David Moyes has endured many highs during his six-and-a-half-years in charge of Everton, but he is facing his most difficult campaign yet after a trying close-season at Goodison Park.
The mood of optimism which swept the club following a 3-1 win over Newcastle on the final day of last season, which confirmed Everton's place in Europe for the third time in four seasons, has been replaced by one of concern among fans.
And no wonder. Just days before the start of Moyes's seventh full season at the Merseyside club, Everton have yet to show off a new signing even though long-serving midfielder Lee Carsley has joined Birmingham and striker Andy Johnson is poised to leave for Fulham.
In addition, rumours over Moyes' long-term future continue. The Scot yet to sign a new contract while chief executive Keith Wyness, the driving force behind the club's proposed move to a new 50,000-seater stadium in nearby Kirkby, has quit his post.
On top of that owner Bill Kenwright has revealed he is prepared to step down as chairman if an appropriate investor can be found, while Moyes criticised his players after losing 2-0 to Chicago Fire on their American tour in July.
Despite his prolonged contract negotiations, Moyes, regarded as one of the brightest British managers in the Premier League, is expected to commit himself to Everton, although he has admitted that the club's lack of activity in the transfer market is a big worry.
“It's not just a new face we need – it's new faces,” said Moyes. “My big concern is that anybody we bring in now probably won't be ready to start the Premier League season.
“We can't hide the fact that we need new players. Everybody knows it. We have to get five or six players in before the season starts.”
Wary of his side's faltering form at the end of last season, Moyes is keen to strengthen his midfield and forward areas as he prepares his side for a busy season after qualifying for the UEFA Cup.
He is keen on Sporting Lisbon's Portugal international midfielder Joao Moutinho while Darren Fletcher, who is only likely to play a bit-part role at Manchester United this season, is another target.
Fletcher may well be tempted to make the move, especially as Phil Neville, his former team-mate at Old Trafford, has established himself as a popular figure among Everton fans since leaving United three years ago.
Moyes, 45, has established a reputation for making the best out of the options available to him. That was illustrated last season as his side finished fifth in the table above clubs boasting much bigger budgets like Aston Villa, Tottenham, Newcastle and Manchester City.
Once again Everton's season will hinge on Tim Cahill, Mikel Arteta, Joleon Lescott and Yakubu Ayegbeni.
Cahill has not kicked a ball in anger for his club since March and although the 28-year-old Australian will miss the start of the season as he continues to recover from a broken metatarsal, he is set to be back in action sooner rather than later.
Much will also depend on Spanish midfielder Arteta, who has recovered after stomach surgery, while Lescott's goals last season provided Moyes with a welcome bonus.
But Moyes will not stand any nonsense from Yakubu after the Nigerian striker returned late last season after representing his country.
Moyes was forced to discipline his 11.25 million pounds record signing and made it clear he would not tolerate any repeat from the 25-year-old former Middlesbrough and Portsmouth player.
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