THE fallout was inevitable. Fingers were pointed, aspersions cast, fists pumped, accusations thrown and blame apportioned.
But among the many questions to be asked in the wake of Everton’s dismal FA Cup exit at home to Wigan Athletic last weekend, there is one that many supporters, along with the Goodison board, dare not ponder.
Why would David Moyes want to stay at Everton?
It was 11 years ago this week that the Scot accepted the invitation from Bill Kenwright to transform the club’s fortunes.
A few days earlier, Everton had seen their hopes of FA Cup glory ended by a heavy 3-0 quarter-final defeat at Middlesbrough.
The comparisons with last Saturday run deeper than similar scorelines and the quickfire manner in which the three goals were conceded.
Goodison, like at the Riverside more than a decade earlier, has witnessed a watershed moment within the squad. Whether it extends to the stewardship, though, will become apparent at the end of the season when Moyes holds decisive talks over a new deal.
And he wouldn’t be blamed if he chooses to shake Kenwright’s hand, thank him for the opportunity back in 2002 and seek pastures new.
Moyes, despite the nagging lack of major silverware on his CV, would be a man in demand; Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal could be searching for new managers, while further afield Bundesliga sides – Schalke in particular – and those from Spain would surely also be monitoring his position.
The manager wasn’t without fault against Wigan – starting Phil Neville instead of Darron Gibson backfired spectacularly – but this isn’t just about Saturday.
That defeat has merely accelerated the debate and dragged into sharp focus many of the issues that have been pushed to one side given the reluctance to compromise Everton’s encouraging campaign with Wembley and Europe within sight.
Certainly, having addressed their inability to hit the ground running, the Goodison outfit are in danger of completing a complete role reversal by limping over the finish line.
There’s good reason for that. It’s common currency that Everton don’t have the strength in depth to sustain a realistic challenge for a top-four berth, but the real concern is the age of the squad.
Tim Howard is 34. Tony Hibbert 32. Sylvain Distin 35. Phil Jagielka 30. Phil Neville 36. Leon Osman 31. Steven Pienaar 30.
Four of them started last Saturday – it would have been six had Howard and Jagielka not been injured – and, Hibbert aside, all have featured heavily this season.