by Daisy Cutter
As a perfect storm brewed over Manchester last weekend down the M62 there was another battle royale concluding between red and blue with the same colour victorious.
Liverpool’s last-day defeat set against the Toffee’s impressive triumph of a faltering Newcastle may have only secured a slightly hollow-ringing achievement of seventh for those at Goodison Park but following a tumultuous season for each Merseyside club their final league placings were no longer of great importance. Now what mattered most was to finish as top dogs of the city, bragging rights and a reason to enjoy most optimism for the long summer ahead.
That Everton overcame such an undeniable class divide presumably made the usurping of their local rivals for only the second time since 1987 all the sweeter. Last summer as Dalglish was bankrolled to the tune of £56m to kickstart a domestic revolution Moyes was forced to relinquish his influential schemer Arteta and two from an already meagre stock of strikers. It further depleted a squad that was markedly top heavy – its first XI a match for anyone but with a bench and beyond made up of frees, rejects and Tony Hibbert.
After nearly a decade of pulling off miracles forging teams of genuine quality and spirit on an incapacitating budget it was felt by many that this campaign would be a stretch too far even for Moyes. Season after season he’d hauled and cajoled his team to a top six finish despite the club being deep in the financial mire but now it seemed the walls were crumbling in on the fortress he’d constructed from bargain bricks and mortar. Arteta was a keystone taken away in the last hours of the transfer window with no time or funds to replace him and to exacerbate everything Tim Cahill – so often Everton’s talisman and saviour – began to endure a prolonged and uncharacteristic loss of form. Then of course there was the Toffee’s traditional slow start to ride out that left the blues hovering above the drop-zone by early November and struggling to string two decent performances together.
There were calls for his head but the demands for a change higher up were far more vociferous. The inadequacies of the board – who are admittedly hindered significantly by a ground with limited revenue streams – have been extensively covered in the Cutter and the situation remains exactly the same today. Everton are a club primed and ready for the big-time yet are woefully held back by decrepit infrastructure and debt. The solution is investment and investment only.
That they are otherwise in good health can largely be apportioned to Moyes and his fine management. He patiently tutors individuals into improvement then moulds them into a team that fight collectively for the cause – proper old-school coaching – and crucially for a club in Everton’s position evidently possesses a Midas touch in the market.
In January, due to the sale of ‘that Russian lad’ as the brilliant song goes and a juggling of finances, he was afforded the rare luxury of being able to bring in some much-needed personnel. Darren Gibson arrived from Old Trafford for a pittance to widespread scoffing from rival supporters. This was Arteta’s successor, the footballing version of a pub cover band? Gibson promptly settled matters against Man City with a well-executed volley in a game that arguably turned Everton’s whole campaign around.
After selling Pienaar for three million to Spurs the South African was brought back for nowt and gave the side a creative shot in the arm.
Best of all of course was the purchase of Jelavic from Rangers. A proven poacher sure but could he cut it in the Premier League? Not only did he provide an instant glut of goals but the Croatian hit man finally dispelled the sole lingering criticism that has plagued Moyes’ long tenure at the club – his overt distrust of out-and-out strikers.
Everton were suddenly rejuvenated with Jelavic offering an extra dimension to their power play. Their 4-4 draw at Old Trafford alone was a demonstration of not only what this side is but also what more it could be.
Which all bodes well for next term except….except then David Moyes will once again find himself in the same compromised scenario he encounters each summer. To be a couple of additions short of putting together a Champion’s League outfit yet needing to sell before he buys.
Yesterday saw the sacking of Kenny Dalglish and it is a cruel twist of fate that on each side of Stanley Park what one club so desperately needs the other has.
Imagine what Everton could become with the backing and ambition of Liverpool’s American owners.
Whilst at Anfield, while the search begins for a man at the helm who can construct a team rather than a collection of expensive misfits, they could do a damn sight worse than seek out a man like David Moyes.