Moyes & Everton face testing times
David Moyes, by his own colourful admission, is choking on a lump in the back of his throat caused by the shuddering end to Everton's progress this season.
Moyes saw progress of sorts as Everton's display deserved more than defeat in the Merseyside derby against Liverpool - but one glance at the Scot's pained expression in the aftermath revealed his suffering.
There have been better weeks at Goodison Park. Everton's football and financial future is on an uneasy footing after the grim loss at Hull City and the rejection of a ground move designed to signpost a new start, so this unfortunate reverse rounded it off badly.
Moyes was in no mood for consolation, not even via praise for Everton's spirited efforts against Liverpool or by being informed of a favourable home draw against Carlisle in the FA Cup. No good news. Not this week.
Everton are now in trouble after only one win in 11 games and as Moyes said: "Lots of encouragement but it doesn't change the position."
Moyes attempted to prod a response from his players after the non-performance at Hull City - "right up there with the worst of them" - by suggesting they should shake him by the hand for allowing them to play for Everton.
"For some of them it might not get any better," he added by way of further provocation. The problem for Moyes and Everton is that it is approaching the time when the same might be said for the manager.
Moyes proved he can still coax a show out of Everton, who dominated the 212th derby for long periods only to be undone by their own wasteful finishing and the wonderful Pepe Reina, but they still lost to a Liverpool side who were abject for the most part.
But, if we wish to tell Everton a brutal truth, it is that they were confronted by a Liverpool side there for the taking and could not complete the task.
So while Rafael Benitez, who would be wise to restrict his elation to the victory as Liverpool's actual display was mediocrity itself, gets a measure of breathing space at the end of his own traumatic week, the agony goes on for Moyes and Everton.
Moyes, to use the traditional default option of the beaten manager, can take positives. Steven Pienaar was comfortably the most accomplished and composed player on show at Goodison Park and this was several thousand notches up on the fare served up at the KC Stadium.
Moyes is the fourth longest-serving manager in the country, having taken over at Everton in 2002
And the concensus as the hordes departing into the rain-soaked streets around Goodison was that Everton had demonstrated enough to suggest they will not linger in the lower reaches of the Premier League for too long. Which is probably true.
Is this enough for Everton though? Is this enough for Moyes? This is because the concern is growing that fifth place in the Premier League and an FA Cup Final appearance last season is now looking increasingly like the peak of the Moyes era.
Moyes poured his heart out to provide a sombre backdrop to the meeting with Liverpool, who recorded their eighth win in their last 10 league games at Goodison Park. It was clear where the worries lay and prompted renewed speculation that Moyes was buying into the increasing sense that he had now taken Everton as far as he could without fresh finances.
Once the quick fix of satisfaction provided by a better showing, albeit in defeat, wears off, it is back to reality. No money, no fresh investment, no new ground and a treatment room that will not be clear of hugely influential figures such as Mikel Arteta and Phil Jagielka for some weeks.
And with a testing sequence of fixtures against AEK Athens in the Europa League and Spurs and Chelsea in the Premier League, Everton must continue the progress they showed against Liverpool.
It now appears the shape of Moyes' long-term future will be dictated by the success of owner and chairman Bill Kenwright in finding new investors and a new home - tasks which have proved beyond him in recent years.
And for Moyes it must be galling to reach a point after seven years in charge at Everton and have to admit there are no more signs of progress. It is also a stark admission from the manager of a struggling side, especially with the jury still out on his big summer signings Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Sylvain Distin and John Heitinga.
The signs of recovery were on show against Liverpool, with more of the spirit that has taken Everton so far on so little in evidence, but the resurgence is realistically aimed at mid-table safety rather than the riches of last season.
Moyes' record signing Marouane Fellaini showed long-overdue signs of life in patches against Liverpool, while the extra dimension Pienaar adds to Everton's game was obvious in every composed contribution and the sleight of foot that is his trademark.
With his return comes a worry, however, because Everton have yet to convince the gifted South African that his future lies at Goodison Park and he will have the biggest stage of all on which to flourish when the World Cup is staged on his home turf next summer.
And when the manager openly confesses progress has not so much stalled as come to a dead stop, it increases the need for Kenwright to deliver to ensure he has the tools to persuade players of Pienaar's quality to stay.
How Kenwright fares in his quest will sharply define the future for both himself and Moyes.
Liverpool, for their part, will hope this victory provides some sort of platform for a season in danger of dying on its feet to take off. In among the average, Benitez was able to call on some old reliables, the excellence of Reina, the resilience of Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher and the defensive patrol of Javier Mascherano.
This was not, however, the display of a team Benitez claims he is "100% confident" will reach the Champions League. Not by any stretch.
Some light relief among the serious business at Goodison Park was provided by the showbiz presence of one Henry Winkler, better known as "The Fonz" and currently starring as Captain Hook in Peter Pan pantomime in Liverpool.
What he made of this domestic squabble in anybody's guess, but when it comes to "Happy Days" there were few takers on the blue half of Merseyside - and not that many on the red.
You can follow me throughout this season at https://twitter.com/philmcnulty and join me at Facebook (requires registration)