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This week marked the ninth anniversary of David Moyes taking over at Everton and just as it was then, this weekend gives us a home game against Fulham.
Back in 2002, David Unsworth's strike after 27 seconds set up the perfect start to Moyes' Everton career. Since then, there have been several highs as well as a few lows and what I thought I would do is go through a few of my personal highlights.
The first obvious one is the Arsenal game where Wayne Rooney introduced himself to the world, but for me - no matter how good that was - it was the Leeds United game in the November that was my personal highlight of that season. Having not won at Elland Road for 51 years, the joy on people’s faces, especially the older generation, was a memory I still cherish.
The following season of 2003/04 was not the best in terms of results, but on a personal level, it is one of the best seasons that I have had watching us. Portsmouth in the rain, our only league away win of the season is probably the standout game, along with the gut-wrenching 4-3 defeat to Manchester United. Typical Everton!
When it came to the start of the 2004/05 season, I don't think too many people were optimistic, apart from my dad, who insisted we would finish in the top four! There are numerous highlights in this season, especially the home wins over Liverpool and United, but the best ones for me were Norwich away and Newcastle at home. That said, the 7-0 defeat at Arsenal, having already clinched fourth, is still one of the best days out I have ever had watching Everton. I think most peoples abiding memory of this season is David Moyes grinning like a Cheshire cat with a glass of champagne having just clinched fourth spot!
After working so hard the previous season, our European adventure can be summed up in two words - Pierluigi Collina! Villarreal was utter heartbreak for Blues and then the Dinamo Bucharest performance piled on the misery! The effect it had on the players was massive and it wasn't until Tim Cahill's injury time winner at Sunderland on New Years Eve did things start to pick up. The January to April spell was by far the best of the season, with the James Beattie inspired win over Arsenal my favourite of the season, but it all ended on a high note with Duncan Ferguson ending his Everton career in fairytale fashion.
The 2006/07 season saw us back to our best, with the signing of Andrew Johnson changing the way we played. When you think of this season, straight away you think of the 3-0 Derby win, but there were several other standout moments. The injury time win over Arsenal in the hailstones on an electric Goodison afternoon provided a great image of Moyes. The delight on his face as he ran onto the pitch celebrating AJ's winner still makes me smile!
Having got back into Europe, 2007/08 was to be a big season for Moyes. He took us to our first semi-final for 13 years but it is the European run that was the real highlight. It started in Kharkiv, where his reaction to Victor Anichebe's clinching goal was one of pure elation and relief, then ended in sheer heartbreak against Fiorentina on what is one of the standout nights in Goodison’s long history! Finishing in the top five was again another big achievement, while some of the football we played was the best for years. You could see that Moyes was finally starting to make his mark on the squad...
The following season was our best under Moyes. Although we went out of Europe early, with the horrendous injuries we ended up with, this was probably a good thing. A second successive fifth place finish was secured before the devastating FA Cup Final defeat to Chelsea. Again there were some memorable highlights, but it will take an awful lot for anything to beat the semi-final - one of my best days as a Blue!
Last season saw us go on an incredible run from the start of January, where we played some of the best football I’ve ever seen from an Everton side. The sheer carnage in the away end at Eastlands after Mikel Arteta's strike was incredible - I think I've still got the bruises!
This season has been one of sheer frustration, full of inconsistency. It's the way things have tended to go over the past nine years under Moyes, but there are some promising signs within the squad. I've no doubt that once things click into gear; we'll hit the ground running next season and kick on again.
A lot has been said about the manager in recent weeks, but I still firmly believe he is the best man for the job. It is a big summer for him, but I would bet on him coming out the other side and getting us back up to where he wants us to be. The only thing missing is a trophy, something I believe he firmly deserves for all the hard working he has put into transforming our club.
For me under David Moyes, I've had the best nine years of my life watching Everton. It can be summed up by one game, probably my favourite ever Everton match, Metalist Kharkiv away - despair, joy, more despair, relief and elation!
I've been lucky to meet David Moyes several times and he comes across as someone who lives and breathes this football club and I hope he can get the success he deserves. For the memories you have given me over the past nine years, thank you Moyesy! Here's to many more...
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