As David Moyes considers the effects of a summer transfer window that saw the power of vast wealth strike at the very heart of the values and self-esteem he has sought to establish at Everton, it is possible to find a small hopefulness. It is, in part, an expression of the optimism that every manager carefully and privately nurtures, but also an act of faith.
He lost a prized defender to Manchester City in Joleon Lescott, then replaced him with three new players, each of whom brings a new dimension to a squad he still considers capable of a top-six finish. This is one of the great arts of management, the ability to reshape a team, to add further detail to it without diminishing its integrity. Surely, though, at the centre of his trust stands one figure, the quietly formidable, resounding presence of Sylvain Distin.
The Frenchman is the kind of player who soothes managers, who represents the dependability that is fundamental to the foundations of any successful team. Even a brief exposure to his graceful, affirming nature prompts a feeling of reassurance for Everton and their season.
Distin does not wish to be seen as Lescott's replacement, but then the centre-back is accomplished enough to deserve the right to assert his own standards. "We are two different players," he stresses. "I'm here to do my own stuff. I'm not here to be compared to him. They have given me his locker, though. It was empty, apart from a big pile of cash."
A deep, eager laugh enhances his dry humour. At 31, Distin is fully at ease with himself and his place in the game. Understandably, Moyes is reluctant to predict how quickly his other two signings – the Russian midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Dutch defender John Heitinga – adapt to the ruthless tempo of English football, but Distin has already slipped seamlessly into his team.
He is a sleekly muscular, robust defender, but there is also a soulfulness to Distin, a deeply held need to feel some kind of empathy with his surroundings, something that jarred with his fraught final months at Portsmouth.
"It was frustrating at the end," he says. "Still I don't understand what happened, it seems to be a financial problem. But you have to be a bit selfish. At my age, I can't waste any time. I like to feel good where I am, I like stability, and that's what you've got here."
Liverpool, Aston Villa and his former club Manchester City were all credited with an interest in Distin's consistently assured defending. The imperative for the player was to find a place where he would be judged on merit. "If it's to be on the bench, that's not my cup of tea," he says. "I work hard and you have to be given the possibility to compete for your position."
In Distin, Moyes might have found a player who restores the conviction that successful teams can be built with the kind of vigilance and prudence that he applies so assiduously at Goodison.Reuse content