Goodison Park is a slightly happier place to be after Tuesday’s FA Cup win over Oldham Athletic. Everton hadn’t won in five games before seeing off the League One side and manager David Moyes was starting to test the patience of even his most loyal supporters.
From the outside that might seem like a harsh judgement. There’s little question Moyes has done phenomenal work since replacing Walter Smith in 2002. Even his most fierce critics – and they have always been there, no matter how high up the table Everton have climbed – could surely deny that. After 11 years, though, familiarity has started to breed, if not contempt, than at least complacency.
The reaction to Everton throwing away first three points and then one at Norwich last weekend was of the predictable kind. Disappointment, anger, frustration – they all came through from supporters in the immediate aftermath. But tangled up in the response was Moyes’ contractual situation.
A recurring theme among the complaints following the Norwich result – but before the Oldham game – was that maybe it’s for the best that Moyes’ contract is expiring, that perhaps there is no more the manager can do for the club – with more than one suggestion that he is already looking to the summer and his potential next move, although to question Moyes’ professionalism is plain disrespectful and wrong.
Maybe it was knee-jerk but there didn’t appear to be much zip around Goodison as the Latics were dispatched in a decent but hardly spectacular performance. Moyes again stuck to largely the same squad and made largely the same substitutions – although Thomas Hitzlsperger returned for a late cameo and Apostolos Vellios was on the bench, so call off that search party.
Moyes has less than six months on his existing deal – if this was a player at Everton then the manager would be castigated, along with the board, for allowing the situation to develop to this point. So the manager’s insistence that the issue isn’t a distraction doesn’t ring true – when Everton fail, as they did against Norwich, it’s used as a stick with which to beat him.
When Everton succeed – say if they win the FA Cup this season – then it’s inevitable that the cynics will claim Moyes is auditioning for a bigger, better job, especially with the managerial position at Chelsea bound to become vacant.
Whether or not Moyes would be on Roman Abramovich’s shortlist, or if he’d want to enter the crazy world of Stamford Bridge, is unknown. But regardless of whether Everton win, lose or draw, Moyes’ contract is in the minds of many of the supporters. It’s not a leap to suggest it’s on the players’ minds too, some of whom have played under Moyes for the majority of his 11 years on Merseyside.
When the whistle blows Moyes’ contract becomes irrelevant but at full-time it becomes an issue again, and will be until he either signs a new deal or walks away. Football is littered with teams who slid down the table once a long-serving manager departed. Everton cannot afford to be the next.
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