David Moyes Is Playing a Dangerous Game as Everton's Season Hangs by a Thread

Richard MorganContributor IFebruary 23, 2013

If looks could kill: Moyes has now been at Goodison for 11 years
If looks could kill: Moyes has now been at Goodison for 11 yearsJamie McDonald/Getty Images

Everton manager David Moyes will be absolutely livid with his side’s late collapse at struggling Norwich City (via BBC Sport) in the Premier League on Saturday, with the Toffees somehow allowing Chris Hughton’s men to score twice in the final six minutes at Carrow Road to complete an unlikely comeback that may have lasting repercussions at Goodison Park further down the line.

It was only last Friday in Moyes’s pre-match press conference ahead of his team’s FA Cup fifth-round trip to Oldham Athletic the following day that the Glaswegian had revealed (via BBC Sport) he would be waiting until the end of the season now before making a definitive decision on whether or not he would be extending his 11-year association with the Merseysiders beyond this summer, having originally stated that he would make a final choice on the matter before the end of the January transfer window. 

"I want to see how we do in the cups, I want to see how we do in the league, and it's more than likely I won't make a decision until the end of the season," Moyes said.

"I'll give as much as I can, but I've said - and I've spoken with the chairman - that I want to see how the team does."

There could be numerous plausible reasons to explain this apparent change of heart. However, the most obvious is that the fiercely determined former Preston North End manager is playing a cagey waiting game between now and the climax of this campaign to flush out any potential suitors for his services, of which there are reportedly many.

And clearly the Scot wants to keep all his options, including remaining at Everton, open for as long as possible before making what will be one of the most important decisions of his already highly successful managerial career.

However, for Everton chairman Bill Kenwright and his club’s ever-patient supporters, finishing in the top four of the Premier League this campaign for only the second time since Moyes took over the reins at Goodison in March 2002 is an absolute must if they are to retain any hope whatsoever of keeping hold of their manager for next season and beyond.

And that is why Saturday’s shock reverse in east Anglia would have been so painful for everyone involved with this great club, chairman, fans and manager alike.

In previous seasons under Moyes, Everton have consistently finished their campaigns strongly, barring one exception, although usually this has been in stark contrast to their limp starts to the majority of their seasons.

But, this time around the club made an electric beginning, flying out of the blocks by beating Manchester United at home in their first contest, a catalyst to a run of just two defeats in their opening 19 top-flight matches that kept Moyes and Co. hot on the heels of Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in the fierce race for two of the remaining Champions League berths for next season.

Since then, however, Everton’s form has fallen away badly, with only two wins in the Premier League since Boxing Day in what now looks to be a complete reversal of how their campaigns normally play out. By this time on Sunday they could be a whopping nine points off fourth spot with just 11 matches of the season left to play as hope of Champions League football next season fade.

Not only that, but key Croatia international front man Nikica Jelavic has stopped finding the back of the net at exactly the wrong time, with the 27-year-old having even been dropped to the bench of late by Moyes in an effort to help rediscover his form.

But that's been to no avail, with no goals arriving via the substitutes’ bench either as the club have also failed to win any of their previous three league encounters in that time frame, with two of those ending in defeat, while even relegation-threatened League One outfit Oldham Athletic could not be overcome in the Cup.

This is where Moyes should take his share of responsibility, though, as his announcement last week regarding his contract will only have served to create more uncertainty around the club, and none more so than among his players, who now will be wondering just how much longer their manager will be calling the shots on Merseyside.

And, as soon as footballers start to sniff weakness in the air and question marks begin to appear over a manager’s futures—as we saw so famously 12 years ago when Sir Alex Ferguson announced midseason that he would be retiring as boss of Manchester United, only for the club’s subsequent campaign to fall apart at the seams—then they are given an excuse not to give 100 percent in both training and more importantly on match days, with disastrous consequences.

For Moyes, though, it is a tricky dilemma: first and foremost he would like to qualify Everton for next season’s Champions League, which would leave him in the strongest position come the summer, left to choose between staying with the club and competing in Europe’s premier club competition the following campaign, or moving on to pastures new as job offers flood through his door, but personally satisfied with what he has accomplished at Goodison.

By all accounts, at present he does not have any concrete offers on the table with which to fend off, hence his delay in putting pen to paper on a new one-year rolling contract with Everton for next season, so he had to make that announcement last Friday having originally stated that he would make a final decision on the matter by the end of January. Looking back now, that was perhaps a mistake on his part.

So, that is how and why the uncertainty has been created, but you get the feeling that it is not likely to ease up much between now and May, while in a strange paradox, should Everton’s previously promising campaign continue to fall away as it has been of late, that could in turn affect the Scot’s hopes of landing either the Chelsea (via the Daily Telegraph) or the Manchester City (via the Daily Mail) jobs next season.

Either way, what is not in doubt is that Moyes surely deserves a crack at one of the Premier League’s "big" jobs after what he has achieved so far on a shoestring budget at Everton, and it would be a great shame if he felt that he had to move to the Bundesliga (via Goal.com), say, for him to fulfil his managerial ambitions.