POMPEY BLANK ADDS TO REDKNAPP CONCERNS
1st December 2007 Daily Star
Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp, arrested in midweek as part of an ongoing investigation into corruption in football, was given a rousing welcome by the Fratton Park faithful - but not even they could inspire their team to victory as their match with Everton finished goalless. The result allowed both teams to maintain their unbeaten runs, 10 matches for Portsmouth and eight for the visitors, in a game that just fell to pieces after a promising start. Perhaps most worryingly for Redknapp however, was that his side were held to their fourth goalless home draw in five Barclays Premier League matches after missing a hatful of chances. Benjani Mwaruwari, who heading into the match topped the Barclays Premier League's goalscorers list with eight, produced an early bit of magic to go beyond Joseph Yobo after latching onto John Utaka's delicate clip, but the Everton defender recovered sufficiently to restrict the Zimbabwean to a snatched shot which slipped wide in the 18th minute.
Phil Neville's hopeful 30-yarder was the only thing to cause Pompey goalkeeper David James anything like trouble in the first half. Niko Kranjcar and Sulley Muntari both fired over and when Steven Pienaar briefly lost his head to lash out at both Utaka and Benjani, referee Peter Walton only cautioned him with the furious home fans demanding a red card. Pompey could have had two goals in the first five minutes after the interval when Pedro Mendes fired over from 20 yards from a half-cleared header, before Kranjcar nudged Glen Johnson's cross wide. Everton looked a sharper proposition, though, when Andrew Johnson replaced Pienaar, who had wasted a chance given to him by Glen Johnson's careless slip. Mikel Arteta became a growing influence and pieced together a move with Tim Cahill which should have given Leon Osman a goal against the run of play but for his heavy first touch which allowed James to smother. Benjani fired over, before substitute Kanu tried in vain to sidefoot the winner after shots by Muntari and Papa Bouba Diop both bounced off a resilient Everton rearguard.
David Moyes: I believe in these players
Dec 1 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES believes the relaxed atmosphere sweeping around Goodison Park can accelerate Everton's push for the top. Though Moyes has raised the bar significantly in terms of performance since he took charge of the Blues in March 2002, he says the pressure to build a team capable of shaking up the established order bears no comparison to his early anxieties. Back then, Moyes’ first task was to ensure Everton remained in the Premier League and now that the club’s aims have radically changed, he hopes the current buoyancy among his staff and players allows them to achieve their ambitions. “I think the pressure was greater when I took over and I was trying to keep Everton out of the bottom six,” said Moyes. “It was definitely worse then. Is there a difference between now and then? I think you would have to say there is. “I feel more relaxed now but maybe that comes with experience and being in the job a bit longer. I think that is also down to the players that I have here. I trust them and I have a great deal of belief in what they can do. It’s great just now.”
Moyes is now the Premier League’s third longest serving manager – only Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson have been at one club for more time – and he realises his good fortune to work for a patient board. With so many other clubs eager to part company with managers at the slightest difficulty, the trend for rapid hiring and firing shows no sign of abating but Moyes feels Everton offer the perfect model for what stability can achieve. “We are in a business where at the minute it seems as if we are in a revolving door,” he said. “Maybe I’m different from other managers in that I feel I have a solid chairman and board of directors. “Maybe other managers aren’t as fortunate as I am. Hopefully we are going to see a lot more stability in this job. I’d like to think we are on the start of something significant here.”
David Moyes: Scottish job is not for me - yet
Dec 1 2007 Liverpool Echo
EVERTON boss David Moyes has admitted he would one day like to manage Scotland - but when he is "a little bit older and experienced". Following Alex McLeish’s move from national coach to the hot seat at Birmingham, Moyes has been an outsider for the post with the bookies. But he says it is “not for me just yet”.
Moyes takes his Everton side - unbeaten in seven games - to Portsmouth in a match which could dictate whether either club is capable of competing for a European spot.
Moyes is also hoping that his side completes qualification for the last 32 of the UEFA Cup when they face Zenit St Petersburg at Goodison Park next Wednesday.
It is that level of growing achievement that has seen Moyes’ name thrown into the ring as a potential Scotland manager. But having distanced himself from the England job last week, Moyes is now having to do the same thing with his own country.
He said: “One day I would like to manage Scotland, but not at the moment. I’d want to be a little bit older and experienced. “Anyone would want to be linked with the job as national manager, I would like the national job but it is not for me just yet.
“If I do well enough at Everton, maybe there will be an opportunity in the future but certainly not for a long period of time regarding me. “I still feel I have only just come into management, I am still one of the youngest about. The national manager’s job should be for someone a bit older and nearer the end of their time in management.
“Maybe they do not always want the day-to-day involvement, but I want that at Everton.”
Goal hero is aiming to home in on past haunt
Dec 1 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
MENTION Fratton Park to Ayegbeni Yakubu and you can guarantee his reaction will be a warm smile followed by an animated chat. Given that Portsmouth’s ramshackle home on the south coast was the first place he experienced English football, it is not surprising he holds a great deal of affection for that arena and the supporters who provided him with constant and noisy backing. This afternoon, though, Everton’s club record signing will be putting sentiment to one side as he bids to maintain his recent good form, and the only thing on Yakubu’s mind is getting on the score sheet again.
That single-minded approach in front of goal ensured that only Thierry Henry scored more in the Premier League over the last four years than Yakubu and, after early doubts, Evertonians are now seeing why. When he latched on to Tim Howard’s long clearance against Sunderland last weekend, not for one minute did Yakubu look as if he would fail to score and it was a similar scenario when he grabbed his second in the 7-1 thrashing. With his tally now up to five, there is reason to believe he can finally break through the magical 20 barrier and the more he plays with his relatively new team-mates, the better he will become. Just ask Leon Osman. While Everton’s in-form midfielder has been getting plenty of plaudits for his own displays during this seven-match unbeaten run, he is quick to point to Yakubu’s contribution and has been impressed with his capabilities. It has getting to the point now where Osman and company will be surprised when Yakubu fails to fire and he hopes the Nigerian international provides Portsmouth’s supporters with a reminder of exactly what he can do. “They are on a fantastic run and this season they have been playing some really good stuff,” says Osman. “They have got a really good home record and look a strong team. We will have to be at our very best. “Portsmouth aren’t going to be anywhere near the relegation places like they were not so long ago and they want to push for Europe. “So we are going to have to go down there and match them. Hopefully our quality will shine through on the day. “And we know that we have got a threat with Yak. He is so composed around the goal. “He is also so strong that it gives him an extra second around the box. “People just can’t get near to him. If they do, they have to bring him down. “His composure also ensures that he scores more than he misses. He is always confident when he gets through on goal and that is spreading around the team. “We know we have always got a chance with someone in that kind of form and hopefully that can continue.” Osman is not the only one who has been taken by Yakubu’s gradual improvement. Since he scored in the 2-0 win at Derby last month, manager David Moyes feels that there is a marked difference about his £11.25m signing. Early glitches - when he drew criticism for his work rate and fitness - appear to have been ironed out and Moyes is confident that Yakubu will be seen in much better light in the coming weeks and months. “I think he is doing much better,” said Moyes. “It’s not always easy for new players to settle in at a club. “It doesn’t matter how much money you pay. But he is doing okay at the minute and his goals tally is just starting to tick over. “He could have had a couple more last weekend - as could Tim Cahill - and that was pleasing. He’s getting in and around the box and he’ll get his fair share for us. We’d be delighted if that can continue.” Yet Yakubu will need to remain at the top of his game to stay in the starting line-up as Victor Anichebe, Andrew Johnson, James McFadden and now James Vaughan are all snapping at his heels. Victory at Fratton Park would allow Everton to leapfrog Portsmouth and cap a miserable week for Harry Redknapp, who was arrested on Wednesday, but Moyes does not expect that drama to have impinged on his opposite number’s build up to this contest. “It’s going to be a difficult game,” said Moyes. “They are above us in the table and Harry has done a terrific job with them. “He has got a tremendous team, but my players know the task they are facing. We will be the underdogs. “Portsmouth are like ourselves and they are trying to get as close to the top boys as they possibly can. This is the sort of game where we have to go there and see how we can perform a side who are doing really well in the Premier League this season. “We’ve had the occasional bad away day so far when we didn’t quite hit the height, but we have done okay. We have picked up results here and there and you do need to be able to win games away from home. “Will this week have made a difference? Not a bit. I think all the players will be having a laugh about it and probably taking the Mickey out of Harry. I don’t think that it will be anything more than that.”
Royal Blue: Blues won't be jumping out of many windows
Dec 1 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
SO the countdown is on. Today marks the beginning of a calendar month to the opening of the transfer window and already a list of weird and wonderful names are being linked with January moves to Goodison Park. Don’t, though, be expecting Everton to be involved in too much business. With the squad being in the best shape it has been for a number of years, only the odd nip and tuck is needed as, thankfully, there is no desperate need to bring new bodies in. The African Cup of Nations may force David Moyes to look for a new central defender, given that Joseph Yobo will lead Nigeria’s quest for glory, but perhaps most focus will be on another man who is also heading to Ghana. In the past six weeks, Steven Pienaar has started to show the kind of form that made him one of the hottest properties in Europe a couple of seasons ago and played an integral part in helping Everton run up seven unbeaten games.
Small in stature but a giant in terms of determination, courage and ability, the South African international is starting to become a crowd favourite and his impressive displays have led to some starting a clamour to make his signing permanent.
Having arrived on loan from Borussia Dortmund in July, Pienaar has 12 months to state his case for a long-term contract and Moyes revealed earlier this week that he is going to use all the time available to assess him. That may be greeted with frustration in some quarters, particularly as they have seen his name linked with Arsenal, yet the manager’s decision to exercise patience at this juncture is understandable.
There are, of course, similarities to the situation in which Tim Howard found himself at this time last season. Like Pienaar, he had arrived at Goodison Park on loan and the way the United States international performed led some to think he would be spirited away. Fortunately, such a predicament was never on the cards and Everton’s board wasted little time in arranging a deal to keep Howard on Merseyside until 2012; it was one of the smartest pieces of business they have conducted recently.
Yet there is a subtle difference between the situations of Howard and Pienaar. The former, don’t forget, had previously spent three years with Manchester United and had huge amounts of Premier League experience. Contrast that to Pienaar. The sum total of his career in England’s top flight is seven starts and three substitute appearances - he is still at the ‘getting to know you’ stage and adjusting to the hurly-burly pace.
Going on the evidence of the past six weeks, however, it is clear to see he is a quick learner and if the 25-year-old can maintain the standards he has set himself until the time comes to join up with South Africa, there is little doubt he will be missed.
And not just on the field. Pienaar has immersed himself into the club ethos and that was evident as soon as he joined up with his team-mates in Los Angeles. While he was given the warmest of welcomes, he was equally keen to make things work.
Having only known them for 36 hours, Pienaar performed a traditional Afrikaans song on the annual karaoke evening without batting an eye lid. Safe to say that some individuals who have now left the club would not have done the same for all the tea in China. “I have been really impressed with Steven Pienaar,” said Moyes of a player whose career took off in Amsterdam with Ajax. “He takes the ball forward, he has got a good work ethic and he has helped us out a lot. He is a very, very good footballer.”
Reassuringly, Everton have ensured that when the deal to bring him from the Bundesliga was completed, one of the deal’s caveats was that they reserved the right to first option on him next summer. What’s more, the fee it would cost to sign him is not a king’s ransom. Everything, then, suggests that if Pienaar continues in the same vein once he returns from Ghana, he will be rewarded with the contract for which his expanding flock of admirers on the terraces are clamouring. As they say, all good things come to those who wait.
Moyes will not be heading for country side
NICE to see Sky surpassing themselves once again this week when they turned up unannounced at Jose Mourinho’s home in Portugal to interview him about the vacant England manager’s job. So desperate are the broadcasters to find out who it will be, they have spent the past week asking every Premier League manager for an opinion on the matter and, in all seriousness, asking whether they would be interested.
David Moyes’ response? You don’t need to know a great deal about Everton’s manager to understand that his response was less than enthusiastic.
“I don’t see a Scotsman being that well accepted, do you?” he asked, trying to keep a straight face. “Then again, you’d take Fergie wouldn’t you? I think a Scotsman in charge would be very difficult to accept for the English. And we would probably be banned from Scotland for life! We’d be scrubbed off the register.”
Another international job, though, also came up for grabs this week but Evertonians who fear Moyes may have his head turned by taking charge of Scotland following Alex McLeish’s exit should rest easy. There is no chance of Moyes turning his back on Goodison Park at present - nor would he consider giving up the day-to-day nature of being a Premier League manager. If anything, Moyes’ reign here is likely to be prolonging, rather than ending.
Those Tigers play too rough
EVERTON senior steward Phil King was all shook up at Greenbank Academy last night. The Elvis impersonator performed during Everton Tigers’ match against Worcester Wolves. King, crowned Great Britain's Best Elvis in 2004, lent his support to help lift Merseyside’s only professional basketball team.
The Tigers are finding their feet in their debut British Basketball League season and last week beat second placed MK Lions.. Backed by Everton FC, coach Henry Mooney’s team is gaining a loyal following. Next Friday theTigers host Birmingham Panthers at Greenbank. Entry is £10 adults, £5 concessions.
Barry Horne: Blues are on an upwardly mobile curve
Dec 1 2007 by Barry Horne, Liverpool Echo
FOR years now, in my role as radio pundit and newspaper columnist, I’ve found myself having to defend David Moyes. It’s a position I’ve always been very comfortable with. I’ll never say anything I don’t believe – and I have never had any problems fending off criticisms of the Blues boss. In recent weeks, however, Moyes critics have been notable by their absence and last Saturday, as you would expect, there was almost total harmony amongst Evertonians. Driving to the game a number of things came together in what was almost an epiphany in many ways.
Moyes announced a fully fit squad to select from – and that squad is now very impressive. The Blues’ squad has been steadily improving over the years, and on Saturday that became very evident. Of course we were playing a weak Premier League team who were clearly off colour and had two centre-backs enduring days to forget.
But prior to the game Sunderland and their highly regarded young manager had not been turned over by anybody, and Everton’s performance was full of skill and invention. Some of the football played in the first half was as good as anything I’ve seen this season. It was like watching Arsenal at times. But what struck me was the 10 players not involved in the starting line-up. Stefan Wessels, Tony Hibbert, Alan Stubbs, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Thomas Gravesen, James McFadden, James Vaughan, Victor Anichebe and Andy Johnson would have formed the basis of a strong Everton first XI a season or two ago. The fact that they were all either in the stand or on the subs bench underlines the current rude health of the football club.
The only downside was that despite putting a Premier League team to the sword with some breathtaking football, Everton did not move up the table. That, for me, highlights the current strength of the league. I was at the Aston Villa - Blackburn match in midweek, where the general tone amongst the press present was pretty much as it is everywhere in this country. There appears to be a cynicism and a negativity about our football which I do not share. I saw some delightful football served up by two teams who underlined how difficult it will be for Everton to climb the table.
Having said that, the Blues’ current trajectory is upwards. That has been the case over the past two or three years. Who knows where we may be in two or three years’ time?
Redknapp rumpus may boost Pompey
I WAS a Portsmouth player 20 years ago – and Fratton Park has changed only marginally since I made my debut there in 1987. The away end may finally have a roof over it at long last, but the ground is still a shambles. But it’s a ground which hosts one of the most attractive teams in the league and I’m really looking forward to this afternoon’s clash. The way Everton are playing at the moment, I’m actually looking forward to every match. Today’s will be tough. Harry Redknapp’s recent distractions won’t affect his side’s preparation in any way. In fact such is the affection his players hold him in, I suspect they will be galvanised into trying to produce a positive result to end his week on a high note. But on their last awayday Everton came back from Stamford Bridge with a draw, so can certainly approach today’s test with confidence and optimism.
AL SET FOR MOYE'S BOY
2nd December 2007 Sunday Star
By Paul Hetherington
ALAN STUBBS has emerged as a top candidate to become David Moyes’ assistant at Everton. Sheffield United’s Brian Kidd and Steve Round at Newcastle have also been linked with the position Following Alan Irvine’s move to Preston as a manager.
But Everton central defender Stubbs, 36, looks earmarked for a coaching role at Goodison. He took charge of the reserves for the first time last Thursday in the 5-1 win over Wigan.
Portsmouth 0, Everton 0
Dec 3 2007
by Nick Smith, Liverpool Daily Post
ANNOUNCING them on to the pitch as ‘Manchester City’ was perhaps taking things a bit too far. But Portsmouth’s PA announcer can be forgiven for that embarrassing case of mistaken identity – after all, Everton are pretty unrecognisable from the side that he last introduced to Fratton Park almost a year ago to the week. Back then, they were so short of options, Alan Stubbs played the second half in the centre of midfield, flanked by Andy van der Meyde and Simon Davies. Little wonder then that the opposing middle men helped the home side stroll to a 2-0 victory – Manuel Fernandes, then on loan at the south coast, couldn’t have been more elusive if you’d faxed him a contract with an Everton letterhead on it. No such problems for David Moyes at the moment. Okay, so Saturday’s performance looked a little more likely to yield three points than it did 12 months ago. Everton simply never threatened to achieve the tally that would have taken them level on points with Portsmouth, let alone the two-goal margin they required to leapfrog them into that all-so-significant sixth place. But one miserable 90 minutes can’t disguise the fact that these are happy times for the Everton manager. His counterpart Harry Redknapp could hardly make the same claim but the two can now officially confirm that seven-goal romps are strictly one-off occurrences. Indeed, Pompey’s own haul against Reading is one of only two wins from seven home games this season – they have now drawn five and four of them 0-0. So given that a repeat of Sunderland a week before was never on the cards – Everton barely had seven attacks – Moyes would have taken a point at a potential top-six rival before kick-off if not the performance. Stubbs was the only player unavailable on Saturday but if he had been fit, any bet that he wouldn’t have been moved into midfield again would surely have been as safe as laying money on the chances of the opening gambit of the Portsmouth press officer being: “Questions about football only, please.” Moyes has more luxuries at his disposal now. Like being able to name the same starting 11 that tore Sunderland to pieces meaning another impressive supporting cast was either on the bench or left out altogether. It’s a situation that indicates why Everton are well equipped for the relentless schedule the rest of December has in store for them, not least because they are in the midst of such a confidence-boosting run of results. With reporters diligently respecting his request, Redknapp waxed lyrical about his side’s current form – 10 games without defeat. But for Moyes that number is up to eight since the Merseyside derby, an event that might suddenly be fresh in the minds of the snail-paced FA but Everton have long since ruthlessly consigned to history. Six victories, including two that have all but secured further progress in Europe, and draws at Chelsea and Portsmouth signify the strong cards Moyes now holds. He’ll keep them close to his chest as regards selection policy during the next month but some interesting decisions await him. He certainly wasn’t afraid to make them on Saturday in an attempt to shake things up and give his strike-force more potency. How sorely this was lacking was summed up by the fact that Phil Neville gave David James his only employment in the first half, and early in the second the tactic of Yakubu up on his own was duly abandoned. Andrew Johnson joined him after Steven Pienaar’s last kick skied one of his team’s best opportunities over the bar, although the South African was withdrawn more for the fact that he was threatening to tease a second yellow card from the excellent Peter Walton’s pocket rather than his performance. But Yakubu himself seemed subdued by the hostile reception he received from his former fans – well if one of your players snubbed you for Middlesbrough, you’d be pretty insulted too, wouldn’t you? He didn’t impose himself the same way as he did on Sunderland, Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin a radically different proposition to their bewildered novices of a week earlier. The Nigerian was withdrawn for another, Victor Anichebe, but whatever Moyes tried, adding to the tally that makes them the joint second highest scorers in the Premier League was always looking beyond them. It’s not the fault of those who toiled up front, however. The creative forces behind them were swamped like Redknapp’s filing cabinets when the police come knocking. While the likes of Pienaar, Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill and Leon Osman often have the neat touches of artists painting a masterpiece – but the canvas was never going to be laid out for them on Saturday in the way it was the week before. The African athleticism of John Utaka, Sulley Muntari and Papa Bouba Diop saw to that and their physical presence panicked their opponents into far too many wasteful passes, whether laying it square or hoofing and hoping. Disjointed though it was, it somehow makes the final result more pleasing. For example, Arteta doesn’t have too many off-days so to come away with a point from one of them is definitely stashed in the drawers marked ‘one gained’ rather than ‘two dropped’ that we assume all managers have in their offices. And none of this detracts from some more fine defensive work, ensuring that Portsmouth’s best opportunities came from long range, Howard most severely tested by Diop and Muntari, even then the latter only from a couple of free-kicks Arteta also had his moment with a set-piece but curled it too close to James, while some neat late wing play from Joleon Lescott came to nothing when Osman scooped his pull-back over the bar. The same player had earlier squandered Everton’s best chance when his miss-control allowed James to deny him. Even when Walton blew the final whistle it still came as no relief, as Everton had just forced their first corner of the game. So all in all, Bill Kenwright won’t have been ringing the BBC on Saturday night demanding this set of highlights to be moved up the Match of the Day bill. He’d have only had the phone slammed down on him if he did. He can still be satisfied, however, that while Everton did little in the opposition third, they also did little to suggest they won’t be in the mix for European qualification once again. After all, Portsmouth have made their own progress in the year since they last hosted Everton. That day was most memorable for Matt Taylor’s outstanding lob from the edge of the centre circle that flew over Tim Howard’s head. On Saturday he watched the whole game from the cold, unforgiving solitude of the bench – that’s how much the ante has been upped in the fight for supremacy on the edge of the top four these days. And given the current options at his proposal, Moyes is keeping some seriously good company.
Portsmouth 0, Everton 0
Dec 3 2007
by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
FRATTON PARK collapsed into laughter when the tannoy announcer boomed with gusto, “Please welcome today’s teams . . . Manchester City and Portsmouth!” It was the last worthwhile entertainment until Andy Johnson and Sol Campbell staged a catch-weight shoving match a couple of hours later. Everton are the Premier League’s second highest scorers; Portsmouth just one strike behind. They are the only two sides to have hit seven goals in a game this season – and both had all their front line strikers fit and available for selection. We should have had the mortgage money on a goalless draw. But while the point Everton gained was undoubtedly more impressive than the performance, this wasn’t a nil-nil forged on the ineptitude of two struggling sides. Two very talented teams went head to head and refused to budge an inch, which is why David Moyes bore a satisfied expression afterwards. Lashing seven past morale-sapped strugglers takes very different qualities to grinding out a point at an in-form pacesetter. But Everton showed they can perspire as well as inspire. The heroes this week were in and around their own penalty box. Tim Howard, Joseph Yobo and Joleon Lescott were all hugely influential performers. But while the midfield five were largely occupied with defensive duties this weekend, Everton did boast one impressive creative outlet. When David Moyes was forced to reluctantly substitute the lively and inventive Steven Pienaar to spare him a red card, a point always looked the sum total of Everton’s ambitions. Pienaar had been comfortably the brightest performer on display. But the turning point for him and Everton came as early as the 24th minute, when the little South African mistimed his tackle on John Utaka and caught the Pompey winger with both feet. Coming just minutes after Phil Neville had escaped with a talking to for a similarly late tackle, a caution was inevitable. And when Pienaar tugged at Bouba Diop’s shirt soon after he was running the risk of a premature exit. That early bath did arrive, enforced by his manager rather than the referee, and Moyes later admitted he made the switch reluctantly. But with Pienaar’s departure, Everton’s most effective attacking threat also evaporated. The introduction of Andy Johnson and Victor Anichebe with a large chunk of the match still to run increased Everton’s potency marginally. But they were feeding on scraps. Anichebe had entered the fray with the game 66 minutes old, 13 minutes after Johnson – and the switch was always likely as the enigma that is Yakubu produced one of his slumbering September displays rather than the towering November performances which pointed to a shift in mindset. The Nigerian almost seemed to accept that Sol Campbell and Silvain Distin provided too formidable a barrier to disturb, and he ended the match without troubling David James. He wasn’t alone. Everton’s only notable effort at goal was a Mikel Arteta free-kick which flew straight at the former England keeper. That’s not to say Everton lacked ambition. Five minutes from time the sight of Joleon Lescott swishing his hips and dribbling to the byline to pull-back for Osman to fire over underlined that. A couple of minutes later Lescott made a more decisive contribution in a more predictable area of the pitch. Tim Howard scrambled to his left to parry Kanu’s fierce drive, but the ball bounced loose into the danger area. Kanu looked favourite to get there first, but Lescott launched his studs at the ball and just about got there before the Pompey substitute to prod the ball behind for a corner. It would have been one of those moments where the goalkeeper and defender exchange high-fives, except Pompey took the corner quickly. This time Lee Carsley was alive to the danger. Portsmouth are a much improved unit this season and a point at Fratton Park is a prize to be cherished. Everton forced a corner of their own in the final second of time added on, raising hopes of an unlikely smash and grab raid, but referee Peter Walton humanely blew for time. Everton didn’t deserve to snatch a seventh win in their last eight matches. But equally, they were fully entitled to the point which extended their unbeaten run to six weeks. This match will not live long in the memory, but it does maintain confidence and momentum . . . and that will do very nicely for now thank you.
Moyes forced to take Pienaar precaution
Dec 3 2007 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES was forced to cut short one of Steven Pienaar’s most promising performances of the season on Saturday, to save him from a red card. The little South African had been booked for a late tackle on John Utaka after just 24 minutes of the goalless draw at Portsmouth. Then a tug on Papa Bouba Diop’s shirt had travelling fans fearing the worst. He was given a final warning by ref Peter Walton, and Moyes decided to make a change just eight minutes into the second half. “I was going to take Steven off at half-time,” said Moyes “but I thought I’d just give it five minutes in the second half. “Then I thought ‘something could happen here at any moment’.
“Steven had played well and was probably our most influential player on the ball. But it was a decision we had to make reluctantly. “It was a lot to do with the conditions.
“He’d been booked, but then he had a tug at a shirt which didn’t warrant a booking and I think the referee got it right just talking to him.” Pienaar had started brightly and had provided Everton’s most threatening moments before he was sacrificed to make way for Andy Johnson’s arrival and a more conventional 4-4-2. Joleon Lescott and Joseph Yobo were then the stars of a backs to the wall performance by the Blues and skipper Phil Neville said: “Our two centre-halves were like giants. Not much got over their heads. “It was a really tight game. It was a difficult game for the forwards. There was no space. “It’s a really tight pitch here. You need near perfect weather conditions to get the ball down and play. “It was a difficult game. We’re probably pleased with a point but not totally happy with the way we played. We needed to show a bit more composure. “Our final pass let us down. But defensively we were solid, so we'll take that away with us. “They’re a massive team. The biggest danger was set pieces and we really had to do a job on set pieces because every player seemed to be 6ft 4in and over. “We coped well. I don’t think many teams will come here and get three points.”
Why Lescott can be the modern day Sol
Dec 3 2007 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES believes England new boy Joleon Lescott has the class to bounce back from the Croatian debacle, and become a modern day Sol Campbell.
Campbell and defensive partner Sylvain Distin, together with Everton duo Lescott and Joseph Yobo, were the star performers of Saturday’s goalless draw at Fratton Park.
And afterwards Moyes enthused: “I didn’t think Joleon should have been disappointed with his England display because I watched that game and thought out of the boys at the back Joleon was the one who could have taken most credit from it. “That was my opinion, and he was also the one who was the most inexperienced on the night.
“I thought he stood up to the challenge and was pretty solid. “He came back from that and last week he did okay. Today I thought he was top drawer. He really was.
“I’ve said before he can play centre-half and he can play left back, and there are very few players today who can do that. “To have a left-footed centre-back who can also play left-back is one of the things we’re always looking for in the game.
“I think long-term the experience will do him good and hopefully he will be good for England in the future as well. “You have to remember we got him out of the Championship not much more than a year ago. “Sol Campbell is a terrific defender and with time Joleon can reach that level too. “Centre halves get better with age as they mature, and understand the position better.” Moyes was delighted with Everton’s defensive display at Portsmouth, but he admitted his side only looked like breaking the deadlock themselves in the closing stages. “I was pleased with the defensive side of the game,” he said. “The two centre halves were excellent and the goalkeeper was excellent. “Last week it was all about goals so it was probably a certainty that we wouldn’t get one this week. “I think the conditions didn’t help. The wind was near gale force in the first half and Portsmouth are a big, strong, powerful side so it may have helped them a little more than it helped us. “We wanted to get the ball down and try and play, but we only did that on a couple of occasions and when we did we made the wrong choice. “I wasn’t pleased with what we were seeing and I wanted to change and in the second half I thought we started to have a bit of a go and look as if we were as liable to score as maybe Portsmouth were. “I’ve been saying for a few weeks, I think it will be as hard to get into the top 10 of the Premier League this year as maybe it has been to get into the top four in the past. “Blackburn, Villa, West Ham, Portsmouth, Everton, Manchester City are all doing well, so it will be really tough.
“I think a lot of it has to do with money. A lot of those clubs have big investors and backers which helps to raise standards. “We’ve bought big by our standards, but in the main we’re one of the sides that doesn’t have that. “We always try and compete and I think we have done in the last three or four seasons. “You can go and throw your money at it like some clubs have done, but we have done it differently.
“We have tried to build year by year, but as you can see by the sackings going about at the moment a lot of clubs don’t allow that to happen. “We have had a plan in place for a long time now about how we want Everton to go forward. The board have backed me on that and we have gradually improved. “The club are really good. They give everything they can and in return I try and get the best out of the players and get the best results. “We have made signings which haven’t been very good, but you show me a manager who hasn’t. “You make signings and you do them for all the right reasons. I think we’ve made some good ones and the players are showing that.” Everton’s biggest signing, record transfer Yakubu, had a quiet afternoon and was substituted with 25 minutes remaining, but Moyes said: “It was a difficult day for Yak probably because of the conditions and the way the game went. He found it hard and when we did have the ball we made the wrong decisions.”
Everton get Oldham in FA Cup
Dec 3 2007
EVERTON have been drawn against League One Oldham in the third round of the FA Cup. It will be the first time the two sides have met since Oldham dropped out of the top flight in 1994. Everton won both games that season, but last time the two teams met in the FA Cup, Oldham won - that was in 1990 and after two replays.
Oldham are managed by John Sheridan and beat Crewe in round two of the cup.
Third round games will be played on January 5 and 6 next year Full draw:
Preston v Scunthorpe; Port Vale/Chasetown v Cardiff; Colchester v Peterborough; Bolton v Sheff Utd; Blackburn v Coventry; Brighton v Mansfield; Northampton/Walsall v Millwall; Charlton v West Brom; Watford v Crystal Palace; Luton/Nottm Forest v Liverpool; Plymouth v Hull; Aston Villa v Man Utd; Tranmere v Hereford; Tottenham v Reading; Burnley v Arsenal; Bristol City v Middlesbrough; Fulham v Bristol Rovers; Huddersfield v Birmingham; Horsham/Swansea v Havant & Waterlooville; Sunderland v Wigan; Oxford/Southend v Dag & Red; Everton v Oldham; Derby v Sheff Wed; Southampton v Leicester; West Ham v Man City; Ipswich v Portsmouth; Wolverhampton v Cambridge Utd; Barnsley v Blackpool; Chelsea v QPR; Stoke v Newcastle; Swindon v Burton Albion/Barnet; Norwich v Bury
Home comfort for Blues and Rovers
Dec 3 2007 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
LIVERPOOL face a possible repeat of their 2006 FA Cup classic at Luton Town, while Everton and Tranmere were handed straightforward home ties in yesterday’s third round draw. The Reds won an eight-goal thriller at Kenilworth Road last January on their way to winning the FA Cup, and could face a repeat if Luton can overcome Nottingham Forest in next week’s second round tie. The clash between the League One rivals was delayed after Luton needed a replay to overcome Brentford in the first round, but they will meet at Kenilworth Road on December 11 with Liverpool awaiting the winner. Everton will entertain League One side Oldham at Goodison Park. The Blues snapped up Academy prospect Scott Spencer from the Latics in 2006, while Oldham have also been managed by Blues legends Joe Royle and Graeme Sharp – and more recently Tranmere boss Ronnie Moore. Rovers were rewarded for their excellent 3-0 win at Bradford on Saturday with a home draw. Moore’s men will face League Two high-flyers Hereford, after the famous FA Cup giant-killers disposed of League One Hartlepool at the weekend. The Bulls entered FA Cup folklore in 1972 when they famously drew with Newcastle at St James’ Park, before becoming the first non-league team to knock out a top flight side for 23 years in a memorable third round replay. They also held West Ham in the fourth round before losing an Upton Park replay, and Tranmere will be keen to finish the tie at the first time of asking and avoid an Edgar Street replay. Everton met Oldham in 1990 in an FA Cup tie which went to two replays before the then Second Division side went through.
Oldham are managed by John Sheridan and beat Crewe to reach the third round.
Ties will be played on January 5 and 6 next year.
KENDALL ANGLES FOR REPUBLIC JOB
4th December 2007 Daily Star
Former Everton manager Howard Kendall has put himself forward for the vacant Republic of Ireland job. The 61-year-old, whose second spell in charge at Everton ended in 1998, believes his experience in the game is enough to make him a contender, and - after confirming he had made enquiries about becoming Steve Staunton's successor - revealed he would like former player Peter Beardsley to be his number two. "I've had long enough out of it now and I feel it would be perfect for me and hopefully for them. I've made some enquiries," he told Sky Sports News.
Kendall rejected any suggestion his time away from management would count against him. "Look at the CV and go through the history of what I've done," he added.
Kendall played for Preston, Everton, Birmingham and Stoke before moving into management with Blackburn. Kendall also managed in Spain and Greece and took charge of Manchester City and Sheffield United, but it was during his first spell as manager of Everton that he made his mark. During his six-year spell at Goodison Park in the 1980s the club won the league twice, the FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup, but despite being out of management for almost a decade he does not feel he is out of touch. Kendall added: "I am in touch with the modern game, I write a column in the local newspaper and I go and watch Premier League football every week. "I know who I would put in place. If he was interested, the likes of Peter Beardsley, I think he would be superb. I have spoken to Peter and he said he would love to work with me again."
Shooting boots missing for once
Dec 4 2007Academy Football
by Chris Wright, Liverpool Daily Post
EVERTON under-18s failed to take their chances and had to settle for a goalless draw with Bolton Wanderers on Saturday. Neil Dewsnip’s side have still lost just once – to leaders Manchester City – and lie second on goal difference, but they couldn’t collect all three points on Saturday as a combination good goalkeeping and lack of a killer instinct cost them. Coach Dewsnip said: “It was a good performance and we started the game very, very well. We had numerous chances to score early on, and we controlled the game, but after that first 20 minutes it was fairly ‘even-Steven’. “We did have a lot of chances, but we lost our shooting boots, which is something we haven’t struggled with all season. So that is disappointing not to have scored but keeping another clean sheet is encouraging.” Dewsnip added: “There is no great panic over not scoring as the lads have done well all season and you put it down to one of those things and get back at it the next chance we can, which is the Youth Cup.” Everton were due to play Blackburn Rovers in the Academy League this Saturday before next Tuesday’s FA Youth Cup third round tie with Bristol City at Goodison Park (kick-off 7pm), but the match has now been postponed. With many of the Academy squad needed for the reserves this week, Everton have called off the Blackburn match to give more preparation time for the prestigious Youth Cup clash. On the Youth Cup clash coach Dewsnip said: “Our spirit it good and morale is very high, so we hope we can carry on our league form on into the cup. “The fact that it is a home draw is lovely because the lads will get to play at Goodison Park at least once this season.” Everton striker Lewis Codling limped out of Saturday’s match with Bolton with a dead leg, but is expected to be fit for the Youth Cup next week, but Cory Sinnott, who has a medial ligament problem, is taking longer to recover and is a doubt. EVERTON UNDER-18s: Stubhaug; Stewart, McCarten, McCardle, Barnett; Akpan, McCready, Redmone, O’Kane; Agard (Baxter 60), Codling (Powell 55). Subs: McEntagart, Sheppard.
Victor Anichebe in pledge to Nigeria
Dec 4 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
VICTOR ANICHEBE is set to pledge his international future to Nigeria.
And that is likely to mean Everton’s striker will miss a large chunk of his side’s games in January to join his compatriot Joseph Yobo in Ghana as the Super Eagles bid for glory in the African Cup of Nations. However, the odds on Ayegbeni Yakubu joining them in Berti Vogts’ squad are decreasing by the day as he is at loggerheads with Nigeria’s coach and there is no sign of the frost between them thawing.
Anichebe, though, is looking forward to the chance of taking the next step up for the country of his birth - his family lived in Lagos before they moved to Crosby when he was a baby - and is eager to finally clarify the issue. “It’s my home country and I can’t really see myself playing for England,” said Anichebe. “I go back there every year, every Christmas, but because now Everton have all their games over that period, I go back in the summer. “My family is massive over there. “My mum and dad are considering moving back there soon because they don’t enjoy it over here because my family is all out there.” For the moment, Anichebe will be looking to continue his hot streak in Europe tomorrow when Everton could wrap up matters in UEFA Cup Group A with a victory over Zenit St Petersburg. Depending on the result in the evening’s other fixture between AZ Alkmaar and Nurnberg, a win at Goodison Park would be enough for Everton to progress through to the last 32 as group winners.
And Zenit’s vastly experienced manager Dick Advocaat is under no illusions about the size of the task his squad face – the Russian league finished last month and he is having difficulty keeping his side focused. “My players are looking forward to the holiday, it won't be long before the new season begins,” said Advocaat.
“It has been a long hard season for them, although it is a nice feeling to be champions.
“I hope they can focus for one last time and they realise how important this game is to the club. “It is our last game of the season and it will be a hard game. “Five points would normally qualify you but we have to see what happens. I have still to watch their game against Portsmouth but Everton have gone eight games unbeaten so you cannot do that if you don't have quality in the team. “I know their players are hard working and physical but they have a lot of talent as well.”
Nigel Martyn: Euro stage just perfect for Blues
Dec 4 2007 by Nigel Martyn, Liverpool Echo
THE UEFA Cup maybe one of the most derided tournaments in football but it has been nothing but invaluable for Everton this season. It’s not too hard to understand why so many people are quick to criticise the format: Why should teams who fail in the Champions League be rewarded with a place in the UEFA Cup’s last 32? And there is no disputing there are too many low quality teams cluttering up the early stages. You won’t, however, hear too many complaints from Goodison Park. We’ve played four games so far during this campaign and I fully expect the fifth tomorrow evening to end in us having guaranteed a place in the knockout rounds.
With each match they play, you can see the lads growing in confidence and understanding exactly what is expected of them. It augurs well for the future, particularly when they will becoming up against better opposition. Certainly Zenit St Petersburg will be the best side Everton tackle in Group A. But with the Russian season having finished last month, they are unlikely to be as battle hard as the Blues and, for that reason, we will have the edge. Given the lads have more nous now and are playing with great confidence, I can’t see them jeopardising all the early good work by doing anything rash against Zenit, and it would be terrific if we could win the group with a game to go. Few would dispute that David Moyes has his players operating at their maximum and he will be anxious to ensure Everton stay in the tournament as long as possible, in as much as he wants to raise his own profile.
I wasn’t surprised to hear that he distanced himself from the Scotland job. He is still too young for a job of that type but in 15 years from now, who knows? He is a very proud Scotsman and I’ve no doubt he would love the chance to have a crack at it then.
But he knows he will have to prove himself in Europe regularly and he has made an excellent start this season, after the disappointments in 2005. A win against Zenit would only reinforce that opinion and hopefully that will be the case.
Everton are one of the Premier League’s in-form teams and would you be surprised if we are here next week talking about a 10 game unbeaten run? Zenit and Fulham are the types of games that we are now going to be expected to win. And why not?
Saturday’s tussle with Portsmouth might have lacked excitement but I think it was an excellent point and it just keeps things ticking over nicely. All being well, it will continue to Christmas and beyond.
Real gem Carsley is a master of midfield
LEE CARSLEY will never be talked about on Match of the Day or attract lots of big headlines. But just ask his team-mates how important he is to Everton’s ambitions.
In many ways, he is the Blues’ insurance policy. He provides terrific cover for the central defenders, is the perfect foil for his midfield colleagues and keeps everything together. Basically, he’s just a good footballer. Some may say that he is the wrong side of 30, but judging by the way Cars has been playing, there is every reason to believe he is getting better. He is a master of the position he fills on the pitch and has learned how to perfect the job. It’s no coincidence over the amount of balls he cuts out during a game by getting into outstanding positions, tracking runners and being able to nip attacks in the bud before they have chance to develop. If the wider audience are oblivious to his talents, that’s certainly not the case at Goodison Park. He will be getting plenty of accolades from his team-mates and rightly so - you only have to see when Cars scores a goal the esteem in which he is held. When you grind out the kind of draw that Everton did at Portsmouth on Saturday, it is absolutely essential to have someone like Cars on top of his game and that was the case. He has been remarkably consistent since he came back into the side. Long may it continue.
The day Howard Kendall took on Sir Alf!
Dec 4 2007 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
SIR ALF RAMSEY was a strict disciplinarian who ruled the England national team with an unrelenting authority. But once, just once mind, Howard Kendall refused to wilt under his icy glare – and snapped back at the only English manager to win the World Cup. The moment is captured for posterity on a fascinating and touching tribute to the most successful boss in Everton history. “I couldn’t help it,” said a now embarrassed Kendall, who explained the background to the incident.
Sir Alf was the boss who gave out England caps as freely as Scrooge handed out Christmas goodwill, and Kendall was the best known victim, making it to the Wembley touchline as an England substitute, but never once into the fray.
Kendall was in the twilight of his career at Birmingham when Ramsey took over as caretaker-manager at St Andrew’s and after his first match in charge he marched into the dressing room. “I’d done pretty well – and Sir Alf looked at me and said he hadn’t seen a finer midfield performance, or something like that,” said Kendall. “I couldn’t help myself. I just snapped back ‘pity you didn’t think that when I was on the touchline at Wembley!’ “I immediately thought ‘Oh no. What have I said?’ I shouldn’t have spoken out of turn, but I just couldn’t help myself.” The tale is just one of many contained in the 100-minute ‘Howard Kendall - My Life Story’ DVD – and Kendall’s qualities as a footballer receive a ringing endorsement from a man whose status at Anfield is as legendary as Kendall’s at Goodison. Kenny Dalglish was still a relative youngster when he came face to face with Kendall in a match, and he said: “I couldn’t get near him. He was a fantastic footballer. That day he made himself space to play, passed the ball fantastically, stopped me from playing. “Obviously he was older and more experienced than me, but it was certainly an education to have played against him.” The DVD takes Kendall on an flashback through his life, with journeys to Usworth junior school in Washington, Preston’s Deepdale, Goodison Park and even Athletic Bilbao’s San Mames Stadium. There are many varied and colourful anecdotes – including an in depth and touching tribute from a now tanned and relaxed looking Duncan Ferguson. There are contributions from two knights of the realm, Sir Tom Finney and Sir Philip Carter, tributes from across the park by John Barnes, Ian Rush and Roy Evans, player views from Andy Gray, Peter Beardsley, Duncan Mckenzie, Dave Watson and Graeme Sharp, the view from the boardroom by Bill Kenwright, and tributes from the world of entertainment from Billy Butler, Ricky Tomlinson and Claire Sweeney. The tributes are warm and gushing, without ever becoming cloying, and even though there is no actual football footage , it doesn’t seem to matter. Becoming the youngest footballer to play in an FA Cup final is discussed, together with his entry into management, his signings, good and bad, the awful moment when his children left the house to go to school and found “Kendall Out” painted on the garage doors, his reasons for leaving Goodison for Bilbao and the day he nearly signed Ian Rush! Contributors are asked to describe Kendall in just three words, and Sir Philip Carter manages to invent one new to the Oxford English Dictionary. Other Evertonians are more conventional. “He hasn’t got an enemy in the world,” said Joe Royle. “I am talking about him now and I am smiling. He’s just a lovely bloke . . . Everton’s most successful manager.” Dave Watson added: “He managed hundreds of players and I don’t think there are many who have a bad word to say about him.” Peter Reid finishes the DVD by smiling at the camera, shrugging his shoulders and saying: “He’s simply the best.” While Reid delivers the last word of an excellent DVD, he doesn’t supply the last image. That belongs to Jack Kendall, Howard’s dad, who his son dedicated the DVD to.
He’d be very, very proud.
MOYES: NOW IS TIME TO DELIVER SILVER
5th December 2007 Daily Star
By Dave Lyons
David Moyes has ordered his Everton men to end a long famine and win some silverware this season. Skipper Phil Neville admitted last night that the team have been left in no doubt about the lack of trophies – and that they must put things right.
As Everton prepared for tonight’s UEFA Cup clash with Zenit St Petersburg at Goodison Park, Neville said: “The manager is demanding something from us this year. “It is not about surviving, or getting a UEFA Cup place – he actually wants us to win some silverware. “With the amount of money the manager has spent, and the fact that we have been getting into European positions in recent seasons, there comes a time when you have to put your balls on the line and say ‘We need to win a trophy’.
“We are getting to that point now. We are all confident and believe we can really make in-roads into winning a major trophy.” Moyes was coming to the end of an undistinguished playing career at Preston when Everton last plundered a prize.
Paul Rideout’s header against Manchester United in 1995 was enough to seal a famous FA Cup triumph. That win was the last in England’s leading cup competition by a club outside of the top flight’s established elite and emphasises the gap between them and the rest. Everton, under Moyes, have suffered more than most. They have fallen at the first hurdle on five occasions in various competitions and a FA Cup fifth-round defeat to United in 2005 is their best showing. They need just a point against a Zenit outfit coached by ex-Rangers boss Dick Advocaat to guarantee a place in the UEFA Cup last 32. Neville added: “The squad, even in the time I have been here, has gone from a homegrown British type of squad to a real Continental, technical squad.
“We still play the Everton way – but there is a lot more quality now”. Everton: Wessels: Hibbert, Jagielka, Lescott, Baines; Arteta, Neville, Carsley, Pienaar; Cahill; Johnson. Zenit: Contofalsky; Anyukov, Dong-Jin, Lombaerts, Skrtel; Sirl, Tymoschuk, Zyryanov, Dominguez; Arshavin, Pogrebnyak.
Liverpool Res 3, Everton Res 0
Dec 5 2007Liverpool Daily Post
LIVERPOOL Reserves recorded a comfortable 3-0 victory over their Everton counterparts in a one-sided Premier Reserve League Northern Section match at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium last night. Two goals from Krizstian Nemeth and an own goal from Everton defender Patrick Boyle gave Gary Ablett victory over his old club, but the margin of victory could have been greater. Everton included Andy van der Meyde and James Vaughan, but both left the field injured in the second half. Boyle put through his own net after just 11 minutes when attempting to clear a Ronald Huth shot. Nabil El Zhar, Nemeth and Jordy Brouwer all went close to increasing Liverpool's lead, but Everton were within a whisker of an equaliser just before half-time when Ryan Harpur’s shot hit the outside of the post. The second half was all Liverpool, and Nemeth scored his first after 56 minutes when he turned away from two defenders and struck a low shot into the corner of John Ruddy’s net. His second was a more simple finish after Ronald Huth had flicked on Sebastian Leto’s corner. El Zhar almost made it 4-0, before Everton produced a late rally that saw John Irving head against the bar and John-Paul Kissock and Kieran Agard both denied by Liverpool’s debutant keeper Dean Bouzanis. LIVERPOOL RESERVES: Bouzanis, Kelly (Darby 60), Insua, San Jose, Huth, Plessis, El Zhar, Spearing (Duran 76),Brouwer (Pacheco 65), Nemeth, Leto. EVERTON RESERVES: Ruddy, Densmore, Boyle, Irving, Rodwell,Harper, Kissock, Vidarsson, Jutkiewicz (Morrison 78),Vaughan (Agard 59), van der Meyde (O'Kane 68).
David Moyes: Let's finish the job
Dec 5 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES is demanding a victory from his players tonight to guarantee a place in the UEFA Cup knockout stages and enhance their growing reputation.
The Blues lock horns with Zenit St Petersburg at Goodison knowing they can effectively wrap up matters in Group A by beating the Russian champions.
Though tickets are still available, Everton expect another near capacity attendance and Moyes – who was overwhelmed by the support in the last UEFA Cup game in Nuremberg – hopes the backing will be as good as it has been all season.
While he is expected to make a number of changes to his starting line-up – Joseph Yobo (ankle) and Tim Howard (stomach bug) are definitely ruled out – the manager has confidence that Everton will have enough quality to extend their unbeaten run to a ninth game. “I would like to get Everton back on the European map and show people that there is a growing football club in England that are out there with the top four and doing well,” Moyes said today. “I think we have to continue to do well in the Premier League and keep building and make European football a regular occurrence. We have only won a couple of group games, we have done nothing. But it is better than what it was. “We have got some big games coming up but we are not through yet and that is my focus. The support we have had in Europe this season has been terrific. It was so good outside our hotel in Nuremberg that I didn't have to give a team talk.”
Moyes will not pick his team until shortly before kick-off but Phil Jagielka is expected to be given the nod to start for the first time since the defeat against Liverpool on October 20. Andrew Johnson and Leighton Baines are also pushing hard for first team recalls and with eight games between now and New Year’s Day, Moyes wants every member of the squad primed for action. Moyes said: “I’m wary of getting everyone in condition to play in the coming weeks. A few players will come into consideration. Next Wednesday we have another big game (a Carling Cup quarter-final against West Ham) and an important league match with Fulham in between. I have to think one step ahead all the time. “I have got to be careful and think about how much the players are playing just now. But that’s the way we want it.”
Meanwhile, there was good news surrounding James Vaughan this morning. The young striker limped off during last night’s 3-0 mini-derby defeat but his substitution was just precautionary.
How Everton can qualify
Dec 5 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
l If Everton win tonight and AZ Alkmaar draw with Nuremberg, the Blues will finish on top of Group A with a game to go. l If Everton draw tonight and AZ Alkmaar beat Nuremburg, they will only need a draw in Holland in their final game to win Group A.
l If Everton lose tonight and Nuremburg beat Alkmaar, the Blues will need a draw in Holland in two weeks’ time to guarantee a place in the last 32. l If both matches are drawn this evening, Everton will be guaranteed a place in the last 32. l If Everton lose and Alkmaar win, they will be guaranteed a place in the next phase but will need to win in Holland to top Group A.
Everton AGM: Bill Kenwright faces new ground fury
Dec 5 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
IN the end, it was exactly how Bill Kenwright expected. Tempestuous, traumatic and torrid. One subject predictably dominated Everton's Annual General Meeting just as it has towered above everything else for the past 12 months. Few subjects in the club’s 129-year history have ever evoked such feeling amongst supporters nor is it likely that another topic will come close to matching opinions on moving away from Goodison Park in the next 129 years, either. The more the possible relocation to Kirkby was discussed in the Alex Young suite last night, the more emotions among shareholders became strained and some, quite clearly, will never be appeased on the matter.
“I was under no illusions that this was going to be a passionate and angry meeting and it lived up to my expectations,” said Everton’s chairman. And then some. As Kenwright was told by one irate individual: “You will be the man who murdered the soul of Everton” if he led the club to Kirkby, while another suggested that moving to Knowsley would “be the death of Everton”. Kenwright and his board of directors – including newest recruit Robert Earl – were urged to consider possible alternatives such as moving to the much-talked about Bestway site on the Scotland Road loop or redeveloping Goodison. Yet no matter what Kenwright, Keith Wyness or Chris Potts – from architects Savilles who has analysed every piece of land that has been offered as possible new site to Everton in the last four years – said, there was no appeasing certain sections of the crowd. Their concerns are totally understandable. Goodison Park is synonymous with Everton Football Club, a proper football ground and an arena that holds uncountable magical memories for every Blue that has stepped foot inside. The thought of leaving is, for some, too horrific to digest but there is no getting away from the fundamental issue that prompted initial thoughts of moving to the King’s Dock all those years ago: Goodison cannot provide the revenue to help Everton progress. Giving the old lady a facelift simply is not possible – Everton would lose vast amounts of money operating with just three functional sides of the ground open for four years – and capacity would reduce to around 37,500. What’s more, the price to re-modernise would be not far off double the cost of relocating in Kirkby, while logic suggested the Bestway site was an impossibility. Potts, a planning consultant, explained: “Back in the summer I looked at Bestway site and I gave the club my advice. I believe it was objective advice. My conclusion was the site was too small, too inaccessible and my advice to the club was not to take it forward.
“That was with advice from engineers and a designer. I am aware a solution has been offered by HOK (an architectural firm) but that solution is very expensive and would involve building a bridges over (Scotland) road. The financial side is extremely difficult.” Kenwright was not alone, however, in receiving a pillorying. Chief executive Wyness also bore the brunt after confirming all the eggs are in one basket; in other words, it is Kirkby or back to the drawing board if everything collapses.
“We have explored every alternative but we are still of the very strong opinion and united as a board that the Kirkby option is the only one that is deliverable,” said Wyness. “There are no guarantees. I stand exactly by what I said and that is that the planning process is very difficult. On a project of this scale, there is always a risk that it will be called in. There is no doubt about it. “But we believe we have prepared the application professionally and have lobbied the right people. We are going to make sure that we carry on working to make sure we get the right answers from the local MP for the people of Kirkby. “And we will do our best to make sure the project is not called in. But in a project of this size there are always going to be risks. Those are very obvious. We can’t guarantee anything. If there was a Plan B, it would be to come back to Goodison and start again.” Yet that does not mean L4 4EL will be modernised. Nirvana for Every Evertonian would be to find a cost effective way of making Goodison sparkle and shimmer again but every avenue has been exhausted. It just isn’t possible. “Of course we have explored X,Y and Z,” said Kenwright. “If there was a possibility of that, would I not be jumping at it? I also have to repeat what I have said about the consultants. The team we have brought in is first class.
“But to some you would think we have brought in Desperate Dan and Coco the Clown. Architects have looked at me like I am do-lally when I have mentioned redeveloping Goodison. It is just not deliverable.”
I’m the man for Ireland, says Howard Kendall
Dec 5 2007 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON legend Howard Kendall has put himself forward for the vacant Republic of Ireland job. The 61-year-old, the most successful manager in Everton’s history, believes his experience in the game is enough to make him a contender. Kendall confirmed he had made enquiries about becoming Steve Staunton's successor and then revealed he would like former player Peter Beardsley to be his number two. “I've had long enough out of it now and I feel it would be perfect for me and hopefully for them. I've made some enquiries,” he said. Kendall rejected any suggestion his time away from management would count against him. “Look at the CV and go through the history of what I've done,” he added. Kendall played for Preston, Everton, Birmingham and Stoke before moving into management with Blackburn.
Kendall also managed in Spain and Greece and took charge of Manchester City and Sheffield United, but it was during his first spell as manager of Everton that he made his mark. During his six-year spell at Goodison Park in the 1980s the club won the league twice, the FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup. His third and last spell at Everton ended in 1998, but despite being out of management for almost a decade he does not feel he is out of touch. Kendall added: “I am in touch with the modern game, I write a column in the local newspaper and I go and watch Premier League football every week. “I know who I would put in place. If he was interested, the likes of Peter Beardsley, I think he would be superb. “I have spoken to Peter and he said he would love to work with me again.”
Bidding war is all in name of cancer charity
Dec 5 2007 by Greg O'Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON and Liverpool memorabilia is up for grabs at a silent auction for a cancer charity. Macmillan Cancer Support is holding the Christmas auction to raise money for its Merseyside Appeal. Items include signed footballs, a large family Christmas fruit cake donated by David’s Cakes of Crosby and remote-controlled toys. Successful bidders will be contacted for payment and delivery or collection of the items.
Community fundraiser Tracey Morgan said: “This is such an easy way to help local people affected by cancer.” To take part contact Tracey at Macmillan Cancer Support, Newton House, Faraday Street, Birchwood Park, Warrington, WA3 6FW; e-mail email@example.com before noon on Tuesday, December 19 or call 01925 846751.
Everton's Kirkby move could wreck Liverpool high streets
Dec 5 2007
Exclusive by Nick Coligan, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON FC’s planned move to Kirkby could end up “degenerating” popular Liverpool high streets. For the first time, a new city council report formally challenges the £400m proposal to build a Blues stadium, a Tesco superstore and shopping district in the Knowsley town. It warns that established high streets in Norris Green, Old Swan, Walton and West Derby could all be affected by such a large development. The report also warned the possible impact of Everton leaving Goodison Park and the city was not being taken into account. Liverpool council was asked to respond to Knowsley council’s “vision” for Kirkby which was unveiled last month. It must be rubber-stamped or Knowsley councillors will not be allowed to approve any future planning application from the club. But Liverpool council officials raised a string of concerns about the vision which they will put before city councillors on Friday. They include: * It is not clear what impact the Kirkby development would have on shopping habits in the city centre and north Liverpool. * The size of the development “does not appear to be justified”. * There is “significant concern” about both the Tesco/Everton proposal and a rival scheme by current town centre owner Development Securities proceeding. * The vision does not address the impact on jobs and Walton businesses if the Blues leave Goodison. Executive member for regeneration Cllr Mike Storey said: “I am not getting involved in the rights and wrongs of the Everton move. But I am concerned the move will degenerate parts of the city. “Over the last 20 or 30 years out-of-town shopping developments have affected high streets and district centres all over Merseyside. “They can have a devastating effect on jobs and businesses. “These are major concerns and must be properly considered, not ignored just because it is about Everton or the regeneration of Kirkby.” The vision claims the stadium and shops would bring an extra £34.6m a year into Knowsley, create jobs, increase trade for local businesses and possibly increase property prices by between 3% and 12.5%. The development is earmarked for land south of Cherryfield Drive.
Dick Advocaat blast is perfect team talk for Everton
Dec 5 2007
By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DICK ADVOCAAT has a reputation for being one of Europe’s most astute coaches but clearly he has not been doing his homework. Perhaps the celebrations of leading Zenit St Petersburg to their first domestic title in 23 years have got in the way, but Advocaat could not possibly have hoped to be taken seriously at Goodison last night when offering his opinions on Everton. Could he? Advocaat, do not forget, took full advantage of the malaise that swept around Goodison at the turn of the millennium to whisk Michael Ball away from an ailing side and sign him for Glasgow Rangers when he was managing north of the border. Yet the transformation in the six years since that transaction has been nothing other than eye-catching and in the past few months, Everton have started to play with an infectious style and swagger that points to them being upwardly mobile. Not, though, according to Advocaat. In his opinion, little has changed at Goodison since Ball left and - in a withering attack on English football - he claimed that the Blues operate in a physical, one-dimensional manner. Never mind that artists such as Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar and Mikel Arteta - whom Advocaat once coached at Ibrox - have been instrumental in helping Everton go on an eight game unbeaten run, the Dutchman clearly does not feel they can live with his squad. “You can’t compare Everton with any side in our league as they play totally different in Russia,” said Advocaat. “We play football. Everton are a very physical side but difficult to beat. They have not changed since I was in Scotland. “In the last eight games, I have seen them work very hard and you do not get the results that they have been getting unless you are very difficult to beat and very physical. We are not like that. If we try to fight them, we will lose. “So we are going to have to try and avoid a fight. They play a typical style of English football. We have more technical types of players. In our league, we play pass and move, one and two touch football. “Here, it is more about playing the long ball into the area and then you start to fight for it in the final third. Okay, maybe Arsenal don’t do that. But the majority of teams play that way. That is the way that is.” If David Moyes was wondering how to phrase his pre-match team talk, it is unlikely he will need to say much now before sending Everton into the fifth assignment of this season’s UEFA Cup adventure. Victory against the Russian champions this evening would not only secure a place in the last 32, depending on the result between AZ Alkmaar and FC Nuremburg, it may also be good enough to see Everton finish on top of Group A with a game to go. Easier said than done, however. With Andrei Arshavin and Konstantin Zyryanov flying forward - the pair who terrorised Joleon Lescott in Moscow when he was on England duty - Zenit are likely to be the best side Everton have faced in Europe since Villarreal. That is something of which Moyes is acutely aware but it is not a challenge he finds daunting. Far from it. With a Carling Cup quarter-final looming on the horizon and the league campaign ticking along nicely, he hopes it is the start of something significant. “This is where we would hope to be,” said Moyes, who is likely to shuffle his pack considerably by handing starts to Phil Jagielka, Andrew Johnson and Leighton Baines, while Steffan Wessels will replace Tim Howard, who has a stomach bug. “We have to be pleased with the progress we have made. But we want to be in these situations more often. I want it to be the norm. I don’t want to be answering questions about games like these every so often. I want it to be all the time. “I want to be saying ‘there’s another quarter-final’ or ‘we’re in another semi-final’ but in the last five years that has not been the case. Things are improving all the time but we need to make sure that we are in all these competitions. “I always look to pick my best team but of course you think about things when you come up against a side as good as Zenit. They have got some really good players. They have got Russian internationals and a squad full of quality.” That may be the case, but it should not be forgotten that Zenit have only played two competitive games since winning the title on November 11, and this is the last fixture before their end of season break. A lack of match practice might just be their undoing, but Moyes will not leave anything to chance and intends to have his squad fired up. Hardly surprising after Advocaat’s remarks. “Does it mean that they are rested and fit?” he asked. “Or does it actually mean they are on holiday and don’t want to be involved? I’m not so sure how they view it. We have just got to concentrate on our own game and hopefully we will get the right result.”
MOYES PRAISES CAHILL WINNER
6th December 2007 Daily Star
Everton forced their way into the UEFA Cup's last 32 as group winners after a 1-0 triumph over Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg, with boss David Moyes hailing the contribution of match winner Tim Cahill. ahill, who has missed long spells this season recovering from a broken metatarsal, scored his sixth goal in nine games to keep Everton's European adventure alive. And Moyes said: "Tim popped up again with the winner, but that is what he does. I don't send him out telling him to score goals, he just does that anyway. He always goes out to score, he always wants to score. He is a very important player for us and his influence is growing game by game." He added: "It was Tim who forced their player into the offence that won us the penalty, and then he was there on the line to force the ball home when everyone else had stopped. Mikel Arteta missed that early penalty, which left Zenit with 10 men after Nicolas Lombaerts was wrongly sent off for that handling offence. Zenit's Dutch coach Dick Advocaat blasted the decision saying: "The referee got that one wrong, it left us with 10 men for an hour and cost us the game." Bt Moyes would disagree with that view, even if he accepted that Lombaerts did not handle the ball. Moyes said: "The penalty was a bit harsh, but we are having trouble with them at the moment, they just won't go in, it's the third we have missed in the competition. "But they were unlucky with the penalty and the sending off, at the time I could not see it but now I have watched the replay on TV the ball looked to hit the lad's body, it didn't look like hand-ball. "It hit his body and thigh so Zenit were definitely unlucky over that, and it cost them a player too."
MOYES DENIES FA CHARGE
6th December 2007 Daily Star
Everton manager David Moyes has denied a charge of improper conduct by the Football Association. The charge relates to comments Moyes made about referee Mark Clattenburg in the aftermath of his side's Barclays Premier League defeat to Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 20. Moyes, who has requested a personal hearing, is alleged to have called into question Clattenburg's integrity and/or implied he was motivated by bias following the tempestuous derb
Everton 1, Zenit St Petersburg (Echo)
Dec 6 2007
BY Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
SOME choose a night out, others prefer more relaxed affairs, but could Tim Cahill have got his birthday celebrations under way in a more appropriate manner? While he will doubtlessly be showered with numerous cards and presents to celebrate turning 29 today, nothing will give a midfielder whose worth to Everton is impossible to quantify more satisfaction than his winning goal against Zenit St Petersburg. For the sixth time in nine games, Cahill pounced at precisely the right time to give the Blues a fourth win on the spin in Europe and send them racing into the UEFA Cup’s last 32 as group winners. Where, you may rightly wonder, would they be without him? The one type of player that clubs all over Europe with grand designs of success covet more than anything else is a goalscoring midfielder and they would happily pay an eye-popping figure to do so. Breathe easy, though. Potential suitors can hanker after Cahill all they want but he is not going anywhere – and why would he want to? Everton may have been short of their fluent best last night but again left the impression that this campaign can become something special. Claiming the scalp of the Russian champions, giving them maximum points from their three fixtures in Group A, is something David Moyes and his players can feel hugely satisfied about. Yet while it is nice to have the luxury of being able to travel to Alkmaar in a fortnight without any pressure attached to their final fixture – another team not too far from here would love to be in the same position – now is not the time for resting on laurels. Nine games unbeaten is good but surely Moyes will take this chance to urge a squad bursting with confidence to raise it again? Cahill may be grabbing headlines, but every member is going to have a role to fulfil as Everton chase silverware. Moyes had been toying with the idea of giving a rest to a couple of individuals who have served him so well in recent weeks. It was no shock to see Andrew Johnson, James McFadden, Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka pitched back in. There was, nevertheless, one slight surprise in the manager’s team selection – the inclusion of Tim Howard. The American had been laid low with a stomach bug beforehand but, not surprisingly, he was anxious to maintain his recent good form. Yet Frankie Howerd could have been between the posts for the Blues during the opening exchanges as, heeding Moyes’ pre-match clarion call to get matters wrapped up, they never gave Zenit a chance to settle and should have been in front in the ninth minute. Seizing onto a pass from Steven Pienaar, McFadden – desperate to impress on his first start since October 31 – skipped away from Martin Skrtel but his cross to Johnson, who had the goal at his mercy, was cut out by Nicolas Lombaerts. Lombaerts was eventually central to the game’s defining moment and was the victim of a piece of refereeing that was every bit as bad as Mark Clattenburg’s calamity in the Merseyside derby. On this occasion, however, Everton were the beneficiaries of Kristinn Jakobsson’s decision to award a penalty and send Lombaerts off for what he adjudged to have been handball. Nothing could have been further from the truth. If it seemed harsh to the naked eye, television replays showed Jakobsson had made an almighty blunder as Lombaerts had thwarted a goal-bound shot from Cahill using a combination of his thigh and chest. Such decisions have a habit of evening themselves out and perhaps justice was done when Mikel Arteta skied the ensuing spot kick into the Gwladys Street. What is it about that end of the ground with penalties on European nights? Frustrating as that miss was, the blow was cushioned slightly by the fact Everton had the best part of an hour to play with a numerical advantage and Lee Carsley came agonisingly close to giving them the lead their effort and application deserved. Latching on to a loose ball in a flash 25 yards outside the area, Carsley bent a left-footed shot around a clutter of bodies and looked to have his angles absolutely spot on but, maddeningly, his effort bounced off the inside of the post and rolled to safety. Only then did the feeling start to develop that this was going to be one of those testing nights. For that, Zenit should be given huge credit. It would have been easy for them to wilt after losing Lombaerts but they tried wilfully to give Everton problems – Andrey Arshavin and Anatoily Tymoschuk, in particular, were outstanding. Had Everton shown even the slightest bit of naivety, Dick Advocaat’s side would have capitalised, so it was hugely encouraging that there was no sign of panic as time ebbed away. With wise owls Carsley and Phil Neville ensuring Everton did not lose their shape, a reward arrived in the 85th minute when Cahill bundled in from two yards after Joleon Lescott’s shot had been spilled. Bigger tests will await in the new year but momentum is certainly gathering behind what Everton are trying to achieve and, if Cahill stays fit, who knows? On this form, maybe he will celebrate something else in 2008 other than the big three-o. EVERTON (4-1-4-1): Howard; Neville, Jagielka, Lescott, Baines; Carsley; Arteta, Cahill, Pienaar, McFadden (Anichebe 65); Johnson (Vaughan 82). ZENIT (4-4-2): Malafeev; Dong Jin, Skrtel, Lombaerts, Anyukov (Lee Ho 78); Sirl, Tymoschuk, Zyrianov, Dominguez (Gorshkov 45); Arshavin, Pogrebnyak. GOALS – Cahill (85). BOOKINGS – Pogrebnyak (22), Sirl (34)Johnson (38) SENDING OFF – Lombaerts (29) REFEREE: Kristinn Jacobson (Iceland)
Everton 1, Zenit St Petersburg 0
Dec 6 2007
By Ian Doyle, at Goodison Park, Liverpool Daily Post
WHILE across Stanley Park fingernails are being gnawed at the prospect of a European decider, Everton supporters have the luxury of treating their team’s final group game as an opportunity for some last-minute Christmas shopping. After all, there will be few worries on the field in Holland in a fortnight after David Moyes’s side last night ensured their UEFA Cup campaign continues into the New Year. Tim Cahill once again proved the man for the grand occasion, celebrating his 29th birthday a day early by finally breaking the resistance of a resolute Zenit St Petersburg with a trademark strike five minutes from time. Coupled with Nurnberg’s 2-1 win over AZ Alkmaar, it was enough to secure not only qualification for the last 32 of the competition but also the all-important top spot in Group A with a game to spare. Moyes’s men will avoid opposition dropping down from the Champions League when the draw for the next round is made on December 21, instead facing the more palatable option of a third-placed team from another group. And given the manner in which they have swept aside all-comers so far in Europe, that should hold few fears for an Everton side that is becoming more accomplished with each Continental conquest. Metalist Kharkiv, Larissa, Nurnberg and now Zenit. All have offered a different challenge; all have been successfully negotiated. Admittedly, Everton were last night aided by referee Kristinn Jakobsson’s controversial decision to dismiss Zenit centre-back Nicolas Lombaerts for handball on the half-hour. Although Mikel Arteta skied the subsequent penalty into the Gwladys Street End – shades of Andrew Johnson against Metalist earlier in this UEFA Cup campaign – it was the task of playing the final hour with 10 men that ultimately proved too great for the visitors. Moyes had correctly identified Zenit as the strongest opposition in the group, with the Russia international Andrey Arshavin in particular a constant danger throughout. Zenit manager Dick Advocaat had in contrast been less than complimentary about Everton, dismissing them as a long-ball team who relied on brute force rather than any great guile or skill. The evidence last night will hopefully make the Dutchman realise how wrong he was. Changing perceptions has been a feature of Everton’s season, this win stretching their unbeaten run to nine games and a huge fillip ahead of their Carling Cup quarter-final at West Ham United next Wednesday. Advocaat’s assessment steeled Zenit for a physical encounter, and their disruptive tactics meant Everton struggled to replicate the ruthless streak that had obliterated Sunderland 10 days earlier. Chances that did come along weren’t taken such that profligacy seemed to have denied them victory until Cahill’s intervention, a sixth goal in nine games since returning from his long-term metatarsal injury. “The gaffer said ‘go and get me goal’ and fortunately I managed to do that,” said the Australian. “I am just pleased for the supporters. We’ve topped the group now and it’s a big stage for us to go on to. “We’ve worked really hard to be where we are. The gaffer has a group of players who want to play well together. For the staff, the supporters and everyone at Everton it was a special night.” Everton’s hectic period of fixtures had persuaded Moyes to make four changes from the team that followed the 7-1 thumping of Sunderland with a goalless draw at Portsmouth on Saturday. Zenit hadn’t played a competitive fixture since claiming the Russian title on November 11, their first championship in 23 years. And Everton sought to capitalise on the visitors’ rustiness in the first quarter. An early scramble in the penalty area led to Arteta hooking the ball goalwards over a flapping Zenit goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev only for an alert Kim Dong Jin to clear off the line. McFadden then spurned a decent opening when, after breaking from the halfway line and skipping beyond Martin Skrtel, his intended square pass to an expectant Johnson was too close to Lombaerts. Zenit, though, gradually found their rhythm and began to string some decent possession together without ever testing Tim Howard, who had been passed fit after about of illness earlier in the week. But the Russians should have been behind on the half-hour when Everton wasted a chance handed to them by referee Jakobsson. An Arteta free-kick wasn’t properly cleared and, after Steven Pienaar returned the danger into the Zenit penalty area, Cahill flicked the ball over the on-rushing keeper Malafeev and struck a shot that was blocked on the line by Lombaerts. Without consulting with his fellow officials, referee Jakobsson instantly awarded a penalty and dismissed the outraged Belgian centre-back. Television replays revealed that ire was understandable, the ball striking Lombaerts on the thigh and then the chest before drifting out of play. But Zenit were soon celebrating when the normally reliable Arteta, who scored from the spot in the previous UEFA Cup game against Nurnberg, blasted horribly over from the spot. The Spaniard almost made amends minutes later with an ambitious 35-yard free-kick that had Malafeev scrambling across his goal to parry clear from his top left-hand corner, and Lee Carsley then released a shot that struck the inside of the post and flashed back across goal. Zenit fashioned their first real chance five minutes after the interval when Howard was forced into a resourceful parry after Pavel Pogrebnyak had raced away from Phil Jagielka in pursuit of Arshavin’s smart pass. The increasingly influential Arshavin created another opening moments later with a clever chip over the home defence but Konstantin Zyrianov hurried his shot wastefully over. It was to be the last time Zenit seriously threatened. Everton’s desperation for a goal was underlined earlier in the half when Andrew Johnson and McFadden collided in pursuit of a loose ball behind the Zenit defence. Pienaar shot over, Arteta whistled an effort narrowly past the post and Carsley was again off target, but Zenit were happy to sit back and play on the break as Everton grew increasingly frustrated. The introduction of UEFA Cup specialist Victor Anichebe from the bench gave Zenit’s defence an extra headache, the striker later followed by fellow youngster James Vaughan. But it was Cahill that finally broke Zenit’s resistance five minutes from time. After his initial header from an Arteta right-wing corner was blocked, Lescott thrashed a shot that was brilliantly saved by Malafeev, but Cahill was on hand to force the rebound over the line from two yards. It may not have been the Australian’s most spectacular strike, but it was enough to give Everton an early Christmas present to their supporters. EVERTON (4-4-1-1): Howard; Neville, Jagielka, Lescott, Baines; Arteta, Carsley, Cahill, Pienaar; McFadden (Anichebe 65); Johnson ( Vaughan 81). Subs: Wessels, Boyle, Gravesen, Osman, Yakubu. BOOKING: Johnson (foul). ZENIT ST PETERSBURG (4-1-2-3): Malafeev; Anyukov (Ho 79), Skrtel, Lombaerts, Jin; Tymoschuk; Sirl, Zyrianov; Dominguez (Gorshkov 45), Pogrebnyak (Hagen 62), Arshavin. Subs: Contofalsky, Radimov, Ionov, Lebedev.
BOOKINGS: Pogrebnyak and Sirl (both fouls).
SENDING-OFF: Lombaerts (deliberate handball). REFEREE: Kristinn Jakobsson ( Iceland). ATT: 38,407 NEXT GAME: Everton v Fulham, Barclays Premier League, Saturday 3pm.
Dec 6 2007
What are your views on last night’s UEFA Cup win?
FIRST and foremost I’d like to sing the praises of ‘Mr Consistency’ Joleon Lescott for last night’s performance. I thought the defence played well and coped with the Russian champions quite easily, although Johnson and McFadden failed to make an impact in the first half. The second half substitution which saw Anichebe come on lifted the team. His direct approach is beneficial to this Everton side. Tim Cahill is as good as any attacking midfielder in the Premier League. His awareness and knack of being in the right place at the right time is crucial as his record shows, having scored six goals in nine games since his return from injury. For the first time since ‘85 we will still be in Europe after Christmas. That’s a fantastic achievement and finishing top of the group is the icing on the cake. We can now all enjoy the AZ Alkmaar game knowing that the pressure is off. Bring on the last 32! Tony Scott, Walton AS brilliant as it is to be through in the UEFA Cup, last night’s performance presented more questions than answers. The team have been playing great recently, mainly down to that 4-5-1 formation. Back to the traditional 4-4-2 which some fans crave, and we didn’t look anywhere near as comfortable. We also struggled without the creative presence of Osman in the central midfield, as in the second half especially we really struggled to break Zenit down. Sadly, I think last night spelt the end for McFadden. With Johnson and Yakubu good experienced goalscorers, and Vaughan and Anichebe excellent back-up, McFadden is the odd man out. Moyes gave him his chance to impress, and unfortunately, he did little to suggest he deserves another. We have effectively killed the Alkmaar game, which comes at a difficult period of the season. The opportunity to take it easy in Holland could be a huge help. Debbie Smaje, Upholland IT WASN’T a performance to set the world on fire, but it was a win nonetheless. A lot of individual mistakes cost us the chance to take full advantage of our extra man and put the game to bed earlier on. I was disappointed to see the ball being launched towards the corner flag now that Andy Johnson is back in the side. Another low point was James McFadden’s performance. His decision making is terrible and I think that he might have sealed a move away from the club last night. We lacked communication between the midfielders and the forwards, which is why we struggled to really threaten Zenit for long periods of the game. I don’t want to take anything away from the Russians though, who responded well to their red card. There is no doubt that last night proved to be our toughest test in Europe so far this campaign and the players will be glad to be under less pressure in Holland. Lets make it 10 games unbeaten on Saturday! Cole Fraser, Litherland THE late goal was nothing short of what we deserved, but credit must go to Zenit for keeping us at bay for most of the game with ten men. When we had all those chances and none of them went in, I thought it was just going to be one of those games that we dominate and get nothing out of, especially when Arteta missed the penalty! But we kept going at them and finally got the goal, albeit a little scrappy. It was that type of match that any type of goal was good enough for us, and I thought Lescott did superbly in the build-up and summed up a great game for him. To win Group A has been fantastic after the jittery start against Metalist, and we are now becoming more patient on the ball and our passing has been great, if at times over elaborate, to watch recently. We are adapting well to the European demands, bearing in mind we are still learning. Long may it continue. Michael Drummond, Speke
Bill Kenwright calling for trust of angry supporters
Dec 6, 2007
By Paul Walker, Liverpool Daily Posy Correspondent
EVERTON chairman Bill Kenwright has revealed his deep frustration at being pilloried by fans and shareholders over the future home of the club. Kenwright, also club owner, was accused at Tuesday’s AGM of being "the man who has murdered the soul of the club" by even considering a move away from Goodison to nearby Kirkby, and a purpose-build 51,000-seater stadium in partnership with Tesco. That possibility has enraged some fans who either want to see Goodison redeveloped or the club move to a site close to the city centre on Scotland Road, as suggested by Liverpool City Council. Despite all the uproar, chiefly based on fans’ horror at leaving the city, Kenwright and his board are expected to reveal a detailed planning application for Kirkby shortly. Kenwright, who has pleaded with fans to "trust me", insists that redeveloping Goodison could cost twice as much as the move to Kirkby, while the club have been told by their advisors that the Scotland Road site is not big enough. But Kenwright is still taking all the flak and he said: "I expected this reaction, I was under no illusions and expected a passionate, angry meeting. "I see a division between the fans, certainly at a meeting like we had. I’d be lying if I said I could not see it. I do not enjoy such occasions, not at all. How could I because I am getting brickbats thrown at me and often having conspiracy theories thrown at me. "I am trying to say ‘I am not an idiot, I am one of you’. If there was a possibility of something different do you think I would not be going for it? "We have consultants helping us, and the team we have brought in to look at these other schemes know what they are doing. You would think we had brought in Desperate Dan and Korky the Cat, the way people are talking. We have got the best in the business looking at all the options, including the Kirkby move." Kenwright insisted staying at Goodison is not out of the question. He added: "I have never said I would not consider rebuilding Goodison Park as a plan B. I am bored saying I don’t want to leave Goodison, but we have a deliverable option. "I have been talking to architects and planners even this week who think I am mad to even be thinking about staying at Goodison. "They say it is not deliverable but we still get people standing up and saying they know better. "If Kirkby does not work we do have a plan B. We are here, we will not be going anywhere until that is agreed and ready. "I am not a developer, so I have to rely on the advice given. But I do know what happened the last time we moved a stand at this ground and we played with a three-sided ground, we nearly got relegated. "But this time we would have to move four stands and redevelop the whole place. We would not be getting any help from anyone, certainly not Tesco. "We would still end up, according to the experts, with a ground that is a 37,500 all-seater stadium and that would cost us double what Kirkby would." It has been suggested that rebuilding Goodison would cost £200m, and the complicated Scotland Road scheme would be even more expensive at £300m and would create massive infrastructure problems. Kenwright said: "I don’t know whether it is £200m, or anything bigger, for what we would have to do here. But where would I find a bank or developer who would sign up to something like that in the current climate? "Across the park Liverpool’s people are trying to raise £400m and it is taking them months and months, and that is still ongoing. "Good luck to them, they have their own plans and I will be interested to see what happens. But two years ago that project was £170m, then it started to go up and up. "But at this club, if we state a figure that goes up by £10,000, we find ourselves being battered by people here. "The world is about making a decision, finding what we have to go for. You have to make a decision, and this is a difficult one for me. "We went to the fans to get permission to continue to discuss the Kirkby situation. And the vote came back with us being given that mandate."
Asda joins Everton stadium battle
Dec 6, 2007
Exclusive by Greg O’Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
ASDA was today revealed as the big-name rival to Tesco and Everton in the battle to regenerate Kirkby town centre. The supermarket giant’s interest is part of an alternative plan to the proposed Knowsley council-backed scheme in which Everton FC would move to the town. The American-owned company has signed an exclusivity deal with Development Securities. It owns much of the town centre and has already shown residents details of its own £200m plan. The latest twist comes only days before Tesco is due to submit a planning application for its £400m scheme to Knowsley council. Development Securities said it wants to build a new “anchor” Asda food store in the heart of the town centre to help revitalise shops around St Chad’s Parade. It would then turn Cherryfield Drive into a second bustling shopping centre with a health clinic, library, and possibly bars and restaurants. The company has said it is “neutral” about the prospect of Everton moving to Kirkby. Development Securities has left space off Valley Road for the Blues’ proposed stadium should the club press ahead with its relocation plans. The latest development comes only weeks after Everton and Tesco held a major public consultation exercise. Executive director of Development Securities Matthew Weiner said: “A Tesco Extra format supermarket is completely out of proportion with a 40,000-strong town like Kirkby. “With Asda officially on board with us the people of Kirkby can get the food store they need without the business being diverted from existing traders, increased congestion and loss of green space. “Our recent consultation and press reports prove that there is overwhelming concern about how Tesco’s plans would affect the residents and traders of Kirkby. “I would urge the council to undertake a more detailed and transparent consultation. “The people of Kirkby have a simple choice – option A with a new town centre and Asda, or option B with a Tesco and football stadium. “They should be given a chance to speak up and say what they prefer.” A Tesco spokesman said today: “We have not yet submitted our planning application to Knowsley council but will be doing so very shortly. “Analysing the responses to our recent public exhibition we know that there is a strong level of support for regenerating Kirkby. “Our £400m Destination Kirkby plans are deliverable, comprehensive and would provide a real positive change to the retail landscape of the town. “A supermarket alone would simply not achieve this level of change.” Meanwhile Kirkby residents opposed to the Everton/Tesco plans have challenged Blues chairman Bill Kenwright to come to Kirkby and talk to them. The call comes as the group held a meeting today to discuss the latest phase of their campaign to block the Tesco plans in which 71 homes would be demolished. Kirkby Residents Action Group spokesman the Rev Tim Strafford said: “It is absolutely vital that people in Kirkby, as well as businesses and politicians in Liverpool, Sefton, West Lancs and St Helens, understand that this could be the green light for a massive out-of-town shopping centre close to the M57. “We will be stepping up our campaign to ensure that people across Merseyside realise that this is not just an issue for Kirkby. “It is a crude attempt by a mega-retailer to use its muscle to strengthen their already dominant market position.” The group also want to ask Mr Kenwright about recent claims Everton want to build a ground capable of holding 75,000 supporters.
Tim Cahill is our goalden wonder - Tim Howard
Dec 16 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
TIM HOWARD today hailed Tim Cahill's priceless match-winning ability - as he likened him to one of the greatest goalscoring midfielders of the last decade.
Few Premier League midfielders have been able to emulate Manchester United’s Paul Scholes and regularly get into double figures every season but Everton star Cahill has a record that stands up to the closest scrutiny. The Australian international now has a tally that stands at 33 goals in 107 appearances for the Blues following his effort in the 1-0 win against Zenit St Petersburg last night and he could not have wished for a more successful return from injury. Having played with both men, Howard is well positioned to assess their merits and he is adamant that Cahill deserves to be bracketed alongside Scholes given he has the same incredible knack of being able to ghost into the right place at just the right time. “That’s why he gets paid the big money!” said Howard. “Seriously, he has done great in the past few weeks. He has come back on fire and long may it last. Tim is in really good form and that is the special thing about him - he just knows where to be. “He pops up right when you need him. He’ll stick his head in or his feet in if he thinks he can get a goal. He’s worth his weight in gold and he makes his own luck. Apart from being able to score, he also has a terrific engine. “It’s almost as if we could become too dependant on him. When we aren’t playing well, he just seems to come in and nick one. It’s so nice to have him. He’s very like Scholesy in that he has a knack of being able to score. “Scholesy is a bit crafty, whereas Tim likes to mix it up a bit more. He gets up in the air, while Scholesy has so many tricks. But those guys just have a knack for it. They sense where they need to be if they want to score. Six yards, 18 yards, it just doesn’t matter.”
Cahill’s latest goal, coupled with Nuremberg’s 2-1 defeat of AZ Alkmaar, means Everton progress to the UEFA Cup’s last 32 as winners of Group A and the keeper feels they have passed another milestone. It certainly lifted Howard’s spirits - he had been ruled out on the morning of the game with a stomach bug - and now he is looking forward to seeing who they are pitted against when the draw is held at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon on December 21. “It’s special,” said Howard. “We felt we had done really well to get maximum points from the first couple of games, so to do it again last night put the icing on the cake. Everything is so different from the Premier League. “When you look at team like Zenit, who are the Russian champions, you have to give them a load of respect. We hope that will help us in the future. We are on a great run at the minute and we want to protect it for as long as we can.”
David Moyes in praise of Everton's quick learners
Dec 6 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES has paid tribute to the fast learners who have propelled Everton into the UEFA Cup knockout stages. Having been criticised in their opening qualifying game against Metalist Kharkiv for being too naive, the Blues have not looked back since winning in Ukraine this autumn, and last night’s victory over Zenit St Petersburg was their fourth in succession. With Nuremburg beating AZ Alkmaar in Germany, it all means Everton have won Group A with a game to spare and Moyes is delighted that his side’s progress is starting to make people sit up and take notice.
Finishing on top also means they should receive a relatively kind draw in the last 32 and Moyes sees no reason why the adventure should end there, particularly now they know what to expect in the midst of continental combat. “It is a tremendous achievement for the club to have qualified for the UEFA Cup and to then win what I think is a strong group,” said Moyes, whose side secured victory thanks to Tim Cahill’s late poacher’s goal. “It’s a great time for everyone here and I’m delighted that we will now go into the New Year in the next round. The players have played really well in this tournament, and you can look at the games against Metalist, Larissa and Nuremburg before this one. “I think we are beginning to grasp the games a little bit and understand them. That has come from the experience of playing in the competition. We were playing the Russian champions and they are a big team to beat.
“Zenit have some excellent technical players, but it’s wrong not to put Steven Pienaar, Mikel Arteta and James McFadden, who are extremely technically gifted players, into that category. “We can now go and enjoy a game against a good Dutch team.”
While Everton benefited from the most controversial incident of the evening – Zenit’s Nicolas Lombaerts was sent-off when referee Kristinn Jakobsson adjudged him to have handled a shot from Cahill - Moyes was adamant they were worthy winners.
“I didn’t think it was a red card and I didn’t think it was a penalty either,” said Moyes. “It hit the boy on the thigh and then the chest. I couldn’t really tell from the distance I was sat, but I’ve seen the television replays and it wasn’t a penalty. “But I thought our performance was very good, and it was wave after wave of attacks from us. I thought for most of the night we dominated. We could have had more goals. “Zenit have one or two great players and had a really good chance in the second half, but throughout the game we had several different opportunities. Probably our final ball was slightly off but we made enough chances.” Fortunately for Moyes, Cahill snaffled the last opportunity that came his way to take his tally since returning from injury to six goals in nine appearances. “I keep saying about Tim that is what he does,” said Moyes. “He was a bit unlucky with the one that was cleared off the line that was given as a penalty.”
Dixie’s life story a Capital celebration
Dec 6 2007 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON Shareholders’ Association has announced a four-point plan to add the Blues’ name to next year’s Capital of Culture celebrations. The centrepiece will be a play celebrating the life story of Dixie Dean, to be staged almost 80 years to the day after Dean scored his record-breaking 60th league goal. But local schoolchildren will also be encouraged to join in the celebrations with a Dixie Dean themed arts competition, a poetry competition – and special football training sessions.
Paul Wharton, of the Everton Shareholders, explained: “We wanted Everton, the first club of this city, to be represented in the Capital of Culture celebrations.
“And celebrating the 80th anniversary of Dixie Dean’s never to be beaten goalscoring record seemed an appropriate way to do just that.” In conjunction with local theatre company Arts2u, the Association has a series of events planned to coincide with the May 5 landmark. The centrepiece, however, will be the play staged at the Liverpool Olympia. The Dixie Dean Story will have a three-performance run, under the direction of Gillian Beattie, featuring digital technology and music and with a script written by author, broadcaster and Dixie Dean biographer John Keith. Arts2u will also be outreaching schools and youth groups throughout Merseyside for football training with professional players, poetry and art competitions, culminating with an awards presentation on Dixie anniversary day, May 5 , 2008. The art and poetry competitions – with free entry for Liverpool, Wirral, Knowsley and Sefton schools, will be launched early next year. Arts2u are also offering football training sessions with professional footballers – for adults and 11-17 year-olds, as part of the celebrations.
Sponsorship packages for the show can be booked by contacting Arts2u on 0151 284 7067, 07702 809 751, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For further details visit the website at www.arts2ulimited.com
Phil Jagielka happy to be Everton's Mr Versatile
Dec 7 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
PHIL JAGIELKA is ready to become Everton's jack of all trades to improve his chances of becoming a first team regular. Much was expected of Jagielka when he became the Blues’ first signing last summer but, so far, his chances to impress have been few and far between, a stark contrast to life at his old club Sheffield United were he once made 133 consecutive starts. However, the England B international impressed when he was called into action against Zenit St Petersburg on Wednesday, and if Joseph Yobo fails to recover from an ankle injury, he will keep his place at centre-half when Fulham arrive at Goodison Park tomorrow. That is likely to become his long-term position but given that Everton face another eight matches between now and New Year’s Day, Jagielka knows there is a chance he could be asked to fill a variety of positions and has promised to answer every call from David Moyes.
“It’s been a little while since I last started but there’s not an awful lot you can do about it when the lads are playing so well,” Jagielka said today. “We know it is going to be a team game and we have got a decent squad. “As and when you are called upon - and wherever you are asked to play - you have just got to try to do your best. We are doing well in the Carling Cup as well as the league, so we are going to be playing two games a week from now until the New Year at least. “You can’t play the same 11 all the time and if you can, you are very fortunate. But I’m sure the gaffer will chop and change things around and when you get a chance, you have got to make sure that you do your best for the boys. “I’ve not had much chance to play alongside any of the lads at the back so far but we are going to lose Joe for a little while in January.
“The gaffer may choose to bring someone in but if not, he’s got three of us to choose from. It’s nice to have that competition.” Should Everton avoid defeat tomorrow, it will be the first in Moyes’ five-and-a-half year tenure that they will have gone 10 games unbeaten and Jagielka believes they can take impetus from the defeat of Zenit – particularly if Tim Cahill is in the same mood. “It was a clean sheet and an important victory so it keeps the momentum going,” said Jagielka. “Thankfully Timmy popped up at the right time for us. He gives us a different dimension and really thrives in the 4-5-1 formation we played. “But even when we revert back to 4-4-2, he is still able to get in there. The gaffer changed things around a bit and gave a few of the lads a rest and hopefully they will come back just as strong tomorrow so we can keep this run going.”
Why Kirkby is the Everton's only option
Dec 7 2007 EXCLUSIVE by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
SPEND five minutes in the company of Robert Earl and you get a small snapshot into the hectic world he orbits. Fast talking, his mobile phone persistently ringing, he is clearly a man who makes things happen. One task he faces this weekend is to secure four ringside seats at the MGM Grand for some of Hollywood’s A-list desperate to see Ricky Hatton tackle Floyd Mayweather. At such short notice, you would think the chances of strolling into Buckingham Palace and asking for an audience with the Queen would be greater but Earl is not in the slightest bit flustered. “I do billion dollar deals, so it’s not a problem,” he says chirpily. He’s not joking, either. As the mogul who launched the Planet Hollywood empire and numbers Sylvester Stallone, Barbara Streisand, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Demi Moore among his friends, Earl is someone who carries considerable clout. To Evertonians, however, he has been something of a mystery man since he bought Paul and Anita Gregg’s shares in October 2006 with many believing he was simply helping out another of his friends – Blues chairman Bill Kenwright. After all, his visits to Goodison Park had been sporadic but in the past few days he has emerged from the shadows to show that he is going to be a figure who plays a huge role in shaping Everton’s fortunes.
Having introduced himself to shareholders at the AGM on Tuesday evening, the club’s newest director – a 56-year-old who was born in North London – watched Everton progress to the UEFA Cup group stages 24 hours later before jetting back to the US. What, then, is his interest in Everton? Simple. Though Planet Hollywood has gone bust twice, he is not someone who is accustomed to failure and is a shrewd investor, so it is hugely significant that he thinks the Blues can go global.
But to do that, Earl makes one thing crystal clear: moving away from Goodison Park is absolutely essential. In his view, as difficult as it maybe for some to contemplate, heading to Kirkby is the only way forward. “This is a club that has unexploited potential. It has an incredible fan base, a wonderful squad and a great manager and good management in house,” noted Earl, who says he has been “driving people mad” with daily phone calls across the Atlantic to Goodison. “As a result, I have invested for my family. Now I have got to learn quite a bit and I am very keen on the whole thing. I have become a big fan, I watch every game and speak to the lads regularly. I love it. “I feel I can add some value in certain areas, wherever Bill Kenwright wants to point me and I think that the move is absolutely essential. “I understand all the emotions. I really do. I don’t have to be an Evertonian to understand the emotions.
“The AGM didn’t surprise me at all. If anything, it was probably less venomous than I thought it would be. Some very good points were made but unfortunately a lot were based on limited amounts of information that people react on. “If I saw an article from a Liverpool city councillor that said a site was available in the city of Liverpool, I would react the same way. “Unfortunately, in the time we had at the AGM, we could not explain that every possibility has been explored thoroughly. “I feel comfortable that Bill exploited every possible avenue to stay in this city. I have personally had a lot of meetings and made a lot of calls. “I have met with the development teams, I have looked at sites and examined all the practicalities. “And I concluded that there was nowhere. There was nothing available for us to move to. “Yes there is land but that land has to go through a million stages and have funding grants attached to it, else it was impractical, and those boxes could not be ticked. “Unfortunately, the fans are not getting that information flow and I feel sorry for them. I understand totally. But I have been out to the new site in Kirkby. It is only about eight minutes in a car from Goodison. “I have studied the plans, I have been to the training ground and I have spoken at great length to Knowsley Council. As far as I can see, it is a win, win, win situation for everyone. “Yes it’s a win for Tesco but they are doing fabulous things for Everton. I don’t think the fans appreciate that yet. “The cloud of moving away from the city and the stigma that it has occurred can’t be seen past at the minute. But that area is absolutely swamped with Evertonians.” He appreciates, nevertheless, that it will take time to convince sceptics a move from Goodison is essential but Earl hopes the dissenting voices can look into the future as he believes it promises to be exciting and intends to make that happen. “I would say that David Moyes genuinely has a chance of putting us in the top four and to do that, you need 50,000 people coming through the turnstiles. It is a necessity with the salaries being paid out there,” he points out. “It doesn’t seem as if the fans are thinking through that side of it. You need that new stadium. We are getting a non reimbursable cheque for £55m from Tesco and it is absolute manna from heaven. “This is an international brand. People do not realise that we are seen all around the world. “We are up there with the big boys and the move helps us make that transition. I’ll be here as much as I can. I’ll add my business acumen, money and a lot of energy.”
David Prentice: Christmas passed has a special magic for Blues!
Dec 7 2007 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
HAVE you ever been in the Top Balcony, Dad?”
It was an easy one to answer. “Only once, son. But it was the greatest night in this club’s history, against Bayern Munich.” The young Evertonian’s eyes rolled at a story he’d heard a hundred times before. While forty-somethings go all misty-eyed at the memory of Trevor Steven’s elegantly dispatched clincher, it’s ancient history to younger Blues anxious for European exploits of their own to enjoy. So while the UEFA Cup might be maligned in some quarters as the poor relation to the Champions League, Everton’s current European campaign is hugely important to its younger fan base. David Moyes’ squad is making history. Maybe not enduring, record-book rewriting history, but history nonetheless. For the first time in 23 years, the Blues will enjoy a European campaign which stretches past Christmas. And young Evertonians especially are lapping it up. Liverpool’s European heritage is unparalleled in English football. Blues fans now want a slice of the action themselves. David Moyes articulated the older Evertonians’ sense of what-might-have-been this week.
“There is a bit of me that wants to tell people in Europe that they should not forget that Everton were champions of England, and but for the Heysel disaster they have been denied a chance to have a long run in Europe,” he said. “People forget that and don’t understand what happened. Everton were unfortunate but I accept it was a tragedy that made football unimportant. “What happened after Heysel changed lots of careers. Players and managers. “Since then we have been watching from the outside and the club was denied the chance to grow and benefit from the money in European competition.” True, perhaps, but not particularly relevant in 2007. Like Bayern Munich, the tragedy of Heysel is something else younger Blues cannot relate to.
It’s healthier and more productive to focus on the present – which is what David Moyes’ squad is doing. And the young Blues brigade are loving it.
Why it really is good to talk
IT’S all gone quiet at Anfield . . . which is good. But there’s also a behind-the-scenes silence which is not golden. After Rafa stamped his feet and Tom slapped his wrists, we called for Hicks to come forward and clarify the position between himself and the Reds boss. Happily, he did that in Saturday’s paper. But I’m still just a little perplexed that Echo journalists have had longer conversations with Liverpool’s owners than the manager in the past two months. These are all sentences uttered by Rafael Benitez in the past week. “I would hope to speak to them (the Americans) before the Manchester United game.” “Maybe part of the problem was that we couldn’t speak directly and so had to do it over e-mails.” And “It was easier when Foster Gillett was here.”
It’s quite remarkable that the manager has to make an appointment to speak to the club’s owners. Or maybe the new regime is trying to establish a pecking order, with Rick Parry the conduit between manager and board. If so, it’s an unwieldy situation.
Benitez appears to have accepted the current status quo, but it doesn’t sound like a recipe for future harmony. Two years ago, Liverpool signed Momo Sissoko, after the Malian midfielder had already agreed to join Everton. It was a masterstroke of brinksmanship which required speed and timing. Under the current Anfield transfer system, a player who has proved enormously influential at Anfield would be running round in royal blue.
A proper Nark!
PEOPLE smiled at the concept of a boxing book being launched at a pub called ‘The Slaughter House.’ Those people don’t understand boxing. Sure, boxing produces blood, gore and controlled violence. But it’s also about geometry, angles and distances. The ability to acquire better angles to hit and not get hit. About timing, spacing, pacing, rhythm and instant adjustment. And this city has produced some of the finest ring mathematicians of all time. Plenty of them gathered at the Fenwick Street pub this week for the launch of volume two of The Mersey Fighters – Derry Matthews, Tony Moran, Alex Moon, Gary Thornhill, Gary Ryder and Brian Snagg were all present. All are celebrated in the pages of Gary Shaw and Jim Jenkinson’s latest 310 page volume. But 16 pages alone are devoted to my two personal favourites. That was the compelling 17-and-a-half minutes of sporting warfare Andy Holligan and Shea Neary produced under a specially constructed tent in Stanley Park on March 12, 1998. The story of the Nark in the Park is just one of many absorbing anecdotes contained in a splendid collection.
Howard Kendall: Blues’ message of Euro intent
Dec 7 2007 by Howard Kendall, Liverpool Echo
HAVING done the hard part and secured qualification for the UEFA Cup’s knockout stages, the time has now arrived for Everton to make people sit up and take notice.
With three wins from three games, it is a rare luxury for David Moyes to be able to take his squad to AZ Alkmaar in a fortnight knowing that there is nothing riding on the game. He will obviously take the chance to shuffle his pack considerably, but don’t for one minute see that as a sign that Everton will be taking their foot off the pedal before the Christmas period gets under way at Old Trafford on December 23.
No. Given that this is our first ‘proper’ European campaign for some time, there will be a determination among the players and the coaching staff to end Group A boasting a 100 per cent record. Any team that manages to accomplish such a feat, whether it is in the UEFA Cup or the Champions League, immediately sends out a message to potential future opponents that they mean business. As they are now guaranteed to face one of the sides who finished in third place in the other groups, I’ve no doubt many will be thinking that Everton’s involvement in this tournament will stretch beyond the last 32 – and why not? The Blues have learned about when to do certain things and when the time is right to maintain possession. As good a side as Zenit St Petersburg are, we thoroughly deserved the win and played in a style that made a mockery of Dick Advocaat’s pre-match ‘long ball’ claims. Goodison Park is an enjoyable place to watch football again and long may that continue.
Rock solid - and Phil played part
FULHAM might have one of the worst away records in the Premier League but they have the ability to trouble Everton. They were undone by a spectacular goal from Cristiano Ronaldo, but there was something to admire about the way Fulham tried to pass and move at Old Trafford. That said, I’d still expect Everton to have too many guns for them tomorrow. What’s more, we aren’t giving away silly goals.
After riding an early storm at Portsmouth, we were full value for a point as the defence stood firm. They never really looked like conceding against Zenit St Petersburg, either. The usual suspects – Howard, Lescott, Neville – all played a part but I think Phil Jagielka, deserves a special mention. He has had a difficult time since arriving from Sheffield United but central defence is his position. He excelled against the Russians.
I’m still up for right job
YOU may have seen that I was linked with the vacant Republic of Ireland manager’s job earlier this week – but I would just like to clarify exactly what happened.
When I was working on my DVD a few months ago, Peter Beardsley was asked by an agent about his future ambitions and he said that if he ever went into management, he’d like to take me as his director of football. That was a huge compliment, but I don’t think anything will happen as I have not had any approach from the FAI.
But, if the right job came along, I’d certainly love to give it a go.
Moyes: Blues are a hot option
Dec 8 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES believes Everton’s flourishing season will enable them to become one of the most attractive destinations when the transfer window opens.
Though Moyes has assembled the best squad in the five-and-a-half years he has been in charge at Goodison Park, he is looking to add one more body – most likely a midfielder – to the group in January. And he feels that an encouraging run in Europe, added to the club’s growing reputation will enable him to compete when the best players become available and is confident he can provide a platform for potential arrivals to achieve their ambitions. “I think we have tended to bed down the ones who we think can go a long with us in the future,” said Moyes, whose side face Fulham at Goodison Park today. “We have got a lot of the lads either signed up or very close to signing up. There is a continuity in the squad. “But we’ll continue to add to it and look to improve it. That’s what we have been doing over the last five years and we will continue to do that. I have to somehow find a way of bridging the gap without having the kind of funds that might be available to other clubs. “At the moment, we can’t give Champions League football, which I feel the players who I am looking to bring to Everton would want. I’m trying to get scenarios like that to happen in the future.” There have been times in the past when Everton’s league position left Moyes fighting an uphill battle when looking for new additions but he is confident those days have been consigned to the past as he looks to make European football a regular occurrence. “We are looking hard to see what players will add to what we have got and improve us in the future,” he added. “Now we are beginning to get better known and there has been an improving Everton over the years. “Because of the stability of the group, that will help us attract players too. European football makes things more attractive too. The players we are going after want to see European football every year. “That’s why I am saying it is always important to keep doing well in the Premier League, so you can qualify for a European place again.”
Is it really so hard to see the truth ?
Dec 8 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
SOMETIMES it is so easy not to see the things that areclearly in front of you. How many times have you spent rummaging around for ‘lost’ property only to discover it was in the place you left it? Another AGM passed this week and the thorny issue of moving from Goodison Park was the subject that, understandably, dwarfed all other matters. Never mind that board members and architects explained what was happening, some dissenters simply would not listen. Chairman Bill Kenwright and chief executive Keith Wyness were accused of keeping supporters in the dark, while conspiracy theories swirled around why the Bestway site would not be considered as a possible solution or why redeveloping Goodison was not an option. In a city were football is not so much a way of life but a religion, the passion and emotion about leaving a stadium that holds so many wonderful memories and helped launch innumerable dreams is totally understandable. Equally salient are fears about the club losing its identity by moving outside the city boundaries. When there appear to be good sites available in Liverpool – I have always maintained that Walton Hall Park would have been perfect – why head to Knowsley? What became crystal clear at a turbulent AGM is – as is always the case – things are boiling down to simple economics and the more you look at what is being offered in the Kirkby deal Kirkby, it makes perfect sense. Some will dismiss this argument as propaganda on behalf of the club. . But that is not the case, as all we are trying to do is weigh up the pros and cons about moving away from Goodison. Home is where the heart is and for every Evertonian young and old, male and female, that is L4 4EL – the stadium that will forever be synonymous with legends such as Dean and Lawton, Labone and Ball, Sharp, Gray and Steven. Utopia would be redeveloping Goodison and making it into a 21st century arena. Nobody likes radical change and if a way could be found to give Goodison the facelift it desperately needs, surely it would have been done by now?
It emerged at the agm that yes, something could be done to achieve that but as immediately as hopes were raised, they were dashed again. But for good reason. Quite simply, it would cost double the amount than it would to build the new arena.
Think about it. Everton are having enough trouble paying top wages at the minute, so how much of an impact would playing for four seasons with just three sides of the ground open? Lost revenue? Millions. Would David Moyes be able to compete for signings? No. Even once the development had been completed, Everton would then only be left with around 37,500 seats. That capacity would never be big enough to stage a UEFA Final in the future and would not generate enough income for the club to pay the top salaries. As for the Bestway site, again it could be done in theory but think of the rigmarole that would come with the construction of it. Bridges would need building over Scotland Road and the cost of completing the development would probably exceed the price of overhauling Goodison? Maybe one of Everton’s hierarchy should come out and say this and put the minds of supporters at rest as one thing is for certain – the longer this issue goes on and the more the critics get something in mind, the bigger the danger is that it will rip the club apart. And that, simply, cannot happen.
IT’S a grand old team to play for . . . and it’s a grand old team to support!
Dec 8 2007 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
IT’S a grand old team to play for . . . and it’s a grand old team to support! Dixie Dean’s great grandchildren Daniel and Scarlett were proud to support Everton Shareholders’ Association’s plans to stage a Dixie Dean play next year as part of the Capital of Culture celebrations. Curtain up on ‘Dixie Dean’ is planned for May 6, just 24 hours after the 80th anniversary of Dixie’s remarkable 60-goal achievement, and three days after Everton visit Arsenal. Daniel and Scarlett will be guests of the association at Arsenal – Daniel as mascot dressed in replica Dixie Dean kit, and Scarlett as the Toffee Lady.
It’s huddle, bubble, toil and trouble for Fulham!
Dec 8 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
BEFORE the home dressing room’s door opens this afternoon, Everton’s players will assemble for a brief, motivational huddle. While lots of squads gather together to do something similar in the moments before kick-off, Tim Howard has noticed a change in recent weeks in the tone of the words being spoken inside Goodison Park’s inner sanctum. With each match that has stretched this unbeaten run to nine games, the ultra-reliable keeper says it has been impossible to ignore the mounting determination and resilience in the voices of his team-mates. Should Everton avoid defeat against Fulham this afternoon, they will secure the best run of results during David Moyes’ five-and-a-half year spell in charge at Goodison Park and confidence is mounting that they will stretch the run way beyond 10. Howard’s ability to keep clean sheets – the shut-out against Zenit St Petersburg was his fifth in the last nine games – has been integral in helping the Blues through this impressive sequence and he is desperate for another one. But for all the buoyancy in the camp, the 28-year-old is quick to sound a note of caution even if Fulham have a wretched record when travelling to Merseyside. Their away form is the worst of any Premier League side this season. Experience tells him that football has a habit of providing nasty shocks when they are least expected and Howard knows that Fulham have a number of players – notably David Healy–- who are capable of being match winners if they are given half a chance.
“It’s really special for us to be on this run and I think it is a source of motivation to everyone that we keep it going as long as possible,” said Howard. “Thirty seconds before we go out, we all get together and tell each other that we have something to protect. “Our form has been good and that has helped us with the run. I think we have done really well in that we have started keeping clean sheets again. We are closing things down and tightening up the shop a little bit. “It wasn’t the case early on in the season but it’s definitely the case now. We are in good shape. It looked as if I was going to miss the Zenit game, as I was really bad for 24 hours with sickness, but I’m glad that I was able to play. “European nights are special. They were special at United and they are special here. That’s the reason why I came to this club and I know it’s the reason Yak came here, too. It’s special and the boys know that.” Having shown an ability to grind out results, as well as play sparkling football when the opportunity allows, Howard feels Everton are well set to cope with a run that will see them play eight matches in the next 24 days – all of which provide different tests.
“We have been on a tough run,” continued Howard, who is poised to make his 56th appearance for the Blues. “We deserved a draw at Portsmouth and gave Sunderland a hiding. We popped up with a late goal against Zenit and did the same against Nuremberg, Birmingham and Chelsea. “We are finding a lot of different ways to win. I’m not convinced about this Premier League thing when everyone says you are supposed to have an easy game. People from home ring me and say ‘you’re playing Chelsea, that’s gonna be tough’. “But Fulham at home is going to be just as tough. It’s hit and miss. Sometimes they will give you a right good go, even if you are supposed to beat them on all known form. It doesn’t matter. Fulham have players capable of causing problems and we are going to have to be bang on the money.” As well as Everton have been doing in Europe and the Carling Cup, the next few weeks will go some way to shaping their destiny in the Premier League, as Howard is demanding his team-mates stay focused, Phil Jagielka voices similar sentiments. He caught the eye against Zenit – his first start since October 31 – and is hoping to play a part in helping the Toffees get back up towards a place in the top six. To achieve that, beating Fulham is a necessity. “The league is super important,” said Jagielka. “The boys did fantastically well last season to qualify for Europe and unless we win a Cup this year, there is only one way we are going to get back into Europe again. That is through our league position. “We want to be playing in Europe all the time now and it’s vital that we maintain the form we have shown in the league these past few weeks. Fulham are coming here and we will be starting favourites but you can’t read anything into that.
“They have had some decent results this season. As much as they have not done well on their travels, they have got some good players. “Things have got to change at some point, but this is the last time we are at Goodison before Christmas and we want to make that count,” Jagielka added.
Everton 3, Fulham 0
Dec 10 2007
By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
TAXES and death may be life’s only certainties but surely it is now time to add Everton beating Fulham at Goodison Park to that list? While the Blues have a wretched habit of coming up short at Craven Cottage – you have to go back to 1966 for a last away win on the banks of the Thames – tussles with Fulham on Merseyside only have one outcome. Added to the fact that Lawrie Sanchez’s side have such a dreadful record on their travels, this latest instalment stayed true to form, Everton stretching their unbeaten run to 10 games in a canter. Saturday may, however, have been a watershed moment in the career of one Blue. Ayegbeni Yakubu is never going to win prizes for long distance running, and his Pro Zone figures are unlikely to be the envy of his team-mates, but if he keeps finding himself in the right position to score who cares? A goal on his debut at Bolton Wanderers was followed by what can kindly be described as a number of lacklustre performances, aiding the view of sceptics that he would prove to be an £11.25m dud, who was more interested in himself than the team. How things have changed since Yakubu sealed victory at Pride Park on October 28. The work rate is getting better, so too is the supply line from midfield: six goals in six games tells its own story. Most significantly, the feeling is growing that whenever he sees the whites of a keeper’s eyes, he will not miss. Think about when he burst clear to start the rout of Sunderland – did you envisage the ball going anywhere else other than the back of the net? This classic hat-trick – the first at Goodison Park by an Everton player since Steve Watson against Leeds in September 2003 – was wildly celebrated and gave the perfect demonstration of his striking skills. Instinctive to snaffle the first with his left foot after Tim Cahill’s volley was too hot for Antti Niemi to hold, that quelled the anxiety that had started to swirl around Goodison and provided the impetus for Everton to go through the gears. His second – nodded in at the far post after Phil Jagielka had flicked on Mikel Arteta’s corner – ended the game as a contest and it is not hard to see why only Thierry Henry has scored more Premier League goals than Yakubu in the last four seasons. “The first goal was vitally important but I didn’t think the game was ever in any doubt,” said boss David Moyes. “I thought we were comfortable and in the second half we got about them. “Yak is a goalscorer. No question. We needed the first goal to go for us as, for some reason, everyone was flat. But we tried to raise it in the second half and right away we started to get our rewards. After Yak scored again, we played some great stuff.” Few would dispute that assessment. Making light of treacherous conditions by zipping the ball into feet at high speed, there was once again a real swagger to the Toffees’ play, which can be put down to the influence of one man. Mikel Arteta might be the darling of the Gwladys Street but the burden of creativity no longer rests solely on his shoulders. Steven Pienaar had another terrific afternoon in a Royal Blue jersey. One of Pienaar’s most endearing traits is his liking for playing simple, incisive, instinctive balls to set an attack in motion. Take the ball that provided Yakubu with his hat-trick opportunity. It was the kind of ball all strikers crave and while Yakubu deserves enormous credit for such a cool finish, he would be the first to acknowledge Pienaar. Like Arteta – and the rest of his comrades in the engine room, for that matter – he has a ravenous appetite for hard work and is not in the slightest bit bothered about coming up against defenders who dwarf him physically. If anything, he relishes the challenge. Since starting against Larissa in the UEFA Cup, Pienaar’s influence has grown with each 90 minutes and he is one of the reasons why Everton have scored 23 times during this unbeaten run. Of equal encouragement for Moyes will be the statistics at the back – six clean sheets in 10 matches shows the sloppy errors that were so infuriating early in the campaign appear to have been eradicated. Part of that must be down to Joseph Yobo recapturing his poise. There is little doubt he has the credentials to be one of the Premier League’s best central defenders but he would be the first to acknowledge his standards slipped early on. How much of that was down to niggling toe and ankle problems, only he will know but he has roared back to form these past few weeks and marshalled his defence superbly against Fulham. Quick, strong, sound in possession and very rarely caught out of position, he will be missed – as will Yakubu, Pienaar and Victor Anichebe – when the African Cup of Nations starts in January. Not so long ago, losing four key members of his squad would have far too great a blow for Everton’s squad to deal with but things have changed considerably for the better; with a new face likely to arrive next month, they should be able to cope. That, though, is something to worry about in the future and more immediate concerns centre on dismantling West Ham United’s Carling Cup dreams on Wednesday evening. There is no reason why this Everton squad cannot go all the way to Wembley as they have ticks in all the right boxes for potential trophy winners: Fanatical support, hungry, talented players and a centre-forward in form. The stage awaits at Upton Park.
Everton 3, Fulham 0
Dec 10 2007
By Andrew Gilpon, Liverpool Daily Post
STATISTICALLY, Everton fans have never had it so good under David Moyes. Yet statistics can prove anything, 67.54% of people know that. But even before Ayegbeni Yakubu’s perfect hat-trick saw off Fulham, no one could refute the fact that Everton stand a real chance of doing great things this season. Let’s look at the evidence: Saturday saw Everton’s third straight Premiership home win – with 13 goals scored in the process. They are now 10 games unbeaten – including eight wins – the best run under Moyes since he took over five-and-a-half years ago. Everton have never lost at home to Fulham, with Saturday’s win their 200th in the Premier League. Their 27-point haul this season would have put them in a Champions League spot at this stage last term. Everton used to play at Anfield. Okay, I only included that one because it’s a mainstay of all facts used in association with Everton Football Club, but you get the general idea. They point to the fact that Moyes’s men look set to enjoy their best season since moustaches were all the rage. And this time Europe’s already thrown into the bargain. But club record signing Yakubu is fond of making his own statistics as his second career hat-trick against Fulham – the last one was in 2004 in Portsmouth colours – kept up Everton’s momentum going into what will be a packed period of five games during the rest of December. And after a first period best forgotten, another startling fact came into play – Fulham have lost 84% of games in the second half. If matches had ended at half-time, Sanchez’s side would be near the top of the table. But they don’t and perhaps a more telling fact for the Cottagers came last season when Chris Coleman became just another statistic. Since Lawrie Sanchez took over from the over-achieving Coleman, he’s spent a lot of money – and the Londoners haven’t improved. Fulham are the type of team Everton were five years ago, too reliant on the long-ball and all too fleeting flashes of quality. Whether Sanchez can evolve his side like Moyes has at Goodison Park remains to be seen. With only three wins in 21 league games under his stewardship he probably won’t get the chance, which is all the more galling because for periods Fulham had the upper hand. In the first half especially they had the better of a sluggish Everton, in action against Zenit St Petersburg just three days earlier. Moyes has made a point of saying that a Uefa Cup campaign should not affect the bread and butter of the Premiership, but the simple fact is that he does not have a squad big enough to rotate three or four players after a European night. This, coupled with a bog of a pitch and the early loss of Leighton Baines with a hamstring injury, meant the first half was a disjointed affair where the home team “looked tired” according to their manager. The same could be said of the crowd who failed to spark during the first 45 minutes, although in fairness the players in Blue were giving them little to shout about. Diomansy Kamara’s flashing header and a dangerous Steven Davis cross was a statement of intent from the visitors, while Everton’s best chances came from set pieces, with Joleon Lescott going close from a Mikel Arteta corner. The Spaniard saw a deflected free-kick punched away by Antti Niemi and Tim Cahill just failed to connect with another wicked delivery before any momentum was disrupted by Baines pulling up on the left-hand side. The subsequent introduction of Phil Jaglieka, and the time he took to bed himself into the line-up meant that Everton struggled as an attacking force in the first period But while Sanchez’s half-time team talks seem to only de-motivate his players, Moyes’s had the desired effect. He demanded his side make light of a sodden pitch and a European hangover to dominate proceedings. And if anyone summed up the shift between first-half lethargy and second period endeavour it was Yakubu. He spent most of the opening period getting caught offside. Only once did he manage to turn his marker, yet with the goal still a good 45 yards away he made little inroads. In the second period the Nigerian striker was a different animal. With more support from Cahill, it took him just six minutes to break the deadlock after the Aussie sprung the offside trap. And after his snap shot was pushed into Yakubu’s general direction the Nigerian simply stuck out a left leg and directed a weak shot into the net It wasn’t a classic finish, but it summed up why Moyes broke the club record to bring him from Middlesbrough. If Everton have designs of nailing down a permanent place in the top-six they must see off lesser lights such as Fulham, especially at home. So when things are not going to plan, a natural goal-scorer like Yakubu will always be in the right position to stick out a leg and change the fortunes of the game. The goal woke up the enigmatic striker and despite Danny Murphy testing Tim Howard with a wicked long-ranger soon after, it was all Everton. Lescott again went close, before the excellent Leon Osman – now bossing the middle of the park – saw his close-range effort superbly saved by Niemi. But just a few minutes later the game was put beyond Fulham when Arteta’s flighted corner was flicked on by Jagielka and the head of Yakubu made no mistake from close range. The toil of the first half was forgotten, as Everton made light of a soaking pitch to string together 15-pass moves. As the pressure grew Yakubu was put through by the improving Steven Pienaar, but for once he didn’t show the necessary selfishness and chose to play in Arteta, who missed an easy conversion. The Yak can be a vital part of Everton’s evolution, but he needs to be “fed” as the song goes and so what would have pleased Moyes more was the midfield’s ability to keep setting him up with chances. In fact he missed two more before claiming his hat-trick on 78 minutes. And it was a goal of real class Pienaar played in the big striker just outside the box. In the first half that little extra bit of work would have been beyond him, but brimming with confidence a swerve of the body took out Dejan Stefanovic, and a curling right-footed shot from the edge of the area gave Niemi no chance. Even when he was taken off to receive a deserved standing ovation, Everton threatened, with sub James McFadden twice going the close to further pile the misery on Sanchez. So since the controversial derby defeat to Liverpool, Everton have been unbeatable, much as if that outrage has spurred them on. If they could keep up that rage until the end of the season, what frightening statistics they’d create.
Yakubu: My 20 goal pledge
Dec 10, 2007
By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
AYEGBENI YAKUBU believes he has the perfect platform to finally smash through the 20 goals barrier – even though he is poised to miss a crucial month of Everton’s season. The Blues’ record signing enjoyed the best afternoon of his Goodison Park career so far on Saturday, as his second half hat-trick swept Fulham aside and extended Everton’s unbeaten run to 10 games. His tally now stands at nine goals in 14 appearances and Yakubu is growing in confidence that he is on course to beat his previous best tally of 19 – a figure he achieved with both Middlesbrough and Portsmouth. However, Yakubu’s task is going to become all the more difficult after he revealed today that he has held clear-the-air talks with Nigeria coach Berti Vogts and now expects to represent his country in the African Cup of Nations next month. “The situation is fine with me now,” said Yakubu, who also scored a hat-trick against Fulham for Portsmouth in August 2004. “I played two games in the summer but I have spoken with the coach and I will be going to the African Nations. “It will be sad to go but it is my country and I have to play for them whenever they call me. Everyone loves to represent their country and I think I will be going to Ghana. I spoke to Berti Vogts after we played at Portsmouth last week. “But I really want to score 20 goals for Everton this season and I think I can do it. That is my target. As long as I keep working hard and if we keep playing as if we have done, then I think I will have a real chance.” After a slow start to life on Merseyside, Yakubu has started to make up for lost time and he promised that his best is yet to come now that he is fully attuned to Everton’s style of play. Now he hopes to fire the Blues a step nearer to Wembley at West Ham on Wednesday night. “I feel I am getting stronger and I think I’m getting better and better,” said Yakubu. “At the beginning it was difficult but I kept telling myself that I would score goals. I kept believing in myself and I feel that I’m doing the right thing. “We are working for each other and we are improving all the time as a team. We have good midfielders like Steven (Pienaar) and Mikky, Cars and Ossie. They provided me with the chances and I am so happy I came to this club as I want to win trophies. “It takes time to adjust but I am trying all the time. We have got our targets. We are not under pressure but we want to make sure that we progress to the semi-finals. This club is moving in the right direction. This is the year for us as Everton players to achieve something special.”
Derby Day anger made us stronger
Dec 10 2007 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON celebrated ten games without defeat on Saturday – and an eighth victory in that sequence. And boss David Moyes believes that the spark which generated that winning run was the burning sense of injustice they felt after their last defeat, the Goodison derby reverse on October 20. “I said at the time that would make us stronger and I think it was so widely condemned that it did do,” said Moyes after Saturday’s 3-0 win over Fulham. “I think it galvanised us and we’ve kicked on.
“But on top of that we’ve got people back from injury. Tim Cahill came back just after that and we’ve been able to look a little different and allow Osman, Pienaar and Arteta to get on the ball better and do things with the ball. “I think we have a confidence about our play which I’ve been hoping to get since I came here, a self-belief that says ‘we’re a good side and we’re going to win games. It’s going to take good sides to beat us’. And at the moment we’re in that area. “My job is to make it better, but the group of players we have are all playing to their full potential at the moment.” One player living up completely to his record-breaking mantle is top scorer Ayegbeni Yakubu. The Nigerian who cost £11m from Middlesbrough scored his eighth goal in just 10 starts, a remarkable tally. Moyes said: “When we signed him we knew he had an incredible goalscoring record for Portsmouth and Middlesbrough and all we hoped was that he would do the same here. “We thought that if he could score a similar amount of goals for us as he had for those two clubs he would help keep us in the top half of the Premier League. “We knew we had Andy Johnson and Tim Cahill who could score goals, but adding him was adding an extra dimension – and so it has proven. “There were moments in the first half when he looked tired, but then so did all of them and they all came alive in the second half. “But we know he’s always got a goal in him and that when he gets in he’s likely to finish because his ratio is that good.
“There’s lots of games where you’re reluctant to take him away because you know he is a goalscorer. “I actually think his workrate is getting there and he’s working hard for the team. He’s on a great run of goals at the moment and we gave him a rest midweek so he should have been fresh. “I think with Yak we have a goalscorer, and sometimes that is different to just being a striker. “I think that’s what Yak does.
“I think what suits him is people passing the ball to him and if we can get it to him in and around the box he will do well. “He’s a really good lad to deal with day to day. His training has been good and his finishing has been top drawer. We’ve all been really impressed by him. “We’re working him hard as well. We’re not just letting him get away with only goalscoring. We’re making sure he does all the bits which are required here.” Yakubu came alive with a second half hat-trick, following a first 45 minutes when both teams struggled to cope with the wet and windy conditions.
“I think the conditions were horrendous at one point,” added Moyes “and maybe the change when Leighton Baines went off upset us a little bit, because we’d started the game not bad and passed it quite well for 15 minutes or so then lost momentum.
“But I thought we played really well in the second half and scored three goals, but could have had a couple more again. “I thought we all looked a little tired in the first half but I put that down to the conditions again, with everybody feeling a little drab and wet. “But they certainly picked it up and played some really good stuff at times in the second half. “In the end we got what we deserved.”
Muscle tear rules Leighton Baines out for a month
Dec 11 2007
BY Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON’S worst fears were realised today after David Moyes confirmed his star full-back Leighton Baines will miss the hectic Christmas period. Baines pulled up sharply during Saturday’s 3-0 win over Fulham with a hamstring problem and was immediately substituted. It was initially hoped that he would be only sidelined for a couple of weeks at the most. But, much to the frustration of player and manager, a scan has revealed that Baines has a slight tear in the muscle and faces a minimum of four weeks out, ruling him out of anything between eight and 10 games. With Nuno Valente also nursing a similar problem, Moyes will either have to play captain Phil Neville or, more likely, Joleon Lescott on the left side of his defence in tomorrow night’s Carling Cup quarter-final at West Ham. “We have had the results of the scan and it looks like Leighton is going to be out for between four to six weeks,” said Moyes. “It’s a blow because he has done so well for us. With Alan Stubbs also out, we are a little bit limited at the back.” There is a chance Valente will be fit to return on Saturday in the Premier League game at Upton Park, but this latest setback could not have come at a worse time for Baines, who has made such an impressive start to his career at Goodison Park. He only missed a handful of games during his last two seasons with Wigan but since moving to Goodison in a £5.5m deal in July, Baines has already had to deal with hamstring and ankle injuries in addition to this setback. “We have been really pleased with Bainesy and he had looked sharp against Fulham, but this something that happens,” said Moyes. “He had a bad ankle knock against Derby and before that had been in really good form. “Tony Hibbert has missed a couple of games with stiffness in his back, so we will have to see how he is. Nuno is doing a little bit better and fortunately his hamstring problem isn’t anywhere near as severe as Bainesy’s.” The Blues were having their final training session at Finch Farm this morning before flying down to London for a double header against West Ham and Moyes is under no illusions about the size of the task facing his squad. He watched the Hammers beat Blackburn at Ewood Park on Sunday and knows it will take a performance out of the top drawer if Everton are to progress through to the Carling Cup’s last four. “West Ham have improved and they bought a lot of good players in the summer,” he said. “Upton Park is a tough place to go and we know it will be a tough game. We would rather have been at home but we have doing well and we’ll go there with confidence.” · Everton’s youngsters begin their push for FA Youth Cup glory tonight against Bristol City at Goodison Park (7.00pm kick-off). Fans can pay on the door for the Upper Bullens stand.
Steven Pienaar: I want to stay at Everton
Dec 11 2007
By Christopher Beesley, Liverpool Daily Post
ON-LOAN midfielder Steven Pienaar wants to make his move to Everton into a permanent switch. The South African international, who is currently on a season-long loan from German club Borussia Dortmund has become a regular in Everton’s starting line-up in recent weeks. As well as establishing himself in David Moyes’s side, the 25-year-old reveals that his ambitions to extend his stay at Goodison are also down to the way he has been treated off the pitch. Pienaar said: “I want to play (permanently) for this club. “The supporters are unbelievable. They are always behind the team. “My colleagues are so friendly and so warm – I think everyone would want to play for a club like this.” Despite Pienaar playing in all 10 matches of Everton’s current unbeaten run since their controversial derby defeat, manager Moyes is currently insisting that he wants to assess the midfielder’s impact over an entire season and will not review the situation until the summer. Pienaar joined Dortmund on a free transfer from Dutch club Ajax in 2006 but it is believed that any permanent switch to Goodison would cost Everton £2million. Reports in Germany at the time of Pienaar’s arrival declared that Everton have already paid 500,000 euros (approximately £300,000) in order to take him for this season. Meanwhile, Everton are hopeful that Leighton Baines, another summer recruit, will be back fit in time for their hectic schedule over the festive period. The left-back, who turns 23 today, is expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks because of a hamstring injury. Baines suffered the setback in the 3-0 Premier League victory against Fulham on Saturday when he pulled up in the first half and was replaced by Phil Jagielka with England international Joleon Lescott switching to full-back. With Portuguese international Nuno Valente also sidelined, Everton’s options in the left-back berth remain limited. However, head physio Mick Rathbone said: “He has hurt his hamstring. “We are going to give him intensive treatment to try and get him back for the Christmas fixtures.”
Steven Pienaar: We have nothing to fear
Dec 11 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
STEVEN PIENAAR knows just what it takes to win silverware and he is daring to dream that he will add to his trophy collection with Everton. During a successful stint with Ajax, Pienaar played an influential part in helping the Amsterdam club lift the Eredivisie twice, as well as being part of the teams that triumphed in the Dutch Cup in 2002 and 2006. For good measure, he was also a two-time winner of the Dutch Super Cup. Six medals is a considerable haul for a 25-year-old but Pienaar hopes his lucky seventh will come via the Carling Cup. However, he knows there is a long way to go before that fantasy is turned into reality. West Ham, after all, will be hell bent on stopping Everton in their tracks. Pienaar, however, sees no reason why Everton should make the trip to Upton Park in fear. Having put together the club’s longest unbeaten run in a decade, the South African international thinks he and his team-mates can extend that sequence to take a step closer to Wembley. “We haven’t lost for 10 matches and we will go there with plenty of confidence,” said Pienaar, whose influence on Everton’s style continues to grow by the game. “Every player wants to win a cup and the manager also wants to do the same, so we go to Upton Park with our minds clear. “We know exactly what we want – to get into the semi-finals.
“I’ve had the feeling that comes from winning a trophy and to recapture it in my first season in England would be great. “We’ve got to take it game by game but it would be fantastic to progress a bit further. “Wembley is one of the most famous stadiums in the world and every player wants a chance to play there. We will just have to wait and see how far we go. “But we can’t get too carried away. I’m just happy to be playing at the minute and I feel I’m getting better every game.” Signed on a season-long loan from Borussia Dortmund, Pienaar is hoping that his form will warrant an extended stay on Merseyside next summer and he has done his case no harm at all during the past six weeks. His measured, methodical approach was vital during last Saturday’s 3-0 dismissal of Fulham and he feels if Everton maintain that focus they have a player in Ayegbeni Yakubu who can shoot them into the Carling Cup semi-finals. “We are getting patience into our game and that helps,” said Pienaar. “Patience is the key word because we have confidence in our team and we have good players who can create opportunities. That’s what we did against Fulham. “We waited and waited and then the goals came. It was a great result for us. Everything is coming together.
“We had a lot of new players arrive in the summer and it is not going to click into gear straight away. “With the team playing much better, it is easier to score and Yak is doing so well. “That is why they paid big money for him. His scoring record suggests he is capable of scoring 20 goals and if he stays fit, maybe he can score even more.
“Hopefully he can do it again at West Ham.”
Nigel Martyn: Blues ready to take another major step
Dec 11 2007 by Nigel Martyn, Liverpool Echo
CHRISTMAS is always viewed as the period which defines a season but Everton face a game tomorrow night that could give them a mighty lift. It has been said countless times that our record in knockout competitions has simply not been good enough. It beggars belief that club of such a size has not been involved in a quarter-final since 2002. Everton should be making the last eight in at least one knockout competition every year but there have been signs during this campaign that things are about to change and I think they will take another step in the right direction at Upton Park.
Playing in Europe has been invaluable for David Moyes’ squad so far and the experience that has been gleaned will ensure they are not overawed by the occasion when they battle with West Ham for a place in the Carling Cup semi-finals.
Had the league game been first, then you could have expected a tense, cagey affair. Not now. West Ham are a good team and have been in decent form, which was highlighted by Sunday’s win against Blackburn at Ewood Park. The more I look at them, though, I can’t see them ripping us apart. We will be heading there full of confidence and rightly so after another encouraging win. The defence is settled – Joseph Yobo and Tim Howard are in particularly good form – the midfield is working perfectly and we have better quality forwards than West Ham. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Of course, it won’t be anything like that straightforward but I have great belief that Everton will still be unbeaten tomorrow evening and that will in turn provide a catalyst for another good result on Saturday. If you can beat a team twice in such a short space of time, it has a hugely demoralising impact on them and the one thing of interest will be to see what team the manager selects I would fully expect him to start with the line-up that beat Fulham. This is a terrific opportunity for Everton to get that bit closer to a showpiece final and the lads will know that. Granted a slice of good fortune, a possible trip to Wembley in February will keep everyone going through the hectic festive schedule.
Yakubu adds the finishing touch
THINGS are changing at Everton. A couple of years ago we were unable to administer thrashings, now they are becoming commonplace. During my time at Goodison, we used to be pretty good at seeing off the teams lower down in the division but we never able to step on the gas once we had got a goal in front. That is certainly not the case now. The last three games at home have yielded 13 goals and Ayegbeni Yakubu has helped himself to nearly half of them to reinforce the view that he is going to be a tremendous asset to the club for a long time. When you are under the cosh but know you have a striker on top form it makes such a difference. You know that if a chance falls at his feet he will put it away. Hopefully, Yakubu can do that at Upton Park.
Will it be all Wright on the night?
EVERTON have some selection issues to think about over the next couple of days and West Ham are in a similar position – mainly with their goalkeepers. Robert Green has been in terrific form, but a man whom Evertonians know well will also be desperate for a chance to play. Richard Wright has appeared in all the early rounds of the Carling Cup. But will he figure here? I’ve spoken to Wrighty on a couple of occasions this season and told him he should be a certainty for the England squad. Why? Because every time he moves to a club, he ends up bringing the best out of an English goalkeeper! His outstanding form in training when I was at Everton was a big reason that I stayed in the team as he consistently kept putting pressure on me to up my standards. He’s a terrific lad, an outstanding keeper and must be wondering what he has to do for regular starts.
Moyes expects to have first call on Yakubu and Yobo
Dec 11 2007
Everton manager David Moyes believes he will be able to call on top scorer Ayegbeni Yakubu and defender Joseph Yobo until the start of the African Nations Cup.
The duo were today named in a 31-man squad by Nigeria manager Berti Vogts and are due to report to a training camp in Malaga, which will run from January 4.
But Moyes understands Yakubu and Yobo will be given leave to carry out domestic duties before the three-week competition begins on January 20. He said: “I do not have the information yet but I believe Nigeria are going to let players come back right up to the start of the tournament.” That would be a boost for Everton, given that Yakubu is on a superb run of scoring form after his £11million move from Middlesbrough and Yobo has been impressive at the back. Yakubu is looking to improve on his nine-goal tally, going into tomorrow’s Carling Cup quarter-final against West Ham. He feels he can hit the 20 mark this season, and Moyes said: “It is great that he shows that confidence and belief. “We just need to keep providing him with the ammunition to get those goals.” However, 19-year-old striker Victor Anichebe - who says his native Nigeria is the nation he wants to represent - has been overlooked by Vogts. Moyes said: “I think Nigeria have a fantastic array of centre-forwards. “That is probably the reason why Victor is not in the squad.
“We are disappointed he has not been included - but in the same breath we are glad he will be here with us.” Anichebe could get a run-out at Upton Park, with Everton aiming to stretch their unbeaten run to 11 games. Moyes is spoiled for choice up front - with Andrew Johnson, James McFadden and James Vaughan also pushing for places. With a nine-match schedule in December, the Everton boss is prepared to mix things up. He said: “We have been giving each of them time. We had Andrew Johnson and James McFadden starting last week. “We have also used Victor Anichebe and James Vaughan from the bench. “They will all get chances, because there is plenty of football to be played.” Everton face West Ham at the same venue again on Saturday, and Moyes added: “I am only thinking about the first game - that is the most important one. “Upton Park has a lot of similarities to Goodison Park and it will be a difficult place to go. “But we have had some good results there as well, and the players are approaching the match with confidence.” Defender Phil Jagielka looks set to return to the side, because Leighton Baines is ruled out with a hamstring problem.
STEVEN ON THE GLORY TRAIL
12th December 2007 Daily Star
By CHRIS HARPER
STEVEN Pienaar wants silverware and security with Everton.
The South African midfielder aims to take another step towards achieving both targets in the Carling Cup quarter-final at West Ham tonight. Pienaar knows what it’s like to be a winner, having collected six medals in Holland with Ajax. Now he’s determined to help the club where he is on loan from Borussia Dortmund to lift their first trophy since 1995. The 25-year-old would love an early indication from Everton that they want to make his move permanent for just £2m. Pienaar has played his part in an impressive unbeaten run of 10 games but boss David Moyes has refused to show his hand. Moyes said: “He is on loan for a year. We have done this quite a lot with players, having a look at them over a season, and we’ll continue to do that.”
Pienaar believes Everton’s cup fortunes are about to change. They sprang a major shock by beating Manchester United in the 1995 FA Cup Final. Tonight’s tie marks the furthest Everton have gone in any knockout competition since 2002. Then a 3-0 FA Cup quarter-final defeat by Middlesbrough saw Walter Smith sacked and replaced by Moyes.Pienaar said: “We haven’t lost for 10 matches and we will go to West Ham with confidence. Every player wants to win a cup and the manager also wants to do the same, so we go to Upton Park with our minds clear. “We know exactly what we want – to get into the semi-finals. We’ve got to take it game by game, but it would be fantastic to progress a bit further. “Wembley is one of the most famous stadiums in the world and every player wants a chance to play there.” Pienaar believes Yakubu will prove a key figure tonight. The Nigerian striker’s hat-trick in the 3-0 win over Fulham took him up to nine goals since his £11.25m move from Boro.
Pienaar added: “With the team playing much better, it is easier to score and Yak is doing so well.” But Everton suffered a setback with defender Leighton Baines ruled out longer than expected after a scan revealed a hamstring tear from the Fulham game.
He was expected to be out for a couple of weeks but Moyes said: “It looks like he is going to be out for between four to six weeks.”
YAKUBU STRIKES LATE TO SEAL PROGRESS
12th December 2007 Daily Star
Ayegbeni Yakubu pounced on a defensive howler two minutes from time to book Everton a place in their first Carling Cup semi-final since 1988. With the match seemingly heading for extra-time after a desperate second half Danny Gabbidon headed the ball past his own goalkeeper allowing the Nigerian to poke home the winner. The Hammers had taken an 11th-minute lead through Carlton Cole but Everton always looked more dangerous in possession during the first half and levelled through Leon Osman. Everton's win extended their unbeaten run to 11 matches in all competitions and they return to Upton Park to tackle West Ham in the league at the weekend. Dean Ashton and Freddie Ljungberg returned to the Hammers' starting line-up for the first time since October with Matthew Etherington out injured and Nolberto Solano cup-tied. After a brief scare when the lights went out 15 minutes before kick-off, Everton engineered the first chance in a cagey opening. Lee Carsley's drive was deflected wide and West Ham looked vulnerable as Mikel Arteta delivered two testing corners, the second of which Yakubu headed wide. Ashton just failed to control Hayden Mullins' angled ball towards the edge of the penalty area and the ball just skipped away from Ljungberg stealing in at the far post. But another angled ball from deep, this time from Lucas Neill, undid the Everton defence as Cole escaped his man and beat the on-rushing Tim Howard with one touch before clipping the ball home. West Ham could not maintain the momentum as Everton assumed control. A scuffed clearance from Matthew Upson invited pressure and caused confusion in the West Ham area. Mikel Arteta missed his kick and Tim Cahill went down hard under a fair challenge from Upson. Green tipped Steven Pienaar's low cross away from Cahill but eventually the pressure told. With Everton camped in and around the West Ham box, Pienaar slid a neat pass to the unmarked Osman who curled his shot past the stranded Green. West Ham increasingly resorted to long and ineffectual balls towards Cole and Ashton which Joseph Yobo and Phil Jagielka dealt with comfortably and their solitary effort of the half was an instinctive volley from Cole which sailed wide. With extra-time looming, West Ham gifted Everton victory. Gabiddon allowed Jagielka's long ball to bounce and just as Green was coming out to claim the central defender headed it through the keeper's arms allowing Yakubu to pounce.
Everton Youth 0, Bristol City Youth 2
Dec 12 2007
By Chris Wright, Liverpool Daily Post
EVERTON crashed out of the FA Youth Cup last night following a 2-0 defeat to Bristol City in the third round at Goodison Park. A disallowed strike and a cruel own goal from James McCarten late in the first half saw Everton chasing the tie. And the visitors secured a home fourth round date with Leeds United in the New Year with a second goal from Marlon Jackson in the last minute. It will be a bitter blow for coach Neil Dewsnip and his side, who created enough chances to have won the tie. Everton thought they had taken the lead on 11 minutes but Kieran Agard was adjudged to have been offside when he got in on Eunan O’Kane’s through-ball to fire past Brisol keeper Balazs. The visitors started to come into the match and Andy Rose’s rasping drive was just wide of Lars Stubhaug’s post and Luke Wilkinson was also just wide with a close-range header. it was no surprise when Bristol took the lead, but it was cruel on McCarten, who could only divert a free-kick into his own net as he attempted to clear. Everton appeared stunned by the strike and it was the visitors who looked more likely to add to their tally at the end of the first half and early in the second, but the home defence stood firm. Everton, though, came back into it with London-born striker Agard firing just over on the hour. John-Paul Kissock was also unlucky with an effort from 20 yards, but his blistering drive was also just too high. Substitute Lewis Codling almost levelled with 15 minutes to go but he was denied superbly from close range by Bristol keeper Balazs and from the rebound Kissock fired high over the bar. Left-back Moses Barnett also put his shot wide when well positioned as Everton poured forward in search of an equaliser to take the tie into extra-time. But from a swift counter-attack Bristol extinguished that hope and Jackson’s cool finish saw them through to a fourth round tie with Leeds as Everton reflected on what might have been.
EVERTON YOUTH: Stubhaug, Stewart, Barnett, Sinnott, McCarten, Akpan (Codling 56), O’Kane, Redmond (McCready 86), Kissock, Baxter, Agard, Subs: McEntegart, Powell, McArdle.
BRISTOL CITY YOUTH: Balazs, Edwards, Boon, Ribiero, Wilkinson, Rose, Stearn, Kington, Jackson, Plummer, Stambolziev. Sub: McClennan, Towler, Child, Williams. · EVERTON under-18s play their Academy League match before the Christmas break this Saturday against Stoke City at Netherton (kick-off 11am), not at Finch Farm as stated in yesterday’s Liverpool Daily Post.
Goodison ‘success’ story praised
Dec 12 2007
BY Alex Lowe, Liverpool Daily post Correspondent
ALAN CURBISHLEY reckons Everton are on of the Premier League’s ‘successes’ of recent years for challenging the big four’s dominance. The ex-Charlton manager joined the Hammers last season with the long-term brief to lead the club into the Champions League but he admits that David Moyes’s side are the perfect example to ambitious clubs. He said: "Everton and Blackburn are two sides who have really demonstrated you can get in and around that top six with a lot of hard work and talented players. It shows it can be done. "In some respects, Everton and Blackburn have been the successes of the Premiership over the last four years. "The top four is always difficult to break into. But that doesn’t stop you trying. Everton have always been there and thereabouts. "That is what we are able to do. We need to lay some foundations to build the club and that is what we are trying to do." Meanwhile, Lucas Neill is desperate to end a frustrating 12-year hunt for major honours and said: "We can see an opportunity to be in a cup final, in front of 80,00 people now back at Wembley. You play the game to get into a position to experience that kind of thing. You want to have cup finals, to give yourself the chance to win medals. I have had three or four semi-finals in my career and lost them all. "Everton will be very tough but a slight edge we might have is that we are at home and I know Tim Cahill very well. Maybe I’ll try and poison him!" West Ham will be without the cup-tied Nolberto Solano for tonight’s clash but they head into the game on the back of an impressive run of form, with just one defeat in eight games. And West Ham manager Alan Curbishley, who will celebrate a year in charge of the club on Thursday, is in bullish mood following Sunday’s 1-0 league win over Blackburn. "We got a great start to the week at Blackburn," he said. "We feel the Caring Cup is a competition we should attack. A Premier League side will win the Carling Cup and we thought ’why not us?’ "Certainly here at West Ham we enjoy a good cup run and it keeps everything bubbling along. "It will be an interesting night tomorrow. The crowd are up for it, we are up for it and Everton are going well. Something has got to give." Curbishley holds Everton in the highest regard and his immediate aim at Upton Park is to emulate their recent achievements and establish West Ham as regular European contenders. Only then, Curbishley believes, will West Ham be in a position to deliver the Champions League football demanded within five years by the club’s new owners. Freddie Ljungberg is set to replace cup-tied Nolberto Solano in the squad and, while Matthew Etherington is doubtful, Dean Ashton is pushing for a place in the starting line-up after scoring the winning goal at Blackburn.
David Moyes keen to go all way and lift trophy
Dec 12, 2007
By Christopher Beesley, Liverpool Daily Post
THE last time an Everton manager reached a cup quarter-final his side were humiliated in front of a national television audience and he was given the sack. With the BBC’s cameras present at the Riverside Stadium to broadcast the live Match of the Day there was nowhere to hide for Everton as they suffered a toothless capitulation to Middlesbrough conceding three goals in just seven minutes towards the end of the first half. It was the third time in four seasons that Walter Smith had led the Goodison outfit to the last eight of the FA Cup. But despite the former Rangers manager steering the club through an unsettled period both on and off the pitch with ever-present dignity between 1998-2002 the 3-0 loss proved to be the final straw coming on the back of an alarming slide down the table that had seen Everton fail to win any of their previous seven Premier League matches and record just one league victory in the last 13. Just four days later, David Moyes left Preston North End to become Everton’s new manager on his predecessor and fellow Glaswegian Smith’s recommendation and a new era dawned at Goodison. Having instantly dubbed his new employers ‘The People’s Club’ Moyes became an instant cult hero with Evertonians but it has been his gradual process of turning the team from perennial strugglers to European contenders and an increased level of expectation this has brought that has become his lasting legacy. It’s not that Moyes scoffs at cups because so far he hasn’t got a particularly impressive record in them or that he doesn’t take them seriously. It’s just he recognises that if you’re not one of the ‘big four’ with extra financial backing accumulated by a viscous circle of regularly competing in the Champions League then cup success in the 21st century can be something of a lottery and the one thing you don’t want to gamble with is your Premier League status. Moyes said: “I would like to win a cup but you could ask the same question to nearly all of the Premier League clubs outside the top four because there are very few of them who have won any competitions. Twelve years is a long time without a cup win but what are the figures for other clubs? “I think we’d all like to reach a final but we wouldn’t just want to get that far we’d want to try and win. You strive to try and do that and it’s something we’ve not done.” He added: “This game on its own is perhaps halfway up in what we’ve done in my five-and-a-half year reign when you look at our achievements in reaching the Champions League. The Premier League will always be your number one priority but I’ve got to say that cup competitions are not something we’ve had a great record in and hopefully we’re due one.” Victory tonight would give Everton their first appearance in a cup semi-final since Joe Royle’s ‘Dogs of War’ stunned a Tottenham side spearheaded by Jurgen Klinsmann 4-1 on their way to lifting the FA Cup by beating Manchester United in 1995. But as glorious as that success was for Evertonians, it remained a solitary high spot in a decade of decline for the club and was sandwiched between two final day of the season escapes from relegation in 1994 and 1998. Although most Everton supporters still too young to toast any silverware success with a celebratory tipple won’t be able to recall Dave Watson lifting football’s oldest trophy aloft – and you could probably say the same of current Goodison first-teamers James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe, the club’s current trophy drought is not yet their worst. They included seven seasons without competitive football because of the Second World War but the 24 barren years between Everton’s 1939 and 1963 League titles spanned a generation and included three consecutive campaigns in English football’s second tier (1951-54). At a time when their rivals across the park were regularly conquering everyone at home and abroad, Evertonians waited 14 years for a victory parade between 1970-1984. And even in football’s pioneering era, Everton’s 1906 FA Cup success stopped the rot of 15 trophyless years after the 1891 title joy. Inside and outside the squad there has been a feeling this season that Everton just might be able to end their wait for silverware and with three cups on offer and a place in the knockout stages of the UEFA Cup already secured, perhaps there’s never been a better time. However, Moyes admits that a favourable draw can always prove to be a big help. He said: “You really need the draws in the cup competitions to go for you. “You need to get the right draws and you probably need to get the top teams to play each other as you can see by their records, the teams in the top four have tended to dominate the trophies. “Over the years we’ve not done so well, we’ve had some bad defeats but we’ve also drawn some good teams and been knocked out by Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal a couple of times. “We’ve had our fair share of not the best draws and I think this one is a tough one too. “I think the teams will be evenly matched and home advantage is something that both sides will have been desperately keen on and West Ham have got it and we haven’t.” The last time Everton met the Hammers in a cup tie in March 1991 it was also a quarter-final at the Boleyn Ground but in the FA Cup. A 2-1 defeat to the Londoners, who ended up finishing bottom of the old First Division that season, proved a huge anticlimax. Everton had needed three ties to overcome neighbours Liverpool in the previous round, eventually triumphing 1-0 in a second replay after the legendary 4-4 draw in the first – a game that marked the end of Kenny Dalglish’s tenure as manager at Anfield. Like Everton, the current West Ham side have ambitions of breaking into the top four but they are going about it with rapid big spending financed by their Icelandic owners rather than the gradual building Moyes has undertaken at Goodison. Although the two philoso-phies contrast starkly, the Scot has no qualms about the way in which Alan Curbishley has transformed the playing squad of tonight’s opponents. Moyes said: “West Ham have initially done things in a different way than we have but each man to their own and the way they go about it is their business.”
David Moyes: We’re equipped for cup success
Dec 12, 2007
By Chris Bessley, Liverpool Daily post
EVERTON manager David Moyes believes his side are better equipped to win a cup competition than they’ve ever been under his stewardship as they attempt to reach their first semi-final in almost 13 years tonight. After defeating Sheffield Wednesday and Luton Town so far in this season’s Carling Cup, Moyes has reached the last eight of a knockout tournament for the first time in his Goodison reign. A combination of disappointing results and difficult draws have previously scuppered Everton’s hopes of cup glory under the Scot but Moyes, whose side are also enjoying a successful run in this season’s UEFA Cup having already qualified for the knockout stages, believes his current charges can now handle the requirements of challenging on more than one front. He said: “Maybe we’ve not been equipped to handle Premier League games and cup competitions in recent years and I think we’re more equipped now to handle it and we’re showing that having done well in the cup games so far this season, including in Europe.” Moyes had mixed fortunes on the fitness front for his squad yesterday when a scan result on Leighton Baines suggested the left-back will be out for between four to six weeks rather than the fortnight that Everton had initially hoped for just 24 hours earlier. However the former Wigan man’s disappointment – on his 23rd birthday – was tempered by Moyes revealing that right-back Tony Hibbert and left-back Nuno Valente will travel with the squad for the trip to the Boleyn Ground which must be settled tonight. Moyes said: “Leighton hurt his ankle against Derby County and he’s tried to come back in training and it’s not been quite right. He’s just got back so it is disappointing, especially as Leighton has done well for us. “It happens but it’s just unfortunate that Nuno Valente has been out as well but we’ve had him back training and we hope to get him back into things quite quickly now. “With the amount of games we’ve got over the next few weeks it can have an affect as Leighton could miss quite a lot but you can’t do anything about it.” With a repeat visit to the Hammers in the Premier League less than 72 hours later, Moyes suggests that he may shuffle his pack for tonight’s tie. He said: “We may look to make one or two changes. Obviously we’ll be made to make at least one change with Leighton Baines being out but we have other options and we’ll see how we go. “Both Nuno Valente and Tony Hibbert will travel.” Meanwhile, Everton’s Victor Anichebe is a surprise omission from Nigeria’s African Cup of Nations squad – a move which is likely to continue the debate over his international future. The 19-year-old – who also qualifies to play for England – was expected to be in the 31-man squad who will begin training in Spain from January 4 for the pan-African tournament in Ghana later in the month. Anichebe has previously been picked for England’s under-19s but withdrew and has since pledged his loyalty to Nigeria, only to pull out of several squads, including last month’s friendly against Australia in London. Anichebe’s Goodison team-mates Joseph Yobo and Ayegbeni Yakubu have been included in the squad and ironically the latter’s absence could provide the teenage striker with more opportunities to play for his club. Moyes said: “I think they have got a fantastic array of centre-forwards for Nigeria and that is probably the reason why (Anichebe is not in the squad). “We are disappointed Victor is not in the squad but in the same breath we are glad he will be here with us.”
David Moyes praise for defensive rock Joseph Yobo
Dec 12 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES today hailed his defensive rock Joseph Yobo and backed him to play a crucial role in Everton's push for the Carling Cup semi-finals. The Nigerian international will have to sign off for African Nations’ duty next month along with Ayegbeni Yakubu and Moyes knows that Yobo - who has been in outstanding form recently - will be sorely missed. Everton’s attackers may have been receiving plenty of plaudits recently but six clean sheets in the last 10 games speaks volumes for the defence’s input to this unbeaten run and they will again need to be in top form against West Ham tonight. That is why Moyes will again be looking to Yobo to ensure things are kept tight at the back and while he feels the 27-year-old is playing to his optimum, he believes there is even more to come from him in the future. “I think both Joseph and Joleon Lescott have played really well in the last few months,” said Moyes.
“There is a real good understanding about their partnership and they have both come on a great deal. “But I think Joseph being made captain at Derby County not so long ago gave him a lot of confidence. “He stepped up to it when people were out. He understands that he has got a big part to play at the club. “Hopefully there is more to come. He has been here five years with us now and I remember saying when he first came here that central defenders get better with age and the more experience they get.
“He is doing a good job at the moment.” This will be the first quarter-final Everton have played during Moyes’ spell in charge, but he has been anxious to improve what has been a dismal cup record and finally believes he has got the perfect blend in his squad. He knows, though, that West Ham will prove a tough nut to crack and is well aware of what damage their returning striker Dean Ashton - a player he admires - can do if given the chance. “We may look to make one or two changes but we will see how things are. We have got other options that we can look at,” said Moyes.
“The league will always take priority but we’ve not had a great record in cup competitions and we want to change that. “Dean Ashton will probably come back for West Ham and he has had a disappointing time of it because of injuries he picked up with England. “But they will be anxious to get him back because he is a good player.
“Maybe we have not been equipped to handle the Premier League and cup competitions in recent years but I think we are more equipped to do that now.”
Phil Neville happy for Everton to keep up low profile
Dec 12 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
IT'S a bone of contention among supporters that Everton's highlights on 'Match of the Day' are not shown until near the witching hour - but Phil Neville is happy for things to stay the same. Had, say, Tottenham, Newcastle or even tonight’s opponents, West Ham, enjoyed the kind of unbeaten run Everton have done recently, coverage of their efforts from certain media outlets would, in all likelihood, have gone through the roof.
For some reason, though, the Blues continue to remain on the periphery of some horizons and if it’s driving Evertonians to distraction, imagine how the players are feeling? Neville, in particular, has been left especially puzzled. Yet, in strange way, he hopes a lack of air time and column inches brings with it the element of surprise.
Others may be oblivious to it but Neville and his team-mates could not be in better form. If some opponents are not aware of that, so much the better. Chances are, however, that if Everton maintain their hot streak tonight at Upton Park and book a place in the Carling Cup semi-finals, they will find themselves in the spotlight soon enough. The feeling persists that they are ready to seize the moment.
If that still isn’t enough to excite the wider audience, so be it, but the Toffees’ skipper has no intentions of complaining. As long as Everton are winning he, like everyone else at Goodison, will be more than happy, especially if their cup run continues.
“At the minute it seems as if there aren’t too many people who are paying attention to what we are doing. But that suits us fine,” said Neville. “We are usually last on Match of the Day and there doesn’t seem to be a great deal about us in the papers. Let’s keep it that way. “ We are happy to keep everything low key and maybe then we will start to surprise a few people. “We are all on top of our game and we go to Upton Park full of confidence. It’s a great feeling. “There is no hiding away from the fact that this is an absolutely massive game. We are potentially 90 minutes away from a semi-final and we want to progress. But we aren’t going to start making any rash declarations about what we might do. “When you start doing that, football has a habit of biting you on the backside. We know what we have got to do. “There is a quiet, steely resolve about the lads and we just intend to do our talking on the pitch.” And that is the way it will stay. A trip to Wembley would be a distinct possibility if they come out on top tonight but nobody in Everton’s squad is being allowed to think that far ahead.
How refreshing it is for fans to be able to think that way after years of disappointment in knockout tournaments. As Neville concedes, it has been far too long since Everton were involved at the business end of a cup run and that needs to change.
“If you go back a few years, getting to a quarter-final might have been a decent achievement for Everton and going out at that stage might have been accepted,” said Neville, desperate to taste success in the one competition that has so far eluded him.
“But standards have risen among the supporters, the manager and the players. With expectation comes pressure but that is something that we have all wanted.
“There is a great feeling around the place, certainly the best since I arrived at the club.
“The training ground is alive and nobody can allow themselves to get into the comfort zone. But nobody is getting carried away. “You can’t start to think about finals until you have won a semi. “We used to have a saying at United that the closer you got to Wembley, the more you could smell the hot dogs being cooked outside the ground.
“We can’t even think like that yet but hopefully that is going to change. We want to have the smell of success here, too.” That said, for all the belief and buoyancy which is flooding through the ranks, it should not be forgotten that West Ham are also in form and come into the tie on the back of an excellent win at Blackburn last Sunday.
Slowly but surely, Alan Curbishley’s summer signings are starting to gel and – just like Neville and company – they will fancy a trip to Wembley, too.
No wonder the England international is predicting a huge effort will be needed to lower their colours. “They are quite a formidable unit with great experience, but the problem they have had has been injuries,” said Neville. “When they have got everyone fit, they will be a very good side. “They have top drawer performers, players who have played in the Champions League and long been involved in international football, so we know how tough the task that faces us is going to be.”
MOYES HAILS MATCH-WINNER YAKUBU
13th December 2007 Daily Star
Manager David Moyes heaped praise on Ayegbeni Yakubu after the Nigeria international struck two minutes from time to sink West Ham and seal Everton a place in the semi-final of the Carling Cup. Yakubu pounced on a defensive mix-up between Robert Green and Danny Gabiddon to score his sixth goal in four games and 10th for Everton since completing his £11.25million summer move from Middlesbrough.
"People who know about Yakubu will tell you that's what he does," said Moyes. "His workrate and movement is fantastic. All round he's done a great job for us."
Everton had to come from behind after Carlton Cole's 11th-minute opener but drew level through Leon Osman shortly before the interval and Yakubu's strike sealed Everton their first league cup semi-final since 1988. The Toffees face West Ham again in the league on Saturday and Moyes added: "I'm not one to get excited. We're not getting carried away. We're obviously pleased. But we've never been here before, challenging on four fronts. "The league is our priority but it's a good result for us, to come to Upton Park in a cup tie is a hard thing to do, and this was our third draw away from home. "I'm looking forward to coming back on Saturday. Hopefully we'll do the same again, and play the same way again." The late defensive howler cost West Ham manager Alan Curbishley the chance to celebrate his one-year anniversary with a semi-final. Curbishley was frustrated by referee Mark Halsey but conceded Everton deserved their victory. "We started ever-so well, got the goal, and unfortunately Everton took over after that. They have a very established side," said Curbishley. "It was drifting into extra-time and then they got their goal. Danny and Greeny got caught in between. Greeny was going to get it, Danny headed it. It was a mistake."
West Ham 1, Everton 2
Dec 13 2007
By Dominic King, at Upton Park, Liverpool Echo
AFTER endearing themselves to the nation with their ludicrous summer transfer policy, it’s nice to see West Ham have discovered the art of losing graciously. While one morose supporter shuffled out of Upton Park muttering that he would “much prefer to win Saturday’s game than this,” Alan Curbishley took a leaf from the pages of his predecessor and namesake Pardew in trying to explain elimination from the Carling Cup. His view? Everton were over physical and referee Mark Halsey did West Ham no favours. Hogwash. There in a nutshell is the reason why a first semi-final appearance in 13 years feels all the sweeter for the Blues today. Superbly drilled and backed by some magnificent travelling support, only the blinkered could have agreed with Curbishley as Everton – full of verve and vivacity – deservedly extended their unbeaten run to 11 games and fired dreams of a trip to Wembley. Ayegbeni Yakubu’s late intervention, coupled with a smart Leon Osman strike, provided even more evidence that David Moyes’ side be considered as genuine candidates for silverware this season. It’s just a pity the cameras weren’t there to see it. When you consider that only two of last night’s eight Champions League fixtures were of any significance, it was extremely baffling that Sky did not feel a contest between two in-form teams did not warrant any coverage. Some would even say it was a disgrace. Such a shame. Had the chance allowed, a national audience would have witnessed an absorbing cup tie but, more significantly, seen Everton add a new string to their bow in the fact that, for the first time this season, they came from behind to win. Having been so difficult to breakdown in the past few weeks, the goal which breached Everton’s defence for the first time in more than five-and-a-half hours was one that left Moyes understandably aghast in his technical area. Scott Parker had plenty of time to hoist a long, diagonal pass into Everton’s area and, with Phil Neville guilty of ball watching – the captain will not want to see a replay of the incident – Carlton Cole took full advantage. Try as Tim Howard might, Cole waltzed around the American’s despairing dive and rolled his shot into an empty net. It was exactly the kind of start Everton could have done without and certain individuals seemed rattled. Tackles lacked snap, West Ham’s runners from midfield were not picked up and simple passes went astray – even Mikel Arteta’s normally precise set-pieces lacked conviction. It was not the Everton we have grown accustomed to seeing. Fortunately, the malaise did not last long. Slowly but surely the Blues came out of their shell and started to play with a real zip and purpose. Once they had taken a firm hold of the game, there was only going to be one winner. Tim Cahill went desperately close to equalising on 38 minutes after Steven Pienaar had caused problems down the left, but the ball skidded through his legs when the goal was at his mercy. No matter. Parity was achieved in the next attack with comfortably the best moment of the first half to show Everton in a truer light. No surprises for guessing the wonderfully inventive Pienaar was at the heart of the matter. Set free by an instinctive pass from Lee Carsley, his trickery caused Lucas Neill no end of trouble and, much to the relief of the travelling contingent housed in the Centenary Stand, Osman applied the finish his perfectly weighted pass demanded. Pienaar’s talents have been championed on these pages before and, doubtlessly, they will be again. Once again, Moyes has unearthed a little gem and surely there is no way he will be allowed to slip through the net when his loan expires? This was his best performance and the more he plays, the better he looks. Pienaar also has a wonderful attitude in that he bounces straight back up every time a defender knocks him over. Neill, for one, will not relish locking horns with him on Saturday Unfortunately, the interval came at just the wrong time for Everton as they were building up a head of steam and were starting to make their hosts look exactly what they really are – distinctly ordinary. But for all the dominance, it was only to be expected that West Ham would come out and attempt to stage a fightback after the break. Fortunately, after the early aberration, Everton’s defence was in no mood to be breached again. Standing tall in the centre was Joseph Yobo, who threw his head and body in the way of everything that came in his direction, read the game superbly and proved to be a terrific chaperon for Phil Jagielka, who deputised for the injured Leighton Baines. A word, too, for Everton’s midfield gremlin. Apart from providing a crucial pass to Pienaar for the first goal, Carsley never put a foot wrong, derailing West Ham attacks with perfectly timed challenges and heading clear countless corners. He also launched the ball forward in the dying moments to give Yakubu an opportunity to unsettle the hapless Danny Gabbidon which was gleefully taken. One chance, one goal – what more could be asked for? Yakubu won’t be gifted a simpler chance, but how he relished taking it, sparking scenes in the visiting section which were similar to when Matt Jackson scored at Ashton Gate in 1995 on the last run to Wembley. If he was viewed suspiciously in the formative weeks of his Everton career, the only way supporters will be looking at him now is through Blue tinted glasses after a magnificent return of 10 goals in 15 games. International commitments are going to rule him out of the semi-final second leg. But if he and Yobo can convince Berti Vogts to release them to play in the first meeting, in this form who knows what they can achieve? His parting gift might just be the goal that sends Moyes and his players – not to mention Everton’s increasingly giddy supporters – on their merry way to Wembley.
WEST HAM (4-4-2): Green; Neill, Upson, Gabbidon, McCartney; Ljungberg, Parker, Boa Morte (Reid 67), Mullins; Ashton, Cole (Pantsill 76). EVERTON (4-1-4-1): Howard; Neville, Jagielka, Yobo, Lescott; Carsley, Arteta, Osman, Cahill, Pienaar; Yakubu. Goals - Cole (12), Osman (40), Yakubu (87) Bookings - Neill (66), Yakubu (88) Attendance: 28,877 Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)
West Ham 1, Everton 2
Dec 13, 2007
By Ian Doyle, at Upton Park, Liverpool Daily Post
AS leaving gifts go, it was a pretty good one. Days after confirming his absence in the New Year, Yakubu ensured Everton will have something to remember him by after firing David Moyes’s side into the semi-finals of the Carling Cup. The Nigeria international continued the Goodison outfit’s penchant for late goals by capitalising on a horrendous mistake by West Ham United centre-back Danny Gabbidon to score the winner two minutes from time. The strike, greeted by the sight of his manager rushing on to the Upton Park turf punching both fists into the air in unrestrained delight, was Yakubu’s 10th goal since his club record £11.25million move from Middlesbrough in the summer – and his most important yet. It guaranteed a thoroughly deserved victory that puts Everton into the last four of the competition for the first time in 20 years. Of course, the forward will be in Ghana with the Nigeria squad for the African Cup of Nations when Moyes’s men play that two-legged encounter next month. But it wasn’t just Yakubu – who has six goals from his last four starts – that excelled on a night when Everton had to call on their deep reserves of character to come from behind after conceding the self-inflicted wound of Carlton Cole’s 12th-minute opener. Steven Pienaar’s outstanding personal display was rewarded by an assist for Leon Osman’s 40th-minute equaliser, a finish that capped a fine move from the visitors. It would be wrong to make any major issue of the good fortune Everton enjoyed with Gabbidon’s dreadful late blunder. They had earned that luck. In terms of quality and application, the Goodison side were easily the superior team on the night and, when it came down to basic desire, they simply wanted it more. Much to the disgruntlement of their support and manager Alan Curbishley, West Ham were outplayed and outfought. The win extends Everton’s unbeaten run to 11 games and was notably the first time they had come from behind to win during that time. Put into context, the last time they enjoyed such a sequence in a single campaign was back in 1986. Intriguingly, the only previous occasion Everton and West Ham had met in the competition before last night was in 1984, the Goodison outfit won 2-0 after a replay before going on to reach the final. And with only one further obstacle to be hurdled to secure a date at Wembley in late February, who can argue against a repeat after this win? Certainly – although the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal remain in the competition – this in-form Everton would surely fancy their chances against anyone over two games. While the chilly temperatures persuaded some home supporters to stay at home last night, the visitors’ section inside Upton Park was sold out as Everton fans, starved of much to cheer in cups in recent years, made the journey south en masse. Small wonder. Everton had been absent from this stage of the League Cup since January 1988 and this was the first time they had reached the last eight of any knockout competition since Moyes assumed charge in March 2002. So the manager’s insistence his squad is better equipped than ever for success in the cups continues to ring true. UEFA Cup football already secured beyond Christmas, Everton now have the chance to leave a major mark on a competition that has rarely offered much joy for the Goodison outfit under any of its guises. Moyes’s side went into the game on the back of a Yakubu-inspired 3-0 thumping of Fulham at the weekend. West Ham were in similarly fine form, losing just one of their previous eight games while scoring a notable 1-0 victory at Blackburn Rovers in their most recent fixture last Sunday. Yakubu was soon in the action when glancing a Mikel Arteta corner harmlessly wide while, at the other end, Phil Jagielka was alert to take the ball off the toes of Dean Ashton as both teams started confidently. But Everton fell behind in the 12th minute with a strike that would have enraged Moyes. A long diagonal punt forward by Scott Parker from the right towards the edge of the area should not have posed any danger to the visitors. However, Joseph Yobo and Phil Neville were guilty of thinking the other had Cole covered and allowed the striker to steal in completely unmarked, dance around Tim Howard and slot home. It was an uncharacteristic goal to concede for a team that had kept six clean sheets in their previous nine games. As replacement for the injured Leighton Baines, Jagielka was the only change from the team that beat Fulham at the weekend, coming in at the heart of the defence with Joleon Lescott moving over to left-back. And that reshuffle seemed to temporarily unsettle an Everton backline that looked on edge against the pace and power of Ashton and Cole during the opening quarter. But after Ashton and Luis Boa Morte were wayward with speculative efforts, Howard was virtually unemployed as Everton gradually regained their composure and slowly began to pin their hosts back. And it was from a sustained bout of pressure that Pienaar fashioned a deserved equaliser five minutes before the interval. The South African had moments earlier posted note of his threat down the left with an inviting low cross that Robert Green parried clear, the West Ham goalkeeper fortunate to see the ball somehow wriggle between Tim Cahill’s legs with the Australian primed to capitalise in the six-yard box. But Pienaar then found his range when, after teasing a gaggle of defenders in a packed penalty area, he cut the ball back for Osman to strike first time past the unsighted Green from 15 yards. Pienaar claimed a penalty shortly after half-time after tussling with Lucas Neill as Everton began the half in similarly determined fashion. West Ham, though, rediscovered their early zeal and screamed for a spot-kick of their own when Lescott outmuscled Cole. The goalscorer was then wide when attempting to prod in Freddie Ljungberg’s corner at the near post, while a fine tackle from George McCartney denied Arteta the chance to convert Yakubu’s throughball. However, clear-cut openings were at a premium as both teams realised what was at stake as the game entered its final quarter. A mistake seemed the most likely source of a goal, and so it proved when Yakubu made West Ham pay for some poor defending in the 88th minute when, in chasing Lee Carsley’s punt forward, the striker’s pressure forced Gabbidon to head the bouncing ball away from his own keeper Green. The Nigerian then prodded the loose ball into the empty net to cue manic celebrations from the travelling army and the visitors’ bench. Everton are now one step from Wembley. WEST HAM UNITED (4-4-2): Green; Neill, Gabbidon, Upson, McCartney; Ljungberg, Mullins, Parker, Boa Morte (Reid 68); Cole (Pantsil 77), Ashton. Subs: Wright, Spector, Noble. BOOKING: Neill (foul). EVERTON (4-4-1-1): Howard; Neville, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Arteta, Carsley, Osman, Pienaar; Cahill; Yakubu. Subs: Wessels, Hibbert, Gravesen, Johnson, Anichebe. REFEREE: Mark Halsey. ATT: 28,877. NEXT GAME: West Ham United v Everton, Barclays Premier League, Saturday 3pm.
Joseph Yobo asks Nigeria boss Vogts: Let us play in cup semi
Dec 13 2007
Excusive by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
JOSEPH YOBO hopes his powers of persuasion will convince Berti Vogts to let him and goal hero Ayegbeni Yakubu play in the first leg of Everton’s Carling Cup semi-final. As things stand at present, Yobo – once again a colossus in last night’s thrilling 2-1 quarter-final win against West Ham – and Yakubu are scheduled to join up with Nigeria for the African Cup of Nations on January 4. Vogts, however, indicated yesterday he will allow his English-based players to participate in the FA Cup third round, meaning the pair would be available for Oldham Athletic’s visit before reporting for a pre-training camp in Malaga. But the African Nations does not start until January 20, so Yobo hopes Vogts will put his and Yakubu’s arrival back until after the first semi-final – scheduled for January 8 or 9 – to give Everton’s bid for a first Wembley appearance since 1995 a major boost. “We are going to try and work something out,” Yobo said today. “I have got to stay focused on the games that we have coming up over Christmas and see where it leads me. “I would like to delay it, but it’s not up to me. It’s up to the Nigerian FA and the manager. If the Gaffer here tries and pushes, we will see what happens. We need to talk about it. “The way we are playing, it is going to be very hard for me and Yak to leave. We know that we have got to play for our country as well but we would like to sort something out if we can. We have had a great win but we want to keep our run going now. “It will be really difficult on Saturday and a completely different game. In football, you can’t talk about revenge but West Ham are going to want to get their own back. We will just go out and do our best again.” While Yobo was the pick of Everton’s defence at Upton Park, Yakubu stole the headlines with his last-gasp poacher’s goal and his compatriot was full of praise for the way he has performed in the past month. Yakubu has now scored seven times in his last seven appearances but Yobo believes this is the start of a significant sequence and he expects Everton’s 11-match unbeaten run to continue this weekend at Upton Park. “It was a very tough game but we are all delighted,” said Yobo. “Yak is in form and the team is playing well. He is a natural goalscorer and working really hard. I’m delighted for him. “When the ball drops to Yak, you know he is going to score. But we have got other good forwards here who can also do the same. It’s good from the team’s point of view as it is giving us so much confidence. “If we go out there and work as hard as we have been, we know we have got a chance. This run of form has been unbelievable. We have managed to cope with all the games recently. It’s the best I’ve known us play.”
Dec 13, 2007
What’s Your Verdict on last night’s Carling Cup win over West Ham?
ANOTHER great away trip for Evertonians in the Carling Cup with West Ham making it difficult for us, but we got through in the end. After a slow start, we dominated the majority of the game and were deservedly level. West Ham were the stronger team towards the end as the Blues tired, but our defence held firm with magnificent performances from Jaglieka and Yobo. It took a bit of luck for the Yak to score the winner, but his anticipation of an error from Green was terrific. He really is beginning to look a steal with 10 goals already this season. Evertonians can now start to dream about Wembley with just a semi-final left. At this stage every team is difficult to beat, but we should be confident of beating any team over two legs on our current form. Since Cahill and Carsley returned we have not lost and we look really solid, too. Steven Pienaar has also been outstanding, Moyes should definitely sign him permanently. It’s great being an Evertonian, let’s enjoy it! Lee Molton, St Helens MISSED the opening action at Upton Park last night due to a flat tyre, but Everton had no such problems disposing of West Ham. We can almost smell Wembley after booking a place in the Carling Cup semi finals, and this season just gets better and better for Everton. I hope this run doesn’t end for some time. I was impressed with Yakubu yet again and all his hard work was rewarded with a last gasp winner. Pienaar, Carsley and Osman also deserve special credit for their work rate and determination in midfield. I would, however, question the ability of Phil Jagielka, who I fear isn’t good enough for Everton. With Yobo likely to be missing on international duty shortly I only hope the return of Alan Stubbs is sooner rather than later. Everton and West Ham do it all over again this weekend, and I see no reason why we can’t take the three points. Maybe Jagielka will score the winner and shut me up for a while? David Wallbank, Huyton IT was a great victory on Wednesday night, but apart from having the worst supporters song – I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles – I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for West Ham. They’re what Roy Keane would call a ‘proper club’. Apart from Alf Garnett and Russell Brand they don’t have hordes of celebrity supporters and if you ordered a prawn sandwich at half time you’d probably be escorted out. Upton Park is a tight ground surrounded by terraced housing not some soulless bowl at the end of a motorway. The crowd get behind the team and are within spitting distance of the players (literally sometimes). Locals will cheerfully show you where the Kray twins used to dispense ‘justice’. West Ham away on a cold night in December has been the kind of game where we’ve come away with nothing. The result is a measure of the progress we’re making. Put the champagne on ice. Richard Knights, West Derby A COUPLE of weeks ago I said that David Moyes had the best squad at his disposal since the glory days of the 1980s. We have all now seen that Everton can produce flowing football when required but last night they proved they are capable of grafting out results in the most difficult of places. This kind of tenacity will be crucial as the season goes on, as it is still early days and it will now be interesting to see what happens to the team if results suddenly turn against us. Even the most sceptical of Blues fans (and sceptical is what we have to be after recent years) must now be thinking of happier days in the years ahead than we have seen in many a year. Caution must still be the key word but with the strength in depth throughout the squad and the possible acquisition of one or two in the January transfer wondow, Evertonians seem set to finally enjoy the rosy future we thought only existed in DVDs. Mike Williamson, Chester
David Moyes: We've won nothing yet
Dec 13 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES believes Everton's bid to end their 13-year trophy drought will soon come to an end if they make a habit of repeating last night's performance at West Ham. The Blues boss was so thrilled by what he saw from his side in the opening 45 minutes of a tie they eventually won 2-1 that he claimed it was “probably the best” Everton had played during his career at Goodison Park. But while the joy of reaching the Carling Cup semi-finals sinks in, Moyes knows it is up to him to bring everyone back down to earth and has issued a reminder that Everton are still a long way from the prizes being given out. Whichever side they are paired against in the last four will be tough opponents but Moyes hopes that, finally, his luck in knockout tournaments has changed and a trip to Wembley will become a real possibility. “The first half was probably the best in my management career,” declared a jubilant Moyes.
“If Arsenal had come here and played the way we did in the first half, then everybody would have been talking about it. “But we had to dig deep in the second half and overall it was a good team performance. “I’m not going mad on it, we haven’t won anything, just a quarter-final tie. But the manner in which we won was good.
“We are not getting carried way. But we have won a game against a good West Ham team so we are obviously pleased. “The league is always the priority but this is a very good result for us. “To come to Upton Park in a cup tie is a hard thing to do, and they are improving all the time. “In my time, we had one really bad cup result against Shrewsbury in the FA Cup, but otherwise most of the knockouts have been to the big teams. “The draws haven’t been that kind for us, and even in this competition this has been our third away from home. “You will have to beat one of them to win the cup along the line. But at the moment we’re in the semi-final, no more.” Club record signing Ayegbeni Yakubu popped up in the right place at the right time to seal the win, after Leon Osman had equalised Carlton Cole’s opener, but Moyes was as pleased with the Nigerian’s overall display as he was the winning goal.
“People who know about Yakubu know that scoring goals is what he does,” said Moyes. “He’s playing really well for us just now and played very well here.
“He brought people into the game with his link-up play and movement, his work rate was fantastic. “All-round he is doing a great job for us right now. But if you are going to talk about the second goal being lucky, then you must talk about our first. I don’t know how many passes were involved in the move but it was a really good goal.”
The man who supplied Osman with the killer pass was loan-star Steven Pienaar and, once again, he showed himself in the best possible light to earn a glowing tribute from his manager. “Steven has been playing really well for us,” said Moyes. “He did really well again, especially in the first half where I thought his all-round play was excellent.”
Women's football: Westwood’s double helps Everton Ladies sink Belles
Dec 13 2007 by Paul Garrity, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON LADIES put the misery of their defeat to Arsenal behind them as they overcame Doncaster Rovers Belles 3-1 in the Premier League at Marine.
The Belles arrived late due to an accident on the M62 and the match was delayed for 90 minutes. When the action got underway the Blues got off to a slow start and conceded a goal after just six minutes. After some sustained pressure, an error by goalkeeper Danielle Hill allowed Vikki Stevens to prod the ball home.
Everton responded and Jody Handley saw her shot across goal strike the far post.
Parity was restored after 10 minutes when Emily Westwood headed home Michelle Evans’ free-kick. The Blues struck the woodwork again when forward Natasha Dowie saw her strike canon off the far post and away to safety. The home side took the lead eight minutes before the break and again it was Westwood who made the breakthrough. Evans’ free-kick caused trouble for the Belles and although Rachel Unitt’s header was cleared off the line, Westwood was on hand to side foot home from six yards. The Blues wrapped up the points early in the second half.
Jill Scott unleashed a superb right-footed strike from the edge of the box which slammed off the far post and into the net. Handley had another couple of chances but she missed the target when it seemed easier to score, while young substitutes Toni Duggan and Michelle Hinnigan both had tame shots comfortably saved.
Victory was the perfect confidence boost for the Blues as they prepare for Sunday’s League Cup semi-final at Watford. Liverpool are also in action in the capital as they meet Arsenal in the other semi.
Football strike threat by Merseyside police
Dec 13 2007 EXCLUSIVE by Luke Traynor, Liverpool Echo
MERSEYSIDE police today threatened to stop patrols at Liverpool and Everton football games if the row over pay is not resolved. They have made an unprecedented call for a home secretary to resign after Jacqui Smith decided not to backdate a 2.5% pay rise to September. Merseyside officers will join colleagues across England, Wales and Northern Ireland in a ballot over whether they want the right to strike. Industrial action in the police force is illegal. But the ECHO has learned Merseyside police have discussed a work-to-rule including refusing to police matches at Anfield and Goodison. One senior police source said the move could “bring the Premiership to a halt”. Members of Merseyside Police Federation, who attended a crisis meeting yesterday, said “ideas” being put forward by their members would be “considered” by the union. One source today described an “unbelievable level of anger” among Merseyside members. It is possible the policing of Premiership games could stop in the New Year. They cost between £14,000 and £20,000 to police, sometimes involving hundreds of officers in and around stadiums. No safety certificate can be issued without adequate security. Another measure being proposed by Merseyside officers is not working unpaid overtime. Ian Leyland, spokesman for Merseyside Police Federation, said the ballot could prompt UK federations to mount a challenge at the European Court to fight for the right to strike. “The police service has lost confidence in the home secretary and she should resign. “She has lost the confidence of those from constable to chief constable and her position is untenable.
“Whether we work to rule is one thing. But officers have lost their goodwill that makes the job work. Every job requires good industrial relations to make it work.
“Officers are saying they are not doing any more unpaid overtime. One CID officer told me he had worked a 57-hour week but would not be doing it any more.”
Merseyside police officers plan to take part in rallies in London and the home secretary’s constituency of Redditch. A Home Office statement said: “We are accepting a recommendation for a 2.5% increase to the pay of police officers.
“However we also have a responsibility to ensure pay settlements are affordable and consistent with government pay policy, including the maintenance of low inflation.”
Cup hero seeks goals bonanza
Dec 14 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
GIVEN some of his unfortunate experiences in the past, Leon Osman would be forgiven if he spent the next few days fearing a call from the FA’s dubious goals panel. The beaks at Soho Square have long plagued the Blues midfielder, infuriating him in the past couple of years by striking off what appeared to be perfectly legitimate goals at Portsmouth, Wigan and Charlton. Not even they, though, would have the temerity to try and dispute the howitzer which set Everton on their way to the Carling Cup semi-finals – a slight deflection could not mask the fact that there was only one place his right foot shot was destined to end. Osman might not score as many goals as he possibly should but when they do arrive they are invariably picture perfect and he has often given the impression this year that he is in a goal of the season competition with himself. A terrific header against Wigan on the opening day was quickly followed by a smart effort in a 3-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur, while his guided missiles against Larissa and Sunderland screamed quality. Deflection or not, Wednesday night’s was another belter. Yet while all that is extremely satisfying, Osman is hungry for more. Few would argue that he has the ability to get into double figures and if the 26-year-old needs any inspiration, he need only look across the dressing room at Goodison Park. Tim Cahill is the man who sets the benchmark for what goalscoring midfielders can achieve, so it is no surprise to learn that Osman is now aiming to achieve a personal best. If he can do that, Everton’s push for silverware will have a new dimension. “It’s always nice to score a goal,” said Osman, who is flourishing in his new role in the centre. “The way the team is playing, we are creating chances for everyone and I was just pleased that when the chance came along, I managed to put it away. “Every year I try to score as many as I can. We are going to play more games than we have done in the past and with us creating lots of chances, the potential is there to get a few more and hopefully I can do that. Double figures would be nice.” Like so many of his team-mates, Osman is favoured by the 4-1-4-1 formation which David Moyes employs and it would be a huge surprise if he deviated his tactics when Everton make a quick return to Upton Park tomorrow. Unbeaten in 11 games – their best sequence since the winter of 1986 – each hurdle that is cleared sees a new injection of confidence and, at times, the style of play against West Ham on Wednesday night was of the highest standard. It is giving artists like Osman and Steven Pienaar a chance to show themselves in the best possible light. But, equally, the silk is backed up with a steely determination to dig deep when the chips are down.
“It’s a great feeling to have at the minute,” Osman continued. “We believe we are moving in the right direction and we think we are doing it in all the right ways. We showed we could play football on Wednesday night. “We were delighted with the passing and movement. We are not a one-dimensional side. “We know West Ham will be fired up to put this one right tomorrow, so we are going to have to make sure we are up to the task once again.” With nothing riding on next Thursday’s UEFA Cup clash against AZ Alkmaar, Premier League commitments take precedence for the time being. But it is only natural that the players have started thinking about the Carling Cup semi-final. Now that Wembley is almost within touching distance, there is a determination to finish the job – but Osman promised it won’t distract from the main priority of pushing for a place in the top six. “We have been on a good run and played some nice football but that was definitely some of our best on Wednesday night,” said Osman. “We did it the hard way and we were disappointed to concede the kind of goal we fell behind to. “It didn’t damage our confidence in the slightest. It was as if as soon as that goal went in, we started to dominate the game. We showed what we are about in the first half. “The second half was more of a battle but showed we can deal with a dogfight, too. It’s a great feeling to be in a semi-final. I’ve never been involved in a game of this importance and we will go out to enjoy the occasion against whoever we are paired with.”
Fixture pile-up a bonus - Moyes
Dec 14 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES believes Everton’s punishing fixture list can spur his players on to even greater heights. The Blues have already played 23 matches so far this season and are currently in a run that will see them play another nine games - including the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final - in the next four weeks. But results recently have shown that Everton are well equipped to deal with the extra workload that comes with challenging for success on four fronts - they are on an unbeaten run of 11 - and Moyes feels that some members of his squad are improving for it. “I think European football is helping us but I actually think the extra games are helping too,” said Moyes, who may shuffle his pack when the Blues return to West Ham tomorrow. “We have got into a groove and the players are benefiting from playing more often. They are playing better and getting more of an understanding with each other. “We just need to make sure that we watch out for fatigue. But I have got to say the players are revelling in it.
“The competition we have for places seems to be spurring everyone on. I might make a couple of changes. I’ll see how everyone has recovered.” Nuno Valente is pushing for a recall after missing the last three games with a hamstring problem, while Tony Hibbert, who was on the bench on Wednesday night at Upton Park, is also in the frame after recovering from back trouble. One man, though, who has done his hopes of staying in the team no harm is Phil Jagielka. Moyes has been encouraged by the way his £4m summer signing from Sheffield United has performed in the past few weeks. Jagielka was confined to a bit part role in the early months of his career at Goodison but is starting to show that he has settled down. The manager anticipates further improvement now he has found his niche at the back. “I have been pleased with Jags,” said Moyes. “He has been very versatile for us and filled a lot of roles at different moments. “We brought him in to fit that bill and he has done that. He has been making a steady improvement. “Alan Stubbs will be back by the time Joseph Yobo goes away to the African Nations, so he will give us something extra.
“We have known that for a long time, though, and that’s why we want Jags around.”
Why playing it cool will pay off for Moyes
Dec 15 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
IT may have come as a surprise to hear David Moyes play down Everton’s midweek win at Upton Park but, as the season continues to flourish, he could not have chosen a wiser approach. While privately Moyes was absolutely elated to have steered the Blues into the last four of the League Cup for the first time in 20 years – note his reaction to Ayegbeni Yakubu’s winner – he also knows the biggest hurdles must yet be negotiated before really bold statements can be made. Make no mistake, it would have been easy for Moyes to stride into Wednesday evening’s press conference and demand that people sit up and take notice of his team and declaring that the first half was “probably the best” one of his sides have played gave an indication of his feelings. Taking things softly-softly, though, will do Everton more good than harm in the long run and you only have to consider the way their latest vanquished opponents are thought about to realise there is little mileage in making bold statements.
West Ham embarked on a spending spree in the summer that was as crass as it was embarrassing, their Icelandic biscuit baron Eggert Magnusson throwing wads of cash at anyone and everyone to build a winning team. They spent fortunes to acquire the likes of Craig Bellamy, Freddie Ljungberg, Kieron Dyer and Scott Parker and while injuries have been the bane of Alan Curbishley’s life, on the evidence we have seen thus far, they are no where near poised to challenge for the top six. Curbishley may have been foolish to claim Everton only progressed through to the last four because they were over-physical and benefited from some of Mark Halsey’s refereeing decisions but, to his credit, he spoke a lot of sense prior to the tie. “Everton and Blackburn are two sides who have really demonstrated you can get in and around that top six with a lot of hard work and talented players. It shows it can be done,” he said.
“In some respects, Everton and Blackburn have been the successes of the Premier League over the last four years. “The top four is difficult to break into. But that doesn’t stop you trying and Everton have always been there or thereabouts.
“That is what we want to be able to do. We need to lay some foundations to build the club and that is what we are trying to do.” He is not the only manager who has felt compelled to comment on the way Everton have progressed in recent years.
Roy Keane did so both before and after Sunderland visited Goodison Park – “Everton are a proper club” – while Steve Bruce, then of Birmingham City, followed suit.
There will, inevitably, be a time when this current 11-game unbeaten run comes to an end but that will not do anything to detract from the feeling that the squad Moyes has painstakingly put together over the last few years is on the verge of something significant. The more you see Everton play, the more it is becoming obvious that not only are they capable of competing in the Premier League and in cup competitions, they are also well equipped to gather some silverware. “We want to win something this season and if we can do it, it will be a great season,” said Yakubu after his latest match-winning intervention. “We don’t feel under any pressure at the moment. We just go out and give it our best. Hopefully then we will come out smiling.”
Success at Upton Park has brought a trip to Wembley tantalisingly in to view and the draw for the semi-finals on Wednesday evening will be eagerly anticipated and few Evertonians will be worrying about the identity of their next opponents. Momentum is right behind Everton now but Moyes’ measured, methodical approach to success can ensure expectations do not lead some to get carried away too quickly. If and when the blue and white bunting gets another airing, then the real celebrations will begin.
Yak’s no slack in Blues attack
Dec 15 2007 by Barry Horne, Liverpool Echo
I WAS one of many Evertonians who made the horrendous journey to Upton Park on Wednesday. But the performance and result meant it was totally worthwhile, as so many Everton trips have been recently, to witness another step forward in the slow but sure progress being made under David Moyes. The first half was completely dominated by Everton in terms of possession, aggression and quality football.
But it wasn’t those qualities which set Wednesday’s performance aside. For me it was the moment when a split second of madness saw West Ham take the lead.
The way Everton reacted to that setback should convince even the non-believers that this is a side which has enormous self assurance, self belief and confidence.
Nobody’s heart even appeared to skip a beat. Everton simply retrieved the ball from the met, placed it back on the centre spot and continued to play the measured, controlled football which had characterised their performance . That’s what differentiates good sides from very good ones, and it was great to see Everton react that way. They deservedly equalised, and it was no surprise to see the man who has reinvented himself at Goodison scoring the winner. Yakubu was presumably speaking tongue-in-cheek when he said beforehand that he was unfamiliar with the lone striking role. He joined Everton with a reputation as a player who loved scoring goals, but wasn’t quite so fond of the nitty gritty. But over the last few weeks he has looked leaner, sharper, more aggressive, his ball retention has been fantastic and some of his touches and flicks would have been the envy of his former strike partner Mark Viduka. The presence of Andy Johnson, Victor Anichebe and James Vaughan on the sidelines is clearly helping to motivate Yakubu, but he is now showing a side to his game that even he possibly never thought he had. He is currently scoring at a rate better than at any other stage of his career – and if he continues to show the same kind of zest and appetite for work that can hopefully continue.
Neill figuring out how to halt Cahill’s friendly fire
Dec 15, 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
TIM CAHILL will bid to crown another memorable week in Everton’s flourishing season by heaping more pain on the man who often refers to him as his “little brother”. When the Blues’ influential midfielder first arrived on these shores a decade ago, bidding to show he could make it as a footballer, Lucas Neill took him under his wing at Millwall and the two Australians would soon become inseparable.
Though Neill eventually left the New Den to join Blackburn, three years before Cahill secured his own £1.7m move to Goodison Park, they have continued to remain in the closest contact. But that friendship will be put on hold for 90 minutes this afternoon at Upton Park. Neill is still smarting after West Ham’s exit from the Carling Cup at Everton’s hands on Wednesday evening yet he fears there is a chance that misery will be exacerbated if Cahill has his way. Blessed with the happy knack of being able to pop up with goals just when they are needed, Neill is fully aware of Cahill’s talents and says he is rated by defenders as one of the most difficult players to mark in the Premier League. Now fully fit after seven months outwith a twice broken metatarsal, Cahill will be desperate to take his goals tally for the season up to seven and West Ham’s skipper is bracing himself for a torrid experience. “Tim is the original rags-to-riches story,” said Neill. “He came from nothing to where he is today. Even in Australia, he was pretty much unknown and not really going anywhere or playing for the stronger teams, so he just decided to make the big leap. “Now Tim is at the opposite end of the spectrum and is fast becoming a legend in the making for Everton and carving out a fantastic reputation in the Premier League and on the international scene, which is of no surprise to me at all. “From the moment he made his debut for Millwall, you could see that he was going to be okay and do well. He was a bit of late starter at international level, because he played for Samoa when he was 14, but you couldn’t tell that as he started scoring goals straight away. “He has quickly made himself one of the highest profile players in Australia for what he has achieved for club and country, in particular the memorable afternoon against Japan in the 2006 World Cup when he came off the bench and scored twice against Japan.”
Cahill is one of the fiercest competitors in Everton’s dressing room but Neill – another man who takes defeat as a personal affront – says that trait was evident from an early age and possibly led to them forming such a strong bond. “I met Tim when he was 17,” said Neill, taking up the story. “He came on trial to Millwall and I had been there about a year. Our paths had never crossed in Australia, so I didn’t know anything about him until he came to England but we quickly got to know each other.
“He quickly became like my younger brother. I tried to look after him and give him a bit of guidance. He made enough of an impression that after two days, they decided to give him a contract. I made sure I spent time with him so he could settle in.
“The biggest thing that was clear about him from very early on was that he had a hunger and desire to succeed. We became very close. My family and his family often meet up to have barbecues when we are back in Oz and we both try to meet up in England as often as we can.” It is no coincidence that Cahill’s return to the fray has gone hand-in-hand with Everton’s surge forward in two cup competitions and up the Premier League but even he would admit that six goals in 10 appearances is a better return than he could have possibly envisaged. But given that he is now mixing the spectacular with his poaching ability, it will make the task facing defenders infinitely harder and Neill – whose disciplinary record can kindly be described as chequered – fears there may be only one way to halt Cahill’s momentum. “Up until last year, I don’t think he had ever scored a goal from outside the six-yard box,” said Neill. “He always seemed to score headers from close range but he is scoring some great goals from all over the place now. “I am absolutely delighted that things are going so well for him. He feels like family to me. I follow his career closely and with great interest. For a midfielder, he scores more goals than are expected of him but Everton play a system that allows him the freedom to do that. He is a great finisher. “The hardest time to mark him is in open play when he doesn’t get involved in a lot of the ball play but works off other people’s movement. He finds himself in space going towards the box making ghost-like runs. “I don’t like playing against him but I know my job will be to make life as difficult for him as possible and make sure that he has a bad game. I will do that job to the best of my abilities but sometimes there is only one way to stop and I don’t want to have to resort to that.”
MOYES NEW DEAL TALKS
Dec 15, 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES has confirmed that he has held talks with Bill Kenwright about extending his stay at Goodison Park. With star performers Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill and Andrew Johnson all having signed new deals in recent months and all the players who have been signed in the past 18 months committed on long-term contracts, Everton are now ready to reward their manager. Moyes, who has been at the helm since March 2002, is the third longest serving boss in the Premier League and his current contract is due to expire in the summer of 2009 but moves are afoot to offer him new terms. Though he is in no rush to put pen-to-paper, it is clear that Moyes wants to see the job he has started all the way through to the finish and informal talks with the Everton chairman have gone positively. “The chairman and I have mentioned it,” said Moyes, whose side face West Ham this afternoon at Upton Park. “But we have not got any further yet. I have got a great relationship with the chairman and we are both quite comfortable with the situation.” Moyes, meanwhile, is demanding that his players follow up Wednesday night’s Carling Cup success with another victory over the Hammers to send Everton into the hectic festive period on the best possible note. With games against Manchester United, Bolton, Arsenal and Middlesbrough on the horizon, Moyes feels there is an opportunity for Everton to make progress up the table but knows it will take another stellar performance to extend their unbeaten run to 12 matches. “I won’t go away happy if we don’t take three points because I have said before the Premier League will always be number one for me to do well in,” said Moyes. “We are on a good run at the moment and we want to try and keep that going. We have to try and hang on to the teams that are above us now while we are involved in these cup competitions. This is another big game and an important game.
“It will be tough but we go into it with good confidence. We played well in midweek with a good victory. It is hard two away games – sometimes you play a team twice but it is once at home and once away. “On this occasion they are both away so it does make it difficult and preparing for it again is not the easiest. Nevertheless we want to try and get a similar result to what we got in midweek.”
West Ham 0, Everton 2
Dec 17, 2007
By Dominic King at Upton Park, Liverpool Echo
AS the number 22 flashed up on the fourth official’s board, one press box wag summed up the feelings of every Evertonian at that moment: “How many did Dixie get? 60?” Another fruitful afternoon in the life of Ayegbeni Yakubu had just been brought to an end and the acclaim he received from the ecstatic travelling contingent housed in Upton Park’s Centenary Stand confirmed a hunch that has been growing this past month. With each goal and each wonderfully languid performance, Everton’s record signing has found himself a place high in the affections of supporters and for good reason. Yakubu, simply, looks like the man who could make their dreams come true. Of course, the staggering efforts of the greatest forward of them all – one William Ralph Dean – will never be surpassed but it would appear that the striker who can regularly score more than 20 times a season is back in residence on the blue half of Merseyside. Since Peter Beardsley illuminated a miserable campaign in 1991-92 by helping himself to 20 goals, millions and millions of pounds have been lavished by a variety of managers to find the missing link. But, miserably, to no avail. Duncan Ferguson could and should have been the man to do it, Ibrahima Bakayoko never threatened to get near that tally, while James Beattie – for all his willing and enthusiasm – was incompatible to the style of play favoured by David Moyes. Daniel Amokachi arrived with plenty of promise but, apart from his memorable FA Cup semi-final double, did little, Kevin Campbell was at the wrong stage of his career to be that player, while Wayne Rooney was a completely different breed of front man. Yakubu, however, looks as if he is on the threshold of greatness. Hyperbole? Not really. Given his current mood, the Nigerian goal machine looks as if he could have the magic number wrapped up before he heads to the African Cup of Nations next month. Honestly. It may be early days but the bare statistics of his Goodison career to date could not make better reading – 11 goals in 18 appearances, eight in his last eight and whenever he scores, Everton win. What’s more, his all round play is getting better and better. The fact Yakubu can give the impression that he is only operating at half-speed makes it difficult for some to form a true opinion of his talents, with his critics liable to suggest his scoring record is down to good fortune. Nonsense. Against West Ham United on Saturday, Everton’s £11.25m man showed why Moyes was eager to smash the club transfer record for his signature with an archetypal poacher’s effort which turned the contest on its head. Having looked slightly off the pace during the first 45 minutes, as West Ham tried to exact retribution for their Carling Cup elimination last Wednesday, there would have been few complaints had the Blues gone into the interval all square. After all, West Ham had been the better side. But a mixture of inspired defending – Tim Howard made one terrific save to deny Freddie Ljungberg, while a wonderful block from Joseph Yobo thwarted Dean Ashton – and poor finishing cost them dearly. How they were made to pay. Sensing West Ham had dropped their guard, Everton crafted a move of real quality with Steven Pienaar, Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill combining to present Yakubu with a headed chance that he could not and would not miss. This was the type of game that Everton would have lost not so long ago but that goal gave them enormous lift, obliterated West Ham’s brittle confidence and provided the platform for the Toffees to secure a remarkable tenth win in 12 matches. To say this was the Yakubu show, though, would be grossly unfair to the other 11 players who made stellar contributions towards obtaining a result that has hoisted them into the Premier League’s top six and screamed that a wider audience take notice. Maybe the highly contentious defeat against Liverpool on October 20 lit a spark inside but, whatever the reason, Everton’s players have not looked back since then and their approach to every assignment screams defiance. Phil Neville embodies that attitude, constantly screaming at his team-mates to keep their concentration and leading by example. He was outstanding at the weekend, just as every other member of the defence was. Yobo was faultless again, Howard commanded his penalty area with authority, while Moyes’ declaration that Joleon Lescott has been “immense for weeks” was spot on – it is difficult to think of a Premier League defender who can play two positions so well. Then there’s Phil Jagielka. He would be the first to agree that adjusting to life at Goodison has been anything but easy – being asked to perform first as a holding midfielder and then a right back early in the campaign was far from ideal. Yet back in the centre of defence these last few weeks, Jagielka has made huge strides and this was comfortably his finest afternoon in a blue shirt, as he flung himself into tackles and headers, never allowing Ashton a moment’s peace. He can build on this. Jagielka will, in all likelihood, retain his place against AZ Alkmaar in Holland on Thursday and another man who will find himself back in the starting line-up is Andrew Johnson, scorer of the match-clinching goal in stoppage time. The way he burst from the traps last season suggested he would be the 20 goal a season man, but injuries in the past 12 months have limited the impact he had hoped to make and he has yet to get up and running. But the way he finished the chance which came his way augurs well for the future and there is every reason to believe that when Yakubu heads off to Ghana on national service, the passing of Everton’s attacking baton will be seamless. Like the rest of his team-mates, Johnson boarded the coach home beaming from ear-to-ear and for good reason – to do the double over any Premier League side is commendable but to achieve the feat inside four days away from home demands special attention. Everton, unquestionably, are a team operating at the peak of their powers and who is to say where this run will end? If Yakubu remains as razor sharp as he has been, it could stretch through Christmas and beyond.
West Ham 0, Everton 2
Dec 17, 2007
By Chris Beesley at Upton Park, Liverpool Daily Post
AS MANY Hollywood directors know to their cost, sequels are seldom as good as the original – but to the delight of all Evertonians, West Ham Away Part Two proved an even bigger box-office smash. Playing the same opponent twice in the space of four days is difficult for both sides as well as their supporters. But to their credit, Everton’s travelling fans packed out the away end at the Boleyn Ground like they had also done on Wednesday night and they were rewarded with another terrific display and result by their heroes on the pitch. Just by the law of averages, going to play another side in the top half of the Barclays Premier League twice in a week and beating them on both occasions has got to be a long shot but having warmed up with the Carling Cup victory less than 72 hours earlier, Everton, who had stayed down in London for a couple of days, did the business again. Given that it was win or bust, Wednesday was obviously the game that couldn’t be lost but having to do it again against a determined side still stinging from their cup exit was the hard part for David Moyes’s men and they proved to be more than worthy of the challenge. Having nailed the Hammers twice, Everton have now won 10 out of their last 12 matches since their controversial derby defeat, a terrific sequence of results in anyone’s book, and their only draws in that run have been against Chelsea and Portsmouth away. Those results have been spread over three competitions as the team show that they can compete on several fronts. Moyes has tried to keep feet on the ground by pointing out that nothing has been won yet but getting these kind of results week in, week out, midweek, weekend, is something Everton have not been capable of doing for a couple of decades. The defeat to Liverpool which all of football, let alone the staunchest Evertonian, saw as unjust could be traced back as being the turning point for this turnaround in fortunes by creating a sheer bloody mindedness to put things right – but arguably the seeds were sown a couple of weeks earlier when Everton twice came from behind to triumph at Metalist Kharkiv in the UEFA Cup. Given what had happened to Everton in their previous foray into continental competition a couple of seasons earlier, the consequences of a potential defeat to the unknowns from Ukraine for Moyes and his side did not bear thinking about. But despite being under pressure for most of the night and twice finding themselves behind the reality is that Everton came through and showed that they could dig deep when they really needed to. Fast forward three months and add the extra verve and confidence brought by their unbeaten sequence and you see what Moyes’s side have evolved into with their double win in the East End. Not only was it the same opposition at the same ground for Everton after Wednesday’s 2-1 victory in the Carling Cup quarter-final but the same side for the visitors as manager Moyes chose not to make any changes to his starting line-up from three days earlier. In contrast, Alan Curbishley, smarting from that loss, made two changes with Danny Gabbidon left out after his midweek error to be replaced by fellow Welshman James Collins and Nolberto Solano coming in for Luis Boa Morte. Despite Everton playing the more measured football, the hosts were still able to fashion several guilt-edged chances in the first half and Moyes’s side had to rely on a combination of good goalkeeping from Tim Howard and a lack of composure in front of goal from the Hammers to survive. A seemingly goal-bound shot by Ashton was deflected wide while the Freddie Ljungberg of old would have been expected to score when a Solano cross rebounded into his pass off Leon Osman but Howard got down well to his left to smother the ball. At the other end, Everton’s slick passing, indicative of the confidence in the camp, forced several openings with Osman firing a snap shot just wide of Robert Green’s right-hand post after Mikel Arteta had chested down a dinked ball from the left by Steven Pienaar. Ayegbeni Yakubu almost caught Green out after letting fly from the left of the area after beating Collins but although the keeper fumbled his initial effort, he gathered the ball at the second attempt. Scott Parker – not the most popular figure among Evertonians these days after he snubbed a move to Goodison Park for an ill-fated stint at Newcastle’s football circus a couple of years ago – almost broke the deadlock with a looping header from a right wing cross by another former St James’ Park man, Solano. But with the Hammers nervy in front of goal you sensed the visitors would take control if they got their noses in front. That moment arrived in first half stoppage time when the players who are currently Everton’s three most potent weapons combined. Arteta floated the ball across the area from the left and Cahill nodded into the six-yard box from the right, where Yakubu bravely ducked in to head Everton in front. The timing was impeccable in terms of breaking West Ham’s spirits but having taken his goals tally to five in a week and now standing on 11 before Christmas, Yakubu is even earning comparisons with Goodison’s greatest-ever goal machine. As the cheers died down after his opener, one travelling Everton official quipped: “How many did Dixie get – 60?” But while such outlandish targets are obviously in the realms of fantasy football, at this rate, the Nigerian who has nine in his last nine outings, could well hit his 20-goal target for the season that would represent a personal best – even with the impending African Cup of Nations. After the break, the Hammers threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Everton in search of an equaliser but in truth Howard barely had a save to make. This was because of the dominant aerial displays of Joseph Yobo, Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott and the determined tracking back of those in front of them who formed a ring of steel in front of the visitors’ goal. Indeed, it was Everton who should have wrapped up their win sooner but Osman was unable to hit the net for the second time in a week against the Hammers. The midfielder picked up a loose pass by Arteta from the right which deceived the home defence but shot over the bar in front of the onrushing Green. The former Norwich keeper’s eagerness proved his undoing though in stoppage time as this time livewire substitute Andrew Johnson chased down a Phil Neville pass which Matthew Upson could only head into his path to allow him to lob Green, who was well off his line. The goal ensured that this sequel superseded the original and, like all good blockbusters, it had a grandstand finish. WEST HAM UNITED (4-4-2): Green, Neill, McCartney, Upson, Collins, Solano (Noble 59), Parker, Mullins (Reid 79), Ljungberg, Cole (Camara 46), Ashton. Subs: Wright, Spector. EVERTON (4-5-1): Howard, Neville, Lescott, Yobo, Jagielka, Carsley, Arteta, Osman, Pienaar, Cahill, Yakubu (Johnson 86). Subs: Wessles, Hibbert, Gravesen, McFadden.
BOOKING: Yakubu. REFEREE: Steve Tanner (Somerset). ATT: 34,430. NEXT MATCH: AZ Alkmaar v Everton, UEFA Cup Group A, Thursday 7.45pm.
Residents give Blues stadium the red card
Dec 17, 2007
By Nick Coligan, Liverpool Echo
CAMPAIGNERS have gathered 1,400 objections to Everton FC’s planned move to Kirkby. They have handed almost 1,100 letters and a petition comprising more than 300 names to Knowsley council as the battle for Kirkby town centre continues. Officials have been canvassing residents for their views on the £400m development after unveiling a draft “vision” for the town, including a new stadium, Tesco and high street shops. Unless the document is officially rubber-stamped, the council will not be allowed to approve any planning application from Everton FC. But Kirkby Residents’ Action Group (Krag) has been gathering pledges of opposition at public meetings. It would rather the council back a rival scheme from town centre owner Development Securities to regenerate Kirkby with an Asda store, not Everton and Tesco. Krag spokesman Ian Morris said: “We have been holding public meetings and gone to the shopping centre, where people have queued up to sign objections. “There is very strong feeling about this scheme and I do not think the council will have ever had this many objections to something before. “We know many more have been sent in by post. “We just want the people of Kirkby to have a real say in its future and for the council to listen to everyone who is interested in developing the town centre. We do not feel Development Securities and Asda have been afforded the same time as Tesco and Everton, and we just want them to have a fair hearing.” The council put together the draft vision after high-profile public events during the summer, when residents had their first glimpse of the proposals. A council spokesman said: “All submissions will be formally logged on to a database. “The next steps are for a report to be compiled on the results of the consultation for a cabinet meeting early in 2008, for a decision on whether to agree or consult further on the vision.” Everton FC and Tesco are still expected to submit their planning application before the end of the year.
Yakubu the best, says Phil Jagielka
Dec 17 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
PHIL JAGIELKA today described Ayegbeni Yakubu as the “complete forward” as he hailed his transformation from selfish striker to team performer. Everton’s record signing maintained his current hot streak during Saturday’s 2-0 win at West Ham with his eighth goal in as many games and once again impressed with his willingness to plough a lone furrow up front. The Nigerian international had endured a slow start to his career at Goodison Park and his critics were sceptical that Yakubu would ever buy into the relentless work ethic that forms the backbone of Everton’s team. But Jagielka believes Yakubu - whose tally now stands at 11 - has quelled the doubters in emphatic style and is predicting that he will continue to flourish, particularly now he has become attuned to the Blues’ style. “When Yak first came here, maybe he didn’t realise how hard he was going to have to work for his chances and for the team,” said Jagielka. “But now his workrate is second to none and, as well as that, we are playing better football. “That means we are creating better chances for him and if he gets three chances in a match now, we’d be disappointed if he didn’t score two. He is as good a striker as I have ever played with. “I also know what it is like to play against him and he is an absolute pain in the backside. He is so strong, he knows what he is doing when he is in and around the area and, above all, he knows where the goal is. He doesn’t have to look half the time. “And now he is not being as selfish as he was to begin with. He has become more of a team player and he is setting up other people and scoring a lot of goals for the team. He’s a tremendous asset for us to have.”
While Yakubu and Andrew Johnson were the men on the scoresheet, Everton secured their 10th win in 12 games thanks largely to a fine defensive effort to which Jagielka was central. This outstanding run has lifted Everton to within striking distance of the Champions League places but Jagielka feels it would be folly to start making rash predictions. “We stayed down in London for a couple of days and the win was just a fantastic way to finish things off,” said Jagielka. “We are proving quite hard to beat and while Saturday wasn’t our best performance, the result was the most important thing. “We have got a lot of games coming up over the Christmas period and we have got to keep this up. It’s as if there are two leagues developing now. At the top, it is very tight between the top eight or nine teams. “Our ambition is to keep ourselves in the top six over Christmas and then attack from there. We’d like to push for the top four but it is going to be a hard task. We are on an amazing run yet we are only up to sixth. That shows how difficult it is.”
David Moyes: We had belief to triumph
Dec 17, 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
WHILE Alan Curbishley’s post-match mantra was wearyingly predictable, David Moyes was able to sing from a completely different song sheet as he reflected on Everton’s best run of results for more than 20 years. For the second time in four days, Curbishley marched into a press conference to whinge that his side did not get anything like their efforts deserved and suggested that Everton’s back-to-back victories at Upton Park owed a lot to good fortune. Nothing, though, could have been further from the truth. True, West Ham did have a good spell in the first half and might have taken the lead but the reason they lost this battle was down to them not being able to match the Blues’ ferocious will to win. Andrew Johnson’s clinching goal in injury time sparked wild celebrations in the visiting dugout, while the players celebrated this 2-0 win like it was the FA Cup Final, eventually throwing their shirts to the supporters who made the long trip down to London. Such unity is enabling Everton to get through a hectic run of fixtures without too much trouble and Moyes feels the scenes at the final whistle show that everyone on the staff is in it together – something Curbishley could only dream of being able to say. “We stayed down in London for three days and it has strengthened the spirit,” said Moyes. “It’s important that the staff play their part in the victories, whether it is the masseurs, the physios, the fitness coaches or the doctors. They all play a part. “Most people would have said before these games ‘you won’t win two’ and what we had to do was make sure that we had the players believing that they could. After we won on Wednesday, we gained confidence. “I was determined that we would get this one won too. I knew it would be difficult but we played well. There were moments when we passed it well on Saturday but there were other moments when our defending was really good, too.
“I could not pick out one piece of the team at the minute and say ‘that is making all the difference’. Our play has improved and I think we are becoming a better footballing side. That is noticeable to me and I’m sure it is noticeable to everyone else.” Everton’s next assignment is their final UEFA Cup Group A match against AZ Alkmaar before they travel to Old Trafford on Sunday for arguably the toughest fixture they will face all season against the champions. Moyes is adamant his players can travel with confidence and will put on a bold show. “To play Manchester United or one of the top four is always going to be difficult,” he said. “I think the test we have had is going to Upton Park for back-to-back games and the players have come through that magnificently. “They made it difficult for us but we had three or four really good chances and I can’t remember Tim having a save to make in the second half. I thought Phil Jagielka had a terrific game. “I think he has settled in and is starting to show us what he is. He can do a great job in several positions and centre back is probably his best.”
Joleon Lescott will be an England regular - Phil Neville
Dec 17 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON captain Phil Neville has backed versatile defender Joleon Lescott to become a regular fixture in the England squad under new manager Fabio Capello.
Lescott helped Everton complete an east London double this week, with back-to-back victories over West Ham in the Carling Cup quarter-final and the Premier League.
Capello was being officially unveiled today after the FA confirmed his appointment as Steve McClaren’s successor on a £6.5million-a-year deal. The Italian will need time to assess the talent available to him in England before his first friendly against Switzerland on February 6. But he has vowed that all players, including those with big reputations, will start with a clean slate and Neville is convinced Capello will immediately be impressed by Lescott. "Joleon was fantastic and he’s been our most consistent player all season. He will not have a worry getting back into the squad because he is getting better and better," said Neville. "Left-back or centre-half, he’s getting better. If he keeps, learning, progressing, keeps his feet on the ground there is no end to what he can achieve. "He’s played in both positions for England and I think that helps. If you get pigeon-holed and are only able to play in one position it would probably give you less chances, especially with the strength we have at centre half at the moment. "Joleon just needs to keep playing well for Everton and the international honours will follow." So may the club honours. Everton’s EastEnders double-bill extended their winning run to an impressive 12 matches in all competitions.
They are in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup, the knockout stages of the UEFA Cup and, after Saturday’s victory, David Moyes made a bold statement of intent in the league. Everton are determined to disprove the myth that the top four in the Premier League is a closed shop. "That is the kind of fighting talk I quite enjoy. It is motivation to me," said Moyes. "When we finished fourth two years ago people said it was a blip. We have to do it again. "This is probably the best squad we have had and they are probably playing the best." Everton’s domestic ambitions will be challenged over the Christmas period, with fixtures against Manchester United and Arsenal.
Neville added: "We are passing every test that gets put our way, whether it be in the Carling Cup, UEFA Cup or in the league. Long may it continue. "We are going in the right direction but we are keeping our feet on the ground because Christmas will be a telling period when we play both Manchester United and Arsenal. "If we come out of that still in fifth or sixth I think we can then really attack the second half of the season.
"I think the quality that we keep producing in games means that it does bode well for the rest of the season but we have to keep that up. "Not every game is going to be pretty, not every game will be able to produce free-flowing football, there will be days when we will have to dig in. "And if after Christmas we are still in touch with the top four then we can really attack the season."
Moyes men recalling the class of '84
Dec 17, 2007 David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
THE last time Everton claimed back to back scalps against the same top flight opposition, Manchester United were the victims. That Everton side of 1984 was one of the greatest in the club’s long history. But no-one knew it just then.
No-one seems to know just how good this current Everton side is. David Moyes says the target is to prove they are better than the team which finished fourth in 2004/05. To my mind they already are. That fourth placed finishing side was a one-dimensional, fiercely hard- working unit which relied heavily on Marcus Bent’s front-running. This current side has more variation in attack, more creativity in midfield and a younger, pacier back four. Sadly for Moyes this season’s Premier League is more competitive than ever before, which is why Everton are currently sixth after their longest unbeaten run for decades. Just how well Everton handle the January absence of Yakubu, Yobo and Pienaar could dictate how successful a season this will be.
But the Blues of 2007 have already given their supporters a side to be proud of.
Former Everton goalkeeper Jimmy O’Neill dies
Dec 18, 2007, Liverpool Daily post
FORMER Everton goalkeeper Jimmy O’Neill died at the weekend aged 76. O’Neill, who made 213 appearances for the Goodison outfit, had been in ill health for quite some time and died peacefully on Saturday morning. Spotted playing junior football in his native Ireland, O’Neill signed for Everton in 1949 following a successful trial. The son of a golf professional, he played for Everton in the 1953 FA Cup final defeat to Bolton Wanderers and shared the number one spot with Harry Leyland during the 1953-54 promotion season when the club returned to the top flight where they have remained ever since. O’Neill won 17 caps for the Republic of Ireland and remained at Goodison until 1960 when he was sold to Stoke City for £5,000 by Johnny Carey having lost his place to Albert Dunlop. Later he also had spells at Darlington and Port Vale
Kieran Agard on target as Everton hit back
Dec 18, 2007
By Chris Wright, Liverpool Daily Post
KIERAN AGARD helped Everton under-18s bounce back swiftly from their FA Youth Cup defeat as they beat Stoke City 2-1 at Netherton on Saturday. Neil Dewsnip’s side were disappointed to have gone out of the prestigious youth tournament with a 2-0 Goodison Park defeat to Bristol City in midweek, but they showed no lasting damage had been done to their confidence as the Stoke keeper fumbled into his own net before London-born forward Agard added a second. A late Stoke strike proved little more than a consolation as Everton continued their fine Premier Academy League form to collect three points. Lewis Codling had a goal disallowed and went close on a couple of occasions as Everton pressed for the opener in the first half. His fellow striker Luke Powell also went close, but Dewsnip’s couldn’t find a way past the Stoke keeper. But, after a goalless first half, Everton finally opened the scoring 10 minutes after the half-time interval, when Danny Redmond’s corner was initially caught by the visitors’ keeper before he fumbled and dropped the ball into his own net. Everton doubled their lead five minutes later when Agard got in on goal from Hope Akpan’s pass before coolly slotting in for his sixth Academy League strike this season. Stoke reduced the arrears after a corner was only cleared to the edge of the box and they fired in with seven minutes left, but Everton held on. Coach Dewsnip said: “It was a terrific response following the Youth Cup defeat. One of two lads who were ill in midweek were back with us and that helped a little bit. “We were delighted to win the game. It showed a great character which is pretty much what they have shown all year.” Everton are back in Academy League action in the New Year when they travel to take on West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, January 5 (kick-off 11am). EVERTON UNDER-18s: Stubhaug; Stewart, McCarten, Rodwell, Barnett; Redmond, McCready, O’Kane, Akpan; Codling (Sheppard 70), Powell (Agard 55). Subs: McCardle, Baxter.
Leon Osman ruled out for up to six weeks
Dec 18, 2007
By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON were dealt a crushing blow today after Leon Osman was ruled out for the next month with a broken toe. Osman has been in outstanding form recently and scored the equaliser in last week’s 2-1 Carling Cup quarter-final victory over West Ham but now faces a race against time to fire to aid the Blues’ push for a place at Wembley. The midfielder actually suffered the damage in that contest but was able to play in Saturday’s Premier League game after having a painkilling injection but an x-ray confirmed yesterday the news manager David Moyes had been dreading. “It’s an absolutely terrible blow,” he said today. “He broke his toe in the first five minutes of the cup game but he battled on and it shows you how tough he is. He was in a bad way but still wanted to play. “He had a scan and it showed a big crack and we think he is going to be out for between four to six weeks. Leon’s form had been good and he has been playing a big part in everything that we have achieved recently.” Since switching to a more central role, Osman has flourished during Everton’s 12 game unbeaten run and scored a couple of spectacular goals but his injury may provide Thomas Gravesen with a chance to shine. Gravesen has only played a bit part role after returning to Goodison Park on a season-long loan from Celtic, managing only a handful of substitute appearances but that should change on Thursday night against AZ Alkmaar. Moyes has confirmed that he will make changes for Everton’s final UEFA Cup game but the travelling squad should still have plenty of experience and Gravesen – a hugely popular figure with supporters – is poised to make his first start of the campaign. “We’ve got a few knocks and bruises,” said Moyes. “Joseph Yobo has been struggling with his ankle a bit, while Alan Stubbs and Leighton Baines are still out so we’ll have to see how we go. Andrew Johnson may also start in Alkmaar after his clinching goal in the 2-0 win at Upton Park and Moyes added: “He will play a big part in the weeks and months to come. We are playing well. I’m happy to bring in players, as we have a few to come back.”
Thomas Gravesen poised for UEFA Cup start
Dec 18, 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
THOMAS GRAVESEN is in line to make his long-awaited first start for Everton since his surprise return to the club in August. The Danish midfielder made an immediate impact in his first appearance after re-signing on loan from Celtic, when he provided the corner from which Joleon Lescott scored the winner in a 2-1 win at Bolton. Since then, though, injuries and the outstanding form of players such as Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman have meant that Gravesen - such a popular figure with supporters - has been limited to a bit part role. However, with David Moyes set to ring the changes in Thursday night’s final UEFA Cup group game against AZ Alkmaar in Holland, Gravesen could start in midfield while Tony Hibbert and Nuno Valente should also figure after spells out injured. But even if Moyes does make wholesale changes, he is anxious for Everton to wrap up Group A in style and wants to see their unbeaten run stretched to a 13th match before they embark on the hectic Christmas period. Moyes said today: “It doesn’t happen over night but it is nice if you can win with a bit of style. “We’ve probably got a stronger squad than we have had in the past. The team that finished fourth a couple of years ago was very resilient and kept digging out results. We’ve moved on and slightly different style.”
Andrew Johnson may also start in Alkmaar after his clinching goal in the 2-0 win at Upton Park and Moyes added: “He will play a big part in the weeks and months to come. “We are playing well. I’m happy to bring in players, as we have a few to come back.”
David Moyes praise for Phil Neville, his Captain Fantastic
Dec 18, 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES has paid a glowing tribute to his captain marvel as he prepares to lead Everton through another important week. Since being returned to his favoured position of right-back, Phil Neville has been one of Everton’s most consistent performers in a run that has seen them win 10 of their last 12 games to make rapid progress in the league, as well as two cup competitions. Though Moyes is likely to take the opportunity to give a number of his players a rest this week as the Blues complete their UEFA Cup group campaign in Holland against AZ Alkmaar, Neville will be among the travelling party. Moyes, however, knows there will not be one word of complaint off a man whom he signed from Manchester United in July 2005 and he knows Neville will approach what is a meaningless contest with the same professional attitude as always. He took over Everton’s armband when David Weir joined Glasgow Rangers last January and has relished the added responsibility, and Moyes has been hugely impressed by the way Neville has conducted himself recently - on and off the pitch. “Our defenders have been very good,” said Moyes, who has been encouraged by the seven clean sheets Everton have kept recently. “You’ve got to praise Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott has been immense for weeks and Joseph Yobo has been the same as well. “But Phil Neville has an influence at the club that people on the outside don’t see. He’s a terrific captain in that he does everything you’d hope a captain would do, not just on the field but off the field too. “With his upbringing and the club he started his career with, you can see that has been a great starting point for him, through the winning and the way they do things. He’s trying to install that in us as well and we‘ve been delighted with him.” Thursday’s game in Alkmaar will allow Moyes an early glimpse to see who will be filling the shirts Ayegbeni Yakubu, Yobo and Steven Pienaar vacate when international commitments take over next month.
“The dimensions will change a little bit with Yakubu, Joseph and Steven Pienaar going to the African Nations Cup, so we might need to look to change things around a little bit,” said Moyes. “I’ve got Victor Anichebe, who wasn’t stripped at West Ham, James McFadden, who has played really well and James Vaughan who is just about to come back into the first team as well. “I’m quite excited by the young ones because what they’ve got is enthusiasm and when that’s required it will keep us bubbling along.” Yakubu’s goals have been a huge boost in recent weeks, but Andrew Johnson has shown that he is more than capable of filling the void and Everton’s former record signing has promised he will be ready if and when his next chance comes along.
“We have got four or five top notch strikers and Timmy Cahill as well. The boys are working hard, it is keeping us on their toes,” said Johnson, who wrapped up Saturday‘s 2-0 win at Upton Park with an expertly taken lob. “This is when we are going to need every single player in the squad because there is no doubt people are going to get knocks and there will be tiredness. "Everyone is working hard to get in the team. To come on and score is great for me and it keeps my confidence high. The competition for places is brilliant.”
Fourth spot is realistic aim for Everton
Dec 18 2007 Nigel Martyn Liverpool Echo
THINGS just keep getting better and better. Another week, another couple of fantastic victories and Everton head into the Christmas period riding the crest of a wave.
Not surprisingly, the players and David Moyes are receiving a huge amount of plaudits and rightly so because achieving 10 wins from 12 games is an incredible feat, which even the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United would be proud of.
But it would be remiss not to give the chairman some credit at this time. Bill Kenwright, after all, was the man who decided to stick with the manager when the situation was a little lean a few years ago and has been handsomely rewarded.
Slowly but surely, David has put together a terrific squad that is playing with flair and confidence and there is every reason to believe they are going to improve again in the future. As they say, from little acorns grow big oaks. Noises were made on Saturday evening that a push for the top four is the ambition and that must be the case, particularly judging by the manner in which West Ham were dispatched so confidently twice in four days. Do not under-estimate that feat. Yes, Alan Curbishley argued that he had key players missing through injury yet West Ham had enough talent on display to win those games if they were good enough. Everton, though, were too savvy. You can’t underestimate what that will do for the lads’ belief and while there are difficult tests coming up against Manchester United and Arsenal over Christmas, we certainly shouldn’t be worrying. If anything, they will be having a little glance over their shoulders and feeling that they will have to be on top form to get anything out of those matches, as Everton are not pushovers. Remember what happened against Chelsea? On present form, finishing fourth like the squad I was in did three seasons ago is achievable because everything has clicked. There is competition for places, everyone is geeing each other along and are in it together.
While Jimmy Martin, the wily old kitman, will have been going crackers at the final whistle when the lads threw their shirts into the crowd at Upton Park, that incident showed everything which is good about the club. It’s easy to say these things when everything is going smoothly but even through tough times Everton are a proper football club and celebrations such as Saturday illustrate that perfectly. Everyone is in it together and it’s terrific to watch. Long may it continue.
Chance to send out message
WITH nothing riding on Thursday’s final UEFA Cup group match, some people will see this as David Moyes’ chance to have a bit of a breather. Don’t believe it for a minute. Qualification for the knockout stages may have been secured and top spot in Group A is assured but the manager will be desperate to finish with four straight wins and maintain this long unbeaten run. He is sure to shuffle things around in Alkmaar but have a look at some of the players who are likely to start in Holland and it hardly smacks of a makeshift line-up, does it? In years gone by, it might have even been close to full strength. Thomas Gravesen, Tony Hibbert, Steffan Wessels, Andrew Johnson, James McFadden and Victor Anichebe will all be pushing hard for a start and they will be desperate to seize their chance if it comes along. If we could finish with a fourth consecutive win, it would also send a message out to potential opponents that Everton should be taken seriously and David wouldn’t have it any other way. In no way will this be a pre-Christmas jolly.
We should have got English boss
SO Fabio Capello has been installed as England’s new manager and while there is no disputing his qualifications, the appointment still leaves you feeling a bit hollow.
We are England and that should mean we are managed by an Englishman. As Gareth Southgate and Steve Coppell both suggested recently, we are in danger of turning international football into the Champions League. It’s looking more and more difficult for an Englishman ever to get a top job in management because the amount of money in the Premier League means that clubs will be paying out huge sums and it doesn’t matter where in the world the search goes. That, sadly, is the way things are going but the FA have chosen their path and so be it.
There is no disputing that Capello has ticks in all the right boxes and we can only hope he does well.
Everton warned ‘hands off’ Downing by Boro
Dec 19, 2007
By Nick Smith, Liverpool Daily Post
MIDDLESBROUGH have acted quickly to throw Everton off Stewart Downing’s scent by insisting the England winger is not for sale. Everton manager David Moyes is looking to scour the January transfer window market for midfield reinforcements after Leon Osman was ruled out for between four and six weeks with a broken toe. He sustained the injury in last week’s Carling Cup quarter-final against West Ham, before scoring in the 2-1 victory, and also played with the help of a pain-killing injection in the league game at Upton Park on Saturday. But he was ruled out long-term following an X-ray yesterday and with Steven Pienaar also away on Africa Cup of Nations duty for South Africa, the Goodison manager is set to be shorn of options in wide areas in the New Year. But after being raided by Everton for club record signing Yakubu in August, Middlesbrough chief executive Keith Lamb has intercepted the prospect of doing more business with Moyes for the 23-year-old. Lamb said: “Stewart is not for sale. There has been no bid and nor would we encourage one.” Osman is hoping to recover in time for the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final, with Everton set to find out their opponents when the draw is made after tonight’s last-eight tie between Chelsea and Liverpool. “It’s an absolutely terrible blow,” said David Moyes of Osman’s injury. “He broke his toe in the first five minutes of the cup game but he battled on and it shows you how tough he is. He was in a bad way but still wanted to play. “He had a scan and it showed a big crack and we think he is going to be out for between four to six weeks. “Leon’s form had been good and he has been playing a big part in everything that we have achieved recently.” Moyes will hand Thomas Gravesen the chance to fill the void left by Osman in tomorrow’s UEFA Cup game in Alkmaar. Gravesen was already in line for a possible start in order to give him some much-needed game time against AZ, in a match that Everton don’t need anything from as they are already group winners. But Gravesen has the opportunity to stake a claim to regain a regular place in the line-up after a stuttering start to his second spell at the club he re-joined on loan from Celtic in August. He has had a two-month spell out injured and has only made five appearances, all as a substitute – but Osman’s broken toe adds greater significance to what is set to be his first start in Holland. Tickets for the Everton’s FA Cup third round tie with Oldham Athletic are now on general sale, priced at £20 for adults and £10 concessions. They are available from the Park End Box Office, by calling 0870 442 1878 or from evertonfc.com. The Boxing Day home game against Bolton has sold out and supporters are being urged to snap up the remaining tickets for the visit of leaders Arsenal on Saturday, December 29.
Let’s finish group off in style, urges Blues boss
Dec 19, 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES today challenged his fringe players to finish the UEFA Cup group stages in style as Everton jetted out for their final match against AZ Alkmaar.
With nothing riding on the outcome of tomorrow evening’s game in Alkmaar, Moyes – as expected – has taken the opportunity to give a number of his star names a pre-Christmas break. Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill, Joseph Yobo, Tim Howard and leading scorer Ayegbeni Yakubu are among those who have stayed behind on Merseyside, while a broken toe has ruled Leon Osman out for the next four to six weeks.
But though a number of Everton’s younger squad members are heading to Holland, Moyes will still be able to name a starting line-up in the DSB Stadion that has plenty of first team experience and the manager is demanding another victory.
Everton have won 10 of their last 12 games, with three of those coming against Larissa, FC Nuremberg and Zenit St Petersburg, and Moyes would be delighted if he could head into the last 32 with a 100 per cent record. “My intention is for us to win four out of four games in the group stages but we need to be ready for the important period over Christmas,” said Moyes. “We want to keep the run that we are on just now going and we will have that in mind against Alkmaar. We are taking a few of the younger lads, so we can leave one or two aside but we still want to go out there and win.” Alkmaar – who need three points to secure their own qualification – have not played a competitive game in the Eredivise since they beat FC Utrecht 2-1 on December 9 owing to a police strike but Moyes expects Louis van Gaal’s side to be difficult opponents. The former Barcelona and Ajax manager favours youth over experience in his team selection yet that has meant Alkmaar have been inconsistent at times this season and, as a result, they currently lie 10th in the Eredivise standings.
“We are looking forward to the challenge,” Moyes added. “It should be a great UEFA Cup tie and with them having a tight ground, the atmosphere should be good as well. They are a good side but we want to progress on the right note. “This is a little bit different to the other three games, though, and we need to understand that we are facing a very difficult period over Christmas, were the games come thick and fast and there is no time for a break. “We are going along well in the Premier League and I need to think about that too, so we might have to make a couple of sacrifices with the players against Alkmaar.”
Moyes ready to call on blues young guns
Dec 20 2007
By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES may give Evertonians a glimpse of the future this evening by blooding some of the club’s young guns against AZ Alkmaar. With nine of his first team squad left behind, Moyes – whose side will progress through to the UEFA Cup knockout stages as group winners regardless of the result here – has taken the chance to hand a number of budding performers some invaluable experience. John-Paul Kissock, Jack Rodwell, Lukas Jutkiewicz, John Ruddy, John Irving, Patrick Boyle and Bjarni Vidarsson have all travelled and have genuine chances of getting on the pitch at the DSB Stadion. As he has shown so often in the past, Moyes has never shied away from pitching teenagers in if he feels they are good enough and says he could not ask for a better scenario to take a look at how the kids are progressing. “We are going to play a lot of senior players but we have brought the young lads here and we will see if any of them are capable of stepping it up and becoming part of the first team squad,” said Moyes, whose side boast a 100% record in Group A. “We had a good trip down to London and the excitement from the games there has kept going. It’s the one thing we have at Everton. We have a brilliant spirit and a great group of men. “There is going to be an opportunity for some of the lads to get in. It’s exciting to give young players an opportunity. What they need to do is show enough to warrant that. “We will look at it. If we want to become a club that is serious about progressing, we do need to start bringing kids through. We have a great record with young players but we need to keep bringing them through. “We could not be coming to Alkmaar in a better situation than we are in. We are on the back of a fantastic run, we have qualified from the group stages as winners but every game matters and we want to win this one as well.” Ayegbeni Yakubu, Tim Cahill, Mikel Arteta and Tim Howard were all given a chance to catch their breath by Moyes, while Joseph Yobo, Phil Neville, Leon Osman, Alan Stubbs and Leighton Baines stayed on Merseyside to have treatment on injuries. That said, Moyes’ staring line-up will include the likes of Lee Carsley, Thomas Gravesen, Andrew Johnson, Nuno Valente and James McFadden, so he is confident Everton will have enough to combat AZ’s threat. “AZ are a very good footballing team,” Moyes noted. “They are technically very good and they pass the ball well.” l Following yesterday’s draw, Everton will face Chelsea in a two-legged Carling Cup semi-final. Matches to be played January 8-9 and 22-23. Meanwhile, the funeral of former Blues keeper Jimmy O’Neill will be held tomorrow at 9.30am at St Anne’s RC Church, Prescot Road, Ormskirk.
Phil Jagielka: This is my chance to impress
Dec 20 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
IF Phil Jagielka had any fears about being accepted into Everton’s squad, they were dispelled the moment he took part in the club’s annual karaoke evening.
Tradition dictates that any summer signing must perform a song in front of his team-mates on the pre-season tour and once Jagielka was told this in Los Angeles, he chose his number and spent time practicing so as not to fluff his lines. There was, however, one problem. He had let slip to one member of the Blues’ touring party his chosen title and was left ashen-faced when Phil Neville jumped on stage before him to belt out ‘Eye of the Tiger’ as the same song cannot be sung twice. Jagielka was left speechless but the hysterics from those around confirmed this was a stunt to make the new boy feel at ease and it worked. Yet it is only in the past month that the former Sheffield United player has felt part of Everton’s fabric. Having been accustomed to regular starts at Bramall Lane – he once chalked up 133 consecutive appearances there – Jagielka found his initial chances to shine for Everton limited. But his recent displays suggest he has turned a corner. Outstanding in last week’s back-to-back victories against West Ham, Jagielka will continue at the heart of the Blues’ defence this evening as they wrap up matters in UEFA Cup Group A in Alkmaar.
It’s no surprise to find the 25-year-old has a spring in his step again and he is intent on giving manager David Moyes a selection dilemma over the Christmas period now that he feels part of the Everton experience. “It’s been difficult coming in and playing the odd game here and there but I feel much better after the last couple of weeks,” said Jagielka. “All I can be is confident and I think it has shown in my last two performances that I have settled in. “The more you play, the more you feel a part of the team. If you saw us on Saturday, you would have thought we had won the FA Cup final. It is fantastic to be involved. “But that is the way the club is. We are all in it together and we’d had a terrific couple of days down in London, topped and tailed by two great results. It’s a fantastic team atmosphere and that will get us through these hard months ahead.” With Moyes leaving nine of his ‘regulars’ at home, Jagielka will partner Joleon Lescott at the heart of Everton’s defence and though there is nothing riding on the outcome, don’t expect any of them to take it easy. Guarding an impressive unbeaten run that began on October 25, Jagielka has no intentions of allowing that record to slip – there is a determination to progress through to the last 32 with a 100 per cent record. I’m enjoying things at the moment,” said Jagielka, who had his best afternoon in a blue shirt at Upton Park last Saturday. “The gaffer is giving a few of the lads a break. “Most of the first team have been playing two games a week for the last month-and-a-half so, all being well, I’ll get 90 minutes under my belt.
“We are 12 games unbeaten at the moment. We want to make it 13 at Alkmaar and take that run to 14 when we face Manchester United on Sunday. There is lots to play for. “The gaffer will mix things around but we have got a squad full of quality players.
“Whoever he decides to bring in, we would be hopeful of going out there and causing them a lot of problems. They are a good side and we will have to be at our best but we are travelling with a lot of confidence. We want to finish the group stages on a high.”
That, nevertheless, is easier said than done. AZ, after all, boast a 32-game unbeaten run in Europe on home soil and most British sides that have ventured here have been sent packing. To end that sequence, Messrs Jagielka and Lescott will need to be on top form. “I’ve not had the much chance to play alongside Joel,” said Jagielka. “I’ve only come on as a substitute a couple of times but he’s a terrific player. He’s been in fantastic form.” AZ Alkmaar (probable): Waterman; Steinsson, Jaliens, da Silva, Opokisen; De Zeeuw, Vormer, Cziommer, Pocognoli; Dembele, Pelle.
Everton (probable): Wessels; Hibbert, Jagielka, Lescott, Valente; Pienaar, Gravesen, Carsley, McFadden; Anichebe, Johnson.
Referee: Selcuk Derlei (Turkey)
The Jury: Will it be a happy Christmas for Everton?
Dec 20 2007 Liverpool Echo
Debbie Smaje, Upholland
LEON OSMAN’S injury couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Probably our best player over this unbeaten run, we now face six weeks of hectic fixtures without him, and also stand to lose Steven Pienaar, when we were expecting Osman to switch out wide during the African Nations. Our Christmas results will depend on how we adjust to this, and whether we change the 4-5-1 formation that has served us so well. A lot of responsibility now falls on Thomas Gravesen, who has the vision and skill to replace Osman’s creativity, but it remains to be seen if he still has the fitness. Hopefully, he will get a chance to prove it with a start in Alkmaar.
With two tough games and two winnable ones over Christmas and New Year, at least six points is a must. Anything from United and Arsenal is always a bonus, no matter how well we are playing.
Michael Drummond, Speke
OUR unbeaten run has been a fantastic achievement for us and has made us into true contenders for the fourth spot. However, like last time we finished fourth, the Christmas period was crucial for us and this season is no different. We have two difficult games coming up in Manchester United and Arsenal but if we don't get a result from either, the players shouldn't let it get to them, particularly with Wembley within touching distance and another brace of European matches around the corner!
What we will find hard come January is the loss of Yobo, Yakubu and Pienaar due to the African Nations – three players that have been consistent throughout our unbeaten run. Furthermore, Osman's injury is also a massive blow to the team, especially when he's on top of his game. One of the key outcomes for Christmas is to stay injury free to keep our run going.
Cole Fraser, Litherland
ISN'T it great being a Blue! The league table makes good reading, we're through to the Carling Cup semis and the UEFA Cup knockout stages, we're on a 12-match unbeaten run and our record signing can't stop putting the ball in the onion bag! I've thought long and hard about it, but I still can't recall the last time I have such confidence heading into the festive period. Though I don't expect our good form to go on forever, I believe that we can stretch this fantastic run into January. Obviously this won't be an easy task, especially with our visit to the champions on Saturday, but I think that we have the ability to cause them some problems. There's a real sense around Goodison Park that this season could be one to remember, and our recent impressive displays have done nothing to distinguish this feeling. Ultimately, I think that this could prove to be a very merry Christmas for all Evertonians. There's one piece of advice that I would offer to the team – feed the Yak...
Tony Scott, Walton
WHEN was the last time we saw an Everton team like this one?
How far can this present team go? Will we win anything this season? Are we going to Wembley? Those questions will be answered over the next few months. But one thing is for sure – every Evertonian has a team to be proud of. Since we last saw our neighbours, we have won 10 and drawn two of the 12 games, and the two drawn were Chelsea and Portsmouth away. The Christmas holiday fixtures include Manchester United, Arsenal, Bolton and Boro, and we should achieve a minimum of seven points.
Steven Pienaar could be the find of the season and the Yak is giving us that extra goal power up front. One thing I am surprised about is Mikel Arteta’s current form. It has been poor and maybe resting this week will do him the power of good and he will come back fresh.
Stefan Wessels raring for piece of the action
Dec 20 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
CHANCES to shine for Stefan Wessels have been few and far between since he signed for Everton but he is determined to grasp his opportunity this evening with both hands. With Tim Howard given a rest ahead of the Christmas period, Wessels – who joined the Blues on a free transfer from FC Cologne in August – will be in goal for the final UEFA Cup Group game against AZ Alkmaar. But while the American will come straight back in for Sunday’s trip to Manchester United, Wessels hopes he can show David Moyes he can make a significant contribution towards maintaining Everton’s mean streak. The German keeper, not surprisingly, has been impressed by the amount of clean sheets Howard has kept recently and he knows that defensive solidity will give Everton a good chance of ending AZ’s 32-match unbeaten home record in Europe. “We want to keep this run going and it is important that we are not conceding any goals,” said Wessels. “We are looking for another clean sheet.”
“Joleon Lescott, for example, is playing well and will go far in his career. But good defensive work is very important for us at the moment and he is a part of that. It is the reason that we have been making progress up the table. “In Germany we have a saying that the attack wins games but the defence wins you championships, and I think that is the most important thing for us to think about.” Wessels has not played since October 31 when Everton beat Luton 1-0 in the Carling Cup. But he is vastly experienced in terms of European experience. “I am going to enjoy this game,” said Wessels. “I haven’t played too much since I came here but this is a great chance. “This is a great competition. If you asked any player in any league across Europe whether they would like to play in the UEFA Cup, they would tell you ‘yes’. It is the same for me.”
AZ Alkmaar 2, Everton 3
Dec 21, 2007
By Dominic King at the DSB Stadion
BY the time you read this, Everton’s history makers and record breakers should have just about thawed out. On a night when temperatures in northern Holland plummeted to as low as minus 12, thanks to a biting wind chill factor and freezing fog which swirled around AZ Alkmaar’s compact little home, there was plenty to warm Blue hearts. A cliché, perhaps, but that, in a nutshell, was the essence of Everton’s final match in UEFA Cup Group A, an assiduous performance from a improvised starting line-up securing a richly-deserved victory to notch a place in the annals. But while goals from Andrew Johnson, Phil Jagielka and James Vaughan enabled Everton to become the first team to beat Alkmaar on home soil in Europe in 33 attempts, much to Louis van Gaal’s obvious disappointment, this triumph had a far greater significance. With nothing riding on the outcome of this contest for the Blues, David Moyes, understandably, took the decision to leave several of his big guns at home ahead of the hectic Christmas period and put his trust in those who have been on the periphery. How he was rewarded. It would be wide of the mark to say Everton were at their fluent best – how could they be with seven changes to their starting line-up? But, bursting with commitment and endeavour, they showed again that this squad is in the rudest health. And the aspect from which David Moyes will have arguably taken greatest satisfaction is that the win was achieved thanks to the efforts of his younger players; a night, if you will, when boys became men. If 19-year-old Vaughan popped up with the strike that sealed this entertaining tussle, he would be the first to give credit to the role played by fellow teenager Victor Anichebe, who provided the opportunity with an incisive through ball. They could well turn out to be Everton’s main strikers in seasons to come and there is a distinct possibility that behind them Jack Rodwell – for whom Christmas came early last night – will be pulling the strings in midfield. At just 16 years and 284 days, Rodwell last night became the youngest player ever to represent Everton in Europe and, if he makes the progress that many at Goodison Park hope, his debut appearance in Royal Blue will be followed by countless more. When you add into the equation Bjarni Vidarsson (19) also got a run out and Lukas Jutkiewicz (18), John Irving, Patrick Boyle (20) and John Ruddy (21) were on the bench, this trip to Alkmaar gave Everton’s youth programme a timely boost. Of course, it would be folly to get carried away and start making predictions that all of the above will have long and successful careers at Goodison, but they are in the process of showing Moyes they can do a job for him, if and when necessary. The kids are clearly all right, but so too are the senior players that Moyes keeps in reserve and one or two of the players whom the manager entrusted to close out the group stages reminded him of their well being. Johnson, for one, grasped his chance to shine with both hands and marked his first start since September 23 with a waspish display – Alkmaar’s defenders never got a moment’s peace when he was around – that was crowned with a goal inside the opening 90 seconds. That completely changed the tone of the game and while the home side levelled matters when Graziano Pelle capitalised on some sloppy play from Jagielka and Joleon Lescott, the simple truth is they never really threatened to overrun Everton. Yes, they played some attractive football – you wouldn’t expect anything else from a side coach by van Gaal – but Stefan Wessels never had a meaningful save to make and the Toffees always gave the impression they could score again if needed. So it proved. Jagielka was the beneficiary of good work by Lescott and Johnson, nodding in from two yards just before the break, while Steven Pienaar was thwarted after the re-start when Boy Waterman turned his crisply struck drive away. Needing a win to join Everton in the last 32, Alkmaar upped the tempo and again secured parity when Kew Jaliens headed in at the far post with the visitors’ rearguard asleep, but the grandstand finish never arrived. Everton, if anything, always looked the team most likely to add to their tally, so it therefore came as no surprise when Anichebe sent Vaughan clear and he did the rest, his toe poke squirming past Waterman into the corner of the net. Not only did it enable Everton to finish with a 100 per cent record, it allowed them to equal the class of 1985’s achievement of winning five consecutive European games and set a new club best of seven consecutive away victories in Cup competitions. Impressive statistics, certainly. The most impressive thing of all, however, is that Everton have got into the habit of winning matches that 12 months ago they would not have done – keep that mentality and this campaign could yet have a silver lining. ALKMAAR (4-4-2): Waterman; Jaliens, Opdam, Pocognoli (Agustein 81), da Silva; De Zeeuw (Jenner 65), Cziommer (El Hamdaoui 66), Dembele, Steinsson; Vormer, Pelle. Goals - Pelle (16), Jaliens (65) EVERTON (4-4-2): Wessels; Hibbert, Jagielka, Lescott, Valente; Pienaar (Vidarsson 68), Gravesen (Rodwell 80), Carsley, McFadden; Anichebe, Johnson (Vaughan 68) Goals - Johnson (2), Jagielka (43), Vaughan (78) Bookings - Hibbert (63), Wessels (81) Attendance - 16,578 Referee - Selcuk Dereli (Turkey)
AZ Alkmaar 2, Everton 3 (D,Post)
Dec 21, 2007.
By Christopher Beesley at the DSB-Stadion
EVERTON extended their own impressive unbeaten run to 13 matches last night by ending the longest unbeaten home record in Europe. Despite the game having absolutely nothing riding on it in regards to Everton’s progression – they had already finished top of Group A – victory in this five-goal thriller ensured that David Moyes’s side completed this stage of the competition with a 100% record. It was a truly fantastic achievement considering that hosts AZ were unbeaten in a European record 32 matches at home over a 30-year period after surpassing Ipswich Town’s current total of 31, at their previous ground the Alkmaarderhout and the DSB-Stadion where they moved last year. AZ’s supporters proudly displayed a series of placards behind the goal ahead of kick-off displaying some of their great victories throughout their amazing run. It was a seventh consecutive away win for Everton in cup matches stretching back to Peterborough in last season’s Carling Cup and their sixth away cup victory this season alone. It also ensured that Everton have won 10 away matches before Christmas for the first time in a campaign and equalled the five consecutive wins in Europe they recorded in the 1984-85 Cup Winners Cup campaign – and we all know what happened back then. Although it was thoroughly enthusiastic rather than aggressively intimidating, the noise that greeted the two sides on their arrival was immense, letting Everton know that while this game was a ‘dead rubber’ for them, the hosts who needed a win to be sure of qualification were very much up for the contest. Armed with laminated posters which were folded in concertina fashion for maximum audio effect, the Dutch fans produced the kind of sound levels to match some of the continent’s most famous stadia on European nights even though there were barely more than 15,000 of them crammed into their smart DSB-Stadion home on a bitterly cold Dutch winter night. The prospect of there being more than twice as many of them if president Dirk Scheringha’s ambitious plans to extend the ground to 40,000 in 2010 would certainly be a sight and sound to behold. Manager Moyes made seven changes from the side which started Saturday’s 2-0 victory at West Ham in the Premier League with Tim Howard, Phil Neville, Joseph Yobo, Mikel Arteta , Leon Osman, Tim Cahill and Ayegbeni Yakubu all not travelling. Into the side came goalkeeper Stefan Wessels, right-back Tony Hibbert, left-back Nuno Valente, central midfielder Thomas Gravesen – for his first start since returning to the club on loan – left winger James McFadden and strikers Andrew Johnson and Victor Anichebe. Although a much-changed line-up it still contained seven full internationals. In contrast, it was a hugely inexperienced bench with James Vaughan the only outfield substitute to have previously played in a first team match as Moyes used the luxury of having already won the group to give several of his youngsters an opportunity to be involved in a European game. The vocal home support were stunned into a temporary silence, though, just 63 seconds into the game when Johnson put Everton ahead with his first ever goal in European competition. Receiving the ball down the inside left channel, Johnson spun past Mendes da Silva and with the defender also preoccupied by the onrushing McFadden, the former Crystal Palace man was free to drill the ball low past AZ keeper Boy Waterman from 12 yards out in front of the travelling fans. For the next few moments AZ seemed to be knocked out of their stride but they were soon able to restore parity on 16 minutes with some total football that home coach Louis van Gaal would have been proud of from his great Ajax side of the mid-1990s. Icelandic right-back Gretar Steinsson pushed forward into a central attacking midfield role to thread through to Italian striker Graziano Pelle who swivelled before slotting the ball past Wessels low to the German keeper’s right. Everton attempted to counter AZ’s interchanging by getting McFadden and Pienaar to regularly switch wings but they almost came undone at the hands of another seemingly unlikely threat as defensive midfield anchor man Ruud Vormer pushed up to curl a looping shot across a stranded Wessels’ goal with the ball landing on the roof of the net. After absorbing AZ pressure for considerable periods throughout the first half despite having the lion’s share of possession – a feat itself against any van Gaal side – Everton restored their lead with the first meaningful assault on Waterman’s goal since their second-minute opener. With less than two minutes remaining ahead of the interval, Gravesen swung in a corner-kick from the right and following some penalty box pinball the loose ball fell to the feet of Joleon Lescott and although his shot was cleared off the line by a desperate effort from Steinsson, centre-back partner Phil Jagielka was on hand to score his first goal for Everton since his £4.5million summer switch from Sheffield United with a diving header. Johnson was almost gifted a second just before the hour mark when Waterman dropped a left-wing cross by ex-Ajax man Steven Pienaar, but as the striker attempted to get in a shot around penalty spot, AZ scrambled the ball clear. Moments later, Pienaar brought the best out of the home keeper with a snap shot from a Hibbert right-wing cross, but was denied by a smart save down to his right by Waterman. But just as Everton had been threatening to extend their lead, AZ caught their visitors out with the most ‘British’ of goals – a header from a set piece. With 65 minutes on the clock, Julian Jenner replaced Demy de Zeeuw and made an immediate impact, delivering a left-wing corner-kick straight to the head of skipper Kew Jaliens who nodded past Wessels at an unguarded back post. With AZ also ‘sneaking’ El Hamdaoui on for Simon Cziommer in the euphoria that followed their second equaliser, Moyes was prompted into a double switch of his own two minutes later as Johnson and Pienaar were replaced by Vaughan and Bjarni Vidarsson with the 19-year-old Icelander making his Everton debut. The change worked as after running the home defenders into the ground with his blistering pace for the first two thirds of the contest, Johnson made way for another speed merchant. However it was Vaughan’s quickness of mind rather than feet that allowed him to put the visitors ahead for a third time with 11 minutes remaining. Fellow teenager Anichebe lofted a floated diagonal pass over the top of AZ’s rearguard to pick out the substitute at the back post and Vaughan delivered a subtle finish over Waterman’s head which crept over the line. More history was made on 80 minutes when Gravesen was replaced by 16-year-old Jack Rodwell, who became Everton’s youngest player in a European match – breaking the record held since Jimmy Husband’s appearance against Hungarians Ujpest Dozsa in 1965. The visitors endured a nervous moment in the closing stages as they were carved open by a couple of AZ’s substitutes only for Agustien to inexplicably stab wide when played in by an El Hamdaoui through-ball but the miss ensured Everton held out for a win that ultimately proved to be significant for so many reasons and was greeted with great merriment by the many blue-hatted Santas dotted around the ground.
AZ ALKMAAR (4-4-2): Waterman, Jaliens, Opdam, Pocognoli (Agustien 77), Mendes Da Silva, Cziommer (El Hamdaoui 66), Dembele, De Zeeuw (Jenner 65), Steinsson, Vormer, Pelle. Subs: Romero, Koenders, Donk, Medunjanin. EVERTON (4-4-2): Wessels, Hibbert, Jagielka, Lescott, Nuno Valente, Pienaar (Vidarsson 69), Gravesen (Rodwell 80), Carsley, McFadden, Anichebe, Johnson (Vaughan 68). Subs: Ruddy, Jutkiewicz, Boyle, Irving. BOOKINGS: Hibbert, Wessels. REFEREE: Selcuk Dereli (Turkey). ATT: 16,578. NEXT MATCH: Manchester United v Everton, Barclays Premier League, Sunday 12pm.
Blues will be no United pushover
Dec 21 2007
By Howard Kendall, Liverpool Echo
THERE was a time when you could all but write off Everton’s chances ahead of a trip to Old Trafford, but things are starting to change. While I’m not suggesting the Blues will be able to breeze through Sunday’s tussle with Manchester United and expect to collect three points, they will not be worrying themselves silly either. United, in my opinion, are the Premier League champions in waiting once again, but it’s clear to see that Everton have made giant strides over the past 18 months and it will be interesting to see how much they have progressed in this latest test. Winning breeds confidence and there is no doubting that David Moyes’ squad are on top of their game. Given that the team he will send out will also be packed with quality, there is every reason to believe they can pick something up from the clash. That said, it will take maximum concentration from the defenders and midfielders to ensure they remain in the hunt for points at all times - United are the best counter-attackers in the business and are at their most dangerous when opponents are pressing. With flyers such as Carlos Tevez, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney spearheading their attack, they can dismantle a team in the blink of an eye so - and this is such an irony - Everton will be most vulnerable at corners. Sir Alex Ferguson has always been an advocate of free-flowing football and there is no sign of him losing his hunger, but it would have been fantastic if the FA had found him a role in the England set up. Yet the chances of that happening would have been remote as Fergie’s phone chimes to ‘Scotland the Brave’ and he is desperate to go on collecting silverware in the role he has filled so magnificently for the past 21 years. But that does not change my view that we can get something at Old Trafford. Ayegbeni Yakubu is starting to show that he is the real deal and has silenced the doubters in the best possible manner. I’m saddened to admit that I was among those who didn’t think he’d be up to the task here after his first few games,. But he has scored goals wherever he has played and it was wrong of us to doubt him.
IT was such a shame to learn of the injury Leon Osman has suffered and his absence for the next six weeks will be a huge blow. His form has been outstanding and he’s chipped in with important goals but I still think Everton have the players to cope with such a blow and Thomas Gravesen (right) is likely to figure a lot now. Tommy can be a bit of a maverick but moving to Real Madrid has possibly improved his discipline on the field and as long as he does not leave Lee Carsley swamped in the centre on his own, he can make a significant contribution.
Goodison up for cup
SOME people may have groaned when Everton were paired with Chelsea in the Carling Cup semi-finals and there is no disputing we have got the hardest possible draw. But Goodison Park will be absolutely bouncing for the second leg and I still think we can look forward to a trip to Wembley. Chelsea may have a huge reputation but don’t for one minute underestimate Everton’s capabilities. I would have preferred us to have faced Arsenal as I think their kids could be beaten that bit easier over two legs but Chelsea it is and, all being well, we will do enough in the first leg to ensure the return is geared up for a real cracker.
Everton face SK Brann in UEFA Cup
Dec 21, 2007
By David Higgerson, Liverpool Daily Post
EVERTON will play SK Brann of Norway in the last 32 of the UEFA Cup. Because of their 100% record in the group stages, Everton were drawn against a side who finished third in their respective group. Aberdeen, AEK Athens, Galatasaray, Anderlecht and FC Zurich were the other possible opponents. Brann finished third in Group D with four points from their four games, behind SV Hamburg and FC Basel. They lost 1-0 at home to Hamburg, drew 1-1 in Rennes, defeated Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 at home and lost their final game 1-0 in Basel. Their ground has a capacity of 18,500 - making it slightly bigger than AZ Alkmaar's DSB Stadion. The first leg will be played in Brann on February 13 or 14, with the return leg at Goodison in the week beginning February 18. Should Everton make the last 16, they will face the winners of Rosenborg and Fiorentina. FULL DRAW: Aberdeen v Bayern; AEK Athens v Getafe; Bolton v Atletico Madrid; Zenit v Villarreal; Galatasaray v Leverkusen; Anderlecht v Bordeaux; SK Brann v EVERTON; Zurich v SV Hamburg; Rangers v Panathinaikos; PSV v Helsingborg; Slavia v Tottenham; Rosenborg v Fiorentina; Sporting v Basel; Werder Bremen v FC Braga; Benfica v Nurnberg; Marseille v Spartak Moscow.
Confident David Moyes looks to the future
Dec 21 2007 Ken Gaunt Liverpool Echo
EVERTON manager David Moyes believes his side can approach the next stage of the UEFA Cup with confidence. He will take a keen interest in the draw for the last 32 today after the Toffees finished the group stages with a 100% record.
Goals from Andrew Johnson, Phil Jagielka and substitute James Vaughan gave them a superb 3-2 victory against AZ Alkmaar in Holland. Moyes said: “We are enjoying the experience and are looking comfortable at this level. “While I have seen some teams who might cause us problems, winning the group does give you an advantage.
“We are looking forward to the draw and the next stage of the competition.”
After seeing his team extend their unbeaten run to 13 games, Moyes said: “I am really pleased to come here and get a positive result. “I did not tell the players about AZ’s record. They did not need to hear it. “But they were very pleased after the game to find out what they had achieved in difficult circumstances. “It was very cold out there and a number of players were cramping up. “While I was disappointed that we gave away a couple of cheap goals, we have to look on the positive side. “We gave a number of senior players a run-out which was important given the number of games we have coming up. “They all did well and so did the youngsters like Vaughan and Anichebe.” When Phil Jagielka headed home after Steinsson had cleared Lescott’s shot off the line to make it 2-1 he was scoring his first goal for the club since his £4m move from Sheffield United in the summer. Everton got off to a perfect start and took the lead after just 63 seconds. Johnson shook off the attentions of David Mendes da Silva to score at the near post. AZ equalised in the 17th minute with a swift counter attack when Graziano Pelle clipped a shot into the corner. Everton almost added a third in the 51st minute when Lee Carsley got on the end of McFadden’s corner only to send his header narrowly over the top. AZ, however, drew level for the second time in the 66th minute when Kew Jaliens was left unmarked when substitute Julian Jenner swung in a corner and the skipper past Stefan Wessels at the far post. Everton regained the lead for the third time in the 80th minute when Vaughan showed a cool head to send his effort into the corner after being set up by Anichebe.
Moyes gave a debut to 16-year-old defender Jack Rodwell with 10 minutes remaining when he replaced Thomas Gravesen. “We give young players like Jack a chance at Everton,” said the Scottish boss. “He has a bright future. “Jack is just out of school but we think highly of him.” end Everton got off to a perfect start and took the lead after just 63 seconds when Johnson shook off the attentions of David Mendes da Silva to score at the near post. AZ equalised through Graziano Pelle in the 17th minute but Everton regained the lead two minutes before half-time. Jagielka headed home after a shot from Joleon Lescott had been cleared off the line - his first goal for the club following his £4.5million move from Sheffield United in the summer.
AZ, however, drew level for the second time in the 66th minute when Kew Jaliens was left unmarked at the back post to head home. But Everton grabbed the winner in the 80th minute when Vaughan showed a cool head to send his effort into the corner after being set up by Anichebe. It ended AZ’s proud home record in Europe stretching back over 32 games. Moyes said: “I am really pleased to come here and get a positive result. “I did not tell the players about AZ’s record. They did not need to hear it.
“But they were very pleased after the game to find out what they had achieved in difficult circumstances. “While I was disappointed that we gave away a couple of cheap goals, we have to look on the positive side.” Moyes gave a debut to 16-year-old defender Jack Rodwell with 10 minutes remaining when he replaced Thomas Gravesen. “We give young players like Jack a chance at Everton,” said the Scottish boss. “He has a bright future. Jack is just out of school but we think highly of him.”
We’re living Euro dream
Dec 21 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
LEE CARSLEY today hailed the “unbelievable” effort that sent Everton surging into the UEFA Cup’s last 32 – then urged for more of the same to maintain their European dream. Carsley, once again ultra-reliable in the middle, took the captain’s armband against AZ Alkmaar last night and played a significant part as Everton made history by becoming the first side to beat the Dutch on home soil in 33 attempts.
Given their last UEFA Cup adventure ended so miserably in the autumn of 2005, Carsley is delighted that Everton are making up for lost time but knows they will have to be in sparkling form when the tournament re-starts in February if they want it to continue. “It’s an unbelievable achievement,” said Carsley. “Considering what our last little experience of playing in Europe was like, you could hardly say we passed that test with flying colours could you? “But now we have shown that we are improving all the time and have learned from our experiences. “But we are realistic. We are only just coming up to Christmas and nothing has been achieved. The hard work starts now.” While the final score had special significance so, too, did the substitute appearance of Jack Rodwell, who at 16 years and 284 days became the youngest Everton player since Jimmy Husband to feature in a European game.
Rodwell is blessed with great ability and hopes are high that he will prove good enough to figure regularly for Everton, and Carsley believes the youngster could not wish to have a better team around him. “It was great game and a fantastic win,” said Carsley. “It keeps our unbeaten run going which is the main thing. “We’ve been going on about the importance of the squad and now it’s a case of the lads who were rested last night having to perform on Sunday. “The Academy keeps producing players and there are a few coming through. Vic and Vaughany are still very fresh on the scene, Jack Rodwell has played and he looks a very good talent, while Bjarni was in there as well. “It’s important that Jack is left to develop in his own time. He’s not another Wayne (Rooney) and it’s much different for a midfielder to come in at that age than a forward. “He just needs time but he has got everything to look forward to. We have got a great coaching staff and they will make sure he is all right.”
Progress has been special for Everton fans
Dec 22 2007 by Barry Horne, Liverpool Echo
MOST Evertonians you bump into agree that it is currently a great time to be a Blue.
That’s not just in terms of results over the past two months, but the manner in which those results have been achieved. David Moyes and Bill Kenwright have moved steadily and surely to achieve their vision of success. Along the way they have endured no little criticism, but the evidence is there for all to see and you would do well to find a dissenting voice amongst Evertonians at present. The squad is the best the club has possessed for years, the age profile is healthy and the type of player in that squad has been carefully selected and groomed. The template used has been the one established by Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, but they have had more than a decade to get their clubs where they are. Since the derby match we have been top of the form table, Joleon Lescott has continued to improve, now at left-back, and Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar have emerged as midfield forces to complement the more feted individuals like Arteta and Cahill. The calculated gamble to bring in Yakubu has paid off with the player swiftly moulding to the club. How Everton deal with a very congested January – congestion due to our success – will give us a better long- term view of where we currently stand – whether this is the real deal or just a short burst of form. I rather suspect it is the former. It’s a massive month where we will gain experience of two-legged cup ties in both the Carling Cup and Europe, and will contest two games a week for several weeks – together with a squad weakened by international call-ups. One imminent challenge in that group of fixtures is the visit of Arsenal, so soon after the trip to Old Trafford. For me Arsenal do not present quite the imposing monolith that a trip to Old Trafford does and there have been times this season when I have described some of the football that Everton have played as being similar to Arsenal's. We are capable of getting a result – and if we do we will know better where we can finish this season.
Fear of two-footed over-reactions
THE debate over two-footed tackles continues to rage, with several more examples on Boxing Day. People are suggesting the problem has reached epidemic proportions, but it was interesting to note the reactions of Ricardo Carvalho and Brynjar Gunnarsson, who were both red-carded for two-footed lunges. They knew what was coming. That doesn't mean their actions were pre-meditated or intended to cause their opponents' harm, but more that they simply understood the severity of their lapses.
The more people talk about these challenges and the more we make an issue of them, the greater the likelihood of knee-jerk reactions from referees whenever a lunging tackle is made. An example is Tony Hibbert's tackle on Evra at Old Trafford. Prior to that match we had witnessed a rant from Alex Ferguson about the need to clamp down on dangerous tackles, and ironically that worked against his own side with Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra both cautioned. But Hibbert then tackled Evra, made contact with the ball but brought Evra down with his follow through. Since then Sky TV have been highlighting that tackle repeatedly as an example of the dreadful two-footed lunge. The people who put these packages together clearly can't differentiate between Carvalho's reckless lunge and Hibbert's attempt to win the ball and I fear that soon anything vaguley resembling a two-footed challenge will be punished.
Carsley note of caution on Blues’ great expectations
Dec 22 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
ANOTHER European trip, another catalogue of enduring images – Everton’s UEFA Cup campaign is quickly becoming picture perfect. As was the case in Kharkiv and Nuremberg, those Blues who made the trip to Alkmaar will have returned with countless tales to tell and dreams that a season which continues to grow in promise will end with a trophy to celebrate. You only had to see the beaming smiles on the faces of Everton’s players and staff as they boarded the flight back from Amsterdam to see how much this latest win meant. And even Lee Carsley was able to sport a grin of contented satisfaction. Whenever there is a danger of any players getting too carried away by results, Carsley can be relied upon to provide a sobering dose of realism but, as he trooped off the pitch at the DSB Stadion, he was determined to enjoy the moment. Having taken great pride in wearing the captain’s armband, it was no surprise that within 20 minutes of the final whistle Carsley’s thoughts were focused on the next task awaiting Everton. Challenges do not come any bigger than Manchester United at Old Trafford and the veteran midfielder knows that if he or any of his team-mates think they have found the key to success, a nasty shock will await them. That is why for all the free-flowing football Everton have played and goals they have scored, Carsley knows how vital it is to remain tough to beat. As he points out, trophies have not and never will be won in December. “As good as it is at the moment, you know what football is like. It has a nasty habit of kicking you in the teeth,” said Carsley, who played an important role in helping Everton win all four of their Group A games. “But we are working hard on the training ground. That never changes. The lads who came in against Alkmaar were terrific. Just look at AJ. People forget that he’s only just coming back after an operation on his ankle.
“His goals in the last two games have shown what he is about, though, and he is looking in fantastic form. He’s getting into the groove again. “It is unrecognisable now to what it was back when I first came to Everton. There is a wealth of high quality players and we have got so many options. But the thing is to keep doing the basics well. We have got to stay hard to beat and hard to break down. That good base has got to stay constant. “Even though we beat Alkmaar, straight after the game the Gaffer was on to the lads at the back about the goals we conceded. It’s things like that which remind you we are still very much a work in progress.” That might be the case. But the most encouraging aspect for Moyes is the way his ‘work in progress’ has developed a winning mentality which is enabling them to make progress at a rapid rate of knots. Everton are, unquestionably, the form team in the Premier League and 11 wins from their last 13 games is a remarkable record, one that not even tomorrow’s opponents, league leaders Arsenal or Chelsea can eclipse. Cynics may quibble and point to the fact the sequence has been amassed by beating largely inferior sides. But such an argument will not wash with Carsley, who points to the doughty performances which secured draws at Stamford Bridge and Fratton Park. And dogmatism will again be needed when Everton make the short trip down the M62, seeking a first win at Old Trafford since August 19 1992 when Peter Beardsley, Maurice Johnston and Robert Warzycha ran riot. They will not, though, head to the home of the champions worrying about taking a hiding. If anything, the opposite is true. Carsley is adamant that Everton have the players to cause United problems and there is a determination to go into Christmas unbeaten. “This is another big test,” said Carsley. “We always seem to do reasonably well against United and give them a game of sorts and I don’t see any reason why we should be making the trip fearing them. We aren’t going there for a day out. “We want to go there and see if we can make it 14 games unbeaten. That’s exactly what we want to do. We have been in a fantastic run of form and we want that to continue for as long as possible. “That’s why Thursday night’s win was so important. If we had lost to Alkmaar, it’s as if we’d have had the excuses ready made in that we left a few players at home. But it just goes to show the desire and the hunger of those waiting for a chance. “Everyone has got a point to prove. To win any away game is a big achievement but to do what we did in Alkmaar was fantastic. “Christmas is such an important period when the games come thick and fast but we are ready for it.”
Johnson back to deadly best
Dec 22 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES believes Andrew Johnson is showing signs that he is ready to embark on a goalscoring spree after his fine performance in Holland.
Everton’s former club record signing started for the first time since September 23 against AZ Alkmaar on Thursday and crowned an impressive individual display by scoring the first goal in that 3-2 win. That has taken his tally for the season to four and Moyes feels that Johnson will be adding to the figure significantly over the Christmas period. Now the manager faces a poser as to how he brings him back full time.
“I thought he played very well,” said Moyes, whose side are looking to stretch their current unbeaten run to 14 games at Old Trafford tomorrow. “He held the ball up, worked hard, got himself a goal and looked really sharp. We were very pleased with him. “He’s beginning to get his goal meter turning over again and we need that. But, coupled with that, we have seen Victor score goals in Europe for us, Faddy got a few earlier in the season and Vaughany is on his way back. “We are beginning to see all centre-forwards scoring goals and then we have got Tim Cahill, who can weigh in with a few from midfield. “But it’s always nice when your forward players get goals and that will have done Andy the world of good.” Having made seven changes in Holland to the team that beat West Ham, Moyes will again shuffle his pack against Manchester United but, on this occasion, he will be recalling the likes of Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill and Joseph Yobo. No Everton manager has tasted success at Old Trafford since August 1992 and, despite his team being in the best form since his reign as manager began, Moyes thinks it will take an enormous effort to beat the current champions. “We have come up against them a lot of times and it is very difficult to beat them because of the quality they have got,” said Moyes. “They are a terrific club. At the moment, I think it is going to be between them and Arsenal for the title, but it’s going to be very tight. “They are the champions but it will be important for us to have played them twice by this weekend. “We were a bit disappointed not to take something from the first game. There wasn’t an awful lot of chances for either side in September, so we have to try and see if we can get something from this game.”
‘we’re buzzing with big games’
Dec 22, 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES is relishing the chance to lead Everton into uncharted territory when the UEFA Cup resumes in February. The Blues will face Norwegian opposition for the first time in their European history after they were paired with SK Brann Bergen in yesterday’s draw for the last 32 in Nyon, Switzerland. Should Everton clear that hurdle, they would then battle it out with either crack Italian side Fiorentina or Brann’s main rivals, Rosenborg, for a place in the quarter-finals. But Moyes is not looking too far ahead at this stage. Before they play in Europe again, Everton face a number of difficult Premier League fixtures, an FA Cup third round tie at home to Oldham and, most importantly of all, the Carling Cup semi-final against Chelsea.
But, having enjoyed the experience of playing regular European football this season, Moyes feels the club have a lot to look forward to in the new year. For the time being, however, Brann are off his radar. “I’m pleased enough with the draw but it’s difficult to say whether it will be good or bad,” said Moyes. “The good thing is that it’s not too far to go. “We could have been faced with a long journey to Galatasary or somewhere but we will look at that task later on. “What we have got now is a real buzz of anticipation about the games that are coming up. “Hopefully, that will keep us going over Christmas. “ It’s a tough time of the year and we want to make sure that we come out of it still in touch with the top sides, before we have an FA Cup tie and Carling Cup semi-finals. We are looking forward to the new year.” Tomorrow’s game against Manchester United will be Everton’s seventh in the past 22 days, but the players are not showing any signs of fatigue, and Moyes reckons the extra workload has brought about improvement in their performances. “I think they are benefiting from more games,” said Moyes. “At times we have tried to give people a bit of time off if we can. We have probably just been playing, recovering and looking forward to the next game.
“But I think they are all enjoying it. Moving to the new training ground has given everyone a lift. The facilities we have got here are first class. We have taken some impetus from that. “I’m sure there will be periods in the next week or two where I am going to need all my players. The lads who came in against Alkmaar repaid me and I thought they all played well.”
Manchester United 2, Everton 1
Dec 24, 2007
By Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
PHIL JAGIELKA is convinced Everton’s confidence is still strong despite their 13-game unbeaten run crashing to an end yesterday. An 88th-minute penalty from Cristiano Ronaldo earned Manchester United a fortunate 2-1 win at Old Trafford. Ronaldo had given Sir Alex Ferguson’s side a 23rd-minute lead only for Tim Cahill to head an equaliser four minutes later. Jagielka was an outstanding performer at the heart of an Everton defence that came agonisingly close to securing a deserved point. And he said: “It’s just so very frustrating, but this isn’t going to dent our confidence. “We had a gameplan to keep things tight but they scored relatively early on, so we had to have a bit of a re-think. “We didn’t let our heads drop and fortunately Stevie Pienaar provided a great cross for ‘Johnny on the Spot’. It was a great header from Timmy and that’s what he does so well.” Of the game, Jagielka added: “You could never say that we were comfortable throughout but when it got to the last few minutes, most people would have said that we’d hold out for a draw. “We had defended really well. Tim Howard had only had to make a couple of saves which were straight at him, but we’ve ended up being beaten by a really sloppy penalty to give away. It’s such a shame.” Steven Pienaar, who created Cahill’s goal, conceded the decisive late penalty with a rash challenge on Ryan Giggs. But Jagielka said: “It was just one of those things. He’s just gone into autopilot and stuck a leg out. But we won’t be blaming him. We are all in this together and we win as a team, so we lose as a team. “He had played really well and worked very hard. He’s obviously very upset – gutted just like everyone else. You see those type of tackles happen all the time in training.” Meanwhile, Phil Neville believes it is time for footballers to start looking at themselves if they are to avoid the “frightening” barracking they receive from supporters. Portsmouth centre-back Sol Campbell claimed abuse had “gone too far”, in the wake of the reception he was given by Tottenham fans last weekend. But Neville says footballers “do not help themselves” because of the vitriol they are seen handing out to referees. “As footballers, we need to look at ourselves,” Neville said yesterday. “Eighty to 90% of footballers handle themselves with dignity and in the right way. “But it’s a small minority that are letting us down, and the vast amounts of money we earn means we have a lot of responsibility and are there to be shot at. “We don’t help ourselves,” he added. “We need to look after ourselves a lot better than we are doing, both on and off the pitch, but it is only a small minority “For young kids coming through, it is only right for them to look at us as examples. “Having a go at referees, and the language used by footballers nowadays, is not acceptable. Maybe that’s where we need to improve. “I look at the young kids at clubs now and they don’t seem to have the same upbringing in terms of punishment and things like that. “I find it incredible there is that softness because young players are being paid vast amounts of money.”
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-4-2): Kuszczak; Simpson (O’Shea 46), Brown, Vidic, Evra; Ronaldo, Carrick (Saha 71), Anderson (Fletcher 86), Giggs; Tevez, Rooney. Subs: Heaton, Nani.
BOOKINGS: Rooney and Evra (both fouls) and Anderson (dissent).
EVERTON (4-4-2): Howard; Hibbert, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Neville, Cahill (Anichebe 86), Carsley, Pienaar; Yakubu (Gravesen 77), Johnson. Subs: Wessels, Valente, McFadden.
BOOKINGS: Cahill and Hibbert (both fouls) and Pienaar (deliberate handball).
REFEREE: Howard Webb.
Manchester United 2, Everton 1
Dec 24, 2007
By Dominic King at Old Trafford, Liverpool Echo
ALL good things must come to an end, but could you think of a more heartbreaking way for Everton’s remarkable run of form to be brought to a halt?
If Manchester United had cut the Blues to pieces in front of the Stretford End yesterday afternoon, scoring freely to show that a huge chasm in terms of quality still remains between the clubs, defeat might have been easier to take. Indeed, given that they look firmly on course to claim their 10th Premier League title in 16 years, it’s safe to say that many neutrals would have looked at this encounter beforehand and expected nothing other than a home win. How sickening, then, that had it not been for a moment of madness, David Moyes would have celebrated Christmas Day having taken a richly deserved point off United. Unfortunately, Steven Pienaar’s aberration in the dying minutes of a pulsating encounter – his ridiculous tackle on Ryan Giggs allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to fire in a decisive penalty – means Everton must now start afresh against Bolton Wanderers. But it is a measure of how much progress they have made during a magnificent autumnal campaign that they headed for home with the sense of injustice and frustration gnawing away. That Everton left empty-handed, however, was down to an old failing rearing its ugly head, at exactly the wrong moment allowing United to pilfer the bounty just when the finishing line was in sight. As was the case when Nemanja Vidic pounced in the reverse fixture at Goodison Park in September, and just like when Everton’s defence switched off in the Merseyside derby, another big contest has been settled by an exasperating lack of concentration. Of course, it will be scant consolation to Moyes at this moment but the work he has done has received a glowing commendation from the man who occupied the adjacent technical area to him yesterday. “It takes confidence as well as good management skills to build for the future and that’s something David has done at Goodison,” Sir Alex Ferguson observed in his programme notes. “Everton are backing up their success in the cups and in the Premier League. “I would like to see them win the Carling Cup and think they have a very good chance, too. David has turned Everton’s fortunes around and made them into a force for the future. For that reason alone, he deserves some success.” Ferguson was again magnanimous after the game but whether he would have adopted that tact if Everton had secured a share of the spoils is open to debate. He did, though, acknowledge that the Blues had made a huge contribution to the spectacle. There would have been a time not so long ago when Ronaldo’s opening goal - a sumptuous left-footed drive which raced past the helpless Tim Howard - would have been a signal for the floodgates to open. United, after all, are the kind of team that can move effortlessly through the gears and take opponents apart when they are in the mood, but, fortunately, Everton have a determined defence with plenty of resistance. Refusing to be knocked out of their stride, there was plenty to like about the way Everton tried to pass the ball around, even though their main conductor, Mikel Arteta, was laid up at home after contracting a stomach bug overnight. No matter. Arteta has been a few notches below his magnificent best recently which has meant that Pienaar has taken charge of Everton’s creative baton. Once again, he rose to the challenge, making his trip on Ryan Giggs all the more baffling. Working an opening on the left flank with a little help from Joleon Lescott, Pienaar whipped a perfectly flighted cross into the danger zone and there waiting gleefully to gobble the opportunity to restore parity was Everton’s ‘Johnny on the spot’. Having endured a drought by his standards going into this contest - the last time he scored was the winner against Zenit St Petersburg on December 5 - Tim Cahill again proved he is Everton’s man for the big occasion. Not only is the Australian international a great goalscorer, he invariably does it at the biggest stadia. To Anfield, Stamford Bridge and the Emirates Stadium, Cahill can now add Old Trafford to the grounds where he has pounced. Cahill might not be the best technician in Everton’s midfield but he is not there to launch attacks or play the killer passes. His role is to cause maximum damage in the opposition penalty area and few midfielders do that better than him. While they undoubtedly rode their luck on occasions – Rooney had a chip headed off the line by Lescott, while Ronaldo scuffed a volley over the bar when well positioned– there could be little argument they deserved a share of the spoils at the break. As to be expected, United tried to up the tempo after the re-start, but Everton’s defence looked to be standing firm. Joseph Yobo, Tony Hibbert and Lescott all sparkled, while Howard made a number of terrific saves, one in particular from Carlos Tevez. Then there was Phil Jagielka, who as Ferguson noted, was “on the end of five or six crosses” to keep United’s attack at bay. He is getting better and better and relished the chance to play on this big stage. Sadly, it was not to be. With United frantically trying to pick a way through, Pienaar cracked and tripped Giggs with his trailing leg as the Welshman surged forward to give referee Howard Webb an easy decision. Ronaldo, predictably, did the rest.So the magnificent run is over, but the challenge is to now respond by piecing together a similarly impressive sequence. It is something which they are more than capable of doing – they just need to cut out those stupid mistakes.
Steven Pienaar gutted like rest of us – Phil Jagielka
Dec 24, 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
PHIL JAGIELKA today leapt to Steven Pienaar’s defence as he promised the midfielder will not be made the scapegoat for Everton’s first defeat in 14 games.
South African international Pienaar conceded the penalty from which Cristiano Ronaldo secured a 2-1 win for Manchester United at Old Trafford yesterday after he tripped Ryan Giggs with just two minutes of the game remaining. It put a huge blemish on what had been an impressive individual display – he provided the cross for Tim Cahill to score Everton’s equaliser – and he understandably received a broadside from manager David Moyes. However, Jagielka - Everton’s man of the match – quickly provided Pienaar with some words of comfort and hopes he can conjure the perfect response in the Blues’ Boxing Day clash with Bolton Wanderers at Goodison Park. “It was just one of those things,” said Jagielka. “He’s just gone into auto pilot and stuck a leg out. “But we won’t be blaming him. We are all in this together and we win as a team, so we lose as a team. It’s not about one player. “He had played really well and worked very hard. He’s obviously upset and gutted just like everyone else.
“You see those type of tackles happen all the time in training. But this isn’t going to dent our confidence.” As frustrated as he was with the defeat, Jagielka believes Everton can put together another unbeaten run similar to the one that has just ended and says there were plenty of positives to take from the trip to Old Trafford.
“We’ve been on a really good run and 13 games without defeat is a long time to go,” he added. “If we can put another run like that together in the new year, it will serve us well before we go back into European competition. “It was a very strange defeat. We were never out of the game and for 89 minutes we had done enough to get a draw.
“We should have come away with something. We know that. We have just got to pick ourselves up against Bolton. “It’s just so very frustrating. We had a game plan to keep things tight but they scored relatively early on, so we had to have a bit of a re-think. We didn’t let our heads drop and fortunately Stevie provided a great cross for Johnny on the Spot (Cahill). “It was a great header from Timmy and that’s what he does so well. “You could never say that we were comfortable throughout but when it got to the last few minutes, most people would have said that we’d hold out.
“We had defended really well. Tim Howard had only had to make couple of saves which were straight at him, but we’ve ended up being beaten by a sloppy penalty to give away. It’s such a shame.”
David Moyes: ‘We are so close to top sides’
Dec 24, 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES has backed his players to find the perfect response to yesterday’s crushing disappointment at Old Trafford by regaining the winning thread straight away. Everton lost for the first time in 14 games against Manchester United after Steven Pienaar carelessly tripped Ryan Giggs to concede an 87th minute penalty, which Cristiano Ronaldo, who had opened the scoring, converted. But the Blues had done more than enough to warrant a share of the spoils after Tim Cahill’s seventh goal in 13 appearances restored parity. And it looked as if that would be the case until Pienaar had what Moyes described as a “moment of madness”. Though he was understandably frustrated, Moyes was refusing to get too down-hearted and believes the performance his team gave showed they are narrowing the gulf between them and the Premier League champions. “I thought we played well,” he said. “The players showed we have a lot of confidence. There’s no way you will come here and dominate possession. You have to be patient and wait for your moments and defend well. We did that. “We worked really hard to get something, but in the end, it didn’t go for us.
”We have to praise the players. I don’t need to pick them up after this defeat. I don’t feel as though we lost. I felt as though we did well enough to get something out of the game. “The next step is to beat the top four teams. We are showing signs of doing that and for most of the game we were well in it. We wanted to try and get at United.
“When they scored their first goal I thought we were the better team at the time, but we got our reward with the equaliser. We have been to Chelsea and got a point this season, and we have played United twice and only been beaten in the last few minutes. “You have to give United credit. They keep going, are a great side that cause you loads of problems, and have a resilience about them. I think Everton are getting closer and I hope that is the case.” When Pienaar committed the game- changing foul, television pictures showed Moyes sank towards the ground with his hands over his eyes and let the South African know exactly what he was feeling in the dressing room afterwards. Moyes, however, would not castigate Pienaar too much as he had been one of Everton’s better performers and made light of Mikel Arteta’s illness-enforced absence, providing the cross for Cahill’s goal. “I told him what I felt about the penalty,” said Moyes. “It was a moment of madness; a poor decision. But if I say that I have to say how well he played and how well he has played for us for the last two months. “He has been excellent in his play and the penalty is just one of these moments that in time you think ‘that can’t really happen’. “We were short in midfield, at least one wide player, so we had to juggle things. “Both Joseph Yobo and Phil Jagielka did exceptionally well at centre-back. Joleon Lescott is a terrific centre-half but we are having to play him left-back. But as a squad we are getting strong in attack and defence.” It was not just a rearguard performance, though, and Everton looked as if they had United stretched in the last quarter, particularly when Andrew Johnson and Ayegbeni Yakubu started working the channels. “We have strikers who can score goals, and Tim Cahill keeps chipping in from midfield. Hopefully, we can keep on competing in as many competitions as we can,” he said. “I thought when we got the ball up to Yakubu, he looked a threat.”
Players have it too easy - Phil Neville
Dec 24 2007 Liverpool Echo
PHIL NEVILLE believes it is time for footballers to start looking at themselves if they are to avoid the “frightening” barracking they receive from supporters. Earlier this week, Portsmouth centre-back Sol Campbell claimed the abuse had “gone too far”, in the wake of the reception he was given by Tottenham fans last weekend.
Campbell accused the Football Association of letting players down by not being more pro-active in combating the issue, claiming they had “sat idle, head in the sand and tried to brush it under the carpet”. Neville fully appreciates Campbell’s stance, as he and brother Gary have often been the targets of fearsome abuse in the past.
Yet he concedes footballers “do not help themselves”, primarily because of the vitriol they are seen handing out to referees. But the 30-year-old Everton captain also feels young players earning fortunes at clubs have it far too easy. “As footballers, we need to look at ourselves,” Neville said on BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek programme.
“Eighty to 90% of footballers handle themselves with dignity and in the right way.
“But it’s a small minority that are letting us down, and the vast amounts of money we earn means we have a lot of responsibility and are there to be shot at. “If we are going out for a drink then you have to make sure you are going to the right places and behave in the right way. “If you don’t, let’s make sure the punishment is severe enough so you don’t do it again. “But I look at the young kids at clubs now and they don’t seem to have the same upbringing in terms of punishment and things like that.
“There’s a softness coming through, not helped by the foreign influence.
“I know when I was an apprentice, I not only did my football duties, I went to college one day a week and I also cleaned boots, showers and cars. “Nowadays, they are not allowed to do that. “I asked a young apprentice at Everton the other day to fill the fridge up with drinks for the first team and the youth coach said he was not allowed to do that. “I find it incredible there is that softness because young players are being paid vast amounts of money, and they don’t seem to be working for that money.”
“Too much is coming too soon to these players. There isn’t that toughness I know I had when I was an apprentice.” But when seasoned professionals are viewed by those same young players firing a verbal volley at match officials, Neville knows it is a case of practising what is being preached. “We don’t help ourselves,” he added.
“We need to look after ourselves a lot better than we are doing, both on and off the pitch, but it is only a small minority. “For young kids coming through, it is only right for them to look at us as examples. “Having a go at referees, and the language used by footballers nowadays, is not acceptable. Maybe that’s where we need to improve.”
Reflecting on Campbell’s comments, Neville fears for the future and that one shout of abuse on any given day could result in “a serious incident”. “There comes a time when enough’s enough,” remarked Neville. “The level of abuse - not even criticism - players are receiving these days is bordering on frightening. “It’s only a matter of time before a really serious incident takes place. “It’s not as if it’s been happening just this season, it’s been building up for the last 10 years. “It’s fine chanting abuse about myself or my brother when we are out there, but now fans are shouting abuse about your mother, father, daughter. “It will probably take a few more footballers and the authorities to get on board for it to be clamped down on. “At the end of the day, they can shout as much abuse as possible, but if we do the slightest thing back, it’s us who are arrested by the police, questioned and fined. “Yet nothing seems to be done about those shouting the abuse.”
James McFadden refuses to rule out a return to Scotland
Dec 24 2007 Liverpool Echo
EVERTON striker James McFadden admits he would consider a move back to Scotland. The 24-year-old former Motherwell frontman has been linked with a possible transfer to Celtic. Scotland international McFadden could be a wanted man in the January transfer window, and may also be fancied by other Premier League teams.
He is keen to stay in the English top flight but will keep his options open.
“I’d love to play in the Premiership but if it is not going to happen or if a chance to go back up to Scotland came in and I felt it was the right thing for me to do then I would do it,” McFadden said. “Obviously it would be nice to be back with my family and back playing football again, but until that chance comes it is quite hard to answer that question. Hopefully it will happen one day but I will wait and see.” McFadden has not been a regular in the Everton side this season, but is aware the club wish to keep him. He explained: “The club have made it clear that they want to offer me a contract and I have not gone down that road yet because I want to try to get into the team before I start talking about contracts.”
James McFadden is not for sale
Dec 26 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES has slapped a “not for sale” sign on James McFadden to finally ended speculation about the striker’s future. The Scotland international was the subject of a cheeky loan bid from Celtic over the weekend – which Everton, according to chief executive Keith Wyness, rejected “out of hand” – while he has also been linked with Birmingham City. McFadden has been restricted to a peripheral role in recent weeks, with his only starts in Everton’s 13-game unbeaten run coming against Larissa, Luton Town, Zenit St Petersburg and AZ Alkmaar. Moyes, though, has made it quite clear that McFadden will not be leaving when the January transfer window opens and told any would-be suitors that they will be wasting their time making further approaches. “We’re not even thinking about it,” said Moyes. “Faddy is a terrific talent and I’ve heard all the nonsense about him but there is nothing in it. Nothing at all. He won’t be going anywhere. We wouldn‘t consider selling. No way.
“The competition for places here will keep the players on their toes. You only have to look at the ones who played in Alkmaar. They were all focused and did a good job to get us a positive result and they will continue to play a part in the coming games as well.” Everton have only played five times at Goodison Park since the highly-controversial derby defeat on October 20, but, significantly, have won each fixture and Moyes hopes that record can continue this afternoon against Bolton.
Moyes won’t be making any decisions on his starting line-up until just before kick-off but one man who, all being well, will figure is Ayegbeni Yakubu and the manager has been thrilled with his recent input. “Bolton have got a difficult style to contend with and you have got to do whatever is best for you to make sure you get a result against them,” said Moyes. “I’m looking forward to the game and just hope we can stay as we have been. “The only games we have lost at home have been to Manchester United and Liverpool, so all in all we have been doing fine. But we are going to need to keep that home form up and we know we are going to be tested to the maximum in the next two games. “I hope Yak just keeps doing what he has been doing. If he does that in the second half of the season, we will be more than delighted. His play has been good and we have been pleased with a lot of what he has been doing.”
Phil Jagielka proves invaluable
Dec 26, 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
BEING versatile can often be the bane of a player’s life – but David Moyes has given his seal of approval to Everton’s ‘Jag of all trades’. Not long after Moyes had made Phil Jagielka his first summer signing, he sat in the lobby of a Florence hotel and spoke enthusiastically about how the England ‘B’ international would fit into his plans. Apart from being young, talented and athletic, Everton’s manager was thrilled to have secured a player who could operate in a number of different positions without batting an eyelid and produce performances of a consistently high standard.
Things, though, did not go according to plan for Jagielka when the season started.When tried as either a holding midfielder or a right-back, he just seemed to be a little bit off the pace. How things have changed in recent weeks. Since being switched to a central defensive role, Jagielka has flourished and his displays in the games against West Ham and Manchester United in Premier League combat were of a particularly high standard – and few people have been happier than Moyes.
“I think it has been difficult for him because he has had to play several different roles for us,” said Moyes. “We knew when he came here what we needed. “He played right-back, he’s played in midfield and he’s played at centre-half, so he has been really valuable for us. “ I think his performances are improving now, too. Sometimes a move from a club like Sheffield United to Everton takes time. “It’s been a big jump for him. Maybe, with respect, from being with a side that was battling to stay in the Premier League, he’s getting used to being with us. “We are trying to stay towards the top end of the division if we can. “I think centre-half will ultimately be his position, but he is a very good right-back as well. And I wouldn’t hesitate to play him in the middle of the park, either, as he has got such good athleticism. “I’ve had a word with him a couple of times. I told him that his opportunities would come and that he had to be ready for it and he has shown that. He knows that we are in a situation where there is good competition for places. “He’s no different. He is in there with the rest of the them.
“His performances are going to have to make other people play well, but there are going to be other periods in the season where people are going to come in and out. But Jags is doing a good job for us just now.” With Alan Stubbs still recovering from a calf problem and both his left-sided full-backs out of the equation, Jagielka will get the opportunity to keep doing “a good job” when Bolton arrive on Merseyside this afternoon. Nicolas Anelka will be spearheading their attack, but having coped admirably with the threat of Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney on Sunday, Jagielka is unlikely to have lost too much sleep about his prospective duel with the nomadic Frenchman. “You have got to remember that we have got Joleon Lescott and we are waiting on Leighton Baines and Nuno Valente to get back to full fitness, too,” Moyes continued. “But he will take confidence from the Manchester United game.
“As I’ve said, you don’t always see every player go to a club and settle in straight away. For some people it can be seamless, but others can take a little bit of time. Jags has settled in fine now.” For his part, Jagielka is feeling much more part of the furniture at Goodison but will only be completely satisfied this evening if Everton have regained the winning thread at the first attempt. That, however, is far easier said than done. Bolton may have been at sixes and sevens earlier in the campaign, but since Gary Megson replaced the embattled Sammy Lee, there has been a huge change in fortunes at the Reebok Stadium. Megson’s only defeats in the Premier League as Bolton manager have come against Liverpool and Manchester City, while they have beaten Manchester United, and Jagielka knows Everton will have to be on top form to extinguish the visitors’ threat. “Bolton have pulled it around since Gary Megson took over,” said Jagielka. “I think his results speak for themselves. They drew a few when he took over and lost the odd one, but they have started winning recently and have got some great players. “It’s going to be a very hard game but we are going to have to rise to the occasion after the defeat at United. “Christmas is always a difficult period with so many games in such a short space of time. “But we are desperate to put a good performance on for our fans. Hopefully, we can warm them up a bit with the right result. “We want to show everyone that our confidence is still as high as it has been,” Jagielka added.
Wayne Rooney: 'My battle with Everton fans'
Dec 26 2007 Simon Stone Liverpool Echo
WAYNE ROONEY admits that the banter between Everton fans and himself is inevitable. Despite being a life-long Everton fan, Rooney has never been forgiven by the Blues supporters for abandoning their club in favour of Manchester United in 2004. Since then, every time Rooney has appeared against the Merseysiders, he has been subjected to abuse. However, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice, including an 88th minute penalty winner, it was Rooney who had the last laugh. “Of course, it is extra special to beat my old team,” he said. “There is a bit of banter between myself and the Everton fans. Sometimes I come out on top; sometimes they do. “But the most important thing is that we got the three points.” Rooney did sail close to the wind at times, picking up an early booking for a lunge on Everton goalscorer Tim Cahill and then expressing his frustrations to referee Howard Webb in no uncertain manner when he believed Lee Carsley had aimed a stamp at him as the pair duelled at a drop-ball.
The 22-year-old also went close on a couple of occasions, skimming the bar with one second half effort. But in the end, Rooney was forced to rely on Ronaldo’s nerveless late spot-kick – his 16th goal of the season – after Steven Pienaar had inexplicably tripped Ryan Giggs. “I watched Cristiano practice penalties in training on Saturday and he put every one in exactly the same place. That is why he practices,” said Rooney. “His first goal was a great strike. We all know what he can do, so there is no surprise there.” The win for Alex Ferguson’s men, which ended Everton’s 13-match unbeaten run and at the same time extended United’s winning streak on home soil to nine matches, allowed them to close to within a point of Barclays Premier League leaders Arsenal. United will go top – even if it is only for a couple of hours – if they beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light today, although Rooney acknowledges Roy Keane’s men are not the easiest team to beat on Wearside. “We always have hard games at Sunderland,” he said. “Their fans are good and always get right behind the team, which makes it difficult for us. “They are at the wrong end of the table, so they will be fighting hard to get some points.” Ferguson will again be without Edwin van der Sar, who could miss the entire Christmas programme with a groin injury.Owen Hargreaves and Rio Ferdinand should have recovered from a back problem and gashed foot, respectively, while Park Ji-sung is in line to return to the squad for the first time since March.
Everton 2, Bolton W 0
Dec 27, 2007
By Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
GIVEN the great strides that have been made at Goodison Park over the last 12 months, it’s difficult to know what Evertonians want more. The new year to arrive, or 2007 to never end. David Moyes’s side delivered the perfect response to their heartbreaking defeat to Manchester United last Sunday by delivering their supporters a belated Christmas present of Boxing Day victory over Bolton Wanderers. Writing in his matchday programme notes ahead of yesterday’s game, Phil Neville spoke of the growing belief that 2008 could be Everton’s year. And the Goodison skipper helped ensure they continue to see out the current calendar in impressive fashion with a collector’s item on his 350th Premier League appearance. Christmas itself comes around about as often as a goal from Neville, his only previous strike since arriving at the club in the summer of 2005 a mis-hit shot against Newcastle United last December. There was a similar element of the unintended to his 51st-minute effort that ended the resistance of an obdurate Bolton yesterday, Neville’s flighted ball in for Tim Cahill bypassing the Australian, Trotters goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen and defender Andy O’Brien before billowing the Park End net. After the late, late moment of madness that cost them point at Old Trafford at the weekend, perhaps such fortune was merited. But even Bolton manager Gary Megson admitted such luck was a minor contributory factor to a win Moyes’s men thoroughly deserved, Everton celebrating their 300th home game in the Premier League by notching only their second victory on Boxing Day in the last eight years and a first double over the Trotters since 1963-64. Following an uninspired opening, the Goodison outfit gradually cranked up the pressure with a powerful second-half performance that wore down a Bolton team who, having lost at just Manchester City and Liverpool in their previous 10 games, have gained a resilience lacking during the formative stages of the campaign. But once the visitors quickly realised they would be unable to harass Everton into submission, there was only ever going to be one winner.
After his cheeky attempts to claim a touch on Neville’s goal proved in vain, Cahill pounced 19 minutes later for his eighth goal in 14 games after Joleon Lescott had benefited from some good refereeing by Rob Styles – yes, really. Although never reaching the heights they have frequently had to revise in recent months, Moyes’s side looked every inch a side that have now lost just one of their last 15 games. Despite the sickening surrender of their proud unbeaten run, self-belief still courses through the veins of the squad. Such confidence was epitomised once again by the performance of Phil Jagielka who effectively nullified chief danger Nicolas Anelka, but even the centre-back had to cede man-of-the-match status to the outstanding, non-stop Lescott. With Mikel Arteta available after missing the defeat at United through illness, Moyes made only one other change from Sunday by reuniting Thomas Gravesen with old central midfield partner Lee Carsley. And while at times understandably off the pace, the Dane will have benefited from his first Goodison Park start since returning to the club on a season-long loan from Celtic in August. That said, Gravesen wasn’t alone in struggling to get up to speed during a subdued opening quarter in which neither team distinguished themselves. Everton enjoyed the greater territory and promise without overly threatening, as a robust Bolton were increasingly content to baulk, block and foul in a bid to frustrate their opposition. It took until the 20th minute for Moyes’s men to fashion the first genuine chance, good play down the left culminating with Lescott passing square to Arteta on the opposite edge of the area, the Spaniard releasing a 20-yard shot that deflected wide off Abdoulaye Meite. Ricardo Gardner then got into all sorts of bother attempting a clearance before blocking Arteta on the edge of the area for a free-kick the midfielder struck against the wall. With Everton gaining momentum, Lescott inadvertently blocked Yakubu’s goalbound shot after Bolton goalkeeper Jaaskelainen spilled a long ball and the Nigerian then nodded Arteta’s right-wing cross wide at the near post. The only time Bolton caused home hearts to flutter before the interval was when Tim Howard was overly-ambitious in reaching for a cross and the Everton defence ushered the ball to safety.Everton had the ball in the net in the 44th minute when, after Bolton failed to clear Arteta’s corne, Lescott turned the ball goalward and Yakubu was on hand to fire home. However, the goal was chalked off for offside by a referee’s assistant who had spotted that, while Yakubu was in an onside position, the loitering Cahill was standing too close to Jaaskelainen to be ignored.It was a tough call. But there was no debate over the manner in which Everton dominated after the break to glean the reward of another three points. Within seconds of the restart, Yakubu expertly held possession inside the Bolton area and fed Cahill for a scuffed shot that was turned behind by a grateful Jaaskelainen. From the resulting corner, Jagielka flicked on Arteta’s delivery from the right but a despairing Lescott somehow failed to connect properly when unmarked at the far post. Jaaskelainen parried from Lescott after Arteta robbed El Hadji Diouf before Everton finally found a way through in the 51st minute from an unlikely source, Neville’s left-footed cross from the right intended for Cahill but missed by the Australian, Jaaskelainen and O’Brien before floating directly in. Lescott cleared a looping effort from former Goodison man Gavin McCann off the line as Bolton countered, before the pair were involved in Everton’s second goal 20 minutes from time. As Bolton waited for the whistle, Lescott was alert to referee Styles playing a good advantage after McCann upended Gravesen on the edge of the area, and the England international playing the ball back from the left for Cahill to sidefoot first time beyond Jaaskelainen from 12 yards. Howard smothered an Anelka shot late on, but with Lescott and Jagielka in inspired form, Bolton never appeared capable of mounting a comeback. Now comes the litmus test of title contenders Arsenal on Saturday. Victory then would be the ideal way to see out a year of great encouragement at Goodison.
Everton 2, Bolton 0
Dec 27 2007
by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
SOME things are quintessentially Christmas: the Queen’s speech, James Bond movies, pantomimes and now, to that list, add scruffy Phil Neville goals. Having opened his account for Everton last December with an effort against Newcastle United that was laced heavily with good fortune, Neville again found luck on his side yesterday as he doubled his tally with the crucial opener against Bolton. Who, though, will be complaining at this moment in time? Certainly not Neville, not David Moyes and not, for that matter, will anyone who considers themselves to be head over heels in love with the Blues. Everton have found the net with plenty of spectacular strikes during this campaign, so they were due one that could not be described as a collector’s item but Neville’s ‘chip’ during a 2-0 snug win over Bolton was just as important as any that have gone before. Well positioned in sixth place and poised to push on in the new year, the signs could not be more promising at Goodison Park and this latest victory provided further proof – if it was needed – that Everton are in grand form. It would take a generous stretch of the imagination to describe the opening of this contest as riveting, but the more the minutes ticked by, the more Everton began to turn the screw and were the only side interested in playing slick, quick football. Not surprisingly, Mikel Arteta – restored to the starting line-up after missing Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford with sickness – featured prominently and he looked as if he had the bit between his teeth again after a recent lean period. Buzzing up and down the right flank, demanding possession and trying whenever possible to pick a hole in Bolton’s defence, the signs from the Spaniard were much more encouraging and he almost fired them into an 21st minute lead. With Steven Pienaar, Tim Cahill and Joleon Lescott combining to good effect down the left – it was the best move of `the game by some distance – the ball arriving at Arteta’s dancing feet but his instinctive drive took a deflection wide. While Jussi Jaaskelainen’s goal was never put in danger by that effort, it triggered a fresh impetus in Everton’s play and they started to move through the gears to confirm the opinion that there was only going to be one outcome. Bolton might have a class act in Nicolas Anelka leading their line but they don’t have much else, relying on perspiration rather than inspiration to get points; so it was a case, then, of remaining patient for Everton’s superior craft to shine through. Many felt the breakthrough had arrived just before half-time when Ayegbeni Yakubu turned Lescott’s cross-cum-shot past the stranded Jaaskelainen but Cahill had dallied and the goal was disallowed by the assistant referee’s flag. No matter. Within 22 seconds of the re-start, Cahill had forced a terrific save out of Jaaskelainen following good work by Yakubu and that set the tone for the Blues, who were chasing a sixth straight home win, to press on. There may have been an element of good fortune to the goal which set Everton on their way but few would begrudge Neville his moment in the spotlight or the standing ovation he received when substituted late on. He might not enjoy universal popularity on the terraces but every team that has designs on being successful needs a player of Neville’s ilk in the ranks and it says much about him that he played here after being plagued by a stomach bug the night before. Never flinching when asked to provide the midfield with support, Neville made the most of being allowed plenty of time and space to clip a cross into the danger zone and when Cahill and Jaaskelainen collided, the ball sailed straight into the net. From that point, the result was never in any doubt. Bolton boss Gary Megson conceded afterwards that his side “started badly and got progressively worse” and it was a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’ Everton would score again. Gaining confidence and playing with verve, the only surprise was that it took nearly another 20 minutes before the Toffees extended their lead, but there was nothing fortuitous about the match-sealing goal. While there was plenty to like about the way Thomas Gravesen, Pienaar and Lescott combined to carve open the chance which Cahill gleefully smashed past Jaaskelainen, a word must be said about referee Rob Styles. As one of the Premier League’s more erratic officials, Styles gets his fair share of negative publicity but on this occasion he played a terrific advantage which allowed Lescott to surge forward. Some fastidious referees would have blown up straight away when Gravesen was sent sprawling to the floor but he showed good sense to let Everton keep their momentum and Bolton’s defence were heavily punished for failing to play to the whistle. Not that any Evertonians were complaining, though. Far from it. This was another richly-deserved win and the performance showed that anyone who thought that the Manchester United reverse would have a negative impact were misplaced. Despite all the noises which were made in the aftermath at Old Trafford, to regain the winning thread so smoothly and quickly augurs well for the second half of the campaign. They will, however, arguably need a performance to surpass anything that has gone before this season if they are going to end 2007 on a winning note against impressive Arsenal. But – and Moyes will be telling his squad this from now until kick-off on Saturday evening – they are not invincible and if Everton remain as doughty as they have been recently, there is no reason why they can’t get a another result. And, if that happens to be the case, it would certainly make this a very happy Christmas. EVERTON (4-1-4-1): Howard; Neville (Hibbert 86), Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Carsley; Arteta, Cahill, Gravesen (Johnson 80), Pienaar; Yakubu (Vaughan 90). Goals - Neville (51), Cahill (70) BOLTON (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Meite, A O’Brien, Gardner; Guthrie (McCann 58), Nolan (J O‘Brien 75), Campo (Samuel 58); Diouf, Anelka, Davies. Bookings - O’Brien (42), Nolan (72) Attendance - 38,918 Referee - Rob Styles
Tim Cahill: We're ready to face Wenger boys
Dec 27, 2007 Dominic King Liverpool Echo
TIM CAHILL today promised that Everton’s players will be primed to meet the challenge of toppling one of the world’s “elite” sides head on. The Blues lost their 13 game unbeaten run against Manchester United last Sunday but regained the winning thread at the first attempt to tee them up for their tussle with Arsenal at Goodison Park on Saturday evening. Cahill – scorer of the second goal in yesterday’s 2-0 win over Bolton – has huge respect for Arsene Wenger’s side and knows it will take a mammoth effort if Everton are going to take anything from that game.
He is, however, relishing the opportunity to go head-to-head with the Gunners and believes it would be folly for anyone to rule out Everton’s hopes of causing an ‘upset’ particularly given their current form. “These are the games that the boys look forward to,” said Cahill. “We were buzzing at Manchester United, playing in front of that big crowd and we will be buzzing again when we play one of the elite teams in the world on Saturday. “We have got to be going on to the pitch and pitting our wits against the best players in the world and see where we are at. At the moment, I really believe we have got a great chance of achieving something great against Arsenal. “It’s all about how we apply ourselves. We probably won’t see a lot of the ball, like it was against Chelsea. But if we get a chance, we have got to try and take it and they will be coming here knowing they are going to face a massive game.” Three points against Bolton consolidated Everton’s spot in the top six and they are within striking distance of the Champions League places, but Cahill – nor any of his team-mates – has any intentions of becoming distracted. “We are flying and we are just happy to be where we are,” said the Australian, whose goal tally for the season now stands at eight. “I think consistency is the key to the position we have now. There are a lot of players in good form. “As I’ve said, we are taking things a game at a time but for the football club, everything is going really well. This is the time of year when you can make or break your season. This is where you see how things will pan out. “We need to try and get maximum points if we possibly can and push ourselves up the table. The main key is to not look too far ahead. Arsenal is the next game and we’ll think about that for now before we think about anything else. “If we keep going as we have been and keep focusing on the main objective, then we can’t go wrong. The only time it might start to catch up with us if we started to let our heads get in the clouds.”
Phil Neville proves real tonic
Dec 27 2007 Ken Gaunt Liverpool Echo
EVERTON manager David Moyes praised Phil Neville as the club captain shrugged off a bout of sickness to score his first goal of the season. Neville made the breakthrough in the 52nd minute in the 2-0 Barclays Premier League victory against Bolton at Goodison Park. Goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen was put off by the presence of Tim Cahill as Neville swung the ball in from the right and saw it fly behind him into the net. Cahill then added a second in the 70th minute as Everton bounced back after seeing their 13-match unbeaten run come to an end at the hands of Manchester United on Sunday. Neville featured in all but three minutes of the game and Moyes said: “He was up all night with sickness and it was only at 11.00am he was cleared to play. “That is why we took him off. He wasn’t well at all. “You have to give him credit. He played well in the circumstances. “As for the goalkeeper, Tim has gone and attacked the ball. “The goalkeeper hit Tim, not the other way around, and it flies into far end of net. We are delighted.” Moyes told his side at half time to up the tempo after they were left frustrated by Bolton – and they responded. Cahill’s goal – his seventh in 13 games in all competitions – came after Thomas Gravesen had been brought down by Gavin McCann. Referee Rob Styles played the advantage and Bolton were caught cold. The ball broke to Joleon Lescott and he played it back into the middle, where Cahill made no mistake. Moyes said: “When I saw Tommy go down, I thought it was a free-kick on the edge of box. But the first rule you are taught is to play to the whistle and we kept going. “It was a good advantage from the referee and we are pleased with the victory. We showed no reaction to that defeat by United.
“We just needed to speed up the play and move the ball a bit faster and we did that in the second half.” Bolton have yet to win on the road in the league and manager Gary Megson admitted his team had been second best. He refused to criticise Styles for what their supporters saw as two mistakes by the official which led to the two goals.
Megson said: “For the first one, Jussi has come for the ball and he has not made contact with it. Often you see these things given as a foul on the goalkeeper.
“For the second when Gravesen went down the ball went to Lescott via Gravesen’s arm. Whether it was intentional or not . . . it did not cost us the game.
“We cannot say we have lost because of two contentious refereeing decisions. We have played poorly. “Everton are an exceptional side. They pushed us back and we were camped in our half. “It was probably more luck than judgement that we went in at half-time still level. But nothing worked for us.”
Mikel Arteta up for battle with Cesc Fabregas
Dec 28, 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
MIKEL ARTETA is ready to become “best of enemies” with his close pal Cesc Fabregas to help Everton end 2007 on a winning note. The Blues’ influential midfielder speaks regularly with the man who makes Arsenal tick and their calls to each other this week have significantly increased ahead of tomorrow evening’s tussle at Goodison Park. Fabregas has been in outstanding form this season for the title-chasing Gunners and Arteta knows full well that if the 19-year-old is given a chance to shine, he could dismantle Everton single-handedly. Arteta, though, is relishing the opportunity to pit his wits against his compatriot and believes Arsenal – who failed to score for the first time this season against Portsmouth on Boxing Day – will have concerns of their own. “It is always hard to beat them and this year it is probably harder than it has ever been,” said Arteta. “But we are confident and they will be worried about us, too. “They have got some amazing players, though. I know Cesc really well. He has improved his game again. You only have to look at how young he is and see the responsibility that he has got to realise he is probably Arsenal’s main man. “You know when you move up a level like that, you know he can handle the pressure. He is a terrific player. He is a nice lad but if you tackle him he can react. But if we allow him to control the game, he will make things really difficult for us.”
While the onus was on Everton to attack when Bolton arrived at Goodison, the demands of tomorrow’s encounter are likely to be completely different as Arteta expects Arsenal to dominate possession. But while he is respectful of Fabregas and company, Arteta knows Moyes will have Everton’s players well prepared for the occasion as has been the case for their last two visits to Merseyside. “We all enjoyed it on Boxing Day and we deserved the three points,” said Arteta. “We knew how important it was to keep Bolton away from our box and as soon as we started playing, we were on top of them. “We created a lot of chances and improved again in the second half. We maybe could have scored a few more goals. We are doing the basics really well, running, working hard and making ourselves difficult to beat. We have improved a lot. “We know how important it is to win at home. We always say that. If you keep winning your home games, you are going to be up there at the end of the season. It is going to be a terrific game against Arsenal. We know it will be hard but we will be prepared. “You have got to be really calm and patient against them. They will have the ball a lot of times and they keep it really well. It is going to be a different game, so maybe we will have to make them feel uncomfortable.” Everton may be forced into making at least one change from the side that started on Boxing Day. Skipper Phil Neville is still struggling with a stomach bug, which is likely to mean Tony Hibbert takes over at right-back.
Tim Cahill’s dream is full of goals
Dec 28, 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
IF you ask Tim Cahill to pinpoint why he is finishing 2007 in the most spectacular fashion, prepare for an answer of searing and surprising honesty. During a sparkling run of form that has thrust Everton into the Premier League’s top six and taken them into the Carling Cup semi-finals, not to mention the UEFA Cup’s last 32, Cahill’s goals have played a huge part. Though he has only made 14 appearances to date, he has already moved his goals tally effortlessly up to eight and if he maintains this type of form, it would not be beyond the realms of possibility where he to finish the season with double that amount. Thriving in the 4-5-1 formation favoured by David Moyes, Cahill will again aim to cause maximum havoc in the opposition ranks when Arsenal visit Goodison Park tomorrow and, given his ability to flourish on the big stage, few would bet against him. But while the calendar year is ending in a blaze of glory, Cahill will not deny that these past 12 months have been some of the most difficult of his professional life, as damaged medial ligaments and a twice broken metatarsal left him sidelined for too long. There were moments when the chirpy Australian understandably feared the worst but those injuries also allowed him time to contemplate why they happened and he believes he is much better for the experience.
So, with a renewed outlook, Cahill intends to make up for lost time with the aim of making 2008 particularly memorable. If he maintains his current ratio of a goal every other game, that is certainly possible. “You look at how much football I have played over the last six years, playing in the summer and not having a rest. It probably took its toll,” he admitted. “I’ve been trying to rest more now. When you are young, you want to play as many games as you can. “You never ask to be rested. But I did my knee last year and my metatarsal a couple of times and there is no denying that it was disheartening. But you have got to take the positives and I have probably matured more as a footballer. “I really appreciate what I have got and I think the hunger that I have to play for Everton shows. The big thing about what we have here is the work ethic. It shows what we do for one another and how much we bounce off one another.
“It’s always good to get the goals but when we play in the 4-5-1, it’s really important that everyone works hard. If we do that, maybe we can get a bit more time on the ball and play a bit more. I’m just so happy to be part of it.” When games like the one tomorrow come around Cahill invariably is in the thick of the action during tussles and Manchester United can testify to that – he would love nothing more than to repeat the trick against Arsenal. “It’s just so exciting to be in the box scoring goals,” said Cahill, who repaid the £2m it cost to sign him in 2004 many times over.
“In training I’m the same. I scored a lot of goals when I played for Millwall and it’s something that makes me different. “You just have to put yourself in the most awkward positions for defenders to mark you. You have got to be a pest and I just feel that I want to keep chasing things down and if I do that, I’ve always got a chance.
“The goal against Chelsea was probably the most spectacular I have scored, but it was just instinct. When you play against a team like that, it’s so hard to get hold of the ball and being able to score on that stage is massive.” Cahill, however, is not the only player of whom Arsenal will be wary. Ayegbeni Yakubu has formed an excellent relationship with Everton’s number 17 and there were signs during the Boxing Day defeat of Bolton Wanderers that their rapport is flourishing. “We have to create things for each other,” he added. “We struggled a bit in the first half against Bolton but after that we created some chances and we reaped the rewards of working hard.
“Yak is showing that he is a great goalscorer.” Both players will have an integral part to play in the second half of the campaign if Everton are going to make the next step forward, and he sees no reason why 2008 can’t be the year when his dream comes true. “Success this year would be to be in the top six and maybe try and win something,” said Cahill. “We realistically have a chance of doing that. At the moment, everything is going really well for this club. “We’ve done well in the UEFA Cup, we’re in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup and we just need to take our chance if we can. I would just love some silverware. We are flying and that’s what confidence does for you.”
Tim Cahill-Fernando Torres attack guarantees goals!
Dec 28, 2007 David Prentice Liverpool Echo
EXACTLY 12 months ago this column’s postbag bulged.
Nothing to do with belated Christmas cards or even early birthday wishes (Sunday, in case you’re interested, and Lagavulin is fine, thank you). No, it was the unveiling of the Everpool team for 2006 which caused the traditionally lively response.
Those that disagree usually provide a humorous response, some point out what I can do with my selections and some of those suggestions are medically possible.
But only one player took me to task over his omission, and he’s back in this year – in a period when selection has been harder than ever. The squads on both sides of Stanley Park are as strong as they have been for years – and only four players from last December’s team keep their places. So, donning the hard hat – and based on performances in 2007, remember – my combined Everton and Liverpool team was:
ALL too often the most difficult position to choose. This year it’s almost impossible.
You can slide a razor blade between the performances of Pepe Reina and Tim Howard throughout 2007. Both are outstanding shot-stoppers, both command their penalty area and both take crosses confidently (a quality Reina has added to his game). Heck, they even distribute the ball equally well. But Howard endured one dodgy afternoon in 2007 – the FA Cup defeat by Blackburn – while REINA was almost faultless. And his penalty saving record is also better, which just gives him the edge.
IT’S been a shoo-in for years for Steve Finnan, but not this year.
Missing for much of the autumn through injury, and also large chunks of April, he has been replaced at club level, and in the Everpool team by an eternally under-rated Spaniard. ALVARO ARBELOA is quick, snappy in the tackle, quick to support attacks and precise in his distribution. This latter quality pushes him ahead of the inspirational Phil Neville and the terrier-like Tony Hibbert.
Daniel Agger and Joleon Lescott are two of the best centre-backs in the country, but neither makes it in . . . at least not in their preferred position.
Agger’s injury problems (no appearance since September 15), and Lescott’s versatility, coupled with a lack of available left-backs, creates a couple of vacancies. JAMIE CARRAGHER has been consistency personified throughout 2007, while JOSEPH YOBO missed just five matches throughout the year. As a pair they offer pace, reading of the game, power, a guarantee of clean sheets . . . and the chance to use Lescott elsewhere.
LEIGHTON Baines and Fabio Aurelio have offered us tantalising glimpses of what might be, but injuries have prevented them appearing often enough to claim a place in the Everpool XI. LESCOTT is not just consistent, he’s versatile enough to claim a place in his second best position. John Arne Riise? A previous Everpool player, he has endured a year to forget – one glorious Catalan moment apart, while Nuno Valente and Gary Naysmith were also absent more often than they were available. Lescott, on the other hand, oozes consistent class.
CONTROVERSY time. Leon Osman has been a shining light of consistency at Goodison, while across the park Yossi Benayoun has been one of Rafa Benitez’s most admired acquisitions. But throughout 2006 JERMAINE PENNANT finally started to show the quality his game had always lacked throughout his Anfield tenure . . . consistency. Still the best crosser of a ball on Merseyside (he matched Steven Gerrard for goal assists in 2006/07), he was excellent in Athens the night the Champions League was lost. He might still think ‘zoo’ is a high scoring word in Scrabble, but one reckless evening in Porto apart, his performances usually added up and he gets my vote.
ONE place is nailed on, and STEVEN GERRARD would be my captain, too.
But who would provide the anchor to let Gerrard do what he does best and maraud around the periphery of opposition penalty boxes? Javier Mascherano would probably get the Anfield vote, with support for Xabi Alonso, while across the park some might champion Manu Fernandes for his brief but exciting cameo. But a man who is almost always under-rated, except by his team-mates, is LEE CARSLEY. A pro’s pro, he showed against Birmingham he can provide stunning finishes, too. He also played more minutes in 2007 than any other player in my Everpool side and is my choice.
HE’S the best little Spaniard they know . . . and MIKEL ARTETA certainly put rivals like James McFadden, and the promising Ryan Babel in the shade.
A sumptuous footballer in the School of Science mould, he can also play right across the midfield line if necessary. He’d also be my penalty taker.
PETER CROUCH was the most prolific Mersey marksman in 2006. But in 2007 he wasn’t allowed to be.
Andrew Johnson was held back by injuries, while Dirk Kuyt and Andriy Voronin aren’t ruthless enough in front of goal. You can’t say that about the two men who get in. TIM CAHILL is not, strictly speaking, a striker, but you wouldn’t guess from his incredible goals return. He would provide the work-rate and the attitude which would let FERNANDO TORRES loiter with deadly intent. The Spanish conquistador is the most gifted striker I’ve seen on Merseyside since Dalglish hung his boots up and would probably get in a World XI right now, let alone a Merseyside select.
Subs? How about Howard, Yakubu, Agger, Mascherano and Alonso.
Disagree? Of course you do. Write to me at Sportsdesk, Old Hall Street, Liverpool L69 3EB or e-mail to email@example.com and I’ll attempt to defend myself.
Everton can put one over on Arsenal
Dec 28 2007 Howard Kendall Liverpool Echo
ONE thing that can be guaranteed when Arsenal come to town is that you will always be entertained. Even when games are not going their way, Arsene Wenger’s sides never resort to humping balls forward or playing kick-and-rush. Manchester United may be getting plenty of plaudits just now but Arsenal are still the nation’s stylists.
It promises to be a fascinating battle between those two sides for the title – Chelsea and Liverpool are likely to be found wanting in the final stages – but just because Arsenal ooze quality does not mean it is pointless for Everton to turn up tomorrow evening. In fact, I’d say it is quite the opposite. The Blues showed last Sunday at Old Trafford they are more than capable of going head-to-head with the big guns and would have been going into the next round of fixtures unbeaten had it not been for one, rash tackle. There was plenty to like about the way Everton’s players acquitted themselves against United and David Moyes’ sides rarely suffer stage fright – I’ve no doubt the manager will have everyone in the dressing room psyched up to produce a huge effort. Middlesbrough have shown that Arsenal are not invincible on their travels and if the Blues set a good, fast tempo from the outset they will have a platform to hopefully repeat the results of the last two Premier League meetings here between the sides. In January 2006, James Beattie bullied Sol Campbell into submission, while Andrew Johnson pounced to great effect in the dying minutes of the clash last March but team work was the essence of both those results.
More of the same will be needed tomorrow as if you let Arsenal dictate terms, they are more than capable of going through the gears and putting a game out of reach quickly. I can’t, however, see that happening. Everton’s recent run of form has been remarkable and there were no ill-effects from the United game against Bolton. If we remain as consistent and hard working as we have been since October, there is no reason why we can’t claim another big scalp.
Punishment must fit crime
TWO-footed tackles have been the subject of enormous debate recently and Boxing Day’s fixtures added fuel to the fire. I don’t think any of the players who saw red then could have any room for complaints, particularly Chelsea’s Ricardo Carvalho, who nearly chopped Aston Villa’s Gabi Agbonlahor in half with one such ‘challenge’.
Three games is the maximum punishment for a red card received for such an offence but maybe it is time to increase that to a ban of four or five matches. Certainly, there have been some really bad incidents. It is just a surprise – and a hugely fortuitous – that nobody has received a really bad injury. These tackles are reckless in the extreme and players need to think twice before they launch into them. Longer bans may prove a deterrent.
Silverware is forthcoming
THE dawn of a new year is always greeted with wishes and my overriding desire for 2008 is to see Everton win a piece of silverware. It has been too long since we enjoyed a day out at Wembley and, if everything goes to plan in the Carling Cup semi-final, hopefully we’ll only have a couple of months to wait before we can head down to the capital. But if, for some reason, it doesn’t happen next year, I don’t think the wait will be a long one. David Moyes has done a terrific job and the last 12 months have shown Everton are heading in the right direction. Happy New Year everyone.
Leighton Baines and Alan Stubbs return to full training
Dec 29 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON have been given the perfect New Year boost with the return to full training of Leighton Baines and Alan Stubbs – as David Moyes hopes his team show the belief to get a result against Arsenal. Blues boss Moyes is set to lose Joseph Yobo in the next week or so when he departs to play for Nigeria in the African Cup of Nations. So news that Baines and Stubbs are close to returning could not be better timed. Baines has not played since tearing his hamstring during the 3-0 win against Fulham on December 8. Stubbs, meanwhile, has been absent for even longer – his last appearance was during the 3-1 victory over Birmingham City on November 3 – but he has fully recovered from his calf problem. Yobo, who has been in outstanding form, should be reporting for international duty next Friday with his compatriot, Ayegbeni Yakubu. Yet Moyes hopes Nigeria coach Berti Vogts will allow them to play in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final. If for some reason Vogts digs his heels in, Moyes knows that both Baines and Stubbs will be ready to be pitched back into action against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on January 8. “Leighton and Stubbsy are training again and, if they were required, they could probably play against Arsenal,” said Moyes, whose side face the Gunners at Goodison Park this evening.
“It’s good to have them back. We are getting people back to fitness and the only one who is likely to be out for any length of time is Leon Osman (broken toe), who is going to be out for between four to six weeks.” Moyes intends to speak to Vogts in the next few days. Though skipper Phil Neville has missed the last couple of days’ training because of a stomach bug, he should be given the green light to maintain his place in the side that beat Bolton Wanderers 2-0 on Boxing Day. If Everton can notch up their third consecutive win over Arsenal at Goodison, they would go level on points with fourth placed Liverpool, but Moyes’ stars face a huge task. “Arsenal have got so many good players and Cesc Fabregas is probably in the top two players in the league,” said Moyes. “But I hope the run that we have been on gives us the belief that we can get a result.”
Much to admire in a year so full of rich promise
Dec 29, 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
SO 2007 will soon reach its conclusion and few would dispute that it has been another momentous year in the life of Everton Football Club. What could be more fitting, then, than to take this opportunity to look back at some of the highs and lows during the past 12 months and also look forward to what 2008 may bring for those of a Blue persuasion. You may or may not agree with some of the choices.
PLAYER OF YEAR
NOT surprisingly, there are a number of contenders. Mikel Arteta, of course, has frequently dazzled, Tim Cahill has made an enormous difference since returning from injury, while Tim Howard has been the model of consistency in goal. Top man, though, is JOLEON LESCOTT, who played in every competitive Everton match during the calendar year, won his first England caps and whose standards rarely dropped below outstanding. Few players can move so seamlessly between left-back and central defence, and Lescott has more than repaid the £4m it took to sign him from Wolves 18 months ago. More of the same in 2008 please, Joleon.
YOUNG PLAYER OF YEAR
THREE contenders from which to choose. James Vaughan has shown, when injury has not intervened, that he is going to be a top-class centre forward, while Leighton Baines, only just 23, is likely to end up playing for England soon. However, the vote has to go to VICTOR ANICHEBE, whose development continues apace. He has risen to the occasion consistently when asked, particularly in Europe, and his progress made the decision to sell James Beattie an easy one.
GOAL OF YEAR
EVERTON have done the spectacular as well as anyone these past 12 months and, in normal circumstances, James McFadden’s strike from the Gods against Charlton Athletic in April would have been a worthy winner. Tim Cahill’s spectacular scissor kick at Stamford Bridge in November was equally memorable but, in terms of passing, pace and a thumping finish, LEON OSMAN’S howitzer after a four-man move against Larissa in October wins the day.
GAME OF THE YEAR
THE 7-1 thrashing of Sunderland in November was, for many, the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon watching the Blues, while the defeat of Arsenal - capped with a last minute winner - was thoroughly pulsating. But, for a 90 minutes where the variety of emotions from despair to delight was experienced, nothing can come close to the return leg against METALIST KHARKIV in the UEFA Cup. It could eventually be defined as a pivotal game in Everton’s history.
DISAPPOINTMENT OF YEAR
MANUEL FERNANDES telling chairman Bill Kenwright he would be signing for Everton the day after Blackburn Rovers had visited Goodison Park in August when he had no intentions of doing so. Less than 24 hours later he was paraded as a Valencia player but it seems that decision has backfired. He is struggling to nail down a place in their starting XI, has been punished for a breach of club discipline and Valencia’s promising season has fizzled out.
EMBARRASSING MOMENT OF YEAR (1)
CLUB captains are meant to set an example to their team-mates but, fortunately, PHIL NEVILLE’S colleagues are never going to listen to him when it comes to talking about fashion. Usually, Neville won’t wear anything unless it has Adidas branding but, during the pre-season tour in Los Angeles, he decided to be a little more adventurous. His decision to wear a pink tank top, though, spectacularly backfired. Someone call Trinny or Susannah.
SURREAL MOMENT OF YEAR
ALL four sides of Goodison Park chanting ‘Rocky! Rocky!’ before Sylvester Stallone ran on to the pitch waving an Everton scarf around his head.
EMBARRASSING MOMENT OF YEAR (2)
THE national journalist - who shall remain nameless - who was unable to keep his cool when interviewing Stallone. Here is a brief transcript of their conversation.
Journalist: “Have you ever met David Beckham, Sylvester?”
Stallone: “No I haven’t.”
Journalist: “I’m sure he’d love to meet you! Can I have your autograph?”
FUNNIEST MOMENT OF YEAR
WHILE Everton’s new Finch Farm training complex offers everything a professional footballer could want, it does not boast the amenities that made practical jokes so easy to perform at Bellefield. Not that any of those who were victims of the ‘bucket of water out of the top window’ will be complaining. If you loitered around the entrance to Bellefield for too long, you ran the risk of getting soaked – something to which THOMAS GRAVESEN will testify. On his first morning back, the car park was unusually devoid of people. Gravesen thought nothing of it and headed over to the front door only to be greeted with a vat of ice-cold water straight over his head. Cue raucous laughter from those in on the prank.
SADDEST MOMENT OF YEAR
UNFORTUNATELY, there are too many from which to choose. How many times have you picked up a newspaper or switched on the TV to see a tragic story with someone wearing Everton’s colours next to them? From Alan Ball’s passing in April, to the disappearance of Madeline McCann a month later, to the senseless murder of Rhys Jones in August - not forgetting those soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan - 2007 has been a black year and one hopes that is not repeated.
HOPES FOR 2008
It has been too long since the Blue half of Merseyside savoured the atmosphere of a Cup Final and, if all goes to plan in January, the wait may soon be over - someone needs to break the big four’s stranglehold on silverware and Everton can do it.
Whether it is in the Carling Cup, the UEFA Cup or the FA Cup, there is no disputing that David Moyes has assembled a squad that is capable of gathering pots and competing in the upper echelons of the Premier League. All being well, they will realise their potential.
A test which proved Blues belong on the big stage
Dec 29, 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERY great run needs a starting point. Whether it is a scrambled goal, a match changing save or the injustice of a referee’s whistle, one incident can often be identified as the moment things turned in a season. Having lost just one of their last 15 games, many Evertonians look back to the calamitous afternoon Mark Clattenburg endured in the derby as the spark which ignited this terrific run of form.
David Moyes, though, sees things differently. While there is no disputing the highly contentious defeat against Liverpool on October 20 provided some momentum, the manager feels the acorn from which this oak grew came one evening in Ukraine.
The Blues have enjoyed a successful first half of the campaign, gathering more points than at a similar stage 12 months ago and have made eye-catching progress in the UEFA and Carling Cups. But would that have been the case if Metalist Kharkiv had ended their European dreams? It is a question to which we will never know the answer yet the importance Moyes places on his side’s gritty 3-2 win suggests it would have been exceptionaly difficult. There were times that night when Everton looked dead and buried and going out of Europe at the first hurdle for the second time in three years would have been enormously difficult for everyone to take.
Yet things worked out for the best and Everton have not looked back, growing as a team. Significantly, Moyes also feels events back then played a huge part in helping him develop as a manager. “From a first half where we could not get near them and it looked as if we were going out of the UEFA Cup to the position where we are now - not fearing anybody - has got to be the pivotal moment for me,” said Moyes ahead of Arsenal’s visit tonight. “I have said all along that was a big night for me. I felt that if I wanted to take Everton into Europe regularly, I needed to be able to show that I could do it. “Maybe if it had not happened that night, who knows? But that’s the type of man that I am. I always want to test myself. But now that we have got through, we have done well at this level. Obviously, in the future, we want to be competing in the Champions League. “For my development, I needed that night. I had to try and grasp it. I can remember that night really well and the tactical changes that we made were numerous to try and grasp a result. Of all the teams we played in Europe this season, Metalist were the best. “We have improved since then. It was difficult for us there, though, as we were missing some key players, Tim Cahill for one. But, as a manager, you have to find a way of winning.” Though they trailed twice in Kharkiv, goals from Joleon Lescott, James McFadden and Victor Anichebe swung the pendulum back in Everton’s favour and they head into tonight’s game on the crest of a wave.
Everton showed at Old Trafford the big stage holds no fears and Moyes is eager to pit his wits against the astute Arsene Wenger, hoping to secure another victory to keep the impetus going. “Beating Kharkiv gave us great belief,” Moyes continued. “The amount of games we have played recently has also helped. It’s been such a hectic time. I just want us to get through this next period of games as we are and then it becomes a little saner. “But I learned so much against Kharkiv. We had to stay in the game if we could and the changes we made were numerous; Victor came on, Ossie played out wide, Mikel Arteta was moved inside to try and dictate the play.
“Yet every time I played a card, Metalist topped it. For me, it was a great learning curve. Every time they trumped me, I had to try and beat them. That was the way it went but there was so much at stake that night. “I have to say that it was a real good job done. At half-time, we were saying how are we going to get this won but thankfully we did in the end.” There is no let up, though, and Moyes will again have to be fully focused as he attempts to nullify Arsenal’s myriad of attacking options. But it is not a game his players are worrying about. Phil Jagielka, for one, is confident Everton can supplement their Boxing Day success against Bolton with three points before rounding the festive programme off with victory at Middlesbrough on New Year’s Day. “Three on a trot would be nice,” he said. “We’re trying to pick up as many points as we can now over the Christmas period. It’s going to be hard because there’s so many games in quick succession. But we’ve done well and hopefully we’ll carry on picking up points.”
Everton tickets to beat truancy
Dec 29 2007 by Greg O'Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
MERSEYSIDE truants are being offered cut-price Everton tickets to persuade them to stay at school. In the pioneering scheme tickets will also be awarded to hard working children at schools in deprived areas. Everton are introducing the scheme so more children from “different-income” families can enjoy Premier League football.
The club will sell the tickets to individual schools at a heavily discounted price and offer cashback for bigger orders. Everton in the Community chief executive Graham Lewis said: “With ever-increasing ticket prices it is becoming more difficult for many children to go to a game. “We are trying to change that in a few ways, particularly with the school reward system which aims to encourage classes where there is under-achieving or truancy. “If a child has chronic truancy issues, Everton in the Community coaches coming into his school can make a difference. “If that child comes to 80% of those sessions with us that shows a massive amount of commitment and they can be offered a ticket as a reward.” Mr Lewis said six local schools already wanted to be involved. Steven Wilson, a learning mentor at Mosscroft primary school in Huyton, said the scheme would appeal to pupils and parents. Mr Wilson said: “It’s fantastic to see this type of community involvement from a Premier League football club.
“Our school is in a fairly low socio-economic area and for many parents money can be an issue. We are going to give the scheme a try. “In our area we battle against truancy all the time, and often if one child from a family stays off the other children do.
“The incentive of going to experience the excitement of a game might help us with this problem. “In the future we may be able to purchase discounted tickets for the parents as well, and it will encourage family bonding.”
Martin Keown: Best Everton side in 20 years
Dec 29 2007 Liverpool Echo
FORMER Everton defender Martin Keown believes the current side is the most talented to play at Goodison Park since the last Toffees team to win the title more than 21 years ago. Manager David Moyes has guided the team to sixth in the Premier League with fewer resources than the clubs above and below them, Manchester City and Portsmouth. He has also engineered progression to the final knockout phase of the UEFA Cup having built a compact but effective squad which has enough top quality players to make them a threat to most opponents. “They have got real quality with Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill arriving from deep, and Ayegbeni Yakubu has an outstanding record,” said Keown. “They work their socks off. This side has got more quality than any Everton team have seen since they were the champions way back when. “It is a very strong Everton squad and them and Manchester City, along with Portsmouth probably, have been the most improved throughout this season.”
What has equally impressed Keown is the way they have not allowed their European adventures to distract them from their domestic form, which not only has them just three points behind fourth-placed Liverpool but has also taken them into the semi-finals of the Carling Cup. “I feel the way they have managed to play in the UEFA Cup on a Thursday and still do well in the league is nothing short of a miracle,” added the ex-Arsenal centre-back, who played for Everton between 1989 and 1993.
“They have been playing Sunday football for months on end and they have used that as a springboard. I get the impression David Moyes seems to have cracked Europe now and he has given them confidence in themselves.” Tonight, Everton will be able to gauge exactly how far they have come this season as Arsenal are the visitors to Goodison Park, where Moyes’ side have not been beaten for two months.
A victory over Arsene Wenger’s side would raise real hopes the Merseysiders could finally be in a position to break the stranglehold on the top four places exerted by the Gunners, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. “The potential is there,” added Keown. “Goodison Park is a difficult place to go. It is not unlike the Highbury of old.
“The fans generate a fantastic atmosphere there.”
Everton 1, Arsenal 4
Dec 31 2007
Chris Beesley at Goodison Park, Liverpool Daily Post
HOME captain Phil Neville admitted after this game that sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take two steps forward. So Evertonians will be looking for a similar kind of turnaround that followed the last time Arsenal triumphed 4-1 at Goodison Park in a Premier League fixture. Just two players in each starting line-up on Saturday – Joseph Yobo and Lee Carsley/Kolo Toure and Cesc Fabregas – remained from the August day that kicked-off the 2004-05 campaign, when the Gunners proved too hot for Everton to handle in a painfully one-sided contest. With David Moyes’s side having only finished 17th the previous May, picking up a miserly 39 points, and Wayne Rooney set to leave the club, fortunes looked bleak. But Everton, who many thought would do well to avoid the drop after such a drubbing, went on to shock English football and finish in the top four. More than three years on, competition in the Premier League is much stronger – but so too is Everton’s squad so a similar response would do nicely for Moyes in the New Year. After all, a similarly painful 4-1 defeat at home to Blackburn Rovers in the third round of the FA Cup, a week shy of a year earlier, proved to be the shake-up Everton needed to push on in the second half of last season. Like Mark Hughes’s men on that day, every Arsenal chance seemed to fly in with Tim Howard having no real save to make throughout the entire 90 minutes. Sure, the Gunners had their fair share of good fortune, but winners and indeed champions tend to make their own luck and in truth a series of rare glaring errors from the hosts ensured they were the masters of their own downfall despite more than matching Arsene Wenger’s men with a superb first half performance. Moyes made one change to the side that started the 2-0 victory over Bolton at Goodison Park on Boxing Day as Tony Hibbert replaced Thomas Gravesen so Neville switched from right-back to central midfield. There were three alterations by Wenger to the line-up that began their goalless stalemate at Portsmouth the same evening as Abou Diaby, Nicklas Bendtner and Eduardo came in for Emmanuel Eboue, Tomas Rosicky and Emmanuel Adebayor respectively. For the first 46-and-a-half minutes you’d have thought it was Everton who were the great entertainers as they sprayed the ball about with ease, looking comfortable in possession, assured at the back and imaginative going forward. He’d probably never outwardly admit it but even Wenger would have been proud of the hosts’ performance and in addition to the panache they also displayed a steely determination, closing down the Gunners at every opportunity with the kind of up-tempo pressing you’d associate with Moyes’s Everton sides. The hosts deservedly went ahead on 19 minutes following a Mikel Arteta corner-kick with the hapless Bendtner – a rough diamond who still needs plenty of polishing by Wenger – unable to control the ball and clear. Tim Cahill stabbed in from close range for his third goal in as many games over the past six days, although there was initially some confusion who had got the final touch with Yakubu also flinging his head into the mix. Everton, bidding for a hat-trick of home wins over Arsenal in the Premier League, looked good value at the time for completing a treble after a couple of 1-0 triumphs over the past two seasons and continued to push forward. One chipped ball upfield by Arteta picked out Steven Pienaar and the South African found Yakubu with a cheeky back-heel but the striker stabbed his shot wide. Neville also got a shot in following another slick move only to blast over the bar, again after a back-heel – this time from Yakubu – and it was Everton, not Arsenal, who were playing all the football. The game was turned on its head just 90 seconds into the second half when the Gunners equalised with the most ‘un-Wengerlike’ of goals. Left-back Gael Clichy lumped a long punt upfield for what was the kind of agricultural hoof Phil Jagielka would have been used to dealing with in his seven years in the Football League at Sheffield United. However, the former Blade, who has been enjoying a considerable upsurge in form since being installed at the heart of Everton’s defence in recent weeks, crucially mistimed the bounce of the ball and hesitated to allow Brazilian-born Croatian international striker Eduardo to score his first Premier League goal with a smart left-foot finish. You’d have thought Wenger would have ditched his ‘Fox in the box’ analogy following Francis Jeffers’s footballing demise after his big money switch from Everton to Arsenal but the Frenchman used it to describe the predatory instincts of his new number nine. Yet Eduardo was to terrorise Everton and Jagielka again 11 minutes later to grab his second, leading Wenger to compare him to another Liverpool-born striker, saying he reminds him of a young Robbie Fowler. Moyes felt there were suspicions of handball for Arsenal’s second as Eduardo craftily went one way past Jagielka while taking the ball the other way before regaining possession and nonchalantly slipping his shot past Howard. With 16 minutes remaining, Bendtner was dismissed following an ugly challenge on substitute Andrew Johnson, who had come on for Hibbert five minutes earlier. The lunge into the England international’s shin could well have merited a straight red but instead he was issued with a second yellow by referee Martin Atkinson. Numerical advantage failed to inspire Everton though as they struggled to test Manuel Almunia, who was only mildly inconvenienced by a low 20-yard drive by Carsley. If Arsenal’s first two goals had come from defensive lapses by Everton, the third on 78 minutes was an absolute howler as the normally reliable pair of Howard and Yobo dallied on a loose ball by the edge of the area, enabling substitute Adebayor to run through and tap the ball into the empty net. Ironically, Arsenal’s victory had been achieved with star man Fabregas being virtually anonymous but the 20-year-old Spanish playmaker, who made his Premier League debut in the aforementioned 4-1 success at Goodison in 2004 and who was born on May 4 1987 – the day Everton won their last league title – made an unfortunate but telling contribution to this game and potentially three more for Moyes’s men. With just six minutes remaining, Arteta seemed to hand off his compatriot with an outstretched arm and although there seemed to be no malice in his challenge, Atkinson produced a straight red as Fabregas rolled around on the turf as if severely wounded. Such gamesmanship is the ugly side of the Londoners’ game but Wenger’s side showed their more positive talents in stoppage time with a vintage Arsenal goal. Adebayor started the slick move down the left and a Diaby lay-off found substitute Rosicky, who cracked a stinging finish into the bottom right-hand corner of Howard’s goal. Within 90 minutes of magnificence and madness Everton had again shown how near yet still so far they are to matching the main contenders in the Premier League.
Everton 1, Arsenal 4
Dec 31 2007
By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
THE once novel 5.15pm kick-off on a Saturday evening has recently been dubbed the ‘weekend wrecker’ by critics, and few Evertonians will disagree with such a title today. While television companies and sponsors obviously see the tea-time slot as a prime opportunity to make money, Everton have an infuriating habit of suffering stage fright when they are asked to fulfil a fixture for that audience. Cast your mind back a couple of seasons and you will shudder at the thought that two of the Blues’ worst performances came at West Brom and Aston Villa – both games ended in 4-0 defeats – after they were ‘last on stage’. It is, quite frankly, a ridiculous time to stage a football match but this, sadly, is the way of the modern world and while there is such enormous revenue to be made on the back of the national sport, it seems likely to be around forever more. To say, however, that Everton slipped to their heaviest defeat of this campaign because of a quirky start time would be massively inaccurate. Nor can a referee be made a scapegoat. No. Once again – when it mattered most – a lack of concentration proved fatal. Everton have made such fabulous progress from autumn into winter that it would be wrong to become overly critical after losing 4-1 to an Arsenal side that rightly has designs on winning the Premier League. But one thing is completely inescapable and that is the way Everton have thrown points away from clashes with teams from the ‘Big Four’ – a term which, incidentally, is one of the most nauseating in football. As was the case with Manchester United and Liverpool, Arsenal were able to leave Goodison Park with maximum points thanks largely to the home side switching off just when it looked like they had matters in hand. Had this particular encounter been stopped at half-time, there could have been no complaints if Everton – playing with confidence and swagger – had been called the winners. At times the football was a joy to watch, Mikel Arteta giving the kind of command performance to which we have become accustomed and Ayegbeni Yakubu torturing Kolo Toure with a relentless display of front running. For things to unravel so spectacularly after the interval, then, left David Moyes tearing his hair out and he will have been as aghast as anyone. There is no other way of dressing this up – Everton’s players can only point the finger of blame at themselves. If Arsenal had clicked into gear and started playing those wondrous triangles for which they are famed, defeat would have been easier to take but three of their four goals came via long, hopeful punts down field. Take note, Mr Wenger. Having shackled Eduardo so admirably in the first half, Phil Jagielka and Joseph Yobo inexplicably went to sleep in the second half, allowing the Croatian to turn a game Arsenal had not been in on its head. Jagielka has excelled in recent weeks but he will not remember the second 45 minutes of this contest with any fondness, as his two errors of judgement proved so costly. Such a shame, as he has been making real strides. The sight of him sprawling on the floor trying desperately to stop Eduardo firing Arsenal ahead made grim viewing but no more so than the mess Yobo and Tim Howard got themselves into for substitute Emmanuel Adebayor’s game ending third. That horrid moment summed up the way things went for the Toffees after the break, communications between the two men completely breaking down to allow the Togo international a chance to pilfer a goal just seconds after coming off the bench. Worse, though, was to come, and of all that happened during 90 frantic minutes, the moment Arteta was shown a red card for an innocuous tussle with Cesc Fabregas was the lowest point of all, much more than Tomas Rosicky’s drive which completed the rout. Strictly adhering to the letter of the law, if match official Martin Atkinson believed Arteta raised his arm to strike his compatriot then he was right to send him off. But he must have been one of only two men inside Goodison of that opinion. Arteta spoke before the match about his friendship with Fabregas but with a friend like that, who needs enemies? It was soul destroying to hear Fabregas say after the game that he ‘would do anything’ to help his side win. Whatever happened to respect between professionals? What happened to sportsmanship? Fabregas, whose on field class is tainted by his arrogance, rolled around as if he had been hit with a sledgehammer. “He must have broken his jaw,” Moyes later sardonically suggested. No wonder Arteta headed for home smouldering with rage, mystified and appalled by the injustice. It was a poor, poor decision on Atkinson’s behalf, made all the more ridiculous by the fact Nicklas Bendtner will serve less of a ban for a more malicious tackle. How did he not see a straight red for running his studs down Andrew Johnson’s shin? What hurts most of all is that Arteta will be missing for the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge. I wonder what his ‘mate’ thinks of that? Yet dwelling on that skirmish will do no good whatsoever. Nor is there any mileage in running the final score over and over in your mind. The final 4-1 scoreline was not an accurate reflection and only the blinkered could say otherwise. That said, lessons need to be learned. Everton have taken one point from a possible 15 against Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea thus far but have not made them do anything special to achieve their rewards. 2007 has been a productive time for those on the Blue half of Merseyside, with the emergence of several young talents, a successful return to Europe and the squad looking in the best shape it has been in for two decades. But if 2008 is going to see further progress, the small details must be worked on. If Everton are to become the credible challengers for Champions League football that they are threatening to be, concentrating for 90 minutes is a prerequisite. Once they crack that nut, anything is possible. Hopefully, this new year will bring more resolution.
Mikel Arteta: Referee got it all wrong
Dec 31 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
MIKEL ARTETA today claimed he was the victim of a “poor decision” as he vented his fury on referee Martin Atkinson. Everton’s influential midfielder is facing a three-match ban after being sent off during Saturday’s 4-1 defeat against Arsenal, which means he will miss the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final with Chelsea.
He received the red card for what match official Atkinson adjudged to be an intentional elbow on Cesc Fabregas, but while the Arsenal man looked to have made a meal of the incident, Arteta refused to condemn him. Instead, Arteta – bitterly frustrated that the Blues failed to build on their 1-0 half-time advantage – turned his ire on Atkinson and claimed he failed to penalise Mathieu Flamini for an even worse offence moments before his own expulsion. “Flamini put the elbow in three times,” said Arteta. “Twice on Cars and once on Tim Cahill. Really badly too. “The referee never made any decision. I’m not blaming Flamini as he was trying to do his job but it was the referee again. “I think he has made a poor decision. Arsenal never had more shots, they didn’t have more possession. “We created a lot of chances but we have made mistakes again. It was the same against Liverpool and Manchester United.
“I don’t want to talk about the other team’s players. The referee has made the decisions and if he makes a mistake that’s what happens. “If I had deserved the red card, I would have held my hands up and said so. But it wasn’t a red card.”
Arteta was cautioned nine times last season but this year his conduct has been exemplary and Saturday was the first time his name was taken, yet he fears appealing would be futile. “I can’t remember a game when I haven’t done something like that before and the referees should know the players,” said Arteta. “It’s crazy.
“The way he sent me off was stupid because he hadn’t even whistled for a foul.
“It’s unbelievable. I don’t want to blame Fabregas as he was trying to get an advantage for his team, which is normal. “But I am so down, so disappointed because of the way the game went and the sending off. “It was a game we should have won. We controlled the game and played much better than them. “But we made three stupid mistakes and that has cost us. I have said to the gaffer that we could appeal but do we have any case? “They (the FA’s disciplinary committee) know that I am not a dirty player. I wasn’t even looking at him or trying to put an elbow on him. “I wouldn’t do that, even less so with it being Fabregas.”
David Moyes: We won’t appeal Mikel Arteta’s red card
Dec 31 2007 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
MIKEL ARTETA will miss the first leg of Everton’s Carling Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge as a result of Saturday’s red card at Goodison Park.
But the Blues will not appeal against Martin Atkinson’s controversial decision.
Arteta will serve a three match ban for violent conduct, after Cesc Fabregas appeared to make a meal of Arteta handing off his challenge. “We won’t appeal the red card,” said boss David Moyes. “It’s over and there’s nothing we can do. I’m not going to talk about referees. I just hope decisions come our way at the right time. “But you have to have a look at Andy Johnson’s shin and then try and weigh up the difference between that and what Mikel Arteta did. “It should have been a straight red card for Nicklas Bendtner. It was probably a wrong decision by the referee to show a yellow for his tackle, but that doesn’t help our case.” Moyes was heartened by his team’s performance and was bewildered by the lopsided 4-1 scoreline. “I thought we were the best team. I thought the best team lost today,” he said. “I thought we played the best football and passed it better than Arsenal. They scored their goals from humps down the pitch really. “Route one Arsenal? Yes it was really. But the thing was we couldn’t deal with it. They weren’t Arsenal type goals that they scored. “We can’t hide that we made mistakes for the goals but I’d take some convincing from you that Arsenal were better than us today. “Even at 2-1 down I felt more than confident that we would get back in the game and at 3-1 I thought we still only needed one goal to give us the impetus to go on and get it back because we have been scoring quite freely.
“But I have to say that Arsenal defended well today. When they had to they made it difficult for us.” Moyes also had complaints about Eduardo’s second, which made it 2-1. “Eduardo’s second goal was a handball and of course it affected the outcome of the game,” he said. “It allowed him to control it, take it on and produce some wonderful skill to get round Phil Jagielka.”
No more errors, promises Phil Neville
Dec 31 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
PHIL NEVILLE has promised Everton’s players will learn from the mistakes that have checked their recent momentum in order to make the next step forward.
While Neville was buoyant about some of the football Everton played during Saturday’s 4-1 defeat against Arsenal, his optimism was tempered by the errors that enabled the visitors to complete a turnaround which had looked most unlikely.
As the Blues’ captain knows only too well, it is not the first time such errors have happened in a big game – only last week Everton lost at Old Trafford after conceding a stupid penalty – and accepts the situation has to change. Everton had the opportunity to move level on points with Liverpool had they beaten Arsenal and Neville believes they will only be able to close the gap once they have worked on their concentration.
“First and foremost, we have got to look at ourselves,” said Neville, who excelled in the centre of midfield alongside Lee Carsley. “I thought we put in an unbelievable performance but they went up the field four times and scored on each occasion.
“You don’t play Arsenal too many times and outpass them but I think we did that. But in the big games, it is small percentages and three lapses in concentration have cost us. We are a club that is going forward and we have got some fantastic players.
“We are playing some fantastic football at the minute and the confidence around the club is there for all to see. We are playing good football in the big games and you can see that we are competing. “But when you get into these big games, it is just that little bit of concentration. If you switch off for a second against a team that has quality strikers, you get punished. That’s something we are learning along the way.
“Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to take two forward. We went to Old Trafford and deserved something from that game but came away with nothing. It was the same here. We can take plaudits but we have to keep improving in these big games. “If we don’t do that, we’ll keep getting turned over like we did against Arsenal, like we did at Old Trafford and like we did in the Merseyside derby. We were all so frustrated.” It could, however, have been so different. Everton’s play during the opening 45 minutes was outstanding which made the goals they conceded after the interval all the more difficult for Neville and his team-mates to take.
“That football was as good as anything we have played in my time here,” he continued. “You normally accept wonderful goals against you from Arsenal but the first one they scored was a long punt upfield. “The second could have been hand ball but mistakes that we have not been making have crept into our play – but we won’t make them again. We will learn from them.” The sting in the tail for the Blues was Mikel Arteta’s red card, which has earned him a three-game ban, and Neville was left scratching his head how Nicklas Bendtner will only receive a one match suspension for his ugly challenge on Andrew Johnson. “All Mikel was doing was using his arm as a shield,” said Neville. “It may have made contact with Fabregas’ face and if you get a bang on the nose, you know how sore it is. “When you get a red card, it should be for intent but I don’t think that was the case. All we ask for is consistency. What everyone wants is two-footed challenges to be punished more severely than maybe an accidental arm. Punishments aren’t fitting the crime.”
David Moyes’ men are no hoof it and hope merchants
Dec 31 2007 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
ARSENE WENGER is blessed with a sublime vision when it comes to crafting glorious football teams. So perhaps we should forgive the moments when he can’t see his hand in front of his face. Wenger is always entertaining post-match listening – stroppy in defeat, gushing in victory – and on Saturday night he sat in front of the assembled press corps and gushed. “We played against a good Everton side and they played well,” he declared. So far so good. But then Wenger’s famous selective vision came into play. Surprisingly the Arsenal boss saw Nicklas Bendtner’s awful slash down Andy Johnson’s shins, but decided it was “clumsy, not malicious”.
But he also saw a pattern of play nobody else inside Goodison Park witnessed.
“Last year when we played here Everton played a very physical game, very direct. And we lost. So I can understand that this year they repeated that tactic,” he explained.
“I have seen Everton on tapes before we came here and they played a completely different game today. They were much more direct than I saw them against Bolton when they made nearly 400 passes all on the ground, all short passing.
“Today they went more direct.” The statistics suggest otherwise. Three Arsenal goals from humps down the middle of the park and a possession chart which showed 60 per cent Everton, 40 per cent Arsenal. You don’t keep possession for more than half the game by belting the ball down the pitch. It was only a throwaway remark, but the way Everton are perceived is important to their followers. Because while they lost a football match by a harshly lop-sided scoreline, they wanted confirmation their team is heading in the right direction. The evidence on Saturday suggested they are.
They were comfortably the better side in a first half when all the slick football came from the home side – and they more than matched them in the second.
So why a 4-1 scoreline? Simple really. Arsenal defended magnificently, Everton defended like schoolboys. It’s a problem which has cost the Blues almost every time they have faced a top four side this season. In clashes against the top teams, those with designs on replacing them have to produce near perfect performances. And Everton were far from flawless. Defensively they handed three goals on a gift-wrapped platter, then in attack missed a golden opportunity to restore their lead when Yakubu planted an unmarked header wide of the Gwladys Street goal. It was an evening when everything seemed out of kilter. The perception was that a fired up full house, benefitting from an extra couple of hours pre-match preparation, would scare Arsenal’s shrinking violets into submission on a cold, windy northern night.
It has been the template for Everton-Arsenal matches for years. Last year Everton won in a blizzard, the year before they won on a cold Spring afternoon on a bumpy pitch; Arsenal’s only significant success in recent seasons came on an August afternoon when conditions were perfect. But Saturday was anything but stereotypical. The crowd was subdued, Everton played the football, Arsenal lumped it long and the Gunners collected all the yellow cards. Aah yes, the cards. Two-footed tackles are the current Sky TV issue. But perhaps they should be focusing on the absurdity of a legal system which sees one player sustain a one-match ban for a challenge which may have broken Andy Johnson’s leg, while another receives a three-match suspension for handing off a man he used to call his mate. Everton won’t appeal Martin Atkinson’s decision to red card Mikel Arteta because the FA always closes ranks around its officials. But there is clearly a problem with the system when Bendtner will be back in action on FA Cup third round day, when Andy Johnson’s shins will still bear the marks from his horror tackle, while Arteta will sit in the stands for three matches while Cesc Fabregas was still able to smirk minutes after the hand-off which caused him to drop to the ground in apparent pain. Evertonians left the ground smarting with a sense of injustice – those that were still inside the stadium by the time Atkinson blew his whistle for the final time that is. But while that injustice was generated by the officials, what was even more unfair was the suggestion Everton had tried to undermine Arsenal with route one football. In the end it was that tactic from the visitors which undid them. Everton and Arsenal could meet again if the Carling Cup semi-finals go according to plan – and these two teams are capable of producing a cup final classic. Whether Wenger sees it that way is another matter.
Goodbye Bally, Hello George and Tom – the year in review, part one
Dec 31 2007 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
MERSEYSIDE landed no football trophies, claimed no new boxing belts and saw St Helens fail in a bid for a second successive clean sweep! So was 2007 an unsuccessful sporting year for the region? Not a bit, just read on . . .
THE new year opened with a grim statistic from the region’s paramedics – since 2002, 66 fans at Anfield, 35 at Goodison Park and 24 at Prenton Park had been treated for ailments raging from fainting to going into labour, chest pains to asthma attacks and heart attacks to falls. The reasons for such stress related problems were clear as 2007 opened in staggering fashion. At Anfield Rafa Benitez watched his side beat Bolton 3-0 and declared: “I am very happy with the consistency of the team, the chances we are creating, the good football we are playing and also the clean sheets.”
Whoops. Arsenal won 3-1 at Anfield in the FA Cup – when the Kop performed a poignant and moving six minute tribute to the Hillsborough victims – then the Gunners came back for more three days later and won 6-3 in the Carling Cup.
“Humiliating, shambolic and embarrassing” moaned Tommy Smith, while Benitez offered a public apology to supporters. It was little better at Goodison, where Blackburn bounced Everton out of the FA Cup 4-1. The Reds bounced back by beating Chelsea – in Rafa’s 100th match as Anfield manager. The 2-0 triumph was his 56th win, only Kenny Dalglish enjoying a better record. Peter Crouch started that match and issued a plea which would become familiar throughout the year.
“It can get frustrating when you want to play every game, but all you can do is keep working hard. I’ve heard all the speculation and all I can say is I’m happy here and love playing for the club,” he said. Crouch was still at Anfield 12 months later, but Steve Warnock was not after moving to Blackburn. Everton were linked with moves for Barry Ferguson and Joey Barton, but ended up bringing in Manu Fernandes on loan. David Weir and Simon Davies departed, while across the park Javier Mascherano and Sebastien Leto landed. But Lucas Neill didn’t join them after deciding his prospects were rosier at Upton Park than Anfield. “It was the most difficult decision of my career. I followed Liverpool as a boy. But I was getting a small cold feeling from Liverpool and a volcanic heat feeling from West Ham,” he said. Well, sixty grand a week would make Jack Frost feel warm. Liverpool moved instead for Alvaro Arbeloa – and never regretted the switch. It wouldn’t be the only late switch at Anfield. With everyone at Anfield braced for the DIC takeover, a Reds spokesman said of George Gillett’s late interest: “It doesn’t really matter if he examines the books, the club will continue working with DIC and are close to a satisfactory conclusion.” Another announcement was made by Radio 5 Live commentator Alan Green after watching Sylvester Stallone make a surprise visit to Goodison Park. “It’s a pathetic stunt by a B list celebrity,” moaned Green before quipping “he’s going to see if his limousine is on bricks.” He was forced to apologise.
In boxing Michael Jones was stopped just 46 seconds from the end of his European title challenge in Milan against Michele Piccirillo, while the final Test match Down Under ended in pretty much the same fashion as the previous four.
England became the first side for 86 years to suffer a 5-0 whitewash, losing the final Test by 10 wickets.
SENSATION at Anfield as the DIC takeover bid collapses, and Reds chief executive Rick Parry tells stunned supporters: “Trust us.” A spokesman for the Dubai group says: “David Moores suffered what I can only describe as a mental aberration just when the agreement was about to be reached.” Moores hit back: “I asked if I could have two, three days to clear my mind about a few things I wasn’t sure of. I think we were given six hours. We never saw the people at the top of the Dubai proposal.”
George Gillett and Tom Hicks are the new Anfield owners – and arrive in a city still simmering after the latest derby match. A goalless draw at Anfield was livened up by Rafael Benitez branding Everton a “small club” and David Moyes ironically snapping back “it’s nice when managers show humility”. There’s friction inside Anfield as well, when Liverpool prepare for their Champions League clash with Barcelona in the Algarve. Craig Bellamy chased John Arne Riise through the team hotel brandishing a golf club, after Riise refused to join in a karaoke session. Cue one of the most remarkable results in Liverpool’s long history – a 2-1 win in the Nou Camp, with goals from ... Bellamy and Riise. Across the park there’s dissent in the stands as Everton lose in the last minute to Tottenham, and angry supporters bemoan manager David Moyes’ decision to substitute midfielder Manu Fernandes with defender Tony Hibbert just three minutes earlier. In rugby league, St Helens beat Brisbane Broncos to become champions of the world, but Tranmere’s bid for a play-off place in League One is dented by defeat at Leyton Orient. Everton’s push for Europe gathers pace with a 3-0 win at Watford, but James Beattie misses a chance he describes as “the miss of the season”.
LIVERPOOL win just one of their four matches in March – but are still celebrating after Barcelona’s 1-0 win at Anfield means an aggregate victory on the away goals rule. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” breathed a staggered Tom Hicks after Anfield exploded into scenes of unbridled ecstasy. Liverpool are rewarded with a draw against PSV in the quarter-finals, although fans see plane fares to Eindhoven soar from £93 to £366 in 25 minutes after the draw is made. The solitary Premiership success of the month sees Peter Crouch rattle a sparkling hat-trick – with a broken nose – to exact some revenge on Arsenal. The Gunners don’t enjoy their visits to Merseyside this month. Everton play just two matches – and the second sees Andy Johnson crash in a last minute winner against Arsene Wenger’s men . . . in a March 18 blizzard.
David Moyes celebrates his fifth anniversary as Everton manager with a ringing tribute from his chairman Bill Kenwright. Rafa Benitez, however, is simply hoping to meet his new chairmen weeks after they took over. It would become a familiar refrain.
Before returning to the States, the Reds’ new owners reveal ambitious plans for a new 76,000 capacity Anfield Stadium – and declare construction work will start in June.
In the boxing ring Derry Mathews retains his WBU featherweight title in a Liverpool Olympia bloodbath with British champion John Simpson.
APRIL opens with Liverpool taking significant strides to reaching their second Champions League semi-final in three years. A 3-0 win in Eindhoven effectively sees off PSV, while Steven Gerrard’s goal breaks Ian Rush’s European club scoring record.
A 1-0 second leg success, with Peter Crouch’s last goal of the season, sets up yet another semi-final with Chelsea. A 1-0 reverse at Stamford Bridge leaves hopes high for a Mayday second leg showdown. At Goodison a James McFadden wonder goal against Charlton keeps the push for UEFA Cup football firmly on track, but events on the football field are pushed firmly into the background following the sudden death of Alan Ball at 61, almost a year to the day after Brian Labone’s passing.
“He was the best player I ever played with,” said friend and team-mate Howard Kendall quite simply. Tranmere finally concede defeat in their bid for a play-off place, their ambitions unravelling amidst a flurry of red cards, angry words and defensive errors at Blackpool. At Aintree, the world’s greatest steeplechase produces one of the most wide open races for years in unseasonal soaring temperatures.
Silver Birch is a 33/1 winner, while the places are filled by McKelvet (12/1), Slim Pickings (33/1) and Philson Run at 100/1. Liverpool’s youngsters dramatically retain the FA Youth Cup, overcoming a 2-1 first leg deficit to win at Old Trafford and edge a penalty shoot-out. Everton aren’t quite as successful against United’s seniors, however, tossing away a 2-0 lead with an Iain Turner error and a Phil Neville own goal to lose 4-2.
ANFIELD stages one of its truly great occasions as the self-styled Special One is put in his place yet again. Daniel Agger’s goal equalised Joe Cole’s first leg strike in the Champions League semi-final, then the Reds held their nerve best in the penalty shoot-out. But it was the awe-inspiring Anfield atmosphere which dominated the headlines. “It was inspiring, it was neck prickling and it set the tone for an evening when the decibel level rarely dipped below maximum,” reported the Echo.
“For me it felt even better than 2005,” declared Steven Gerrard. Sadly the build-up to the final was dominated with ticket controversy, UEFA allocating just 17,000 to each finalist and a smug William Gaillard declaring “Liverpool have done well to get that amount”. Even before the Athens final Rafa Benitez is planning for the coming campaign, releasing Robbie Fowler and snapping up Lucas Leiva. Fowler signs off by leading the side out against Charlton, but is substituted just seconds before Liverpool are awarded a penalty kick . . . converted by Harry Kewell. That helps him earn a place in Liverpool’s Champions League final squad, but not even his arrival for the final half hour can turn the final Liverpool’s way. Milan win 2-1, but much of the attention focuses on Rafa Benitez’s post-match conference. “The new owners say they will support us but now is not the time to talk but to take decisions. It’s not just about new faces. It is about the structure of the club. We need to spend money. We can’t be looking for players in August because then you end up with the second or third choice on your list.” The Americans responded positively . . . this time. Across the park a 3-0 win over Portsmouth effectively guarantees Everton a place in European competition themselves in 2007/08.
THE Echo calls for the resignations of Michel Platini and William Gaillard, as UEFA try to shift the blame for disorder in Athens at the Champions League final solely onto the shoulders of Liverpool fans. “What other set of fans steal tickets from their fellow supporters or out of the hands of children?” asked Gaillard. Sports minister Richard Caborn hit back: “Stop complaining and put your own house in order.” The transfer merry-go-round starts to spin with Everton linked with Jason Koumas and Paul Scharner, while Juventus reportedly offer £10m for Momo Sissoko. West Ham try to unsettle Andy Johnson with talk of a £13m bid, but they are told even an £18m offer would receive the same response. No deal. One deal very much on, however, and exclusively revealed in the Echo, is Liverpool’s move for Fernando Torres.
Anfield Iron Tommy Smith suffers a heart attack – on the same day the Echo asks “Has McClaren lost the plot?” when he axes Jamie Carragher in favour of Wes Brown, with even Kieron Dyer ahead of the Reds defender in the pecking order for the clash in Estonia. England win 3-0, but McClaren says “We still have a lot to prove.” He’s not wrong. One Scouser who has nothing to prove is Nick Dougherty, who led the US Open at Oakmont after the first round before finishing 10 over and ensuring qualification for the 2008 US Masters. Tennis legend Bjorn Borg, meanwhile, is ruled out of the Liverpool International with a dog bite. Michael Rimmer, however, is in the Great Britain squad for the athletics European Cup in Munich. A new team is introduced to the British Basketball League as a decade long association between Everton and the Toxteth Tigers results in the birth of Everton Tigers.
True Evertonians must stand up to the racists
Dec 31 2007 Lawrence Westgaph
AS the latest in a long list of Evertonians that my family has spawned, I’m so glad to see the team doing well recently. All credit to David Moyes who has worked wonders at Goodison while having to balance a very limited budget in Premier League terms.
As a kid in the late 1980s I regularly attended Everton games. Although my mum wouldn’t allow me to go to away matches, she would always find a fiver so I could go and stand in the Gwladys Street. Although we had some good days on the pitch back then, a lot of my Saturday afternoons were spoiled by hideous racist chanting from our supporters. Some of these so-called fans even had the good grace to turn to me and say “no offence lad” after shouting “shoot that n****r”. I was even unfortunate enough to be at the derby when John Barnes (pictured) was pelted with bananas.
After listening to the terrible abuse on a regular basis for more than two seasons, and on one occasion being insulted by a racist outside Goodison, I stopped going to watch my beloved team, totally disillusioned that we had not taken a tougher stance on racism as other big city clubs had. I even remember one programme during the 88-89 season warning our supporters that at our next game at Aston Villa they should not get involved in racist abuse or they may be ejected from the stadium as Villa had a strong policy against racist chanting. There was no condemnation of racism per se, just a warning not to do it against Villa! It just didn’t seem like the club took the problem seriously in those days. You may think that the 80s were a long time ago and a lot has changed since then, but we still have racists following the team. In 2000, university researchers put Everton top of the league of racist clubs in a survey. Even this season, official Everton coaches carrying fans to away games are often marred by racist singing, and in recent years Asian people have been abused by ‘Evertonians’ in Preston, Leicester and elsewhere. With our current success down to a very multi-cultural group of players, I wonder how the bigots that call themselves Evertonians feel about the team at the moment? We have the fantastic Tim Cahill, an Australian of Samoan descent; Leon Osman who’s father is Turkish-Cypriot; two Nigerian internationals, Joseph Yobo and Yakubu; the youngest scorer in Everton and Premiership history, James Vaughan; the Hero of Nuremberg, Victor Anichebe; Tim Howard, probably our best keeper since Big Nev and the loan player proving his worth, Steven Pienaar. OK, I confess, I still go to the odd home game now and again and the club has done a lot to try to kick out racism out of Everton, but we must do more if we want the diversity on the pitch reflected in the stands.