Rafael Benítez won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool FC. José Mourinho led Chelsea FC to the English title, and Arsène Wenger tasted FA Cup success with Arsenal FC. Yet it is David Moyes of Everton FC who is England's Manager of the Year.
Moyes's achievement? To steer Everton, a team widely tipped for relegation, into the Champions League via fourth place in the Premiership. This was an Everton side which, the season before, had posted the lowest points tally in the club’s history, and which on the final day of the transfer window last August, was shorn of Wayne Rooney.
Evertonians had been told all summer that the star of UEFA 2004™ was too good for them, and Rooney's departure sealed a miserable period of boardroom in-fighting and too little transfer activity. Moyes started the campaign with the smallest squad in the Premiership, boosted only by the arrivals, for a combined €2.9m, of two players from lower-league teams, midfielder Tim Cahill and striker Marcus Bent.
Despite a 4-1 opening-day defeat by Arsenal, however, Moyes's players began to display a pride, unity and defiance that mirrored the attitude of supporters hurt by Rooney’s defection to Manchester United FC.
When Everton beat Middlesbrough FC at Goodison Park on 19 September, they went third in the Premiership – a top-four status they would retain for the remainder of the campaign. Not even the potentially ruinous sale of Thomas Gravesen to Real Madrid CF in January could deny them.
Gravesen had been the fulcrum of the side that won 12 and drew four of their opening 19 league games. The Dane occupied a free role behind the mobile Bent, in a 4-1-4-1 formation that relied on the midfielders joining the attack whenever possible.
After Gravesen, the Blues managed just six more Premiership victories. The manager had to try different systems to relieve his tiring squad, with January loan signing Mikel Arteta asked to provide creativity in midfield, and veteran centre-forward Duncan Ferguson starting five games towards the season's end.
It was from an Arteta free-kick that Ferguson headed Everton's goal in a 1-0 Goodison win against Manchester United on 20 April. It was a result few expected but which, along with a tremendous 3-1 victory at Aston Villa FC, helped Everton stay ahead of the chasing pack in the race for fourth place.
So when Australian international and leading scorer Cahill struck to secure a 2-0 home win against Newcastle United FC in May, Everton were destined for the Champions League third qualifying round. "We didn't have the resources or spend the money which are supposed to be needed to get you there," Moyes, 42, said. "
To go from hoping to stay in the Premier League to qualifying for the Champions League is a great achievement."
It is also a fairytale. Twenty years after Everton's 1985 European Team of the Year (they won the English championship and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup) were denied entry to the European Champion Clubs' Cup due to the ban on English sides, the Merseysiders will rejoin the continental élite.
Everton's then manager, Howard Kendall, believes Liverpool's success this season can only inspire Moyes's men. "Liverpool really had their supporters behind them because so many people had written them off," said Kendall. "Fan power can be equally important for the Blues. No one thought Liverpool would do it, why can't the Blues be successful?"
The Istanbul Lazarus act might be Liverpool's but Evertonians can rest assured that a grand old team in blue is reviving too on Merseyside.
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