A sad realisation has overcome me since reading and eventually watching David Moyes’ first press conference as Manchester United boss and it’s one that I think goes quite a distance in explaining why Everton have struggled when arriving at the final hurdle as glory beckoned in the last 11 years.
Moyes’ big game mentality, tactical naivety and addiction to positioning the club as the underdog all came into question at varying times throughout his time at Everton, particularly since that painful day at Wembley when a second cup final in 3 years was put on a plate. In fairness to him, I’d always given Moyes the benefit of the doubt as he racked up the tales of what could have been. Maybe that was born out of being caught up in how far he’d taken the club since he took over.
But my perception of him as a big game manager gradually changed when I became fortunate enough to interview him for the best part of the last 3 years. In light of what he said recently about how he was seduced by Sir Alex Ferguson, it was the final straw for me that made me think we may have never won anything under the Scot. Perhaps that’s going a little too far. I don’t know about any other blue reading this, but hearing Moyes’ thoughts to being summoned to the Ferguson residence the week before he decided to leave just adds more fuel to the fire of a distinct lack of ambition at the club. “I thought he was going to tell me he was taking one of my players,” he said. Forgive me for feeling bit sick when I heard this, but I’ve had enough of hearing these stories, usually originating from the club itself that paint a picture of Everton doing as they’re told like a teacher’s pet. And hearing this rubbish from Moyes makes me wonder if that was always the case, was there always a self-constructed limit put on what the club could achieve? I think there was.
I recall several occasions when Moyes would come out with something that both, as a journalist and as a fan, made me wonder why it was necessary for him to tell us that “perhaps 7th is the best Everton can do”? Of course, the reality of it all is that although it was difficult to accept, he was probably right. “What does that matter, then?” I hear you collectively groan. Well, most importantly for me it makes me wonder what sort of message/ethos/philosophy was being fed to the players and what did they truly believe was possible with the manager publicly reigning in hopes of success? Forgive me for being a hopeless romantic here but am I wrong for believing the sky is the limit for my team? Now you may be sat there thinking that this is me hanging Moyes out to dry and having a good old moan after the horse has bolted – far from it. I just don’t want us to make the same mistakes as we start an exciting new era under Roberto Martinez, who, with Wigan’s stunning FA Cup win last season, demonstrated a killer instinct and ambition that we’ve long since questioned under Moyes. I’ll never forget David Moyes as the manager of Everton and what he did taking us from near oblivion to a consistently solid Premier League outfit. But surely what’s been lost somewhat in the time taken to build that, is the management of expectation and ambition. As time went on with Moyes and certainly by the end, telling us everything we couldn’t achieve as a club made me feel as if he was compiling one big advert for how much he’d achieved personally.
Take Stoke for instance. Now before you turn your computer off and tweet me saying “how can you compare us to Stoke?” I would like to make the point that aside from their much lamented style of football, they similarly had the same issue – when does exceeding expectation become the standard? Surely when you raise the bar consistently to the same level then ambition and expectancy ultimately rise? Tony Pulis built a team that wouldn’t look out of place on one of those Ross Kemp shows, but it did its job by keeping them in the Premier League consistently. What he lacked was the foresight, talent and intelligence to take the club forward after laying those foundations. That task has been left in everybody’s favourite man linked with our top job Mark Hughes (Best of luck Stoke!). I’m not saying Everton couldn’t have kicked on under Moyes, but for me his attitude towards reaching the next level was also a big part of what was holding us back. In my heart of hearts I know Everton will probably finish 5th-8th most seasons as the landscape currently dictates. But the manager of my club should be the last person to tell me what limit we can reach shouldn’t it?
That brings me on to the new man. Roberto Martinez has already signalled intent that we’ve seldom seen before by getting his business done early. Whilst I’m sure most of us would’ve chosen a couple of other different names from Wigan for him to initially bring to Goodison, the three he’s chosen add some much needed depth to a small squad and that’s at the very least. It was the most talked about statement from his inauguration with the club, but if he even remotely echoed the sentiment from Bill Kenwright about achieving Champions League football, then in my opinion he’s already gone a long way in making up a shortfall belonging to the previous regime. As unrealistic as it ever may sound, why the hell can’t Everton finish in the top 4? I want a man in charge who believes the club can achieve more.
I was concerned the appointment of Martinez would undermine the position in which Moyes left the club simply because he appeared to represent everything the current board desired in a manager – one who’s used to financial constraints and someone who I imagined appreciates a snuggle on the couch watching Corrie with his boss. Maybe that’s a bit harsh.
Although his tenure is still very much in its infancy, Martinez looks to have already brought his own identity to the club culminating in the loan deal of a Barcelona starlet – when would we ever see that in the last 11 years? Going back to the lads from Wigan, it’s also obvious the main attribute he’s looked for when recruiting has not been versatility – something Moyes made his priority when dithering into the transfer market, usually in late August.
Again please keep in mind this is not a criticism of Moyes, think of it more as the heralding of a new era where we can venture into the unknown with optimism. I was devastated when I found out everything I’d known as an Evertonian was coming to an end. Now I can’t wait to see what a future holds where there aren’t any boundaries under a manager that also seems to want to dream of more.
follow me on twitter @daviddownie17