HAPPY TENTH ANNIVERSARY, DAVID MOYES
Mickey Blue Eyes
One of the most fascinating hobbies is people watching. We all do it to a greater or lesser degree and of course some do it professionally. But is there greater opportunity to do it in extremis than in football spectator crowds? Some people watch in complete silence however exciting the game, others cross the opposite boundary into certifiable insanity. There are quite a few academic papers on the subject but none of them, thank goodness, have ever come up with a viable guaranteed behaviour formula. Individually or collectively you just can't tell what the reaction will be. The first person to get it right every time will become a very rich individual.
Take Saturday's home game V Spurs for instance. Recently we've been on a modest league run and have reached the sixth round of the FA Cup. Yet before and during the match you would have thought we were in the running for a League and FA Cup and European Cup treble. That's how the crowd looked and sounded from about fifteen minutes before the kick off until ten minutes after the final whistle. It was difficult to explain except in the context of relishing "small" triumphs where we can, especially in view of the first half of the season when you could have heard a pin drop for most games at Goodison. On Saturday everyone was up for it, one of those fascinating occasions when crowd and team were in near-perfect sync. You have to say if any supporters have earned it, it's our lot.
And if there's one individual who has earned it more than anyone, it's David Moyes, now celebrating ten years in charge of our beloved Royal Blues; which makes him the third longest serving manager in the Premiership. We all remember where we were when he arrived - as Bill Kenwright has said since, we were a club on our knees. Even in his early days the man himself said he worried if he would be the manager to preside over relegation. So did we. None of us really knew him, and it was as big a managerial gamble as any club has ever taken. It could easily have gone awry. But luckily it has worked out for everyone. Gawd knows where we would be now if he had been less talented or determined. The measure of his success is that he has achieved the third best average league position of a ten years period in Everton's history (8th), all of it in a perilous Everton era of relatively less money, where running the club has required wheeling and dealing like never before. Like all ambitious young men he has made mistakes, some of them ill advised, but his overall affect has more than swamped those bad moments. So we can thank our lucky stars the right choice was made. He restored playing expectations at the club when they were most needed. Long may it continue, inevitable temptations elsewhere notwithstanding.
It all made for an interesting backcloth to the Spurs match, what with 'Arry apparently in the frame for the England job and Tottenham supposedly poised to win the Premiership......at least if you believe the farcical London media and its knob head employees. In reality 'Arry would make as lousy an England manager as that other media-recruited useless narcissist, Kevin Keegan, while your nearest Sunday league team has more chance of winning the title than Tottenham. No disrespect, they just aren't good enough. Meanwhile, we hoped to extend our run the way we did against Man City and Chelsea. Surely team pride would rise to the occasion the way it did in those two games?
And so it transpired, but with a nervy closing ten minutes when we were on the collar and might easily have leaked an equaliser.
Only changes from last week were Phil in for Hibbo at right back, Leon Osman centre left mid for Phil, Jelly in for Denis up front and Seamus in for Pienaar wide left. I must admit to some apprehension at bringing Ozzy back against this opposition. Tottenham had the players who Daniel Fackn Levy's Lahndan financial connections have assembled in a dash for the Champions League - which, if they fail, could result in a fire sale in the summer. There's two sides to every coin.
My apprehension was entirely unfounded. Leon had a quite brilliant first half and only disappeared in the second half when lack of match fitness took over and he got switched to wide right mid. In fact he made the difference in this match. Key to the display was the snuffing of Gareth Bale - a superb-looking football athlete on a hot streak - and an all action chase after everything. The effort was such that Tottenham only managed a few raids and opportunities in the first half while Our Boys looked sharper and more determined and threatening than all season. It ran right through the team and really lifted the crowd. It was exhilarating, especially in the face of the tallest Spurs side I have ever seen.
As last week at QPR, the enemy was obliterated possession-wise in the opening phase, though you knew there would be a good deal more to come from them than the Shepherd Bush barrow boys. A feature of this period was our quick movement and threat around their penalty area. (Christ, I can hardly believe I just wrote that). Their only answer was a couple of runs from Defoe, though by now everyone knows that if you shepherd him with the ball on his left foot it usually reduces his threat by about sixty percent. Our two main chances came when Seamus tried a tame toe poke that trickled wide, and later Felli got clear beyond the left goal area angle and hit a cross shot their 'keeper did well to keep out. Royston meanwhile was doing his mad-weasel-in-a-sack cameo and threatening to burst through on the right, but never quite managing it. Jelavic showed a willingness to go at defenders too, something we've lacked all season. Tim recovered his spring heel jack heading too and throughout won a high percentage of headers against much taller opponents as well as pestering the life out of their midfield, for which he received his usual bruising. When it works, our 4-4-1-1 formation is quite potent.
There was no real surprise when we got a lead after twenty minutes through a beautifully worked goal. The ball was played around in indeterminate little triangles on our left in their half. Eventually it came back to Bainesy wide left near the half way line. No sweat, another superb left side-footed pass angled inward maybe twenty metres to the left angle of the penalty area, where Leon moved onto it smoothly, made a schmuck of a defender, drifted slightly wider left and then cut it back into the path of Jelly. It was a difficult, bouncing ball to take at knee height but he managed it and right side-footed it home on the half volley from just inside the left centre penalty area into the 'keeper's left side.
Shortly afterwards, Royston went on one of his specials, a run from wide right across toward the edge of the penalty area and a left foot cross shot that was saved well on its way inside the far post. Minutes later Seamus got downed just outside the centre right D. Jelly took the free kick and bent it out to in on the 'keeper's left side for another excellent save at shoulder height. A metre to the right and it was a winner.
As usual, the second half was a different story. Had it not been for some sterling midfield and defensive work we might well have let in an equaliser or even lost. Felli and Johnny were again outstanding, as was Sylvain Distin. Everyone stood firm and snuffed most of what was thrown at them. Defoe scored and was well offside. Then sub Louis came on, hit Sylvain in the face with a shot after weaving through magically from the left, then hit a post in the final minute. But really overall the win was deserved despite pressure in the final quarter of the game. Tottenham were simply unconvincing. It was another fighting display from Our Boys that also featured the welcome return of Jags and Jack as subs. Nikica Jelavic might turn out to be one of Moyesy's inspired signings - he's a classy looking player with enough confidence to take on defenders, though he could probably do with a bit more body strength against some of the bigger centre backs.
Is that a glimpse of spring sunshine we detect?