Blues agree Lescott deal
June 1 2006 EXCLUSIVE by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON today completed a remarkable week in the transfer market by sealing a deal to sign Joleon Lescott. Less than 48 hours after splashing out a club record £8.6m on Andrew Johnson, the Blues board have lavished a further £4m to recruit the highly-rated central defender from Wolves. The 23-year-old has agreed personal terms and underwent a medical at Bellefield this morning to become Everton's third signing since the end of the season, following the captures of Johnson and Manchester United keeper Tim Howard on loan. Having allowed Matteo Ferrari to return to AS Roma, it was no secret that manager David Moyes was looking to recruit a central defender and aside from Lescott, he had considered Chelsea's Robert Huth. Lescott, however, had more ticks in the right boxes and once a fee was agreed - it is understood the figure could rise to £5m depending on appearances - Everton moved swiftly to land a player who was also a target for Aston Villa and Sevilla. Moyes, who has endeavoured to lower the average age of his squad, is looking forward to seeing his new arrivals spend the best years of their careers at Goodison Park and anticipates plenty of goals from Johnson. "His record over the last four seasons is one goal in two games," said Moyes. "That's right up there with the best. If he came here and produced one goal every two games for Everton, I think it would be a signing the supporters would see as positive. "I think the fans will accept him because they know he has got goals in him. He'll work hard for the team. "I didn't have to do much selling of Everton to Andy. We are getting him in his prime years and we hope we are going to benefit." Johnson's signing ends a year long pursuit on Moyes' behalf and he has expressed his gratitude to the board for stumping up the cash that enabled him to smash the club's transfer record for the second time in 17 months. "We tried to sign him last year and when we knew Crystal Palace were not going to get promoted, we picked up the thread of it this year," said Moyes. "There were a lot of clubs who wanted him and it took a lot of work, a lot of pushing. "During the season, you are always looking around. We knew we needed a striker to add some more goals to what we have got and AndyJohnson was top of that list. "You have lists because you sometimes don't get the one at the top. Fortunately we did. "I wanted him at Everton, Bill Kenwright wanted him at Everton and this is a big thank you to the board for pushing the boat out on this one.
"I've got my number on target of a striker. If him and Beats become a partnership, I'll be delighted."
Supporters were biggest factor in move - Johnson
June 1 2006 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
MONEY might make the modern footballing world go round but in an age when bank balances matter more to some than points, how refreshing to hear a player reveal his desire to move had nothing to do with pounds, shillings and pence. Officially unveiled as Everton's record signing yesterday, Andrew Johnson has signed a deal that will keep him at Goodison Park for the next five years and, in all probability, secure his financial future. All the riches in the world, though, could not secure the one thing this fiercely ambitious England international craves most. The prospect of becoming an Everton hero, rather than the zeroes in his pay packet, convinced Johnson to move north. Although Wigan Athletic and Bolton Wanderers staked impressive cases when it became clear Johnson was going to leave Crystal Palace, the 25-year-old's mind was made up once Everton registered their interest. Johnson vividly remembers being part of a Palace side thrashed 4-0 in April 2005, as Everton marched towards a place in Champions League qualifiers. As the famous old ground bounced in delight that afternoon, an indelible impression was made. The prospect of becoming a player that those supporters would idolise, then, could not be turned down. Duncan Ferguson's departure means the Gwladys Street are looking for a new darling and Johnson is ready to stake his claim. "I sat down with all the clubs but the gaffer here was tremendous," said Johnson, who cost Everton £8.6m to secure his signature. "Everything he said to me about the way he was taking the club forward, the facilities and so on. "But the fans were the biggest part. To play here in front of 40,000 will be something else. When I came here with Crystal Palace, it was very intimidating. The atmosphere was tremendous and the fans were sopassionate. "To have passionate fans to play in front of week in, week out will be abig plus.Ijust can't wait to get started now. The history of the club is there for all to see. This is one of the biggest clubs in British football. "They played in the Champions League last year, and coming to a team that had done that was a massive factor as well. The other teams [who wanted to sign him] don't get 40,000 a week. The fans are tremendous down here." For the price it has taken to spirit him away from Selhurst Park, Johnson knows there will be a pressure on him to deliver straight away and improve Everton's wretched recent record in front of goal. Last season's all time low of 34 followed consecutive returns of 45 in the two prior campaigns. The Blues are crying out for a regular scorer and Johnson -85 goals in 160 appearances for Palace - fits the bill. "I'd like to think that my goal record shows I'm a proven goalscorer," said Johnson, who has been capped twice by his country. "I have come to Everton to win things. Everton are a top club but I don't think I've got anything to prove to anyone. "Hopefully we can have a great season. I don't see why not. With the players thatthe gaffer is trying to bring in and the players that are here already, I don't see any reason why they can't do what they did two seasons ago." Johnson also sees no reason why he can't repeat the feat of scoring 21 times, as he did the last time he was in the Premiership. Being surrounded by players of a higher calibre should reap instant dividends. "No disrespect to the lads at Crystal Palace but there arealot of top internationals here," he continued. "Training with them and adapting to the gaffer's methods of training is obviously going to help me develop as a player." Should he combine that development with finding the net frequently, there is no question he will become a Goodison Park favourite. So it is significant that Johnson craves much, much more. "I haven't come here to score twoor three goals a season," said Johnson. "I've come here to be a goalscorer, which is what I'd like to think of myself as. If I can carry on what I have been doing over the last two or three years, everything will go well. "It's all about tasks and challenges. I want to be a hero. I haven't come here not to be a hero. I have come here to test myself and carry on what I've been doing. Hopefully if I knock a couple of goals in, I will become a local hero. I'll give it my best shot."
Goals galore as Ferguson enters Blues folklore
Jun 1 2006 Liverpool Echo
DUNCAN FERGUSON - Part 3: Chief Sports Writer DAVID PRENTICE takes us through the Goodison icon's first stint in a blue shirt - from Wembley through his spell in prison!
IF Duncan Ferguson's first goal for Everton ignited a love affair with Evertonians, a flurry of subsequent Goodison goals kept those fires burning. Throughout his career Ferguson was not renowned as a prolific goalscorer, but his return in the first few months of his Royal Blue career was considerable. His next appearance in front of the Goodison fans after his riotously received derby match winner, was against Leeds - when he scored another Gwladys Street header. He also scored in his next two Goodison outings against Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich, then when Crystal Palace came to Goodison in January netted two more. By then Ferguson was a full-time Evertonian. Joe Royle agreed to break Everton's transfer record to make Ferguson's loan from Glasgow Rangers permanent - and after a £4m transfer was announced on December 13, 1994, Royle declared: "Duncan has immense potential.
"He is also a terrific lad who is still only 22 and ready to go learning. The fans have taken to him. That is easy to see. "In the short time he has been here he has played his full part in our mini revival. "I know the players will be delighted with the news of the signing. They have come to like Duncan a lot. He has a great spirit and a driving will to win. It is important that my first signing was a big one and a good one."
Ferguson scored just one more league goal in the four months that remained of that season - but it added to his burgeoning reputation. He rose dramatically at the Gwladys Street End to head past Manchester United's Peter Schmeichel, beforetearing off his shirt, swirling it triumphantly around his head and racing the length of the Goodison Road touchline - flexing his biceps at the adoring fans. While goals like that helped Royle engineer a greatescape from the drop, Everton's abrasive, resilient performances were also proving highly effective in the FA Cup. Everton battled their way through to the FA Cup quarter-finals, where Ferguson's aerial presence provided the foil for Dave Watson to head the Blues into the last four. But with Wembley looming, Ferguson fell victim to the first serious injury of his Everton career - a hernia.A strikeforce of Paul Rideout and Graham Stuart proved highly effective in getting the Blues to the cup final, but Ferguson's participation was in doubt right up until the eve of the match. He played the final 45 minutes of the final match of the season - a tepid, meaningless goalless draw at Coventry - and was clearly unfit.
But perhaps the memory of his performance against United earlier in the season, and the psychological impact that could have had on Alex Ferguson's men, persuaded Royle to name Ferguson on the substitutes' bench. He got on, too, to play his part in Everton's last cup success. The 1995-96 season was one of upward mobility for Everton. The Blues signed Andrei Kanchelskis from Manchester United for £5m, were in Europe for the first time in a decade - and finished the season in a highly creditable sixth place. But the campaign was one of frustration and, ultimately, personal tragedy for Ferguson. His groin problem flared up again after only twoappearances -but beforehe could recover, the SFA's persistent attempts to have the head-butting incident with John McStay brought in front of the criminal courts, succeeded. Lord Hope sentenced Ferguson to three months in jail. Just weeks after Eric Cantona had kung-fu kicked a member of the public - and been banned - Ferguson was jailed. He entered the notorious Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow - one of the few prisons in the country which still operated the degrading slopping out practice - on Thursday, October 12. Everton were appalled. Chairman Peter Johnson spoke out vehemently against the decision. "We are bitterly disappointed. It is a most inappropriate sentence. To send a young man to jail who is in a job and is of no danger whatsoever to society is totally wrong," he said. "The incident didn't take place in the streets, but on a football pitch. It didn't even attract the attention of the referee or the linesmen atthe time.There was no caution. I simply cannot understand why they have subDUNCAN FERGUSON - Part 3: Chief Sports Writer DAVID PRENTICE takes us through the Goodison icon's first stint in a blue shirt - from Wembley through his spell in prison!
Ferguson served 44 days of his sentence - and Everton made their feelings clearly known when he returned to action in a Pontin's League reserve match against Newcastle; he was piped onto the pitch by a Scottish piper. The remainder of the campaign was a mix of spectacular goals, injury absences and total backing from the Blues fans. But the opening to the following season showed Duncan Ferguson at his very best. Alan Shearer made his Newcastle debut at Goodison Park onthe opening day - following a £15m move from Blackburn. Ferguson, reportedly irkedby the publicity the deal generated, was inspired as Everton defeated Newcastle 2-0.
"On his day, Duncan Ferguson is absolutely unplayable," declared awestruck BBC analyst Alan Hansen. But four days later Ferguson was even better. He scored two goals at Old Trafford - one a brilliant turn and shot - as Everton led 2-0 and should really have done better than draw at Manchester United. But it was a flash of brilliance which burned out all too quickly. Sent off at Blackburn in September for the second time in his Everton career - forcalling David Elleray a 'baldy bastard' - Ferguson underwent knee surgery. He did not return for two months, just in time to face Liverpool at Anfield in a rearranged derby match. Mersey folklore has it that the Liverpool dressing room, aware that Ferguson was about to come on, spent the entire half-time team talk discussing how to stop him. They failed - and Everton snatched a late equaliser. Between December 1996 and the end of the 1997 season, Ferguson enjoyed the most consistent spell of his Everton career. He started 25 successive matches - only once coming off early (in the 85th minute) - and scoring eight goals, but the stability Ferguson was showing was not matched off the pitch. Royle left the club "by mutual consent" and a farcical search began for his successor - a quest which only ended four months later with Howard Kendall returning to Good-ison for his third spell as manager. The 1997-98 season was one of the most miserable in Everton's existence - but for Duncan Ferguson it would prove one of the most significant. sequently jailed Duncan."
Premier clubs in wages bonus
Jun 1 2006 Liverpool Echo
PREMIERSHIP football clubs have managed to rein in their wage bills for the first time in the league's history, figures showed today. While top flight stars in England continue to take home more than their European counterparts, Premiership clubs saw their total wage bills fall by 3.2% in the 2004/05 season. The figures, which do not take into account the recently announced £1.7 billion broadcasting rights deal for Premier-ship matches, show top clubs paying out a total of £785 million on wages in 2004/05 - the most recent season for which figures are available. The total was down from £811 million a year before, figures published by Deloitte & Touche's Sports Business Group show. Stripping out salaries for non-players, the figure fell from £583 million to £559 million. The drop suggests that efforts to stem the tide of wage inflation may have been paying off. Previous years have seen average rises of 20% since the Premiership was set up in 1992, with slower growth in recent years, Deloitte said. Dan Jones, a partner in the Sports Business Group, said: "Our latest analysis further supports the improving balance between revenue and costs, not just in England, but also across Europe. "The need to 'save clubs from themselves' with a salary cap now seems far less important than it did five years ago." Despite the lower wage bills, players in England still outstripped their European counterparts.
Jun 1 2006 By Tommy Smith, Liverpool Echo
ANDY JOHNSON is a player I believe Everton simply could not afford to miss out on. He's a small, nippy guy with great pace and there are more and more players like him now in the Premiership. Years ago teams used to favour a big, battering ram sort of centre forward and while there are still some around, the fashion nowadays is more for guys like Owen and Jermain Defoe at Tottenham. I think Johnson is a good player and will do well for Everton. They're a much bigger club than either Bolton or Wigan and the lad has made the right choice going to Goodison.
Neville hails Blues' show of ambition
June 2 2006 Exclusive By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
PHIL NEVILLE has hailed Everton's record breaking move for Andrew Johnson as a statement of the club's ambitions for next season. Though he was disappointed by the way things fizzled out in the most recent campaign, Neville has been buoyed that manager David Moyes and the board have moved swiftly to make improvements to the squad with the additions of Johnson and Joleon Lescott. Johnson's arrival in particular will give Everton an extra dimension in front of goal and though it cost £8.6m to secure his signature, Neville reckons the fee will prove to be money well spent. He also feels it shows the Blues are determined to be seen as serious challengers for a European place come August. "When supporters are asking for you to sign good players and pay big money, they don't come much bigger and better than Andrew Johnson," said Neville of a player whose goal average for Crystal Palace was an impressive one every two games. "In terms of scoring, there has been nobody better in the last two years in the Championship or the Premiership. We are getting a proven goalscorer who fits perfectly into the way that we play. "He is a strong runner, he is quick and he has got a great eye for goal. You can see a partnership developing between him and James Beattie immediately." Having spent the last 10 days with Johnson at England's pre-World Cup training base, Neville feared Bolton or Wigan might win the race for his signature, so took every opportunity to paint a glowing picture of Goodison Park for the 25-year-old. From the first conversation they held though, it was clear Johnson had his heart set on moving to Merseyside.
"I heard about something last week when I was training with him but I was slightly worried at one point when I heard he was getting on a helicopter to Wigan - I wanted to hijack him," revealed Neville, who could yet be part of the England squad that travels to the World Cup finals next week. "So it's a great signing for the club. He's a great lad and he was so excited about coming here. He kept saying that Everton was his number one choice when I met him last week. "The speculation might have had him linked with Bolton and Wigan but from what he was said to me, his mind was already made up. The most important thing was that the clubs agreed the fee.
"As soon as that happened, there was only one club he was going to join. I told him all the positives about the club but he knew a lot about Everton anyway." Neville also points out it would be folly to ignore the younger members of Everton's striking department. James McFadden, Victor Anichebe and James Vaughan will also take some of the pressure off the front two. "People will say straight away that it will be Beattie and Johnson but we have also got Faddy, Victor and Vaughany to come back. We have got five quality strikers," Neville added.
Kendall gamble pays off but Dunc faces Toon move heartache
Jun 2 2006 Liverpool Echo
DUNCAN FERGUSON - Part 4: Chief Sports Writer DAVID PRENTICE tracks the Goodison idol's rise to club captain before his eventual shock sale to Newcastle United
HOWARD KENDALL was never afraid of taking a calculated gamble.
Some - like selecting Glenn Keeley, signing Alan Biley and substituting Gary Stevens - didn't come off. Others - like Andy Gray, Peter Reid and Wayne Clarke - paid off spectacularly. But few decisions generated as much discussion - or profited as instantly - as his decision to make Duncan Ferguson captain of Everton.
Ferguson was not renowned for his responsibility, nor his attitude to authority.
But Kendall tossed him the captain's armband before Everton's home game with Bolton on December 28, 1997 and said simply: "Lead by example." Ferguson did just that. Often in need of a prompt to bring out his best performances - a derby match for example, or the sight of a Manchester United jersey - Ferguson responded dramatically. He scored the first - and only - hat-trick of his Everton career, proving Kendall's decision to be a master-stroke of managerial psychology.
DUNCAN FERGUSON - Part 4: Chief Sports Writer DAVID PRENTICE tracks the Goodison idol's rise to club captain before his eventual shock sale to Newcastle United
The following night's ECHO reported: "From the opening 90 seconds when he had a header cleared off the line, to the dying seconds when he chased a Bolton defender and tackled the ball out for a throw in, he was an inspirational leader. "Duncan Ferguson has produced these kind of Braveheart performances before. But rarely against opposition as modest as Bolton Wanderers - and rarely when it has mattered so much. "It is usually the red rags of Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal which inflame the Scot's passions. It was the white of fellow strugglers Bolton that Ferguson chose to produce the most inspirational - and productive display - of his Everton career. "The centre-forward has had his critics throughout his career. But that is because the man's talent is obvious, the desire to show it sometimes less so.
"Yesterday Ferguson was absolutely faultless." The importance of the victory only became apparent at the end of the season, when Everton edged out Bolton by goal difference in the battle to stayin the Premier-ship. Ferguson clearly revelled in the extra responsibility and for the next four months he produced the most important form of his Everton career.
DUNCAN FERGUSON - Part 4: Chief Sports Writer DAVID PRENTICE tracks the Goodison idol's rise to club captain before his eventual shock sale to Newcastle United
He scored in four of his next seven appearances - including another memorable strike against Liverpool at Anfield - and did as much as anybody to ensure Everton retained their Premiership status. Struggling with a knee injury again, he insisted on playing through the pain barrier in the final seven, crucial matches of the season as Everton stayed up. But the relieved celebrations were quickly replaced by a search for a scapegoat for the dreadful season Everton had just endured - and Kendall was axed.
The identity of his replacement immediately brought Ferguson's future into question.
Walter Smith had sold Ferguson from Rangers to Everton and there was immediate speculation history could be set to repeatit-self. Ferguson's reaction when he scored Everton's first two goals of the season at Nottingham Forest fuelled the fire - celebrating in more animated fashion than usual, pointing at the fans and mouthing 'I love you,' to them. There was no suggestion that Smith had ever planned to sell Ferguson, however. In fact he played every minute of every one of Everton's opening 17 matches of the season . . . before he sa tout the visit of Newcastle on a Monday night through suspension. Twenty-four hours later he had gone.
DUNCAN FERGUSON - Part 4: Chief Sports Writer DAVID PRENTICE tracks the Goodison idol's rise to club captain before his eventual shock sale to Newcastle United
The transfer eventually brought down a footballing dynasty - chairman Peter Johnson forced to resign after admitting he had sanctioned the £8m deal with Newcastle without his manager's knowledge. The first Smith knew of the transfer was when he bumped into a clearly emotional Ferguson on the Goodison staircase.
"I thought you might have stuck up for me a bit more, gaffer," muttered Ferguson, as Smith, wife Ethel, assistant Archie Knox and his wife Janice all trooped towards the exit. "What are you talking about?" said Smith, before the full story came out.
"Have you signed anything?" rapped Smith, before Ferguson declared that he hadn't, but had shaken hands on a deal. Smith and Knox immediately headed to the coaches' room at Goodison, accompanied by their wives, to discuss their next move.
Mrs Knox, clearly unaware of her husband's reputation for stalking the corridors of Pittodrie with a baseball bat, piped up: "Well if what some of the fans are saying in the lounges is true, Archie, it sounds like it's a good deal!" Knox snapped back: "Shut the f*** up Janice," prompting an equally outraged, if less colourful response from Mrs Smith. It was a rare shaft of light relief in a dark week for Everton.
The problem had lain with the spending spree sanctioned by Johnson when Walter Smith arrived. More than £20m had been spent on players like Olivier Dacourt, John Collins, Marco Materazzi, David Unsworth, Steve Simonsen and Ibrahima Bakayoko, and a worried bank was threatening foreclosure unless some money came in - and quickly. Ferguson provided the financial get-out, although an interview he gave to club magazine The Evertonian a week later revealed what he really felt about the horse-trading. "I am numb with shock. It sickened me. I couldn't believe it. I am absolutely heartbroken to leave the club," he said. "I was happy to be at Everton for life, if they wanted me. In the last couple of days my worldhas turned upside down."
In true man-for-the-big-occasion tradition, Ferguson scored twice on his debut for Newcastle while he still sported an Everton tattoo on his shoulder.
Dunc's the super-sub
June 3 2006 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DUNCAN FERGUSON - Part 5: Chief Sports Writer DAVID PRENTICE on the second coming of the Goodison hero in the last part of our series
WALTER SMITH had a problem to solve at the start of the 2000-01 season.
A knee injury to top scorer Kevin Campbell left him without a man to lead his forward line into the new season. Chairman Bill Kenwright came up with a romantic solution. He explained: "I started speaking on the phone to Duncan Ferguson at 5.30pm, and by 9pm we were laughing; I knew we'd made a breakthrough. At 11.20pm he rang me to say he was in his car and on his way back home, and the word 'money' wasn't mentioned once." Two years after he had controversially left Goodison for Newcastle for £8m, Ferguson returned for £3.75m. And he was thrilled. "To tell you the truth, if it wasn't Everton I probably wouldn't have left Newcastle," he admitted. "It's amazing when you play for Everton, it's an incredible feeling. It's in your blood and it's been in mine for the last four, five, six years; I just couldn't shake it." Sadly, something else Ferguson couldn't shake was his injury-prone reputation. He came on as a 66th minute substitute against Charlton in Everton's first home game of the season - and scored two late Gwladys Street goals. But a dreadful tackle by Richard Rufus caused a severe injury to Ferguson's calf.
Some supporters rolled their eyes and thought 'here we go again' - but in truth Ferguson did well to finish the match on his feet after a very poor challenge.
He did not return to action until Boxing Day, but 10 days later returned home from an FA Cup tie at Watford to discover a burglar trying to ransack his Formby home - and broke his hand apprehending the intruder. He managed six goals in his 13 appearances that season - including a now customary strike against Liverpool, but his fitness was becoming an increasingly persistent problem. He made a bright start to the following season starting eight of the first nine matches - converting three penalties (but missing one) - before a difficult to diagnose back problem flared up.
One German doctor claimed Ferguson had a blood disorder - although the cause was eventually identified as a compressed sciatic nerve. The nerve was discovered to be completely flat instead of cylindrical and physio Mick Rathbone said it was surprising that Ferguson had even been able to run with the problem, never mind play. His appearances during that time were patchy, and when he finally managed to put a run of six successive appearances together following the arrival of David Moyes as manager, he captained the side, scored four crucial goals and gave a glimpse of the Ferguson fans remembered from his heyday. Frustration at the physical limitations his frame was causing, however, started to manifest itself in increasingly stupid dismissals. Just 20 minutes into a crucial home match against Bolton he was red-carded - for punching Fredi Bobic in the stomach. He was hugely fortunate that referee Steve Bennett evened up the card count by showing defender Konstantinidis a second yellow card 10 minutes later - and Everton won 3-1. By then, a new hero was emerging on the Goodison block, and there were rumours that Ferguson was not thrilled at being displaced in supporters' affections by the 16-year-old Wayne Rooney.
Sadly, his back problem meant there was little he could do about it. He didn't start a single match in 2002-03, while a more impressive appearance record in 2003-04 - 16 starts and nine goals (four from the penalty spot) came to an abrupt halt when he was red-carded at Leicester. The decision to show a second yellow card was harsh, but Ferguson's angry reaction was indefensible. He proceeded to strangle Steffen Freund.
As ever with Ferguson, a photograph of the incident became iconic, being used for pop-art images, prints and T-shirts. In the summer of 2004, Everton tried to buy off the last year of Ferguson's contract. He refused, before discovering a new - and successful role, that of supersub. David Moyes started to introduce him from the substitutes' bench late in games, and his physical presence and aerial ability proved a compelling distraction for defenders. He scored a late winner at Norwich, did the same just five minutes after coming on against Fulham - and was on target again in another dramatic home defeat of Bolton. But it was too good to be true - and he walked for the seventh time in his Everton career after needlessly elbowing Herman Hreidarsson in the face at Charlton. He didn't start another match for four months, but when he did he turned back the clock for the last time in his Everton career.
His performance against Manchester United on a raucous Goodison night in April was magnificent. He terrorised Rio Ferdinand, chased down defenders like his life depended on it - and scored a superb diving header down at the Gwladys Street End which proved the catalyst to propel Everton to a fourth place finish and a Champions League place. A late equaliser against Birmingham three days later, reprising his super-sub's role once again, was virtual confirmation. It would be Ferguson's last goal until his farewell appearance 12 months later - although a bizarre decision by the self-styled "best referee in the world" saw one perfectly legitimate strike disallowed in Villarreal. There was also one more disciplinary statistic to file - another absurd red card for punching Paul Scharner in a match at Wigan. There was no explanation or apology from Ferguson afterwards, as there hadn't been throughout his career.
And the silence meant that his final appearance against West Bromwich Albion was not billed as such. Even after the game manager David Moyes refused to confirm that Ferguson had kicked his last ball for the Blues. But the player's reaction as he embarked on a 'lap of appreciation' at the final whistle, blinking back tears and professing love for the fans, made it clear. Duncan Ferguson's football career with Everton was at an end. Ultimately, it was the man who signed him who had already delivered the most accurate epitaph to his Everton career, some 10 years earlier.
"He became a legend before he became a player," said Joe Royle. Duncan Ferguson an Everton legend? He certainly thought so - and plenty of fans did, too. One thing is certain - there wasn't anybody quite like him in professional football over the past decade or so.
Johnson injured in training as Eriksson hints Defoe will be included in final squad
Jun 3 2006 By Ian Doyle, Daily Post
ANDREW JOHNSON'S hopes of appearing at the World Cup receded yesterday when it emerged he is behind Jermain Defoe in the England standby pecking order.
England will take at least one extra striker when they travel to Germany on Monday with doubts persisting over the fitness of Wayne Rooney. Sven-Goran Eriksson has said Tottenham Hotspur's Defoe is the current choice, although Everton record signing Johnson - who suffered a minor injury in training in Manchester on Friday - may yet make the trip, with England contemplating taking both standby forwards.
"We're going to take at least one extra striker with us and at the moment it seems to be Defoe," said Eriksson. "Andrew Johnson had a small problem with his leg after Friday's training. "But we haven't decided yet. We'll decide that after 90 minutes on Saturday to see how many we need to go to Germany." Rooney was spotted taking part in running, turning and ball work at Carrington ahead of England's final training session before today's clash with Jamaica at Old Trafford. Rooney was accompanied in his workout by two members of United's backroom staff and the session was halted once members of the media were allowed in to film the official training session.
"If it's true (that he was kicking a ball) I'm extremely happy, it's very good news," said Eriksson.. "We have to wait until Wednesday when they do the scan. "From tomorrow he will practise with us, with our physios, and that's good."
Lescott switch hits a hitch
June 5 2006 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON'S bid to make Joleon Lescott their second summer signing might not be resolved until next week. Though a fee and personal terms have been agreed with the defender over a move to Goodison Park, it is understood that Blues have some concerns following the results of a stringent medical. Lescott, who missed the entirety of Wolves' season in the Premiership after having has right knee reconstructed, has been offered a lengthy contract but a question mark hangs over whether that injury may flare up again in a couple of years down the line. Everton officials are believed to be deeply unhappy with suggestions from Wolves chief executive Jez Moxey over the weekend that stated Lescott had passed a medical, a matter of hours after Everton had requested an extra set of x-rays to scrutinise the condition of the player's knee.
The final decision whether or not to sign the former England Under-21 international will lie with manager David Moyes but, with Lescott having gone away on holiday, it is unlikely that anything will happen within the next couple of days. There is a chance, however, that the transfer maycollapse as Everton are prepared to dig their heels in to sign the player on terms they feel acceptable.
Cahill on target for Australia
June 5 2006 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
TIM Cahill marked his return to competitive action with a goal for Australia in their 1-1 draw with Holland in Rotterdam yesterday. He is now well on course to start for the Socceroos at the World Cup finals. Ruud van Nistelrooy had given Holland a first half lead but Cahill, who came on early in the second period, levelled things after Mark Viduka saw a penalty saved. The 38-minute run out was Cahill's first senior outing since he partially tore his posterior cruciate ligament against Birmingham City on April 22. Nuno Valente was also in action yesterday as Portugal stepped up their preparations for Germany with a win over Luxembourg but Phil Neville is facing an anxious wait to see whether he will play for England. With Ashley Cole limping out of England's 6-0 win over Jamaica on Saturday with a thigh problem, Neville is on stand-by should the Arsenal defender be ruled out. Record signing Andy Johnson, however, will not be going to the World Cup. Sven-Goran Eriksson has opted to take Jermaine Defoe should Wayne Rooney not recover from his broken metatarsal.
Everton wait on Weir's future
June 6 2006 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID WEIR will not be hurried into to making a decision about signing a new contract with Everton. The Scotland international and his fellow central defender Alan Stubbs were both offered a one-year extensions by manager David Moyes at the end of last season but while Stubbs put pen-to-paper two weeks ago, Weir has yet to commit. Since joining the Blues from Hearts in February 1999, Weir has made 263 appearances and is one of the most respected players at the club yet it is not a foregone conclusion that he will accept Everton's new terms. West Bromwich Albion, Birmingham City and Leeds United are all keeping an eye on developments and it is understood they would be prepared to hand Weir, who turned 36 last month, a two-year deal. Whether Weir would be prepared to drop down a division remains open to question but he will not make any rash decisions and is prepared to bide his time. He is expected to hold talks with his advisors before the end of the week. While Weir deliberates over his future, Everton could be ready to return to Hearts if their move to sign Joleon Lescott collapses. Reports North of the Border suggest that Moyes has looked at Andy Webster as a possible alternative. Having played a role in helping Hearts qualify for the Champions League last year, Webster has been urged to commit his future to Tynecastle but it looks increasingly likely that 24-year-old will leave.
Webster last played for Hearts on April 5 and never took part in the club's victory parade after their Scottish Cup success over Gretna. The 24-year-old has been watched by Everton scouts on a couple of occasions.As for Lescott, Everton are still no nearer to making a decision and are almost certain to ask Lescott to undergo another series of tests to ascertain the condition of his right knee. There are worries that an old problem may flare up ag ain. The 23-year-old missed Wolves season in the Premiership during 2003-2004 after having his knee reconstructed. Since returning, Lescott has made 93 appearances for Wolves and attracted rave reviews last year.
If Lescott does eventually arrive at Goodison, that would mean the end of any more big money summer signings, ruling out the possibility of Celtic midfielder Stilian Petrov becoming a Blue. The Bulgarian captain has handed two transfer requests in recent weeks but a £5m tag is hardly going to entice Moyes.
Lescott signing on track
June 7 2006 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON'S pursuit of Joleon Lescott is poised to reach a successful conclusion before the end of the week. The Wolves central defender was left wondering whether his £5m move to Goodison Park would go through after problems emerged with the results of a medical. However, after more negotiating between the clubs, it appears likely the Blues will give the green light to Lescott becoming their third signing of the summer. Personal terms were agreed last week and now the transfer fee has been re-worked to link with appearances, the 23-year-old should be unveiled in a Blue shirt when he returns from holiday. Given the deal ended up dragging on, both Everton and Wolves decided they wanted something resolved sooner rather than later and that now looks to be the case. Wolves chief executive Jez Moxey confirmed today: "The deal is now in its final stages and it has moved on. We are really confident it will be done within the next couple of days." Though Lescott missed Wolves' sole Premiership campaign during 2003-2004 after having his right knee re-constructed, he has made 93 appearances in the time since. A former England under-21 international, he has been top of David Moyes' shopping list for 18 months and the Everton manager has watched him on numerous occasions. Once the Lescott saga is at an end, it is likely to bring the curtain down on Moyes' heavy spending for the summer following the £8.6m arrival of Andy Johnson, plus the loan signing of Manchester United keeper Tim Howard. Any further squad reinforcements would have to be Bosmans or loan deals but Moyes will be satisfied that his top three targets have all been secured. In particular, he is looking forward to unleashing Johnson on the Premiership.
"We knew we needed a striker and we knew we needed to add some more goals to what we have got," said Moyes. "Andy Johnson was always top of my list. It's a big thank you to the board for pushing the boat out on this one." Meanwhile, former Everton defenders Marco Materazzi and Matteo Ferrari could be back playing in the Premiership next season after emerging as targets for Blackburn Rovers.
Materazzi spent one season at Goodison in 1998-1999 before returning to Italy but has been told by Inter Milan that he can leave on loan. As for Ferrari, his spell on Merseyside was ruined by injury. He only made 12 appearances last year before Moyes let him return back to AS Roma, as Lescott emerged as his top target.
Final offer for Blues striker
June 8 2006 EXCLUSIVE by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON today made James McFadden a take it or leave it offer to finally bring his long-running contract saga to a conclusion. Having enjoyed his most consistent season since joining from Motherwell in 2003, the Scotland international first held talks with the Blues about signing a new deal in February. Talks reached an impasse, though, and it emerged shortly after the end of the campaign that Everton had no immediate plans when McFadden turned down the club's opening gambit. There has since been a change of heart and Keith Wyness has met McFadden's representatives with considerably improved terms. Should he put pen to paper, McFadden will stay at Goodison Park until July 2009, but it is understood that if the 23-year-old rejects this offer, Everton will not return to him for a third time. Moyes was pleased with the way McFadden developed last season - he scored seven goals in 41 appearances - and has made it clear there would be plenty of opportunities for him next year. "I wouldn't say that Andy Johnson and James Beattie are going to be my first two straight away," said Moyes. "If Andy and James became a partnership, I would be delighted."
Martyn: It's the end
June 8 2006 EXCLUSIVE by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
NIGEL MARTYN was today forced to call time on his 20-year football career as he admitted defeatin his battle to return from injury. The England keeper had another scan yesterday on an ankle problem has kept him out since January 28 when it was confirmed he would need another operation to stand anychance of making a return to action. But after talks with his family and Everton's medical staff, Martyn was forced to come to the heartbreaking decision Martyn is held in the highest esteem at Goodison Park and suchishis influence, manager David Moyes was pre
pared to offer him a month-to-month contract when he his current deal expired at the end of last season. Devastated Everton manager David Moyes paid a glowing tribute to the man he signed on a nominal fee from Leeds United in September 2003.
He said "I think without any fear of setting myself up, he has been my best ever signing for Everton. We got him for next to nothing, he has been a great professional, an example to everyone. "He was great to have around, very respectful and at 39, continued to train as hard as he did when he was 19. "He made a massive difference in the dressing room and he will be a big loss to us. If you think back on his Everton career, you are really struggling to think of a single mistake. "That is incredible really. I always think back to the derby match at Anfield a couple of seasons ago. He was absolutely awesome and one of the main reasons we got a point that day. "I'm hoping to keep him around in some capacity, but we will talk about that in the future."
Nigel the best since big Nev
June 9 2006 David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
WE might be a contrary bunch here on Merseyside . . . but there was only one foot scan exercising the minds of many people on Wednesday. And it wasn't the Scouser's. Wayne Rooney has long since turned his back on any claims he might have to local sympathy. He turned his back on the Blues, then waved ared rag to the Reds by moving to Old Trafford. So the swarms of TV correspondents posted outside the Whalley Grange clinic in Manchester were just one big turn-off. Nigel Martyn, however, was different. And the result of his scan was not cause for local celebration.
Martyn was forced to make the heartbreaking decision to call time on his football career yesterday. And the decision could have wide-reaching consequences.
David Moyes' transfer dealings at Everton have been a mixed bunch. For every Cahill there's been a Kroldrup, for every Marcus Bent a Richard Wright. But there have been enough successes for every Evertonian to sit up and take notice when Moyes describes Martyn as his best ever signing. He cost next to nothing. Yet the impact he had on the Everton team was inestimable. The biggest tribute you can pay Martyn is that he successfully, if belatedly, filled the cavernous void vacated by the retirement of the legendary Neville Southall in 1997. Thomas Myhre, Paul Gerrard, Steve Simonsen, Richard Wright . . . all tried - and failed. But Martyn spread a reassuring aura around the Blues' defence from the second he pulled on an Everton jersey. He made 100 Everton appearances. Now cast your mind back andsee if you can come up with a single Martyn mistake. Just one. Exactly. Fernando Morientes might have taken him by surprise with a 25-yard lob which struck the crossbar in an Anfield derby, Garcia heading in the rebound. But even then Morientes was given the credit for his quick-thinking rather than Martyn being castigated for a mistake. And if you have to include that as an 'error' then we really are scratching around. It all makes older Evertonians groan when they think of the afternoon Martyn was left kicking his heels in the Park Foods reception hall in Bidston. It was the summer of 1996. Joe Royle wanted agoalkeeper to succeed Big Nev and Nigel Martyn was targeted. He slipped wastefully through the club's hands . . . just like Mark Schwarzer, Tore Andre Flo and, so rumour has it, Dennis Bergkamp. Martyn's words, subsequently, were eye-popping. "On our way over my agent, who was in the car in front, rang me to say Leeds had just matched the offer so it was in my interests to listen to them," he recalled.
"We told the Everton director about that and, it was weird, he seemed to get flummoxed about the situation. "He actually gave us directions on how to get to Leeds. I was all ready to sign for Everton. My wife had family in the area but the director, I think, was anxious to seem fair. "He even said we'd better get moving because the traffic would be bad! Once we got to Leeds, Howard Wilkinson was never going to let us go until I signed!" Leeds enjoyed the peak years of Martyn's career, while Cliff Finch and Peter Johnson exited Everton less than two years later.
Martyn eventually arrived at Everton in 2003 - better late than never. But even at the age of 39, his retirement is premature. The results of one foot scan might have been cause for national celebration, but we're a bit different here on Merseyside. So, too, is Nigel Martyn. Interest, what interest? SKY Sports News presenter Alex Hammond asked an on-the-spot reporter waiting for news on Wayne Rooney this week: "Is there much media interest in this story?" A rather strange question given all the Rooney hype. But no stranger than Mark Lawrenson's offering with his expert World Cup predictions on the Beeb's website this week. Apparently, Argentina will win the World Cup. "They've got the players and they nearly all play in Europe." The Netherlands are the team to watch. "In qualification they were very good."
And the surprise team of the tournament will be Ivory Coast. "They're all extremely fit and very athletic and they also have agreat team spirit." All well and good. But aren't they all in the same group?
Howard looks for chance to shine
June 9 2006 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
TIM HOWARD is ready to stake an immediate claim for Everton's number one jersey if he gets the chance to shine at the World Cup finals. Drafted in on a season-long loan deal from Manchester United last month, Howard looks set to start the new campaign between the posts for the Blues especially after Nigel Martyn retired from football yesterday. Should he shine for the United States in Germany, it would put the 27-year-old in a strong position. However, he is taking nothing for granted and is just keeping his fingers crossed that he gets more opportunities than he did at Old Trafford. Though he enjoyed a successful first year in the Premiership after his £2.3m move from New York/New Jersey Metrostars, culminating in an FA Cup Final win in 2004, Howard was very much a peripheral figure last season for United.
His only league appearance came as a substitute against Portsmouth last February, while his five starts were restricted to the early rounds of domestic cup competitions. Those frustrations, however, have taught him to take nothing for granted. "I obviously didn't get the games I'd like this year. It taught me patience," said Howard, keeping his fingers crossed that he will be selected for the States when they begin their campaign against the Czech Republic in Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday. "The possibility that it could hurt your World Cup chances is something you think about, but that was a very small part of my career. I've had a lot of success at Man U, and (USA Head Coach) Bruce Arena knows that. "I'm not worried. I think I've positioned myself well in the national team even though I didn't play a lot this year. I made the roster and now I'm trying to push forward and become a major part of the team." Howard, who impressed in a warm up game against Venezuela, added: "It's always healthy and a good thing for the team to have competition in all facets. For me, I just enjoy competition, and we have great competition between me, Kasey and Marcus." Meanwhile, Celtic have been linked with a move for Everton defender Gary Naysmith and could be ready to take the Scotland international north of the border if they fail to sign either Quinton Fortune or Michael Kadlec. Kadlec, a Czech international, is stalling over a switch to Parkhead over wage demands, while Fortune has other offers from Bolton Wanderers and Manchester City to weigh up. Should they both turn their back on Gordon Strachan, the Celtic manager has Naysmith on his wanted list and could find David Moyes receptive if he makes a bid, given Everton's wealth of full-backs. Aside from having Alessandro Pistone and Nuno Valente, Phil Neville and Kevin Kilbane can also play in that position in emergencies. Naysmith has two years left on his contract but Moyes may cash in if he receives the right offer.
Martyn's fears over coaching prospects
June 12 2006 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
NIGEL MARTYN fears his ambitions of becoming a goalkeeping coach may be scuppered by the injury which has forced him into retirement. Having been sidelined since January 28 with ankle trouble, the former England international was left with no alternative other than to take the heartbreaking decision to call time on his 20-year career after consulting his family and medical experts. Worries about his long-term health - Martyn requires another operation to heal cracks in both his ankles and heels - meant he understandably called it quits but it now seems he may have to shelve thoughts of continuing an active role in the game. Though Everton boss David Moyes has suggested there might be a chance of him becoming a goalkeeping scout, the 39-year-old admits the future looks bleak in terms of getting back on the training pitch every day. "It's a bit awkward to know what the future holds right now," said Martyn, who kept 31 clean sheets in 100 appearances for Everton. "Initially, I was always going to become a goal-keeping coach. "But kicking a ball is obviously a big part of coaching and I think this is going to stop me. It's a tough time for me at the moment, to know what I am going to do. I'm going to take a bit of time to think about what direction I am going to take." Signed from Leeds United on transfer deadline day in September 2003, Martyn quickly developed a rapport with Evertonians and he was quick to pay tribute to the support and encouragement he received during his spell at Goodison Park. "They have been fantastic from day one," added Martyn, who almost joined Everton in the summer of 1996 from Crystal Palace. "It could have been difficult with me not going there a few years before.
Martyn's fears over coaching prospects
June 12 2007 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
"It had the potential to be awkward and I just hoped that by trying my best and giving my best that I would win the fans over. But, as I say, they were fantastic from the first day and they always will be." Fittingly, Martyn's final appearance for Everton was a man-of-the-match display against Chelsea in the FA Cup fourth round but he feels - as did manager Moyes - his best performance came at Anfield during his first season at the club. "That was my first Merseyside derby and I had quite a decent game," said the self-effacing Cornishman. Those who saw the game would agree it was something a little better than that. Meanwhile, Everton hope they will be able to finally reach closure in their pursuit on Joleon Lescott when the player returns from holiday next week. A fee and personal terms have been agreed but medical discrepancies stalled the deal.
Winger set to leave Blues
June 12 2006 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
ANDY VAN DER MEYDE will become Everton's first high-profile departure of the season, but the Blues are not going to allow him to leave on the cheap.
The Holland international effectively handed in a transfer request when giving an interview to an Italian newspaper where he claimed leaving Serie A was a mistake and he wanted to start afresh. "It is like I have lost a whole year, because I have played only ten matches in the Premier League due to injuries," said Van der Meyde
"I hope therecan be aplace for me. I want to start from scratch. I would certainly be attracted to play for Juventus if they get relegated [because of financial irregularities]." Though Van der Meyde suggested last month he was willing to show his worth in the Premiership, his increasingly erratic attitude towards training infuriated his team-mates and the coaching staff. This outburst is the final straw.
While he may favour a move back to Italy, Portuguese champions FC Porto head the list of clubs interested in the midfielder, while Panathinaikos and Galatasaray are monitoring his situation. Porto, however, are his most likely destination but a swop deal involving Benni McCarthy is not on the cards. Everton want to recoup the £1.7m they paid Internazionale for him last August. Injury and suspension meant Van der Meyde only made 11 appearances for Everton last season and never managed to complete a full 90 minutes. Despite his limited involvement, the 26-year-old became a crowd favourite. Another player reported over the weekend as being unhappy with life on Merseyside is Nuno Valente but Everton are sceptical about the origins of the quotes as the Portugal international is a popular figure at Bellefield. He was quoted in a Sunday newspaper saying that "everything indicates I will continue for another year. But if another offer appears,I can change. I'd like to play for a more ambitious club."
Everton officials doubt a player of his seniority and experience would be naive enough to make such statements. Meanwhile, Everton - who expect to unveil Joleon Lescott as their third summer signing on Wednesday - want a decision on whether David Weir will extend his stay at Goodison Park in the next 48 hours. The Scotland international is also wanted by West Bromwich Albion.
Blues will see the best of me, vows Howard
June 13 2006 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
TIM HOWARD today promised Evertonians they will see the best of him when he becomes the man to take over from Nigel Martyn in August. The first of Everton's summer signings when he arrived on loan from Manchester United last month, Howard could make his stay on Merseyside permanent if he impresses next season.
For the time being, though, Howardis taking things slowly. The United States' World Cup campaign is top of his priorities. However, the 27-year-old has allowed his mind to drift occasionally to the thought of starting a Premiership match once again - the last time he enjoyed that experience was when United played Newcastle on April 24, 2005. Edwin van der Sar's arrival from Fulham meant Howard had to play second fiddle last season and his involvement in the Premiership in the most recent campaign was limited to just 45 minutes against Portsmouth in February. That is unlikely to be the case now he is with Everton. "I am looking forward to getting the chance to play again," said Howard. "I am just like any other footballer in that respect. It is my main focus. I feel very good. I feel fit and sharp. I am just looking forward to the games and seeing what they bring. "People want me to be frustrated but I just look upon it as being part of football. If it was the norm then I would have a concern. But I have only sat on the bench for one year in my entire career. "I cannot look at that and get frustrated or upset. Every player goes through it at some point." Some may wonder whether such a prolonged spell of inactivity has dulled his reflexes but Howard has assured the doubters that he put the time working alongside van der Sar - set to become Holland's most-capped international - was spent fruitfully. "I am the goalkeeper I am going to be," said Howard. "You pick things up from people, but my relationship with Edwin was not a pupil-teacher sortof thing. It never has been. Of course, there is a learning curve. "For me, that is playing games and getting experience. I have done that and I am a much better keeper for it. There is no question about that. I am better than three years ago. There is no comparison. "I am very near-sighted at the moment. I will do everything in my power to be successful over the next fewmonths and go forward. It is too far in advance for me to even think about anything else."
Wizard of Oz
June 13 2006 EXCLUSIVE by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON chief executive Keith Wyness today paid a glowing tribute to Tim Cahill after the Blues midfielder announced his arrival at the World Cup finals in spectacular fashion. The 27-year-old came off the bench to dramatically transform Australia's opening Group F game against Japan yesterday, scoring twice in the last 10 minutes and setting up another for Jon Aloisi as the Socceroos won 3-1 in Kaiserslautern.
Those goals have now given Australia - who play Brazil in Munich this Sunday - an excellent chance of reaching the knockout stages and also helped Cahill carve a niche for himself in the history books. Australia had never scored in a World Cup finals game until Cahill pounced in the 84th minute to level things and as he basked in the spotlight, Everton supremo Wyness said the club were thrilled to seehim realise a dream. There were fears just six weeks ago that Cahill would be deprived of the chance to play in Germany after he partially tore a posterior ligament in his left knee against Birmingham City on April 22 -an injury whichleft him fighting for fitness.
"I'm sure every Evertonian would have been tremendously proud," said Wyness today.
"He showed yesterday what he has been doing for two years with Everton and it was a tremendous achievement. We are absolutely delighted for him. "Tim is a player who is always dangerous around the box and always looking to pop up with a goal. He is playing against the best players in the world and to do what he did against Japan was f antastic. "As soon as the game had finished, we sent a telegram of congratulations to the team hotel - but we reminded Tim that he needs to make sure he saves a couple of those goals for us next year!"Tim loves playing for Everton and that is obvious. He also loves playing for his country and if he can have a good World Cup, I'm sure that we will feel the benefit next year. "I'm going out to see him on Sunday and if he can score another two goals against Brazil, then that really would be something else. We are all really pleased for Tim and hope his good run continues." Typically, Cahill was keen to play down his role in Australia's triumph and insisted he was just doing his job for the team. Now his thoughts are focused on tackling the world champions at the weekend. "It's times like this when you think about your family," said Cahill. "It's just amazing to get twogoals buta lot of credit goes to the lads. "They did all the hard work. Just being a partof this World Cup means everything to all of us. The goals were the icing on the cake. We will play Brazil now and they have 11 special players but we will give it a go." Meanwhile, James McFadden's agent Catherine Robertson has revealed thatthe Everton striker intends to speak to manager David Moyes before signing the new contract that was first offered to him in February. "I had a meeting with Keith Wyness last week and talks were very positive," she said. "James will speak with David Moyes and we're hopeful we can get something sorted then. James is happy at Everton and he's very settled in Liverpool."
Blues could mirror England's struggle
Jun 14 2006 Echo Letters, icLiverpool & Liverpool Echo
WATCHING England's laborious win reminds me of the way most Premiership teams play. Unfortunately it appears we need foreign flair in attack because for some inexplicable reason, most English players do not have that natural ability to play with style. There are exceptions such as Rooney and there is no doubt he was missed against Paraguay. I can only hope that Beattie and Johnson prove me wrong next season. Without a resolute defence and someone dynamic in the centre of midfield, goal scoring will remain a problem for the Blues.
Roger C, Llanfairfechan
ANDY van der Meyde said all the right things when he joined Everton but brought the club absolutely nothing last season. Whether that was our fault or his is irrelevant - he didn't deliver. Goodbye and good riddance.
Martin F, Formby
SIGNING Joleon Lescott from Wolves is a step in the right direction, but we need to add a couple more new players. It looks like van der Meyde is on his way, and if we could use the money from his sale to fund another striker like Porto's Benni McCarthy then so much the better. McCarthy would be well suited to our style of football and is coming to the stage of his career where he needs to either come to England or forget about gracing the Premiership, which is what he has been talking about for years now - so I don't see any reason why we wouldn't be able to buy him.
Mark Briers, Tuebrook
I AM glad Valente distanced himself from the quotes attributed to him earlier this week. It's never nice to for a player to slate his club, and when it's a player like Valente who obviously has ability it's doubly disappointing. Let's hope he continues to show the form in the blue shirt that he started to display at the end of the season.
James May, Aigburth
New boy Lescott signs in at Blues
June 14 2006 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
JOLEON LESCOTT was able to breath a sigh of relief today after being finally unveiled as Everton's third summer signing. The 23-year-old has had his heart set on a dream move to Merseyside all summer and first agreed terms on a move to Goodison Park from Wolverhampton Wanderers two weeks ago. However, the results of a medical left Lescott fearing the deal might collapse after Everton asked Wolves for more time to consider their options. Manager David Moyes has long had Lescott, a former England Under-21 international, at the top of his wanted list and once Everton revised the structure of payments for the £5m deal, he was given the green light to land his man. Lescott has put pen-to-paper on contract that will keep him at Good-ison until 2010 and joins Andrew Johnson - a club record £8.6m signing from Crystal Palace - and Manchester United goal-keeper Tim Howard as new additions to Everton's squad. It means that only Chelsea have spent more than the Blues since the end of the season and it could be that Moyes will make a few more signings between now and August, as he plots to establish Everton as European contenders.
With his top targets secured, Moyes will now be hoping that the players who have been offered new contracts can clarify their futures as quickly as possible.
Joseph Yobo - whose current deal expires in 12 months - has been offered lucrative terms to stay on Merseyside and the indications are that he will commit to the club in the next few weeks, likewise James McFadden, who will talk with Moyes in the next couple of days. The situation, however, is less clear with current skipper David Weir. He was given a 28 day deadline to decide whether he wants to extend his spell with the club by another year last month but that date passed last week. Everton are still waiting to hear from the Scotland international, who is now out of contract and free to talk to other clubs. If he does not agree to the terms he has been offered, West Bromwich Albion are expected to make a strong move for his services.
Touts' charter is clearly still a ticket to deride
June 15 2007 Sports View with Echo Sport Editor John Thompson
DURING the late 80s and 90s a dogged trading standards officer in Liverpool fought tooth and nail to sweep ticket touts off the streets. Peter Mawdsley embarked on his campaign after seeing Liverpool and Everton fans regularly ripped off, particularly during the all-Merseyside Cup finals which saw street prices rocket even higher then usual. His work was laudable and for a while genuinely successful. But today, it seems, he may as well not have even bothered. Thanks to the explosion of the internet market, with big game tickets openly offered online at inflated rates, touting is back.
And it looks like it's here to stay. But that doesn't make it fair or acceptable. And it certainly doesn't mean football's rulers should stop trying to oust the spivs. Trouble is, they have never even started on them. Both the FA and FIFA actively encourage a touts' paradise with their policies for finals and tournaments. They may not mean to, but they do. Today in Nuremburg thousands of England fans have paid way over the odds - some up to £1,000 to be at the game against Trinidad and Tobago. Many of those tickets bought from touts and 'agencies' will have come orignally from the allocations handed to sponsors and other football associations around the world.
Others will have gone on 'general sale' in Europe. But they will all have been quickly fed into the black market bucket and off we go, year after year, filling it up for the touts to feed on. Just as happened at this year's FA Cup final. Again, the stadium in Cardiff was brim full of Liverpool and West Ham supporters, but by the FA's own dictat it should not have been. A third of those fans present should have actually been neutral football supporters or those involved in running the game at lower, amateur or junior levels; impartial observers who were handed privileged tickets to be at the FA's flagship day. We all know the spectacle of an FA Cup final and the cosmopolitan colour of World Cup games are what makes them so special and appealing. Yet if the stated polices of football's rulers actually worked, they'd be far less passionate or kaleidoscopic on the eye. If their way worked, there'd be more suits and ties in the stands and far fewer painted faces on show. In other words, half the genuinely interested members of 'football family' the authorities so often harp on about would be shut out. Or forced to empty their pockets to get a seat. Anyone who saw the corruption allegations laid out against FIFA's top brass by Panorama on Sunday might may well have little faith that anything will ever be done to stop fans being ripped off for good. Sadly, they'd be right. One respected journalist this week bemoaned the whole picture but wrote that football fans simply don't care about coughing up. He is wrong. It is FIFA and the FA who don't care - the very people in control who should put their wholly outdated ticketing polices to one side and make sure real fans get to big games through proper channels. And at reasonable prices.
Guv'nor played a key role in Lescott arrival
June 15 2006 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
PAUL INCE would never win any popularity contests on the Blue half of Merseyside but it could be that Evertonians owe football's self-styled guv'nor a debt of thanks for the role he played in persuading Joleon Lescott to move to Goodison Park.
Once of Liverpool and Manchester United, Ince's every touch would be booed and jeered by the Gwladys Street, but those hot receptions never bothered him. Far from it. It was the type of atmosphereinwhich he loved to play. So when Lescott sought Ince's advice when it became apparent he would be leaving Wolves this summer - he was also courted by newly-promoted Reading and Aston Villa - the veteran midfielder did not hesitate with his answer: 'Join Everton'. It confirmed what Lescott had suspected all along. In order to take his career to the next level, the best option was to become a Blue. Happily, after the trials and tribulations of the past fortnight triggeredby doubts over medical results, he has finally realised his dream. "Incey has got such tremendous experience in the game and when he speaks, he is someone you listen to," said Lescott, who put pen to -paper on a four-year deal. "When I told him there was an interest from Everton he just told me that if I had a chance, I shouldn't pass it up.
"He told me the fans here are great, some of the most passionate in Europe. When he told me that, it wasn't really a hard decision to make. "But I've got to show I deserve to be part of the squad because there are some great players here." Having arrived in a deal that could eventually cost Everton £4m, Lescott says it was a wrench to leave the club that gave him his big break, but five minutes in David Moyes' company was all it needed to clinch the deal. The manager's bold ambitions struck a particular chord.
"We all hope to be challenging for Europe next season and the aim is to get off to as good a start as possible," said Lescott, who made 235 appearances during his spell at Molineux despite missing aseason after knee reconstruction surgery. "It was a tough decision to leave Wolves but it's not every day that a club like Everton come along.
"When they do, you don't turn them down. I was more than happy to join. As soon as my agent told me that Everton were interested, that was the decision made. I'd made it obvious that I wanted to come here. A big thank you must go to Wolves because they didn't stand in my way. "Glenn Hoddle and Jez Moxey were great. They wanted me to go on and achieve what I'd always wanted. It was frustrating when it didn't happen. The injury was frustrating a couple of years ago but the main thing is I'm back playing football. "I'm looking to the future. I want to test myself against the best. I played against Alan Shearer a couple of years ago in the FA Cup and he was probably the greatest English striker of his generation. It gave me a taste." Talk of English strikers inevitably sees the conversation turn to the man who became Everton's record signing this summer. An £8.6m price tag means big things are expected of Andrew Johnson, and Lescott, after a few tussles with him in recent years, is sure his old foe can deliver.
"I'm familiar with Andy," Lescott continued. "I played against him when Iwas in the youth team at Wolves and he was at Birmingham. I played against him last year as well. Unfortunately he scored. "But he's a great player, an England international and will be atremendous asset. He's quick, his movement is good but most importantly, he scores alot of goals.If he can do all that here, it will only be good for the club."
Now that the dust has settled and he is finally an Everton player, Lescott will pause to catch breath before heading to Bellefield on July 3 to meet his new team-mates. Then the serious work will really start. "It's going to be hard and I know I will have a fight on my hands to get into the team," offered Lescott. "But I'm counting down the days to pre-season training and I'm looking forward to it."
Lescott deal mirrors that of Cahill
June 15 2006 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID Moyes feels the Joleon Lescott deal mirrors the one that brought Tim Cahill to Goodison Park two years ago and has hailed the 23-year-old as the "best defender" to emerge from the Championship. Had circumstances allowed, Moyes would have brought Lescott from Wolves 12 months ago but is delighted that all the hard work has finally come to fruition. He is adamant the former England under-21 international has what it takes to cut it in the Premiership. "Joleon is someone we have watched for a long time and we are pleased to have finally got him in the end," said Moyes. "We looked at him last year but couldn't do the deal. "He has always been someone we thought could come up from the Championship and make an impression. After seeing [Danny] Gabbidon and Curtis Davis come up and do so well after their moves from the Championship, I've got no fears that Joleon will step up. "It's a little bit like the situation we had with Tim Cahill. What we want is hungry, young players. The idea is to have a squad that can compete. "But we don't want to be left in a situation where we don't have a value in the players. I feel now we are beginning to get much more like it. I need good experience and I have got that with some of the players here."
Blues choose Kirkby site
June 15 2006 EXCLUSIVE by Nick Coligan, Liverpool Echo
A MULTI-MILLION pound plan to build a new Everton FC stadium in Kirkby is revealed today. The club is in talks with Tesco and Knowsley council to build a 55,000-seater ground as the centre-piece of a massive development just outside the town centre. The move would create hundreds of jobs and almost double the size of Kirkby town centre. As well as the new stadium it would include:
* A Tesco supermarket
* A hotel
* A range of high street shops
* Extensive car parking
Everton chief executive Keith Wyness has already said the club would decide this summer whether to stay at Goodison Park or move to anew ground. And the ECHO understands the Kirkby plan is by far the most viable since the much-vaunted Kings Dock stadium project collapsed in 2003. The involvement of cash-rich Tesco - whose chief executive Sir Terry Leahy is an Evertonian and an advisor to the Blues board puts it way ahead of other suggested sites in places such as Central Docks and Switch Island. An injection of private money would immediately ease the inevitable financial headache that the club faces if it tries to build a £150m ground by itself.
But discussions are still at a very early stage, and sources stress there are a number of hurdles to be cleared -including how much the development would cost and how exactly it would be paid for. But the plan does tick a number of important boxes for Everton, such as excellent transport links to the M57 and Merseyrail network, and its location, which is just four miles from Goodison. The only criteria it does not meet is that it is outside the Liverpool city boundary.Attracting the Blues to Kirkby would be of enormous benefit to Knowsley council, which is desperately keen to kickstart the town's regeneration. The proposed site is on land off Valley Road and Cherryfield Drive, partly occupied by Knowsley Community College. A council spokesman said: "We are in the early stages of discussion with Tesco regarding a potential leisure and retail development close to Kirkby town centre. The development has the potential to incorporate a new stadium for Everton FC. "Kirkby is one of a number of options being considered by Everton." Aspokesman for Everton said: "There have been exploratory initial talks, but at this stage no more than that. "However, it does sound an interesting proposition and we look forward to further talks with Knowsley council and Tesco. "But we still have several options open to us, and at this stage this is just speculation." A Tesco spokesman added: "I can confirm we are interested, but it is incredibly early days." Previous relocation plans have provoked a mixed response from Everton fans, many of whom do not want to leave their historic home.
But recently increasing numbers of supporters have recognised the club may have to leave Goodison to match the financial firepower of their Premiership rivals.
Season-ticket holder Phil Stevens, 24, of Childwall, said: "Kirkby might not be every supporter's first choice, but the club has to be realistic about what is on offer.
"A new stadium is a priority if we are going to compete with the likes of Liverpool."
Ambitious Moyes targets more signings
June 15 2006 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES will keep a keen eye on events in Germany this month as he looks to make the last couple of signings to complete Everton's summer transfer activity.
Having captured his main targets Tim Howard, Andrew Johnson and Joleon Lescott for fees that could eventually add up to £13m, Moyes was quick to thank Everton's board for backing his ambition with cash. The manager, however, is not one to rest on his laurels and if possible, would like to make one or two more additions before the new season begins in August when hopes Everton can establish themselves back in the top half of the Premiership. Moyes has just returned from a five day trip to the World Cup finals where he watched a number of games and is hopeful he will be able to identify the targets that will give his squad a more polished look. "I'm always looking to improve and I'm still looking just now," Moyes said today. "I'm looking closely at the World Cup to see if there is anything there. "But we have to be fair. The club have been great and we've spent a big part of our money. The players who we bring in now won't be costly ones. "I would still like to add another couple of players before the season kicks-off for numbers and better competition, so I'm going to push hard for that."
Players' charity can take a bow
June 16 2006 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
BY the sensitive nature of the work it carries out, the Everton Former Players Foundation cannot publicise the good deeds it does. Ex-players suffering financial hardship, proud old-timers who need hips and knees replacing and one-time terrace heroes who simply can't cope any more - are all helped out quietly and effectively by the Foundation. But during Brian Labone's very public funeral service recently, the Former Players' Foundation couldn't avoid publicity. Brian's family wanted it publicly acknowledged that the Foundation gave them invaluable support throughout a very difficult time. And they paid rich tribute to the Foundation's trustees.
The Everton Former Players Foundation is a charity and is independent of Everton Football Club - but it brings the greatest possible credit upon the club. Laurence Lee, Richard Lewis, the indefatigable Steve Milne, Rev Harry Ross, Barry Joseph, Gerry Moore and Patrick Gaul will be embarrassed by the mention. But they are Blues who uphold the prestige, tradition and honour of Everton Football Club. Take a bow.
Blues fans cautious of Cahill's milestone
June 16 2006 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
IT'S easy to spot an Evertonian in World Cup weeks.
While football fans everywhere approach major international tournaments like kids in sweet shops, Evertonians are more likely to look like they're on the way to the dentist.
Recent history explains why. The last time Everton boasted a World Cup top scorer, he was sold to Barcelona before the tournament had even ended. Wayne Rooney took Euro 2004 by storm - and was sold weeks later; Nick Barmby returned to the England fold four years earlier at Euro 2000 - and made the most heinous of switches before the summer had ended. So forgive Goodison fans for not joining in the chorus of of celebration accompanying Tim Cahill's late double which sank Japan. Everton's relationship with major international tournaments has changed dramatically since Harry Catterick used a World Cup Final as a scouting mission for a future club captain. This time Everton correctly paid tribute to Cahill's performance - chairman Bill Kenwright even celebrated his ability to get away with a blatant penalty by "looking at the referee with those big innocent eyes and arms wide open" - but Blues couldn't help wondering if he'd suddenly put himself in the shop window.
Lineker's memories of a special time
NO, you weren't hearing things. Gary Lineker definitely did close BBC's tea-time transmission on Monday with "Good to see an Everton player scoring at the World Cup finals." Lineker, of course, top scored in the 1986 tournament as an Everton striker - before severing all ties weeks later - physical, mental and seemingly emotional. So it was nice to hear that Lineker does retain some affinity with the club which propelled him onto the world stage.
I'm backing Andy - Moyes
June 19 2006 EXCLUSIVE by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES today offered Andy van der Meyde the chance to finally banish his frustrations when revealing that he wants to keep the midfielder at Goodison Park.
The Holland international has continually been linked with a move away from Everton since the end of last season with FC Porto and Galatasaray heading the list of potential suitors. But in an emotional interview with ECHO Sport on Saturday, Van der Meyde tackled the rumours that have swept the city about him having a drink problem and stressed his desperation to stay on Merseyside. He has also spoken at length with Moyes over quotes that were attributed to him in an Italian newspaper, which claimed the 26-year-old wanted a move back to Serie A and that he had made a mistake leaving Internazionale. Moyes has been as frustrated as Van der Meyde that injuries have limited his chances to shine for Everton but hopes that all those problems are now behind him. If he can stay fit, the manager reckons van der Meyde could have an impact like a new signing. "I think we were all disappointed," said Moyes, who splashed out £1.7m to land Van der Meyde last August. "I was upset and so was Andy. Wewere frustrated because we had brought him here to play and know he's got something. He has fantastic ability. "He is a player who looks like he can get you a goal or create something out of nothing. I want him to stay and I want to see him get fit. "He's a good lad, with a real good character. We spoke at the end of last season and he was honest with me, as I was with him. He knew he hadn't performed as we'd hoped and he was so frustrated with his injuries. "I know that he has had problems but hopefully that will all be behind him now and when he comes back for pre-season, he will be ready to show what we know he can do. He's a smashing lad to have around the place." Moyes, meanwhile, fresh from a visit to the World Cup finals, thinks England are starting to click into gear and their bid to reach the final will gather momentum now a place in the last 16 has been booked. "I think England are going to do very well," he said. "I have said from the start that I thought they had a side capable of going a long way. I've seen nothing so far for England to be fearful of."
Blues unlikely to move for Barton
June 20 2006 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON are unlikely to make a move for Manchester City midfielder Joey Barton - despite speculation linking David Moyes today with a swoop for the childhood Evertonian. Barton was a youth academy trainee at Everton, before being released as a teenager and moving to the blue half of Manchester, but City are now prepared to accept £1.5m for the midfielder. Moyes has pondered the possibility of a move, but having spent almost £13m already this summer, any further arrivals will have to be strictly free transfers. He also remains concerned by Barton's possible impact on dressing-room harmony. The Blues broke their transfer record this summer to land striker Andy Johnson, who has already declared his long-term commitment to the club. "To be able to turn around when I have finished my career and say that I spent five years, or hopefully longer, at a club as big as Everton, with a fanbase as big as this club has, would be amazing for me," he said. He also added that he had already set a personal goals target for the season - but would not be publicising the figure.
"I always set personal scoring targets for myself but I always keep them to myself because if you fall short of those targets that is when you start getting stick," he added.
"But having scored those 21 last time in the Premiership, my target now would be somewhere close to that. "I don't even tell my team-mates my target though. I keep it to myself but you have always got to set targets otherwise you have nothing to aim for. In the season in the Premiership I have to admit my total was a fair bit above my target."
Former Goodison also-rans aiming to stun England
June 20 2006 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
SWEDEN are confident they can extend their 38-year unbeaten run against England tonight - thanks to a couple of Everton rejects! Niclas Alexandersson (pictured left) and Tobias Linderoth ended unsuccessful associations with the Blues years ago, yet both are considered key to Sweden's chances of success in Cologne. Alexandersson enjoyed a reputation as a pacy, free-scoring right-winger during his introduction to English football at Sheffield Wednesday. But, following a £2m move to Goodison, he found the net just four times in 66 appearances - before returning to his home country.
He remained an integral player for his home nation, however, and kicked off this World Cup campaign as a converted right-back - winning his 86th international cap.
Linderoth's experience was even bleaker. Signed by Walter Smith in a last-gasp bid to shore up a side which was dangerously haemorrhaging goals, he saw Lee Carsley arrive within weeks, then Smith sacked inside two months. He featured fitfully under Smith's successor, David Moyes, before being allowed to return to Scandinavia fornext to nothing - just 44 appearances and one goal to his name. Swedish coach Lars Lagerback, however, refuses to underestimate his importance to the national team's cause. "He is a very, very important player for us, sitting just in front of our defence, shielding it. I don't think I have ever seen him have a bad game. He just won't give up. Every team needs a player like him," he declared. Linderoth's performances for Everton, however, following his £2.5m move from Stabaek, were often met with a wave of apathy. It's not that the pugnacious little Swede played poorly, rather that his performances were unambitious and he all too often sought out the safe option.
He concedes now that might have been the case, although there is clearly a lingering resentment tha the believes David Moyes had already made up his mind about Linderoth before he arrived at the club. "I was running around apologising for myself all the time," he said recently. "I should have made more noise. I didn't have to say sorry after making a crunching tackle. But I did. "Also, all the players were of a very high level there. If you didn't have a good game or a good first half you knew that there were five internationals waiting to replace you. "That and the fact that we were fighting against relegation didn't help. It wasn't the right time to take chances, so I just played the ball back to our defenders or side-ways." Moyes once told a Swedish journalist that - at 5ft 8in - one of Linderoth's main problems was his size.
"Of course it wouldn't have hurt if I had another 15 centimetres but the fact is thatI don't," he said. "But I could feel that was what he (Moyes) was thinking. But I think that a manager who says something like that just wants to protect himself. I think it is a bad argument." A move to Denmark was exactly what Linderoth and his wife Maria needed. They had felt isolated in England and swapped Lymm outside Warrington for a place in the centre of Copenhagen. He says this season has been the best of his career. He captained the FCK side which won the league by six points and the 12 Danish Super League coaches voted him the best player in the country. His club and country team-mate and former Aston Villa striker Marcus Allback is of the same opinion. "Absolutely. He is the best player in the Danish league by far. Heis almost too good, he shouldn't really be playing here," he declared. At least the spell Linderoth endured in English football gave him a close-up glimpse of the talismanic Englishman he could find himself marking tonight. "The first time I saw Wayne Rooney was when he came and trained with the first team when he was young," he explained. "He was already a fantastic player then, special. "Physically he was strong, fast, he had everything and now he's even better. He's got more experience. "We're all looking forward to the England game and we've traditionally done well against them. But we won't think about that going into that game. That's more for England to worry about because they clearly struggle when they play us." Sweden and England met at the last World Cup, when the Swedes came from behind to snatch a draw. The scorer of a spectacular, long-range equaliser? Niclas Alexandersson, of course. England have been warned . .
McFadden's new deal
June 21 2006 EXCLUSIVE by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
JAMES McFADDEN has signed a new three-year contract, finally dispelling doubts about his Everton future. The Scottish international has been in talks with the Blues over a new deal since February. But he has finally put pen to paper on an improved deal, tying him to the club until June 2009. And indications are that Joseph Yobo will soon follow, giving David Moyes a double pre-season boost. McFadden signed terms last night, and will fight for a striking role next season alongside James Beattie, Andy Johnson and youngsters Victor Anichebe and James Vaughan. McFadden arrived at Goodison in September 2003 from Mother-well for £1.25m. But after a sparkling impact in his first two matches - against Stockport and Leeds - the forward had to content himself with substitute appearances and cameo roles as he adjusted to life south of the border. His first goal in Royal Blue didn't come until New Year's Day 2005 - in a 5-2 defeat at Tottenham but he quickly followed up with FA Cup strikes against Plymouth and Sunderland. Injury then restricted his appearances significantly and it was only when he enjoyed a run in a central striking role in the second half of last season that he started to finally realise his exciting potential. He started the final 11 games of last season - the most consistent spell of his Blues' career - scoring four goals. If Yobo, as expected, also commits to a new deal - that leaves only David Weir unsigned before the Blues report back for pre-season training on July 3.
Reserve fixtures to be played at Halton Stadium
June 21 2006 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON have signed an agreement with Halton Borough Council to play their reserve matches at the Halton Stadium in Widnes for the next three years.
The Reserve League for 2006/07 has been changed to include the reserve teams from all 20 Premiership clubs - split into north and south sections with the winners contesting a two-legged play-off final. Teams playing in the northern league will be: Blackburn, Bolton Wanderers, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Sheffield United and Wigan Athletic.
Blues becoming a marriage of inconvenience
Jun 21 2006 icLiverpool & Liverpool Echo
EVERTON are becoming increasingly like my missus with every passing day.
She keeps demanding more and more of my time and money and then goes and spends it on things I didn't want in the first place. And now she says we need a bigger house nearer the supermarket to make it easier to entertain guests in style and I simply can't afford it. The only difference is that I can divorce my wife, but I'm stuck with Everton. Graeme Marsden, Walton
FOR those who think that people will go anywhere to watch Everton, think again.
Going to the game is part of people's habitual behaviour, but once change comes, people change habits. Derek Bold, Kirkby
THE only way Everton can attempt to compete with the big boys is by sourcing the extra revenue a new stadium will undoubtedly bring. While Goodison holds many happy memories, it is time to leave the past and embrace the future, otherwise we will be left behind even further. Scott McNally, Speke
SADLY a move out of the city might be on the cards. If Liverpool and Everton are really contemplating moves at similar times then now might be the only time they have to combine their efforts into building a joint stadium in Liverpool itself.
If they go their separate ways - football being the fickle game it is - then one or even both clubs (and the great city itself) - might lose out in the future. Fortunes can (money permitting) change dramatically over the years.
William Brown, Birkenhead
AS the debate on location for a new stadium hots up, I would like to point out another aspect of planning that also needs debating. All the figures I have seen projected so far for the new stadium seem to revolve round the 55,000 mark. Surely with a new stadium, a new beginning, wouldn't it be wiser to go for at least 65,000 and avoid what has been happening at Old Trafford and Anfield since their rebuilding, adding bits like a Lego set as the demand has escalated?
Bob Butchard, Brisbane
GOODISON Park is looking very dated. We have a new team and things are looking up, so let's go for it. We may not get another chance like this. Gary Flynn, Ellesmere Port
TO all those folk saying that if the Blues get a new ground in Kirkby, the other lot can say they are the only team in Liverpool, so what? Then there are the Blue whiners who are more concerned about the proximity of the pubs to the ground than moving the People's Club forward. Get real! Gordon Bull, Speke
Mersey giants to face rookies
June 22 2006 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON and Liverpool will kick-off the 2006/07 season against Premiership new boys. Everton entertain play-off final winners Watford at Goodison Park on Saturday, August 19, while Liverpool face a trip to Bramall Lane to face Neil Warnock's Sheffield United. Reds fans, however, may have to wait to welcome Liverpool to Anfield. The Reds are due to face Newcastle at Anfield on Wednesday, August 23 - but this is the date set aside for the Champions League third round qualifiers, meaning West Ham will be the season's first visitors the following Saturday. Everton follow-up their curtain raiser with a midweek trip to Blackburn, while the first derbymatch ofthe season will be at Goodison on September 9. Tranmere, meanwhile, kick off their League One campaign a fortnight earlier with an intriguing clash for new Rovers boss Ronnie Moore. Oldham, the club he left a month ago, will be visitors to Prenton Park on August 5, followed by trips to Cheltenham three days later and Doncaster.
Chester kick off their League Two campaign with a home match against newly promoted Accrington Stanley. Everton end their Premiership campaign at Chelsea on May 13, while Liverpool finish the season at Anfield against Charlton.
Chelsea will begin the defence of the Premiership with a home game against Manchester City. The big-spending Stamford Bridge club, who did the double over Stuart Pearce's men last season, then face away matches at Middlesbrough and Blackburn. Last season's runners-up Manchester United open up at home to Fulham before facing Charlton and new boys Watford in August. But the Red Devils have a tough start to September with Old Trafford clashes against north London neighbours Arsenal and Tottenham on September 9 and 16. Beaten Champions League finalists Arsenal begin life at the Emirates Stadium with a first-day game against Aston Villa before hitting the road north to Wigan and Manchester City.
Blues stadium is not welcome here
June 22 2006 By Nick Coligan, Liverpool Echo
A MERSEYSIDE council has told a developer - we do not want Everton FC's new stadium. It means the Blues are unlikely to leave Goodison Park for a site close to Switch Island in Aintree even if a suggested move to Kirkby falls through.
Peel Holdings is working on a plan to build the Blues a new ground on green-belt land between the M57 and Brewery Lane in Melling. It is an alternative to the proposal to build a 55,000-seater stadium in Kirkby town centre, revealed by the ECHO last week.
Peel, which owns John Lennon airport and Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, has held talks with the club and Sefton council about developing the land. The massive complex would also be likelyto include big-name shops and car parking. But Sefton council leader Tony Robertson today sent a stern message to Peel that the proposed multi-million pound development is not welcome. He said: "Developing this green-belt land for a football stadium and retail park is just not on in my book. "It would change the whole character of rural Melling and ruin a beautiful landscape. We must defend our green belt from such unwelcome developments. "We know that there are other sites under consideration for Everton to move to in Knowsley and Liverpool and our clear message to Peel Holdings is to forget this site. "It is wholly inappropriate for a massive stadium and acres of concrete and tarmac."Residents have already launched a campaign to stop the development.
Christine Glover, whose husband Henry's family has farmed land bounded by the proposed stadium site for more than 75 years, said: "This is grade one agricultural land - it's a valuable natural resource.
"We find it particularly difficult to see why a developer would want to pursue the destruction of green-belt land when there are other councils bending over backwards to attract Everton and keep Liverpool's footballing heritage nearer the heart of the city." An Everton spokesman said: "The Switch Island site has never been more than aproposal. We have held some talks, but no more than that." Aspokesman for Peel said: "We have interests in a large number of sites in the Merseyside area with the potential for development purposes. "We continually investigate and review opportunities. "As part of this ongoing process we talk to a lot of organisations to try and assist where appropriate."
A century of Cup memories
June 22 2006 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON'S FA Cup final folklore usually involves a centre-forward.
The first time the FA Cup came to Merseyside, a century ago this year, Alex 'Sandy' Young smashed the match-winner. The first Wembley success, in 1933, was inspired by the immortal Dixie Dean, the 1966 Cup comeback was all about the centre-forward who missed out, Fred Pickering, and the unknown who replaced him, two-goal hero Mike Trebilcock. In 1984 Graeme Sharpand Andy Gray each scored the goals which overcame Watford, while the last FA Cup hero was arguably the least talked about centre-forward of the lot. Captain that day, Dave Watson, pays tribute to Paul Rideout in Trinity Sports Media's colourful and captivating account of Everton's FA Cup history. "Paul Rideout was something of an unlikely hero, wasn't he?" said Watson. "Normally, centre-forwards at clubs grab the fans' imaginations but Paul, while he was a good footballer, wasn't one who could relate with the supporters and get a good relationship going with them. "He was good at most things without being renowned as a superstar.Hehad abetter touchthan a lot of the centre-forwards that Everton have had and he never really got much credit for that, but he was a good team player.
"He had a good touch, his fitness was great, he was agood header of the ball . . . so he had an awful lot going for him, but I don't really think he had the personality to sell himself. "You get some of these centre-forwards scoring goals who are always talking themselves up, but Paul would never do anything like that. Maybe that was part of his own doing. But he did a good job for the team and Joe Royle loved him. Joe always played Paul whenever he could."Watson's words are part of a unique conversation between FA Cup winning skippers Brian Labone, Kevin Ratcliffe and Watson which form the opening chapter of Everton's FA Cup 100. The conversation was taped just months before Labone's sad passing and is an entertaining and ultimately poignant reflection of a captain's experience on Cup Final d ay. The 224 page volume is split into a century of FA Cup events - some obvious - the five Cup successes, the 6-4 victory over Sunderland in 1934, the 100,000 who watched the 1967 fifth round - some less so, the day Bill Shankly scored a golden goal to knock Everton out of the Cup in 1946, the first use of a white matchball in a Cup tie at Hull in 1951 and Ken McNaught's unhappy comeback in 1978 (No.64 in the list). Everton anoraks will find some real gems: Everton's first Sunday fixture in 1974 was an FA Cup tie against West Brom, the first FA Cup match ever screened on Match of the Day was Everton v Sheffield Wednesday in 1965 and radio Merseyside DJ Billy Butler agreed to end his boycott of beer due to price rises in 1981, if Everton beat Liverpool in their fourth round tie. Happilyfor Mrs Butler's eldest, Imre Varadi obliged with a match-winner.
Thewords and exhaustive statistics are outstanding, but it's the Echo's incredible picture archive which really makes this book stand out from the crowd.
Look out for a stunning shot of Dixie Dean in the front seat of a hansom cab with the FA Cup and a lucky teddy bear, Paul McCartney braving the crowds out-side Wembley in 1968 (although Macca insists he's neither red nor blue!) - and a pensive Rev Harry Ross praying for an Everton victory in 1995! As much a work of social history, as a football reference work, Everton's FA Cup 100 is strongly recommended.
To order a copy of Everton FA Cup 100 simply call 0845-143-0001 or send a cheque for £20 payable to Sport Media to: FA Cup 100, PO Box 48, Old Hall Street, L69 3EB.
Weir agrees to new Goodison contract
June 23 2006 EXCLUSIVE by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID WEIR has given Everton another huge boost - by agreeing to extend his Goodison career by a further year. The out-of-contract defender has committed himself to a one-year extension, turning down lengthier and more lucrative deals from West Bromwich Albion, Leeds and Birmingham. The surprise decision will give David Moyes the security of two experienced central defenders in Alan Stubbs and Weir in his squad next season, as 23-year-old Joleon Lescott settles into a new challenge in the Premiership. And it will extend Weir's Everton career into its eighth year. The Scottish international turned 36 in May, but still started 41 matches last season and added a further seven international caps to his collection. Since he arrived from Hearts in a £250,000 deal in February 1999, Weir has been one of Everton's most consistently reliable performers. And his understated assurance and unruffled demeanour could prove invaluable to the Blues once again next season. Weir's announcement leaves only Joseph Yobo's future uncertain - and the Blues are confident that the Nigerian international will also put pen to paper soon on an extended Goodison deal. Terms have been on the table for more than a year, but while the defender is believed to be ready to sign, the decision has been delayed by Everton having to re-apply for a new work permit. With Yobo having started 93 per cent of the qualifying matches last season, however, and Nigeria currently rated 11th in the FIFA world rankings, that decision should be a formality and the deal should go through.
Kendall deserves award, too
Jun 23 2006 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
BARRY FERGUSON can now proudly present the letters MBE after his surname - "for services to sport." For those who may not be aware, Ferguson is the captain of Glasgow Rangers and Scotland - and has led the club to two Scottish championships.
Now the Honours List is clearly arbitrary, a political tool used more for the benefit of politicians than those who receive those honours, but for patriotic citizens who love their country they still mean something. And there are few more patriotic personalities than former Everton manager Howard Kendall. Kendall has no letters after his name, but his achievements are extensive. As a footballer he was the youngest to play in the English FA Cup Final. As a manager he was - and still is - the most successful in Everton's history. And when England needed a new manager in 1990, he was on a shortlist and was interviewed. It used to be an old joke that Everton managers would get the OBE, Out Before Easter. In Kendall's case, he is surely deserving of the real thing?
Vaughan winning fitness battle
June 26 2006 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
RECORD breaking youngster James Vaughan is finally hoping to revive his stalled career - after more than a year on the treatment table. In April 2005, the Everton striker became the youngest goalscorer in Premiership history when he struck against Crystal Palace aged 16 years 271 days. But a knee injury sustained on international duty soon after, effectively wiped more than a year from his playing record.
Blues physio Mick Rathbone has issued a cautiously optimistic progress report last night, after a successful visit to world renowned knee specialist Dr Richard Steadman in America last May. "James is doing well," he declared. "He is making good progress. "A couple of times in the past he was making good progress and broke down again so we are not getting too carried away. "But in terms of how he is at this moment in time, subsequent to the surgery in Colorado, he is doing well and we will push him on in July and keep our fingers crossed." The Blues physio has also been keeping his fingers crossed whilst watching the World Cup action out in Germany.
Everton stars Tim Cahill and Nuno Valente are still both involved in the tournament - Cahill in action tonight against Italy and Valente facing England in next Saturday's quarter-finals. And Rathbone added: "Tim was injured at the end of last season but he seems to be doing alright in the World Cup, but obviously we hope he comes back okay. "I do watch the World Cup with a certain amount of trepidation and I must say that when Nuno was rested the other day I was mightily relieved!" Another young Everton striking talent, 18-year-old Victor Anichebe, has already started pre-season training in a bid to build on the impact he made with his first Premiership goal against West Bromwich Albion on the last day of last season. "I've been in at Bellefield to get fit for the start of the season," Anichebe said. "All this pre-season stuff isn't really my strong point so I just need to get ahead of everyone else and get fitter for the start of the season. "There's no injury, I am just trying to give myself the best chance for the start of the season. "The end of last season came too soon really. It was still good to score but if had a couple more games, then I would have still been on a high going into them, ready to do more. "But the break has done me good anyway."
Blues cool on Jeffers return
June 27 2006 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
FRANNY JEFFERS is unlikely to run out at Everton for a third time next season.
The Blues sold Jeffers for £8m in 2001, but Charlton boss Iain Dowie is now ready to off-load him for a knockdown £250,000 after making just 13 starts in two years.
That has led to reports that Everton were prepared to offer him a life-line, two years after he spent 12 months on loan at Goodison. But the move was dismissed last night by senior club officials. The possibility has been discussed, but David Moyes will not pursue any interest. Championship clubs Crystal Palace and Cardiff are both battling for Jeffers' services, with Leeds also considering a move. Boss David Moyes would like to add one or two more faces to his squad once the players return to pre-season training, but any deals would be free transfers or loans. Australia's World Cup hero Tim Cahill, meanwhile, will enjoy a holiday before returning to Everton for pre-season training. The Blues report back next week, but Cahill will be given an extended break, along with Portugal's Nuno Valente who will line up against England on Saturday. Cahill suffered the heartache of an injury time exit to a controversial Italian penalty in Kaiserslautern last night. He said: "I'm a bit numb. I don't know what I am feeling at the moment but I suppose it's disbelief. "I thought we played really well in the first half and in the second half we tried to break them down but you need goals. We played well and went out to get a goal - but then this guy falls over in the box and he gets a penalty."
Kirkby move is great opportunity for Blues
Jun 28 2006 Icliverpool And Liverpool Echo
EVERTON should make the switch to Kirkby where officials are doing everything in their power to get us to move there. It's good land, free of charge and why should we stay in Liverpool? The council didn't seem to care at first, especially when we asked for Stanley Park. The only Evertonians who are not happy with this seem to be the people who live over the water! This offer is beneficial to EFC and I'm definitely for it. Gary Riley, Childwall
FROM what is known about the Kirkby deal it does sound good. It could be a heaven sent opportunity for a move that allows more Blues to attend matches, and in a state of the art stadium. But let's be clear about it, it's what's good for EFC and not simply about getting back at the city council for their previous actions, nor about trying to put one over on the Reds regarding Stanley Park. As city of culture the council should be serving all its citizens by doing up public amenities, not building on them.
Terry King, Fazakerley
SO THE powers that be have seen the light and sent Graham Poll packing. His poor performance came as no surprise because Everton have paid for his decisions on many occasions. Michael Thompson, Greasby
AFTER THE Australia v Croatia match Tim Cahill spotted an Evertonian in the crowd. He walked over to him and asked to swop his Australian shirt with the blue shirted fan. How cool is that! He didn't just give the shirt to one Evertonian he gave it to all of us. Karl Ryder, Liverpool
I KNOW we might not need him there following the signing of Joleon Lescott, but Tony Hib-bert would do a fantastic job in the centre of defence. Kevin Ratcliffe started out as a left-back but was much better when moved to the centre.
Mike McLeod, Woolton
GREAT NEWS about David Weir signing - he chose the club he loves above more money and a longer contract elsewhere. He will provide excellent cover at the back and the deal means we don't need to spend to replace him. Dave Fleece, Liverpool
Testimonial for Kendall
June 29 2006 Exclusive By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
HOWARD KENDALL has been granted a testimonial match. The most successful manager in Everton's history will be officially honoured at Goodison Park on Saturday, August 12. Athletic Bilbao, the Spanish club Kendall managed between 1987 and 1989, will provide the opposition. A thrilled Kendall said: "I had 17 years at Everton as playerand manager and of course it will be an emotional occasion for me."
Kendall, who has been involved with Everton in organising the day, is particularly pleased that Bilbao will provide the opposition. "I wanted there to be a connection with the opposition," he said, "not just bring a team in for the sake of it. "I thought about Preston obviously, then there was the Scotland team with Walter Smith, but I was delighted when Bilbao agreed to come over. "I managed them at the time when the ban on English clubs in Europe was in force and players were disappearing from England - and Ihad asuccessful two-and-a-half years there. "Strangely, the coach there now is one of my old players! "It's the weekend before the new season starts so obviously it will be a good work-out for David Moyes and it will also give the fans the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the three new signings before the Premiership starts." Howard Kendall's achievements at Everton are legendary, and this will be the first time he has been formally honoured by the club. As a player he made 274 appearances, forming one third of the magical mid-field trio which inspired Everton to the League Championship in 1969-70, playing some of the most mesmerising football ever witnessed at Goodison Park in the process. But it was as a manager that he achieved immortality. Between 1981 and 1987 he lifted the club out of the shadow of neighbours Liverpool and placed two League title trophies, an FACup and the club's only European honour - the Cup Winners' Cup - in the Goodison trophy room.
Everton were also beaten finalists in the Milk Cup and two further FA Cup finals, and were runners-up in 1986. It was the greatest period of sustained success in the club's history and saw Everton turn to Kendall again in 1990 when Colin Harvey was sacked. Success proved more elusive second time around and Kendall resigned following a row over signing players in December 1993. But the club still turned to him a third time in 1997 in the wake of Joe Royle's departure. This time his tenure was short-lived, but Kendall always retained the affection of the fans and there is sure to be a large turn-out on August 12 to pay tribute to his achievements.
England flak unfair - Valente
Jun 29 2006 Liverpool Echo
EVERTON'S Nuno Valente believes the criticism of Sven Goran Eriksson and England's performances is unfair. The defender, who is hoping to face England in Saturday's World Cup quarter-final, said: "I don't agree England are playing badly.
"People said the Spanish team were playing best in this tournament - and they are now out." Valente also hailed the role of Portugal boss Luis Felipe Scolari. He said: "We are all very happy to have him. He has a strong will but lets the players play with freedom. He has shown all his qualities."
Howard: I can't wait for lift-off
June 30 2006 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
TIM HOWARD can't wait to report back to pre-season training with Everton - after spending his entire World Cup on the USA subs bench. The Manchester United goalkeeper has agreed to ayear on loan at Goodison Park, and is relishing the chance to revive a career which stalled behind Dutch keeper Edwin vander Sar at Old Trafford. "I'm looking forward to what this upcoming season's going to bring. I haven'tbeen this excited in ages," he said. "I have that nervous energy like it's your freshman year in high school. New team-mates, having to prove yourself all over again. It's daunting but it's fun. "I'm going to jump in feet first and I think inevitably, the way I am, I'm going to be all about Everton. "Whatever shirt I put on I fight for my team-mates. It's not going to be any different. "In loan deals with a call-back clause, sometimes it's a short deal so it's like you have one foot in the door and one foot out the door. Forme, my focus is going to be on Everton 100 per cent. "After that, no one knows what's going to happen so I'm not going to worry about that." Van der Sar, 36, will complete the second year of atwo-year contract at United next season.
The prospect remains that Howard could return to Old Trafford in 2007 as first choice keeper once again, but the 27-year-old refuses to look beyond the present.
"I don't like changing teams all the time," Howard said. "I think it kind of represents a little flakiness. "I would love to have longevity with one team. I think there's something to be said for sticking it out with one team." The past year has been a trying one for the North Brunswick native. After spending most of the campaign on the United subs' bench - he started just six matches in 2005/06 - it was a role he reprised at the World Cup in Germany. Kasey Keller played all three games for the USA, although Howard declared he was just happy to be at the tournament. "Some people just wrote me off, but that didn't really bother me because I always knew where I stood," Howard said. "Just because I wasn't playing doesn't mean I wasn't putting the work in to stay as sharp as I could be." National team boss Bruce Arena agreed, saying: "Tim didn't stop being a good goalkeeper because he wasn't playing for Manchester United. "He's the future of the position for our program and moving to Everton should only help him continue to improve. "Even without playing that many games this year he still came in and looked sharp. "It's a little different for goalkeepers than field players, but you can see the work he has done to stay at the top of his game." Howard is eager to get back in the starting line-up on a consistent basis for the first time since he was named the Premier League's goalkeeper of the year for the 2004-05 season. "It'sall up to me really," Howard added. "If I can't play at a level where there's no question that I'm the number one, then I have only myself to blame.
"I know what's there for me and I'm ready to take it. I feel like it's my time to shine."
SKY CHANGES involving Everton ..TEXT: SEPTEMBER Saturday 9 - Everton v Liverpool (12.45pm) PREM-PLUS
Sunday 24 - Newcastle v Everton (4.00pm) SKY
NOVEMBER Saturday 4 - Fulham v Everton (12.45pm) SKY
Saturday 25 - Charlton Athletic v Everton (12.45pm) PREMPLUS
DECEMBER Sunday 3 - Everton v West Ham United (4.00pm) SKY
Sunday 17 - Everton v Chelsea (1.30pm) SKY
Weir: I'm up for one last battle
Jun 30 2006 by Nick Smith Daily Post staff
DAVID WEIR is refusing to be daunted by the fight to retain his place in Everton's defence next season. The 36-year-old central defender ended weeks of speculation about his future by signing a new one-year contract at Goodison Park yesterday.
Weir has so far spent the summer weighing up his options, which included Midlands Championship rivals West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City, since he became a free agent in the summer. But the lure of what would almost certainly have been guaranteed first team football wasn't strong enough to put the Scot off one more crack at the Premiership. This is despite the increased challenge for places at Everton next season, with Alan Stubbs, new signing Joleon Lescott and Joseph Yobo, set to put pen to paper on a new deal himself this weekend, all competing for the centre back spots.
"Competition is good for everyone," Weir said. "Centre halves have arrived at the club in the past and it's my job and the other lads' jobs to try and get into the team.
"That's the nature of the game and the more good players here the better it is for Everton. Weir added: "There was nothing sorted out at the end of last season so during the summer I've been trying to get things organised. "When you are out of contract you have to look at your options and see what they are. There are a lot of things to take into consideration and it's a big decision to make." Weir, who joined Everton from Hearts in 1999, revealed that he couldn't imagine playing anywhere else after taking the club to his heart in the past seven years. He said: "Ever since the day I arrived at the club I've loved every minute of it. "Most players who have left Everton have regretted it and although I had other options, this club was always going to be the winner. "The players are a great bunch of lads and the staff are great as well and that makes a big difference." Meanwhile, Everton have announced details of a testimonial for their most successful manager, Howard Kendall, who was in charge for three different spells. The club he left to manage in 1987, Athletic Bilbao, will provide the opposition at Goodison Park on Saturday, August 12 (3pm).
"Naturally it's an honour," said Kendall. "I had so many happy years at Everton, most of them successful, as a player and as a manager. "Unfortunately that success didn't continue the last time, but I have had 17 wonderful years with the club and I have a great affection for the club. "When people refer to me as the most successful manager it is a great privilege because I worked for a great manager in Harry Catterick.
"The only difference between us was that I achieved some European success. Unfortunately, although we won that one competition, we never got the chance to go on and see if we could achieve more." Kendall led Everton to the European Cup Winners Cup in 1985, when they also won the League Championship and were only denied the treble by Norman Whiteside's extra time winner for Manchester United in the FA Cup final. But they took the FA Cup the season before with a win over Watford in the final then won the title again in 1987, before Kendall left for Spain.
He added: "Bilbao were more than willing to come over and that means a lot.
"I had a tremendous relationship with the club and the fans during my time there. We did have some success. "We were not a Barcelona or a Real Madrid but in relation to the club European qualification was deemed a great success."