Things could have been oh so different at Goodison Park right now if they had just appointed the right man two years ago.
While many will argue that Carlo Ancelotti was the high-profile appointment the Toffees needed to take them to that next level, it perhaps would’ve been a lot wiser to have gone back to their roots. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
At the time, David Moyes was out of work after West Ham decided against renewing his contract, despite helping them beat the drop in the six months he was at the London Stadium.
The decision not to renew left Moyes feeling ‘hurt’ and without a job.
David Moyes could come back to haunt Everton with West Ham this weekend
While he had underwhelming stints at Real Sociedad and Sunderland following his sacking as Manchester United boss in 2013, Moyes still had something to prove after a superb 11-year stint as boss at Everton.
Meanwhile, back on Merseyside, Everton were experiencing manager issues of their own, having sacked Marco Silva after 18 months in charge while leaving Duncan Ferguson to steady the ship as they went in search of a new boss.
The stars seemed to be aligning for Moyes and Everton, with the possibility of a reunion appearing to be on the cards.
So much so that Moyes was given his comeback – just not in the blue of Everton.
Days before Christmas in 2019, Farhad Moshiri appointed Ancelotti while Moyes – despite being heavily linked with the Toffees job – couldn’t wait around any longer and returned to West Ham, kick-starting a superb second stint.
Moyes helped the Hammers beat the drop back in 2018 after just six months in charge
The Scot was preparing for another season at the London Stadium but was let go by West Ham
After leaving West Ham, Moyes was then linked with a return to Everton in late 2019
But that almost didn’t happen, Moyes admits.
While having been tempted with a return to Goodison, Moyes said he was delighted with his re-appointment at West Ham.
‘It has been a great move for me and I’m really enjoying it — a great group of players, a really good club with huge potential,’ he said.
‘I’m so glad I was given a second chance at West Ham because the first time I was here they didn’t keep me.’
However, when asked whether he was hurt by the West Ham board’s decision to fire him first time round and hire Manuel Pellegrini, Moyes admitted he was.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I actually thought we’d done a decent job. We’d done enough and I’d started to make plans to prep for the new season and all the things that were going on, so I was surprised — I’ve got to say — that we didn’t.
But Everton owner Farhad Moshiri (right) appointed the Carlo Ancelotti (centre) instead
Moyes spent 11 years as Everton manager, taking them into the top four and to a cup final
‘But I had no problem with David Sullivan when he picked up the phone and said to me about coming back. I had no problem at all. He was big enough to do that.
‘He never said he made a mistake (laughs) but he was big enough to come back to me and I’ve got to say it’s been a really good chance for me and I’ve been grateful for the opportunity.’
Now, the presence of Moyes in the opposition dug-out on Sunday will chasten Evertonians. He took the club into the top four and a cup final during 11 years at Goodison Park.
The Toffees’ demise in recent years has left Moyes saddened, with the 58-year-old admitting he’s ‘disappointed’ for them.
When asked if he was saddened by Everton’s downfall, Moyes said: ‘Yes, because Everton has always been close (to my heart) and always will be because I was there so long — 11 years.
Moyes made an emphatic return to West Ham days after Everton appointed Ancelotti in 2019
‘It’s a long time to be at a club and we went through a lot together. Obviously you’ll know I had a great relationship with the owners — Sir Philip Carter and then Bill Kenwright.
‘They’ve spent an awful lot of money and it feels as if it hasn’t really taken on. But I don’t think that should be a shock to anybody in football because I think you see it at a lot of clubs, where clubs spend money and… even West Ham a couple of years ago spent a lot of money to try to challenge, but there’s a way you have to go about it.
‘I think Leicester City for example has been a good model of how you build. It doesn’t mean you’re going to have success all the time. I’m disappointed for Everton, but ultimately at the moment my job is at West Ham.’
And with Everton just three points above the relegation zone and just one win in five – which came in their most recent Premier League outing against Newcastle – Moyes’ high-flying Hammers could condemn them further with victory at the London Stadium.
It turned out to be the wrong decision for the Toffees, who are now in a relegation fight
Things could have been very different at Goodison Park if they re-hired Moyes two years ago
‘Not getting David Moyes back could come back to haunt them. I really do think that,’ says Alan Stubbs, an Everton fan as a boy who went on to play nearly 200 games for the club in two spells, including as Moyes’ vice-captain.
‘I think some of the board wanted him and some didn’t. It epitomised how decisions have been made at the club over the last few years. There has been more than one opportunity to get David, but they were guilty of style over substance.
‘They’ve gone for a big name or the manager who was doing best at the time, rather than what the club needed. We’ve had managers who didn’t know what Everton was all about, and to be honest, I’m really worried now.
‘Relegation feels as close as the club has encountered. It is the most scared Everton fans have been.
‘We need something out of the Burnley game because I am not hopeful at West Ham. They resemble what we had at Everton under David. A real togetherness and players who can hurt teams. I wish that’s how Everton were now.’
Moyes’ West Ham European-chasing side are flying high and could haunt Everton this Sunday
As we enter the final stretch of the 2021-22 campaign, West Ham and Everton are fighting for hugely different things.
The Hammers are remarkably still in the hunt for a Champions League spot, with all the credit going to Moyes for what he’s achieved.
Towards the bottom, Everton face the real prospect of dropping outside the top flight for the first time since 1954 should Frank Lampard’s side return empty-handed against the Hammers and then fellow-strugglers Burnley.
While all that will be on the mind of Everton supporters’ minds is surviving relegation, many other will be thinking ‘what could have been’ if they only appointed the right man just over two years ago.