Sunday, March 11, 2012

The legacy of David Moyes

Loyalty and longevity are rare traits in the world of professional sports. In Premier League soccer, keeping a team manager who has not won a trophy in 10 years is almost unheard of.

This week, David Moyes will complete a full decade as manager and coach at Everton.

It is an open secret that Everton, without a billionaire owner, struggles to spend anything like what the big boys of England’s Premier League spend. The current squads of Manchester City and Manchester United, one of which will win the league this season, cost $526 million and $400 million, respectively, to recruit.

Despite working with limited resources, Moyes consistently keeps Everton in the top half of the world’s wealthiest league throughout his term; and the fact that no opponent dares to take Everton lightly, are his legacy.

Beating Chelsea, Manchester City and Spurs proves that. As the seasons wear on, Everton gains strength and confidence. Moyes does not know why. He has tried everything — changed the preseason, changed the training regimen, gotten inside the heads of players who have served him most of his tenure — and still he is no wiser as to why the team starts slowly but then gathers self-confidence after the turn of the year.

One credible answer is that Everton tends to lose key players to wealthier opponents as each transfer window dawns. Arsenal took its playmaker, Mikel Arteta, in the trading window last summer, and Spurs took Steven Pienaar in the previous season.

Pienaar is now back because Spurs did not need him. The deal is a loan, meaning Everton is not permitted to field him against Tottenham.

With a smallish squad, Moyes must, anyway, rotate his players through a heavy schedule that included Tottenham on Saturday, the Merseyside derby Tuesday and an F.A. Cup quarterfinal against Sunderland on Saturday.

Sunderland is like Everton, a giant of the past trying to achieve through tenacity what others buy. The one sure thing when they meet next weekend is that it will take every last ounce of effort to be the winner.

Moyes has become synonymous with vigor. His Evertonians run like commandos: they never give an inch, they chase lost causes, they play up to more costly opponents.

Over the decade that makes him the third-longest serving manager at a Premier League club — after Ferguson’s 25 years at United and Arsène Wenger’s 15 with Arsenal — Moyes has spent $35 million of Everton’s money.

Many players in the league cost more than that. They include Wayne Rooney, who was nurtured by Moyes and sold when Manchester United made an offer Everton could not refuse.

The grapevine reports that if Spurs’ Harry Redknapp is offered the England team to manage in May, Moyes might be offered the Tottenham team he has just plotted to defeat. Whether Moyes stays at Everton or not, his legacy among the English Premier League's managerial elite is secure.

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