Season Preview 2002/03
The Real New Dawn?
It has been 15 years since Everton last won the League Championship. What was supposed to be another title on the way to a dynasty of the like that Manchester United enjoyed in the 1990s was followed instead by a decade and a half of decline, punctuated by more false dawns than any Evertonian might have thought possible.
With the departure of Howard Kendall in 1993 came the opportunity to break the inward-looking "blue blood" policy with the assumption of the Goodison helm by Peter Johnson and the appointment of Mike Walker as manager. When Walker's regime spectacularly imploded, Everton resorted once again to one of their own with Joe Royle. When he too looked to have failed so shortly after winning the FA Cup in his first season and guiding the Blues to within a hair's breadth of qualification for the UEFA in his second year in charge, the cry went up once again for a man with no ties to Everton and, if possible, no ties to England.
Plainly illustrative of the depths to which Everton had sunk, only Howard Kendall showed any committed desire to take on the job and his ill-advised third spell at Goodison came within a whisker of ending in relegation to the Nationwide League. Johnson promptly replaced him with Walter Smith and his arrival seemed to finally herald the introduction of a top class manager who would return the Toffees to the big time. The memories of Smith's four years in charge are all too fresh in the memory, as are the events of March this year that saw Bill Kenwright take the brave decision to remove the former Rangers boss from the hotseat and install the highly-regarded David Moyes in his place.
This time, as Everton prepare for Moyes's first season in charge, there is an inescapable feeling that the club has finally found the right man to lead the Blues out of the shadows and back into the national consciousness for reasons other than a managerial revolving door and close calls with relegation. Thanks to Moyes, there is infectious energy, optimism and hope for the coming campaign that by far transcends the usual pre-season football fever.
First of all, Moyes's drive to increase the players' level of fitness is an immediate improvement on the ancien regime under which many of the players suffered an inordiate amount of injuries and tended to fade towards the end of matches. Sending the squad for individual fitness assessments this summer is just one example of how Moyes is bring a whole new approach to a club that has been rooted in the past for far too long.
Secondly, there are the astute signings the manahger
Predicted Premiership Standings 2001/2002
1. Manchester United