QUESTION: When is a good start not a good start?
Answer: When it’s at Everton.
David Moyes and his players have been falling over themselves in their attempts to keep their feet rooted firmly to the ground during the opening weeks of the season.
But if the Goodison outfit continue their current form, such efforts will be in vain.
Moyes’s side make the short journey to face Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium this weekend looking to strengthen their grip on second place going into the forthcoming international break.
Comprehensive victory over Southampton was a fourth victory in the opening six games for Everton, their 13-point tally matching their start to the 2004-05 campaign that ended with a fourth-place finish and a crack at Champions League qualification.
Moyes has been insistent that only after 10 games can Everton begin to evaluate their start.
And Steven Pienaar is in agreement.
“We are not there yet,” he says. “After 10 games we can say how well we have done.
“At the moment we are still working towards a good start so we must wait and see.”
Everton reach that landmark at Fulham – a ground where they have won only twice in 46 years – but for many supporters, the real test will come the week beforehand when neighbours Liverpool visit on October 28.
Pienaar provided Everton a further boost earlier this week when he announced his retirement from international football.
With South Africa hosting the tournament, the midfielder would have most likely been unavailable for Moyes from Christmas until the end of January.
Now, however, the 30-year-old can continue to play a significant part in Everton’s early-season progress, which he does not believe comes as a surprise given their strong end to the previous campaign.
“It’s a good feeling for the guys,” says Pienaar.
“We have been working really hard and it’s important to get the points to make sure we break away from the other teams below us. But there’s still a long way to go.
“It hasn’t exceeded my expectations.
“The manager asked for us to start the season well, and to be honest the way we ended last season it’s no wonder we’ve carried that form on.
“I said when I rejoined Everton that, with the quality we have and because the team has been together for a few years, I think it is time for us to achieve something.
“Finishing in the top five or top six is something we have to push ourselves to deliver, we have to push the bar that bit higher.”
Pienaar’s retirement has been met with disappointment in his homeland, with Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund ready to make a trip to Merseyside to understand better the decision.
“I haven’t spoken to Pienaar since we received his letter of resignation,” says Igesund. “But when I go to England soon after the international weekend I will visit him and talk to him over a coffee.
“The last time I spoke to him was before he wrote us this letter and at that time we spoke about a lot of other different things. However, right now he has retired and I have accepted that he has made a decision and will not victimise him about that.”
South Africa’s loss is Everton’s gain. No other player has assisted more Premier League goals in 2012, but Pienaar is not alone in impressing this season - the midfielder is happy to share in the collective plaudits and singling out Marouane Fellaini for particular praise.
Fellaini set the tone by scoring the winner in a man-of-the-match display against Manchester United on the opening weekend, and has since netted in the wins at Aston Villa and Swansea City.
“He’s a big guy but technically he is great with the ball so he brings something different,” says Pienaar.
“When we played Man United we knew it was going to be a hard game if we wanted to match them possession-wise but he was central to us doing that. He comes out of the tunnel in front of me every game so I don’t see much when we walk out!
“But when I see him I feel confident.
“He brings that presence with him out on to the pitch and that lifts the players around him.”
Pienaar adds: “The team spirit is very healthy.
“We all want to work for each other and we sense that maybe this season something special will come.
“We need to keep on going and not get carried away.
“There is always a good vibe in the dressing room, there are no egos. I think that is important.
“If there are egos there are going to be problems. Here there is one boss and it works.”
Despite going behind to an early Gaston Ramirez goal, Everton struck a rich vein of form during the first half with three goals in 13 minutes.
And Moyes, wary that tougher challenges await, has urged his players to maintain that level of performance for a full 90 minutes.
“It’s been a long time since I have seen us in and around the top places in the Premier League,” says the Goodison manager.
“I’ve said already that I’d like to mix it with the ‘big boys’ and to do that we need a good level of consistency throughout the season.
“I hope there is more to come from us. Because we want to play like we did in the first half against Southampton for 90 minutes.
“There will be times when we have to grind things out like we did in the second half, but we want to play like we did at Swansea and against Aston Villa and we want to keep that going.”