FOR many years now fans and pundits alike have debated whether the ‘mind games’ attributed to managers have any material impact on the games they seek to influence.
If Old Red Nose down the East Lancs is often identified as the master of this particular art, then there’s no doubt who’s the dunce in the class – David Moyes, currently vying with Arsene Wenger for the title of longest-serving, non-trophy winning manager in English football.
Poor David must have been off sick the day they covered this subject in Coaching School, judging by his feeble efforts both before and after Sunday’s derby game.
Usually Moyes spends the week before these matches lamenting his paucity of resources compared to his more successful neighbours, implying that were he to be given similar transfer funds, it would naturally follow that Everton would win the Premier League, Champions League and Strictly Come Dancing.
Last week he surprisingly changed tack, perhaps reflecting recent revelations that the ‘Paupers’ Club’ have the 9th highest wage bill in the league, but more likely because he saw a more appealing bandwagon to jump on.
Justly terrified by the damage Luis Suarez might inflict on his over-achieving side, he sought to demonise the Uruguayan striker as the antichrist who would bring about the destruction of English football by his occasionally theatrical reactions to being booted up in the air by humiliated defenders.
In so doing of course, Moyes was attempting in his cumbersome way to influence referee Andre Marriner to view every foul on Suarez as legitimate retribution for this appalling habit – as if any such reminder was necessary given recent evidence in games against Norwich and Stoke.
If this was also supposed to destabilise Suarez in any way, then it backfired spectacularly as the game developed into one of the biggest eye-wipes in football history.
Within 19 minutes the man who is allegedly emptying football grounds had conjured up two goals, crowning the first with a comical demonstration in front of his detractor that would have graced Norman Wisdom at his finest.
Moyes’ apparent post-match acceptance of the joke contrasted with his demeanour as he approached the prostrate Suarez on the touchline mid-celebration – he didn’t seem to be laughing to me.
To add insult to blessed injury, his own captain then piled on the humiliation by doing a passable impression of Tom Daley under a spot of heavy breathing from Daniel Agger. Sweet.
Post-match, Moyes was unrepentant. His personal crusade against Suarez now found a new focus – he should of course have been sent off for a tackle on Sylvain Distin, thus making him an unholy combination of Norman Hunter and Francis Lee (ask your Dads).
And while he kindly admitted that Suarez’s last-minute strike should have stood, he couldn’t resist disputing the free-kick decision that led up to it, conveniently ignoring the wrongly-awarded throw-in that preceded their second goal.
Who really knows whether referees or players are influenced by the sort of antics that Moyes attempted in the build-up to Sunday’s match?
Whether they are or not, Moyes would be well-advised to leave the ‘mind-games’ to those who have a better grasp of the subtleties involved.
His feeble attempts to ‘psych-out’ Suarez did him no favours.
Dec 2011 Liverpool 3-1 Newcastle
Craig Bellamy scored twice against his former club as Kenny Dalglish’s side came from behind to secure victory. Bellamy pounced after Daniel Agger had earlier diverted Ryan Taylor’s cross beyond Pepe Reina before the returning Steven Gerrard sealed victory with a clever late strike.
May 2011 Liverpool 3-0 Newcastle
Liverpool moved into a UEFA Cup qualifying berth ahead of Tottenham Hotspur with a comfortable victory. Maxi Rodriguez put the hosts ahead in the 10th minute before Dirk Kuyt converted from the spot on the hour after a foul on Luis Suarez, who completed the scoring with a close-range finish.
May 2009 Liverpool 3-0 Newcastle
James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, saw Rafael Benitez’s title-chasing side earn a quantum of solace with three points. Yossi Benayoun opened the scoring before headers from Dirk Kuyt and Lucas Leiva secured an easy victory over the Magpies, for whom Joey Barton was dismissed on 77 minutes.
Mar 2008 Liverpool 3-0 Newcastle
Liverpool warmed up for their midweek Champions League trip to Inter Milan with another dominant victory. Having gone ahead through a strange opener when Jose Enrique’s clearance went in off Jermaine Pennant, the hosts added further goals from Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard.
Sep 2006 Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle
Dirk Kuyt netted his first goal since his arrival from Feyenoord to send Rafael Benitez’s side on their way. But the game will forever be remembered for an outrageous goal from Xabi Alonso, the Spaniard shooting from inside his own half and floating an effort over goalkeeper Steve Harper.