Moyes at heart of Toffees resurgence

The impact Everton manager David Moyes has made on the Goodison Park team can be measured by recalling the last time they played Middlesbrough in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

A 3-0 defeat in March 2002 signalled the end for Moyes's predecessor Walter Smith. Everton, 15th with just one win from 13 Premier League games, were left to face another relegation fight.

Fast forward seven years and the Merseyside club approach the first FA Cup quarter-final of the Scot's reign at home to Boro on Sunday on the back of only one defeat in 16 matches.

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson described Everton in January as "the Premier League's big success story of the last five years" and for that Moyes, his team on course for their fourth top-six finish in that period, must take a lot of credit.

Four days after Everton's 2002 surrender at the Riverside, Moyes stepped inside Goodison and set about lifting the gloom.

"He came in as quite a young manager and I felt immediately that he was ambitious," former Everton midfielder Niclas Alexandersson told Reuters.

"To get the spirit out of players you need to have that spirit yourself -- being ambitious as a coach helps give that to players as well."

After averting the threat of relegation, a hungry Moyes guided Everton to seventh in the Premier League the following season, setting a template for future achievement.

"He wanted to work very hard himself and the training he had was the best I experienced in England," ex-Swedish international Alexandersson said. "Every session was very good and he got the most out of his players."

NO SURPRISE

Moyes's transformation of Everton's fortunes is no surprise to Paul McKenna, captain of Preston North End, the first club the Scot managed.

Moyes lifted Preston from the lower reaches of the third tier to the Championship (second division) playoff final in 28 months and McKenna said his "attention to detail" was second to none.

"We didn't have the best players but everyone knew their jobs inside out," he said.

Moyes, a journeyman centre-half in his playing days, has turned Everton into one of the toughest Premier League sides to break down.

McKenna added: "That was his line of expertise and he always had the defence well-drilled and the midfielders well-drilled in defensive areas. That is what he's got Everton doing and that is why they are so successful."

According to former Everton winger Pat Nevin, Moyes is a born leader.

Nevin, now a BBC analyst, was a teenage hopeful with Moyes at Celtic boys' club in the late 1970s.

He recalled: "Not only was he captain material, he was, even at that young age of 14, 15, 16, a manager then. At that age you are wrapped up in yourself but he was interested in the team, in the betterment of other individuals."

PIERCING EYES

Nevin remembers one Sunday afternoon when Moyes came to watch his team play and he found "these piercing blue eyes" gazing in his direction after he sidestepped a 50-50 challenge.

"We'd won and I'd scored a few go