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.
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.
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.
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.
the signs show, however, that in drafting Moyes in, Bill has pulled
off a masterstroke and not a moment too soon.
©2002 ToffeeWeb, 23 March 2002
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