No no I am not jumping the gun about the result of FA Cup Final.
But even if Everton lose on Saturday David Moyes can have the consolation of collecting a personal piece of silverware this season – The LMA Manager Of The Year Award.
It is the first time a manager has won the award three times, after the Scot received the accolade in 2003 and 2005 – even Sir Alex Ferguson hasn’t done that!
Once again Moyes has guided his Everton side to a fifth placed finish and have the added bonus of that day out at Wembley despite extremely limited resources.
What makes his achievement more remarkable, and is perhaps what persuaded his fellow managers vote for Moyes, is the fact that last summer proved to be a tortuous one for the Blues.
The club were desperate to build on last year’s fifth place finish and challenge for a Champions League place but as other clubs around them spent lavishly, Everton dithered in the transfer market and began the season without making a single signing and had only 16 fit senior pros. In the second game of the season, away at West Brom, they had a 16 and 17 year old starting as well as a bench full of untried teenagers.
Last ditch deadline day signings were made, most notably big Belgian Maourane Fellaini for £15million, but the Toffees couldn’t arrest a slide in form and by October were out of Europe, the League cup and were languishing in 14th place.
But the club started to turn things round in the winter and returned to the top six with a Boxing Day win over Middlesbrough. But just as things started to go their way on the pitch a succession of serious injuries to key players threatened to completely de-rail their season. First Yakubu ruptured an achilles in November, Mikel Arteta damaged cruciate knee ligaments in February and, a week after the FA Cup semi-final win, player of the year Phil Jagielka also damaged cruciate knee ligaments, meaning the entire spine of the side had been removed. But Moyes and his men have coped with everything that has been thrown at them, finishing above clubs with considerably higher budgets than what is found at Goodison.
In the three years that Moyes has won the award Everton have finished 7th,4th and 5th – with no trophies, unusual perhaps for manager of the year. But I think the award is an acknowledgement from his peers of the difficult financial constraints Moyes has been under in his seven year spell with the Toffees.
He has turned a side who regularly struggled at the wrong end of the table into a top six side without considerable investment. He often bought one ‘big’ name player a year e.g. Andy Johnson, Yakubu and Fellaini. He then makes great use of the loan market with the likes of Jospeh Yobo and Steven Pienaar initially joining the club on season-long loan deals. He also has had a habit of picking up bargains from the Championship and turning them into international players, most notably Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott and Tim Cahill.
The club also has one of the most successful youth development programmes in the country with the likes of Wayne Rooney, James Vaughan, Victor Anichebe and Jack Rodwell all being given their chance to shine in the first team
In the days of foreign billionaires bankrolling clubs I think this reward recognises the fact that the traditional skills of good management, hard work, organisation, discipline and team spirit still exist.
Moyes has forged a staff and team ethos whereby individuals do not matter and they work together as one towards the same cause. That explains why the club have coped with so many setbacks this year.
The one thing missing, of course, is silverware and you can be sure his side will go full tilt for the FA Cup at Wembley on Saturday and would gladly swap personal prizes for that famous old trophy.
But can they do it? Well they will start as underdogs that’s for sure. Plus they have a dreadful recent record against the Londoners, without a victory against them since 2000.
But with Liverpool, Manchester United and Aston Villa already dispatched on a tough route to Wembley, few would begrudge Moyes and his players a reward for their hard work, not just this season but for the past seven years of steady progress.
From one Scottish manager at the start of his career to one near the end. Sir Alex Ferguson was a double winner at the LMA Awards, winning the EPL Manager Of The Year, chosen by a panel from sponsors Barclays, and a LMA Merit Award for his achievements over the past two years.
Fergie was too busy in Rome to pick up his awards but despite defeat in the Italian capital, his achievement in reaching back-to-back Champions League finals and successive EPL titles (equalling Liverpool’s record of 18 to boot) is something that deserves recognition. His relentless determination and winning mentality over a career spanning more than 20 years is something to admire and he is certainly set a benchmark whereby all young managers should strive for.
Incidentally a certain Mr Ferguson Jr picked up the League One award after earning promotion with Peterborough -what odds on Ferguson succeeding Ferguson at Old Trafford??!