Where Do Everton And Moyes Go From Here?

To say Everton have been a disappointment in the league this season is an understatement, but now the same inability to string a couple of results together has put paid to their hopes of the FA Cup. Maybe they were guilty of looking too far ahead. Having already won at Manchester City in the league this season and having no reason to fear Gerard Houllier's Aston Villa, they might have been thinking of quarter-finals and beyond and Manchester United and Arsenal playing each other. After putting out Chelsea it would be perfectly natural to think that way, but only if you are the sort of team who can be professional and clinical enough to get an obstacle such as Reading out of the way.

Everton plainly are not, and David Moyes has admitted as much. Not only were the Championship team deserving winners, it was an Everton player who was embarrassingly late for the game after being held up on the motorway, and with Marouane Fellaini out injured again for the rest of the season, joining Tim Cahill on the sidelines, the manager has lost two of the players who do more than most to carry his combative instincts on to the pitch.

In almost 10 years at the club, Moyes has known disappointment and immense frustration before, and bounced back quite brilliantly on countless occasions. There are signs, however, that he is becoming weary and less effective, just like his players.

The old theory that players gradually grow tired over the years of the same instructions from the same manager is undermined by the longevity of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger elsewhere, though United and Arsenal have known success under those managers and have new challenges to meet each season. Plus they have money to spend, if required, to overhaul the team and freshen things up.

Everton have none of those advantages, and are becoming stuck in a rut. They are good enough not to be relegated, but Moyes is a better manager than that and deserves a greater challenge. He did enough in his first five years at the club to be recognised as an outstanding organiser and motivator, but the upward move never came. Partly because he has little European experience, partly because the big jobs usually go to foreigners. Everton are never going to sack Moyes, and nor should they. He has hardly failed, he has just found it difficult in the past few years to repeat the giant strides of his early tenure. Wenger at Arsenal could say the same thing, and Moyes at Everton has been loved and revered just as much.

So what should Moyes do? Resign, just to break the circle? It is not his fault that Everton are not going anywhere, but what else can he alter? What is there left to try?

Some of the fans think the chairman Bill Kenwright ought to resign, but in the absence of a rich and generous benefactor that would be a fairly pointless gesture. Moyes has done superbly well for Everton, he has been the best manager a cash-strapped, diminished club could hope for, yet the club's situation now is drifting back towards the hopelessness and stasis it knew under Walter Smith, the season Preston's bright young boss was brought in to successfully stave off relegation.

That's the reality of the Premier League glass ceiling, the result of perenially having to compete with clubs with infinitely greater financial resources. It is tough for teams in the middle. While Moyes's players may have deserved to be booed off after their Reading defeat, the manager himself is still hugely in credit after the last nine years. He just won't be feeling that way at the moment. He will be at his wits' end, glummer than he has a right to be, wondering how this weird sort of success story can possibly come to a happy conclusion.

Related Article:
English FA Cup: Giant-Killing At Merseyside

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