I don’t have a strong opinion about most Premier League coaches. Even after three years of reading about them daily.
Sir Alex Ferguson? Negative connotations. A sort of bully. “Fergie time,” all that. And I don’t like calling anyone “sir”. (It’s the republican in me.) But he wins. Roberto Mancini seems a sort of fancy Dan, and Harry Redknapp is a dopey uncle who somehow finds work. I find myself prepared to like Andre Villas-Boas, and maybe Michael Laudrup, but I’m not sure I have enough information, and then there are a dozen guys who don’t move the needle. Tony Pulis? Whoever coaches Sutherland? And Reading and Norwich City?
My lack of strong opinions on the topic perhaps is no surprise considering I have been in the same room with only two of the 20 managers — Arsene Wenger, who materialized at a World Cup qualifier I covered in Paris in 2009 (France v Romania), and Rafael Benitez, who went on a sort of paranoid rant after winning the Fifa Club World Cup (with Inter Milan) here in Abu Dhabi in 2010. (And was fired a few days later.)
But one guy I am ready to decide on is David Moyes. I like him. I like what he does with Everton, who are always competitive without the resources of the big guys. And, Landon Donovan likes him, and I believe Landon to be a good assessor of coaching character.
I also like Moyes because he is a semi-tragic figure.
For all the surprises Everton has sprung, during the long tenure of Moyes (which began in 2002), they have never won a trophy. Not one. Not even the League Cup.
He got to the final of the FA Cup in 2009, having defeated Manchester United on the way, but Chelsea beat Everton at Wembley.
He was thought to have a chance at the FA Cup this year, but that went “poof” when Wigan (!) nuked Everton in the quarterfinals yesterday.
This happened on the same day we had done a big piece in The National about Moyes’s pursuit of the FA Cup, and how much it would mean to him.
And the result brought another 700 words of analysis from one of our English football correspondents, who fretted that all of Moyes’s good work would be forgotten because of that lack of trophies.
As Richard Jolly noted, Moyes runs the whole of the football operations at Everton, he works with a modest budget (but doesn’t talk about it every time he opens his mouth) and manages to finish in the upper half of the league year after year.
He seems like a stand-up guy. And then Landon told me he loved playing for him, and would not want to play for anyone else in England (after two three-month loaner periods with Everton, in 2010 and 2012), and that was enough for me.
And then we’re back to the tragic figure thing. The guy who does things right, who brings down the mighty, who perseveres without complaint and apparently is beloved by fans and players … but who can’t win the big one. Or even the little one.
British journalists seemingly can’t take their eyes off of him, and these are guys who know their Shakespeare.