Given the esteem with which Aston Villa fans currently hold Paul Lambert and with rumors that Randy Lerner is planning to sell the club over the summer gain credence by the day, it's not surprising that speculation regarding the club's next manager has been a hot topic of discussion as of late. And with Manchester United making the long-speculated of sacking of David Moyes official, it's only natural that the former Everton manager's name would pop up in said discussions. Moyes was arguably the preferred option to replace Martin O'Neill at the very beginning of the club's current managerial merry-go-round, and though the shift in Everton's fortunes relative to Villa made him an unrealistic target for the next two rounds of hiring, the hope that Lerner might blow him away with an offer that couldn't be refused was always in the minds of some Villa supporters.
And on many levels, Moyes is still an attractive candidate today. Despite what transpired at United, it's impossible to ignore what he accomplished at Everton, a club similar to Villa in many ways; an undeniably big club with an accomplished history, but dealing with the realities of attempting to return to past glory with severe financial limitations relative to the Premier League's elite. Additionally, the difficulty of the task facing Moyes at United can't be overstated; despite the fact that United won the league last season, Alex Ferguson left his predecessor with an aging, unbalanced squad in desperate need of a drastic overhaul that wasn't going to be a legitimate possibility until this summer. Given Villa's current state, "wasn't good enough to take take over from the greatest manager in the history of the game" isn't really a good reason not to hire someone.
Of course, it's not exactly a compelling reason to hire someone either. For all of the positives in the Moyes column, there are legitimate reasons to think that it isn't the direction in which Villa should be moving. Perhaps most compelling is the state of Everton following his departure; while Moyes must be given credit for assembling the squad, it's difficult to ignore the fact that the Toffees have enjoyed more success under Roberto Martinez than they ever did under his predecessor. And though Moyes may have been set up to fail at United, it's important to ask one question; was there ever any point during Moyes' time in charge at United that it appeared as though he was capable of leading his team to greatness?
So much of the Moyes question depends on the Lerner question; if Villa's ownership doesn't change hands, the case for bringing him on board is quite a bit more compelling. It's perfectly reasonable to think that Moyes is capable of bringing Villa back into the top half, and given a few years it's possible that Villa could even be challenging for Europe once again. Moyes' teams don't tend to play the sexiest football and without sufficient backing from Lerner there's only so much that can be done, but it's a safe, reasonable choice that would probably go a long way towards righting the ship.
But it wouldn't be especially exciting. And unless you think that Moyes is the only manager capable of bringing Villa back to respectability, that's a difficult fact to ignore. There are a great many very good football managers working today, and many of them are more tactically adventurous than Moyes, with far higher upsides. And if Villa are sold and the new owners hope to re-energize the fanbase, what hold the greater potential for excitement; an established Premier League name that does things the traditional way and tends to play fairly uninspiring football, or a fresh approach that combines an up-and-coming coach with front-office positions dedicated to the bigger-picture football matters?
Were David Moyes named Villa's manager the Sunday following the completion of the Premier League season, it certainly wouldn't be a bad thing. He's good at what he does, and it's probable that the struggles of the past several seasons would become a thing of the past. But it would still be an unambitious move, and one that doesn't address some of the more persistent concerns of Villa's supporters; that the club seems to be stuck in a different era, both on the field and off, and is incapable of moving forward in a way that would allow fans to dream big.
There's not really a wrong answer, here; it would be difficult to find fault with a manager as accomplished as David Moyes being brought on board. Similarly, it's reasonable to want Villa to push the envelope following so many seasons of despair brought on by dire, uninspiring football. If you're of the opinion that Villa need stability and a steady hand to guide them out of the wilderness, it's tough to do better than Moyes. But if you're of the opinion that what's needed is a spark, the kind of energy that can only be provided by a drastic change of course, Villa would do well to look elsewhere.