The "small club" of Merseyside Everton might be – to cite the fabled words which will always make Rafael Benitez persona non grata around Goodison – but David Moyes could reflect with some satisfaction yesterday that he will happily take "small" if it does not mean debt up to your neck and a week in the High Court.
Leveraged buyouts like Liverpool's are "wrong," he declared, and if Benitez was willing to ignore the means of enrichment then the Everton manager won't.
It was when Moyes' poor League record against Liverpool – two wins in 16 fixtures – came up that he said what he wanted to say about the old enemy's flawed prospectus. "If you are going to mention Liverpool's record... our debts are far, far less than Liverpool's. So that's why it's always been very difficult to get results. Maybe it will become really unfashionable to be really in debt and owners will have to manage. At Everton, we've really tried to manage it, albeit I'm trying to squeeze every penny out of the chairman. That's what you have to do."
This was an eloquent line of argument and one which few Liverpool fans will challenge this weekend, as they savour the clear, fresh air of a near debt-free existence – though it is a statement Moyes may have to answer for one day, if he ever takes the manager's chair at Old Trafford with the Glazers in attendance.
"I'd have done anything to be at the top but what I couldn't do was go and spend outrageous money that would put the club in jeopardy," Moyes continued. "If somebody comes and says 'I want to spend', you don't actually know if they've actually got [money] or not – and then they haven't got it. I think most clubs have learnt from Leeds. [Our outlook] might have made it difficult to win as many derbies as I'd have liked to, over the years, but I'll take it."
For once, this weekend, Moyes actually holds the upper hand, though one place above third-bottom Liverpool isn't quite what he had in mind in August. To date, his Everton side have been comfortably the better of the city of Liverpool's teams, though, while his Anfield counterpart Roy Hodgson finds himself wondering whether his new owners will want to retain him. These two managers have spent a substantial amount of time together this week – both watched Belgium's thrilling 4-4 draw with Austria, sitting together on a flight – and Moyes yesterday suggested that a "transfer window" for managers might prevent the contagion of sackings. "Managers could only go in the January or the summer. That would give more stability to the clubs."
Moyes is unhappy that Belgium allowed Marouane Fellaini to play on with a groin injury and will write to the Belgian FA, though he accepts Phil Jagielka's hamstring injury with England as a fact of life. "We've been told he'd be out for four to six weeks but we don't think it's as bad as that," Moyes said. Both will join Steven Pienaar on the sidelines, with Louis Saha unlikely to return after a calf strain. But the most damaging news of the week at Finch Farm was the broken leg sustained by young Ross Barkley, the midfielder on the bench for the last four games who is considered the next big prospect after Jack Rodwell.
Barkley has broken his leg in three places, a double tibia and single fibia break. It has been pinned and Everton can only wait and hope for a player Moyes yesterday put in the same category as Wayne Rooney and Rodwell. "He looked as if he was on the verge of having a similar career path as Wayne and Jack Rodwell. We pushed them in really quickly, developed them, brought them on. Ross was certainly good enough to be on that fast track. He'll be out for six months. He's a good boy."
There was a curious lack of antipathy for a derby weekend – a result both of Liverpool's woes and Moyes' long-standing connection with Hodgson, who was manager of Udinese back in 2001 when Moyes, who had seen him coach a couple of times and vaguely knew him, wrote to ask could he complete a one-week study visit with him as part of his Pro Licence course.
The welcome was warm for Moyes, who considering his side's start to the season, will not be in the mood for sentimentality tomorrow.