There have been times this season when you would be forgiven for thinking that Everton were in freefall, says NSNO Editor Simon Paul.
In the last few weeks, however, there has been a distinct improvement in the atmosphere around Goodison Park and Finch Farm.
From an opening day defeat to a newly promoted QPR – whose soon-to-be sacked manager admitted had not fielded the side he wanted to see at QPR again – and periods where David Moyes looked emotionless and devoid of ideas on the touchline, the January transfer window would appear to have breathed new life into Everton.
The window opened with most Everton fans asking who would be sold next, and after Mikel Arteta’s departure at the very end of August, many wondered which big name player we would be watching sign for someone else on Sky Sports News at 11pm on January 31st. Protest groups predicted signings such as Sol Campbell and David Weir would be the highlights of our January spending, while tabloids lept at the opportunity to fill everyone’s hearts with dread with rumours that Jack Rodwell and then Ross Barkley were on their way out of Goodison Park.
David Moyes’ demeanour did nothing to instill confidence and even a Tim Howard goal couldn’t stop the Blues reverting to type and losing at home to bottom side Bolton, and then away to Spurs. But that defeat to Spurs on January 11th was the last one suffered infront of Evertonians, with two FA Cup wins and sending two of the richest clubs in the world away from Goodison Park with no points between them included in the seven game unbeaten run.
But the good feeling doesn’t end there. David Moyes not only kept his side intact in the January transfer window, but he also added some much needed fire power up front in the form of the prolific Nikica Jelavic, while finding a much needed replacement for Steven Pienaar, in Pienaar himself.
Landon Donovan rejoined the Blues while loan striker Denis Stracqualursi has found his scoring boots, punishing Chelsea and Blackpool with his hard work ethic and deadly eye for goal. But it is David Moyes’ change in mood that is most evident. At times last season, and early on in this season, he has stalked the touchline with a scowl and look of menace. There have even been times when, like at Bolton last season, he has sat in his seat looking completely lost and as if he would rather be anywhere else than in charge of Everton. But all that has changed.
He smiles from time to time as he barks his instructions from the touchline. He has a laugh and a joke in pre and post match interviews, and looks like a changed man. Improved results go a long way to improving the mood of manager and fans alike, but it will be the ability to keep his squad intact, as well as adding a key utility player in Darron Gibson for a bargain price to his other more glitzy signings, that will be making him happiest.
Thanks to a positively charged January transfer window, Everton now find themselves on the verge of another trip to Wembley while making a charge up the table, sitting in tenth just nine points away from a European qualification place, and brimming with confidence for the rest of the season.