Moyes: Not An Asshat By Nature Or Necessity?

Most people in football are largely despicable. David Moyes and the majority of his Everton side appear to buck this trend. Is it simply because the Toffees are skint?

Last Updated: 09/11/12 at 14:21 Post Comment

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On Monday night, Huddersfield forward James Vaughan flipped Blackpool goalkeeper Matthew Gilks into the air with a late, flying tackle. After acquiescing to gravity's insistence that he thump into the ground and lie there for a moment, Gilks stood back up and gestured to the referee; so far, so normal. However, because his gesture was a 'no worries, ref, no harm done', rather than 'send him off now, ref, I think he's ruptured my spleen', he was praised to the skies by Sky's commentators. Where the ordinarily decent has become the remarkable, it's time to turn the whole thing off and find something else to do.

For football, particularly top-flight football, is a shabby business, and the people involved - players, managers, owners, administrators - are largely despicable, in one way or another. Some are violent, others arrogant, others hypocritical, others vindictive. Some are probably corrupt, others simply dishonest, while plenty simply care about nothing but number one. Those in the suits lie to those in the stands, and those in the boots lie to those with the whistles. It's a mess.

This is why it's always dangerous to warm to somebody that doesn't initially appear to be a shuddering plantpot. Disappointment is almost inevitable. Take Danny Welbeck: before this season he was an entertaining, promising and occasionally brilliant forward with cracking hair and a fun celebration. Now he's just another diving goon (though the hair's still good). Football, in all its venal footballness, will get to them in the end. Everybody will let you down.

Well, almost everybody. David Moyes is alright.

To pre-empt a series of spluttering 'but what about the time he said this/did that/set fire to the other', the point is not that Moyes is a paragon of human virtue. The point is that he seems fundamentally decent, like the kind of a man who'd happily offer you a lift even if it was a bit out of his way, but wouldn't take advantage of a captive presence in the passenger seat to explain just how the country's gone to the dogs, share a wonderful investment opportunity requiring only a modest initial outlay, or outline the one true path by which a damned and mucky soul can be cleansed, saved and returned to Jesus.

It reflects in his team. Run down Everton's squad and there's a surprising (and refreshing) lack of douchery. Leon Osman is the Iniesta of the North, Leighton Baines is a Shropshire building society, Darron Gibson is David Gedge, and Tony Hibbert is Tony Hibbert. Phil Neville's greatest crimes amount to nothing more than an unwise tackle against Romania and having a sock-sucker of a brother. Then there's Marouane Fellaini, the scourge of Manchester United, who's taken it upon himself to resurrect the treasured English footballing tradition of being big, strong and having a comedy perm. Moyes has even got Duncan Ferguson helping with Everton's academy, which is both endearingly optimistic and mildly terrifying.

Sadly, though, as with everything these days, it comes down to money. Everton are skint. This enduring skintness means they have no choice but to operate in what is, more or less, the right way: sensible wages, intelligent purchases, a strong focus on the youth system. That, in turn, reflects well on their manager, who also gets plenty of credit for his loyalty and for playing decent football within such constraints. But there's the rub: his job's a hard one, one of the hardest in the league, and so there's precious little time or opportunity for bluster or knobbishness. Is he actually sound, or has he just got nothing to gain from being a pillock?

Perhaps if Everton were to strike oil under the Gwladys Street stand, or Moyes were to jump to a richer club, then he'd start muttering about conspiracies, whining about his opponents, and offering smaller teams' youth players hugely inflated salaries. Maybe we'd have to watch another acceptable human grasp the opportunity to de-decent themselves. But for the moment Everton's eminent sensibleness, when set against amongst the clamour, chicanery and dick-swinging of the rest of the Premier League, gives them and their manager a faintly noble air. Not being an asshat may not be much, but unless we're all going to start watching korfball, it'll have to do.

Andi Thomas

Andi also writes for SB Nation and The Score, and is on Twitter. He also contributed to the Surreal Football Magazine #1, which is out now, and available here.

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S I've always envisioned him as a Pirlo or a Scholes, though he needs some of Andy Murray's conditioning and shiny, ankle supports to keep his own from buckling under the tackles that will (inevitably) come his way. He's got the physique and low centre of gravity to flourish, but needs to make himself more resilient.

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