It was probably inevitable that this day would come for Everton. After 11 seasons in charge of the Toffees, David Moyes is on his way out at the end of the month. There's no doubt he's earned the chance but there are also serious questions to be asked about whether or not Moyes can step up to the highest level.
But I'm not here to talk about that.
Instead I want to look back at the past decade-plus of success that David Moyes has had in charge of Everton. Despite the fact he never won any silverware, there's little doubt that Everton have achieved greater heights during his time with the club that anything that would have otherwise been possible.
Despite constantly lacking in monetary support from the club's board and having to sell off talented players at various, Moyes managed to not only keep Everton in the Premier League, he kept Everton consistently in the top half and often challenging for European spots.
From the day of Moyes' introductory press conference he proved he was the right man to lead Everton, winning over fans with his now famous decree labeling them "The People's Club".
"I am from a city (Glasgow) that is not unlike Liverpool. I am joining the people's football club. The majority of people you meet on the street are Everton fans. It is a fantastic opportunity, something you dream about. I said 'yes' right away as it is such a big club."
Everton were a big club under Moyes -- or at the very least a smaller club that dared to dream big and succeed big -- and reaped immediate success in his first full season in charge of the club. Everton finished 7th in 2002/03 and narrowly missed out on qualifying for the UEFA Cup. While the following season was a tumultuous one for the Toffees that saw them narrowly avoid relegation as internal strife ripped the team apart, it would turn out to be an aberration on Moyes' record.
In 2004 the Toffees rebounded spectacularly, qualifying for the Champions League thanks to a 4th place finish in the league. Moyes signed a feisty Australian striker from Millwall named Tim Cahill who would go on to become a club legend. Wayne Rooney was also sold to Manchester United, an unpopular move at the time that would end up funding the club for several years thanks to the various bonuses built into the transfer.
After an 11th placed finished in 2005 Everton would never again finish lower than 8th over the next seven seasons. It was a run that saw the Toffees reach the 2009 FA Cup final, qualify for the UEFA Cup/Europa League in three straight seasons, and generally overachieve as Moyes was given less and less resources in order to buy reinforcements for his side.
Moyes spent over a decade fighting against a board that wouldn't properly support him and still managed to keep Everton competitive. To put things in perspective, Moyes spent an average of £29 million less that Tottenham each season yet nearly matched Spurs in average finish. There are few managers in the modern game that have been consistently as good at buying on a budget as Moyes.
Sure not all his signings hit and there were bumps in the road but the level of commitment and dedication Moyes showed to Everton through all the trials and tribulations is admirable. In fact that level of stability and commitment is probably part of what attracted Manchester United to Moyes since they don't appear to be a club that wants to have an unstable managerial situation.
Moyes leaves behind a black hole like vacuum at Everton as he steps away from a club he's become the face of over the past decade. While some supporters will seem not to be bothered by him leaving and claim it's the right time, they're lying to themselves at some level about the impact Moyes made on the club.
For me the story of David Moyes at Everton is as much about what could have been as what he was able to accomplish. We're all amazed by the success he had with the Toffees in the face of the financial challenges and can't help but wonder what he could have accomplished with a little more support, with a bit more funds. Another player or two might have made all the difference in several seasons, it could have tipped the scales and led to even bigger success.
Instead Everton fans will now have to watch Moyes go to a club that will give him those resources and a chance to succeed at the highest levels of the game. It's going to hurt because if Moyes wins at United, it's just going to be a constant reminder that the only thing holding him back at Everton was bad ownership. If he fails it will still hurt, because any true Evertonian loves Moyes and appreciates everything he did with the club.
The question now for Everton is what happens next. Was Moyes the one thing that stood between Everton and total collapse? Was he the finger jammed in the crack that was holding the water back over the past decade preventing a horrific erosion of the club?
This is a tremendously important time for the club, but even more so for Chairman Bill Kenwright. His clumsy management of Everton has drawn the ire of supporters and while he's been the target for a large amount of abuse and criticism, Moyes has always been able to act as a sort of buffer. The fans respected and believed in Moyes and his presence was enough to settle the fears of most even in the face of Kenwright's repeated floundering.
His comic inability to find a buyer, or at least an investor, for the club willing to actually put money into the team has annoyed supporters but Moyes' calming aura served as a counter-balance.
With Moyes gone, Kenwright must make a hire that will both appease the fan base and give Everton a chance to carry on some level of success. The question becomes is there anyone out there who would be willing to take a job with limited financial resources and the expectations created by Moyes' tenure.
There's a reason many says that David Moyes was Everton. What happens next will be interesting.