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Nicky Maynard for Everton?

Again, this is just me doing some late night thinking…

So, Everton have sold Diniyar Bilyaletdinov for £5m. Fine, he never really settled in England and the club have done the right thing in cutting their losses. £5m of losses for those counting.

Anyway, depending on how much of that £5m is going to be made available for reinvestment, David Moyes could do a lot worse than look at Bristol City’s contract rebel Nicky Maynard. Everton need goals, vibrancy, and energy – and his contract status will make him available for around £2.5m.

Yes, he’s unproven in the Premier League, but he would bring some much needed hunger to that forward line. Maynard needs a stage to prove himself on, Moyes can provide it. Championship player or not, Maynard can flat-out finish.

Goals, pace, hunger, and £2.5m. It’s not a bad combination is it? I think this boy would be a huge hit at this level, and whoever is brave enough to gamble on him will be rewarded.

David Moyes is restricting Everton – just as much as the lack of cash

I read an article somewhere this morning – ok, it was in the Mirror – that pointed to the lack of Match Of The Day coverage as a symptom of Everton’s decline into viewer apathy.

Apparently, Saturday’s game was billed as the latest chapter of Blackburn’s bid to survive – within which Everton just happened to be playing a supporting role in. In truth, the article was a bit pedantic, but you can’t fail to recognise the greater point to it. Everton aren’t really relevant anymore.

Obviously context is needed, because all that distinguishes Everton from the other 5-10 also-rans in the league is their past. But it’s that past that makes the present so jarring.

It’s not even really that the club has fallen so far, it’s that all the clubs that were traditionally their rivals have passed them by. The Premier League is no longer a level playing field, or at least the separation is even more exaggerated than it ever has been, and Everton of course have their ankles tied together by financial red tape.

That’s the first problem; money and the myriad issues with the ownership. But secondly, the club is now stalling because of David Moyes. Of all the managers in the Premier League, Moyes probably has the easiest ride – he’s protected by the mitigating circumstances of financial doom.

Bad result? We’ve got no money. Good result? Miracle worker. A proper, old-fashioned no-lose situation.

Bill Kenwright is too afraid of what might happen to his club if Moyes ever left Goodison Park, and I can’t understand that. But at some point, there has to be an appreciation for his manager’s failings.

Why does the club always start badly?

Why does the team consistently drop points at home to inferior teams?

There’s a lot of rhetoric about Moyes in the press, and his water-into-wine capabilities – but truthfully, the only thing he’s actually a master of is managing expectation. Watch an interview with him the next time Everton get beaten or drop points, the shoulder-shrugging abdication of responsibility isn’t good enough for a club this size.

There’s talent at Everton too; Cahill, Fellaini, Saha, Rodwell, Baines – why are these players not playing at their best? Because of the manager. There’s no financial reason for players under-performing. The myth around Moyes is that he makes the most of what he has. Really? Should a team containing those types of players be languishing in 14th?

Money this, money that – sure, but he’s gone stale, and he’s taken the club as far as he can with his set of abilities.

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Premier League Moments: Liverpool’s Robbie Fowler ‘does’ the lines at Anfield

April 1999.

Regardless of the sinister aspect to it, this is still probably one of the most original goal celebrations the Premier League has seen. Yes, yes, it’s about drugs so it’s ‘bad’, and ‘irresponsible’ and whatever else, but it was also ‘funny’.

If you’ve read Robbie Fowler’s book – which is actually more entertaining than you’d think – you’ll know quite how much junkie-themed abuse Fowler took from the Everton fans over the years. What’s more, you’ll know quite how fiercely anti-drugs he is.

With the chants of ‘smackhead’ ringing in his ears, it followed naturally that on converting a penalty at Anfield in the Merseyside derby of the spring of 1999, that Fowler would get to his knees in front of the away fans and ‘snort’ the white goal-line. Obviously.

In amongst the goal-scoring exploits, Fowler’s career was spiced with incidents like this – and actually, rather than making him dislikeable, it made him more human and easy to relate to. One of the last ‘local boys made good’ that the game in this country saw – even if he did occasionally come with an ‘explicit content’ sticker across his nose.

“Robbie, the FA’s on the phone…”

Tottenham vs Everton: Preview

Wednesday 7.45pm, White Hart Lane

Tottenham 1.57 Draw 3.75 Everton 6.50

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A huge game for Spurs, as victory would see them draw level with Manchester United in second place – this is the game in hand for both sides that was produced by the civil unrest in August.

For the home side, Ledley King and William Gallas are ruled out, but Michael Dawson makes a very timely return to action to partner Younes Kaboul in the centre of defence. Scott Parker is doubtful with the knee problem that saw him miss the victory over WBA, and Sandro is out after tearing a calf in the same game.

Everton’s injury list is even longer; Phil Jagielka is definitely out, while Tim Cahill, Leon Osman, Tony Hibbert, Jack Rodwell, and Seamus Coleman are all question marks.

Looking at those respective injury lists, and the squads in place to cover for them, it’s hard to look beyond Spurs. David Moyes will likely arrive in North London with the intention of shutting-up shop and taking a point, but without the influential Jagielka that looks a tall order. Tony Hibbert’s absence would be a concern too, as the right-back has been excellent so far this season – and you don’t want to patching up your right side when you’re about to face Gareth Bale.

Further bad news for the visitors comes in the form of Aaron Lennon’s(f/g) return to action. Lennon’s style of wing play may be overshadowed by his Welsh teammate, but his presence restores the natural balance to the Tottenham team – with Lennon and Bale playing, the opposition doesn’t really have the option for double-up and subdue either.

Marouane Fellaini(f/g) is to key to Everton tonight, as he’ll be asked by Moyes to subdue Luka Modric. The Belgian, on form, is one of the most effective midfield anchors in the league, and his ability to combine his physical presence with a semblance of discipline is key to the visitors stemming the tide.

White Hart Lane, both wingers playing, Rafael Van der Vaart(f/g) restored to his usual free-role; Tottenham win here I think.

3-1 Spurs.

Things we’ve learned – Arsenal, Man United, Everton.

Manchester United are a shambles

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Forwards being fined for poor training performances, no midfield to speak of, part-time full-backs, and no clear first-choice goalkeeper.

Sir Alex Ferguson is rightly given a lot of credit for adapting and evolving his team over the years, but all of a sudden this is a side that looks increasingly rudderless. Rather than just being a knee-jerk reaction to the chaos at St James’ Park, this is the long-term product of United being able to trade off their own success and the complacency that has brought with it. You can’t win a Premier League title without a properly defined midfield – and in United’s case, that area has become worryingly makeshift.

Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Park Ji-Sung, Anderson; these are players that are being deployed in the middle of the pitch, but without any clear role – nobody seems to have any responsibility in that part of United’s team. There’s no ball-winner, there’s no creativity, and there’s a chasm between that bank of four and United’s forwards. There’s no specialisation.

You can argue that the future of the midfield is for it be fluid and the positions to be interchangeable, but then if so, you really need to possess multi-occupational players with the requisite talent level. United don’t have that, and in any case, the 4-4-2 that Ferguson persists with doesn’t really allow for it.

Ferguson needs to address the personnel at Old Trafford now, or he’s going to spend the rest of the season worrying about Tottenham rather than Manchester City.

David Moyes’ special status is under-threat

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How often are we told about the ‘incredible job’ that David Moyes is doing at Everton? Yes, I know, the club has no money etc, but at some point that has to stop providing immunity from criticism.

Why do Everton always start the season badly? Why do they so frequently fail to beat poor teams at Goodison Park? Why are talented players(Rodwell/Drenthe) misused? And why do previously influential players(Cahill) have such lengthy slumps in form?

These are not questions for Bill Kenwright’s Bank Manager, they’re questions for Moyes. I understand the limitations on what he can bring into the club, but that doesn’t excuse the apparent mismanagement of what’s already there.

Arsenal can have no complaints over Johan Djourou’s sending off, or their defeat at Fulham

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From Arsene Wenger’s post-match press conference:

“When Djourou got the first yellow card, they tried every time to get him a second yellow and the referee was naive enough to give it,”

I like Arsene Wenger, and I have the utmost respect for what he’s achieved in the game, but his excuses are beginning to grate.

Firstly, Arsenal lost the game – not because of the referee – but because they played so passively in the second half at Craven Cottage that concession was inevitable. Fulham deserved their equaliser, but only because the away side had spent the second forty-five minutes inviting their hosts on to them and allowing momentum to gradually build.

The sending off. It is a second yellow-card, and in fact Djourou was lucky not to receive it earlier for a foul higher-up the pitch on Kerim Frei. As for the incident that convinced Lee Probert to actually dismiss the Swiss defender? It’s more the product of Djourou finding himself in a bad position than any over-zealous refereeing – sorry Arsene, but that’s what happens when you play a centre-defender at full-back.

“We lost the game because we were down to 10 men.”

No, you didn’t, you lost the game because you were profligate in front of goal, Theo Walcott has no final ball, your goalkeeper dropped a cross, and your left-back gave Bobby Zamora the freedom of South West London to score the winner.

Boxing Day Best & Worst – Blackburn & Sunderland/Everton


Blackburn’s defensive performance at Anfield

While Kenny Dalglish curses the profligacy of his misfiring team, credit where it’s due to Blackburn. Ravaged by injury, populated by teenagers, and rock-bottom of the league – a recipe for a hammering at one of the biggest grounds at the country? Not so.

Given the lack of experienced Premier League pedigree that Steve Kean has at his disposal, surely the much-maligned Scot deserves to take some credit for instilling within the players he does have enough desire to rage against the odds.

Blackburn are were they are in the league because of a lack of resources and the deception of their owners, conversely, the effort and determination of their players on Boxing Day was a credit to the club. Adam Henley, Grant Hanley, Jason Lowe, reserve goalkeeper Mark Bunn – Steve Kean has to be praised for equipping these players with enough belief to withstand the onslaught they faced on Monday.

What the fans who so shamefully abuse Kean might have to wake up to, is that while they may not like the manager, the players seem willing to play for him. Similarly, maybe they also need to recognise that they are part of the problem at Ewood Park.


Howard Webb’s penalty decision in Sunderland/Everton

Another game altered by another ridiculous refereeing decision. Those who cling to the ‘objectivity’ of an officials role need look no further than the Stadium of Light on Monday, because it’s an example of an ‘error’ rather than a ‘difference in opinion’. It’s not a penalty, it’s a farce.

How much longer must we wait before technology finally banishes this kind of absurdity from the sport? Maybe when the sport was amateur this kind of thing was acceptable, but not now, not with so much riding on each individual game. Fixtures should never be decided by referees, but the last few weeks has seen a flurry of games taken out of the hands of the teams by the official.

It’s just time, debating injustices has become utterly tedious – the game needs to catch up with every other major sport and embrace the assistance on offer rather than arrogantly dismissing it.


Honourable mention to Phil Dowd by the way.

Everton vs Swansea: Preview

Wednesday 8pm, Goodison Park

Everton 8/13 Draw 13/5 Swansea 5/1

Maybe I should just copy and paste the preview I did for Everton’s game against Norwich on Satuday? This will be similar, but with fewer goals.

Seamus Coleman and Jack Rodwell are out for the home team, while Angel Rangel returns for the visitors to hopefully shore-up the troublesome right-back spot.

The problem Everton have, is that they have to work so hard for so long to achieve so little. It’s not that they’re wasteful at home, it’s that they don’t have any dynamism – or the little they do have is sporadic.

Enigmatic as he may be, I’d like to Royston Drenthe start tonight – because you have to do something if you’re David Moyes. Drenthe gives a team pace and a direct approach, and yes, while he’s undeniably hit-and-miss, he would make Everton less predictable. That may sound harsh, but only Wigan and QPR have scored fewer goals.

You know what you’re going to get with Swansea. Everything will be neat and tidy, the approach play will be patient, and they’ll work extremely hard for Brandon Rodgers. Unfortunately, Nathan Dyer is missing tonight, who’s certainly a player capable of getting beyond defenders and causing trouble.

Swansea have scored, like Everton, a paltry 16 goals this season, and with the draw-orientated approach that they’re likely to take to Goodison Park, probably don’t expect a scoring-fest.

Goalless draw.

Interesting Fact: Based on away fixtures only, Swansea are bottom of the league table.

Best bet: 0-0 draw at 9/1

Everton’s Ross Barkley signs new contract

I’m really pleased to hear this, because this is an exception to the usual rule. Young player makes a couple of fleeting appearances in the Premier League, journalists over-hype him, big clubs come knocking and inevitably bully his parent club into selling. How many times have we heard that story?

Everton midfielder Ross Barkley has signed a new four and a half year contract with the club. Now, we all know that contracts aren’t worth what they once where, but this does at least give Everton a bit of protection from the vulture clubs that will start asking questions in a year or two’s time. It does at least finally discredit those rumours that suggested that he would be on his way to Chelsea in January. Rubbish.

Barkley is talented, and has a real chance of becoming one of the players of his generation – that’s why everyone, not just Everton fans, should be happy about this. Let him develop, and let him play without having to justify a preposterous transfer fee, and he has a better chance of fulfilling his promise.

Well done Everton, good work.

Everton to beat Norwich? 4/6 with Paddy Power.

Everton vs Norwich: Preview

Saturday 3pm, Goodison Park

Everton 4/6 Draw 7/2 Norwich 6/1

Beware, beware, this is a coupon-wrecker. The only two teams that Everton have overcome at home are Wigan and Wolves – and that accounts for 28.6% of their fixtures on Merseyside. Goodison Park is no fortress.

David Moyes has no new injuries to report, and is likely to stick with the same squad that came so close to frustrating Arsenal at the Emirates last week – which could also mean a second appearance for Youth Team graduate Conor McAleny, who looked spritely on his debut.

Norwich are no push-over. The present an aerial threat which makes them dangerous, regardless of any false perceptions about their squad’s quality. Whether Paul Lambert starts with Steve Morison or Grant Holt – and away from home it will be one or the other rather than both – this is a side capable of getting goals on the road. They’ve scored at Anfield, they’ve scored at Etihad Stadium, and they’ve scored at Stamford Bridge – they’ll score tomorrow. Of all the newly-promoted players, Wes Hoolahan is one of my favourites – well-worth a watch tomorrow if you get the chance.

If you have a team that are goal-shy, and another that are a threat at set-pieces – you can kind of see which way this fixture might go. Everton are likely to have the majority of possession, but their so ineffective at the moment – I can’t look beyond a draw. Expect this game to have the same kind of feel to it as Norwich’s visit to Liverpool earlier in the season, early home pressure and a mid-to-late equaliser. Both teams to score is available at 4/6.

While I don’t expect Norwich to take all three points, surely the 4/1 Draw No Bet option is worth a punt – at the very worst you should be getting your money back.

Interesting stat
– Everton have conceded at least one goal in every home game they’ve played this season.

Everton 1-1 Norwich

Everton’s Jack Rodwell being linked to Manchester United

Not this again.

Darren Fletcher’s hiatus from the game has led to a flurry of speculation about how Manchester United will restock their midfield. Predictably – and lazily – Jack Rodwell’s name is now being banded about, as is a price tag of £20m.

Is £20m just the default press-value of any promising English player? You can’t even really blame the press for this, because there are clubs – ok, mainly just Liverpool – who will actually pay that kind of money for under-developed British talent.

Jack Rodwell is a good player, and he has the attributes to grow into a solid international in a couple of years – but notice the future tense. Why, in the middle of his development curve, would it be wise to go and sit on Manchester United’s bench? He should stay at Everton, and become an integral part of that team first – build a proper reputation, lest he should become the next Jordan Henderson.

I find the lack of patience in the game so frustrating. Another Everton player, Ross Barkley, had barely played an hour of Premier League football before he was being anointed and linked with £20m moves to Manchester United, Chelsea etc. Note again the ‘£20m’ fee.

I can’t stress enough that I think that Rodwell will become a good player – maybe not in the ‘second coming all-conquering way that Henry Winter does – but at the moment he’s still quite limited. He needs to learn the nuances of midfield play, and actually develop his understanding of the position – that’s not a criticism, just a reminder that he’s only 20-years-old.

Let’s just relax and let him play. Why the rush for the big transfer fee and the big stage?

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