Blue Boys: Loan stars have mixed weekend
by Greg O'Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
Dec 1 2011
FORMER U18s forward Jose Baxter made his tenth appearance for Tranmere Rovers as they were well beaten 3-0 by improving Exeter City at St James's Park. Baxter had an early effort saved before strikes from Scot Bennett, Danny Coles, Richard Logan saw off Les Parry's side. Shane Duffy was at the heart of Scunthorpe United’s defence, as they lost 3-2 to Notts County. And Jake Bidwell, who joined Brentford last Thursday, was an unused substitute in their 2-1 victory over Rochdale, while Luke Garbutt started for Cheltenham.
Blue Boys: No fixtures present headache for young Blues
by Greg O'Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
Dec 1 2011
KEVIN SHEEDY admits a weekend without an official fixture is not ideal preparation for Everton U18s FA Youth Cup quest. The young Blues were pencilled in to face Manchester United in the Premier Academy League on Saturday, but with the Red Devils following in Everton’s foot-steps from last year by playing a tournament in Brazil, Sheedy’s side must make do with a friendly against Blackpool.
It is the second official fixture-less game in a row for Everton – who beat Oldham Athletic 5-1 in another friendly last Saturday. Sheedy said: “It’s not ideal but fixture hiccups and cancellations happen and we must react in the right way. “The Oldham game was a good workout and certainly a better option than just more training. “The players train all week with a view to a game, so you have to try and give them some competition as possible.” Another plus, says Sheedy, was the chance to give recuperating players a run-out against the Latics, with defender Johan Hammar the main beneficiary. Swedish defender Hammar has missed all of the season so far after picking up an innocuous knee injury in pre-season, and the promising centre-back was delighted to be playing again. “He has worked hard and it was nice to see him back on the pitch because he has missed a lot this season,” said Sheedy. “Jasper Johns has also been out for while with an ankle injury so it was great to see him playing again. “We’re hoping they can both progress now but they both need to work out getting back their match fitness first. “I want to see them catching up for lost time and doing well because we think highly of both of them, and they've worked hard to recover.”
Blue Boys: George Green still learning despite wonder goal says Kevin Sheedy
by Greg O'Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
Dec 1 2011
HE might have become a minor Youtube hit with his wonder-goal for Everton U16s but summer signing George Green has to go a long way to impress Kevin Sheedy. Sheedy admits he hasn’t seen the back-heel volley against Warrington Town yet, as he was in St Helens at the time with his U18s side. “George came here for quite a lot of money,” he said. “We’re just letting him find his feet and not putting too much pressure on him yet. We’ll give him a run out with the U18s now and then but he has a lot of work to do.”
Everton FC striker Apostolos Vellios could lead the line for Greece in European championships, says Under-21s boss George Geordiadis.
by Greg O'Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
Dec 1 2011
EVERTON FC striker Apostelos Vellios could yet lead the line for Greece in next summer’s European championships, according to Under-21s boss George Geordiadis. Former Newcastle striker Georgiadis has been impressed by his young protegee’s progress in the Premier League, and hopes to guide him to the full international stage before Euro 2012. Vellios may has only started one Premier League game but has proved effective from the bench, netting three goals. And his impact on the world’s biggest league has been noted. “He is a good player,” said Georgiadis. “He is a young player, still only 19, and has only been around for one or two years. But he has done well.
“He is a tall player who is good with his head, he is strong and powerful and he can score goals. He is good technically – not just in the air.” Several of the forwards who fired Greece to the finals in Poland and Ukraine are the wrong side of 30 and in recent friendlies senior coach Fernando Santos has looked to try out younger players. And Georgiadis believes Vellios is capable of being the next to step up. “He has done very well for the Under-21s, he has scored some goals. He was injured for our last two games (last month) and we missed him. “I see all the games to see how he is doing. I think he can improve some of his movement and getting into more positions to score goals, and his all-round team play as well. He is playing in England at the moment and that is good for him because it will help him improve those parts of his game. “I think he can play at Euro 2012. He needs to keep doing well at Everton and Greece has a lot of good players, a lot of good strikers. But he has a chance.” Despite his increasing hero status among Everton fans, Vellios is still relatively low-profile back home. The number of Greek players plying their trade in Britain has reduced since the days when George Donis, Nikos Dabizas, and Theo Zagorakis were regular performers and, as a consequence, the Premier League has become less than essential viewing. “He’s not really known at the moment because he has only been playing for one or two years. He hasn’t played many games yet so people do not know too much about him,” explained Georgiadis, who barely racked up double figures in appearances during his time at St James’ Park. But for a man with such a brief experience in the Premier League, Georgiadis accrued numerous links with Everton. “I remember they had some good, strong players,” he recalled. “People like Materazzi, and I remember we beat them 4-1 in the FA Cup quarter-final. I scored in that game and we went to Wembley.”
DUNCAN FERGUSON will be at Everton Two next week for a special signing session. The striker will be at the Liverpool One shop on Wednesday December 7 from 5-6pm to meet Evertonians and sign copies of the new DVD ‘Everton’s Greatest Premier League XI’. Ferguson will only be signing copies of the DVD and proof of purchase must be shown to join the queue.
Everton FC fans jury on Gary Speed, David Moyes and welcome wins
By Neil MacDonald
Dec 1 2011
COLE FRASER, Litherland
I WAS only a young lad when Gary Speed played at Goodison and I don't remember much of his time here. I do, though, remember the buzz that surrounded his arrival, seeing 'SPEED 10' printed on my cousin's shirt and so often seeing his face, grinning in celebration, splashed across the cover of the pink ECHO. Despite the rusty memory, there a few occasions on which I remember witnessing Gary in a blue shirt. One of my very first games at Goodison was settled by the man himself, against Tottenham in 1997. Celebrating his equaliser in the Anfield derby in 1996. And last, but certainly not least, his pivotal role in the 7-1 demolition of Southampton, including the only hat-trick of his career. All happy memories, which says a lot about what the man brought to our club, even when we struggled at the bottom of the table. His passion and desire to win could never be doubted. RIP Gary Speed. Once a blue, always a blue.
LEE MOLTON, St Helens
I WAS very shocked last Sunday and am still trying to come to terms with the sad tragic loss of Gary Speed, my condolences go to his family. Gary played for several Premier League clubs, including his boyhood Everton. I was delighted when we signed Gary in 1996 and he scored many great goals for us. My favourite goals were the goal against Liverpool away, his first goal at home to Newcastle and the hat-trick against Southampton. Gary was one of my favourite players and was a great captain for the club. He took some valuable penalties for the club and would have been an excellent player in today’s team. It is great to see so many tributes from all over the sporting world and it will be a very emotional day at Goodison on Sunday. Let’s hope that the Blues get the three points for him.
Once a Blue, always a Blue!
DEBBIE SMAJE, Upholland
IT’S a testament to the player and the man that Gary Speed was, just how much respect has been shown following his death this week. His legacy at his boyhood club was somewhat tainted by his departure, and a section of our fans never forgave him, despite the fact that what actually happened being shrouded in mystery. We will never know what happened, it’s all about what you believe, and Speed’s character throughout his career never suggests a man who would walk out on his team in their hour of need – more the kind of man who would keep his silence for the rest of his life to protect his club’s reputation, even at the expense of his own. He was a leader when we needed one. The equaliser at Anfield, the last minute penalty at Leicester, the hat-trick against Southampton, these were the highlights, but ultimately, he was one of us, living the dreams of the fans who were there at those moments. I’m sure he’ll get the respect he deserves against Stoke on Sunday.
Richard Knights, West Derby
IF David Moyes was a TV chef he wouldn’t be featured cooking exclusive dinner parties for jaded celebrities, with the most expensive fillets of meat, or creating fancy gastronomic delights with truffles flown in that morning, or mouth watering desserts glazed with edible gold leaf. Moyes would be planning frugal, hearty meals on a shoe-string budget with scrag ends of meat and vegetables grown on his allotment. I don’t know how he does it, week in week out. The away victories at Blackburn, Fulham and Bolton have each relied on a large slice of luck, but who cares? Good to see Bily silencing his critics. Why give players stick during the game? If you were to nominate for Everton’s player of the last decade there would be a shortlist of two – Phil Neville and Tim Cahill, but they are coming to the end of their careers. We desperately need to strengthen the squad. As for ‘David will have money to spend this January’, I’m sorry to be Mr Cynical but we’ve heard the same for the last two summers.
Everton FC fans letters on Gary Speed, a win at Bolton and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov
Dec 1 2011
GOD bless you Gary Speed, a true gent. Never shunned an autograph and always made time for you.
I just hope his memory is respected against Stoke on Sunday. He could have come clean and explained how he was forced out of our club but he didn’t want to drag our name through the mud...a true blue.
THE cat’s out the bag regarding Gary’s innocence in leaving Everton. If one thing comes of this it’s a lesson to all supporters not to be so vindictive when a player moves – it’s part and parcel. In fact Gary’s overall behaviour and his unfathomable loss is a reminder that football is just a game.
IF there’s one thing I’ve learned in my adulthood, it is that you can never tell with absolute certainty how someone REALLY feels or what they’re dealing with. Gary Speed’s untimely death is very sad. A gentleman, a class act in every way. I am disgusted how some of my fellow fans berated him, when he made his no doubt honourable decision to leave Everton, without a single bad word to any media.
FOOTBALL has suffered a terrible loss, but it’s nothing compared to the loss suffered by his nearest and dearest. I had the height of respect for Gary Speed. He was a proper football man. Committed, hard-working and fair. Only appeared on the back pages, never the front pages.
I watched him on Football Focus on Saturday. Hard to believe that he could have been going through such inner turmoil.
THREE points at Bolton and importantly the first clean sheet since August. Let’s keep the momentum going against Stoke next week. They have lost nearly every Sunday game when they have played in Europe the previous Thursday so they are there for the taking. Give Vellios a start.
A GREAT display by Tim Howard at Bolton, his save at 1-0 was very important when Hibbert made the mistake. I like Baines, Heitinga and Jags really strong our weakness is right back and that is why Moyes plays Coleman to double up. Coleman should revert to righ back and we have an attacking midfielder on especially at home, goals win matches We have a good run of games coming up before Christmas against teams we should beat, Stoke, Norwich, Swansea and Sunderland. ......... Arsenal is a tough one in there ........ Let’s hope we can get 10 or more points from these 5 games and see where we are after Christmas Moyes should not need to sell in January and let’s see what he has to spend, I would see just a striker coming in on loan as Strath.......... not worked out and may return to Argentina
DINIYAR BILYALETDINOV has been given many opportunities and though he has the occasional really good game, his problem is consistency – he has none – and it’s not just because he hasn’t been given a run of games. I’d love it all to click with him as he is obviously a nice kid but I just can’t see him being a long term solution for us. I wish it was different and I was delighted when we signed him but there is no doubt he has not reached anything like the level we all expected.
Sad but true.
Billy is sometimes like a boy lost in a mans world, he lacks pace doesn’t defend well and at times looks like he does’nt want to be there. I hope he can turn it around more consistantly because when he is good he can be a game winner. Good luck Billy and keep working hard on all aspects of the game
NOT looking beyond 40 points? More negative vibes from Mr Moyes. Whatever happened to the man about whom Kenwright once said used the word win every sixth word he spoke? Also what kind of Manager worth his job would build a squad of players without a decent striker? Crazy management in my book. Way past time for a change. In Moyes I do not trust.
Former Everton FC striker Duncan Ferguson describes horror at ex-team-mate Gary Speed’s suicide - ahead of planned EFC supporters’ tribute at Goodison
by Greg O'Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
Dec 1 2011
EVERTON FC great Duncan Ferguson has described his horror at learning of ex-EFC team-mate Gary Speed’s suicide – ahead of a planned supporters’ tribute at Goodison Park on Sunday. The former Everton FC striker played alongside Speed during his two seasons on Merseyside, and recalled setting up the Wales manager for his debut goal against Newcastle, the club they both went on to join. A group of Blues fans plan to chant in tribute of Speed for 10 minutes from the tenth minute of Sunday’s game against Stoke, in honour of his shirt number at Goodison. And Ferguson, who is currently coaching at Finch Farm, said in a web chat on the Everton FC website, that news of Speed’s death on Sunday left him feeling physically ill. “I was sick to the pit of my stomach. I thought it must be a mistake,” he said. “And when it started to sink in, you start thinking it must have been a heart attack or something like that. To find out the truth was so tragic. “My favourite game for Everton was against Newcastle at home. It was also Gary’s debut for Everton. We beat them 2-0 and I really enjoyed it. I set up Gary’s goal.” The cover of Sunday’s matchday programme will be dedicated to boyhood Evertonian Speed, and a minute’s applause will also take place before kick-off. Some of his former team-mates, including Graham Stuart, Joe Parkinson, David Unsworth, Michael Ball, Paul Gerrard and Duncan Ferguson, will lead the applause. Meanwhile, Ferguson has described how he turned down offers to remain playing in the Premier League after retiring at Everton. He said: “There was interest from Wigan and Portsmouth in the Premier League. There were maybe more but I made it clear I wanted to finish my career at Everton and be remembered as an Everton player.
“Now I want to get qualified as a coach and see where that takes me. I want to see if I am any good at it. Being at Finch Farm and learning from guys like Alan Irvine is invaluable.”Ferguson, who confirmed he plans to settle back in the UK after a period living in Majorca, also revealed his favourite Everton goal was from a Merseyside derby.In a webchat with the club’s website he said: “The one against Liverpool when I turned on the edge of the box and rammed it in the bottom corner. It was unexpected and people were surprised at how quickly I was able to turn and beat the keeper from there.” Meanwhile, Phil Jagielka has thanked Everton fans for helping the team turn a corner. Back-to-back wins have lifted the Blues up to ninth place and lifted morale after a difficult run. The England defender said: “The supporters were fantastic (at Bolton), they always are, especially in the local away games – they always come in their thousands. “That was obviously off the back of another good showing the week before and we are all looking forward to the next game against Stoke.” Victory at Bolton also provided a welcome clean sheet – only the Blues’ second of the campaign – and Jagielka was keen to praise the influence of Tim Howard. “Tim Howard and I have a good friendship, having played together for a number of years now. “There was a save (at Bolton) when we were 1-0 up and I wouldn’t say it turned the game but it certainly kept our momentum going”.
Everton FC’s Phil Jagielka salutes club’s fantastic support for helping the push up the Premier League table
by Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
Dec 1 2011
PHIL JAGIELKA has saluted Everton FC’s supporters for their part in helping the team rocket up the Premier League table. Successive victories over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Bolton Wanderers have seen David Moyes’s Everton FC side move from 17th up to a healthy 8th position. Everton were backed by a raucous travelling army of more than 5,000 during their 2-0 win at the Reebok last weekend. And, ahead of Sunday’s Goodison showdown with Stoke City, Jagielka is convinced the fans can again make a difference. “The supporters were fantastic (at Bolton), they always are, especially in the local away games – they always come in their thousands,” said the centre-back.
“That was obviously off the back of another good showing the week before and we are all looking forward to the next game against Stoke.” The clean sheet against Bolton, albeit against 10 men for more than three-quarters of the match, was only Everton’s second of the season, and Jagielka has praised the contribution of fellow defensive mainstays, goalkeeper Tim Howard and left-back Leighton Baines. “Tim Howard and I have a good friendship, having played together for a number of years now,” he said. “I always try and back him up and make his job as easy as possible and vice versa. There was a save when we were 1-0 up and I wouldn’t say it turned the game but it certainly kept our momentum going. “Bainesy was terrific again and had he shot a foot lower or passed a yard the other way he could easily have got another goal and assist. “He has been fantastic for us with his set-pieces and his all-round play. At Bolton he was like another left winger.” Meanwhile, Everton’s director of communication Ian Ross has left the club. Everton were forced to mount an internal investigation 10 days ago after private e-mails from Mr Ross about the club’s chief executive Robert Elstone were published on the internet. The correspondence, purporting to be from Mr Ross, was highly critical of Mr Elstone’s leadership, spoke of a culture of paranoia inside Goodison Park and described Goodison as like “working in a kindergarten.” One mail from Mr Ross suggested that Mr Elstone was “unfit to lead” and heading for some kind of “breakdown.” Ross, who had been a media officer at Everton FC for 11 years after a highly respected career in journalism, had been expected to switch to a different department inside Goodison. However it was confirmed yesterday that he had now left the club. There was no official comment from Goodison officials. It emerged yesterday that Everton paid £2,931,127.10 in agent fees over the period of October 1 2010 to September 30 this year. Eleven Premier League clubs paid more, the highest total of which was Manchester City’s of almost £10m.
Bluewatch: Gary Speed set the perfect example for future football stars
by James Connor, Liverpool Daily Post
Dec 1 2011
FOOTBALL has been overshadowed this week by the shocking news of Gary Speed’s death.
Former colleagues and team-mates have been unanimous in describing Speed as a gentleman and a great friend. What has maybe been a little overlooked is what the fans saw of Gary Speed – he was a brilliantly gifted footballer who was among the best of his generation playing in the Premier League. He had a natural football ability and style, resembling a latter-day Colin Harvey. His emergence into the Leeds United side – that would quickly go on to become League Champions – was quickly followed by declarations from in-the-know Blues that the youngster was a boyhood Evertonian. Inevitably the Goodison faithful coveted a transfer move for Speed from that moment, but with Everton sinking as Leeds’ star was rising that prospect looked bleak. But thanks to Joe Royle’s renaissance job at Goodison the Blues were able to celebrate the signature of one of our own in 1996. His move back home illustrated Everton’s return to the forefront of English football. A league champion already, Speed was widely regarded as Leeds’ best player by this time – and they were still a decent outfit back then. At the time there was no better British midfielder in the country, and though he only spent two years at the club, he left enough memories to highlight why he was so highly regarded. A debut goal against a much-hyped Newcastle United – including the world’s most expensive footballer, Alan Shearer. A hat-trick in an electric Everton display as they beat Southampton 7-1. A header to score at Anfield in the derby, earning Everton a draw – and showing up David James’s astonishingly slow reactions. And he was club captain – surely a dream for any boyhood Evertonian. He could have, and should have, played the rest of his career at Goodison. He would have been a perfect fit for David Moyes’s Everton with his dedication to hard work, fitness and ability. But Gary Speed was not the first Evertonian to be sold far too early by the club. And he wasn’t the last either. It’s a list that stretches back to Tommy Lawton and Joe Mercer to Alan Ball, right the way up to Wayne Rooney. Speed’s spell at Everton coincided with a rare period of success for the Blues. And he played no small part in that achievement. Along with Kanchelskis and Ferguson he was a leading light on the pitch and a firm fans’ favourite. After he left the chasm in midfield was there for all to see. Indeed it took Everton years to find a midfielder as accomplished as the Welshman. Possibly only when Mikel Arteta arrived did Evertonians feel they had a player steeped in similar quality and as reliable as Gary Speed. The midfield stars of Everton today are, of course, Marouane Fellaini, Jack Rodwell and the emerging Ross Barkley. That trio would do well to watch some of Gary Speed’s finest performances. They came when he was wearing Everton blue, and he set the perfect example.
Everton FC must bring in experience to help Louis Saha score, says Neville Southall
by Our Correspondent, Liverpool Echo
Dec 2 2011
FC should put their faith in older, wiser heads when looking to recruit a striker in January.
The former Toffees and Wales legend has been frustrated by Everton FC's lack of goals so far this season, and reckons they should make a reliable but short-term investment in the transfer market to fire them up the table. Southall, who made an extraordinary 578 appearances during Everton’s most successful era, feels they will be priced out of the running for Europe’s young hot-shots but insists that might not be a bad thing. If you say that Victor Anichebe and Apostolos Vellios are still youngsters learning their trade, and Tim Cahill is a midfielder who gives you goals as a bonus, then the only main, experienced striker is Louis Saha,” he says. “That’s far from ideal. It’s a lot of pressure on Louis, and for reasons out of his control you're unlikely to get a full season from him anyway. “The problem is everyone wants to buy a goal scorer, but we hear it all the time – they cost a lot of money. “Everton’s catch-22 is that if you add 10 goals to that side each season they’d be right up there.” Southall believes David Moyes could benefit from scouring European football’s ageing greats. “Maybe discount Thierry Henry because I couldn’t see him playing for anyone other than Arsenal,” he says. “But there’s people like Filippo Inzaghi – OK the guy is 38 but even if you get him on loan and he just gives you until the end of the season. I think you want to be looking at guys who have turned 30. Experienced, gnarled centre forwards who have played at a top level in England, Holland, Germany or Belgium.” Serie A giants AC Milan have told Inzaghi he will not get a new deal in the summer, and could be released in January, with Blackburn Rovers also interested.
“Everton need forwards who can do a short-term job and won’t cost a lot, at least until they can maybe sell the club and bring in funds to try and sign the strikers who the Chelseas and Manchester Citys of this world want.” Southall believes Everton can continue their recovery from a difficult run of fixtures in October and November by recording their third consecutive win against Stole City on Sunday. But the one-time Wales caretaker boss warns the Blues must hit the ground running if they are to take advantage of weary legs in the Potters’ ranks, after Tony Pulis’ side took on Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League last night. “Stoke have struggled after they’ve been in Europe but they’re the sort of team who will only tire if you start well, get at them and remind them of their heavy legs. “They’ve probably had to play in tough weather conditions on a heavy, energy sapping pitch yesterday so they won’t be flying into the game.” Southall believes the game will already have an extra emotional charge due to the tributes planned for his countryman, and former Everton skipper Gary Speed. “It’s going to be an emotional day anyway,” says Southall, who says he is still reeling from the news of Speed’s suicide last Sunday. “There will probably be a special atmosphere in the ground. Everton will need to close Stoke down early.” Everton recorded only their second clean sheet of the season in their last run-out against Bolton, but Southall insists the blame for that does not necessarily lie with their back-line. He said: “They don’t score enough goals,” he says. “You can defend from the front, and take pressure off your defence by scoring a few in games. “It’s easy to look at the defence but if you’re not scoring, every mistake counts at the back.” Tickets for Sunday's match against Stoke are available at a reduced rate of £25 for adults and £12.50 for juniors.
David Prentice: Why Gary Speed's death shows that sport must show more compassion to those under pressure
Dec 2 2011
IT WASN’T very long ago that a former footballer came to see me in this office, initially to ask me to write his autobiography. During the course of that conversation, however, a harrowing tale of personal torment was revealed – anguish which had culminated in his planned suicide. Fortunately a family member found him before he could take that irrevocable step. He has now completely conquered those personal demons, is happy, relaxed and embarrassed to even look back on that bleak chapter of his life. Others aren’t so fortunate. It was reported this week that more than 10 top footballers have begged for help with depression following Gary Speed’s tragedy. The players contacted the Sporting Chance clinic complaining they have been struggling with the pressures and stresses of the game at the very highest level. And the PFA admitted it fears that may just be the tip of the iceberg. Any form of mental weakness is still sneered at in the blokey world of professional football. It has been 12 years since John Gregory reacted to Stan Collymore’s admission of depression by saying "Stress? Stress is the 29-year-old at Rochdale with only three months remaining on his contract, a wife, three kids and a mortgage. That is stress." If there has been a shift in attitudes, it is negligible. We still think of the life of a professional footballer as being every young man’s dream job – and that anyone who can’t hack it should ‘pull themselves together’. But that dream CAN become a nightmare. And someone who has suffered, Celtic boss Neil Lennon, has argued that being told to ‘pull yourself together’ is one of the most damaging comments made to players in the downward spiral. Being told to snap yourself out of it can be the worst thing that anyone can say to you because you are fighting it (depression) yourself and the last thing you need is someone putting you down – you are feeling bad enough as it is," he said. The simple fact is that few of us can contemplate the unique pressures that come with a job as a professional footballer.
You play a sport you love on a daily basis, are supremely well rewarded and sometimes, receive adulation and applause. More often, though, you are criticised – and in this internet age of web forums, Twitter feeds, phone-ins and Facebook pages, that abuse can be relentless – often from your own mates. Dressing room ‘banter’ is cruel.
Weakness and deficiencies are pounced upon and ridiculed. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, apparently. But it’s the first part of that saying which is so troubling this week of all weeks. Mick Rathbone revealed that vulnerability in his ultimately heartwarming autobiography The Smell Of Football. Baz became so tormented by nerves and a crippling low self esteem that he tried to quit football to take up a job at Dyno Rod. His team-mates didn’t help. Ultimately it was his manager, Jim Smith, who saved his career – by packing him off to another club. Despite all the talk of team spirit, camaraderie, bonding and players putting in a shift for each other, football is essentially a very lonely sport. I’ve heard many, many players utter the mantra "there are no friends in football." It’s spoken with a smile, worn like a badge of mental strength – but essentially it means your best pal may want your place in the team, your job, your livelihood, and you’ve got to smile and joke about it for the good of the squad. Publicly that is. Privately, who knows what’s going on in a player’s head. Cricket actually claims the highest suicide rate of any major sport – incredibly, more than 100 cricketers have ended their own lives, the most recent being Peter Roebuck who threw himself from a hotel window. But the horrific experiences of Robert Enke and Gary Speed, those players who have sought help from Sporting Chance and the admissions of men like Stan Collymore, Neil Lennon and Paul Gascoigne have now thrown football into grim focus. The knee-jerk reaction of most observers, indeed the natural reaction to any subject we’re uncomfortable with, is to joke. Gazza turning up to ‘help’ Raoul Moat with a fishing rod, lager and chicken under his arm was mocked, while the announcement that Rangers goalkeeper Andy Goram was suffering from schizophrenia caused a Dundee crowd to cry: "Two Andy Gorams, there’s only two Andy Gorams." Only by showing more understanding, more compassion and more acceptance of the mental pressures afflicting top sportsmen can persuade more sufferers to open up. Only by not dismissing troubled stars as ‘weak’ can we persuade more to seek help. And only by listening, not mocking, can we perhaps try and prevent tragedies like the one which shook every one of us to the core last Sunday’s. We will probably never know what forced such a decent, confident and seemingly well adjusted man as Gary Speed to take such a horrible step. But by accepting the pressures modern footballers endure, we can maybe help stop it happening again.
Howard Kendall: Stoke keen to restore belief at Everton FC
Dec 2 2011
STOKE CITY don’t arrive at Goodison Park on Sunday in the best domestic form. They’ve had a rotten run, but managed to turn it around with their last result against struggling Blackburn Rovers and maybe that’s restored a bit of belief. I have a lot of time for Stoke and their chairman Peter Coates, who asked me to return to the club I once player-managed when I’d arrived back from Spain. At the time Manchester City also made me an offer, and it was no contest – but the Potters retain a place in my affection. Their problem will have been maintaining players’ trust in the system Tony Pulis plays when results haven’t been going for them. When you’re winning games, as they so often have in recent seasons, everyone in the dressing room buys into the direct, route one approach because it works.
But then when things aren’t going to plan, Pulis will be aware that suddenly people ask questions about his style and methods. It’s human nature. At least they have a good Wirral lad leading their forward line in Jon Walters. His father is an Evertonian and we regularly bump into each other in the Number Nine Lounge at Goodison. He’s that much of a blue that he’s normally there even when Stoke are playing at home! But his son is doing very well, and it’s testament to him that Pulis usually only plays strikers Peter Crouch or Kenwyne Jones with Walters – rarely the two of them together. A FINAL word on the many heartfelt obituaries to Gary Speed. Judging from the volume of tributes alone it’s clear to see the respect he commanded in football as a player and a person.
Everton FC legend Neville Southall backs 'honourary Scouser' Tim Cahill to come good
by Greg O'Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
Dec 2 2011
TIM CAHILL deserves to be made an honorary Scouser according to Everton FC legend Neville Southall – who insists the Aussie will soon return to goal-scoring form.
Southall likened the midfielder, who turns 32 next Tuesday, to Everton FC greats Andy Gray and Peter Reid and said his overall contribution to the team cannot be underestimated.
And the former goalkeeping great says Sydney-born Cahill could easily have been from Speke. “He should be an honorary Scouser,” he said. “The lad plays like a Scouser, he represents the city with class. On the pitch he is aggressive, committed and niggly – a hard player in a hard city. But he’s also fair and a great ambassador for the club – just like a local lad. “I’ve heard bits of criticism of him because he hasn’t scored this year, and he’ll be as annoyed about that as anyone else, but it’s ridiculous. “I read that Messi got slaughtered by some Spanish newspapers because he hasn’t scored for a few games – it’s a joke. These are class players. “Tim is still doing the same thing, making the same runs, and getting in defenders’ faces. The goals will be back. “Andy Gray, Sharpie, players of that calibre all had lean spells in front of goal and then they’d hit five in six. “For me Tim has got bits of them in him and a bit of Peter Reid as well. He’s the type of player you hate to play against, as an opponent you see him moaning like Heathie used to and it annoys you. Every team needs a moaner! “Tim’s vastly under-rated and he has a big contribution defending back in his own area as well because he’s one of the best headers of a ball in the league.” Everton could be boosted for Sunday’s visit of Stoke City by the return of two key players. Defender Sylvain Distin has returned to training after recovering from a groin injury, and Jack Rodwell is making progress with his bid to shake off a rib niggle. And the 20-year-old England midfielder has already proved he is unafraid of putting in extra hard work in training this term, by taking on extra sessions to capitalise on the breakthrough he is enjoying. “Jack’s training is really good at the moment,” said assistant manager Steve Round. “He is working really hard and has been doing extra sessions with me in the afternoons. “He is really looking the part and if he carries on going like he is then we will have an outstanding player on our hands. “This season he has stepped it up a bit. Last season he had a bit of a dip but that is understandable – he is a young player. “Young players never really go in a straight line from being okay to being brilliant – it goes in waves. Last season he dipped a bit. He had injuries, he could not get any rhythm and his confidence suffered. “This year he has come on again, he has built back towards it. “I never doubted he would. He has the talent, the mental strength and the physical capabilities required.” Royston Drenthe and Phil Neville will also undergo fitness tests today. Meanwhile, highly-rated Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson will train with the Blues next week. The 22-year-old had been linked with a trial at Manchester United but when that did not materialise, Moyes – who noticed Johnson when he played against the Blues on their pre-season tour of America – moved in.
Returning Sylvain Distin ready to help Everton FC repel Stoke’s aerial bombardment
by Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
Dec 2 2011
SYLVAIN DISTIN is ready to help Everton FC repel Stoke City’s aerial bombardment after returning to training this week. Distin has been limited to just 49 minutes of first-team football since October 26 having been hampered by a groin problem. The French centre-back’s only appearance since then came as a first-half substitute in the 2-1 defeat at Newcastle United almost a month ago. But the 33-year-old has been back working with his team-mates since Monday, and will now come into contention for a recall ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash against Stoke at Goodison. Distin could be one of four players to return, with Phil Neville, Royston Drenthe and Jack Rodwell all being assessed this week. Rodwell, who missed last Saturday’s win at Bolton Wanderers with a rib problem, has been taking on extra training sessions to help build on the momentum of a season that has already seen him secure a regular first-team slot in David Moyes’s midfield and a full England debut. And Everton assistant manager Steve Round said: “He is working really hard and has been doing extra sessions with me in the afternoons. “He is really looking the part and if he carries on going like he is then we will have an outstanding player on our hands. This season he has stepped it up a bit. Last season he had a bit of a dip but that is understandable – he is a young player. “Young players never really go in a straight line from being okay to being brilliant – it goes in waves. “His waves have been quite flat. He has been on high plain, but last season he dipped a bit. He had injuries, he could not get any rhythm and his confidence suffered. This year he has come on again, he has built back towards it. I never doubted he would. He has the talent, the mental strength and the physical capabilities required. If he continues to develop and continues to strive towards being the best he can be then the sky is the limit.” Meanwhile, Sean Johnson, the 22-year-old first-choice goalkeeper at MLS side Chicago Fire, will start a week-long training stint at Finch Farm on Sunday. “It’s a very good thing,” said Fire head coach Frank Klopas. “For a young goalkeeper like Sean, it’s great that he’s continuing to train and develop in the off-season.
“He’ll be in a different environment where he can learn from a talented keeper in Tim Howard and go up against Premier League players. It benefits us as much as it does for him to have that experience.” Tickets for Sunday’s match against Stoke are still available at a reduced rate of £25 for adults and £12.50 for juniors.
Royal Blue: Landon Donovan Everton FC return far from nailed-on
by Greg O'Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
Dec 3 2011
LANDON DONOVAN may yet decide to return to Everton FC for a second loan spell in January, but any fans labouring under the impression it is a done-deal are mistaken.David Moyes has admitted he is keen to reinvigorate his team with a sprinkling of the Californian’s magic dust again when the transfer window opens, but so far there has been little response either way from the other side of the Atlantic.This week an opportunistic Toffees fan asked Donovan about the prospect of coming back to Goodison during an internet webchat, and his answer echoed the noncommittal noises he made before deciding to give it a miss last year.“I loved my time there and would welcome the opportunity to go back some day. I’m going to take the next few weeks to relax and rest my body, then decided what my future holds.”The difference between next month, and January 2010 when Donovan first arrived is that the USA all time leading goalscorer most likely no longer feels he has a point to prove.Back then he was hungry to show he could play at the top level in Europe after a previous loan spell in German flopped.As a result that hunger to prove himself is unlikely to still reside in Donovan’s psyche, and hence the lure of swopping LA’s beaches for the freezing cold of a Premier League winter could be less than compelling.
Royal Blue: Everton FC Blue Santas hit city centre
by Greg O'Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
Dec 3 2011
CHRISTMAS shoppers will receive an early gift from Everton this weekend as hundreds of Blue Santa hats are handed out in the city centre.Six Blue Santas will descend on Liverpool One on Saturday morning to bring some festive cheer to the shopping centre.You can pick up a free Blue Santa hat from any one of the Blue Santas outside the Everton Two store and on South John Street. Blue Santas will also be pounding the streets of Liverpool on Sunday to run the Santa Dash. Everton in the Community, is recruiting fans to raise funds, and runners can watch the Stoke game at a discounted price.
Barry Horne: Time for Everton FC to put Apostolos Vellios under starters orders
by Barry Horne, Liverpool Echo
Dec 3 2011
IN a week dominated by the tragic events of last Sunday, Everton FC must be looking forward with some confidence to the Christmas fixture list.For all of the talk of doom and gloom, two wins on the bounce have lifted us into the top half of the table. And despite recent gloomy predictions, come the New Year Everton FC could be firmly established in the top eight.Last weekend, just as against Wolves, Everton were by far the better team and fully deserved victory and it was great to see Apostolos Vellios on the scoresheet with a strike which now makes him the club’s top scorer!David Moyes has challenged the young Greek to prove he is worth a starting place more regularly, but you can only go so far towards doing that in training.The only way that you can truly prove your worth from the start is to be given the chance to start.That time, surely, can’t be too far away.There are a lot of teams in the Premier League at the moment who are decent, up to a point. I am thinking about the likes of Swansea, Wigan, Wolves, Bolton and Norwich, sides who all have nothing much between them.More than ever in previous years, teams are struggling to put the ball in the back of the net and obviously in recent weeks that has been an issue for Everton.Hopefully Tim Cahill’s (pictured left) return to full fitness and sharpness will help him to start scoring again.And if Vellios can continue to score on a consistent basis, and Louis Saha can build on his run of appearances with goals, that will be more than enough to separate Everton from those aforementioned teams who are more likely to be associated with a difficult second half of the season.
Royal Blue: Everton FC must not fear becoming Manchester City - they should covet it
by Greg O'Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
Dec 3 2011
AS EVER Neville Southall was engaging, articulate and impassioned when talking to the ECHO about his beloved Everton FC this week.Big Nev could have filled three note-pads with his various and heart-felt opinions on all things Everton FC.It’s heart-warming to discover that a man considered so much part of the fabric and folklore of the club cares so deeply about it, and remains a completely biased fan, unlike for example, Andy Gray.But there was one thing Southall said that is likely to find few willing endorsers.Discussing the ever-pressing requirement to allow David Moyes to compete in the transfer market, he said.“I want to see the club sold but I want to see it sold to the right people – I wouldn’t want them to become like Manchester City.“You want someone who knows the history of the club and the type of people who go to the games. The fans want someone who understand the mentality of them and the club.”This is absolutely not a criticism of Southall – his credentials are beyond reproach.His sentiment is entirely understandable, and reflects the belief of many Evertonians that becoming ‘like Manchester City’ would in some way see the club degraded – a part of its identity lost.They pine for an owner with pockets as deep as Sheikh Mansour of the Etihad stadium but with a Scouse accent, and a heritage of sitting on the Gwladys Street as a lad.The problem is, they’re dreaming of the impossible.Bill Kenwright is a wealthy Evertonian, and as the man himself readily accepts, he simply isn’t wealthy enough for the modern Premier League era.The reality is that if Everton’s fanbase was offered the chance to be taken over by a Saudi oil-billionaire who had never so much as stepped foot in L4, the majority would bite your hand (and arm, and torso) off.Football is evolving. Clubs are evolving. The wealthy owners of Chelsea and Manchester City have helped take both clubs to a new, successful chapter in their history, just like the Moores family did for Everton all those years ago.“Across the park they made the mistake of selling to two Yanks and it was disastrous,” said Nev. “It has got to be the right people. There is a massive danger in football now of people coming in and buying clubs, then running them into the ground. Portsmouth stand out. “If Bill Kenwright turns away 300 people but gets the right one in the long-term, people will be grateful.”It must undoubtedly be a painstaking task to find the right people to take Everton forward.As Southall rightly contends, the scare stories and ill-omens elsewhere are stark.Remember the triumphant plans Portsmouth released to build a new £600m dockland stadium on the city’s harbour? As their disastrous takeover deteriorated into administration and acrimony, those plans were lost – and now even redeveloping Fratton Park appears a pipe-dream.But fear of the unknown cannot be allowed to colour opinion on the nationality of Everton’s potential future owners. Would anyone care if they were from Mars and only stumbled across Everton by a Google mistake, if they finally took the club to the next level?After all, the Fenway Sports Group who have revived Liverpool so emphatically, admitted they had never heard of the Reds before an employee e-mailed top brass to suggest the Anfield club would be perfect candidates for a takeover.The Abu Dhabi-based owners of City have actually made great strides to ensure change away from the playing field is incremental and in line with tradition.Ex-players remain on the pay-roll as ambassadors – the club retains a beating Mancunian heart.It is not the Abu Dhabi way to steam-roller tradition or lavish their wealth with tacky haste.Ultimately, should that Emirate state harbour another group interested in saving Everton – nobody would complain. In the long-term, they’d be grateful.
Everton FC v Stoke City Preview: David Moyes eager not to put burden of expectation onto Apostolos Vellios’ shoulders
by Greg O'Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
Dec 3 2011
Everton's Apostolos Vellios (left) scores his side's first goal of the game during the Barclays Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London.DAVID Moyes is eager not to place unnecessary expectations onto the broad shoulders of Everton FC youngster Apostolos Vellios.He may be quietly pleased, surprised even, by the teenager’s return of three goals so far this season from just 150 minutes of cameo appearances.But the Everton FC boss is quietly working on taking the Greece U-21 forward’s game to the next level - and for that he has partly sought the help of a former number nine who had it all.Vellios revealed after his impressive strike against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium last Sunday, that he had been taking part in some extra coaching sessions with Duncan Ferguson during the Scot’s part-time coaching tenure at Finch Farm. “I asked Duncan to show him a bit about holding the ball up, handling players coming through the back of you, retaining possession better and the like,” says Moyes as he ponders how best to defend against Stoke City’s aerial threat on Sunday.“You know Duncan – he could hold you off with one arm and keep the ball two feet away.“Duncan’s done terrific, he’s come in every day, he’s not missed one, and he’s there watching the Under 18s. He’s not getting any badges yet but has certainly been putting the hours in.”Vellios cost Everton just £250,000 last January, his unearthing testament to the ability of former scout Mick Doherty who also spotted Seamus Coleman and was subsequently poached by Chelsea.And Moyes admits that, although he has one of the finest reputations in football for finding quality bargains, he still needs convincing when a player has such a relatively low value.“When you pay what we did, 100 grand or so, you’re always a bit sceptical, especially when it’s a young player,” he says.“But our needs were such that he had to go in, and his stature and size gives him a bit of presence.”Ironically given his height and athletic frame, Moyes says Vellios must develop a more robust element to his game.“He’s got quite silky feet, technically he’s quite good, it’s just the physical side of things we’re having to work more on,” he says. “Things like keeping the ball, linking play and generally just getting used to it. “He scored last week but really I didn’t think he worked hard enough – he’s got a bit more to give yet.“We’ve got more from him than we thought at this stage, though.”The fixtures will pile up thick and fast for Everton over the festive period, and Moyes hinted that Everton fans will see more of the Greek striker.“Depending how he develops we will see a bit more from him in the second half of the season,” he says.“But he wants to score, he wants to get in and around the six yard box, and when he gets in there he has technically good feet and is getting better too.“I’m not sure how many balls he’d win if you knocked it up there to him but when it’s crossed into the box he gets on the end of it.“But there’s more development to come yet and for us to be thinking he’s the answer to our problems isn’t the case.” Those ‘problems’ remain clear for all to see - a damaging lack of goals continue to hamper Everton’s development, and there remains a question mark over whether that can be addressed in the January transfer market.Moyes said: “I need to see what we can do and what we can’t in January.“But that time isn’t always the best to purchase, either. I honestly have no idea what I’ll have to spend in January.“We needed it (a striker) last year as well as we did, but getting someone who could make a difference to Everton would cost us.”Sunday’s opponents Stoke arrive in buoyant mood after securing their passage into the knock-out phase of the Europa League ahead of schedule.And although the Potters have tended to struggle back on the domestic front after their mid-week European exertions, Moyes does not predict an easy three points.“Stoke changed about nine players in midweek and if you can do that it tells you they have a decent squad,” he says.“To get a result against Dynamo Kiev with nine changes from people who played in the Premier League last week shows you.“We were in Europe a couple of years ago and couldn’t do it. We went to Benfica and one of the later games at home, we had to give three or four young players a debut.“But Stoke have a decent sized squad and now they’ve qualified from the group, can concentrate more on other games.“They think they’ve suffered a little bit because of Europe, though, and it is tough. But they were at home on Thursday, and rested players, so I think they will have the majority of them fit to play us.”
Everton FC boss David Moyes urges EFC to prove their revival is for real
by Greg O'Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
Dec 3 2011
DAVID MOYES has challenged his Everton FC side to prove that their mini-revival is built to last.Everton FC will attempt to win their third consecutive Premier League game when they host Stoke City on Sunday, after wins over Wolves and Bolton.Moyes has been heartened by his side’s upturn in form following a difficult few months when they lost five of their six games, but he insists he needs more proof before he can be confident they have really turned a corner.He said: “We have a wee bit to go on at the moment. We’ve won a couple of games, but if those results had gone against us we could have been fourth from the bottom of the league rather than moving up as we have. “It could be that we’re just putting on a bit of make-up so we have to make sure that we are for real and can sustain a place in the top half.“We have a bit of work to do yet to get that because if you lose a couple, you can easily drop away again.”Everton are currently ninth in the table, and victory over Tony Pulis’ men could see them overhaul Aston Villa in eighth place. But Moyes is taking nothing for granted and is just happy to be looking up the table for now. “We’re trying to get a bit of a run going and if we get anywhere near the top half at the moment, it will be great,” he said. The Blues boss hopes to have a trio of injured players available again tomorrow, with captain Phil Neville (hamstring), Jack Rodwell (rib), and Sylvain Distin (groin) all on the brink of a return – but winger Royston Drenthe faces a fitness test as he struggles to shake off an ankle problem.Meanwhile, Seamus Coleman has vowed to play with more positivity as he looks to recapture top form.The Irishman turned in an energetic performance in the 2-0 win over Bolton last weekend, and says he has had to overcome the temptation to play within himself when his form has dipped.He said “Sometimes it goes for you and sometimes it doesn’t. Maybe at the start of the season I was not as positive as I should have been. “But against Wolves I thought ‘I am going to go back to being positive’ and it has gone well for me. I want to keep that going now.“I think you know yourself when you are doing well, and when you are not doing well and need to change things.”
Stoke City: Meet the Everton players likely to face Stoke City
Saturday, December 03, 2011
BETWEEN THE STICKS (This is staffordshire)
Not far shy of 250 appearances between the sticks since his £3m move from Manchester United in 2007.The 32-year-old American international kept a clean sheet at Bolton last week, only his second in a dozen games since the start of the season.
AT THE BACK
Everton born and bred, the 30-year-old full-back has been an intermittent feature over the past decade and now has more than 250 senior appearances to his name.Despite all those games, he has yet to notch a single goal for the club he has been with since a boy.
Goals have been in relatively bountiful supply for this full-back thanks to that hammer of a left foot at set-pieces.Now recognised as Ashley Cole's understudy at international level, the diminutive 26-year-old netted the winner from the penalty spot in Everton's last home game against Wolves.
The tough-tackling Dutchman has been deputising for Sylvan Distin in recent weeks, but is more commonly found in central midfield. Started his senior career at Ajax and is now into his third season on Merseyside following a big-money move from Atletico Madrid.
Widely regarded as one of England's better centre-halves, he may even have been a regular by now had it not been for a serious knee injury a couple of seasons ago.Now 29, he cut his teeth at Sheffield United for many seasons before a £4m move four years ago... surely one of manager David Moyes's best buys.
IN THE MIDDLE
Has been known to play right-back, but that seems a waste with all that pace and talent on offer in the final third.
The 23-year-old Irishman, who began his career at Sligo Rovers and had a loan spell at Blackpool, has a dozen appearances to his name this season to underline the manager's growing faith.
Another to progress through the youth ranks and stick it out at Everton past the age of 30.The son of a Turkish-Cypriot father, he was part of the FA Youth Cup winning team of 1998 and he now has nigh on 300 games to his name.
Six foot, four inches tall – five foot, four inches without the hair – the Belgian burst on to the English scene with a flurry of goals and impressive displays when first joining from Standard Liege three years ago.
The 24-year-old midfielder has stacked up 31 yellow cards and one red in his 108 appearances to date for the Toffees.
Now 31, the Aussie international is said to be surplus to Everton's long-term requirements and could be available next summer, if not in January.
A record of 54 goals in 202 league games for Everton bears testament to his role as an attacking midfielder, but has ominously gone 24 club appearances since his last goal.
The talented and fleet-footed Muscovite has yet to fully justify that near £9m transfer fee – outrageously extravagant by Everton's recent standards – that brought him to these shores in 2009.
Thirty starts and 25 sub appearances in the Premier League suggests the 26-year-old winger hasn't quite won the confidence of his manager.
No questioning the 33-year-old Frenchman's quality, just his fitness and allegedly precious approach.
Has been in this country since 1999 thanks to spells at Newcastle (loan), Fulham and Manchester United before setting off down the East Lancs Road to Goodison Park in 2008.
ON THE BENCH
The 28-year-old Slovakia goalkeeper has been restricted to the Carling Cup since joining from Legia Warsaw in July 2010.
A teenage German defender of Turkish ancestry who has yet to make a first-team appearance.
High hopes for this 17-year-old midfielder who made his debut earlier this season and clocked up his fifth appearance as a sub at Bolton last time out.
The Greek teenager, an acquisition from Iraklis Salonika last January, stepped off the bench to score his third goal for the club in last weekend's 2-0 win at Bolton.
A £1m signing from Strasbourg last year, the 21-year-old Frenchman made a rare appearance from the bench at Bolton last weekend.
The 24-year-old Argentinian was signed on loan from Tigres in the summer.
The teenage Liverpudlian-born striker has progressed through the youth ranks and is yet to make his senior debut.
Denis Smith: Playing at Everton is a Brit of a tall order
Saturday, December 03, 2011
The Sentinel (ThisisStaffordshire)
T HE prospect of playing Everton away is a bit like the prospect of playing Stoke away... nobody really relishes it too much.That's some compliment to Stoke, when you think about it, because Everton have never been out of the top flight in their history.
So why the comparison?
Because Everton are very organised, difficult to break down, they work hard and invariably give you a tough game.They are not going to rip you to pieces, so you rarely see them winning by three, four or five, but look how common a 1-0 or 2-0 home win for Everton has been over the years.They don't score too many, but nor do they concede many either.Throw in a fervent home crowd that always seems to be on top of you, and you can well understand the comparisons with Stoke.The comparisons don't end there, either, for the relationship between David Moyes and chairman Bill Kenwright is familiar to us in these parts.As a manager, you really can't put a price on knowing your boss will do everything reasonably possible to help you out, especially during the tough times.Moyes, like Tony Pulis, will also demand relentless commitment from his players.Perhaps the one major difference is that Moyes will always have his full-backs bombing on if he can.That's why I think a crucial area of the game tomorrow will be down the Everton left.That's because left-back Leighton Baines loves to get forward and can do so much damage with that left foot of his.So do Stoke fight fire with fire by keeping Jermaine Pennant in their starting line-up to try and occupy Baines in his own half?Or will Tony go for the safer option of playing a Dean Whitehead on that side of the field?I thought Pennant, pictured below, did a superb job defensively in helping his full-back take care of Junior Hoillet in against Blackburn last week.But seeing Pennant play against Dynamo Kiev on Thursday may mean he starts on the bench.Tony will be conscious that Everton will pack their midfield in a favoured 4-5-1, so he will want numbers in there by either tucking in tight from the wings, or asking Jon Walters to drop even deeper.What strikes me about Everton's central midfielders at present - Tim Cahill, Marouane Fellaini and Leon Osman - is that all are naturally attacking midfielders.With Jack Rodwell and Phil Neville injured, and Johnny Heitinga having to fill in for the injured Sylvan Distin in central defence, Everton have lacked a defensive-minded midfielder.It will be interesting to see if we get a glimpse of 17-year-old midfielder Ross Barkley at any stage tomorrow.I know a few of the backroom staff at Everton and they aren't prone to exaggerate, but they absolutely love him and feel he has the ability to follow in the footsteps of Wayne Rooney.I don't anticipate too many changes to Stoke's line-up after that win over Blackburn. But I have to say that one player who enhanced his case this week was Cameron Jerome.Not so much in attack, where he did OK against Kiev, but his performance when he went out wide. That could be another string to his bow and an option for Tony.
Sttoke City: Old loyalties put on hold as Walters goes gunning for club he supported as a boy
Saturday, December 03, 2011
J ON Walters hopes his friends aren't speaking to him – at least for a while – after tomorrow's Premier League match at Everton.The Stoke striker heads "home" to Goodison Park, the stadium in which he grew up watching football and where his family and friends are still regulars.He was the toast of Evertonians after scoring the winner in City's 1-0 victory over Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium on September 10, but he wants to help Stoke ruin the Toffees' afternoon tomorrow.He said: "As a kid I went to Everton and a lot of my family still do, but that's beside the point. I will be going there trying my hardest to score."My dad goes to every game, my brother will be there, and I have friends and other members of the family who are season-ticket holders."It was a good day against Liverpool, but let's hope I'm not so popular after Sunday."Walters says Stoke will head to Goodison Park with renewed confidence after ending their run of four successive Premier League defeats.They returned to form with Saturday's 3-1 home win over Blackburn before coming from behind to draw 1-1 with Dynamo Kiev at the Britannia Stadium on Thursday.He said: "There are always ups and downs in a season, but when you are going through a bad time you have to stand up and be counted."We have those sort of characters here, so hopefully we can take our form from the last two games into the match at Everton."City have lost the last four Sunday Premier League games they have played after a Thursday night Europa League match.However, Walters insists the players aren't looking for excuses about their difficult schedule. He added: "Whoever the manager picks, the team will be ready to go. It is a Sunday kick-off, so that means a few days to rest and do a bit of work on the training ground."The game gives Walters another chance to impress Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni ahead of next summer's European Championship finals in Poland and Ukraine.However, the striker says he is concentrating on keeping his place in the Stoke side and helping the Potters as they try to get a result at Goodison Park.Ricardo Fuller's return to fitness has strengthened a striker department which also features Peter Crouch, Kenwyne Jones and Cameron Jerome.Walters said: "It is important to play games and be in the manager's thoughts for club and country. But first and foremost it is club. Everything else is a bonus, I have always said that."It is important to have game time, but I don't just play up front. There have been many times when I have played on the left or right as well. If I am playing, then great."Tomorrow will be an emotional occasion at Goodison Park as the club pay tribute to their former player and captain Gary Speed, who died at his Cheshire home last Sunday.Walters added: "I grew up watching him at Everton. He was a legend there and my thoughts are with his family and anyone involved with him."
Stoke star wants to make Evertonian dad blue
03/11/11 By MirrorFootball
Jon Walters is on a mission to start a family feud and end his Stoke side’s travel sickness.Walters wants to get the cold shoulder off his folks by shooting down boyhood team Everton on Sunday.The Republic of Ireland star’s father is a Goodison Park season-ticket holder, and many more of his ¬relatives are die-hard Blues.As Tony Pulis’ men seek to secure just their second Premier League away win in 2011, Walters said: “I supported Everton as a kid, and a lot of my family do.
David Moyes pleased that Everton FC gamble on Apostelos Vellios is paying off
By Ian Doyle
Dec 3 2011
IT seems not a transfer window passes by without David Moyes being asked the question: are Everton FC going to buy a new striker?Finding the consistent 20-goals-a-season forward on a shoestring budget has become something of a Holy Grail for the Goodison manager in recent season.So far, not so good. Yakubu prospered before being cruelly struck down by serious Achilles damage, Jermaine Beckford came and went while Louis Saha is fighting against injury and age.Understandable, then, that there was barely a ripple of recognition when Moyes shelled out a minimal sum to sign teenage forward Apostolos Vellios from Greek side Iraklis in January.It was precisely the kind of gamble on untried or under-appreciated talent the Everton manager has been forced to take throughout much of his Goodison reign, often with success.After a smattering of substitute appearances last season, Vellios has been more involved this campaign with his clinching goal in last Saturday’s 2-0 win at Bolton Wanderers his third strike from the bench.And even Moyes admits that, while still very much rough around the edges, the 19-year-old Greece under-21 international, who will most likely be on bench duty again from tomorrow’s Premier League visit of Stoke City, has exceeded expectations.“When you pay what we did, 100 grand or so, you’re always a bit sceptical, especially when it’s a young player,” says the Goodison manager.“But our needs were such that he had to go in, and his stature and size gives him a bit of presence. “He’s got quite silky feet, technically he’s quite good, it’s just the physical side of things we’re having to work more on. Things like keeping the ball, linking play and generally just getting used to it.“He scored last week but really I didn’t think he worked hard enough – he’s got a bit more to give yet. We’ve got more from him than we thought at this stage, though.“Depending how he develops we will see a bit more from him in the second half of the season. But he wants to score, he wants to get in and around the six yard box, and when he gets in there he has technically good feet and is getting better too.“I’m not sure how many balls he’d win if you knocked it up there to him but when it’s crossed into the box he gets on the end of it. But there’s more development to come yet and for us to be thinking he’s the answer to our problems isn’t the case.”At least Vellios has been receiving some good advice, having revealed last week to taking lessons from Goodison legend Duncan Ferguson, who is helping out at Finch Farm while attempting to earn his coaching badges. “I asked Duncan to show him a bit about holding the ball up, handling players coming through the back of you, retaining possession better and the like,” adds Moyes. “You know Duncan – he could hold you off with one arm and keep the ball two feet away.“Duncan’s done terrific, he’s come in every day, he’s not missed one, and he’s there watching the Under 18s. He’s not getting any badges yet but has certainly been putting the hours in.”Of the perennial quest for a new forward – there remains talk of bolstering the squad with another loan move for Landon Donovan – Moyes says: “I need to see what we can do and what we can’t in January. But that time isn’t always the best to purchase, either. But I honestly have no idea what I’ll have to spend in January.“We needed it (a striker) last year as well as we did, but getting someone who could make a difference to Everton would cost us.” Another youngster who was brought to Everton for a small fee is Seamus Coleman, whose progress has seen become a full Republic of Ireland international.After 18 months of solid development, Coleman’s form wavered during the early part of this season only for the Irishman to rediscover his mojo in the recent wins over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Bolton Wanderers.“It has taken me quite a while to get going this season,” says Coleman. “Obviously the injury at the start didn't help me, but the last two or three games I have done well and am slowly getting back to where I was last season.“Sometimes it goes for you and sometimes it doesn’t. Maybe at the start of the season I was not as positive as I should have been.“But against Wolves I thought ‘I am going to go back to being positive’ and it has gone well for me. I want to keep that going now. “I think you know yourself when you are doing well and when you are not doing well and when you need to change things. Also, the coaching staff here and the manager here are brilliant and help you all the time. You learn and improve every day in training.”Back to back wins have catapulted the Blues up the table and Coleman is confident Everton are capable of finishing 2011 on a high note.“Everyone knows we had a difficult run of games,” he adds. “But the last two have been great and the way it is now two wins and you shoot right up the table. We have some winnable games coming up and we need to stay focused.”
Everton FC manager David Moyes has challenged players to maintain their revival
By Ian Doyle
Dec 3 2011
DAVID MOYES has challenged his Everton FC players to prove their recent revival isn’t just for show.The Goodison outfit have charged up the Premier League table from 17th to 8th in the past fortnight on the back of consecutive wins against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Bolton Wanderers.Having lost five of their previous six top-flight games, the change in fortunes has prompted talk that Moyes’s men have turned the corner following a trademark slow start to the campaign.And the Everton FC manager has urged his squad not to rest on their laurels when they entertain Stoke City tomorrow afternoon.“We have a wee bit to go at the moment,” said Moyes. “We’ve won a couple of games but if those results had gone against us we could have been fourth from bottom of the league rather than moving up as we have.“It could be that we’re just putting on a bit of make-up, so we have to make sure that we are for real and can sustain a place in the top half.“We have a bit of work to do yet to get that because if you lose a couple, you can easily drop away again.“We’re trying to get a bit of a run going and if we get anywhere near the top half at the moment, it will be great.”While Everton’s next away game is at in-form Arsenal, the remainder of their schedule before FA Cup third round day takes in presentable home games against Norwich City, Swansea City and Bolton, along with trips to Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion.Tomorrow’s opponents Stoke progressed beyond the first round of European competition for the first time ever with a 1-1 draw against Dynamo Kiev on Thursday in the Europa League.Although the Potters have made wholesale changes for their European games, their league form has suffered with four defeats in their last five top-flight outings.But Moyes said: “Stoke have a decent-sized squad and now they’ve qualified from the group, can concentrate more on other games.“They think they’ve suffered a little bit because of Europe, though, and it is tough. But they were at home on Thursday, rested players, so I think they will have the majority of them fit to play us.“They changed about nine players in midweek and if you can do that it tells you they have a decent squad. To get a result against Dynamo Kiev with nine changes from people who played in the Premier League last week shows you. “We were in Europe a couple of years ago and couldn’t do it. We went to Benfica and one of the later games at home, we had to give three or four young players a debut because we hadn’t got the numbers.”Moyes is hopeful of welcoming back three players for tomorrow’s game. Jack Rodwell (rib), Sylvain Distin (groin) and Phil Neville (hamstring) should return after absences, although a late decision will be made on Royston Drenthe’s fitness.
Everton's fighting spirit boosted by a little Dutch courage
Johnny Heitinga recognises the battling qualities that took Holland to the World Cup final in David
Sunday 4 December 2011
John Heitinga: 'You get a lot more bruises here but against physical opponents you have to use your brain a bit more.' Photograph: Howard Barlow for the Observer Johnny Heitinga has played in Holland, Spain and England, achieving a boyhood ambition formed in the country of his birth by going on to represent clubs in the two leagues he considers the best in Europe. After Ajax he played for Atlético Madrid in La Liga and is now in his third season at Everton. So when he says the Premier League is the best in the world he is well qualified to offer an opinion. "I don't say it is always the best football in the world," he says quickly, lest anyone should misconstrue his meaning. "But I have always liked English football and I still do. I think the Premier League is the best because of the atmosphere in the stadiums and the spirit of the players on the pitch. Every week there are unbelievable games. It's not easy to play here and that's why I say it's the best." It certainly cannot be easy playing for Everton at the moment, with even David Moyes's famous ingenuity being challenged by ever deepening financial despondency, but a man best known for being sent off in a World Cup final knows that the game is not always fair and the playing field rarely level. "You can see that the better teams in England at the moment are those that can spend most money," he says.
"It's not hard to work out. But that's the way football is and you need to deal with it. Our record against the bigger teams has not been too bad and up till this season we had particularly good results against Manchester City. OK, they beat us this season and they are top of the table but they have spent a ridiculous amount of money. When you have a small squad, like Everton, you have to view these things as a challenge. Liverpool didn't have such a good season last year but they spent £100m and now they are doing better. We can't afford that sort of quality injection, so we have to make the best of the quality we do have. Injuries are the most frustrating thing for a small squad, losing games through missing players can be hard to deal with." The rest Heitinga takes in his stride, as might be expected of an Anglophile from Holland. "I grew up watching English football, I knew exactly what to expect," the 28-year-old defender says. "Of course you don't get teams like Stoke or Blackburn in Spain. No one plays long balls. No team in Spain is even as tall as Stoke City. I'm not the tallest of players, especially for a centre-half, and there are some huge defenders and strikers in England, but you don't have to be big to win the battles. You get a lot more bruises here but against physical opponents you have to try and out-football them, use your brain a bit more." It was the Dutch who were criticised for being over-physical in the last World Cup, especially when kicking lumps out of Spain in the final, but Heitinga is proud of what his side achieved and philosophical about his two yellow cards in the last game. "I'm not that physical a player nor do I think I'm a dirty one," he says. "I've picked up a few yellow cards in my career but not so many reds. It's funny because it depends where you play. When I play as a centre-half I generally get booked less often than when playing in midfield. Because when you play in midfield there are more battles, more balls to win." To some extent Holland's otherwise impressive World Cup was overshadowed by the negative publicity they attracted in the final, or at least that was the case in this country and Spain. Back home, Heitinga can confirm, due credit was given to a side that had knocked out Brazil and Uruguay to reach the final. "People thought we did well, especially after the first 25 minutes against Brazil when we were getting beat and only our fantastic goalkeeper kept the score down to 1-0," he says. "During the interval we had a talk and decided that 45 minutes from your whole life is nothing, so agreed to go out and give it everything we could. The spirit and the fight we showed turned the whole World Cup round for us. It shows there is still room in football for sheer self-belief and will to win, even against the most gifted opponents. If you want to reach a World Cup final, you can't be worried about who you are going to play on the way anyway, you have to be ready to beat whoever comes along. When we started out in South Africa we looked on it as just six games to reach the final. Then after the first game against Denmark it was just five games, and so on. In the end we were actually playing in the World Cup final." Read it and weep, England – and the next bit too. Heitinga says he enjoyed every single minute of his time in South Africa, even before Holland were within sniffing distance of the final. Even before they had played a game. "I loved every single day, it was the best thing in my life so far," he says, sounding suspiciously like a professional footballer who relished being at the absolute apex of his profession. England players made the experience sound more like an ordeal in a prison camp, though of course the Dutch were relaxed enough to base themselves in a city centre and take advantage of their surroundings, an idea the FA have belatedly adopted for next summer's European Championship. "There was time to relax, time to work and time to look round the city centre," Heitinga recalls. "We had a security guard with us and we were told to be careful but otherwise our time was our own. A few players went to the shops, a few went to a restaurant, and so on. That sort of thing is important because six or seven weeks away from home is a long time for anyone. The World Cup was great." Heitinga sees something of the Dutch fighting spirit in Everton, despite up-and-down results this season. "We don't have a team like Barcelona," he says. "We are not generally 2-0 up at half time and beginning to slacken off a bit in the second half. At Everton we need to fight for 90 minutes to get the points. That's our game but the spirit is still here; you could see that in the last couple of games." A lot of that spirit is down to Moyes, and like every other Everton supporter, Heitinga worries about what might become of the club were the manager to receive an unrefusable offer from elsewhere. "It's possible that could happen but he has been here 10 years now and he has an Evertonian heart," he says. "It would need to be a good club to make him leave Everton. A massive club, in fact." Like his manager, Heitinga is caught between his legitimate ambitions and his fondness for his present club. "I would like to win trophies but at the same time I am really happy to play for Everton," he says. "It's a nice club, a family club." All the same he could only watch with admiration, and perhaps a degree of envy, as City scooped in Sergio Agüero from his old club in Spain in the summer, but at least he could tip off his team-mates. "Agüero is unbelievable," he says. "I told everyone here that such a special player could make a really big difference to City. I had some tough battles with him in training, I think I might have had to kick him a couple of times. He may only be small but he's incredibly strong and explosive. I knew from day one that he would score a lot of goals in England."
Everton can only finish eighth, says John Heitinga
For all those concerned about the polarisation of the Premier League, Everton’s John Heitinga has sent out a chilling message that the gap between his own club and free-spending Manchester City is becoming almost impossible to bridge.
By Oliver Brown
December 4, 2011 The Telegraph
While Everton, who entertain Stoke at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon, see their finances stretched to the limit, City’s vast reserves of Abu Dhabi wealth have already propelled them out of sight this season. “This year we have got just one point against the big teams,” Heitinga said. “From that point of view, we need to be realistic. Over the last couple of years City have spent a ridiculous amount of money. We don’t have it, so we can’t put the quality injection in our squad.” Heitinga arrived from Atlético Madrid with ambitions of gatecrashing the English game’s top table. That was 2008; three years on, the Dutchman has watched Sergio Agüero, his former team-mate at Atlético, join the vanguard of the City revolution, while Everton have slipped ever further adrift. In a candid interview at the club’s Finch Farm training ground, he indicated that the best supporters could hope for in this campaign was an eighth-place finish. “We want to reach as high as possible — I hope, around the eighth position,” the centre-back said. “If our goal is eighth and we’re there, then we’ll go for Europe. But you need to be realistic, and it won’t be easy to do that.” Everton’s turbulent start to the season has been overshadowed by protests against chairman Bill Kenwright and his board of directors, and Heitinga admitted: “Due to the finance, we don’t have a lot of money to spend on new players. But what I can tell the fans is that everybody is working for the club. Everybody with an Evertonian heart is doing everything to keep the team on the level we are now. We can improve in the future.” “There are anxieties at Everton that Heitinga, building a promising rapport with Phil Jagielka at centre-half, could soon be prised away by a higher bidder. Already Roma, seeking a replacement for Nicolas Burdisso, are believed to be interested in his brand of on-the-edge aggression. But the 28 year-old scotched any suggestion of a move, stressing: “To play for Everton, I’m really happy. It’s a warm club, almost like a family club. “I still like English football and the Premier League. It’s still the best league in the world. It’s not always the best football, but the atmosphere in the stadium and the spirit from the players on the pitch is unbelievable.” Few sides exhibit quite such spirit as Stoke City, whom Heitinga confronts on Sunday. Given he is still known mainly as one of only five players to have been sent off in a World Cup final – as he was against Spain in Johannesburg last summer – there is a theory that he should feel quite at home in the face of Stoke’s uncompromising defending. “I don’t think I’m a dirty player,” he said. “I have a few yellow cards in my career, not a lot of reds, but it’s how you play. To play against these teams you need to try to ‘out-football’ them, to keep the ball on the floor.”
Stoke striker Jon Walters aims to disappoint his family
Dec 4 2011 by Mark Woodward, Sunday Mercury
STOKE striker Jon Walters is hoping to disappoint his family when the Potters visit Goodison Park for today’s Premier League clash against Everton. Walters supported Everton as a boy, and his dad, a Toffees season-ticket holder, will be in his usual seat along with the Republic of Ireland international’s brother. Walters was in their good books when he scored the only goal in Stoke’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool in September, and he is willing to accept that will not be the case if he repeats the feat. The 28-year-old said: “As a kid I supported Everton and a lot of my family do but that’s besides the point. I’ll be going there and, if I’m playing, I’ll be trying my hardest to score. I was popular after Liverpool, let’s hope I’m not so popular after Sunday.” It will be an emotional day as Goodison Park remembers Gary Speed, and Walters said: “It’s a difficult thing to talk about for a lot of people. He’s got a young family. I grew up watching him, he’s a legend at Everton.” It has been a notable week for Stoke, who on Thursday drew with Dynamo Kiev to book their spot in the last 32 of the Europa League. The Potters’ European form has come at a cost, though, with their Premier League record after Group E matches reading played four, lost four. They ended a worrying run of four successive Premier League losses last weekend with a 3-1 victory over Blackburn, and Walters hopes that can signal an upturn in fortunes. He said: “There’s always ups and downs in the season, but especially when you’re going through a bad time you have to stand up and be counted. “We’ve got those sort of characters in the building and hopefully we can take the form from the past two games into the away game at Everton, which is a big game because hopefully we can go and get something. “The manager made a lot of changes (on Thursday) and hopefully the team he picks has a lot of fresh legs ready to go.” Manager Tony Pulis has worked hard to boost the strength in depth of his squad, and their options up front are a case in point. Kenwyne Jones and Cameron Jerome replaced Walters and Peter Crouch for the European game, while Ricardo Fuller came on as a substitute as he continues to work his way back to full fitness after seven months out with a ruptured Achilles. “There’s five of us now, there’s competition for places and that’s always good,” said Walters. Jerome, a summer signing from Birmingham, has had limited chances to impress in the league, making only two starts, but he is confident his time will come. The 25-year-old said: “I haven’t played as much as I’d like but hopefully I can kick on and give the manager something to think about. It’s up to me to show the manager what I can do.”
Tony Pulis hails a ‘great week’ for Stoke City after victory over Everton FC
by Our Correspondent, Liverpool Echo
Dec 5 2011
STOKE’S victory over Everton FC made it back-to-back league wins for the Potters, sandwiched between a Europa League draw at home to Dynamo Kiev. It was also only their second league victory on the back of a European match and manager Tony Pulis expressed his delight at the result. “This was a real battling performance against a good Everton team,” said Pulis. “It has been a great week for the club. To get six points and to qualify for the latter stages of the Europa League is first class. “We have had a dip of form, which most clubs do, and we have shown a lot of character and spirit the last week and the result on Thursday against Kiev was a fantastic result for us.” Pulis said goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen suffered no lasting effects from his clash with Tim Cahill. “Thomas has mild concussion. The doctor’s looked at him and he’s okay,” he added.
Everton FC to face non-league Tamworth at Goodison and Liverpool FC take on either Southend or Oldham at Anfield in third round of the FA Cup
by Our Correspondent, Liverpool Echo
Dec 5 2011
EVERTON and Liverpool have both been handed home ties against lower division opposition in the third round of the FA Cup. The Blues will host Blue Square Premier outfit Tamworth while the Reds will tackle either Southend United or Oldham Athletic. Reds boss Kenny Dalglish will be grateful for the chance to play at Anfield having had to battle through four successive away ties to reach the semi-finals of the Carling Cup. Southend are top of League Two, while Oldham are 12th in League One. They drew 1-1 at Roots Hall on Saturday when Southend equalled a club record of 17 games unbeaten. Oldham took the lead through James Wesolowski but Ryan Hall levelled to earn Southend a replay. Liverpool last faced Southend in a FA Cup third round replay at Anfield in 1979 when they won 3-0. But it is the 1957 third-round meeting that is the most infamous for the Anfield team, who as a second division side lost 2-1 at Roots Hall against Division Three (south) opposition. Their meeting with Oldham came in the Premier League back in 1994 with the Reds sealing a 3-0 victory at Boundary Park. Liverpool have beaten Oldham in their three previous FA Cup meetings in 1907, 1962 and 1977. Everton, meanwhile, have been drawn at home to Blue Square Premier team Tamworth. The teams have never met before.
Tamworth manager Marcus Law admitted it will be a dream come true facing a top-flight team. He said: “I’ll be working and planning very hard come that time.” Goalkeeper Jonathan Hedge added: “It’s what dreams are made of, we’ll go there full of confidence. I’m a Sheffield United fan so I would have liked them or one of the two Manchester clubs but we will have to make do with Everton.” The biggest clash of the third round sees Manchester City welcome neighbours United to the Etihad Stadium. Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand welcomed their FA Cup clash with City. It is a rematch of last season’s semi-final which Roberto Mancini’s side won before going on to lift the cup with victory against Stoke.
Other eye-catching ties including Birmingham versus Wolves and Arsenal against Leeds, reuniting the teams that met in last year’s third round which saw the Gunners win after a replay. Ferdinand tweeted: “3rd round FA cup game vs mancity..great game to kick off this yrs FA cup, can’t wait.” Tottenham host Cheltenham Town, while Chelsea are also at home, against Portsmouth. THE full draw for the third round of the FA Cup is as follows: Middlesbrough v Shrewsbury,Nottingham Forest v Leicester, Manchester City v Manchester United, Dagenham & Redbridge/Walsall v Millwall, Crawley v Bristol City, Doncaster v Sutton United/Notts County, Bristol Rovers v Aston Villa, Tottenham v Cheltenham, Sheffield Wednesday v West Ham, MK Dons v QPR, Hull v Ipswich, Coventry v Southampton, Brighton v Wrexham, Fulham v Charlton, Birmingham v Wolves, Norwich v Burnley, Arsenal v Leeds, Derby v Crystal Palace, Fleetwood/Yeovil v Blackpool, Swindon v Wigan, Barnsley v Swansea, Chelmsford/Macclesfield v Bolton, Newcastle v Blackburn, Everton v Tamworth, Sheffield United v Salisbury/Grimsby, Liverpool v Southend/Oldham, Gillingham v Stoke, Chelsea v Portsmouth, Watford v Bradford, Peterborough v Sunderland, West Brom v Cardiff, Reading v Stevenage. Ties will be played the weekend of January 7-8.
Everton FC 0 Stoke City 1: Optimism plummets at Goodison Park after uninspired EFC display in loss to Stoke
by Greg O'Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
Dec 5 2011
Everton FC boss David Moyes and Stoke City manager Tony Pulis at Goodison Park
DAVID MOYES feared that Everton FC’s recent resurgence could have been “make-up” to cover persisting blemishes, and in a decidedly un-pretty contest no amount of cosmetic aid could hide the ugly truth. He was right. Consecutive wins over Wolves and Bolton had propelled the Blues to ninth in the league, and engendered hope that the festive season could see them begin to claw back the top eight. But even though defeat by Stoke City only nudged Everton down one place in the Premier League table, far more damaging will be the erosion of optimism at Goodison Park after this turgid, uninspired display. Consider their opponents. This was a Stoke side that had lost all of their previous league outings after a Europa League fixture, and were without one of their key wide-men in Jermaine Pennant.
Never an easy opponent, they at least represented an achievable scalp given the circumstances. But with grinding inevitability Louis Saha was suddenly missing after picking up a thigh problem on Saturday, and Everton had to rely on a 19-year-old Greek forward who cost £250,000 to lead their line. The critics will claim Moyes should have matched Tony Pulis’ approach of using two strikers, and on the surface it’s a compelling argument. But where is the other forward capable of making a difference? Stoke’s bench boasted an £8m striker, Kenwyne Jones, twiddling his thumbs, while Peter Crouch, who cost £10m, led their line. By comparison Moyes had to sell Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford in order to recoup cash in January, and in reserve had only an on-loan Argentinean who is yet to start a league game. Even January’s transfer window may bring no solution to Everton’s perennial striking problem. Moyes still has no idea of his budget, and whatever his eventual level of funding it’s unlikely to help him land the 20-goal hit-man he needs above all else. At least Everton got something right. The pre-match tributes to former skipper Gary Speed were both fitting and immaculately observed. Both teams walked out in silence as the Welsh national anthem played proudly over the speakers. And Speed’s father Roger showed tremendous courage to join his son’s former team-mates in the centre circle for a minute of applause.
Consequently the game had a subdued start, with the opening minutes played in near silence as Goodison remained absorbed by the emotion of it all. Even if it was very much not an omen of things to come, the Toffees did manage to create the first half-chance.
Given plenty of space to charge into, Leighton Baines fired a low cross into the area that Tim Cahill back-heeled over the bar. It approaches a full calendar year without a goal for the Aussie, and seeing the net bulge would have been a perfect early present ahead of his 32nd birthday tomorrow. The only other real chance of the first half saw Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, being rewarded for an encouraging turn at the Reebok stadium, skew a volley wide across goal. The Russian still does good things in isolation. When he dropped his shoulder deftly to dart past Jonathan Woodgate, onlookers could have been forgiven for thinking he was about to really stake his claim. But Bily, like Everton’s midfield in general, fizzled into a black hole of inspiration. Then Stoke took the lead, perhaps inevitably from a set-piece. Matthew Ethertington’s corner was only partially cleared by Bily, and Robert Huth stuck out his boot to divert Dean Whitehead’s shot past Tim Howard. Everton were not defending second balls convincingly and Stoke – admirably full of energy despite a sapping 90 minutes against Dynamo Kiev on Thursday – began to force them onto the back-foot. The Blues responded with a canny passage of play when they stroked the ball around intelligently but, and here’s the (entirely not) shocking bit, no end product. As the first half continued, Everton’s lack of ideas in central midfield became mind-numbing. They were reduced to long diagonal balls from Phil Jagielka, one of which Tim Cahill almost latched onto, although it wasn’t much of an endorsement of the tactic. Indeed, it was the visitors who were unfortunate not to go into the break with their advantage doubled, when only a heroic Tim Howard save prevented Ryan Shawcross from scoring. The central defender then rubbed salt into Everton wounds by escaping punishment from Lee Mason, despite brazenly holding Marouane Fellaini in the area from a corner. Stoke’s batteries showed no signs of fading after the re-start. Peter Crouch should probably have scored with a back-post header but got his angles wrong. In reply there remained little from the Blue corner. Tim Cahill will feel he might have had a spot-kick when Thomas Sorensen appeared to upend him in the area, but replays suggested the goalkeeper got to the ball first and injured himself in the process.
Vellios had struggled to make an impact, and was replaced by Stracqualursi as Moyes desperately looked for something different in attack. He almost got that from the returning Jack Rodwell, who replaced Bily, and lashed a venomous shot just wide. Then Heitinga and Stracqualursi both failed to apply a goalbound touch to Baines’ expert delivery.
It was a rare moment of incision though. Even as the clock ticked down Everton were curiously unambitious at getting bodies into Stoke’s area. At least in the seven minutes of injury time they committed men forward, although it was too little, too late. The result, like the longevity of Everton’s mini-revival, was sealed.
EVERTON (4-4-1-1): Howard, Hibbert (Gueye, 82) Jagielka (Capt), Heitinga, Baines, Fellaini, Osman, Coleman, Bilyaletdinov (Rodwell, 62), Cahill, Vellios (Stracqualursi, 75). Not used: Mucha, Distin, Neville, Barkley.
STOKE CITY (4-4-2): Sorensen (Begovic, 73) Huth, Woodgate (Wilkinsin, 53) Shawcross (Capt), Whelan, Wilson, Whitehead, Etherington (Upson, 90+) Shotton, Crouch. Not used: Begovic, Jones, Fuller, Upson, Jerome, Palacios.
GOALS: Huth (14)
CARDS: Booked – Wilson (Stoke)
REFEREE: Lee Mason
David Moyes rueing Everton FC’s lack of goals after Goodison Park defeat to Stoke City
by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
Dec 5 2011
DAVID MOYES admitted Everton FC are short of firepower after Stoke comfortably kept his side at bay for a 1-0 win at Goodison Park yesterday. Two Stoke goalkeepers – Asmir Begovic replaced the injured Thomas Sorensen – didn’t have a shot on target to save between them, and afterwards Everton FC manager Moyes explained: “The people who come locally and the people who come regular know that I’ve said we’re short – undoubtedly we’re short. “The expectations are that we should always be winning these sort of games.
“But Stoke have spent well in the market, they’ve bought some players to improve their team and one of them was up front today, Peter Crouch. “We’ve not at this moment in time.
“But hey, that’s not what it’s about. We had 11 players out on the pitch and we didn’t win the game, Stoke did. “They scored the goal which counted. “We had quite a strong bench today. We had Sylvain Distin and Phil Neville and Jack Rodwell. We had those players back, but we didn’t do it.” Referee Lee Mason was booed off the pitch after a miserable match and Moyes added: “I thought the referee had a poor game today, but he wasn’t the reason we lost – far from it. “The loss was down to our inability to make, take and create, but there were quite a few things going on in the box and we got very little out of it.” Marouane Fellaini was manhandled on two occasions in the penalty area, Tim Cahill was sent sprawling by Sorensen in the incident which led to the Stoke keeper eventually being stretchered off and Seamus Coleman was sent sprawling just outside the area in time added on – but a corner was awarded. Moyes added: “We huffed and puffed a little bit and we didn’t concede that many chances. We defended the corner okay, although we didn’t defend the edge of our box, but we hadn’t done an awful lot wrong and we found ourselves a goal down. “We hadn’t played as well as we’d like. We didn’t pass the ball quick enough, but I don’t think we deserved to be behind. “But we found ourselves behind and had to go chasing it. “But what wins games is goals and they got one, we didn’t. “But I’d be surprised if we’d not had a massive amount of territorial advantage and possession of the ball and positions to create chances. But we never got anything on target. “But that’s credit to Stoke. Over the years they’ve been very good at not conceding chances. I know that’s not been the case in recent weeks but it was today. “You need goalscorers and you need creators of goals and we know that.”
Lack of cutting edge cost Everton FC against Stoke says Jack Rodwell
by Greg O'Keeffe, Liverpool Echo
Dec 5 2011
JACK RODWELL admitted Everton FC’s lack of cutting edge came back to haunt them as they slumped to a dismal defeat against Stoke City at Goodison Park. The England midfielder returned to the action as a second half Everton FC substitute following a two-week injury lay-off, but was unable to help his side to a third consecutive victory. Rodwell acknowledged that Everton FC simply did not have enough incision in the final third, as Tony Pulis’ men clung onto their 1-0 lead, courtesy of Robert Huth’s first half deflected goal. He said: “It was disappointing – especially at home where we want to be picking up as many points as possible. “We put a couple of crosses in here and there, we were huffing and puffing but we didn’t make clear cut opportunities. It was frustrating. “We went down to an unlucky goal – a deflection and didn’t have much luck. Stoke are a big physical side and we know they’re good from set pieces – they scored from one. “But we’ve got to play our own game, and we didn’t manage to do that. We didn’t play enough football in and around the box.” Rodwell said he took heart from his own return from a rib injury, even if the Blues missed another casualty in Louis Saha who was ruled out with a rib injury picked up in training. He said: “On a positive note I’m back from a two week injury and looking forward to the next game. But Louis is a big player for us with his creativity on the edge of the box, it’s tough missing big players and it’ll always affect you. Tolis played and he’s been scoring a few, he did well. He’s such a young lad and has time on his side to keep improving and hopefully he can keep doing that.” Rodwell remains confident Everton will shrug off the setback. “We didn’t deserve to lose but that’s football and we have to bounce back as quickly as possible,” he said. “We’ve got Arsenal next week and we need to train well, and be confident. They’re a difficult prospect but so were Stoke. “We’ve had a couple of big wins before this, and we’re still confident.” Meanwhile, it was an emotional afternoon at Goodison, when Gary Speed’s father Roger took to the pitch to lead a minute of applause to his son whose death has shocked football.
Everton FC 0 Stoke City 1: Ugliest display of the campaign is not pretty viewing
by Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
Dec 5 2011
IF David Moyes likened Everton FC’s recent revival to putting on a bit of make-up, then this performance was very much the bleary-eyed, smudged-faced morning after the night before.
Having challenged his Everton FC players to prove they are the real deal following successive wins over the Wanderers of Wolverhampton and Bolton, the Goodison manager saw his players respond with their ugliest display of campaign. And this was exceedingly ugly. The kind of ugly that would struggle to face itself in the mirror. Moyes, though, must surely sit his players down and force them to watch a re-run of an afternoon that encapsulated why the Scot so feared a season of struggle. A failure to keep a clean sheet. The meagre creativity from midfield. The lack of cutting edge up front. All three shortcomings were glaringly prevalent as Stoke City earned their first victory at Goodison for more than 30 years. So powder-puff were Everton’s attacking efforts that neither visiting goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen nor his second-half replacement Amir Begovic had a single shot on target to save. Not one. It would be easy to blame the strikers – or rather, with Louis Saha once again absent through injury, the lack of them – but they weren’t given any chances to miss. Sure, Everton had plenty of the ball. But then a hugely under-whelming Stoke needed only one opportunity, which Robert Huth prodded home in the 15th minute, after which they comfortable mopped up the threat from their huffing and puffing hosts.
There can be no excuse for this defeat, despite Everton hardly being helped by an infuriating performance from referee Lee Mason. And while Stoke went into the game on a high having secured progress to the latter stages of European competition for the first time in their history, they had lost all four previous league games that have followed a Europa League group encounter – scoring once, conceding 14, and all away. Having praised Apostolos Vellios in the build-up to the game, the absence of Saha compelled Moyes to hand the 19-year-old a second Premier League start. Vellios has proven a useful impact player from the bench with his goal in last week’s 2-0 win at the Reebok, his third as substitute this season.
But, as he discovered at Craven Cottage last month, leading the line from the beginning of a match is a more difficult proposition, the Greece under-21 international lost amid the lumbering towers of Stoke’s experienced backline. And with Tim Cahill’s goals having dried up – the Australian has not netted in almost a year – it is imperative the Goodison board somehow free up enough funds for Moyes to bring in a new striker during next month’s transfer window. Matters have been scarcely any better at the other end of the field, with Everton having now failed to keep a clean sheet in their last nine home games. And it took Stoke only 15 minutes to find a way through with a goal that came gift-wrapped courtesy of some sloppy defending. After an uncharacteristic miscontrol from Leighton Baines gave Stoke City a corner on the right, Matthew Etherington’s deep delivery was headed clear by Diniyar Bilyaletdinov only as far as Dean Whitehead, loitering with intent on the edge of the area. The unmarked Whitehead then shot towards the packed goalmouth where Huth, standing in front of Tim Howard, diverted the ball into the goal. So continued Everton’s propensity of making life hard for themselves at Goodison, the ninth time in the last 10 home games Moyes’s men have conceded the first goal. Stoke almost had a second a minute before the interval, Howard parrying over a Ryan Shawcross header from point-blank range after the defender was found too easily by Etherington’s inswinging free-kick from the right.
Everton created little, although with Stoke keeper Sorensen showing a curious aversion to catching the ball, there was always a sense of hope whenever possession was pumped into the visiting area. But that was too often the preferred option, the midfield struggling to gain a foothold despite the best efforts of the omnipresent Marouane Fellaini. Fellaini, despite being manhandled by Shawcross to an almost dubious degree, glanced over a Baines corner on the stroke of half-time, but an early miss-hit Bilyaletdinov shot apart, Everton were limp in front of goal. While Jack Rodwell, Phil Neville and Sylvain Distin were all back available for selection, the trio began on the bench. And perhaps Everton missed their experience and physical presence, particularly through central areas. But with Stoke failing to convince, Everton were never out of the game. There were ambitious claims for a penalty midway through the second half when, with Huth trying to usher a Baines throughball back to Sorensen, Cahill nipped in before clattering into the goalkeeper. Sorensen continued after lengthy treatment, only to concede defeat shortly afterwards, the concussed keeper eventually replaced by Begovic. Everton at least cranked up the pressure in the closing moments. After substitute Rodwell’s shot was blocked, the Stoke defence did enough to distract Fellaini into slicing the rebound well wide. And the Belgian then somehow failed to connect properly with an invitingly whipped Baines cross from three yards with the goal at his mercy. But, for once, there was to be no late show; the seven minutes of injury time only delaying the inevitable. Clearly, Everton are not the real deal yet.
Goodison Park pays fitting tribute to former Everton FC player Gary Speed ahead of Stoke match
by Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
Dec 5 2011
GOODISON PARK paid an emotional tribute to Gary Speed yesterday following the death of the former Everton FC midfielder. Many of Speed’s former Everton FC teammates formed part of the salute to the Wales manager, who died in tragic circumstances eight days go. Speed’s father, Roger, joined ex-Everton players Duncan Ferguson, Joe Parkinson, Paul Gerrard, David Unsworth, Michael Ball, Craig Short, Dave Watson, Graham Stuart and Earl Barrett on the pitch for the tribute. Speed’s career was recognised by the presence of six youngsters wearing the shirts of Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers, Sheffield United and the Wales national team, all with his name and respective squad number on the back. The tribute, which took place shortly before Everton’s home Premier League encounter with Stoke City yesterday, also saw the traditional playing of Z Cars cut short by an airing of the Welsh national anthem. Speed senior was later embraced by Stoke defender Jonathan Woodgate, a former teammate of his son at Leeds, before he left the field where he had a similar exchange with both David Moyes and Potters counterpart Tony Pulis. Moyes, meanwhile, refused to blame his defence after Everton succumbed to a 1-0 defeat to Stoke. Robert Huth’s 15th-minute winner means the Goodison outfit have kept only two clean sheets all season while conceding in nine of their last 10 home games. But Moyes said: “We played Wolves and Bolton, and Bolton had one chance last week and Wolves didn’t have any apart from the penalty. “I can hardly think of a Stoke chance so you can’t put it down to the boys at the back. “They’ve done quite well in the games but we just didn’t have enough to break them down and create. “With the size of their team it was always going to be an ask to defend at corners but we defended the first part of it and when you’re defending against a big side, we weren’t the biggest, and it was always going to be difficult. “We hadn’t done an awful lot wrong and found ourselves a goal down. “We hadn’t played as well as we’d have liked and didn’t pass the ball quickly enough, but I don’t think we deserved to be behind and we found ourselves that and had to go chasing it.” In contrast, Stoke manager Pulis saluted a good week for his team, having beaten Blackburn Rovers last weekend and then qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League on Thursday. “It’s been a great week for the football club,” he said. “To get six points and qualify for Europe is first class. We’re very pleased. “We showed a lot of character and spirit last week and the result against Kiev was fantastic for us. “This was a real battling performance against a very good team. “Everton are formidable at Goodison Park, once they get going and the crowd get behind them. “It’s a fantastic ground and I really enjoy coming here. There’s an old-fashioned atmosphere, the crowd are on top of you and it’s great to come to. “We dealt with a lot of balls in the box and Baines’s quality is fantastic and they’ve got some big lads. We dealt with that every well. “Our goalkeepers didn’t have a shot to save and that’s testament to the work of the 10 outfield players.”
Everton FC manager David Moyes bemoans his EFC side’s lack of creativity in home defeat to Stoke City
Liverpool Daily Post
Dec 5 2011
DAVID MOYES admits Everton FC are being hampered by their lack of creativity after slipping to defeat against Stoke City yesterday. Robert Huth’s 15th-minute goal was enough to consign Everton FC to their fourth defeat in seven home Premier League games this season. It brought Everton FC’s mini-revival of two successive wins to a shuddering halt and ensured Stoke’s first win at Goodison since April, 1981. With Louis Saha absent through injury, Moyes’s EFC men failed to produce a single shot on target against a Potters team that had conceded 15 goals in their previous five league games. And Moyes said: “Their keeper hasn’t had a save to make and goals win games and they got one and we didn’t. “We had a massive amount of the ball and positions to create chances and score goals but didn’t get anything on target or put good balls in. “We were in good positions to create opportunities and we didn’t do that. You need goalscorers and creators of goals.
“We didn’t create but that’s credit to Stoke. Over the years they’ve been good at not conceding chances and goals. “That’s not been the case in recent weeks but they normally don’t concede much, they’re hard to break down and they proved to be that here. It’s always tough.” While critical of his team, Moyes also pointed the finger at referee Lee Mason, who infuriated the home crowd with a number of questionable decisions, most notably in failing to penalise the Stoke defence for consistently manhandling Marouane Fellaini. “In the first-half there were a couple of bear hugs on him and if he’d done it we’d have been getting all sorts,” said the Everton manager. “The referee had a poor game. It’s not the reason for our loss, far from it; our loss was down to our inability to make, take, create but there were quite a few things going on in the box and we got very little out of it.” Saha was ruled out the day before the game with a thigh problem, prompting a second Premier League start for teenage forward Apostolos Vellios. And Moyes admits the Frenchman’s absence further exposes the lack of striking options with the Everton squad. “Louis has a thigh strain,” he said. “It’s not that serious – minor thigh strain. He trained with us on Saturday and we expected him to be fit, but he felt it. We knew he had a tweak but thought he would be OK. “People know that I’ve said that undoubtedly we’re short (of strikers) but the expectations are that we should always be winning these sorts of games. “Stoke have spent well in the market, bought some players, improved their team and they had Peter Crouch playing up front.
“We’ve not done that at this moment in time but it was about 11 players and we didn’t win, they did. They scored the goal which counted. We huffed and puffed a little bit but I don’t think we conceded many chances to Stoke. We weren’t peppered and lost the game that way. We defended a corner and didn’t defend the edge of the box that well and they got the shot in and the flick in.”
Stoke City fan zone: Goodison win caps perfect week
Monday, December 05, 2011
WHAT were we all worried about?
Two wins from two in the league. A first victory at Goodison for 30 years. A clean sheet – remember them? And eighth place in the table. But, be honest. When the team was announced did your heart leap into your mouth? It looked like Huth at right-back, Woodgate in the centre and with no Pennant even on the bench you worried that Baines and co would make hay down the flank. But City dealt with the threat well, Woodgate settled down into the right-back role, while Huth dominated in the centre and found time to score the winner.
It completed just about the perfect week for Stoke. Thursday night brought that all-important point against Kiev – guaranteed qualification and no need to take the big guns to Istanbul in a fortnight. Victory at Everton yesterday gave City just their second ever December victory in the Premier League and three crucial points in a typically gritty display.
Huth and Shawcross in the centre is the hub of everything, especially when it comes to resolute defence. There was plenty of that on show yesterday now that they've rediscovered how to play together. And then, to top off a great eight days, the FA Cup draw paired us with Gillingham. Not only should Stoke really have no problems disposing of the Gills, the tie gives an opportunity for a few scores to be settled. I know I've set myself up for a Hartlepool, Telford or Nuneaton-style fall with that statement, but you can't see Stoke falling at this kind of hurdle with the current squad. And won't it be nice to eradicate the awful memories of that night in 2001 at Priestfield when Rob Styles put paid to our promotion hopes by harshly dismissing Clive Clarke and Graham Kavanagh. For Tony Pulis it will bring some personal ghosts back as he will meet chairman Paul Scally – his former employer, with whom he has had a number of wrangles. But if there was ever a reminder that football is, after all, only a game, it was before kick-off yesterday when Goodison Park stood to a man, woman and child to acknowledge the career of Gary Speed. His father Roger was on the pitch in tears at the tribute and both managers and several players including Speed's former team-mate at Newcastle Jonathan Woodgate embraced him.
Stoke City: Match statistics
Monday, December 05, 2011
EVERTON 0 STOKE CITY 1
Everton 57 per cent
Stoke 43 per cent
Everton 7 (4 on target)
Stoke 4 (1 on target)
Lee Mason (Lancashire) 7
YELLOW – Everton: None; Stoke: Wilson (foul, 48). RED – Everton: None; Stoke: None.
SORENSEN: Decisive in the air when required before one of a couple of knocks forced his premature withdrawal 7
WOODGATE: Never truly comfortable in surprise outing at right-back. Was replaced before the hour 6
WILSON: Put in a solid foot to play his part in superb defensive effort 7
SHAWCROSS: Some sterling work at the heart of defence during his best showing in recent weeks 8HUTH: A clattering presence in the City back-line – and what a bonus to bag the winner 8
SHOTTON: Tigerish throughout in first Premier League start to be proud of on the right of midfield 8
WHELAN: Some great work for the team and rarely wasted possession when he had time on the ball 7
WHITEHEAD: In the wars from head to toe during highly-effective return as he bit at anything that moved in midfield 8
ETHERINGTON: More success first half going forward, but always a willing task master for his team 7
WALTERS: A day for chasing rather than scoring, but a task he relished against boyhood club 7
CROUCH: Intelligent use of the ball for the most part and always a reassuring defensive presence in own box 7
WILKINSON (for Woodgate, 53): Settled seamlessly in at right-back to offer Everton no encouragement down their left-hand side 7
BEGOVIC (for Sorensen, 74): Not a single save to make, but made his presence felt in the air on few occasions he was needed 7
UPSON (for Etherington, 90+3): Late defensive addition to the cause 6
Not used: Jones, Fuller, Jerome, Palacios.
EVERTON: Howard, Hibbert (Gueye, 83), Baines, Heitinga, Jagielka, Coleman, Cahill, Osman, Fellaini, Bilyaletdinov (Rodwell, 63), Vellios (Stracqualursi, 76). Subs not used: Mucha, Distin, Neville, Barkley.
Match analysis: Everton 0, Stoke City 1
Monday, December 05, 2011
STOKE broke a 30-year hoodoo by winning at Goodison Park for the first time since Adrian Heath fired them to victory here back in 1981. But they also ended a rather more recent jinx, of course, by putting to bed that awful sequence of following up their previous four Europa League ties with comprehensive defeats on the road. SO CLOSE: Ryan Shotton can't believe the chance he's just missed to give Stoke a 2-0 lead at Goodison Park. Inset: Shotton puts a cross into the danger area during an impressive first Premier League start. Pictures: Phil Radcliffe Yesterday's victory will have tasted sweetest for Ryan Shotton, perhaps, after celebrating his first-ever league start for his hometown club with a valuable role in such a rare away win. His tackle deep into injury-time – a superbly-timed effort to dispossess Jack Rodwell inside the Stoke area – epitomised his contribution and that of those around him. Stoke defended with such discipline and durability that the second-half change of goalkeeper was barely noticed after Asmir Begovic replaced the concussed Thomas Sorensen. How fitting, therefore, that their back four should be rewarded with the honour of claiming the day's only goal after Robert Huth rather cheekily clipped home his first goal of the season. Stoke's first-half advantage, emanating from a 15th-minute corner, just about epitomised fortunes at either end of the field when it came to anything flung high and menacingly into the penalty area in the opening 45. For while Stoke edged in front via a half-cleared corner – and missed out on a couple of other opportunities to add to their lead in similar circumstances during the opening period – Everton were being largely frustrated by Sorensen's determination to punch anything round, smooth and bright coming his way.
Just as well Thomas Gravesen and Lee Carsley are no longer in an Everton shirt these days. A pre-match tribute to former Everton favourite Gary Speed, justified though it clearly was, nevertheless contributed towards a rather sedate atmosphere that the visitors were able to exploit to their advantage with only their fourth away goal. An in-swinging corner was only half-headed clear towards the edge of the area for Dean Whitehead's goal-ward volley to be flicked over the line by Huth in a cheeky repeat of his goalscoring intervention at Goodison two seasons ago. City were cursing themselves for failing to double their lead in the 35th minute, however, when Glenn Whelan's left-wing corner was flicked on by Jon Walters for both Ryan – Shawcross and then Shotton – to narrowly miss out with far-post headers. Shawcross might have made amends in the final minute of normal time before the break, but his glancing effort from Matthew Etherington's right-wing free-kick brushed Tim Howard's gloves en route to clearing the bar as they leapt for the same ball. At the other end, meanwhile, Sorensen punched clear at least four high balls with varying degrees of success as Everton looked to exploit the decision to play Jonathan Woodgate at right-back for a first time in one of nine changes to Stoke's Europa League line-up three days earlier.
Everton's one moment of first-half joy came in stoppage time when Marouane Fellaini headed a right-wing delivery wide of the far post – before squaring up to Shawcross by way of protest at being cuddled a little too vigorously by the Stoke skipper as they challenged for the high ball. One hand-waving exchange between Leon Osman and Seamus Coleman was an encouraging insight into the recriminations threatening to envelope the Everton camp after the former had over-hit a pass to the latter. Coleman's annoyance might explain, but not excuse, a slightly-over-the-top challenge shortly afterwards that was to leave Whitehead with a sore foot. Shawcross was rather more apologetic at the start of the second half than he had been at the end of the first when an innocent clash of heads left lone striker Astopolos Vellios rubbing his sore spot in an incident underling the Stoke captain's resolute approach to proceedings. The quality of Everton's passing, short or long, was doing little to inspire confidence or noise from Goodison's unusually subdued stands. Peter Crouch caught his first real glimpse of a goalscoring opportunity 12 minutes after the break, but failed to get over an attempted far-post header from Whelan's right-wing free-kick. Stoke remained intensely competitive as Andy Wilkinson leapt powerfully to prevent fellow substitute Jack Rodwell connecting with a dangerous ball flung into the City area. A compact corner of the stadium was all that could be heard for long spells as Stoke supporters heralded the possibility of only their second away win in the Premier League this year. There was a distinctly heart-stopping moment in the 67th minute when Huth allowed a ball to bounce and the approaching Sorensen appeared to catch Cahill with his hand, but referee Lee Mason pointed for a throw and not the penalty the home side were demanding.
Such incidents were thankfully rare from the perspective of a Stoke side girding their loins for the late onslaught Everton traditionally produce in such circumstances. Sorensen, still groggy from that earlier collision with Cahill, was to play no part in the finale after being stretchered off with an oxygen mask strapped to his mouth and replaced by Asmir Begovic in the 74th minute. Huth then took a boot to the face when throwing himself towards a high ball in the Stoke box, but barely flinched. Stoke were having to man their area with the kind of numbers that ensured that Leighton Baines saw a right-footed effort hit the proverbial brick wall in front of Begovic as the contest entered the final 10 minutes. And there was a joint block by Wilkinson and Shawcross to prevent Rodwell's low shot troubling Begovic in Everton's next attack. Stoke's fortifications were creaking at the seams a minute later, however, when a Baines cross from the left by-passed around three Blue shirts throwing heads and boots towards the elusive ball as it veered past the far post. Sorensen's earlier woes contributed towards the addition of seven extra minutes to re-ignite Everton's fading hopes of an equaliser. And still they dominated possession – as they had done for the fourth quarter – but still Stoke defended with a combination of intelligence and resolution to see the job through to the end.
Stoke City: Huth delighted to rediscover goal-den touch
Monday, December 05, 2011
MATCH-WINNER Robert Huth says it was about time he bagged his first goal of the season after reaching double figures last term. The giant German struck in the 15th minute of yesterday's 1-0 win at Everton to claim only Stoke's second Premier League win on their travels in 2011 "I just stuck my foot out and luckily I got a touch on it," said Huth of his close-range strike from Dean Whitehead's shot. I've been pretty rubbish in front of goal recently. I missed that free header against Blackburn last week, but luckily this one went in." Huth admitted it was something of an attritional battle at Goodison yesterday as he and his co-defenders were forced into an excellent rearguard to collect only their fifth clean sheet of the league campaign. It was a great win because they threw everything at us," he added.
"In the first half balls came into our box from free-kicks and corner kicks – and it was the same in the second half. "We knew how dangerous they could be, so it was good to keep a clean sheet." Huth admitted he is revelling in his recent return to centre-half, adding: "I have been all over the place this season, so I'm glad to be back in the middle. I am more comfortable there. "I got dropped a few games ago, so I am just finding my feet again."
He said it was a week to be proud of after sandwiching Europa League qualification between Premier League wins over Blackburn and Everton. "Overall, it's been a great week," Huth declared. "We started by beating Blackburn, got through in Europe and now we have beaten Everton. "We knew how much pressure Everton would put on us, but there wasn't many saves by keepers on either side." Asked if he was keen to remain at Stoke long-term amid on-going contract negotiations, the club's reigning player-of-the-year said: "If things work out for both sides, then of course. I'm loving it."
EVERTON 0 - STOKE 1: HERO ROBERT HUTH'S TRAVEL SLICK FOR POTTERS
5th December 2011
By Graham Chase
ROBERT HUTH'S early goal ensured Stoke finally banished their Euro travel blues. ITony Pulis’ Potters had lost four on the bounce after excursions into the Europa League but halted that run at Goodison with a defiant display. Pulis is right to feel Stoke have been dealt a cruel hand by being forced to play away after each of their European matches. But the Welshman will be cheered by his team producing a dogged performance to snatch the points and their first win at Goodison since 1981. No-one could claim it was pret- ty, but Pulis will only care about his team battling their way to three precious points. Huth’s 15th-minute effort was the ninth time in 10 home games that David Moyes’ boys had shipped the first goal and given themselves a mountain to climb. The German giant relishes his trips to Goodison having bagged a rare goal in Stoke’s 1-1 draw here two years ago. Emotions ran high before kick- off as Everton paid tribute to their former player Gary Speed. The players walked out to the Welsh national anthem and former team-mates Duncan Ferguson, David Unsworth and Craig Short were joined by Speed’s father, roger, for a minute’s applause before the match. Roger also hugged each of the Everton players and clapped all four corners of the ground. Everton, looking to record a third straight league win for the first time in 22 months, flew at Stoke. Leighton Baines romped down the left and whipped over a cross that was flicked over by Tim Cahill. They should have gone closer when Seamus Coleman’s whipped cross was missed by Ryan Shawcross, but Diniyar Bilyaletdinov failed to make a decent contact. And the hosts paid the price when Stoke grabbed the lead with their first real attack. Matthew Etherington bent a corner into the area but Bilyaletdinov managed to head away to the edge of the box. Dean Whitehead fizzed in a low shot and huth diverted it past Tim howard from close range. The Blues almost hit back when Bilyaletdinov dangled a perfect cross to the far post and Thomas Sorensen desperately clawed away under heavy pressure from Cahill. But another Stoke corner caused carnage when Glenn Whelan clipped in and Jon Walters flicked on with ryan Shotton and Shaw- cross unlucky not to get a touch at the far post. Phil Jagielka picked out Cahill with a raking forward pass but the Aussie failed to guide his shot on target. But Shawcross should have doubled Stoke’s lead when he was found by Etherington’s free-kick only to have his near-post header blocked by Howard. Marouane Fellaini also nodded wide from a Bilyaletdinov corner and started a shoving match with Shawcross. After the restart Baines flashed a couple of dangerous balls into the box as the Blues tried to produce some sort of response.
But Crouch went close when he glanced a header wide of goal from Glenn Whelan’s precise free -kick. Has Moyes tried to inject some life into his team he hauled off Bilyaletdinov and chucked on England hopeful Jack Rodwell. Midway through the second period Everton felt they should have had a penalty when Cahill went down under a Sorensen challenge. The shaky Danish keeper was forced off on a stretcher shortly afterwards. and when the Blues finally forced some decent pressure with a Baines free-kick, Apostolos Vellios booted Huth in the face, rather than turning the ball into the net. Rodwell had a thumping drive blocked by Shawcross. Fellaini fired wide then failed to make contact with a fine Baines cross. Fellaini had another header held by sub keeper Asmir Begovic but even seven minutes of added time could not bring an equaliser.
Moyes hits out at 'poor' referee Mason after watching Everton slump to Stoke defeat
5th December 2011
Everton manager David Moyes criticised referee Lee Mason for having a 'poor' game but accepted the official was not the cause behind his side's 1-0 defeat at home to Stoke.
Robert Huth scored the only goal of the match, turning Dean Whitehead's 15th-minute shot past Tim Howard. Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini should probably have had a penalty when he was man-handled by Ryan Shawcross in the area just before half-time but Mason, despite being in a good position, did not see it. Stoke's physical approach to defending, especially within 18 yards of their own goal, led to frustrations growing among Everton's players but Moyes admitted they had not done enough to force an equaliser. Penalty? Marouane Fellaini (left) is held by Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross Clash: Fellaini confronts Shawcross in the first half at Goodison Park I thought the referee had a poor game,' said the Scot. 'It is not the reason for our loss - far from it because that was down to our inability to make and take [chances]. But there was a lot going on in the box and we got very little of it.' In a match of few chances Everton enjoyed more possession, certainly in the second half, but failed to trouble Thomas Sorensen and, when he was carried off on a stretcher after a clash with Tim Cahill late in the second half, Asmir Begovic. 'We huffed and puffed a little bit but I don't think we conceded many chances to Stoke today,' added Moyes. 'We weren't peppered and lost the game that way. We defended a corner but didn't defend the edge of the box and they get the shot and the flick in. 'We hadn't done an awful lot wrong and we found ourselves a goal down. 'I don't think we deserved to be behind in the game but we had to go chasing it. Missed opportunity: Tim Cahill reacts during Everton's disappointing defeat What wins games is goals and they got the goal and we didn't.'
Moyes had to give teenager Apostolos Vellios, the club's leading scorer with three, only his second start for the club after striker Louis Saha pulled out with injury. 'He's got a thigh strain. I don't think it is that serious, it is a minor thigh strain,' said the Everton boss. 'We knew he had a bit of a tweak but he trained with us on Saturday and we expected him to be fit but he felt it.' Stoke made it back-to-back league wins, sandwiched between a Europa League draw at home to Dynamo Kiev. It was also only their second league victory on the back of a European match. Bad day at the office: Everton manager David Moyes (left)
'This was a real battling performance against a good Everton team,' said manager Tony Pulis. 'It has been a great week for the club. To get six points and to qualify for the latter stages of the Europa League is first class. 'We have had a dip of form, which most clubs do, and we have shown a lot of character and spirit the last week and the result on Thursday against Kiev was a fantastic result for us.' Pulis said Sorensen suffered no lasting effects from his clash with Cahill. 'Thomas has mild concussion. The doctor's looked at him and he's okay,' he added.
Everton 0 Stoke 1: The Huth hurts for Moyes as Potters grab win over toothless Toffees
By Dominic King
5th December 2011
David Moyes feared this would be the case. Having questioned whether their revival was merely his team applying 'a bit of make-up', Everton's manager saw reality bite at Goodison Park. After emerging from a wretched autumn with back-to-back wins over Wolves and Bolton, the visit of Stoke was one which Moyes knew would test Everton's credentials severely. That they failed was down to a problem that has plagued the club for years.
When lacking a striker and missing a creative spark, no team in the Barclays Premier League can expect to flourish... and that is where Everton are. Against obdurate opponents, their shortcomings were exposed as Robert Huth's first-half goal settled the contest. The Everton boss, who lost his leading striker Louis Saha with a thigh strain on Saturday morning, said: 'People know I've said we are short but the expectations are that we should always win these sorts of games. It's always tough. You need goalscorers and creators of goals.' It was a frustrating end to a deeply emotional day as the crowd and former team-mates paid tribute to former Everton captain Gary Speed before kick-off. The result they craved to honour his memory, however, was not forthcoming. Everton have had one of the most reliable, functional defences in the division in previous seasons and their statistics have invariably been good, but that sense of assurance has deserted them on home soil. Moyes had not seen Everton keep a clean sheet at Goodison Park in eight previous matches and, much to his dismay, Stoke did not have difficulty extending that run after going in front in the 15th minute. When Leighton Baines failed to control a dipping ball, Stoke forced a cheap corner and Moyes walked back to his seat, shaking his head. He felt worse a moment later when Huth turned Dean Whitehead's shot past Tim Howard after Matthew Etherington's centre had not been cleared. As Stoke's players wheeled away in celebration, the actions of those wearing blue spoke volumes. Howard and Marouane Fellaini flung their arms in the air; Tony Hibbert berated those around him. Phil Jagielka stood dumbfounded by the ease with which Stoke had scored. Respect: Everton players applaud former player Gary Speed
Tribute: Gary Speed's father, Roger, applauds the Goodison Park faithful
Moyes said: 'With the size of their team, it was always going to be a big ask to defend at corners, but we defended the first part of it. 'We hadn't done an awful lot wrong but then found ourselves a goal down. We hadn't played as well as we'd have liked and didn't pass the ball quickly enough, but I don't think we deserved to be behind. Then we had to go chasing it.' Normally a jolt like that cranks Everton into life but, for the rest of the half, all they mustered was a succession of long balls that were comfortably repelled. Ryan Shawcross did grapple with Fellaini at a corner but no penalty was given. The second period was similar. Everton had plenty of the ball but did not do enough with it, Stoke fought ferociously to preserve their lead and, ultimately, stopped Everton registering a shot on target. Boos rang out as the home side trudged off but they were not aimed at one individual. This was a collective venting of frustration at the situation facing Everton and Moyes's post-match appraisal did not provide any reassurance. Stoke have spent well, improved their team and they had Peter Crouch playing up front,' he said. 'We've not done that, but it was about 11 players and we didn't win, they did. They scored the goal.'
His sullen mood was in stark contrast to that of Stoke boss Tony Pulis. His side had lost their four previous Premier League games following Europa League duty. 'It has been a fantastic week for the club; to get six points and qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League with a game to spare is first class,' said Pulis. 'We had a dip in form, which most Premier League sides will experience. 'This was a real battling performance against a good team. Everton are formidable at Goodison when they get going and the crowd get behind them. It's a great ground. I really enjoy coming here.' After four defeats in seven home League games, Moyes and his men find it hard to say the same.
Robert Huth goal against Everton ends miserable run for Stoke
Andy Hunter at Goodison Park
5 December 2011
This was the kind of result Stoke supporters envisaged and David Moyes feared when the money flowed from the Britannia Stadium in the summer. Robert Huth's predatory strike and the defensive power he embodies capped a fine week for Tony Pulis's men as they remembered how to follow European duty with an away win. The only hangover in evidence was nursed by an Everton side that has now lost as many home games as bottom club Wigan and is discovering the true cost of selling its most creative and potent talents.
"We need scorers of goals and creators of goals, but we know that," lamented Moyes after a game in which Everton dominated possession but crafted nothing. Not a good way to sign off a weekend when Yakubu Ayegbeni and Mikel Arteta produced five goals between them for Blackburn Rovers and Arsenal respectively. Goodison was sombre irrespective of the performance. There was no 'Z Cars' theme to accompany the teams on to the field for once. Instead, the players walked out to 'Land of My Fathers' as the Welsh national anthem marked the start of an emotional tribute to the late Gary Speed. His distraught father, Roger, followed several former team-mates of the ex-Everton captain and boyhood fan to the centre circle and embraced every member of the current team before kick off. Jonathan Woodgate broke from the Stoke ranks to console the bereaved father. Play began with Everton reinforcing the sense that Stoke have yet to adjust to the duel demands of European and domestic football although, as Pulis's selection confirmed, they are a club that now has the resources to cope. The Stoke manager made nine changes from the side that qualified for the last 32 of the Europa League against Dynamo Kyiv on Thursday night and was still able to leave the strikers Kenwyne Jones and Cameron Jerome on the bench. By contrast, a slight thigh strain to Louis Saha forced his Everton counterpart to ask the promising but raw Greek teenager, Apostolos Vellios, to lead the home attack. Moyes added: "We are short, undeniably we are short. The expectations are that we should be winning these sorts of games but Stoke have spent well in the market and improved their team. We've not at this moment in time but that is not what this result is about. We didn't score and credit to Stoke for that. They are hard to break down." Stoke had lost their last four away games following Europa League duty and were immediately on the back foot as Peter Crouch started the game in isolation. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov miscued the home side's clearest opening when Tony Hibbert's cross fell to the Russia international and Thomas Sorensen was the only goalkeeper employed in the early stages, albeit only to deal with a procession of crosses. And then, as so often is the case, the visitors took the lead with their first attack. Huth, one of the two players retained from the Kyiv game, was perfectly placed when Dean Whitehead volleyed down the mouth of Tim Howard's goal after Bilyaletdinov headed clear a Matthew Etherington corner. From four yards out, the German defender diverted the ball over Howard and Stoke had a lead that, for all their possession, Everton threatened rarely. Another Stoke corner should have produced a second goal for Pulis's side before the interval. Jonathan Walters flicked on at the near post, Ryan Shotton arrived at the rear but, from two yards out and ahead of his marker, the midfielder failed to apply the necessary touch.
The referee, Lee Mason, dismissed Everton's appeals for a second half penalty when Tim Cahill beat Sorensen to a 50-50 challenge, created by Huth's hesitancy, and was sent tumbling by the Danish keeper. Sorensen, who got a fist to the ball as Cahill closed in, was eventually carried off on a stretcher suffering from mild concussion. It would have taken a lot more to knock Pulis's satisfaction. "It has been a great week for the football club," the Stoke manager said. "We've had a dip in form as most Premier League clubs do but to get six points and qualify for Europe is very pleasing. We have shown a lot of character and this was a real battling performance against an Everton team that is formidable at home." This season would suggest otherwise. Man of the match Glenn Whelan (Stoke City)
David Moyes left repeating same old story as Everton revival cut short by Stoke City on day of raw emotion
By Chris Bascombe, Goodison Park
05 Dec 2011
David Moyes said he was worried Everton had only ‘put on a bit of make-up’ when assessing their recent revival. As their progress was halted by Stoke City at Goodison, the blemishes he feared were being hidden by a touch of slap were gruesomely exposed. Even John Merrick would have turned his head away rather than tolerate the ugliness of this defeat.
There will come a time when Moyes assesses the debris of such a result and decides there is little merit in saying anything new. He can already recite from a well-rehearsed script.
“You know what I was saying last season, and the year before, and season before that? It’s the same again,” is the paraphrased version of his post match assessment, acknowledging Everton’s fate as a side perennially on the verge of being outstanding, but with a chronic inability to make the final thrust until investment arrives. There can be no more frustrating club in the division. Eighth before the start of play and seemingly ready to push on, they surrendered their position to Stoke with the kind of limp attacking performance their manager had prophesised long before kick-off. Moyes now has premonitions he’s going to suffer déjà vu. “We huffed and puffed. We didn’t lose the game because of our defending and didn’t do an awful lot wrong,” said Moyes. “Anyone who has heard me knows I’ve said that undoubtedly we’re short but the expectations are that we should always be winning these sorts of games. Stoke have spent well in the market, bought some players, improved their team and they had Peter Crouch playing up front. "We’ve not done that at this moment in time but it was about eleven players and we didn’t win, they did.” Once Louis Saha was absent with a calf injury, you were struggling to see where an Everton goal would come from. With only Apostolos Vellios to play upfront (a £250,000 teenager who should still be learning his trade in the reserves), Stoke defenders Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth were rarely pushed near the exit of their comfort zone. Stoke still deserved platitudes for their classy defensive performance, which ended their curse of failing to collect points after Europa League fixtures. This was their seventh consecutive away league game to follow a midweek European night, having lost their previous four. An experienced Euro campaigner would struggle to cope with such a demands, but for Stoke to be expected to deal with such new territory is akin to the Premier League punishing them for their qualification. Tony Pulis may have a habit of displaying a persecution complex that would make a Catholic martyr blush, especially where referees are concerned, but on this issue he’s correct. His club’s schedule is outrageously unfair, so the thrill of this victory was justified. “It’s been a great week for the football club. To get six points and qualify for Europe is first class,” said Pulis.
“We had a dip of form which most clubs in the Premier League do, but we’ve shown a lot of character and spirit. This was a real battling performance against a very good team because Everton are formidable at Goodison Park. Our goalkeeper didn’t have a shot to save.”
If there was a degree of poignancy to Stoke’s win, it was because it ensured a Welshman left Goodison smiling given the moving tribute to fellow countryman, Gary Speed, before kick-off. Pulis’ heart will have been pounding as much as any of the spectators as former Everton team mates lined up and the hymn Bread of Heaven provided a fitting memorial to the former Goodison midfielder. As Roger Speed exchanged consoling hugs with players past and present on behalf of his son, the uproarious response was followed by an understandable period of temperance. The subdued opening was halted when Stoke scored from the first attack of the game on 15 minutes. Matt Etherington’s corner was partially cleared as far as Dean Whitehead, whose volley was deflected in by Huth from six yards. Everton response was led by the enterprising midfield play of Maroune Fellaini, but only Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen’s preference for punching rather than catching incoming crosses offered the home side encouraging moments. Jon Walters and Shawcross almost doubled the lead from the visitors’ ever dangerous set-pieces. Sorensen was forced off in the second half with concussion after a collision with Tim Cahill, but it wasn’t serious and didn’t unduly disturb the unflustered defence. Stoke’s ability to consolidate their mid-table position while making impressive progress in Europe is a feat too easily overlooked.
They’ve become a club which is the epitome of steady progress, eager to push on every season. Everton, in contrast, are starting to look like a club unable to shift itself from its comfortable status. They’re never going to fulfil their aspirations until their attacking options are more potent than those of Stoke City. Until then, Moyes will have to continue to apply the cosmetics.
Ian Snodin: Gary Speed would have been delighted to hear Graeme Sharp link him with Everton FC manager's job
by Our Correspondent, Liverpool Echo
Dec 6 2011
I HAD to smile after reading the ECHO interview with Graeme Sharp in the wake of Gary Speed’s death. Sharpy said that Speed could one day have been an Everton FC manager, and I know for a fact that he would have absolutely loved that. If he was going to return to club management I know there would have been nowhere better for him than EFC.
Whenever we chatted it was only a matter of minutes before he turned the conversation around to the Blues, and he always followed their fortunes closely. He could have made a great manager for us.
Ian Snodin: Never mind Yakubu and Beckford - it’s Mikel Arteta that Everton FC miss most
by Our Correspondent, Liverpool Echo
Dec 6 2011
THE goals might not have flowed at Goodison on Sunday, but former Everton FC players were notching all over the place during the weekend’s Premier League fixtures. Some punters at the Stoke game stopped to tell me how annoyed they were that Yakubu scored four for Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. The gist was that they believed we should have kept hold of the Yak. I don’t agree. He’s a frustrating player, because with every club he’s signed for he follows the same pattern of scoring a flurry of goals in his first season before going stale, and in the end, he moves on. It happened at Everton, and Portsmouth and Middlesbrough before that. He’ll get you four in one game, but then he might not hit the net for another nine matches before popping up with a hat-trick again. Likewise Jermaine Beckford. Some may wonder why we let him go as his pace could provide an outlet we didn't have against Stoke, but despite his 10 goals last term he was never really a Premier League player for me. The big miss, naturally, is Mikel Arteta. We miss his ability to see a pass, and to help the back four by coming and taking the ball from them. That wasn’t there on Sunday, and Mikel is type team-mates rely on to take the ball.
Ian Snodin: Everton FC's tribute to Gary Speed moved me to tears
by Our Correspondent, Liverpool Echo
Dec 6 2011
AS A patriotic Englishman, never in a million years did I think that hearing the Welsh national anthem could reduce me to tears. But that was just what happened at Goodison on Sunday as ‘Land of My Fathers’ played out over the speakers while the two teams walked out, in tribute to my mate Gary Speed. Seeing his father Roger, who no doubt influenced his son’s decision to support Everton FC as a boy, struggling to contain his own emotions was difficult for all. In truth it was a heart-breaking end to a traumatic week. I went to watch Leeds United at Nottingham Forest last Tuesday, along with 4,000 Leeds supporters and sat among them at the City Ground. In the 11th minute of the game, the Leeds travelling fans began to sing Gary’s name and kept it going for 11 minutes. Then within seconds of the singing drawing to a close, Leeds scored. I turned around to my uncle and said, ‘That’s fate,’ – it was the sort of thing you couldn’t script. Then I was at Elland Road on Saturday along with Speedo’s former team-mates like Gary McAllister, Gordon Strachan, David Batty and Simon Grayson who took to the pitch beforehand to remember their pal. McAllister, in particular, looked devastated. Nobody can comprehend it yet, even those closest to Gary have no answers, and the fact it’s still on our minds more than a week later suggest he will never be forgotten. Back to Goodison on Sunday, and perhaps the sad start affected the atmosphere because it was certainly muted for the first 20 minutes. But overall it’d be wrong to suggest the crowd were quiet solely because of that – the players didn’t give them anything to cheer about in terms of actual chances, shots on target or flair. It didn’t surprise me in the slightest to look at the stats afterwards and see that Everton dominated possession. We had all the ball, but couldn’t do anything with it. Credit to Stoke they were organised well and kept their shape with discipline, but ultimately they didn’t play particularly well and still beat us which I find even more galling. Tim Howard was a spectator in the second half, and Stoke’s goal was one he could have done little to prevent given the nature of Robert Huth’s reflex diversion. I just feel that if Moyes’ men had an ounce of creativity they would have won, and speaking to the players in the lounge after the game they were genuinely gutted because they knew it was there for the taking. Leighton Baines must have been extra frustrated because he was putting in the deliveries, the likes of which you will rarely see better than from established midfielders, and there was nobody capable of getting on the end of them.
Sylvain Distin close to new Everton FC deal
Dec 6 2011
SYLVAIN Distin is close to signing a new one-year contract extension at Everton FC.
The French defender’s current EFC deal expires in the summer, and there had been confusion over claims he would not settle for anything less than a two-year renegotiation.
But Distin, 33, has always maintained he was mystified over where stories he was refusing to budge had come from, and indicated in September that he is content to commit for another 12 months. The Everton FC centre-back, who was an unused substitute during Sunday’s 1-0 defeat by Stoke City, turns 34 this month, and David Moyes is reluctant to hand any of his older players deals in excess of a year. However talks between Distin’s agent and the Goodison board have progressed amicably, and now the powerful former Portsmouth and Manchester City player is on the brink of putting pen to paper. One player who appears less certain to sign in at Goodison Park this winter is USA international Landon Donovan. The LA Galaxy forward had been linked with a return to Merseyside, after Moyes admitted he would be interested in bringing him back to Everton for a second loan deal in January following a successful three-month spell in 2010. Donovan, 29, scored the winning goal as his side clinched their third MLS title last month, and then promptly embarked on a bumper tour of Australia and South-East Asia with his club. Last year he eventually turned down the option of a Goodison return citing tiredness after a gruelling season, and when asked again by Everton fans during an internet webchat last week the striker appeared similarly noncommittal. “I loved my time there and would welcome the opportunity to go back some day,” he said. “I’m going to take the next few weeks to relax and rest my body, then decide what my future holds.” Meanwhile, a Blue Santa will be at the Liverpool One Everton store on Thursday afternoon to meet young Evertonians. Supporters will receive a special Christmas gift and can have their photographs taken with him. He will arrive at 3pm and will also be in store on Friday from 3-7pm, Saturday from 12-7pm and on Sunday from 11am-5pm.
Former Everton FC footballer Gary Speed's funeral to take place this week
Dec 6 2011
THE funeral of former Everton FC captain Gary Speed, who was found dead in his Cheshire home, will take place later this week, the League Managers Association (LMA) has confirmed. The private funeral and service will take place in Wales and will be for family and close friends. It is by invitation only. But a public memorial service for the Wales national football team manager is being planned for the new year. A spokesman for the LMA said: “At this time, Louise Speed and her family wish to express their deep appreciation for the very generous and clearly heartfelt tributes paid to Gary and his memory by the public and all forms of the media. “Mrs Speed is especially grateful for the sympathetic way that the media has respected the family’s privacy in these extremely distressing circumstances.
“She is also acutely aware how Gary touched the lives of so many people and that each of them would wish to thank him for the joy he brought to them. “Accordingly, a memorial service to celebrate Gary’s life will take place soon and hopefully this will allow as many people to attend as wish to be there to pay their final respects and tributes to Gary.”
Speed, who played for clubs including Leeds, Newcastle and Bolton, was found hanged at his Cheshire home last month. Any donations in his memory should be sent either to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation or the John Hartson Foundation via www.sirbobbyrobsonfoundation.org.uk/contact-us and http://www.johnhartsonfoundation.com/contact.asp.
Everton FC manager David Moyes faces battle as Landon Donovan stays quiet over New Year options
by Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
Dec 6 2011
DAVID MOYES faces a battle to persuade Landon Donovan to agree a second loan stint at Everton FC in the New Year. Moyes has made no secret of his desire to bring Donovan back to Goodison as he looks to bolster his attacking options. But the United States international has given no indication he wants another spell in the Premier League, having impressed while scoring twice in 13 appearances for Everton after arriving for a 10-week loan spell in January 2010. Donovan was mulling over a return to Goodison last year before opting instead to rest during the MLS close season following his exertions in the previous summer's World Cup. The 29-year-old recently scored the goal that won LA Galaxy the MLS Cup with a 1-0 victory over Houston Dynamos. Meanwhile, Jack Rodwell admits Everton have to break the habit of conceding the first goal in games. Sunday's 1-0 defeat at home to Stoke was the seventh time in nine Premier League games the Goodison outfit had gone behind and ended up losing. That it resulted in a fourth league defeat in seven home matches this season – while extending their wait for a home league clean sheet to nine games – only compounded the problem. “It is a bad habit,” said Rodwell, who made his first Everton appearance since November 5 as a second-half substitute having recovered from a rib injury. “You don't want to concede any time so to go behind early doors you have to claw yourself back into the game and that is difficult.” With Louis Saha nursing a thigh strain, Moyes gave 19-year-old Apostolos Vellios only his second start for the club on Sunday. And that the Greece under-21 international is the club's leading scorer with three goals sums up the problems facing the Everton manager. “We had an injury to Saha so we gave him a go and he is doing okay,” said Moyes. “Starting the game was a big ask, it was maybe better suited to Louis where you might get a little bit of intelligence in being able to come off players. “We lacked that bit of creativity which he can give us.” Everton's reserve team game at Bolton Wanderers yesterday was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch at the Lancashire FA. Depending on when the game is rearranged, the reserves may not be in action again until their next scheduled game against Manchester United on January 10.
Everton FC and England star Jack Rodwell meets fundraisers for Galloway’s Society for the Blind in Formby
Dec 6 2011 by Jamie McLoughlin, Formby Times
FUNDRAISING volunteers at Tesco in Formby received some unexpected help from a local footballing hero. Jack Rodwell, who plays for Everton FC and recently impressed with his full debut for the England team, lent a helping hand to members of Galloway’s Society for the Blind who were collecting for the Southport-based charity in the Formby store.
Fundraiser Adele Roberts is a keen Blues fan and asked Jack if he she could have his autograph as well as pose for a picture with him, a request the striker was happy to oblige.
Adele said: “It’s becoming a regular thing, meeting celebrities. I met Tom O’Connor earlier this year.” A spokesman for the charity said: “We would like to thank Jack, Adele and the staff and customers of Tesco who helped out and donated so generously to the charity's work with local blind and visually impaired people.” To find out more about the work Galloway’s does in the community, contact Kevin Lonergan on 01704 534555 or arrange to visit the Sight Advice Centre at Paton House, 22 Wright Street, Southport, PR9 0TL.
JACK RODWELL: SHARPEN UP, LADS!
ABOVE: Jack Rodwell insists Everton need to get sharper at the top It was disappointing – especially at home where we want to be picking up as many points as possible Jack Rodwell insists Everton need to get sharper at the top
6th December 2011
By Graham Chase
JACK RODWELL admits Everton have to find a cutting edge to get their campaign back on track at Arsenal. Boss David Moyes accepts the cash-strapped Blues are in desperate need of attacking reinforcements in January. But he knows cash will be tight once again as he looks to add some much needed firepower. He was given another painful reminder as his team – without Louis Saha due to a thigh problem – plodded to a 1-0 home defeat against Stoke on Sunday. Only the Potters, West Brom, Swansea and Wigan have bagged fewer goals than Everton this term. After seeing Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford move on during the summer, Moyes’ only other strikers are Greek kid Apostolos Vellios and on-loan Argentinian Denis Stracqualursi. Everton head to the Emirates on Saturday with Rodwell insisting they need to get sharper at the top. He said: “We didn’t deserve to lose against Stoke but that’s football and we have to bounce back as quickly as possible. “We’ve got Arsenal next and we need to train well and be confident. They’re a difficult prospect but so were Stoke. “We’ve had a couple of big wins before this and we’re still confident. “It was disappointing – especially at home where we want to be picking up as many points as possible. “We put a couple of crosses in here and there, we were huffing and puffing but we didn’t make clear-cut opportunities. It was frustrating.” At least Rodwell, 20, was able to make his first outing since suffering a rib problem in England’s 1-0 win over Sweden last month. The midfielder played almost half an hour against the Potters and is delighted to put his injury worries behind him. He added: “I’m back from a two-week injury and looking forward to the next game.”
Tamworth to play Everton in FA Cup third round
Sunday, December 04, 2011
TAMWORTH have been handed an FA Cup glamour tie against Premier League side Everton. The Lambs have been drawn away at Goodison Park in the third round.
Marcus Law's men beat Gateshead 2-1 in yesterday's second round tie. Tamworth say official supporters club coaches to Everton will be priced at £10 a head. Bookings will start to be taken after confirmation of the match details.
Everton FC player Tim Cahill has hardly touched the ball this season, stats reveal
by Our Correspondent, Liverpool Echo
Dec 7 2011
THE solution to Everton FC player Tim Cahill’s goal drought may have been unearthed in one of Opta’s strangest stats of the season. The influential Australian simply needs to see more of the ball! Everton FC currently have two players in the Premier League’s top 20 for fewest touches per game this season. David Moyes will be delighted that one is his goalkeeper, Tim Howard. But he will be less pleased that only two places below the USA international is the Australian star who is closing in on a full calendar year without a goal.
Throughout his Everton FC career Cahill has traditionally been one of Everton’s busiest players – occupying a role between the midfield and the forward line, linking up play and arriving late in the box to get on the end of crosses. But in recent weeks he has been operating more as an out and out striker – and the service to him has clearly been lacking.
According to a recently published table Cahill has managed 388 touches in his 822 minutes of football this season – an average of less than 43 every game. Predictably six goalkeepers figure in the top 20, including Cahill’s team-mate Tim Howard, but legendary Everton striker Graeme Sharp has some well-meaning advice for the Aussie. Ignore the stats: they’re rubbish! Sharp scored 159 goals throughout his Goodison career helped by a outstanding service from wide-men Trevor Steven and Kevin Sheedy – but he is sceptical about the figures. “They’re a load of rubbish,” he rapped. “Those stats are misleading. They’re only good for giving somebody a job to count the touches every player has in a match. “Strikers are only as good as the service they’re getting. If you’re playing up front on your own, running the channels and getting in the box 10 times only for the ball not to reach you on nine occasions, you’re not going to have many touches. “There are players like Ray Wilkins who used to have lots of touches, and maybe Lucas at Liverpool, where a lot of those touches are short sideways passes. “The only stat that matters as far as strikers are concerned is goals scored – that’s always been the case, even going back to my day when I took as much joy out of creating goals as I did scoring. “That’s the only statistic Tim will be worried about.” Backing up Sharp’s words the stats throw up several anomalies. Darren Bent, who has endured a disappointing season so far in front of goal, has had fewer touches of the ball per game than any other Premier League player – an average of just 24.6 touches every match. Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart, as expected, has been almost as under-employed. With his team-mates usually dominating possession and enjoying the best defensive record in the division, he is sixth in the fewest touches table. Yet one place above Hart is Newcastle striker Demba Ba, who has enjoyed a prolific season so far with nine goals from his 359 touches.
Charlie Davies keen on Everton FC’s American link
by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
Dec 7 2011
AMERICAN striker Charlie Davies who lost out in the MLS comeback player of the year voting to David Beckham has emerged as an affordable answer to Everton FC’s goalscoring problems. Charlie Davies has been released by French side Sochaux – and MLS outfit DC United, where the 25-year-old spent a successful season on-loan, have decided not to pay the $1.2m it would cost them to sign him permanently. Davies has won 16 caps for the USA and scored 11 goals in 26 games on loan with United in the recently ended MLS season.
DC United announced last Thursday that they were not exercising their option to sign him permanently – and reports in the French media have immediately linked him with a move to Everton. The Blues have not confirmed the link, but David Moyes has positive experiences of his dealings with American strikers – having overseen successful loans for Brian McBride and Landon Donovan in the past – and the modest transfer fee would be within Everton’s limited means. In 2009 Davies was involved in a car accident that nearly took his life, but despite an impressive comeback which saw him finish the regular season with 11 goals, he lost out in the MLS comeback player of the year voting to LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham, who returned to the field in September 2010 after rupturing his Achilles tendon.
A colourful character, Davies became the first player in MLS history to be fined for diving – and he also filed a $20 million lawsuit against the club and promoter involved in the party he left before the near fatal 2009 car crash. Tim Cahill, meanwhile, says he is convinced Everton will come good this season, despite a recent mini recovery being punctured by Stoke’s victory at Goodison Park last weekend and the Blues now facing a testing trip to Arsenal. “It is such a long season and there is still 30 games to go,” he declared. “I’m pretty sure there is going to be loads more to talk about from now until the end of the season. “For me and the club it is about being consistent and maintaining that and trying to see where we finish. We nearly always come good all the time so it is more about taking it one game at a time and making sure we stay focused on what it important and that is basically getting results – whether it is a draw or a win. “With our squad and the team we have got we are doing pretty well.”
EVERTON are hosting a Christmas carol service on Thursday (December 8) from 6pm at St Luke’s Church, Goodison Road and supporters are welcome to join the celebration. A limited number of tickets are still available so visit the homepage of evertonfc.com to apply for your place.
Tim Cahill confident Everton FC can turn season around again
by Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
Dec 7 2011
TIM CAHILL believes Everton FC’s famed powers of recovery can propel them back up the Premier League table. After a run of six defeats in seven matches in all competitions which left them dangerously close to the relegation zone, David Moyes’s Everton FC side appeared to have cured their problems with back-to-back Premier League victories.
But defeat at home to Stoke at the weekend cut short their mini-revival and led to more grumbling among the Goodison faithful. Everton FC had a tough run of fixtures between late September and early November – against the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea twice, Manchester United and Newcastle United – which accounted for their poor results. But Tim Cahill, in his eighth season at Goodison, has seen it all before. “The run of games was always going to be difficult,” said Cahill, who celebrated his 32nd birthday yesterday. “You can see how well teams like (newcomers) Swansea have stepped up but it is such a long season and there is still 30 games to go. “I’m pretty sure there is going to be loads more to talk about from now until the end of the season. “For me and the club it is about being consistent and maintaining that and trying to see where we finish. “We nearly always come good all the time so it is more about taking it one game at a time and making sure we stay focused on what it important and that is basically getting results – whether it is a draw or a win. “With our squad and the team we have got we are doing pretty well.”
Everton travel to Arsenal at the weekend and Seamus Coleman believes Moyes’s men are due a result against one of the Premier League’s leading contenders. Coleman contends luck has deserted the Goodison outfit in some of their big games this term. “In the derby there was the sending off as everyone knows, while against Manchester United we dominated the game but we just could not get the goal we needed to at least get a point, but hopefully that will change on Saturday and we can get the win,” said the Irishman. “We are going to try and win the game like we always do. “Sure it would be good to come out with at least a point but we always feel we can beat the big teams when we come up against them.
“It will be tough, no doubt about it, but we are going there to try and win. “It will be hard to keep a clean sheet but that’s what we will be looking to do and then get a goal at the other end. It is not going to be easy but we will be confident.”
Mark Lawrenson: Why a change would do predictable Everton good
by Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
Dec 7 2011
EVERTON know they have a great asset in Leighton Baines – the problem now is that everybody else knows that too. Baines has become a hugely influential player for David Moyes’s side, and not just with his prowess from dead-ball situations. The left-back is arguably their most creative player this season, with his crosses from the flanks providing ammunition for team-mates. It’s a very effective Plan A. Everton, though, don’t seem to have a Plan B at the moment. So when opponents manage to successfully negate Baines, at least going forward, then Everton hit trouble. Moyes’s team has become too predictable – you know what’s coming. They cannot mix up the way they make their chances. They seem to generally be the same kind of movement, down the wing to either Seamus Coleman or Baines and then in comes the cross. Once the opposition twigs on to that, it makes it a lot easier to stop. And with the likes of Prozone making it more straightforward to analyse teams, such an obvious reliance is easy to wipe out. Stoke weren’t much of a surprise either but Everton still failed to keep them out on Sunday. It didn’t help that Everton had precisely no shots on target. They had a lot of pressure but were unable to make any clear-cut chances. The Goodison side are missing the guile that Mikel Arteta provided before his move to Arsenal in the summer. Well, they haven’t missed him on what he produced last season. Arteta was average then, but now he has moved to a better team he has started to look the player we all know he was. United can make Swiss roll over but City are heading for Europa League IT’S Champions League crunch time for the Premier League’s top two this evening – and I think there will be contrasting emotions for the Manchester clubs. I quite fancy City to beat Bayern Munich, but in all honesty I can’t see Napoli failing to get the result they need against Villarreal. It would therefore be interesting to see what City then did if they had to drop into the Europa League. United, though, will get the result they need in Basle. I did the Old Trafford game between the pair, and while Basle played well, United were very complacent and made some massive mistakes. I can’t see that happening again. Basle managed to deny Liverpool back in 2002, but they were a much better side then. They need to go at United tonight to get the win, and I think they will be picked off.