Friday 15 November 2019

Moyes a beacon of sanity in a transfer market gone mad

James Lawton

If the start of the English football season had been any more shambolic, if some of the deals -- and most notably the one that took Andy Carroll from his Merseyside misadventure to West Ham and the embrace of his old manager Sam Allardyce -- had produced a little more evidence of dwindling spending power and mounting desperation, it might have been launched in a pawn shop.

So what is the antidote to the transfer anarchy which has made such a mockery of that old concept of teams coming into the season knowing who they are and what they are supposed to represent?

One obvious need is a set of new regulations which would ensure that clubs are required to clear their in and out trays at least a month before the start of the competitive season.

No doubt some numbskull will now leap up to say that English clubs start sooner than those in Spain and Italy and enforcing new rules would thus be impractical.

It's another nonsense attached to a situation which has sprawled out of control, making plenty of work, if diminished returns, for the agents who have talked their clients into one piece of brinkmanship or another, but left the average supporter never more bewildered about the shape and the possibilities of the team he has supported down the years.

The football traffic can never have been in such dire need of redirection and stabilisation, and the transfer window could be closed west to east across the Continent, in effect taking the English game out of the trading market around the time the players are beginning their preparations for the new season.

That would provide the kind of symmetry -- and sanity -- which was so conspicuously missing up until the close of business last night.

However, in the meantime -- and it could be a long one -- there is another possibility of some light shining into the murk.

The bookmakers rate it at no better than a 125/1 shot but it was one in which there was no emotional or intellectual hardship making a modest investment yesterday.

It was in the chance that Everton might just confound the plutocracy of the English game and win the Premier League title, with their splendid manager, David Moyes, operating on the classic theory that the sooner you bed down your preferred first-team unit, the better your chances of gaining some serious momentum.

We've had just a fraction of the action but, with the exceptions of Michael Laudrup's seamless arrival in the footsteps of Brendan Rodgers at Swansea and Roberto di Matteo's latest display of sound professional instincts, no one can begin to match the early impact of Moyes. His team look as well-equipped as ever to survive in the company of clubs with infinitely greater resources.

For more than a decade now he has been showing how you can stretch a passion for detail, and obsession with not just the talent but the character of a professional and his capacity to re-new himself in the face of a daunting challenge. It has never glowed so brightly than in recent weeks.

While Roberto Mancini bleated about the need for a major injection of new talent into the most expensive, best-rewarded squad in the land, Moyes displayed his knack for re-seeding a team that the bookmakers may discount -- along with most of the rest of the universe -- as title contenders but still offer only a niggardly 11/2 against them crashing their way into Champions League qualification.

Moyes, we are told so frequently, is Alex Ferguson's idea of his soundest successor at Old Trafford, and the time has long passed since this might have been considered mere Glaswegian kinship.

With each new season, and whatever the degree of difficulty, Moyes has reminded us of his ability get under the skin of a player and make an assessment guaranteed to outlast mere novelty value.

His recent acquisition, the Belgian Kevin Mirallas, suggests that he is a superior replacement for the remorseless Tim Cahill. Steven Naismith has brought an impressive certainty of purpose, and with the return of Steven Pienaar, Moyes knows that he has regained possession of the kind of player whose craft and professionalism would enhance any squad.

Nikica Jelavic came last January and has displayed the authentic touch of a natural-born predator.

It would be a formidable body of work in any circumstances and in those of Everton, the big club that appears to have become invisible in the eyes of big-time investors, it has become nothing less than an enduring miracle.


Hence, the optimism here that Everton maintain a presence at the serious end of the Premier League -- a potential that could hardly have been announced more positively than in the defeat of Manchester United and the annexation of Villa Park last Saturday.

These were performances of authority and bite that could only be envied by the likes of champions City and runners-up United.

Yes, of course, you are right -- the odds remain stacked hugely against a long run to the finishing post, but that is no reason not to hope that along the way they will remind so many of their better-heeled rivals that there is another way to conduct business than with a scattergun.

Everton may never win back the best of their old glory, they may have to concede that the football tide has, ultimately, turned against them. It could also be that the career of David Moyes will always be a statement about what might have been if a few more Premier League owners knew the difference between knowledge and achievement and mere celebrity.

However, the least they can demand, in this as in so many of the seasons that have gone before, is an understanding of quite what they represent. It is a remnant of football which still makes some kind of sense. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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