David Moyes is about to enter his tenth full season as Everton manager, but the club remains the Premier League’s sleeping giant. When he arrived his reputation was on the rise as a no-nonsense and tenacious manager. More recently, Moyes has drifted into a pragmatic high school teacher role, who watches his star pupils move onwards and upwards. What opportunity is he waiting for, or is it too late?
For the last few years, as moths encircled the Toffees’ war-chest, Everton fans have had to be content substituting summer transfer rumours with news of extended contracts for their better players and the non-poaching of their manager. This has actually worked quite well for them, none less so than last year when their noisy neighbours appeared on the edge of the abyss and turned to the seemingly safe hands of Roy Hodgson. There was a lot of laughter in the blue half of Merseyside, but schadenfreude’s a bitch. Twelve months later and Liverpool are making it rain millions on mediocre midfielders, as Everton once more try to keep their squad intact.
Moyes has been relatively successful at keeping his core players happy, generally only releasing then for better opportunities when the price is right. Notably, a 20-year-old Wayne Rooney was sold for over £25m and Joleon Lescott for £22m, the majority of which Moyes has had to reinvest in the team. However frustratingly for the fans, and probably Moyes too, it has been a policy of sell-to-buy in the last few seasons. Once again, this year there are suitors for Everton’s top assets – Jagielka, Baines and Fellaini have all been linked with moves away. Though those potential funds may allow Moyes to re-jig his team, the distinct lack of additional resources must have him jealously eyeing other clubs.
After Gérard Houllier finally admitted football was killing him, Moyes was briefly linked with the Aston Villa job, but said the stability and control at Everton kept him content. Unfortunately it may also have made him complacent. No doubt Villa viewed him as an excellent coach to get the most out of meager means, as they move to cut costs (in the end settling for the ultimate cost-cutting – relegation under Alex McLeish). But Moyes has been that manager and more; developing and encouraging a robust academy that continues to produce Everton’s next first team (including players like Leon Osman, Jack Rodwell and Ross Barkley). If Moyes still harbours ambition to head a top-four side, his next move may be crucial.
It is currently unlikely Chelsea, Man United or City would immediately offer him their next opening. Liverpool is out of the question. Should Wenger leave Arsenal it is possible he could move there, but it would be a significant change in style. The only club which can offer Moyes real funds for investment and showcase his league-challenging potential would be Tottenham. Such a move relies upon the rumour that ‘Arry Redknapp is set to park his yellow Reliant Regal in the England manager parking space, after Capello leaves next summer. It also relies on Moyes not cocking up this season with Everton, but given his average finish is a respectable 8th, it’s reasonable to assume they’ll be in or around there next May.
Everton fans should not begrudge Moyes a move up the ladder. Barring a Qatari take-over, the Toffees look set to continue to just scrape by. But, with up-and-coming coaches like Owen Coyle and Paul Lambert snapping at his heels, it’s about time Moyes got to show his ability at a club with more means and ambition. He may not have been able to completely rouse this particular giant, but he can be satisfied at the progress and security he has brought. This season should be his last hurrah at Goodison Park, before genuinely testing his mettle against the best teams on fairer financial ground.