IF DAVID MOYES draws a line under a decade of restored pride and frustrated ambition at Goodison Park this summer, at least nobody can say they didn’t see it coming eventually.
The nagging subtext to his consistent ability to punch above his weight for most of those 10 years is that he would only want, or be able, to do it for so long.
In the end, something has to give.
Everton supporters still hope that fundamental change will be a takeover from someone wealthy enough to give Moyes financial parity with his peers, to provide the “chink of light” he spoke of needing as he ponders signing a contract extension.
Or even for a solution to the club’s ongoing ground dilemma which could release funds in the long run.
But now they fear the breaking point could be Tottenham Hotspur’s requirement for a manager of a more dignified manner but equally impressive track record as the outgoing Harry Redknapp.
It should surprise nobody that Moyes, three times the League Managers’ Association Premier League manager of the year, is the bookies’ favourite to take the reins at White Hart Lane.
That impressive haul of gongs in itself, for someone who is yet to win a trophy at Goodison, speaks volumes for how Moyes is perceived in football’s inner circle, and increasingly outside it too.
The plaudits have arrived regularly over the years, from a growing band of admirers in the regional, national and European press.
He is, according to one respected critic in 2008, the ‘best pound for pound’ boss in the league.
Others variously describe him as a miracle worker, and a future Alex Ferguson.
In March when Moyes formally marked 10 years on Merseyside, the acclaim was universal.
In a different way from the brash courting of Redknapp, the Scot has done enough to become a media darling.
But is he considered enough of a darling to take over a club with the supposed demands for a high-profile manager as Spurs?
Some claim that Moyes is not a natural fit for the North Londoners, and that his cautious tactical tendencies mean he could not turn out sides with the requisite flair for Tottenham fans.
But maybe Daniel Levy wants to try something different.
Not that Moyes cannot produce attractive football, his teams containing Leighton Baines, Steven Pienaar – who Redknapp failed to get the best out of – and Mikel Arteta have regularly dazzled.
And maybe Levy and his fellow board members in North London are ready for a candidate with Moyes’ immense tactical acumen, but also the ability to unearth diamonds from the rough.
It was Moyes who first identified Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker, among others, before Redknapp swooped on the pair offering more money.
In these austere times, when even Spurs’ billionaire owner Joe Lewis may be thinking of spending carefully, Moyes could be the best ‘value-added candidate’.
Just look at the list of his current players who fit that bill. Baines, Jagielka, Heitinga, Fellaini, Cahill, even now Jelavic – a steal at £5.5m.
Conversely, Evertonians will hope Moyes might not be as keen on Spurs as some assume he would be.
The difficulties in the relationship between Levy and Redknapp may have served as a warning sign to potential successors.
Certainly for Moyes, who has enjoyed an envied degree of trust, honesty and respect with Bill Kenwright. It’s not something he would turn his back on lightly.
Also, Spurs – for all their recent lofty finishes and flash flings with the Champions League – are not Manchester United.
It is widely believed that when Alex Ferguson vacates the top chair at Old Trafford, Moyes will be among the first men interviewed; potentially with the blessing of Fergie.
That day when the king of Manchester leaves his throne might yet be some way off, but is Moyes, at 49, really in any rush?
Perhaps he will be tempted to stay another season at Goodison, where lest anyone forget, he is among the highest paid managers in the league, and plough on in the hope this season he can somehow conjure tangible success from the limited hand he is dealt.
The ramifications if he thinks otherwise and goes are potentially dire for the Toffees.
While Moyes’ burning ambition and high standards have kept his current players focused, largely loyal, and committed, his absence could bring disarray and ultimately transfer requests.
It would certainly be the end of an era, and crucially at a point when matters off the pitch would make it difficult to even attract a replacement like Roberto Martinez.
Instead Kenwright could be left to scour the Championship or promote from within.
Either way, the guarantee of instant success – or even more seasons when the Blues push against that glass ceiling – would dwindle fast.
Those on the blue half of the city will survey this crossroads for all concerned with heavy hearts, aware it was always going to arrive. And hope their manager decided to linger a while yet.