Monday, 25 March 2013

International break brings time for reflection

The majority of football fans bemoan the pauses in domestic leagues to suit FIFA's World Cup Qualifiers, especially when England travel to a miniscule pocket of land in Italy to take on an utterly pointless international football team whose country is home to under 35,000 people.

As the part-time footballers of San Marino chased bright white shadows, Leighton Baines and Leon Osman represented Everton's contribution to the England team professionally; but then again, for players of their calibre, it would have been harder for them to have a bad game.

Ironically, Everton completely outclassed Manchester City even with 10 men when the two sides recently met at Goodison Park, with captain Leon Osman scoring a dream goal on his 300th appearance for the Blues.

Probably one of the most important goals of 2013 for Evertonians so far sealed the match after Marouane Fellaini presented the enigmatic Nikica Jelavić with a chance. The goal that every Evertonian had been crying out for, the goal that the Croat's team-mates were desperate for and the opportunity which Jelavić himself could utilise to kick-start a run of goals materialised, and as the bare chest of the striker was on show to Goodison Park, he certainly did not seem to be simply a name any more.

Many of you will agree when I say that we should wait to see whether or not Jelavić will become the player he was this time a year ago; in the meantime, however, optimism for finishing in a European position has been re-discovered.

For me, the victory over Roberto Mancini's feeble Champions was uplifting, albeit it did not completely relinquish the pain of being outplayed by Wigan. Despite the feeling of the ultimate missed opportunity still lingering, and the wrench that will inevitably be felt as I see Wigan step out at Wembley against Millwall (it was always going to be the Lions who we would have faced), we can now concentrate on rounding off the season in an appropriate manner. 

         Only David Moyes knows what the near future holds, leaving Evertonians guessing for now.

And so now is not the time to dwell on past frustrations on the field.

The remaining fixtures of the season are all winnable for an in-form Everton. Fellaini and Pienaar will undoubtedly be missed through suspension, yet the majority of teams who the Blues shall face from now until the end of the season are inferior considering the potential force Everton can be when they turn up.

Mentioning the fluctuation in performances this season brings me on to, naturally, Mr. Moyes. Just what exactly is going on with David Moyes is anybody's guess presently, and the Scot knows that, seemingly using his contract situation to elevate his status in the media (who are often full of praise for him) to almost hierarchy. Stan Collymore latched on to the problems surrounding the board on TalkSport recently which, combined with the contractual reminders, left me with a considerable headache and made it certain that it would be rather difficult to persuade a suitable replacement for Moyes should we need to.

Do not misunderstand me here, I am a fan of Moyes despite his sometimes blundering tactics, and I will be happy to see him stay. On the other hand, I will not miss him as much as I thought I would should he leave Everton in the summer.

On several occasions this season, the motivation of the squad has been questioned and therefore so has the manager's. In my opinion, the ongoing contract situation has spent too much time in the limelight and has affected the players, even if Moyes disagrees.

By chance, I was able to speak to a coach from Everton earlier this season whilst at a football center bordering Liverpool. He was able to tell me the odd detail about how hard Leighton Baines works in training, how he believed Nikica Jelavić is incredibly committed, and that Phil Neville is the first to moan when it rains.

And then he told me something which I have specifically remembered in order to bring about debate should Moyes’ time at Everton appear to be coming to a close: he told me with all certainty that Moyes was nailed on to "be the next [Manchester] United manager" due to relationship between his fellow countryman, Sir Alex Ferguson.

All I knew of the coach was that he worked with the players; I did not know of his real status within the club. His opinions did get me thinking, however.

Now, I recently saw an article from the Sunday People which, although it was most likely meaningless, confirmed to me how the media seems to view Moyes, by 'revealing' that he was ready to "do a Guardiola", and take time out of the game and wait for a bigger club to approach him.

What bewilders me is, firstly, that Moyes is being mentioned in the same sentence as Guardiola; this does not compare them as managers, but what it does suggest is that Moyes has a reputation, and may believe so himself, that he possesses the power be able to wait for a top European club to persuade him into taking over.
Of course, Pep Guardiola can do this at his leisure.

But David Moyes is not even wanted anymore by some Evertonians; so why would Manchester United, for example, want him?

Ever since his first match in control of an Everton team which contained players like David Unsworth, I have held faith in Moyes, religiously. Although, his tendency to play players out of position, inability to spot obvious problems and frequency to set up his team incorrectly on important occasions leaves doubt among Evertonians which only he can explain; and those antics are surely obvious to teams like Manchester United should they be interested.

It is not a question of whether he would have more money at a bigger club and could therefore breeze to titles and see the trophies rain down around him; these are basic mistakes which are partly responsible for the whole feeling of uncertainty around Goodison Park.

I will not spend time debating who his possible appointment could be, as I doubt the board could persuade a high-profile manager who could fill Moyes' boots effectively, because much credit needs to be given to the Scot for maintaining top eight finishes for many a year: but it is time for Everton Football Club to win trophies again.

David Moyes can be a very good football manager - but, and it is not easy to say, is he a very good Everton manager anymore? 

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