When David Moyes, the Everton manager, reluctantly lost the most promising 16-year-old to Manchester United, he was perhaps consoled by the prospect it could be a brief hiatus in their relationship, rather than a more definite detachment.
While Moyes would not have been naïve enough to expect Wayne Rooney back at his beloved Blues – other than in opposition red – it’s the possibility of the fiery Scot succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford that could see the pair reunited.
“It’s a difficult one,” says ex-Evertonian Peter Reid, in Dubai this week as a Showtime pundit. “I know Sir Alex very well and he is streets ahead of everybody. But considering David did such a good job at Preston, and seeing as he’s very good in the transfer market as well, it’s certainly a possibility.”
It’s easy to understand why Reid speaks so highly of Moyes. Apart from one poor season – the club narrowly avoided relegation four years ago – the Glaswegian has covered himself in glory since he swapped Preston for Everton in 2002.
The only manager to have broken the top four’s monopoly in the Premier League, Moyes has experienced Champions League football before and is close to bringing it back to Goodison Park again.
The club currently sit fifth in the league, level on points with fourth-placed Liverpool, and have a crucial derby game against their rivals at the end of the month.
“I think Everton will give Liverpool a real run for their money for fourth place,” predicts Reid in his strong Scouse accent, his connection to the club he won a collection of trophies with starkly apparent.
“I honestly believe they’ve a great chance of finishing there. I think the derby game on March 30 is going to be massive, but I’m convinced Everton are going to do it.”
Such optimism stems from a belief that the current coach is the right man to take Everton back into the big time. Twice voted the LMA Manager of the Year by his peers, Moyes, like Ferguson, has come through testing times at the club and since justified Chairman Bill Kenwright’s faith in him.
“I think he’s done fantastically,” says Reid.
“He’s got the club going and there’s a belief within the fans that this team could get better and better. They had a difficult season when they finished 17th, and everybody was clamouring for David to get the sack and saying he wasn’t good enough.
“But the chairman stuck with him and now they’re reaping the rewards.”
Moyes is strikingly similar to the most successful manager in Premier League history.
Known for their curt, post-match comments and referee-bashing, the two compatriots are great man-managers and motivators. But when a player steps out of line they know who’s the boss, hightlighted by Moyes’ recent decision to fine Ayegbeni Yakubu when the Nigerian striker returned late from the African Cup of Nations.
Sir Alex, famed for his own “hairdryer treatment” for those who step out of line, must appreciate the way Moyes handles big-name players. He is very much his own man – articulate yet straight to the point – and Reid praises Moyes’ determination to run the club as he sees fit.
“He’s given a free reign, unlike some other clubs. David’s in charge and that’s why I think it’s stable,” he says. “It’s run the way it should be because, if it isn’t run right from top to bottom, the club wouldn’t be a success. And that’s all credit to Everton and to David Moyes for achieving that.”
Like Ferguson, the Everton boss uses that freedom well. His ability to get the best out of the players at his disposal is closely aligned with an eye for a bargain.
“His man-management of players is excellent,” Reid continues, sipping on his bottle of water. Despite the blaring air-conditioning, the Dubai heat is getting to the former Sunderland manager.
“But, like any manager, you’ve got to get it right in the transfer market and I think David’s done that. For example, [Tim] Cahill and [Mikel] Arteta are tremendous buys and you can go right through the team: Andy Johnson, Phil Neville, Jolean Lescott, Joseph Yobo, Tim Howard...”
But it’s not just recruiting new players that Moyes has a knack for. Developing youth is prevalent at Goodison Park, something that Ferguson has proved adept at as he nurtured the precocious talents of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David Beckham.
“When you look at the bench you’ve got the likes of [James] Vaughan, [Victor] Anichebe, [Leon] Osman and [Tony] Hibbert who’ve all come through the ranks. David’s got a lot of home-grown quality there and I think, if he can improve and get more players into the squad, Everton could threaten the so-called top four.”
Moyes needed to sell Rooney to one of that top four to save the Toffees from a sticky financial situation. With the money, he’s formed a team built on hardwork and determination. Those casting a glance across North England may well be taking note of
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Reid also spoke out about the Premier League’s “39th Game”, a proposal to play an extra match abroad during the season. The idea was met with plenty of criticism from football fans, managers and even Fifa President Sepp Blatter and the former Everton player agreed wholeheartedly.
“I thought it was the most ill-conceived idea I’ve ever heard. I think it shows a lack of respect to supporters. If I was a season-ticket holder, I’d want to see my team play every game. But if it’s the extra game and your team’s going to be relegated are you going to go abroad to watch it? I don’t think so. What’s the point of having a season-ticket if you’re not going to see every game?”
One of the criticisms levelled at the Premier League was that the extra game would create an imbalance in the fixture list. At the moment, all 20 teams play each other twice, both home and away, but an additional match would mean a bottom side could get a more difficult game than one of their relegation rivals.
“Who would your team play?” said Reid. “Are Wigan going to play Arsenal to decide if they go down or not? If you want to globalise the game go on pre-season tours, go show the game to the world, but having it as a competitive game just doesn’t work. “I think they’re taking the competition and devaluing it.”
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