Everton began the 2012/2013 season with pretty much the same expectations as they did for most of the previous few: The renowned slow start, an effective-without-being-scintillating style of football all topped off with a charge for the top six of the Premier League once the calendar ticks over to January. Following a fairly underwhelming pre-season accompanied with just a couple of dalliances in the transfer market constituting the Toffees’ preparations, there seemed no reason to alter one’s prediction for the coming campaign.
Even back in August, on the eve of the big kick-off and Everton’s surprising, yet well-deserved and dominant home victory over eventual champions, Manchester United, there were fears that this season would be David Moyes’ last at Goodison Park. His contract situation was well-publicised, as were his reasons for having not renewed his deal before the season started. However, had anyone watched Moyes’ side regularly in the opening two months of the year, you would never have guessed that there was any uncertainty over his future.
That win on the first televised Monday night game over the club he now takes charge of, set the tone for an unusual burst out of the blocks by the Blues. Subsequent easy wins on the road at Swansea City and Aston Villa were thrilling as wave after wave of Everton attacks rained down on the opposition, bludgeoning them into submission. This form had many pundits and observers frothing at the mouth and exclaiming that this Everton side were actually favourites to oust the usual suspects like Chelsea and Arsenal out of the much-coveted Champions League places. And for a time at least, even the most pessimistic of Evertonians, and there are certainly many of those, believed the hype. But in amongst those cavalier performances of the autumn, there were warning signs that Everton’s impossible dream would remain just that by the time the season concluded.
On several occasions Everton let their opponents off the hook and this generosity would ultimately cost them the points they required to sustain their top four challenge right to the last throes of the 2012/13 Premier League marathon. Dropping points against the likes of Newcastle, Fulham, Arsenal and Norwich before November severely anchored what could and should have been a title challenging position by Christmas (and before anybody scoffs, Everton were NEVER going to win the Premier League, I am just stating that they would have been neck and neck with Manchester United and City at that time). Instead, when the inevitable drop in form and injuries to key players kicked in around the turn of 2013, Moyes and his squad had let slip the buffer that they had worked so hard to achieve yet had frivolously squandered in the fixtures I have just named and in a few others.
By the time Everton regained some of their early season form it was all just a little too late to secure a Champions League place, although had they been fortunate or good enough in their three late season draws with Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool then the Toffees could well have been the Cat amongst the Pigeons. But draws don’t win you anything and Everton paid a heavy price by having too many of them during the course of the campaign. No European qualification of any kind was the reward they gained for what was actually a pretty good season in the Barclays Premier League but most supporters will believe that despite the entertainment they received for the most part, the end result of a sixth placed finish was just about what they expected anyway.
The Cups provided no great cheer for Everton either. Throughout the season every man and his dog peddled the myth that Moyes would never get a top job without a trophy on his CV (we all got that wrong, didn’t we?!) and it was his express aim to win a piece of silverware this year, knowing full well it might be his last at Goodison Park. The League Cup tilt lasted a mere 90 lacklustre minutes at Leeds United, while the FA Cup opened up nicely for the Blues when they were drawn at home to Roberto Martinez’ Wigan Athletic in the quarter final (the glorious irony eh?). Anyone who witnessed that debacle saw streams of frustrated and heart-wrenched Evertonians vanish from their seats well before the full-time whistle as they saw yet another season go by when David Moyes’ Everton choked on the really big occasion.
On the pitch there were many plus points: Kevin Mirallas looked a snip at £5.5 million, Leighton Baines continued where he left off from previous seasons as the Premier League’s best attacking full-back, Marouane Fellaini showed us he has got the potential to be a world class midfielder, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin were once again a solid central defensive partnership and Irish right-back Seamus Coleman grew immeasurably in stature as the season progressed.
2012/13 will be looked back on fondly by Evertonians as one of great entertainment and one where they once again finished ahead of the enemy from across Stanley Park. However, it will always be a season tinged with sadness at the departure of David Moyes and thoughts of what might have been had his last Everton team been able to take the glorious opportunities that presented themselves.