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Lauded Glaswegian manager finally brings his years of Anfield frustration to an end. The script is prepared for Sunday's 215th Merseyside derby, and it does not only apply to Kenny Dalglish.
If there is one void that irritates David Moyes greater than his lack of trophies as Everton manager, it is his lack of success at Anfield. Nine times he has travelled across Stanley Park since his arrival from Preston North End in March 2002 and nine times he has returned winless.
In the eyes of his critics at Goodison Park, a record of four defeats and four draws in the Premier League plus one draw in the FA Cup is evidence of the innate caution that surfaces whenever Moyes travels to any ground of what used to be known as the "Big Four". To the Everton manager, though he readily admits his derby record should be better, it is merely a reflection of the uneven playing field that he has steadily flattened out.
"If people question my record with Everton at the big clubs, and also perhaps in Europe, then I am relaxed about it, because you can't ignore the big differences between the clubs," says Moyes, whose void at Anfield is also the case at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and the Emirates, and stretches back for 35 Premier League matches.
"If anything gnaws away at me then it's not the record, but the financial gap. When you don't win at places like Anfield then you are questioned on it, and no one considers the financial gap, and that's the bit that gnaws away at me.
"I'd need to come back at that and say, yeah, we maybe haven't done as well at the top clubs as we should have done and, yeah, maybe we've lost the odd game in Europe we shouldn't have done, but with what we've done here – how many years have we been in Europe and competed in the top half of the league? Maybe that's as good as Everton can do on the financial resources Everton have got."
The gulf in revenue and wages between Liverpool and Everton remains, but that has not been reflected in the strength of their respective squads for the past two seasons. If anything, the expectation is that Everton, despite sitting on the same points total as their rivals, have the stronger, more balanced squad. They are certainly in better form.
A first victory at Anfield since 1999 should provide sufficient motivation for Moyes's team to turn up tomorrow but there is the added incentive of puncturing any bounce derived from Dalglish's return by inflicting a third successive defeat. There will be no Steven Gerrard or Jamie Carragher to contend with, the heartbeat that has kept Liverpool's derby pride intact so often removed by a combination of suspension and a dislocated shoulder. And, as Blackpool again proved in midweek, this is a Liverpool defence that can falter at the hint of adventure. The question is, how much will the Everton manager show. Moyes bristles when the expected query arises, asking whether negative tactics are to blame.
"It's nothing to do with that," he counters. "We just have to go about our job as well as we can. We will have to be as committed as we have been in other games. We have to try and play with an attacking flair when we can, but when we can't we have to be hard to beat and disciplined.
"It's not as if we have been to Anfield and done badly. We would like to win more but you can't talk about that without talking about the whole situation. There is more in it. Maybe you should be turning around and saying the draws Everton got at Anfield were unbelievable, rather than we haven't won there. To have drawn so many games at Anfield over that period is incredible when you look at the difference in spending. People always look at it and say we've not won, but maybe they should approach it from a different angle because there's been a lot more to it."
Everton are without the talismanic Tim Cahill due to the Asian Cup and, in his absence, Moyes has reverted to a two-man attack and been rewarded with a 2-1 league victory against Tottenham Hotspur and a 5-1 defeat of Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup. His team have scored only three goals in eight league visits to Anfield – with only one from open play – and his selection, particularly whether he persists with Jermaine Beckford and Louis Saha up front, is keenly awaited.
Moyes says: "We have not scored many goals at Anfield, it has always been tough to get them, and even last year when they went down to 10 men we dominated possession but couldn't create the chances. They are tight games, and I've no idea why there are so few goals in it at Anfield, but it's certainly a game where you don't want to lose. Sometimes that mentality can come into it as well."
Steven Pienaar is edging closer to a January move to Tottenham after the Everton midfielder failed to agree terms with Chelsea.
David Moyes has confirmed that the Toffees accepted an offer, believed to be £3m, for the South African from Carlo Ancelotti’s champions on Thursday, but talks between his agent and the West Londoners stalled over finances.
The Blues have also received a bid for the 28-year-old from Spurs, which falls short of their valuation, and are waiting for an increased offer.
It leaves Moyes facing a selection headache ahead of Sunday’s Anfield derby clash, as he ponders whether to play the schemer, who has made it clear he wants to leave this month.
The Everton manager, who previously insisted he would not cash in on the former Ajax star, believes he must now accept any opportunity to boost his transfer coffers instead of losing him for nothing in the summer.
He said: “You get the offer of that money in January and it makes you think. Until Thursday we hadn’t had any offers. We’ve got a situation now where it would probably be wrong to turn down a £3m offer at this time.
“Unless I get something different he will be involved on Sunday. But I will have a decision to make whether I use him or not.
“I think the player probably decided that he wanted to go when he turned down his contract six months or a year ago. But he has done very well for us on the pitch, so we have no complaints.”
Everton are believed to be intent on cash only offers for Pienaar, and would not entertain a player plus money proposition from Spurs or anyone else.
One player who is unlikely to be joining Spurs, however, is skipper Phil Neville. Despite Harry Redknapp admitting he was interested in capturing the 33-year-old Goodison captain last week, Everton have had no concrete offers and do not expect any.
Meanwhile, defender Phil Jagielka has been ruled out of Sunday’s trip across the park, when the Blues go in search of their first victory at Anfield since 1999.
The England centre-half last played for the Blues in the New Year’s Day defeat at Stoke but was expected to be in contention for a return at Anfield, but Moyes confirmed that he would again be absent from the Blues’ squad.
Tim Cahill’s absence aside, Everton are otherwise expected to be at full strength.
Tim Cahill is desperate to help the victims of his flood-hit homeland by raising funds and boosting morale via Asia Cup success.
The patriotic Everton midfielder has launched an initiative to raise cash for victims of the Queensland floods, offering a special VIP visit to Goodison Park as the main prize.
Having set Australia on the path to glory in the Qatar-based tournament with two goals and a man-of-the-match performance in the Socceroos' 4-0 win over India in Doha last week, Cahill led the charge to help the suffering East coast citizens.
Moments after the match he dedicated his brace to flood victims by urging people to phone in with appeal donations.
And fans can also bid on internet auction site ebay to win the top ‘Tim Cahill Everton Experience’ prize.
The 31-year-old said: “I urge everyone to support this cause as much as possible – so please start bidding.
“It is hard to put into words the devastation the floods have caused. It is hard to watch it on the news and internet and see how much it is harming the country and the victims. I want to help to make a difference.”
Emirates have donated two business class return flights for the winner and a guest, who will enjoy a two-night stay at Liverpool's Hilton Hotel and a chauffeur-driven Audi for the weekend.
The prize also includes two seats, dinner and drinks in Cahill’s private box to watch any Everton home match this season, the chance to watch an Everton training session and meet the players, a Cahill shirt signed by the whole team and a pair of signed Cahill boots from the game the winning bidder watches.
Meanehile,Cahill admits he will be watching events at Anfield unfold on Sunday with a certain degree of envy.
He may have other priorities at present, but the Blues top goal scorer says he will miss not being involved against Everton's fiercest rivals.
Cahill netted in the 2-0 win over the Reds at Goodison earlier in the season, continuing a terrific derby scoring record.
Despite his absence, he is backing his teammates to produce the goods against Liverpool.
"This is a big chance to get a big result. We know it's a game that could turn their season around again but it's one which could kick ours on too," said Cahill.
"I always feel amazing playing at Anfield, it's a beautiful stadium - the atmosphere. You know you can make a difference for our fans.
"I'll be sad not to be there."
Liverpool have won just one of their last seven games, while Everton have lost just once in the same number.
David Moyes cut through the hype surrounding Kenny Dalglish's Anfield return to insist: I'd be more worried if he was playing.
The Everton boss takes his side to the home of their neighbours tomorrow relishing the chance to become party poopers.
Moyes, who has never won at Anfield in nine years as Goodison chief, confessed: "I'd be far more concerned if he was able to get out there on the pitch, because he was so good.
"Kenny's a manager now but he was such a legend as a player. In Scotland, men of a certain age still talk about him in hushed tones. He was right up there with the all-time greats.
"When I was a young player he was still in the Celtic folklore when I was at that club, even though he had left.
"He'll always be seen as one of the best of the incredible group of players Scotland had then. It was his ability to turn and score plus he had great intelligence and awareness."
Both sides are just four points above the drop zone and Moyes knows that alone means tomorrow's 184th Merseyside derby will be even more tense than normal.
He admitted: "The derby has been fought at the other end of the table in recent years but this one is massive because both clubs are near the bottom.
"We both know we have to start winning and I would relish the chance to deepen their turmoil. We have had some bad things said about us when we've lost some games at Liverpool and we will have a right good go at getting some results.
"I want to give the Everton fans something to shout about and they should be going there thinking we've got a very good chance."
At first glance the task should be daunting. Everton will make the short trip to Anfield tomorrow having not won there this century and with home supporters drooling in anticipation over the emotional return of Kenny Dalglish to their dugout.
David Moyes sees matters differently. “My bigger worry would be if Kenny was playing,” he said with a smile.
“He is a manager now, but I would worry more if he was still playing because he was such a good player. When I was a young player at Celtic, he was written in the club’s folklore. He was a legend, a truly unbelievable player.”
Moyes’ comments cut through the hype of the King’s second coming, seemingly offering a sobering reminder that reputation alone cannot transform the fortunes of bitter and ailing city rivals. That Everton have found the role they will play in this 184th derby over-shadowed once more during the build-up, should only serve to stoke their eagerness to turn party-poopers.
Back in October, the hullabaloo focused on new Liverpool owner John W Henry, whose first taste of English football was an unedifying one.
Sitting in the directors’ box over at Goodison, he saw his team flop to a 2-0 loss and was serenaded with chants of ‘You’ve bought the wrong club’ by an exultant Gwladys Street.
Now Dalglish’s first derby since he resigned following the tumultuous 4-4 FA Cup tie across Stanley Park 20 years ago next month has pushed Everton temporarily out of the spotlight. If there is pressure on Dalglish, then Moyes will also feel he has a real opportunity to capitalise fully on the mess that has engulfed his neighbours and post a first Everton win on enemy territory since Kevin Campbell scored in a 1-0 success in 1999.
Taking four points out of six available over two games against Liverpool would usually represent a good return for the blue fans, especially given Moyes’ record.
He has never won at Anfield, while his team have just three goals in eight visits in the league – all from Tim Cahill, who will follow the battle from a hotel room in Doha, where he is playing in the Asia Cup with Australia.
However, the absence for Liverpool of both Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher for the first time in a league derby since the 1-1 draw at Anfield in February of 2002 demands a positive approach from Everton, whose season has gained momentum from the recent victory over Tottenham.
Liverpool fans will not boo Dalglish if their team falter and a group of players who are already testing the patience could find themselves in the firing line if Everton feast on their insecurities.
“I have always thought that Gerrard and Carragher are the heartbeat of Liverpool,” said Moyes, who was at Bloomfield Road on Wednesday to see them lose against Blackpool and will have left buoyed by what happened.
“Those two keep their club going and are an integral part of what they do. They will have passed the message on and there are enough players who have been involved before to know what it means.”
It really would be a sign of troubled times if Dalglish were to select a five-man midfield at home in a derby and, in the event of him playing two up front, Moyes should back his own midfield quartet to come out on top, rather than asking someone to play off a lone forward.
His decision should be whether to select the muscular Victor Anichebe, who has troubled Liverpool before and look to gorge on his opponents’ defensive fragility, or stick by Jermaine Beckford alongside Louis Saha.
The league table shows the two sides locked together on 25 points. If a gap persists in people’s perceptions of the clubs, Moyes is adamant it is closing, with the stability his relationship with chairman Bill Kenwright brings in stark contrast to the upheaval elsewhere. Everton will be without the injured Phil Jagielka and are making plans for life without Steven Pienaar, with his impending move to Tottenham set to be sealed before Sunday.
Despite having never won at Anfield, Moyes has drawn four of his eight league visits and maintains his record should be placed in perspective.
“When you don’t win at places like Anfield, then you are questioned on it and no one considers the financial gap – and that’s the bit that gnaws away at me,” said Moyes, who is seeking to secure Everton’s first league double since 1984-85, when they finished as champions.
“We’ve always had a struggle against Liverpool because their resources have always been better, although when it comes to crossing the white line, that doesn’t matter.
“There are no excuses. The job as a manager is to go and win, no matter what your budget is.
“I can’t bother about Liverpool and what is happening over there, except to say that I want to give the Everton supporters something to shout about and feel as if they are closer to their neighbours now.
“Everton have narrowed the gap on Liverpool over recent seasons. And that’s something that all our supporters should realise.
“We’re much closer to Liverpool and maybe a lot of those supporters will be travelling over there thinking that we have a better chance.”
Steven Pienaar is on the brink of a move to Tottenham Hotspur – as David Moyes called on Everton to show the passion to earn their first Anfield derby win since 1999.
Pienaar has already said his goodbyes to staff at Finch Farm and will move to White Hart Lane provided the Londoners raise their bid for the player to £3million.
Chelsea had a similar offer accepted by the Goodison outift but, after a day of frantic negotiations, Pienaar could not agree personal terms with the Stamford Bridge side.
The South African has instead set his heart on moving to Tottenham, with Harry Redknapp having tracked the midfielder for a considerable time.
Pienaar is out of contract at the end of the season and, having failed to agree a new deal at Goodison, can walk away for nothing in the summer.
And Moyes, having previously insisted he would not cash in on any of his leading players during this month’s transfer window, admits business sense has now prevailed.
“You get the offer of that money in January and it makes you think,” said the Goodison manager. “Until Thursday we hadn’t had any offers.
“We’ve got a situation now where it would probably be wrong to turn down a £3m offer at this time.”
Pienaar is almost certain to have played his last game for Everton, although, if no progress is made in the transfer over the next 24 hours, Moyes has not ruled out selecting the 28-year-old for tomorrow’s short trip across Stanley Park.
The South African was sent off in last season’s 1-0 defeat at Anfield, one of 12 Everton players to be dismissed in the fixture during the Premier League era.
But Moyes has no qualms with such an approach, and said: “We don’t send our players out to do something illegal, but we want them to be competitive, and we wouldn’t want them to play any other way.
“A few of the sending offs I’m not sure they’ve all been correct, but it happens, doesn’t it? We want to play the game and we want to make sure we have 11 so we’ll reiterate the need for discipline, but we had 11 against 10 last year and lost, so who knows!
“There are moments in derbies that can change entire games, like tackles, and we are aware of it, we have found it in the past, can remember a Gerrard tackle on Gary Naysmith a few years ago – but it’s part of the job and I don’t mind that.”
Both Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher will be missing for Liverpool tomorrow, and Moyes added: “I’ve always thought Gerrard and Carragher are the heartbeat at Liverpool and they keep their club going. They’re a big integral part of what they do, so it’s a loss but they’ll have passed the message on and there are enough experienced players there to understand what it means.
“They’re still a strong side who get big backing from their support. That gives them a massive help.”
Although Everton have not won at Anfield since Kevin Campbell netted the only goal there in September 1999, three of their last five visits have ended in draws.
And Moyes added: “We’ve had some bad things said about our club after some games at Liverpool. But overall I think we’re having a right good go at getting results.
“I can’t bother about Liverpool, except to say I want to give the Everton supporters something to shout about. We’re much closer to Liverpool and maybe a lot of supporters will go there thinking we have a better chance.”