Obviously and understandably, all the attention from now until the start of next season will be on Manchester United and David Moyes. After an incredible 26 and a half year reign, Sir Alex Ferguson has finally handed the baton on. For the first time in over a quarter of a century, Man United will start a fresh.
The eyes of the footballing world will be fixed on David Moyes and Old Trafford as United come to terms with life after Fergie. But in the midst of all of this, an extremely significant managerial change is going somewhat unnoticed. Had David Moyes left Everton at a different time, it would have been a huge story for football.
While dwarfed by Fergie’s reign at United, Moyes’ eleven year spell at Everton is a highly commendable achievement. Not only that, but he managed to establish his Everton side firmly as a Europa League/Champions League challenging team. To see such consistency and longevity from a manager is hard to come by. Managerial stability is rare in today’s game, and Moyes’ reign was one of the longest in English football. People who are so focused and interested in how Man United will fare next season many will forget to wonder how Everton are going to fare after Moyes.
Moyes’ departure will forever live in the shadow of Ferguson’s. Everton’s recuperation and fresh start will forever live in the shadow of United’s, and in many ways that’s a great shame. Perhaps Everton’s ordeal to cope post Moyes will slip under the radar, but if anything, it will be as fascinating to watch as United’s.
There’s no doubt that David Moyes did a terrific job with Everton, however, after a few years of finishing just outside the top four, there was always the question lingering of whether Moyes had taken Everton as far as he was ever going to. It was hard to consider Everton moving in another direction due to the fact that Moyes had done a brilliant job at Goodison Park, but if the club wanted to make that next step into an established Champions League side, maybe Moyes was not way to go about achieving it.
Unable to sack him, they now have an opportunity to change things up. You might argue that change is unnecessary and generally pretty risky, but these risks have to be taken into account if you are ever to challenge for silverware in 21st century football. Challenging for silverware was perhaps the one thing missing from Moyes’ very respectable tenure at Everton. The closest he came was an FA Cup final loss in 2009. While it is undeniable that Moyes was a huge success with Everton, was it really possible for them to go any further under his guidance?
Everton’s next managerial appointment will be crucial. Moyes famously succeeded with Everton with next to no transfer budget season after season. He wisely sought after cheap players whom he saw unearthed talent within and helped them to fulfil their playing potential. Fellaini, Lescott, Baines, Arteta, Cahill, Jagielka are but a few of the names David Moyes took from insignificance to cult-hero status at Goodison. Added to this the immense success of the youth system – Everton produced a fine set of young players from their academy year upon year, which obviously meant no money spent on transfers but it also kept wages low. Moyes also famously put faith in ‘older’ players. Phil Neville’s transition from unneeded fullback at Man United to inspirational Everton captain and hero is very impressive. Tony Hibbert is another Evertonian who has been a mainstay, and a successful one under Moyes. Tim Howard has flourished at Everton and Sylvan Distin is the most capped non-British player in Premier League history.
Basically, Moyes has developed and maintained and extremely well-run club, something which should come in handy at Man United. The question is, will Moyes’ replacement be able to continue running the club this way?
Most managers would prefer to have a bit of money to play with, something which Everton don’t have in excess. And how do you find money to spend if you don’t have any? You sell players. Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines are two of the most sought after players in the Premier League at the moment. Will the new boss be tempted to cash in on one or indeed both of them in order to generate some funding for transfers of his own? Only time will tell.
However, if Everton do end up selling arguably their two best players, they run the severe risk of declining as a club. We will then find out if it was indeed Moyes’ efficient and well-oiled way of running a club cheaply which kept Everton pushing for 4th year upon year. Times are a-changing for Everton, not just Man United, and we could become so focused on the goings on at Old Trafford next season that we risk missing what happens to Everton entirely.
Alan Curbishley famously turned Charlton Athletic into an established mid-table side during his 15 year reign there. And after resigning in 2006, Charlton, who were never particularly relegation battlers suddenly declined and were relegated not long after Curbishley’s departure. The unsettling of a project and a style which had been in place for so long ended up being Charlton’s downfall and since their relegation in 2007, they haven’t once come close to promotion to the Premier League once more.
Of course I’m not suggesting that with Moyes leaving, Everton are destined for the Championship, far from it. But we may see the true extent of Moyes’ work at Everton should his replacement fail to keep the Blues pushing for a Champions League place.
In some ways though, this lack of attention Everton are likely to get due to the focus on United will be good for the new man in charge, whoever he may be. The less focus, the better; there is less pressure that way. But just as we are about to dawn on a brand new adventure for Manchester United, let’s not forget that there is a just as significant change going on at Everton – at least that’s what the blue half of Liverpool would argue, and while it may slip under the radar somewhat next season, I know I’ll be keeping one watchful eye on the cloudy future of what has been one of the most consistent clubs in the Premier League in the last few seasons.
Roll on 2013/14.