Everton manager David Moyes continues to put off deciding or even talking about his future until the end of the season, seemingly waiting to see if the club can match his own ambitions, but with this cordial brand of contractual brinkmanship carrying on for another couple of months, can the hierarchy that operate within the corridors of power at Goodison Park afford to wait that much longer before coming up with an alternative plan of their own?
Betting on where the 49-year-old will start next season would make even a pro gambler go flush in the face at the moment, as if to continue to metaphor a little further, Moyes is holding all of the cards extremely close to his chest. The club are indebted to him and in chairman Bill Kenwright, he is essentially guaranteed a job for life if he wants it, yet all the talk is based around money, ambition and where the club can go in the future – three factors you wouldn’t normally see as determining issues in Everton and Moyes’ relationship.
It seems as if Moyes has taken the attitude now that he’s not getting any younger, he’s put in his time, his pro bono work and now he wants to have some money to spend. He’s transformed Everton from a perennial relegation candidate to a consistent contender for the European spots, but lacking that crucial piece of silverware to validate the club’s undoubted progress under his tenure, remains reluctant to commit himself any further if things don’t drastically change and improve.
The club’s financial model, if you can call having no money a ‘model’, is predominantly geared around selling off a major playing asset for a substantial profit every year or so – Wayne Rooney, Joleon Lescott and Jack Rodwell have all walked through the exit door and this summer the battle looks certain to concern the respective futures’ of Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines. Should Kenwright sell one of those players, then Moyes would surely walk away from the club where he has spent the best part of over a decade.
Moyes stated in the aftermath of the club’s win that he didn’t have anything else lined up should he leave the club: “I want what’s best for Everton and if people say it is best for Everton that I stay, then I would agree, but I have to make sure Everton have the best opportunity to try and continue where they are, and push on from where they are. I’m waiting on some information coming back to me and we’ll talk again when we get all that information. I can’t say what the budget is and whether that will be enough until I get the breakdown and see how it will all work but what I have got to ensure is that, as a club, we achieve what we are capable of.
“I know what we are capable of – we have a really good squad, a small squad but one that is getting older and we need to replace that and change it around. Everybody knows that a decision will be made at the end of the season and that will be the time because we will see where we finish and where we go. I wouldn’t have thought that would be too much to ask for, really. I wouldn’t have thought that was a bad request, as I’ve been here 11 years. A sabbatical is not in my thoughts, I either stay or go to another job. They are the options I’ll consider but I am not planning to have time out. It may be that I’ll be in a position where I am out of work if I chose not to stay here at Everton, because I do not have a job to go to – there is nothing lined up.”
The news that club captain Phil Neville will move on at the end of the season further supporter Moyes’ assertion that this is a squad in dire need of investment and freshening up. The club have tried to play a more expansive brand of football this season, which has seen their defensive record suffer and draw become the norm just as much as wins.
In order to break through that glass ceiling of the top six which Everton have banged their head against so often only to come up short and with a sore head, they need fresh blood and of the club’s 27-man squad, which is generously padded out with six or so youngsters yet to feature this season, of the core group of around 20, nine of them are over the age of 30. There’s only so long even the most patient man is willing to operate under such strict financial constraints, working with limited, ageing resources.
After admitting that his current squad is far too thin to double up in both Europe and the top flight at the moment as it is, another implicit reminder that he would rather stay put at Everton, but only if the spending taps are turned on, Kenwright all but admitted that no contingency plan of any sort had even been put in place yet, which is a quite shocking revelation, telling Sky: “Does the phone ring? Yes. What is my response? My response is very simple – Everton Football Club has its manager.”
While that sort of loyalty is all very admirable, and Moyes and Kenwright’s relationship seems to be one of genuine affection, another rarity in the modern game, the club simply can’t start planning for next season, something every rival will currently be doing from fitness regimes, pre-season tours to scouting departments, until they know who is leading from the top. It’s a strange scenario that Everton, a giant of English football, have become so beholden to one man. On the one hand, you can hardly blame him for wanting to test the waters and try and make some waves, but considering the club’s financial state, it’s simply unrealistic and deep down he probably knows it too.
The latest rumour doing the rounds is that Porto manager Vitor Pereira is thought to be on a two-man shortlist along with Wigan boss Roberto Martinez, both viable alternatives to Moyes. As the unexpected FA Cup defeat to Wigan at home last month showed, with supporters not shy in showing their displeasure at the man in the dugout, while his patience may have been tested, so is theirs and he could learn a lesson from Harry Redknapp, the man who had one job and nearly another but in the end talked himself out of both and had to settle for a relegation-threatened QPR instead. Goodison Park provides a unique working environment, but with Moyes getting increasingly itchy feet, perhaps it would be better he left than the club risk their financial footing in the pursuit of keeping him happy. It’s a difficult choice to make, but as the saying goes, no one man is bigger than the club.
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