If money can't buy you love, as Manchester City keep finding new ways to discover, it can certainly bring you attention.
Everton's notable victory at Eastlands last Monday night went all but unnoticed in a slew of headlines relating to City's failure to go top and Roberto Mancini's adroit handling of the latest Carlos Tevez strop, and that would never have happened before the petro-dollars forced apart two teams that used to enjoy rough parity and similar circumstances.
Not that David Moyes was particularly bothered. "We all knew how important the win was, and that's enough for me," the Everton manager said afterwards. "We haven't had many wins this season so any win is a big one, but I think you could see at the end of the game how much it meant. There was real excitement in the dressing room at what we had achieved, especially with having to hang on with 10 men at the end."
Ever the realist, Moyes does not even begrudge City the status they have bought. "You get the coverage you deserve," he says. "City have spent a lot of money on new players and they are at the top of the league, and that's what gets everyone excited. We haven't spent any money and we are nearer the bottom. That's the way it goes. Of course we can take pride in a victory like that, going there without Mikel Arteta and Steven Pienaar and beating such a well-placed team, but I won't be completely happy unless we can follow it up with a few more victories, starting with Birmingham. We are still much too near the bottom of the table for my liking and a few good results would make the position healthier. We want to stay out of trouble."
Fittingly the only Premier League fixture to be completed in Christmas week, Everton's win at Eastlands made perfect festive television, a mixture of Oliver! and Scrooged as the poor boys from the workhouse gave the toffs and their lofty assumptions something to think about. Fanciful as that may sound (it's the time of year) Moyes is not far from seeing life in those terms himself. "This is a hard-working football club," he says. "We don't put on airs and graces and our supporters don't expect us to."
Everton don't put on snoods either. Not only did they sport short sleeves at Eastlands on one of the coldest nights of the year, there were 11 bare necks, which makes them even more deserving of some kind of award from the campaign for real football. Or perhaps real men.
"I didn't even notice the cold until the end," Moyes says. "But that was because I was wearing a coat and gloves. The players must have thought I was a right wuss. It didn't strike me that we were in short sleeves either, but I sort of knew none of my players would even think about wearing a snood. As a matter of fact I was looking for the kitman on the day of the game because I intended to tell him that if he so much as packed any snoods I would have him sacked, but I never met up with him until afterwards.
"When I did give him the message he looked shocked and offended. He more or less said that if I ever caught him packing snoods he would deserve to be sacked. 'I wouldn't do it,' he said. 'If anyone asked I just wouldn't let him.' So there you are. We are the sort of club where the kitman decides we don't wear snoods, and that is the way we all like it."
It would be easy to say Everton possess the sort of team spirit that money can't buy, and it may even be true, though Moyes does not quite see it that way. "There has never been anything wrong with our team spirit, but we have still had a disappointing start to the season," he says. "If I had to put my finger on what we had in our favour at City I would say time. I know all my players really well, I have a relationship with them all as individuals and I know what each is capable of. They, in turn, know each other very well, and that's the sort of understanding it is not always possible to buy, if you are bringing in fresh people all the time."
Moyes has Arteta back from suspension for Birmingham's visit, not that the midfielder has been at his best this season. "He seems to be having a bit of a dip," Moyes says. "I don't know if that's a delayed reaction to being out for so long last season, but I'm not too worried. His quality is permanent and it will come back."
Apart from Leighton Baines, the stand-out performer in Everton's past few games, and a player Moyes denies will shortly be leaving for Bayern Munich or anywhere else, the manager was most impressed with his two Tims at Eastlands – Cahill for scoring a goal and Howard for denying the home side several.
"I was a little bit worried about Tim Cahill a couple of weeks ago, I thought I saw a drop in energy levels," Moyes said. "Obviously I was wrong because he was back to his best on Monday, and Tim Howard in goal was absolutely fantastic. The boys all think Tim is a terrific goalkeeper, and he has been a great signing for us. Something about this club seems to suit him. He probably felt it was a step down after Manchester United, but he's not in the spotlight quite so much here and with playing regularly he has developed into a great team man.
"He's a good organiser, too, he doesn't mind telling the back four where he wants them, and when you have a goalkeeper you can trust and believe in it can make a massive difference. His performance at City earned us the points, and his emotion afterwards showed what it meant. I wouldn't go so far as to say that one result has put us back on the map, but at least it will have made people realise there is still a heartbeat at Everton."
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