THERE weren’t many lowlights during an engrossing Euro 2012 finals this summer. But for Evertonians, the most prominent came shortly before Czech Republic’s group game against Poland.
On a live television broadcast beamed across the nation, David Moyes, sat in the Match Of The Day studios, was given a grilling by Gary Lineker over his future.
The line of questioning wasn’t exactly subtle, prompting complaints from some Everton supporters to the BBC that Lineker was effectively acting on behalf of the recently managerless Tottenham Hotspur.
Moyes, well schooled in fielding such enquiries, played a particularly straight bat.
But it said much of the nervousness among the Goodison faithful that there was a very real chance the Scot could be tempted by pastures new.
Moyes’s comments around the 10th anniversary of his tenure at Everton had prompted speculation that refused to be dampened by his team’s run to the FA Cup semi-final and subsequent strong end to the campaign.
Tottenham, having jettisoned Harry Redknapp, seemed the obvious alternative.
Yet Moyes stayed put. And not because he turned down the Londoners. As he pointed out to Lineker at the time, there had been no approach from the White Hart Lane hierarchy, and there never was.
Instead, it will be Andre Villas-Boas sat in the away dugout at Goodison on Sunday, the Portuguese possessing the X Factor that Tottenham evidently didn’t think Moyes had.
This has been an ongoing problem for the Scot. During his first decade at Goodison, he gathered a reputation as a firefighter, someone accustomed to working within tight financial restraints and encouraging his team to consistently be greater than the sum of their parts.
But Moyes, despite being linked with several leading jobs, seemingly never gets the call; never gets the chance to make a decision on his future.
The criticism is his sides are solid. Obdurate. Hard-working. Do the job. Yet don’t stir the senses in the way a Mourinho, a Villas-Boas or, yes, a Benitez does.
There remains some kind of xenomania in Britain that assumes while foreign managers are exotic, those from these shores are anything but. Moyes, it seems, is merely the latest victim of such perceptions.
Those perceptions, though, are changing this season, with the Everton manager, maybe irked by being pigeon-holed in such a manner, finally able to prove he can marry flair with success.
It’s why the Goodison outfit, unbeaten against Manchester duo United and City, Arsenal and Liverpool, can move ahead of fourth-placed Tottenham with home victory on Sunday afternoon – and perhaps help Moyes prove a point in the process.
Tottenham are one of only six teams to beat Everton in 36 Premier League games this calendar year, with only two having come in their last 24 outings.
The Lilywhites were last in town when Moyes celebrated his 10th anniversary in March, Nikica Jelavic marking his full debut by netting the winner on a Saturday evening at a rocking Goodison.
Villas-Boas’s side have struck a rich vein of from in recent weeks to replace Everton in the top four, but will be without key man Gareth Bale, the Wales international hamstrung after the impressive 3-0 win at Fulham last weekend.
Moyes’s men, though, go into the game bolstered by consecutive draws against Arsenal and City in which they could easily have claimed six points.
They were denied by a harsh penalty decision from Lee Probert at the Emirates, and Sylvain Distin says: “We were a bit unlucky. I don’t think it was a good decision by the ref. But you have to take it, hopefully sometimes it will go for us soon. It was a good display and we defended well and showed good character.
“When the ref comes up and says it was Leon Osman who made the foul, he can’t have seen it because he was the one who headed it away.
“But that’s football. Sometimes referees make mistakes. They are human. But 1-1 is a good result against City.
“I don’t think it’s the stadium that’s lucky for us. It’s Everton. We have a good record against City and we always seem to do well against them.”
Distin couldn’t resist a dig at City manager Roberto Mancini, who has bemoaned his side’s apparent lack of options as a reason for their dismal Champions League showing.
“When Dzeko comes off you think ‘phew, I can relax a bit’ but no, then Balotelli and Aguero come on,” he adds. “City have a big squad.
“Sometimes when you hear managers moaning about the injuries they have got or the lack of players you think ‘wow, you should come and play for Everton and then you’d realise what that is’.
“But at the same time, the reason I’m here in England is to play against the top strikers. I want that challenge every week. I know it’s difficult but that’s what makes football magical for me.”
Distin’s next challenge will be to help Everton contain the in-form Jermain Defoe, who has netted seven goals in his last seven games and 12 for the season.
And the Frenchman refuses to be downhearted by a succession of stalemates – seven in nine league games – that has seen Everton drop to sixth.
“We controlled the game against City and should have won,” says Distin. “But that’s a game we could have lost last season.
“We are still in a comfortable position and I think people have to remember how much we spend each season.
“I know people are disappointed we are out of the top four but people have to look at how much the teams around us spend. We lose a top player every season but we are still up there.”