| 14.3°C Dublin

Moyes approaching a crossroads where self-belief will be crucial

Close

David Moyes wants to see Everton score more goals

David Moyes wants to see Everton score more goals

EMPICS Sport

David Moyes wants to see Everton score more goals

Preston North End were doing well and their new young manager David Moyes thought he would take the players away for a few days. It wasn't a jolly, he was taking them to a boot camp. Things were going to be tough and that was how Moyes wanted it.

They were heading to the army barracks at Catterick where they would stay for a few nights. When they arrived, the management team were placed in the officers' quarters where things were comfortable. For the players, it was different. In the morning, some complained, having spent a night sleeping on straw beds.

If a manager was determined to demonstrate his toughness, he might have told the players that was the whole point. This wasn't a holiday he'd have insisted before retreating to his comfortable bed.

But Moyes did something unusual, something which might not have been done by a more insecure man. He agreed with his players. The squad would leave right away. He had persuaded the board to pay for the trip but now he would explain that it was a mistake. There was too much to lose from a few days of making the players miserable. Preston returned home and won their next game 4-0.

Kelham O'Hanlon was part of Moyes' coaching staff at Preston and that trip has always stuck with him. He has never had any doubts about Moyes's ability but that day he learnt something else about the man. "Other managers would have dug their heels in but David knew it wasn't right, so we packed it in."

O'Hanlon was always certain he would make it as a manager. They were players together at Preston and while there are always players who look cut out for management and then fall away, Moyes was different. "He knew where he was going and nothing was going to stop him."

Moyes has led a life of passionate intensity. Jimmy Lumsden first encountered him as a youth team player at Celtic. He talks about the teenager then and he could be talking about the man he works with at Everton today.

"He was a leader, a captain, he was tough and he didn't like to lose," Lumsden says. Those traits remain with him but Lumsden sees the secret of his managerial success as no secret at all: hard work and persistence. "Once he's got the bit between his teeth, he's not going to let go. He doesn't let anybody get away with anything."

When Moyes first arrived at Everton, supporters were struck by the strange sight of the manager leading the players in the pre-match warm-up. The players were struck by it too but then they had noticed the manager's intensity in everything he did. He led every training session, planned every minute. "He did everything, he wanted influence over everything," Kevin Kilbane recalls.

Kilbane was a young player at Preston when Moyes was reaching the end of his career. Moyes took an interest in somebody who wanted to learn. Kilbane was invited round to the Moyes family home at mealtimes and Kilbane absorbed everything.

"Young players always want information and you learn most, in my experience, from listening to players who have done it before."

In the dressing-room, Moyes was a joker with experience. Kilbane left for West Brom but, in 2003, Moyes signed him at Everton after his first full season at the club and Kilbane immediately noticed the change. "You have to adapt as a manager and he wasn't the same jovial type."

In 2003, Moyes had been voted Manager of the Year after his first full season at the club but they slumped in the next year, winning once away from home all season and, thanks to a run of one win in their last 10 games, ended the season in 17th.

Kilbane describes the summer of 2004 as "the turning point". Everton faced a crisis. Trevor Birch was appointed as chief executive but resigned six weeks later. In the space of five months, four other directors also quit as questions were asked of chairman Bill Kenwright, questions that, in one way or another, persist.

Everton had Europe's new star Wayne Rooney but they wouldn't be able to keep him. "There was a lot of uncertainty, Rooney was sold and we were coming off the back of a bad season," Kilbane says. "But David brought us all together and emphasised that we'd fight for each other. That season we managed to finish fourth."

Everton finished ahead of Liverpool when it had some significance. Since then, they have only once been outside the top eight and the players have understood what is demanded and how it would benefit them. "He works them hard," Lumsden says. "He doesn't just want them to be fit, he wants them to know that they're fit."

Kilbane remembers that feeling, the knowledge that you were fitter than the man you were facing even if it had come at a price. "Pre-season was incredibly tough," he says, and then recalls the fitness days during the season when they might not see a ball but which were necessary to confirm that feeling of superior strength.

This intense approach has seen Moyes sign and enhance players with great success. Everton's finances prevent him competing for the top players, so Moyes has developed those others might consider flawed.

As a result, he has shaped a side with personality which also reflects his management style. "He has no favourites," Lumsden says, "he doesn't let anybody get away with anything."

Kilbane points to the development of Leighton Baines. He knew him at Wigan and he was a quiet type. Now he is an England international and a confident player among the many leaders at Everton. Moyes might take players on but he has also managed to motivate them by finding other ways to challenge them. Fines are meaningless for the modern player, so Moyes has, in the past, told players to stay away from training, promising to phone them when he wants to see them again. Sometimes they have waited some time for the call.

"I've seen him give some bollockings," Kilbane says, "and he wouldn't hold back. He would dig a player out in front of the other players."

This season, he has demonstrated that he has a group who understand his methods. The regret may be that they haven't really challenged for a Champions League place, even though it remains a possibility. If they triumph at Anfield today, Everton will finish ahead of Liverpool two seasons in a row but Moyes is not alone in wondering at the clubs' relevance in 2013. Everton's ability to be relevant again will be a factor as Moyes considers his future in the summer when his contract ends.

Moyes could decide to stay at Everton and make another attempt to win a trophy or he might look to work abroad as he talks fondly of the Bundesliga. The clubs in England that could tempt him may not be hiring this summer. Others feel he might take a year off, which would make him the best-placed candidate when a big job becomes available. "He could manage at any club in the world and make a success of it," O'Hanlon says.

Those who know him best compare him to Alex Ferguson. They have a shared background, a shared belief in hard work and a desire to win. "Ferguson, Wenger, people like that are the worst losers in the world," O'Hanlon says.

But there have been bad losers who have failed at management because they fell out with everyone every time they lost. Moyes, as the story from his early days at Preston indicates, knows when to fight and when to fight another day. Like Ferguson, he can also be pragmatic. He is also thorough and his organisation of training sessions is obsessive.

Yet this summer will be another challenge as he decides where to go. "He has an inner self-belief and he's never satisfied," O'Hanlon says. Moyes will have to decide how his ambitions can be realised. "He never had one moment's self-doubt," O'Hanlon adds. This summer, David Moyes will need that certainty.

Liverpool v Everton,

Sky Sports 1, 1.30

Irish Independent