Churchgoers were reminded of the story of Lazarus yesterday, which must have left some Goodison Park-goers feeling a little smug. They were fresh from a re-enactment, with Duncan Ferguson in the starring role.
Not only did Ferguson score his first Premiership goal of the season from open play, he made several headed clearances and on quite a number of occasions was seen to be doing something suspiciously close to running.
If the new man David Moyes is really a messiah, notch this up as his first miracle. There may be others, including another Everton escape from relegation, because, if it was impossible not to feel queasy about the sacking of the splendid, and desperately under-resourced professional, Walter Smith, there was certainly no hardship in recognising the formidable presence of his young successor.
Moyes, whose admirers include Sir Alex Ferguson, and Smith, has long been singled out as a sure-fire prospect in the big-time managerial stakes, and in the 48 hours available to him before this life-giving win he did something impressive indeed. He produced an instant aura. Handing the captaincy to the chronically under-performing Ferguson carried the thinly coded message that it was time for the talented big man to start to earn his wages. It was a case of put up, or ship out, as they say in a US Marines boot camp.
Ferguson plundered Everton's second in the 13th minute, David Unsworth having driven them into the lead inside the first minute. It was the perfect response to Moyes' pre-match address to the players. That could be summarised briskly enough. He said that he had landed his place in the big-time for the basic reason that the players had not delivered for his predecessor, a man he admired. Now they were playing more than anything for their own futures.
Moyes, who plainly has a touch of that evangelical fervour which seems to naturally attach itself to football men from the west of Scotland, would not quite support the old Shankly dictum that the game was more important than life and death. But he did say that wanting to win was the most important aspect of a player's nature, and it was a priority that would be relentlessly underlined in the next few critical weeks.
Moyes will also be hammering home the need for professional discipline, which was something that was flouted after 27 minutes with breath-taking stupidity by Thomas Gravesen when he appeared to attempt to chop down Luis Boa Morte a few feet away from the referee Graham Barber, who had earlier handed the Dane a yellow card for a similarly reckless tackle. Moyes said he welcomed the desire to be first, but had planned a half-time homily on the subject of self-control. By then, 10-man Everton needed advice on how to operate under a relentless cosh.
Fortunately for Moyes, the deposed captain David Weir was still happy to provide unofficial moral leadership and, with his defence co-worker Alan Stubbs, produced a masterpiece of defiance. Fulham, for whom John Collins and Steed Malbranque were most consistent in understanding the need to stretch their depleted opponents, scored after a brilliant piece of innovation by the substitute Barry Hayles had left Malbranque with not much more than a tap-in and Louis Saha sent a header against the crossbar. But despite winning the corner kick tally by a score of 11-0, Jean Tigana's men were never able to produce the penetration which might have arrested their slide towards the danger zone.
Tigana, who shook his head and smiled after receiving a lecture from the referee, presumably for his impertinence in suggesting the official should take a tighter grip on affairs, remained uncowed by the result, however. He said that he would pursue his philosphy of running, passing football whatever the extent of the relegation crisis. "I believe," he said, "that there is only one good way to play football and if you do that I believe you will get the right results in the end."
Moyes, too, said that he wanted to see a little more of the classic football that used be associated with one of the grand old names of the English game. For the moment, though, it was a question of working on the team's competitive values. He was never likely to be carried away by this desperate exercise in survival. If Gravesen's departure did not give Fulham quite enough of an edge to turn their vast advantage in possession into goals, it certainly scratched away any veneer of Everton superiority created by the early onslaught.
Ferguson's resurrection was relatively dramatic – but it begged a few pressing questions, not least the one about his whereabouts, physically and emotionally, since he returned from his largely futile stint at Newcastle. Scotland's new manager, Berti Vogts, was certainly impressed, but Moyes indicated that the striker would re-confirm his retirement from international football. The patriotism of the Everton manager apart, he was no doubt relieved enough that for the moment at least Ferguson's de facto retirement from the more vigorous aspects of the club game might be over.
Such a hope is no doubt fragile. Ferguson, the record says, is a player for whom motivation seems at best to be a flickering factor. But that will not be good enough for the ambitious Moyes. He made that clear enough in 48 hours. It was fast and honest work and it could just save Everton for another year. But for what? Moyes, we can be sure, will find out soon enough when he examines his summer budget. Then he will see if the Everton board has, along with Duncan Ferguson, the means to make more than a mere gesture.
Goals: Unsworth (1) 1-0; Ferguson (13) 2-0; Malbranque (52) 2-1.
Everton (4-4-2): Simonsen 5; Hibbert 5, Weir 8, Stubbs 7, Pistone 6; Carsley 5, Gravesen 2, Gemmill 5, Unsworth 6 (Blomqvist, 76); Radzinski 5 (Moore 5, h-t), Ferguson 7. Substitutes not used: Gerrard (gk), Clarke, Chadwick.
Fulham (4-4-2): Van der Sar 4; Finnan 5, Melville 5, Goma 5 (Ouaddou 5, h-t), Brevett 5; Legwinski 4 (Goldbaek, 78), Malbranque 6, Collins 6, Boa Morte 4 (Hayles 5, h-t), Saha 5. Substitutes not used: Harley, Taylor (gk).
Referee: G Barber (Tring) 5.
Bookings: Everton: Gravesen, Unsworth, Moore. Fulham: Finnan, Malbranque, Brevett, Hayles. Sent off: Everton: Gravesen.
Man of the match: Weir.
Attendance: 34,369.Reuse content