The last time David Moyes stood on the pitch at Goodison Park, it was all about him. This weekend, he will return to find not much has changed.
Moyes’ final game as Everton manager last May saw his team beat West Ham 2-0 and he walked off the field in tears.
‘If I had been an Everton fan I would have clapped the manager too,’ he said.
On Sunday Moyes returns with Manchester United as the centre of attention once again. This time, though, the climate will be different.
While he has struggled as manager at Old Trafford this season, his old club have moved on without him. Everton under Roberto Martinez already have more points — 66 — than Moyes ever managed in a season during his 10 years in charge at Goodison Park, and nine more than United.
Supporters, meanwhile, remain irritated by the manner in which Moyes tried to sign Marouane Fellaini (below) and Leighton Baines last August.
By suggesting Everton do ‘what is right for the players’, Moyes exposed himself not only to accusations of treachery but also hypocrisy. In 2009 he had been critical of Manchester City’s attempts to sign Joleon Lescott on the back of similar rhetoric.
‘We haven’t forgotten, Moyes,’ wrote one Everton fan on a fans’ forum this week. ‘And if you have, we will remind you on Sunday.’
Football can be a nasty, fickle business. Moyes knows that. The hero-villain cycle can be ridiculously short.
The story of Moyes’ return to Everton, though, has more layers to it than most.
Most surprising, perhaps, has been the apparent attempt by some to sully the Scot’s legacy at Goodison Park.
Moyes’ 10-and-a-half seasons on Merseyside saw him establish Everton as a top eight Barclays Premier League side during an era when some traditional rivals moved on to financial footings Everton could not match. As the club swayed under the effect of aborted takeovers and failed stadium projects, the team largely remained a constant positive.
Martinez’s progress at the club this season, though, has encouraged some clumsy revisionism. The Spaniard’s team play better football, according to 92 per cent of those polled on a fan website this week, while stories from inside Everton tell of superior inter- personal skills.
More surprising, though, were youth coach Kevin Sheedy’s Twitter comments suggesting Moyes didn’t care about young players while one of those teenagers, Ross Barkley, has claimed Martinez’s training sessions are ‘more tactical’.
Sheedy’s words — subsequently deleted —reflected badly on him and can be traced back to a breakdown in the relationship between the two men. Sheedy, for example, felt he didn’t receive enough personal thanks when his Under 18 side beat Arsenal in the FA Youth Cup last year.
Nevertheless, the words outraged Moyes and didn’t impress Everton chairman Bill Kenwright either.
The list of players to emerge from youth academy to first team under Moyes is long and impressive. Moyes was also behind the move to bring the first team and youth squads together on one site while in 2009 Everton had five youth academy products in their playing squad. Only United had more.
This week one Everton source told Sportsmail: ‘Some academy staff did feel as though Moyes was slow to blood some of their players. They thought Barkley was sent on loan when he could have been on the bench here.
‘But show me a club with a youth academy and I will show you youth coaches who are moaning. It’s always the way.’
When Moyes revealed he was leaving Everton that tumultuous week last May, not everyone at the club was sorry.
He had little or no relationship with some senior executives, for example, simply because he felt his close bond with Kenwright was sufficient.
The club’s marketing and commercial staff, meanwhile, were quick to wave goodbye.
‘There were some sighs of relief, that is true,’ said another Goodison source. ‘He was not easy to deal with. The marketing and commercial teams felt he was taciturn and that they couldn’t rely on his co-operation.
‘He hardly came to the stadium on non-match days and few people ventured down the long corridor to his office at the training ground.
‘The office was right at the end and some felt it was alien territory almost. Very few executives ever ventured down there without an invite and those invites never came.
‘It was, in a way, classic bunker mentality and most people saw it as strategic.
‘In terms of results on the field it worked, no doubt about it. It just didn’t make him universally popular.’
At United there have been similar stories about Moyes as relationships with some non-football staff have been slow to develop.
Some players remain unsure about their new manager also and it will be interesting to see how many apply themselves as they need to on Sunday, given their dreadful season is effectively over.
At Everton, though, there were no such playing issues. Moyes is criticised by some supporters — unfairly you may say — for not winning a trophy while others point to a poor record against the really big Premier League teams.
Nevertheless, his Everton players talk of a driven, intense man who fought their corner for a decade. During his time at the club, Moyes insisted on the best for his players, whether it be training facilities or hotels on pre-season tours.
He worked his players without mercy in training. That’s always been his way. Some teased friends at United by text message about the whirlwind of intense labour that was coming their way last summer but there are many who still thank him for the impact he had on their careers and their lives.
Former Republic of Ireland winger Kevin Kilbane, for example, leaned heavily on Moyes after fathering a daughter with Down Syndrome in 2004.
‘It’s one of the reasons I respect David so much, because of how wonderful he was with me at that time,’ said Kilbane. ‘On the field he transformed us from a team that finished 17th in the Premier League one season to a side that finished in the Champions League places the next, even after Wayne Rooney was sold.
‘You never got negatives from him and I played close enough to him on the touchline to know. He can galvanise a squad and get the best out of them. He created something special at Everton.’
Certainly only the myopic would argue with Moyes’ record at Goodison. Everton always spent a little more than was made out — Fellaini earned £70,000 a week while Sylvain Distin earns £60,000 — but Moyes kept the financial wolf from the door by selling well each summer and, on the whole, buying astutely.
Some now question his style of football — revisionism again — but fellow managers don’t. One Premier League boss attended a two-day coaching seminar as a young coach given by Moyes in 2009 and revealed this week: ‘He was the first person I heard talk about false wingers. He had Pienaar and Osman tucking in and the full backs flying along outside them.
‘It was brilliant and is still hard to play against now. It was inventive and attacking.
‘Moyes was fantastic that weekend, an on-the-grass coach who ran his club methodically and meticulously.
‘Everton still owe him now and will for years to come.’
Whether Moyes will feel much love back at Goodison — where United have a good record — on Sunday afternoon is questionable. He deserves a good reception, of course, but football doesn’t work like that.
Some feel Moyes should have given Kenwright more notice of his intention to leave. As it happened, he knocked on his chairman’s door only once the news leaked from Old Trafford.
Kenwright, though, is not bitter about that. He remains grateful for the professionalism Moyes showed in his final days and he knows how the world works.
Many others — as Moyes will discover on Sunday — do not. – Daily Mail