Moyes faces difficult task after summer of strife

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The Independent Football

The title of manager of the year can have a cutting edge. Eight years ago the award went to Peter Reid, who saw his Sunderland side relegated the following season. The same fate befell George Burley at Ipswich and last May it very nearly embraced David Moyes.



The title of manager of the year can have a cutting edge. Eight years ago the award went to Peter Reid, who saw his Sunderland side relegated the following season. The same fate befell George Burley at Ipswich and last May it very nearly embraced David Moyes.

From the moment the Glaswegian arrived at Goodison Park proclaiming Everton to be "the people's club" to the 2-1 defeat by Manchester United in May 2003 that denied him European football, his impact was electric. Since then the shocks have been entirely negative.

"Part of my job has been to create expectations. This time last year I was sitting here, saying 'bring them on'," he reflected. "This time I am being told we are one of the favourites for relegation. Those are the facts."

Everton's decline from seventh to 17th was profoundly shocking. As a rule, a quarter of clubs who finish one place off relegation go down the following season, especially when the summer has been spent in a boardroom civil war - this one involving the chairman, Bill Kenwright, and his fellow director Paul Gregg.

Moyes acknowledged that the club should have invested after their first top-10 finish since 1996 though, financially, Everton are still shaky, having let seven first-team members go. Their replacements, Tim Cahill and Marcus Bent, may be little more than solid First Division players while West Ham's £3m valuation of Michael Carrick puts him out of Moyes' reach.

Tomorrow this patched-up side faces the mighty Arsenal, with their one world-class player, Wayne Rooney, not even due to start light training until a week on Monday.

For all Moyes' bravado - he claimed that "not only does the city of Liverpool need Everton but Britain as a footballing country needs it" - history suggests otherwise. There have been huge clubs, Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers in the 1980s, for example, who have found size no barrier to obscurity.

"They are not in the same league as Everton," Moyes retorted. "This club is one of the biggest in the country. It [the boardroom unrest] was distracting, of course it was, but you have to get on with it. I have maintained a dialogue with Bill Kenwright but I am an employee of Everton and you have to use the right channels."

Kevin Kilbane, one of those who came to Goodison in the summer of 2003 expecting to join a club on an upward trend, spoke of the mood among the players at their pre-season training camp in Austria.

"A lot of the lads were taking phone calls from the wife or girlfriend because there was something in the paper or on the radio three or four times a day," he said. "The players are generally the last to know; you end up finding out from Joe Public."

Kilbane argued that the divisions in the boardroom have bound the squad closer together and his manager reported an impressive attitude in training. However, attitude alone may not be enough.

"We have been pushed into a corner," said Moyes. "And when you are there you don't have much choice. You have to stand up and fight back."

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