You’ve got to feel for David Moyes and the never ending injury situation at Goodison Park. Since they finished fourth in 2005, it seems every season starts in December due to the injury affliction that seemingly curses the Toffees. Thankfully, we’re past the days when teams blamed gypsy curses for bad luck or injuries. I never understood those strange tales, especially as they always seemed to affect sides that had previously had success.
Do theses curses have timers included in the spell when it’s cast? Thankfully, Goodison seems to be the type of place were such nonsense isn’t given a second thought. There is no doubt that Everton have consistently punched above their weight for the best part of David Moyes’ reign. They’ve finished lower than 6th once in the last 5 years and now once again, Everton are charging up the table.
Wednesday’s nights victory at Manchester City acted as a reminder for people that for all the excitement on who would finish fourth, Everton can still cause perceived better sides problems. In the shakedown of the season, Everton seem to be the one side everyone forgets. Since the turn of the year, they’ve only lost 2 league games against Spurs and Liverpool and beat Manchester United and Chelsea. An injury time equaliser from Thomas Rosicky saved Arsenal’s blushes at the Emirates Stadium in January.
The upturn in their fortunes is consistently overlooked, but they’ve clawed back a 13 point gap on 7th and are now breathing down Aston Villa’s neck. It would be easy for Moyes to blame lack of investment compared with all the teams above them, but he simply does the best he can with what he has. It is a return most chairman would die for, yet in giving us the most consistent Everton side since the mid 80’s, Everton still don’t get the credit they deserve.
Perhaps people miss the point with Everton, but on song, they are a damn fine team, with the delightful Arteta in the side pulling the strings. Any side shorn of the quality that he, along with Saha and Jagielka, brings to the Toffees side, would find the going tough, but they simply seem to get along with it. This season, the emergence of Leighton Baines as a top quality left back has allowed Moyes to use the criminally underrated Phil Neville to slip in at right back in place of the erratic Tony Hibbert.
Added to that, John Heitinga’s flexibility in his ability to play seemingly anywhere in defence or midfield shows his transfer fee to be an absolute steal. For £6.2 million, the Dutch international has shown that Ajax still produce such adaptable and talented players that no other club can compare to. In comparison to the man he replaced, Joleon Lescott, Heitinga is simply a far better player on every level. He even seems to have survived a spell at the modern footballers graveyard, Athletico Madrid.
With the breakthrough of Jack Rodwell and Dan Gosling to consistently make the side and grow as players can only be a good thing for Everton. For a club with the stature and history that they have, why they struggle to gain any real investment is a mystery to me. I grew up watching an Everton side that were real challengers for titles both at home and abroad before being curtailed by English footballs ban from European for that dark 5 year period between 1985 to 1990. I have no doubt that Everton could have won the European Cup in 1986 rather than perhaps the worst European Champions in modern history, Steaua Bucharest and their blanketing tactics.
Moyes is well aware of the history and tradition that Everton have. The halcyon era’s of Howard Kendall and Harry Catterick may be distant history to some as many remember the side that struggled to hang on to their top flight status throughout much of the 1990’s. Everton have been a top flight side since 1954, the second longest in English football behind Arsenal. That’s 56 seasons in the top division, if that’s not history, I don’t know what is.
A late charge for 4th would be miraculous, but I wouldn’t bet on them finishing 8th. As Villa stutter, City keep missing chances and Liverpool’s dreadfully negative football keeps failing, they could be well pressed to finish above at least one of those sides. It would be a massive fillip for Moyes, the wonderfully supportive chairman Bill Kenwright and the fans for them to push upwards.
Then this summer hope that he can keep a full strength side for the beginning of the season and add a bit more strength upfront. The perhaps Everton’s fans may begin to think of more than the Europa League and cup semi-finals for once and bring home a bit of silverware once again.