the red card to Sunderland's key player Stéphane Sessègnon at a pivotal point in that riveting North-east derby.
We can also be equally certain that a majority of Cheick Tioté's workmates would have reacted in pretty much the same way when the frustrated Sessègnon's elbow landed on his chest. If you didn't see it, Tioté lingered on his feet for a second or two, then went down as though hit by an Exocet missile. It was all pretty much par for the course, just like the simulation of waving cards, clutching at set pieces, routine diving and all of those other professional niceties. However, in the worst of these cases familiarity tends to breed something more than contempt. Indeed, quite often it makes the flesh crawl.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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