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Hoping That History Repeats Itself - Moyes At Everton

Fourteen years ago, David Moyes was embarking on his first full season in charge of one of English football's sleeping giants.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

I am talking, of course, about the team that resides on the blue side of the Mersey, Everton.

Moyes had taken over late in March 2002, replacing former Rangers boss Walter Smith, with the Toffees having won only 1 of 13 and nose-diving into the Premiership relegation battle, alongside a Peter Reid-led Sunderland side.

Smith had led Everton for 3-and-a-half-years but had not managed to get them any higher than a finishing position of thirteenth. In his last full season at Everton they ended in 16th as they toyed with the idea of relegation far too long for the Chairman’s liking.

Former Everton captain Richard Gough said of the sacking at the time, "They were one of the top clubs in the country five years ago, but you can't say that now. I don't know who the new manager is going to be, but I wish him well because it is going to be a difficult job".

Thankfully, it was anything but difficult for the Glaswegian, as Moyes went on to improve their form by winning 4 of his last 9, losing only to Newcastle, Arsenal and Chelsea.

In the summer of 2002, Moyes didn’t massively dismantle the Everton side he inherited, with his only notable signings Joseph Yobo and goalkeeper Richard Wright. He allowed older, more experienced heads such as Jesper Blomqvist and Paul Gascoigne to leave the club and added youngsters, mainly keeping faith with the side he inherited from Walter Smith four months previously.

Moyes continued to build year on year, with a solid work ethic and focus on defensive organisation.

He took Everton to the heady heights of third before Christmas that next season. A run of six consecutive wins was their best run since they won the league in 1987. Moyes even managed to nab his first Premier League Manager of the Month award in the November, as he notched up a 100% record with four 1-0 wins in a row against Leeds, Charlton, Blackburn and West Brom respectively, showcasing Moyes’ knack of grinding out a sometimes ugly win - with solid organisation - starting from the back.

There are similarities between Moyes' methods and the ones that Sam Allardyce employed last season - interestingly, much like Sunderland last season, there was a man up front who could give you a little bit of magic or nick you a goal, as long as you kept your defence tight. Sixteen year old Wayne Rooney was that man. Infact, his memorable debut goal against Arsenal often overshadows the fact that with it came an end to Arsenal’s thirty game unbeaten run.

Come January, Moyes added American striker Brian McBride to his ranks as his team continued to impress and fight locals rivals Liverpool (who had finished the previous season in second) for a place in Europe. Unfortunately for Everton, they ran out of steam and had to make do with a seventh place finish, missing out on European competition.

However, in just one season with only a few buys, Moyes had taken an Everton side who had flirted with relegation eight places higher, breaking Arsenal’s unbeaten record and putting together the best winning steak they had ever had since they last won the league - perhaps most importantly he also instilled a level of discipline and organisation to an Everton team who needed that most, with a Chairman who wasn’t always willing to spend.

That season, David Moyes won the LMA Manager of the Year.

As we all know, the seven seasons that followed saw Moyes take them to a Champions League qualifying position and into Europe many a time. David Moyes turned Everton into a side that would consistently be seen as ‘most likely to’ in regards to breaking the monopoly of the Premier League’s top four.

Lord knows how many times we suffered at the hands of his team, infact, I’d be hard pushed to remember a win against them in Everton’s years under his stewardship. Even almost five years after leaving the club, they still continue to be seen as a force - excusing a minor hiccup last season of course - in the Premier League.

Most importantly, he also took players like Leighton Baines, Tim Cahill, Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka and made them seasoned England Internationals. It’s worth noting he bought Baines and Lescott from the Championship, and Jagielka from a relegated Sheffield United side.

Moyes took on lowly Everton and made them European challengers, almost in an instant, before being recommended to replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United by the man himself.

It may not have worked out there, and despite all of what I have wrote above I know that times have changed. The game is different to what it was back in 2002 and rarely does lightening strike twice.

You have to admit, though, that the experience stands the man in charge to attempt to replicate that level of success at Sunderland. Fingers crossed.

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