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DAVID Moyes insists there are 40,000 reasons why Everton will not give up the fight to end their season on a high.
Because while the Blues’ prospects of moving higher up the league table seem bleak, Moyes insists that two capacity Goodison crowds in the campaign’s run-in will make enough noise to ensure the players stay focused.
The Toffees boss is now more concerned at being overhauled by the chasing pack below him in the Premier League, rather than catching sixth-placed Spurs.
It might not be the way the Scot wanted to end a season he had such high hopes for, but he is adamant that his players must not show anything but total desire to win in the last three games.
“We have got to try and keep the focus,” he says as he prepares for the visit of Manchester City to Goodison today.
“The crowds will keep us focused and make sure we finish the season strongly.”
While neutral observers may claim finishing seventh would be an achievement for Everton given their lack of resources, Moyes is quick to disagree.
“I wouldn’t say that. I thought we had the capabilities to do really well,” he says. “Now for us to hang on to seventh might be the achievement. I thought there were points when we would struggle to get back into the top 10.
“I knew we had enough to stay away from the bottom but midway through the season I didn’t know whether we’d have enough to get into the top half.”
It is, he admits, far removed from his ambitions last summer. While other members of Everton’s first team have recently described their frustration at a missed opportunity this season, Moyes is determined to prevent them from suffering a psychological hang-over next term.
“I think that is exactly how we will feel. We within the camp thought we had a great chance.
“We thought we could be successful but it didn’t pan out. We had a chance and we didn’t take our opportunities. We didn’t perform well and made critical mistakes.
“I need to make sure that it doesn’t happen next year. I need to make sure that I can do things to combat what happened and see if we can prevent it happening again.”
Moyes accept his team are open to accusations of only performing when the pressure is off, after they rose to the challenge against supposedly superior teams like Chelsea in the FA Cup and Spurs at Goodison, then wilted against opponents many believed they should beat like Wolves and Wigan.
“Teams were coming here and saying ‘Everton are a good side, let’s park the bus’,” he says. “They waited for us to come and break them down and we were not capable of doing that. It wasn’t because we were playing badly. We just didn’t have the players who might get us the goals.
“How do you change that?
It’s more to do with recruitment. That needs to be changed.”
That recruitment is made far easier for managers like Roberto Mancini. The Italian is the beneficiary of City’s unlimited funds, something Moyes admits he would love even if he insists there is no room for jealousy.
The Everton boss is quick to point out the continuing progress of the Eastlands outfit under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour.
But while City can take a significant step towards their season’s ultimate goal of Champions League qualification with victory at Goodison, Moyes is not worrying about his own club’s relatively meagre resources.
He said: “I think all managers would look and say there is a bit of envy because of what they have got, but you can’t do that.
“You have got to get on with your own job and look at your own team and what you can do. The players play for Everton and they play against whoever is put out.
“We look at Manchester City and acknowledge they have a team full of talent, but so do we and hopefully we will be able to show that.”
Moyes sees parallels between Everton and City as both have spent large portions of their histories in the shadow of more illustrious neighbours. That, he believes, makes for feisty encounters between the sides.
“We have always been, in both cities, underdogs,” said Moyes, whose side have won six of the last seven against City.
“Both of us have been fighting to overhaul the biggest teams in the city and so from that point of view there is a game on. But Manchester City in recent years have become one of the biggest clubs not just in our country, but the world. It will make for a good game and hopefully a competitive one.”
One issue that has been resolved this week is that in-form Leighton Baines will retain penalty-taking duties.
Baines scored two from the spot during Mikel Arteta’s recent absence but deferred to the Spaniard, who missed, when the team were awarded another spot-kick at the DW Stadium.
Moyes said: “I think it was Bainesy who was happy to pass it back to Mikel when we got it and Mikel normally does the business for us as well.
“It is not really a big debate. Lots of really good players miss penalties. Bainesy will get on with taking them.”