Phil Smith: Many sneered at Moyes ‘getting the band back together’... but do they have a special encore left in them?

Lescott celebrates Sunderland's shock win
Lescott celebrates Sunderland's shock win
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One wonders how David Moyes reflects on the day Sir Alex Ferguson told him he was to be the next Manchester United manager.

The Scot then had no idea the storm he’d be walking into, a turbulent year that he knows he will be remembered for over and above the eleven successful, stable years he enjoyed at Goodison Park.

In a matter of months, a descent from one of the most respected managers in the British game to figure of fun.

The derision online has followed him ever since, and went up a notch towards the end of the January transfer window. Having already added Victor Anichebe and Steven Pienaar to his squad in the summer, Sunderland’s financial limitations forced moves for Darron Gibson and Joleon Lescott, while Bryan Oviedo was identified as the replacement for Patrick van Aanholt.

Cue a flood of memes on Twitter depicting Moyes getting on the phone to a plethora of former Goodison Park stalwarts, delivering the classic Blues Brothers line: “We’re getting the band back together.”

It was for the most part an enjoyable trip down memory lane, revisiting some of the names to play for Everton in that largely successful period. Some good, some not so. Andy van der Meyde, Joseph Yobo, Marcus Bent, and a personal favourite, Nuno Valente.

There was an undercurrent of derision, however, that showed how Moyes is perceived in the wider footballing world.

Poor scouting, behind the curve, trading on former glories.

Perhaps the stunning win at Crystal Palace can be the start of a reappraisal of the 53-year-old’s abilities and the decisions he made in the market last month.

Much of the mocking tends to come from those bookie accounts that trade on ‘banter’ for a few retweets. They were laughing a week or two ago, but their odds on Sunderland beating the drop will now be shortening.

For the most part, Sunderland’s January additions were not brought in to be the difference between relegation and survival.

They were pragmatic additions to deepen the squad, provide competition and experience in lieu of being able to sign players who can make a long-term contribution to the club.

On Saturday, they proved to do exactly that.

With John O’Shea injured, Lescott came on to ensure Sunderland could hold the 5-3-2 shape that was serving them so well. His contributions were not defining but he dealt with the barrage of Palace crosses well, kept it simple and helped land a morale-boosting clean sheet.

Likewise Gibson, called upon to replace Jack Rodwell, who suffered a hamstring injury. Gibson showed his composure and nous, held on to the ball and helped settle his side when under pressure.

Oviedo, who really was Moyes’ only long-term signing, was tenacious, competitive and showed plenty of quality. Gary Bennett is of course right to point to Stanislav Varga’s Sunderland career as a warning against getting carried away over a debut performance, but the Costa Rican has raised hopes that he will be a significant upgrade on Patrick van Aanholt.

If the Black Cats go down, eventually overhauled by other sides who splashed the cash in January, questions will be asked of this January business. Why couldn’t Sunderland’s scouting network come up with a decent target man from the continent of lower leagues? Or a creative midfielder who could may be a good squad player for the long-term, Premier League or otherwise?

For the time being, though, perhaps it is worth dwelling on those Blues Brothers comparisons just a little longer.

Having got the band back together, the brothers go on to perform one last glorious show before time catches up with them and brings their journey to an end.

The Black Cats’ position remains perilous but the Selhurst display suggests Moyes’ old band may well have one last encore in them.

If that buys him enough time to identify better value and more effective targets, time he has not had the luxury of having so far, his January pragmatism might turn out to be for the best.

How sweet it would be to silence those ‘banter’ accounts and see them paying up on another great escape.