By Jay Jaffa
It could have been so different this Sunday afternoon: David Moyes might have been the man leading Tottenham to Goodison Park for the clash against Everton had Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, made the decision every bookmaker in the country presumed and named the Scot as the successor to Harry Redknapp.
As it turned out, Levy turned to Andre Villas-Boas in the summer and the Portuguese coach will be the man aiming to take points off the Toffees on Sunday afternoon.
|MOYES' MANAGERIAL CAREER
Of course, there is a debate in this particular narrative – are Tottenham an elite-level club? Would it have been a step up for Moyes to abandon his comfortable position in Merseyside? The 49-year-old remained calm and diplomatic through an uncharacteristically pointed interrogation led by Gary Lineker on the BBC sofas during the Euro 2012 coverage yet he gave no hint that he was prepared to leave the team he has been with for over 10 years, instead stating: "I hope to meet all my ambitions at Everton."
But the feeling you had over the summer, reading various articles and absorbing the opinions of the fans on social networks, was that this was finally the time that Moyes was going to move on from Everton. The fact remains that the modern Everton are a 'safe' club, a dependable top-half team with pretensions of pushing to the summit, just without the financial clout the top places demand.
And in many ways Moyes is the archetype of that model. The safe manager, with a rigid system capable of frustrating the top teams and eking out wins against the smaller sides. Maybe he just did not fit the perception of what a Tottenham manager should embody. Those in power at White Hart Lane have almost universally favoured an exotic name and style. From Jacques Santini and Martin Jol and the failed European-inspired Director of Football model to Juande Ramos and Villas-Boas. Interestingly the biggest period of success in the Levy reign (at least by the Arsene Wenger definition) was the two top-four finishes under Redknapp.
In a game concerned as much with balance sheets than scoresheets, Tottenham are the bigger club and Moyes would have approached the job in north London holding unfamiliar cards – aces to the 8s and 9s he is accustomed to, Bales to the Pienaars, Lennons to the Colemans.
This approach – the 'I've got a faster car than you' mentality – has often seen the downfall of headstrong managers though, particularly in the Premier League and that is where Moyes comes into his own. You can be sure that when the Scot eventually leaves Everton, "overachievement" will be the lasting legacy of his time and that is as much a compliment as it is a fair assessment of his tenure.
Fellow managers speak of the grit and strong mentality Moyes has instilled and it is this rare and highly valued trait that he will carry with him throughout his managerial career. Would it have been welcome at Spurs? Of course. Who can forget Redknapp's assertions in his early days that the club had a "soft underbelly" and needed players of the ilk of Wilson Palacios.
When asked to discuss his adversary, Villas-Boas spoke kindly of him on Thursday night: "His teams are very competitive, which makes Goodison Park one of the most difficult trips to go in the Premier League. It is all down to him, he changed the mentality in the club, went through different situations financially for the club, always built strong teams. Scouting is perfect, training is perfect, the way he motivates always makes a difference, you see them on the pitch extremely competitive."
In many ways the fear in appointing Moyes is his approach. His Everton side are certainly more watchable nowadays than in the fledgling years of his time at Goodison Park but there remains a doubt that he could have entertained consistently at Tottenham. As Villas-Boas has discovered, slipping into Redknapp's shoes was not as smooth as he would have hoped. Many fans immediately took a dislike to the former Porto coach's approach, perhaps spoilt by the years of free-flowing, impulsive football – a brand Moyes lauded, saying in the summer: "last year I would have paid to watch Tottenham."
When they meet on Sunday, Redknapp's foundations and Villas-Boas' recent good work pose a daunting task. The visitors' stature has pressed Moyes to claim that his side will be in Europe next season if they finish above Tottenham. With the clubs sitting sixth and fourth respectively, there is not much between them – though Everton are on something of a slump, drawing seven of their last nine, while Spurs boast four consecutive victories in all competitions.
Perhaps it all comes down to trophies. For all his virtues he has only won the third tier championship with Preston and made one cup final - last year's FA Cup - in 10-and-a-half years at Everton. Villas-Boas may have failed at Chelsea and there may be a much smaller sample to assess his career given his age, but he has won titles already. Until Moyes adds something tangible to his CV, he may be overlooked for a while yet.
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