David Moyes is not an obvious target for criticism; revered at Goodison, admired by the players, respected by the football community. So why is he still at Everton?
Moyes first appeared in our sightlines as a young coach at Preston. He was feted by Sir Alex Ferguson, who would have liked him at his side at Old Trafford. Fergie's sanction is persuasive and with it Moyes crossed the Goodison threshold validated as a coach. He has since been touted as a future manager of Manchester United.
Since the season's end four of the biggest jobs in English football have become vacant. He wasn't considered at Liverpool, Chelsea or Aston Villa, and according to his own testimony, Tottenham haven't bothered him either.
Would his Everton association automatically have excluded him from the deliberations of Liverpool's American owners? In this enlightened age is 10 years in a blue tie enough to cross him off the Anfield wish list? Surely he was worth a coffee in Miami alongside Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers.
Martinez and Rodgers are known to believe in a particular style of football. Their teams adhere to an identifiable aesthetic. The idea of Rodgers as a British disciple of the Barcelona school was cultivated at Swansea and absorbed by us all during a commendable first season in the Premier League. Swansea demonstrated a love of the ball, went forward with verve and style and when they didn't have it, chased down opponents high up the pitch.
Martinez fashioned another remarkable stay of execution for Wigan Athletic, a club that in every sense is punching above its class. In a definitive climax Wigan beat Manchester United at home and Arsenal away. They lost only narrowly at Stamford Bridge to a controversial refereeing decision. Martinez is considered to have a 'continental' approach. He is known to aspire to a passing game that is easy on the eye.
Paul Lambert left Norwich for Villa with a reputation as a brilliant organiser and technician. A playing career that embraced foreign soil helped him to create a cosmopolitan atmosphere around his work. His Norwich ensemble were pleasing on the eye if not as expansive as Swansea. They were dynamic and disciplined and played with confidence and belief. Like Martinez and Rodgers, Lambert assembled his teams with beans, further enhancing his reputation. One of the fascinations of next season is to see how the methods and principles of Rodgers and Lambert survive in heightened environments. For young British coaches, their appointments at important clubs with big pasts and huge fan-bases are a positive step.
This is the territory once occupied by Moyes, who, having won promotion with Preston from the third tier and taken them to fourth in the second, bagged the Everton job on the "coming man" ticket. Ten years on, while others have swept in behind him, Moyes has stalled, never quite creating a team that made an emotional impression on the neutral. A little like Alan Curbishley, who spent 15 years keeping Charlton's head above water, "success" has always been relative, conditioned by the constraints faced. Despite a good eye for a player – Tim Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar, Nikica Jelavic, astute buys all – his teams have not told us with enough force what he stands for. They don't make the heart sing.
The mention of Rodgers conjures immediate visions of white shirts pinging the ball about with panache. Moyes is associated with maintenance, augmenting Joe Royle's dogs of war when expansive, imaginative football is the requirement to get on.
His league record looks impressive on paper; eight top 10 finishes in 11 seasons at Goodison Park with a highest of fourth. But he has won precisely nothing. Chairmen looking to appoint, like fans, are children at heart. They do not care how hard the job is, they want excitement, thrills, fantasy and at least the hope of winning a pot.
Three years ago the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley against a weakened Manchester United presented Moyes with an ideal opportunity to put his stamp on a showpiece occasion. The Everton support easily outperformed the red half of the stadium, which, a little like Ferguson, could not quite drum up enough interest in the day. Everton did indeed get home, on penalties after 120 minutes of mind-numbing attrition. Moyes saw vindication in the result.
In the final against Chelsea circumstances could not have been more favourable. Louis Saha gave Everton the lead within seconds. The hour had surely come; a first major trophy since 1995 was there to be claimed. Seize the day. Not a bit of it. The opposite occurred. Everton seized up behind the same defensive tactics that prevailed against United, lumping long balls from deeper and deeper positions. Chelsea couldn't miss in the end.
The big occasion defines and separates. In both semi and final Moyes revealed a defensive reflex that ultimately proved Everton's undoing. Not only did they fail, they failed to inspire in defeat. Harsh as it sounds, that is perhaps why, in this period of management opportunity, Moyes is going nowhere.
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