It’s difficult to sum up the reaction to and feelings towards the departure of David Moyes from Everton to replace Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester United manager.
One the one hand, it’s not entirely unexpected. Moyes has long been mentioned as a possible replacement for Ferguson; Ferguson is in his early 70s and was bound to retire sooner rather than later; and there was a strong chance Moyes would leave Everton this summer anyway, after allowing his contract to run down.
But on the other, it’s a huge shock to the Everton system. Just over 11 years have passed since Moyes replaced Walter Smith and he leaves having overseen the transformation of the club from regular relegation strugglers into a side often competing for European places and one that, until recently, was fighting it out for a place in the top four.
Whoever replaces Moyes – and it’s a wide-open field with no one candidate standing head and shoulders above the other – will face a huge task in maintaining Everton’s current standing. There have been recriminations from Evertonians over Moyes’ perceived inability to take the Toffees to the nebulous next level, but the chances of his successor managing to do that must be considered slim; it certainly can’t be expected. Newcastle have shown how quickly success becomes failure one season to the next.
A further criticism often lodged at Moyes is that he fails to win the big names – with his poor record at Anfield, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and the Emirates Stadium usually offered in evidence. While it can’t be denied that Everton’s results at those grounds are generally woeful, it also ignores the fact that before Moyes took over, Everton’s big games were not against the title-chasers, but rather the relegation strugglers.
Whoever is picked to replace Moyes is unlikely to win the support of the majority of fans – in much the same way sections of the United support appear split between Moyes and Jose Mourinho. There are candidates who tick a few boxes but each has at least a question mark hanging over him, and some have glaring deficiencies that cannot be ignored. In this scenario it may be best not to focus on the negatives of a potential successor, but the positives instead.
It’s an oft-repeated fact that Everton cannot compete financially with the sides around them. That’s going to be the case for the foreseeable future and with that in mind, Everton need a manager with ideas on how to make up the ground if they are to remain competitive among the top four. Everton are unlikely to find success trying to emulate a Tottenham Hotspur or an Arsenal; Moyes’ replacement has to find a new way of winning, a way of making up the shortfall without spending money that isn’t there.
You would like to think that Bill Kenwright and his fellow decision makers have kept abreast of promising, potential managers to replace Moyes for when this day inevitably came; a “What if?” file in the event of a sudden or not-so-sudden departure. We’re about to find out. A smooth transition, the appointment of a manager with a clear vision for the club, is the best Everton can hope for, but it’s certainly not guaranteed.
Moyes’ departure brings an end to an era almost as emblematic as that of Ferguson at Old Trafford, with his successor facing a task as daunting as Moyes will in replacing Ferguson. If replacing Smith in 2002 was the most important decision of Kenwright’s time as Everton owner, replacing Moyes dwarfs it by magnitude.
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