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Kenwright's Masterstroke
Bill has been criticised by the press and even some fans for the timing of his decision to get rid of Walter Smith, but the impact of his new appointment is vindicating that brave decision

23 March 2002

Sometimes a situation screams out for change; an injection of new blood, fresh ideas, a new perspective.  The final weeks of Walter Smith's tenure represented such a situation.  Shorn of ideas of how to arrest the team's alarming slump and beginning to show signs of war-weariness, Smith's time had clearly come.  However, there were many who felt that Bill Kenwright could have made that all-important decision in the summer, hoping in the meantime that Smith and Archie Knox could bail water out of the sinking ship fast enough to preserve Everton's Premiership status for another season.

That Kenwright didn't wait will be eternally to his credit because the stunning impact of David Moyes's arrival has set the club on the way to salvation after just two games.  Two successive victories — something Everton had failed to achieve this season under Smith — which included a first away win since the opening day of the campaign, the first time the Blues had scored more than twice since December and almost double the away goals the team had scored this season in one match, have left Everton within sight of safety from the dreaded drop.

Just like Joe Royle in 1994, Moyes has effected an immediate turnaround in the team's league fortunes, and he will be hoping to emulate Royle's feat of three straight wins when he takes the Blues to Newcastle on Friday, mindful no doubt of the Magpies' demoralising FA Cup defeat this weekend.

Kenwright: four seasons of Smiffy was enough!

For those of us who have felt all along that the squad that Smith dutifully assembled was vastly superior to their league position, Moyes' first two results come as no surprise.  Under his predecessor, the team looked dejected, directionless, nervous and desperately short on confidence.  Moyes has already delivered on his promises to instill a fighting spirit in the team along with a desire to win.  His passion has re-ignited the passion and commitment of the players, and his hopes of getting the Blues playing attractive football have borne early fruit, amply illustrated by their cavalier attitude at Derby County when they marched to 3-0 and 4-1 advantages before being pegged back to 4-3.

Equally pleasing is the response of players like Niclas Alexandersson, Duncan Ferguson and David Unsworth who have seized on the introduction of concrete tactics and strategies that Moyes has introduced.  Alexandersson, in particular, displayed more ability in one hour at Pride Park this weekend than he had shown all season long under Smith.  Free of what rumours suggest were conflicting directives from Messers Smith and Knox, the Swede looked a player reborn under Moyes' apparent faith in attack being the best form of defence.

The resolution of Ferguson's fitness problems has coincided nicely with the arrival of the new manager and, with two goals from open play already under Moyes, could the new captain be gearing up to finally fulfil his potential and lead Everton to a brighter future in the higher echelons of the Premiership?  Past evidence suggests the fire in his belly will be short-lived, but the new manager may be the one to keep his passion alive on an on-going basis.  Best of all, the Blues scored four goals at Derby and none of them were reliant on Ferguson's aerial dominance.

And it would be amiss to ignore the contribution of Unsworth who has relished the opportunity to lead the cavalry charge for the new boss.  Two crucial goals and yet more displays of commitment and strength will have raised Rhino's stock with the fans once more.  Thanks to his contribution and that of the rest of the team since the managerial switch, it is fun to be an Evertonian again.

No one is under any illusions that everything in the Everton garden is rosy on the basis of just two games won by slender margins.  But Moyes has achieved that which Smith seemed utterly incapable of doing with the same group of players; namely, implementing a plan and organisation backed by solid tactics and a belief that winning is the most important part of the game, irrespective of the scale of disaster that awaits should things go wrong.

It will be interesting to see how Moyes and his team stand up to the test posed by the trip to St James Park on Good Friday and high-flying Newcastle.  Having won his first two games, expectations will be unnaturally high but, realistically, we should analyse the attitude of the players and the response of the manager for indications of where Everton might be heading in this new era for the club.  All the signs show, however, that in drafting Moyes in, Bill has pulled off a masterstroke — and not a moment too soon.

Lyndon Lloyd

©2002 ToffeeWeb, 23 March 2002


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