Andy Hampson: Out of their blue period, Moyes and Everton aim to break glass ceiling
AS DAVID Moyes pointed out without betraying too much frustration on Monday, Everton were largely overlooked in the build-up to the opening weekend of the season.
With Manchester United having completed the headline transfer of the summer by signing Robin van Persie, the Merseysiders almost became the support cast ahead of opening night at their Goodison Park ground.
However, it was not for no reason around a week earlier that some seasoned observers had marked down the Toffees as a team capable of breaking into the battle for Champions League places.
As the team then proved in a performance against United containing all the heart and desire that Moyes has instilled, they can be a force to be reckoned with.
Everton seemed first to every ball as they secured a deserved victory that got their season off to a flying start and left those salivating at the prospect of Van Persie combining to devastating effect with Wayne Rooney waiting at least another week.
In recent seasons, Everton have proved themselves one of the best sides in the country but only after giving their rivals a head start by beginning poorly.
Now with the springboard of a win over United to propel them, they really will hope to make an impression.
As captain Phil Neville said in a television interview with brother Gary that remarkably gave little indication the pair had ever spoken before, Newcastle have set a good benchmark. The Magpies, in the Championship just two years earlier, were the surprise package of last term and finished above the eventual European champions, Chelsea, in a charge that went close to yielding a Champions League place.
For years Moyes, hampered by a lack of funds, has coaxed the best out of a squad light on numbers.
Now after two years of limited transfer activity, he has been able to bolster his ranks with the likes of crowd favourite Steven Pienaar, instant hero Nikica Jelavic and two other new faces in Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith.
They have added a freshness to a squad where team spirit is already high and there is genuine reason to believe the glass ceiling that seemed in place below the top six is ready to be broken.
Some may have pointed to the loss of Jack Rodwell as a sign of Everton’s limited potential, but in truth his sale was smart business by Moyes.
Rodwell may be a player of great ability but in the past two injury-hit seasons he did not establish himself in the side. Everton have, therefore, scooped around £15 million for someone who was not an important member of their team.
Moyes now wants to use that money to add to his squad’s depth.
If he is allowed to do so, the mood when the transfer window shuts is likely to be markedly different from that of 12 months ago after Mikel Arteta left at the last moment.
Moyes is the man chiefly responsible for that change of atmosphere. The Scot has proved himself an outstanding manager throughout his ten years in charge and his appetite has not diminished despite some trying times.
Chairman Bill Kenwright has his detractors, but that the critics frustrated by his perceived lack of investment have quietened in recent months is due in no small part to the manager.
Repeatedly Moyes has been linked with other clubs because of a feeling he has reached his peak with Everton. He has never said that. He now has a chance to prove he can still take his great old club further.
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