What next for Everton’s David Moyes?

By Martin Samuel, December 3, 2009

David Moyes, manager of Everton, says the club has stopped going forward. He says he feels as if he is choking as he admits it, and there is a reason for that. It is not just Everton that are in limbo, but Moyes himself.

He is trapped as a manager because he has brought Everton as far as it is likely they will go, yet now finds his career path blocked.

He has taken Everton to an FA Cup Final, where they were soundly beaten by Chelsea. He has taken them to the Champions League, where lack of European experience resulted in a poor seeding, a tough draw against Villareal of Spain, and exit in the preliminary round. He has taken Everton into the Europa Cup, where their destiny is surely to be eliminated by a bigger team parachuted in from the Champions League. Where does he go from here?

If Everton cannot move upwards – and with Manchester City, Spurs and Aston Villa all now vying with the usual quartet for Champions League football this season it seems unlikely — the club can only fall back. This is true of Moyes, too. In most foreign countries he would have been given a crack at a bigger job by now – the current manager of Real Madrid, Manuel Pellegrini, impressed with five solid years at Villareal – but in the Premier League opportunities are limited. Every promising manager is waiting for Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger to fall off the perch at Manchester United and Arsenal, or for Rafael Benitez to outstay his welcome at Liverpool. Roman Abramovich has shown no interest in appointing a British manager at Chelsea, despite five changes, while the next manager at Manchester City is almost certain to be a big name from abroad, if Mark Hughes fails this season.

The frustration Moyes feels is surely not just with Everton’s progress, but his own. He is stuck, as Everton are, knowing that he is one misguided sale or a freak sequence of injuries away from a fight with relegation. Maybe that will happen sooner than we think. Nobody considers Everton serious candidates for the drop, but they lie 16th with fewer points than Hull City. Suppose this is more than a blip?

A big club may not be interested in Moyes anyway, because his style is conservative. He does what it takes to get results on a budget at Everton, but the elite need more from a manager. These teams are always the favourites and must always take the game to the opposition. Their instincts when Ferguson or Wenger step down will be to employ a manager who is used to that situation, as Chelsea did with Carlo Ancelotti.

So Moyes is stymied; but if the road ahead is blocked, why not take a detour? Like Steve McClaren, he may find his best route lies with a club abroad. McClaren has been a success with Twente Enschede in Holland and will return to England one day with his reputation enhanced. He may even land a bigger job on the continent and, from there, who knows? If Everton become stale, Moyes will too. It is pointless hanging on for a chance that may never come. What is he waiting for?

Last updated: 2:27pm, December 3 2009