The Everton manager Moyes, who took charge in March 2002, has created a different beast to the one that will be on show at Goodison Park tonight. A glance at the line-up for Moyes’ debut game against Fulham tells much of the story and may give Everton fans with memories stretching that far back a shudder, for the first XI of the Moyes era contained precisely two attacking players, strikers Duncan Ferguson and Tomasz Radzinski. Thomas Gravesen was the closest thing to an attacking midfielder, and this was Gravesen two years before the form that took him to Real Madrid. Instead, the team was made up of defenders and defensive midfielders, and defenders playing in midfield, as cult hero David Unsworth did that day, scoring the opening goal after less than a minute. Moyes was working with Walter Smith’s team, and it was a long, hard road from that group of grafters to today’s squad populated with footballers of the highest class.
Comparing that team, which eventually beat Fulham 2-1, despite a Gravesen red card, to the one that drew with Blackpool on Saturday shows just how much Everton have evolved under Moyes. Outside of the back four, just John Heitinga was a defensive minded player, and the Dutchman, schooled as he is in the Ajax way, offers a great deal more than your average midfield hard man. Joining Heitinga in midfield were Mikel Arteta, Steven Pienaar and Seamus Coleman – a healthy blend of technique and tenacity – with Tim Cahill supporting Yakubu. The detached Nigerian is as far removed as possible from the rugged Ferguson – they have few similarities outside of their nominal position – while Cahill’s thunderous determination and indisputable knack for producing something special make him the perfect example of what Moyes wants from his Everton side.
Moyes has never been afraid to use more direct methods when they are called for, usually as a last resort, and indeed got great use out of Ferguson as an impact substitute at the tail end of the iconic Scot’s career. There have also been times when the mass of Marouane Fellaini has been used to bludgeon defences into submission, but the Belgian was not brought to Merseyside for his height, and certainly not for his aerial ability. Moyes parted with a record sum for Fellaini to add the 22-year-old’s deft control and vision to his squad, and the physical presence he brings to the midfield is an added bonus. That sums up Moyes’ Everton nicely, and is beginning to fit Coyle’s Bolton too, making this meeting a tantalising prospect.