AT the end of a big personal victory, David Moyes gave the media the silent treatment. Having refused to enter the Press room, he was hopefully happier to talk in Alan Pardew’s office. Newcastle United’s manager would certainly have benefited from picking the Scot’s brain.
If he is to be a success at St James’ Park, Pardew will have to pull off the high-wire act Moyes has so often in nine years on Merseyside – not just for the next few weeks, but for as long as Mike Ashley is his boss.
Everton have the heritage, Newcastle the fanbase but, depressingly, in the Premier League, the bank balance trumps both. It is why Saturday’s meeting was the top-flight equivalent of two bald men fighting over a comb.
Moyes’ boys have a good record of winning those battles and, for the first time in 11 years, they did so on Tyneside.
To say February has been a bad month for one of the Premier League’s finest managers is an understatement.
Moyes described Everton’s defeat at Bolton Wanderers as the worst of his Toffees career. Last week they wasted knocking Chelsea out of the FA Cup by losing to Reading. Each trough has been followed by impressive victories over North East opposition. Wouldn’t you just know it?
For nearly a decade Moyes has built teams on a shoestring. Had he not done such a good job, maybe Ashley might not have tried running Newcastle along similar lines.
But while, thanks to the generosity of their neighbours, Everton have even less to spend than the Magpies, their squad is built on firmer foundations. Thus, three-quarters of the way through a poor season for the Merseysiders, a good one for the Tynesiders, they are level on points.
The Toffees have been permanent members of the Premier League, their manager a fixture in the dugout. As a result, their bargain-hunting has accumulated rewards among the duffers. They flourished without Tim Cahill and Marouane Fellaini, Newcastle floundered in the absence of Joey Barton, Stephen Ireland and Hatem Ben Arfa.
Tim Howard is a reliable goalkeeper, fellow Manchester United reject Phil Neville a leader. Leighton Baines may not be, as Jamie Carragher thinks, the world’s best left-back, but he is pretty handy. Phil Jagielka came from the Football League, Jack Rodwell and Leon Osman from the academy. Bought for just £2m, Mikel Arteta’s quality alone put Everton beyond reach.
Newcastle’s one edge came in attack. While Everton’s XI featured Louis Saha – the football equivalent of buying broken biscuits – both sides leaned heavily on Football League products.
On Saturday’s evidence, Newcastle got lucky 13 months ago. When Chris Hughton’s £1.8m bid for Jermaine Beckford was turned down he opted for the cheaper Leon Best. After a dreadful 2010, it is suddenly looking excellent business.
Beckford managed to turn up on time but it was an unconvincing display from a striker with much making up to do after being dropped for tardiness in midweek. Six goals in 10 games have won Best his manager’s faith. It could have been seven, but a leaping header was helped by pushing Jagielka in the back, and the goal was disallowed. The one that did count was slightly odd, and against the run of play.
Rather than lump a free-kick into the box from halfway, Fabricio Coloccini played it short to Jonás Gutiérrez. The winger talked in the programme about preferring the clever pass to a stream of aimless crosses, and practised what he preached. But he picked out a startled centre-back. Mike Williamson briefly looked like a rabbit in the headlights with a football at his feet in the opposition penalty area. But given time to do so, he produced an exquisite reverse pass Kevin Nolan played to the stooping Best. From nowhere, Newcastle led 1-0. With Danny Simpson out of position because Pardew had no right-winger, Newcastle had the cutting edge but little supply.
From a slow start, Everton were the same in reverse. Assisted by Osman, Arteta’s influence grew. With the Spaniard spending little time in his nominal wide left position, Simpson might have been better man-marking him than sticking to his unfamiliar post.
When Arteta cut on to his right in the 17th minute it brought the first of three outstanding saves from Steve Harper. But the goalkeeper lacked protection, particularly when Osman carried the ball deep into enemy territory and exchanged passes with Arteta before sweeping an equaliser through Williamson’s legs.
Baines delivered a low free-kick with danger written all over it and Jagielka got the decisive touch. Thirteen minutes after trailing, Everton led.
Saha wasted a hat-trick of good second-half chances, but Newcastle’s biggest concern came when Nolan tangled with Victor Anichebe. The pair have history resolved out of court last week, stemming from a tackle by the former two years ago. Nolan’s left arm swung out when they bumped into one another on the halfway line.
Fortunately for Newcastle, Howard Webb saw the incident, and chose yellow cards over red. When your resources are as depleted as Pardew’s, you cannot afford key players sat suspended on the sidelines. Moyes could tell him that.