Everton manager David Moyes has been the modest recipient of a whole host of plaudits in recent days. The plain-speaking Scotsman, who began his playing career with Celtic, has been manager of Everton for a decade now. His time at the club has been marked by adversity, a lack of money and continually living in the shadow of more successful neighbours.
Yet throughout that time, the Toffees have remained competitive, challenging for the odd trophy and for European places. Nothing like the glory days of the club, perhaps, but the game has changed hugely since Everton were last champions in 1987.
Throughout his tenure, Everton have been disciplined, played with inspirational levels of effort, fit and looked to entertain their fans as much as possible within this blueprint. Arteta aside, they have not had the playing or financial resources of other Lancashire giants, like the Manchester clubs and Liverpool, or of the big London sides.
Yet Moyes is still hailed as one of the finest of his generation of managers, because football people know what he has to battle against just to keep Everton where they are. Managers from Sir Alex Ferguson down paid fulsome tribute to his abilities at every press conference ahead of this weekend’s Premier League fixtures.
So why doesn’t anyone mention him as a possible England manager?
His Scottish nationality would clearly be perceived as something of a drawback, maybe particularly so for his own countrymen more than the English fans. No Scot really likes to see one of their own helping the ‘Auld Enemy’ after all.
But would there really be an outcry in England, who have employed a Swede and an Italian in recent years after all? Moyes, after all, can speak excellent English, something Fabio Capello struggled with throughout his tenure as the boss of the Three Lions. He also handles the English press well, responding with strength and cleverness whenever they have tried to play games with him at Everton.
Moyes clearly understands tactics too. His Everton team may, on paper, look like a team of toilers and battlers, but the development of a player like Marouane Fellaini under the Scotsman’s tutelage has been striking. His players conduct themselves honestly on the pitch and are polite and good ambassadors for the club off it.
Some genuine discipline like that, as opposed to the pseudo-strictness of Capello’s wannabe authoritarian regime, would work well for an England team which still looks racked by factions and off-field controversy.
Moyes also tends to favour hard-working players who accommodate themselves to the team’s tactical pattern. Look at the way Tim Cahill subverts his ego to play in several roles for the Toffees, or the way in which flair player Mikel Arteta performed in wide midfield roles at Goodison.
Whether he could persuade the egotistical likes of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and the rest to do similar remains hypothetical, for the present, but one senses that anyone who could not carry out his instructions would not be in the team for long.
But, going by his Everton teams, his instructions are unlikely to be complicated. Moyes understands that football needs to be kept simple; there are no ‘semi-diamond’ fudges or square pegs in round holes in his midfield, as with England in recent years. Nor do his defenders struggle with where to stand.
He picks intelligent and versatile defenders like John Heitinga and Phil Jagielka. These are men who lead by considered example and understand that leadership in defence does not consist of a player blindly throwing their body into ill-advised challenges and last-ditch blocks.
There are few off-field problems at Everton. It is rare that anyone hears about a Toffees star abusing a fellow professional in racial terms, or involving himself in soap opera shenanigans with other players’ wives. This perhaps shows that Moyes knows how to identify personalities with whom he can work, something which is even more important at international level.
His teams do not include players with fragile egos whose spirit quails as if they are asked to behave in a professional and committed manner. There is never talk of player revolts at Everton; it is never in doubt who rules the Goodison Park dressing room. Yet he is no tyrant, and speaks publicly in praise of his players whenever he can.
The Scotsman is also a prime motivator. His teams never lack spirit, and fitness and effort are seen as bare minimums, not optional extras. English players can understand his principles and what he is trying to do.
With a new generation of players like Jack Wilshere and Phil Jones emerging to succeed the so-called ‘golden generation’ of underachievers, perhaps it is time to do something really bold and appoint a Scotsman as England manager to unlock the potential of what should be one of world football’s true super powers.
The chances of that happening look slim at present.