“I am joining the people’s football club. The majority of the people you meet on the street are Everton fans.”
May 21st, 2013
And with that short sentence, David Moyes immediately endeared himself to Everton supporters. The date was March 14, 2002, and Moyes – a flame-haired, raw, 38-year-old Scot – had just left an upwardly mobile Preston North End to take over the smouldering wreckage that was Everton.
For the once-great football club was a shadow of its former self, limping along in the top flight, surviving year-on-year by the skin of its teeth. Where would they be had Moyes not arrived? Well, you only have to look at the likes of Nottingham Forest and Leeds as evidence of how unforgiving the lower divisions can be – they can swallow you up and not let go.
But Moyes breathed new life into the stale corridors of Goodison Park, and gave the team a drive and determination that has snowballed as the years have gone by. It is all the more remarkable when you consider the club’s finances have not changed. Moyes has arguably had fewer resources than his predecessor did. But he never used it as an excuse, squeezing every last drop of value in the transfer market and extracting every last bead of sweat from his players.
The one source of frustration is the lack of silverware, but that shouldn’t detract from the impact he has made at Goodison Park. He has rebuilt it from the ground up, from the youth teams at the club’s state-of-the-art training ground to his team of analysts and statisticians in the rooms opposite his manager’s office. But all the time he has respected the club’s traditions, operating with a class and dignity that ensures people see Everton as a club that does things the right way.
In an era where the game has an developed an increasingly wayward moral compass, with a money-wins-all mentality, unsavoury player behaviour and unscrupulous owners leaving the ordinary fan increasingly isolated and disconnected from the game, Moyes never lost sight of what Everton is all about – the people.
And at a rain-sodden, tear-stained Goodison on Sunday those people had the chance to say thank you and goodbye to Moyes; now, 11 years on, with slightly more grey hair and just past his 50th birthday, on the brink of moving to the biggest club in the land. They cheered all afternoon as the team that Moyes built strolled to a victory over West Ham and ensured yet another top-six finish, saving their biggest roar for Moyes’ swansong at the final whistle.
It was a reminder as to the potential of a club that was in danger of slipping into a coma 11 years ago, only to be jolted back to life by an ordinary man from the outskirts of Glasgow. He may not have given the Everton supporters a trophy in his 11 years but he did give them something they had lost for too long – pride.
Thanks for the memories David.