Twist of fate puts Moyes up against former club
Sunderland manager could well have been in charge for derbies in Manchester or Glasgow
FOR David Moyes, the biggest of a weekend of big games is yet to come. Had things transpired differently, the 53-year-old Scot might have had an active involvement in either the Glasgow derby or the Manchester one, but instead all the Sunderland manager’s energies are consumed by the small matter of taking on another of his former teams, Everton, at the Stadium of Light tonight.
Moyes cannot help but look back affectionately on the 11 successful years he spent on Merseyside, even if comparisons with those Goodison Park days get him into trouble from time to time. While he was blessed to inherit quite an eclectic selection of senior professionals from Walter Smith – it included the likes of Paul Gascoigne, Duncan Ferguson, Thomas Gravesen and David Weir – Moyes performed quiet miracles with Bill Kenwright’s £5 million annual transfer budget. He made them perennial top eight finishers in the Barclays Premier League and was deservedly rewarded with the move to Old Trafford. Then things started to get more complicated.
Not only did some senior players at Manchester United reportedly take umbrage at the Scotsman repeatedly harking back to his days at Goodison, feeling perhaps that they were above all that, in fact it was a “painful” 2-0 defeat at his old stomping ground in April 2014 which sealed Moyes’ fate in the Old Trafford hot-seat. Thankfully attempting to recreate Everton’s successes at Sunderland, a club locked in a pattern of short-termism and in dire need of the Scot’s canny assured stewardship, seems to be more on-message.
“I don’t want to come in here, banging the drum all the time, saying that we are like Everton, we are like Everton,” said Moyes, whose side claimed their first point against Southampton immediately before the international break.
“But all I can say is that if we can follow that, we won’t be far away. It’s a club I’ve got real fond memories of from the day I started, even though I got lost on the way to the training ground on the first morning!
“I feel as though, because I have had a couple of clubs now, I can set a team up to get a result, if that is what you are looking for,” he added. “But if you are a Sunderland supporter I would think you would like to get a plan in place, a bit of an identity, a journey that we can go on. I am not using that as an excuse to say we are not trying to get results right away. My aim is to be as high up the league this year as we possibly can. If I can do a Leicester in my own way, finishing as high as possible, then that is what I want to do.”
Moyes feels his old team at Everton were one striker away from mounting a credible Barclays Premier League challenge. His successor Roberto Martinez finally recruited him in the form of Romelu Lukaku, only for the Spaniard to preside over an 11th place finish which left Moyes’ Merseyside legacy more fondly thought of with every passing week. Ironically, Ronald Koeman’s team are now cash rich when they arrive in town, with new owner Farhad Moshiri’s millions supplemented by the £47.5m the club received from Manchester City for John Stones, a bargain buy from Barnsley in one of Moyes’ last acts for the club.
“We were a centre-forward missing, I would say, and I might exaggerate a little bit, from being a team that could challenge to win the Premier League, we were that good,” said Moyes. “But we couldn’t get the finances to get a striker in in my last two years.
“Definitely [I wish I had the money they have now] but to be fair Bill Kenwright was always looking for it, and always trying to do it, and every penny he did have he gave it to me so I can never have any complaints. It was also a brilliant education because what I did have, I had to use and spend.”
As seems to be par for the course for him these days – even during his time when the Manchester United hierarchy weren’t exactly providing him with players of the calibre of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba – Moyes is coming off a somewhat underwhelming transfer window.
Success stories included signing Didier Ndong from Lorient, loaning Jason Denayer from Manchester City and keeping Lamine Kone, although the club were unable to conclude a loan deal for Scotland’s Steven Naismith. “It wasn’t just to do with money,” said Moyes. “We had some players signed, which for various reasons, we didn’t manage to get them in. Sunderland has got the stadium, the set-up, what it hasn’t got is the league position. I have to be the person that changes that.”
SCORE TO SETTLE: Sunderland manager David Moyes will take on former club Everton in Premier League action tonight.