IT MIGHT be freezing cold with snow still lingering on the pavements, but David Moyes is already starting to get that spring time feeling.
The seasoned Premier League campaigner knows that despite failing to win their last two games, his side have come through the taxing festive fixture glut relatively unscathed.
Tired and threadbare his squad may be, but starting with today’s FA Cup fourth round tie at Bolton Wanderers, Moyes is keen to remain focused on the positives.
“Once you get out of January you tend to see a little bit of light in the distance and you start to kick on a little bit,” says the Blues boss, who wants to keep alive challenges for the top four and the cup, even if that will present a stern challenge to his pool of players.
“The weather can start to turn and you smell the daffodils in the air and start to think there’s a way to go.”
Moyes must weigh up a familiar dilemma in selecting his line-up to face the Trotters this afternoon, aware that he also has two Premier League fixtures in the coming seven days to contend with.
But despite the weariness his side showed during a lacklustre first half against Southampton at St Mary’s on Monday, Moyes is still pleased with their overall performance levels this term.
“We’ve talked about that,” he says. “We’ve not been able to say
that too many times and if you’d said that to me at the start of the season that we’d get to January 20 before a few of the players
weren’t on it then I would have taken that all day long.
“I think the boys have only lost one in the last 11 games and they’ve not done an awful lot wrong. They could do better but they’ve not done an awful lot wrong.
“I got a lot of praise for playing the team against Cheltenham (in the last round of the cup) but that’s the effects that come. If you play your players in all of the games you’re going to have effects in other areas, whether you’re only in one competition or not, it’s just the demands of it and the way the players play so that’s why you see so many managers changing around.
“I don’t have quite as many games as the other managers so I can be a little bit more going for the two things but it’s not easy to go for them all with a small squad because it means that the players play every game week in, week out and they don’t really get a breather at all.
“We’re probably picking the same group just about, which can take its toll a little bit.”
Whatever the strain it involves on his men, Moyes is hoping his 500th match in charge of Everton today will take the club a step closer to its first trophy in almost 18 years.
“I didn’t know until Friday morning that it was 500 games. It’s amazing that some people have got 1,000 games at one club, that is some achievement,” he says. “Obviously 500’s not a bad number when you see the way people get rid of their managers so quickly nowadays.
“Hopefully the real highlights are still to come, they’re the ones I’m looking forward to. But I’ve enjoyed a lot of good times at Everton.”
The Toffees will be without full-back Seamus Coleman, who suffered a thigh injury against Southampton, but forward Kevin Mirallas and defender Johnny Heitinga are pushing to start.
Moyes said: “I think we’ve always gone for it. Talk’s cheap – you have to do it. We’re going to try to do it. I’ve said to the players that we want to try to win the FA Cup, but I say that every year. It’s down to us to try to make that happen.”
Bolton dropped out of the Premier League on the final day of last season after 11 years in the top flight, and they look unlikely to bounce straight back under new boss Dougie Freedman.
The Trotters showed what they are capable of by winning a third round replay at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, though, having also led by two goals in the first match.
Moyes said: “Bolton were in the Premier League for more than 10 years so they’ll be disappointed to have slipped out of it. But they’ve still got a lot of Premier League players in their side so they’ll be doing everything they can.”
Some good news for the club this week was defender Sylvain Distin signing a new one-year deal, extending his stay until next summer.
The 35-year-old joined the Toffees from Portsmouth in 2009, and Moyes was pleased to retain his enduring services: “His performances since he came to the club have been excellent.
“He’s been reliable, he doesn’t miss many games with injury and he certainly keeps himself in great condition. He’s been very good for us and we’re delighted to keep him.
“You’re always looking to bring in fresh young players because you’re always looking to the future but I think coupled with that you do need to keep experience and in central defence especially.
“More and more it’s becoming an experienced position and his experience is vital to us.”