Moyes and Everton have more at stake than victory
Three points at Anfield would be a start in quelling uncertainty over manager's future
Saturday March 29, 2008
Everton's challenge has diminished of late but the reward for them if they qualify for the Champions League has risen above financial gain. It might well be the prize that dispels any uncertainty about David Moyes's future as manager.
The 207th Merseyside derby will be laden with consequence tomorrow. Moyes, despite protestations to the contrary in the past, is not a plucky underdog with nothing to lose at Anfield. The Everton manager is yet to taste victory across Stanley Park and must end that barren six-year sequence just to regain a one-point initiative over Liverpool in their scrap for the final Champions League berth. Defeat would effectively kill that parochial competition, though, leaving Everton six games - including Arsenal away and Chelsea at home - to overturn a five-point deficit.
Of greater consequence for the club would be Moyes coming to share the belief that he has struck a glass ceiling in terms of achievement and possibilities at Goodison Park - an open debate which he himself has fuelled. He has asked to see the colour of Everton's money before extending a contract which has only 12 months remaining beyond this summer.
Such a request is to be expected of a fiercely ambitious manager who has transformed the age, value and ambitions of Everton's squad since 2002 and it is not born of avarice, given that the Glaswegian is talking transfer funds and not an exorbitant increase in his salary. He has not threatened to quit if Bill Kenwright, the chairman who has broken the club's transfer record every year for the past three seasons, comes up short and only last week he assured supporters that "the ideal scenario would be to sign a new contract and stay". Yet the ideal scenario is as complicated as the impending challenge of winning at Anfield.
There are three avenues open to Everton to provide their manager with the funds to sustain Champions League challenges and to stay ahead of the emerging, wealthier pack of Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Portsmouth: a new stadium, new investment, and a place in European football's premier competition, where Moyes's only real influence lies.
"It is hypothetical at the moment but there is no doubt it would have a major impact on the club financially if we were to qualify for the Champions League," the Scot said yesterday. "It would certainly help in terms of attracting investors if we finished fourth for the second time in four seasons. Liverpool have much better finances than us but are only two points ahead of us at the moment, so the money from the Champions League is not always the answer, but it certainly helps."
Since a pulsating night against Fiorentina in the Uefa Cup ended in defeat on penalties, Moyes's men have produced two tired performances and dropped five points against Fulham and West Ham. The loss of Tim Cahill for the rest of the season with an aggravated metatarsal injury was a further setback this week.
The other potential revenue streams for Everton are equally uncertain. Plans to relocate beyond the city's boundaries to a new 53,000-seat stadium in Kirkby continue to attract fierce opposition. Tesco's huge retail development in the town - with the stadium as the centrepiece - goes before Knowsley council's planning department in May and Everton, who have committed £80m to the £400m scheme, may have to pull out if the project is called in by the government. Attempts to raise at least £8m towards stadium costs through the sale of their former training ground stalled recently when a planning application to build 74 executive homes on the site was rejected.
The protest group Keep Everton In Our City has criticised Everton for lacking a plan B if the Kirkby project collapses, and Kenwright's hopes of attracting investors to the club will be hindered without a new, cost-effective stadium to throw into the package. All of which will not inflate Moyes's transfer budget in the summer, of course, although the evidence of progress - or otherwise - will have an influence when the manager asks the board to outline its long-term ambitions.
"Challenging for fourth place again is a sign of Everton's progress," added Moyes. "We are in the mix again and we want to keep fighting to get fourth place. We are looked at in a different light now and there are signs Everton are moving in the right direction. We need to keep getting closer to the top teams if we can and we have been edging closer year in, year out."
Even if all three financial options are closed by the end of the season, Moyes has not ruled out extending his contract. Prudence is, after all, what has helped improve a dire financial situation at Goodison and forged the manager's reputation for progress and astute signings.
There is also the pertinent question of where the Scot could go next if the £10m-rated players he craves are not forthcoming. Newcastle United were said to be interested before opting for Kevin Keegan but although they are better resourced they do not have Everton's stability. Tottenham? Door shut. Celtic? Possibly. The top four are an elite for whom success on the continent is an entry requirement, unless Manchester United opt for another competitive Glaswegian when Sir Alex Ferguson retires. It would secure Moyes a place in the Everton annals were he to join that company without saying goodbye.
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