Disruption and distractions. The manager's lot is hard enough these days without them, so Everton's David Moyes was happy enough that for once his summer involved nothing more draining than the excess mileage of a World Cup in South Africa followed by a pre-season tour to Australia. He has looked sympathetically at events down at Aston Villa, where a respected colleague suddenly walked out, leaving a fellow Scot to hold the reins, but football being the game it is, Moyes hopes to cash in on the chaos at Villa Park this afternoon.
For most of his eight seasons on Merseyside, Everton have been competing at the same sort of level as Villa, aspiring initially to break into the fabled and now outdated "big four" but reluctantly concluding of late that it is no longer possible on their resources. That realisation led Martin O'Neill to up sticks just five days before the start of the new season, yet Moyes, who can be just as intense, has accepted his lot with greater serenity.
"They did spend more than we spent but we were competing around the same sort of fifth or sixth spot and it was tight," he said at the club's training ground on Friday. "I have to accept the situation. Sometimes it can be difficult because it's a different playing field but I try not to use that as an excuse. We've had no money for two or three years but I think we've continued to improve because we've got stability."
That quality, always evident in the relationship between the manager and his chairman, the impresario Bill Kenwright, has extended to the pitch with players like Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill, Jack Rodwell and Phil Jagielka all secured on long contracts. Only Steven Pienaar has declined one, though it remains on the table.
A year ago, in contrast, Everton were up to their necks in the messy business of Joleon Lescott's transfer to Manchester City, creating uncertainty that lasted right until the end of the transfer window. Moyes used the money well on players such as Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Johnny Heitinga and Sylvain Distin, but he believes the unsettling period had an effect on results: two defeats to start the season, including a 6-1 home drubbing by Arsenal after he insisted in picking Lescott left them bottom of the table.
Having seen Villa go through the same tortuous process 12 months later as City flexed their financial muscles again and took James Milner away, his sympathy is tempered by the need, after a defeat at Blackburn and a home draw with Wolves, to take advantage: "The disruption of Milner going will affect them because he was a key player for them, a key central midfield player, so they'll miss him and I think his performance against Liverpool on Monday justified his price tag."
While Villa – with Milner: were routing West Ham on the opening day and – without him: were drawing away to Rapid Vienna in the Europa League (having pipped Everton to a place in the qualifying round), they seemed to be making light of O'Neill's departure. Kevin Macdonald, known previously on Merseyside only as a Liverpool midfielder, suddenly became the bookmakers' favourite to take the job, but demoralising defeats by Newcastle last Sunday and at home to Rapid on Thursday, causing an expensive exit from Europe, have left the club consumed by uncertainty again; not least the caretaker himself.
"Managers from week to week are great and then not very good depending on results," Macdonald said on Friday. His prospects of being given the job, he now accepts, are back in the balance and it may well be that Villa's Randy Lerner avoids the trap into which more experienced chairmen have fallen of over-promoting a nice man, popular with the players, who initially achieves a couple of favourable results. "The two results might have taken it out of my hands," Macdonald admitted. "Only Mr Lerner would determine that. I would like to think it has not made me no longer suitable for the job and that if I win against Everton I am still in with a chance."
It will, he says, be "a relief" to have some thinking and planning time after today's game with an international week in the offing. "I know it's not an easy decision to make. Do I want to sell my soul to the devil and sign a contract to be a Premier League manager?"
That metaphor suggests he would be better continuing to work at a lower level. He is a loyal clubman, who refuses to accept that O'Neill left Villa in the lurch by walking out with his two assistants so late in the day. "When we played West Ham, he had done the scouting report for the game and he phoned me up and gave me all the information. He showed he still had the club at heart and that he wanted to help me."
Moyes will offer his hand to a fellow countryman before kick-off this afternoon, but in that devil of a job, he cannot afford to make it a helping one.
Aston Villa v Everton is on Sky Sports 1 this afternoon, kick-off 4pm
Split the difference
Villa v Everton in recent years:
2009-10 Villa 6th, Everton 8th
2008-9 Villa 6th, Everton 5th
2007-8 Villa 6th, Everton 5th
2006-7 VIlla 11th, Everton 6th
2005-6 Villa 16th, Everton 11th
2004-5 Villa 10th, Everton 4thReuse content