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Bolton 2, Everton 0 (D, Post)
Dec 1 2003 Ian Doyle Reports From The Reebok Stadium, Daily Post
WAYNE Rooney need not have travelled all the way to Spain in midweek to catch a glimpse of a side kitted out in all white and capable of playing their opposition off the park. Because on Saturday the Blues striker (left) had a first-hand close-up as his Everton side were comprehensively outclassed by a Jay-Jay Okocha inspired Bolton Wanderers to slip back into the relegation zone. Yes, that's right. Bolton. A team of supposed foreign mercenaries simply stopping over at the Premiership for one last pay day. Relegation certainties to many observers pre-season, for whom 17th place would represent a successful campaign. Hardly the Real thing. But the very real thing David Moyes must contemplate this morning is the fact Everton are back in the bottom three - and on the evidence of this Reebok humiliation, with little basis to argue against that league position. Such an abject display capped a seven days to forget for the Blues boss, who began the week by being forced to act on the indiscipline of one striker and was then left biting his tongue as another jetted to Madrid on his day off to lend his name to a soft drink. That midweek sojourn was hardly the wisest thing Rooney could have done given his own tender years and, more importantly, the precarious position his team finds itself in at present. There is a time for such off-field activities, and both the player and his advisors should have known better. Whether or not his travels contributed to his below-par performance at Bolton can only be conjecture, but they certainly won't have helped. But Rooney was a shadow of his normal effervescent self, the player England fans hope will help shoot the side to Euro 2004 glory next summer and who much - maybe too much at the moment - is expected from Evertonians.
Moyes was interested to see how Rooney would react to his Spanish break, but in truth he never had a chance to show his true talents. He wasn't helped by the chronic lack of service he received from an anonymous midfield and an injury sustained during a first-half challenge with goa-keeper Juusi Jaaskelainen. And the haste at which the exceedingly glum-looking 18-year-old exited proceedings after being substituted early in the second half suggests he was glad his miserable afternoon had been ended prematurely. Yet Rooney wasn't alone in failing to impress. To use a soft drink analogy, this Everton performance was as flat as it gets. No fizz, no taste. Rather like a caffeine free, diet version - its appearance is the right one, but ultimately comes without all the things you wanted from it in the first place. This time last week, Moyes was telling how Thomas Gravesen had proved a point with his fine display against Wolves. On Saturday, the only thing the Dane highlighted was the suspicion he saves his best for when the going is easier, usually at Goodison. But not one Everton player did himself justice on Saturday. There must be something about this part of the country which brings out the worse in the Blues. While three weeks ago they produced a woeful first-half display at Blackburn, at Bolton they went one worse by maintaining their awfulness for the full 90 minutes. Not the kind of consistency Moyes has been asking for. But the manager must take his share of the blame for this debacle. Everton struggled all afternoon to come to terms with the fluidity of Bolton's flexible 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation and if there was any tactical plan to counter it, then it was certainly very well hidden. To be fair, Sam Allardyce's side were excellent, and although the visitors' desperate display gave them the opportunity to perform, it's difficult to remember Bolton producing a performance as complete and exhilarating as the one which gave them their first-ever Premiership win over the Blues. And in Okocha, they have that rare breed - a player who is worth the entrance fee alone. The Nigerian was outstanding throughout, bamboozling Rooney with one piece of fancy footwork and, in one memorable snapshot, completed an outrageous one-two with Youri Djorkaeff which travelled the full width of the field and back. How Moyes must wish he could utilise the flair of the likes of those two Bolton stars . Instead, a team which called on the attacking qual iti es of Rooney, Tomasz Radzinski, Francis Jeffers, Kevin Kilbane and James McFadden could only manage one shot on target all game - and even that was a speculative 65-yard lob from substitute Alex Nyarko five minutes from time. For all their pretty play, however, the Bolton goals were indebted to poor defending and good fortune, with the first another example of Everton's worrying inability to deal with set-pieces. A long throw from Okocha on 26 minutes was flicked on by Stelios to the unmarked Ivan Campo at the far post, who in turn headed back across goal. The ball should have been cleared but, impeded by the presence of Alan Stubbs (left), Nigel Martyn succeeded only in punching weakly on to the head of Per Frandsen, who nodded home.
The Blues were fortunate to not already be behind at that point, with Kevin Davies heading Okocha's excellent cross over early on and Stelios clipping the ball wide after being put in by Kevin Nolan. In a rare moment of action at the other end, Joseph Yobo's long punt upfield gave Rooney something to chase but the striker lobbed the ball way over the bar. After such a dismal first half, Moyes must have been seething at his players. But any chance of a comeback evaporated within 30 seconds of the restart after Everton again failed to clear a free-kick into the box properly. The loitering Frandsen hooked the ball forward to Djorkaeff, who swivelled to acrobatically volley towards goal from the edge of the area. Martyn may have had the initial shot covered, but was left wrong-footed by the deflection off the back of Nolan's head. Frandsen nearly curled in a third and Djorkaeff came close with a long-range effort, while all Everton could muster by means of a response was a 20-yard Stubbs effort which whistled narrowly wide. But the second half was more damage limitation for the Blues than anything else as Bolton stroked the ball around with an air of arrogance. This time last year Everton were third from top. This morning they find themselves third from bottom, still without an away Premiership win since defeating West Brom in April. If they keep up this level of performance, the Blues will have a long wait until their next league success on their travels.
And with the teams around them showing little sign of giving up the fight, it's time Moyes' men rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in. Many more surrenders like this one and relegation will become an ever more realistic possibility. They have been warned.
BOLTON (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Ngotty, Charlton, Gardner; Frandsen, Campo, Okocha; Nolan, Davies, Stelios (Djorkaeff 30). Subs: Poole, Thome, Pedersen, Jardel.
EVERTON (4-4-2): Martyn; Hibbert, Stubbs, Yobo, Unsworth; Carsley, Gravesen (Yobo 71), Linderoth (McFadden 46), Kilbane; Rooney (Jeffers 54), Radzinski. Subs: Simonsen, Naysmith.
BOOKINGS: Everton's McFadden (dissent).
REFEREE: Paul Durkin.
ATT: 27,350.

Nolan's eyeing Mersey double
By Ian Doyle, Daily Post
Dec 1 2003
LIVERPOOL fan Kevin Nolan helped see off Everton on Saturday - and has now set his sights on a double against his boyhood heroes. Scouser Nolan helped Youri Djorkaeff's shot on its way past Nigel Martyn for the second goal of Bolton's 2-0 victory over the Blues at the Reebok. The Trotters travel to Anfield on Wednesday for a Carling Cup fourth round clash buoyed by five successive clean sheets in all competitions. And after the defeat of the Blues, Nolan beamed: "I can go home to Liverpool happy! All my mates are Everton fans, and none of them will be going out after the game - they will all be in their beds crying! "It will be nice to get a double in the Carling Cup against Liverpool. Hopefully we can go there and give a good account of ourselves. People will fear playing us at the moment. Now we have to kick on. It's about confidence." Of Wayne Rooney's substitution in the second half, Nolan added: "Maybe it was a bit of a surprise to see Wayne's number going up as he can change a game in a moment. But Bruno Ngotty and Simon Charlton had him under wraps all game. "It was always difficult for Everton to carry on from how well they did last season. David Moyes has done well and I am sure that he will turn it around." Bolton boss Sam Allardyce praised his team's performance, which saw them move into the top half of the Premiership table.
"Given the quality that we showed, it would have been difficult for any team to live with us, except maybe one of the top three," said Allardyce. "We have put in some excellent performances at home without getting what we deserved because of a failure in front of goal, but we put that right today.
"Very often when we win, peo-ple talk about the opposing team playing badly and not how well we played, so maybe we can now change that. Last year Everton were the side who were difficult to beat, and hopefully we can do the same thing now."

Fans forum
By Bill Richards, Daily Post
Dec 1 2003
WE all knew it was going to be tougher this season - but not this tough! Last season's heady heights seem a distant memory and while I think most Evertonians knew it would need another minor miracle from David Moyes to keep us afloat at the top end of the table, I don't think anyone expected us to sink this low. And the scary thing is any more performances like Saturday's effort at Bolton and we'll carry on sinking. Much will be made of Wayne Rooney's early departure from the fray, especially after his highly-publicised jaunt to Madrid for commercial reasons. It is no wonder he looked so down in the dumps, though, after being left to feed on the meagre scraps served up by his teammates. We may have the hottest property in English football, but he is neither use nor ornament if we don't get the right kind of delivery to him. Cue Thomas Gravesen. How can he be so impressive against England and then Wolves, and so anonymous at the Reebok? But if we're having a go at the Dane's inconsistency, it is an accusation that could be pointed at just about anyone in blue. Everton don't seem able to string anything like a run of results together. This season is turning into a series of false dawns. For every bright spell - like the 45 minutes that was enough to see off Wolves last week - we seem to take at least three steps back next time out. We're not getting the results we need against the likes of Bolton, like last year. Now's not the time to panic, I know, with a long, long road ahead and plenty of time to push back up the table. But at the same time, I just can't get Ipswich out of my head.

Moyes: I may give Rooney a break
By Ian Doyle, Daily Post
Dec 1 2003
DAVID MOYES has hinted he could rest Wayne Rooney after the striker suffered a miserable afternoon at Bolton on Saturday. Rooney was substituted early in the second half as the Blues slumped to a 2-0 defeat at the Reebok to drop back into the bottom three in the Premiership. The 18-year-old was an ineffective performer after a busy week in which he jetted off to Madrid to film a commercial for Coca-Cola. And Moyes revealed Rooney could drop to the bench for Wednesday's Carling Cup fourth round clash with Middlesbrough. "Wayne is an 18-year-old boy who has done really well and is progressing," said the Blues boss. "Like everyone else, he has his ups and downs but his ability and talent is not in question. It is just a matter of time before he comes back into good form. "We've played him in a lot of games already this season, and maybe we need to have a look at that." Rooney appeared less that impressed at being substituted on 54 minutes, racing from the pitch to take his place on the bench. But Moyes insisted: "I wouldn't read anything into that. Anyway, we would ask our players to come off the field quickly when they are substituted so we can get on with the game. "Wayne took a knock in the first half but that is not why I took him off. It was tactical, and nothing to do with his trip to Madrid. "He is still young enough to play for the youth team and maybe people are expecting too much of him." Everton were well beaten by Bolton on Saturday, with Sam Allardyce's side recording their first-ever Premiership victory against the Blues. Per Frandsen headed the Trotters into the lead on 26 minutes with Youri Djorkaeff netting the second - via a deflection off Kevin Nolan - a minute after the interval, to leave the Blues without an away win since the 2-1 defeat of West Brom back in April. And Moyes admitted: "We are always working hard to make sure we lift the players but sometimes the players need to lift the manager as well. We were poor. "It's not nice when we get out-fought. Bolton won too many individual battles, and whatever you do tactically, you have to do better than your opponent. But Bolton did better than we did. "We didn't play well and we were second best in every department. There was a lack of fight which has been noticeable in the last few games. "I can accept things going wrong. We didn't win every game last year, but I thought there were very few occasions when I had to lift the players. We've already had to do that one or two times this season, and that's one or two times too many. "I asked for a reaction against Wolves and they gave me one, but I can't ask for one every week. We'll keep doing things the same way, as we have to believe they are the right things to be doing, and I'm sure the players believe that as well. "I now have to get the players to show me that away from home we can get a result. We need to get a semblance of a hard to beat Everton side, and we are not that at present. "We weren't hard to beat. Sometimes you can be hard to beat and have one of your strikers nick a goal, but we weren't like that. We were too soft. But I must give Bolton credit. They did well and they went for our throats from the start."

Bolton 2, Everton 0 (Echo)
Dec 1 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
SITTING through Saturday's match was a real struggle. There were cold sweats, headaches and dizzy spells. As it turns out, I was coming down with a dose of the flu. But that was not the case for the thousands of Everton fans who made the short journey to the Reebok Stadium - only to suffer from similar symptoms. Watching the way the Blues performed as they slipped to a 2-0 defeat would have turned any Evertonian's stomach. We have become accustomed to seeing David Moyes' team transferring onto the pitch the passion which is present in the Goodison stands every week. But increasingly this season that fight, that desire has not been present when the Blues have gone on the road. And anybody who doubts that need only look at the league table. Back in the bottom three for the second time in a month, the Blues are now only two points ahead of Leeds and Wolves. And anybody who watched those sides at Goodison this season will admit they are rotten. Surely Everton aren't that bad. But, as footballers always testify, the table doesn't lie. When you follow a team every week you can be guilty of donning rose-tinted spectacles. Saturday can't really have been that bad, could it? But according to the Bolton fan I was chatting to after the match while enjoying a drink (for medicinal purposes only) it was. "Everton are the worst side to come to our place this season," he pointed out, enjoying the opportunity to cause further irritation. And considering Wolves were the most recent visitors to the Reebok before Saturday, that is a damning verdict. We can talk about the quality in the squad. We can talk about the fact the Blues should be in the top half of the table. But the reality is that until Moyes' men start picking up points on a regular basis the club is facing the prospect of a fight against relegation. And when you look at the clubs just above Everton in the table it underlines the level of the challenge facing the Toffees.
Aston Villa, Blackburn, Tottenham and Middlesbrough are not Premiership newcomers. They are not sides that lack quality. They are, like Everton, more than good enough to be in a position of relative safety. Everton simply can't afford to wait for one of their rivals to make a move. They have to do it themselves now, or else face the prospect of being sucked further into trouble. Per Frandsen in the first half and Scouser Kevin Nolan 30 seconds into the second half scored the goals that paved the way for Bolton's deserved victory. By contrast, Everton's first shot on target did not materialise until th 86th minute - and that was a speculative 40 yard effort from substitute Alex Nyarko. It is becoming a worrying pattern. Decent home performance cancelled out by torrid away day. They were outplayed all across the park by Bolton, and Moyes openly admitted as much after the match.
Normally there is a look of thunder on the face of the Goodison chief when his side has suffered defeat. That was replaced on Saturday by a look of bewilderment. He deserved to feel upset. His players simply did not deliver. The manager did not tinker with the line-up or the formation. Ten of the 11 that faced Wolves a week earlier stepped out onto the pitch at the Reebok. They were simply asked to repeat that dis-play. They didn't. The Trotters play a fluid formation, switching freely from 4-5-1 to 4-3-3. When you have free-spirits like Jay-Jay Okocha, Ivan Campo and Youri Djorkaeff in your ranks it makes sense. The trio were brimming with confidence and the Blues never got to grips with them. From the outset the home side were on the front foot. So much so that, in the opening 10 minutes alone, Moyes had to be dragged back into the manager's technical area four times by fourth official Clattenburg as he attempted to bark instructions to his players. His tactical instructions seemed to work. But just as the Toffees appeared to be getting into the game they fell behind to a soft goal. Unlike so many of his teammates, Nigel Martyn has been Mr Reliable this season. But in the 26th minute he put a foot wrong for the first time in an Everton shirt. Okocha launched a long throw into the Everton area, Stelios flicked the ball to the back post and Campo guided a header back into the six yard box. Martyn dashed off his line to punch the ball clear but his path to the ball was hindered by a sea of bodies, ensuring his clearance went only as far as Frandsen 10 yards out. The midfielder punished the 37-year-old, guiding a header into the corner of the net.
It was a bitter blow. But what was even more galling was the fact the visitors didn't channel their frustration into a concerted effort to get back into the game. Tomasz Radzinski and Wayne Rooney simply didn't see enough of the ball to make an impression. The 18-year-old was presented with a half-decent chance before the interval, latching on to a hopeful long ball from Joseph Yobo, but his attempted lob from 18 yards sailed over the crossbar as well as Jussi Jaaskelainen. Like his team, the Coca-Cola kid lacked fizz. Maybe that could explain his body language when he was substituted midway through the second half. Maybe the lifelong Evertonian was simply as wound up as his comrades in the stands. But to focus on his dissatisfaction at being hauled off would be to miss the point. Anybody could have been taken off on Saturday and they would not have been in a position to argue against the decision. The game was effectively done and dusted 30 seconds into the second half. Substitute Djorkaeff acrobatically sending a shot goalwards from the edge of the box. Martyn looked to have it covered before a glancing header from Nolan wrong-footed the keeper and sent the ball into the bottom right corner of the net. Frandsen twice went close to adding another, while Okocha's fancy footwork was delighting the home fans long after it became clear the three points were in the bag. Alan Stubbs, another lifelong Blue and a former Bolton player, did his best to lift the spirits. In the final quarter of the game he charged forward with the ball and sent a drive inches wide of the target from 35 yards. He was one of the few players in a blue shirt to come out of the game with any credit. No doubt we will see a backlash against Middlesbrough on Wednesday night in the Carling Cup. And don't be surprised to see a decent display when Manchester City visit Goodison on Saturday. But the real test will come in 11 days time at Portsmouth. If the Toffees are to climb clear of danger it is away from home where the points need to start mounting up.

'Talk is cheap - we need action'
Dec 1 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES has warned that Everton have to show more consistency if they are to climb out of the Premiership relegation zone. The Blues find themselves in 17th spot, just two points ahead of bottom club Leeds, after suffering Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Bolton. The club's predicament was not helped by victories for Leeds, Blackburn, Aston Villa and Leicester. Hopes had been high going into Saturday's game because of the 2-0 victory over Wolves at Goodison. But Everton's away form is proving their downfall. They have now picked up just two points from the 21 available on the road this season. Only Wolves and Aston Villa have as bad a record. It is a situation which the manager insists will have to change. "I asked for a reaction to the Blackburn defeat against Wolves and they gave it," said Moyes. "But you can't keep climbing the mountain and then falling down again. You have to get a bit of consistency in your play. "Last week we had lots of good performances and this week lots of bad ones, which is difficult to take." Asked if he thought his side was totally lacking fight and commitment against Bolton the manager replied: "I think that is fair. It has been noticeable in a couple of games. "It was very apparent. It would worry me whether we were at the bottom of the league or the top of the league. "Bolton had it and we didn't. But I remain confident of getting out of it. "I think we have a group of players that is more than capable of being in a much healthier position than we are in. "But talk is cheap and actions are what are required." Bolton boss Sam Allardyce refused to condemn Everton for their performance, saying: "I did not think Everton were poor, I thought we were brilliant. But it is the defence which has given us the confidence to show our quality. "Four games ago it was a case of having to battle away to get results. Now we haven't conceded a goal in five games and we all know where that kind of form will get us if it continues.

"Not conceding goals has given us the basis to play with growing confidence and against Everton we didn't just win, we entertained the fans with our football. That was very pleasing." Moyes agreed with Allardyce's assessment but could not bring himself to defend his players. He added: "I will have to give Bolton a lot of credit because I thought they did play well. But I have to look at my side and I didn't think we played well. "We weren't in it at all. That is the story. I think if you look through the team Bolton won all the individual battles, with maybe the exception of Kevin Kilbane at times and Lee Carsley to a lesser extent. "I thought they did us in nearly every area of the field, which is why Bolton were good and we weren't so good." Moyes also revealed that Wayne Rooney's substitution midway through the second half was not injury related. The 18-year-old striker appeared frustrated by his withdrawal from the action. He was replaced by Francis Jeffers. Moyes explained: "It was a tactical decision to take Wayne off, although he did take a knock on his ankle in the first half. "I am not going to say too much about Wayne. I will say he is a young boy who is still young enough to play for the Everton youth team in the FA Youth Cup if we wanted him to. Let's just remember what we are all expecting of him. "We will continue to be careful with his progress."
The manager had reluctantly allowed the striker to travel to Madrid last Wednesday in order to film a commercial for Coca-Cola. The striker has just signed a £500,000 deal with the soft drinks giant.
Although Moyes did not blame Rooney's lack of impact against Bolton on his midweek excursion, he did concede that he would prefer his players to rest on their day off. After Saturday's result, though, day's off could be wiped from the timetable.

Rooney not the only one still learning
Dec 1 2003 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
"WE forget sometimes that Wayne Rooney is very young," said Blues' boss David Moyes after another worryingly woeful Everton display at Bolton. But what might have escaped his - and sometimes our attention - is that Moyes himself is a very young manager. So if Rooney was guilty of his best Kevin and Perry impersonation as he strutted off the Reebok Stadium pitch with more than half-an-hour left, Moyes was also guilty of an over-reaction. Rooney was lacklustre at the Reebok - against the same players he so memorably tore to shreds last season - and Wednesday's trip to Madrid probably didn't help. But Saturday's substitution smacked of a 'told you so' rap on the wrist, even if we take Moyes' word that it wasn't intended as such. Both are the most outstandingly talented young practitioners of their respective roles in the Premiership. There were grumbles about both on Saturday night - understandably so given the shambles of a non-performance many of those callers were subjected to at Bolton. But the issue the phone-ins and message-boards seemed most concerned with was that Moyes was not popular with his players. Whether he is or he isn't I'm not sure is all that significant. Walter Smith was very popular amongst his playing personnel. Many of them approached the ECHO with a public show of support before an FA Cup tie at Stoke when speculation was rife he was set to be sacked. Fat lot of good it did him. Players of the most successful club in the country are hardly queuing up to invite Sir Alex round for supper - especially if there are tea-cups around. The most successful captain in Everton Football Club's history penned the following words in his autobiography: "As for Howard, I didn't like him. He came over as a nice, genuine fella but there was something about him that jarred with me." Kevin Ratcliffe later became Howard Kendall's skipper, but it took time. Managers don't have to be liked by their players.
What must be there is a measure of respect - and Moyes has already shown with his handling of a stroppy Scot that he is not a man to trifle with. A few more of his players may find that out this week. Moyes is still absorbing some of the lessons of management, while Rooney is still learning how to conduct himself as a young footballer. Everton are highly fortunate to have them both.

Moyes: We have to show heart
Dec 1 2003 By Rob Brady, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES is calling for a braveheart attitude from his players to pull Everton away from the relegation zone. The Blues boss remains upbeat despite his side lying third from bot tom of the Premiership following Saturday's dismal 2-0 defeat at Bolton. Moyes said today: "We are very aware of our position and are going to work to get ourselves out of it. "There will certainly be no hiding. I think we have to show a little bit more heart than we have done, especially in our away performances. "That is the only thing we would ask for more of. "The players are hurting as much as the supporters and me. They don't want to be in this position either. "They have the capability to do much better. They showed that last season. They are desperate to get back to winning ways."
Everton's next Premiership game is the televised pay-per-view encounter at home against Manchester City on Sunday. Kevin Keegan's team currently occupy ninth place, yet are separated from the Blues by just five points. Moyes added: "It's tight at the moment. All the teams are saying the same thing. We need to make sure we get ourselves above those teams so we are away from the bottom end." The manager has hinted he may bench out-of-sorts Wayne Rooney for Wednesday's Carling Cup fourth round tie with Middlesbrough. Moyes is concerned at the number of games the teenager has played this season. The 18-year-old was a peripheral figure at the Reebok Stadium and appeared less than happy when he was substituted early in the second half. Moyes was quick to dismiss any reports of a rift developing between himself and the young England star. He said: "I'm sure Wayne was just disappointed how it was going, not just for himself but the team as well. I have a great relationship with Wayne. "I substituted him because I didn't think he was playing well on the day."

Selling Wayne's not that insane
By Mark Lawrenson, Daily Post
Dec 2 2003
YOU just can't keep Wayne Rooney out of the headlines. Whether it is scoring wonder goals for Everton or England, making a midweek flit to Madrid to promote a soft drink or his reaction to being substituted during the defeat at Bolton, the Croxteth teenager has become big news.
There must be times when manager David Moyes wishes there was a different line in questions to answer, but it is all part and parcel of having a special talent in your squad. Moyes knows he has to pitch his handling of the Boy Wonder just right. He has to be strong and firm, but as Rooney is only an 18-year-old there are times when he will have to cut some slack. It is all about getting the best out of the player and because of his age and ability he can be considered a special case. And I don't think the rest of the players will have a problem with that. They know that when Rooney is on top of his game - whatever means are used to achieve that - then they will all prosper as Everton start winning games and move up the table. But Rooney has also got to play ball with Everton and not let his head get turned by all the commercial offers coming his way. I don't see his trip to Spain last week as a problem. At least his manager knew where he was. If these sort of ventures are the exception rather than the rule - and a figure of one a month has been mentioned - then that is acceptable. The problem with Everton's present predicament is that one day they may have to think the unthinkable. There are still a few matches to go before the transfer window reopens and Everton can take stock of their league position then. But if the Blues feel they can add to the overall quality and depth of the squad on the back of the sale of one player, isn't that just good business?
I am sure neither party wants it to come to that, but Manchester United parted company with David Beckham. If Everton could pull in, say, £30 million for Rooney with half of that then going into the manager's transfer pot and it meant the difference between avoiding relegation or not, it is something the Blues would have to consider. It might might not be a popular decision, but if it kept Everton in the Premiership the supporters might appreciate the logic behind it. However, there is no need for it to come to that. I still believe Everton have the quality to pull clear of danger, although the Bolton result surprised me because I thought they would get something out of the game.
Rooney must be feeling very frustrated at the moment. Much has been made of his better goalscoring record with England than Everton but when he is away with Sven-Goran Eriksson's side he is surrounded by the best in the country. There are so many options available in terms of the ball being delivered to the front men by midfielders of the calibre of Beckham and Steven Gerrard. With all respect to Everton, that is not the case when Rooney is back at Goodison. Everton need to make themselves hard to beat again - and build a return to winning ways from there. And that will keep everyone in the camp happy.

Rooney can inspire new Blues glory
By Chris Wright, Daily Post
Dec 2 2003
WAYNE ROONEY is still eligible for Everton when they open their FA Youth Cup campaign tomorrow against Coventry City (kick-off 7pm) at Highfield Road. And while there is little chance of the Blues and England star making an appearance, he can act as an inspiration to the current side as they seek to add to one of the best Youth Cup records. It is just two seasons since Rooney first attracted national interest for the eight goals that helped Colin Harvey's side reach the final of the prestigious Youth tournament (pictured consoling a teammate after losing in the final). But even the 18-year-old couldn't prevent Aston Villa winning the trophy 4-2 on aggregate. And after last year's disappointing third round exit to Port Vale, Neil Dewsnip's side will be keen to try and emulate the exploits of the Blues' previous campaigns that have seen them win the trophy three times and been losing finalists on four other occasions. Like several of his side, coach Dewsnip makes his Youth Cup debut tomorrow. Although Dewsnip has been involved as part of the coaching team in recent years, this will be the first time he leads a side, after Harvey's retirement in the summer. Dewsnip said: "Through Colin and his hard work and the other staff, we have had a super reputation in the competition. Last year was disappointing against Port Vale. "But that aside we have a terrific reputation which it credit to Colin and the players. So hopefully we can pick up the reins and take it forward. It is obviously a great honour for me and a great challenge. It is one that excites me, but it is down to the players. "And they are good types and they will certainly give it their best and hopefully if their talent comes through on the evening we will be okay. "We are reasonably positive going into the game. The under-17s scoreline last week was super for their confidence. And competition for places is intense. "We only have two under-19s players playing in our 19s and 17s, so everybody is available for selection." Although in Coventry they meet a side who have a recent record in the tournament to match almost anyone. They were twice beaten in the final in 1999 and 2000 by West Ham United and Arsenal respectively. And they are coached by Academy director Steve Ogrozovic and former Everton and Coventry defender Brian Borrows. But Everton have several players who have experience of the tournament already. All of the team beaten by Port Vale, apart from Brian Moogan, Scott Brown and Craig Garside - who are no longer eligible, will be hoping to get on the pitch to make amends tonight. Centre-back Anthony Gerrard, cousin of Liverpool and England midfielder Steven, is just one of several players who have been in excellent form this term at U19s and reserve level. Both he and other experienced youngsters like James Potter and Italian striker Patrizio Pascucci will be vital if Everton are to progess. And the Blues have one player who will be playing in the competition for a third season in a row. Striker Paul Hopkins made his Youth Cup bow as a second-half substitute in the second leg of the 2002 final at Villa Park.
He made a big impression then, and while the striker was part of the losing Blues side last year, he may be one player who can propel them to an extended run in the competition. EVERTON (from): Lake, Flood, Potter, Gerrard, Fox, Booth, M Jones, J Jones, Barry, Lynch, Pascucci, Martland, Gallagher, Wynne, Hughes, Kearney, Wright, Seargeant, Wilson, Harris, Boyle, Johnson, Hopkins, Fowler.

Jeffers in River return
By Andy Hunter, Daily Post
Dec 2 2003
FRANCIS JEFFERS hopes to kick-start his Everton career at Middlesbrough tomorrow - as Alessandro Pistone's was put back on hold. The Blues on-loan striker is favourite to replace Wayne Rooney at The Riverside if David Moyes' plan to rest the 18-year-old after his Bolton blip takes immediate effect. Jeffers, who replaced Rooney at The Reebok, has started only once since returning from Highbury in a bid to secure a permanent Everton move. But his prospects have been bolstered by Duncan Ferguson's spat, Kevin Campbell's injury and now Moyes' insistence Rooney needs a break - with his chance expected to come in tomorrow's Carling Cup fourth round clash. Jeffers has not scored a competitive goal since Arsenal's 2-2 FA Cup draw with Chelsea on March 8 and will face a Middlesbrough defence now boasting a club record of five consecutive clean sheets. With Everton desperate for Premiership points Rooney's rest could come in the cup as Moyes declared there are no problems with his prized asset. The Blues boss hauled the teenager off against Bolton after voicing fears over his commercial commitments in Madrid three days earlier. But yesterday Moyes said: "I have a great relationship with Wayne. I substituted him because he wasn't playing well.
"I am sure Wayne was just disappointed at how it was going, not just for himself but for the team as well." Meanwhile, Pistone faces an extended spell on the sidelines after suffering yet another hernia problem. The defender will today visit the Italian specialist who has performed two hernia operations on him in the last nine months. Since returning from an operation in October Pistone has felt discomfort in his right groin and was forced out of his comeback game against Wolves reserves last week. Everton's head physio Mick Rathbone explained: "Sandro had surgery in Italy last year to repair his right groin. The operation seemed to go well, as he was able to play after undergoing that initial surgery. "Unfortunately, a couple of months ago, he had problems on his left side and he went back to Italy to have his left side done. "Alessandro now has recurring problems on the right hand side and all we can do is send him back to Italy to see his surgeon because the ball is very much in their court." Despite requiring more medical attention there is disquiet at Everton over Pistone's choice of surgeon - who he has known since his Inter Milan days. Nick Chadwick, Steve Watson and Tony Hibbert have all undergone similar operations in the last 12 months and enjoyed far better recovery times. As Rathbone indicated: "It's a player's prerogative to use whichever surgeon he favours. "However, it is fair to say that we would have preferred him to use the surgeons in the North West, that we use ourselves because they have a fantastic track record. "They use slightly different procedures in Italy than they do here and we prefer our procedures to be perfectly honest.
"That is not intended as a criticism of Alessandro's surgeon in Milan, who is obviously a very eminent surgeon, but it's just that we would prefer the British procedure to be used." Paul Gerrard and young midfielder Steven Schumacher returned to Everton yesterday following the end of loan deals with Sheffield United and Carlisle respectively. Everton's Premiership game away at Birmingham next year has been put back 24 hours. The game at St Andrews was due to take place on Tuesday, February 10, but will now be played on Wednesday, February 11. The switch was agreed after Birmingham's weekend game with Manchester City was moved for television purposes.

Easy scapegoat
Icliverpool And Daily Post
Dec 2 2003
Does Wayne Rooney really see eye to eye with David Moyes? HOW IS it that this young man, the greatest talent I've ever seen in a blue shirt, is becoming the regular scapegoat during this period of absolute misery for Evertonians? A scapegoat chosen by none other than David Moyes - you'll remember him as the post-Walter messiah. I worry whether Moyes has the experience at the top level to handle the big name players. This season the side has fallen well short of what's required.
They are completely incapable of performing away from home, irrespective of how the previous home game went. The selection of Lee Carsley instead of James McFadden on Saturday both astonished and saddened me. Moyes' handling of the recent Duncan Ferguson issue was poor from a PR/supporters point of view. He's been on Rooney's back ever since it dawned on him that agents now rule the roost whenever an exceptional talent is involved. There has been a huge difference in body language (and level of performance) that we now see in young Wayne when representing Everton and England. Moyes is now in the habit of substituting the lad in every game, earlier and earlier, when he is far from the worst player on view and one of the few who can actually turn a game our way. He hasn't even tried playing him in the position that most of us believe will benefit the side - deeper, behind the strikers, or even in centre midfield to give Tommy a hand!
Moyes' latest statement that he's now considering resting Rooney because he fears "burn-out" is wide of the mark. I wonder whether the Board have considered that, while they have a talented young coach on their hands, a good manager he is not!
Mike Brown, Bromborough, Wirral
Don't drop Rooney
WAYNE Rooney may be jaded and Madrid was maybe a mistake, but David Moyes has got to learn how to use him. Quick. Don't drop him! He doesn't work in a flat two alongside the likes of Radzinski, who was as bad. Why? Because the midfield was dire. Li Tie was a lynch-pin last season, and I would have him ahead of Thomas Gravesen or Kevin Kilbane. Francis Jeffers' confidence won't be boosted on the bench while James McFadden should have started against Bolton. And as for the 'fans' slagging Rooney all game with lame-brain England comments, can't they work out why he can do it in a three lions shirt with the likes of Beckham, Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard etc?
Greg Brown, Liverpool
Show some heart
HOW LONG are we going to have to listen to the manager telling us that wasn't good enough after another abject display against mediocre opposition? The table doesn't lie: three wins out of 14 and two of those against against the teams below us. While performance-related salaries would be ideal, it's never going to happen. The only way to punish these prima donnas is to drop them from the first team for a lengthy period. We have a fairly talented squad of players who just don't have the heart for the club that the 40,000 a week at Goodison do.
Tom Roberts, Liverpool
Consistent worry
I AM getting worried about this Everton team: a lack of consistency seems to be a big problem. Is the manager able to motivate his players, are the players really up for it, are they good enough? The table does not lie.
Tom McGahana, (via e-mail)
Beckham example
I THINK someone should point out to Wayne that before Beckham became a personality he was first and foremost a footballer. Wayne seems to expect things a bit too soon before he's established himself on the pitch for Everton. The difference between this and last season is the sparkle has gone from his game. People blame the players around him but these same players were on the pitch last year. Stop giving him excuses not to perform and if he's not doing the business for Everton drop him to the bench (I hate the expression "rest him"). Also remind him what happened to Danny Cadamarteri when he started believing his own publicity.
Sean Childer, Thornton, Liverpool
Out of form
YOUNG Wayne is out of form, which can be said about most of the team. Nobody likes to be substituted. I suppose Tomasz Radzinksi didn't like being brought off last season for Wayne to come on in most games but he never spat out his dummy. Wayne is still a teenager and surrounded by hype. But nobody is guaranteed their place in the team and if you are not performing you will be brought off. Wayne needs to accept this and get on with what he does best.
Peter Bernard, Liverpool
Travel daze
AWAY from home Everton are first division material and wins against Wolves and Leeds should not overshadow the fact we are a poor side. Time to get ruthless.
George Smith, Aintree, Liverpool
Cash in . . .
GET ready for another bottom three fight. We have nothing to offer from anywhere in the team right now. Our away form is dire. Let's cash in on Wayne and buy our survival come the January sales.
M Andrews (via e-mail)
. . . in January
MOYES has it all wrong on our away tactics. The last away win was at WBA last season. We do not have the skill to go for three points away from home every other week - that says it all. Rooney should be sold come January for £50 million. Then go for four class midfielders, a centre half and two full backs. Rooney is class with good players around him, something we cannot provide. We are better surviving in the Premiership without him than Division One with him.
John Strahan, Liverpool
Missed chances
WHAT A spineless performance by everyone at Bolton. Blackburn and Bolton should have been two wins and we turn in two of the worst I have seen in 16 years. What is going on? Have the players lost faith in David Moyes?
Richard Whitehead (via e-mail)
Grav not to blame
DAVID MOYES says he can't understand why Everton are in their current position. I would sugest a midfield of similar workhorses with no pace and little creativity has a lot to do with it. I don't blame Graveson as he is the only decent centre midfield player we have, but he can't do it alone. We never get behind defences because we have no pace wide right. I suggest moving Radzinski or Rooney to the right to solve the problem and bringing Dunc into the middle maybe with Jeffers. The issue is that the strikers aren't getting any service and so are not getting the chances they need to score.
Phil Harris, Northwich, Cheshire

Hou stands up for Moyes
Dec 2 2003 By Chris Bascombe And David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON boss David Moyes today received a firm message of support from an unlikely source - Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier. The Anfield manager hit out at 'unfair' criticism of his rival across Stanley Park. Houllier can empathise with Moyes' current plight given the regular criticism aimed at the red half of Merseyside in recent seasons. Moyes has had to endure rumours recently that he has 'lost the dressing room' at Goodison. He has also been criticised by some for his handling of Wayne Rooney - substituted after 54 minutes against Bolton on Saturday. And of course there has been the much publicised row with Duncan Ferguson. Houllier said: "I feel a lot of sympathy for David Moyes. At the moment he is getting unfair criticism. "This seems to happen now in football. First this season it was Bobby Robson, then it was me. Now it is David. "All I know is where there is stability at a football club, there is success. We now live in an era of the quick fix - not just in football but in life. "You are a hero one moment and then a zero the next. "I just wanted to take this opportunity to give him my support as a friend. People should give him time to do his job."

The Italian job
Dec 2 2003 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
ALESSANDRO PISTONE may need his third hernia op in nine months - and will again return to Milan for the surgery. But Blues officials are bemoaning the defender's preference for an Italian surgeon, after team-mates Nick Chadwick, Tony Hibbert and Steve Watson all went through the same op in the North West and recovered swiftly. "It's a player's prerogative to use whichever surgeon he favours," said physio Mick Rathbone. "However, it is fair to say that we would have preferred him to use surgeons in the North West that we use ourselves because they have a fantastic track record.

"They use slightly different procedures in Italy than here and we prefer our procedures to be perfectly honest. "That is not intended as a criticism of Alessandro's surgeon in Milan, who is obviously a very eminent surgeon, but it's just that we would prefer the British procedure to be used." Pistone underwent surgery on his right groin nine months ago, to repair a problem.
He made a return to first team action but then experienced similar problems on his left side.
They were also successfully cured, but after a 45-minute run-out at Wolves reserves last week Pistone felt a recurrence on his right side. "All we can do is send him back to Italy to see his surgeon because the ball is very much in their court," shrugged Rathbone. With David Weir still out injured and Joseph Yobo soon to disappear on African Nations Cup duty, Pistone offered a valuable option to boss David Moyes in the centre of defence.

Klinsmann: Just enjoy Wayne's world
Dec 2 2003 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
STRIKING legend Jurgen Klinsmann has warned Wayne Rooney will leave Everton one day. But until then he believes the youngster should chill out. Speaking after the European Championship draw in Lisbon at the weekend, the former Spurs and Germany star said: "You know there will be moves - he won't stay forever at the same club. "After all, who thought two years ago that David Beckham would play for Real Madrid? "There comes the moment in every career that changes things and then you have to see if they are able to deal with it. "There is still a lot to happen in his career. There is his development as a player and there is the development as a person and a personality."
Klinsmann believes Rooney could be England's secret weapon in Portugal next summer, provided he learns how to switch off from footballing pressures. "Wayne Rooney should approach the tournament in a more relaxed way than some of the older players," he explained. "Everybody admires David Beckham and I am an admirer of Michael Owen. But now they have to show it.
"Rooney, however, should say: 'If I can be in there, then great. If I go in there, then I want to prove that I am good.' But he probably doesn't have as much pressure as the other guys. "I have not seen much of him, but I have been advised that he has a great talent. At that age, pushing through into the national side means a lotand you watch how he develops from there."

Osman set for Blues debut
Dec 2 2003 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
LEON OSMAN is set for his long awaited full Everton debut - as boss David Moyes seeks a spark to ignite his side's faltering season. The goalscoring midfielder is in the frame for tomorrow's Carling Cup tie at Middlesbrough, with a couple of changes promised after Saturday's depressing defeat at Bolton. "Obviously we have to bear in mind that we have another important match at the weekend," said assistant-manager Alan Irvine "so there may be one or two changes. "But we will not be doing what other teams have suggested and be fielding a reserve team. This cup tie is important to us and that will be reflected in our line-up." Osman, however, is the likeliest new face, with Irvine adding: "Leon would have made his debut in the same competition earlier this season, but in each of the previous two rounds he was injured and missed out. "He is in with a chance for tomorrow." Francis Jeffers is also likely to be given a chance, but with Duncan Ferguson and Kevin Campbell still not considered fit enough to travel, Wayne Rooney will be involved in some capacity.
"We will name a team we think is capable of winning the tie," added Irvine. Osman has featured only briefly in the first team this season as a substitute. But he has found the target seven times already in reserve team matches. Osman 's chance couldn't have come at a more timely moment for the youngster, with rival for a right-sided place, Steve Watson, back in training and possibly in the frame for Sunday's televised visit of Manchester City. With Everton's youth team also in action at Coventry City tomorrow night, tonight's scheduled reserve match against Sunderland has been postponed.

Blues need to pull together in adversity
Dec 2 2003 By Ian Millward, Liverpool Echo
I NEARLY choked on my cornflakes the other day when I read in a newspaper that some Everton players were a bit cheesed off with their club break to Tenerife because they had to train twice a day. Everton have been struggling a bit this season and obviously the club have taken the trouble to organise the trip to get them away from their normal routine and environment. At St Helens last year, we did a similar thing after we had lost four matches in a row. We wanted to get away from the day-today media pressures, rumours and negative vibes and work on getting back on track.
The only way out of it is for the players and coaching staff to be honest with themselves and try to put things in place to get it right. I am sure this is what David Moyes is trying to do. As a rough guess, let's say the club have spent £40,000 on the trip - and the players are still getting paid as well.
When things aren't going well it is important that everybody backs the coach up and remembers they are all part of the same team. I would be happy with a system like the one they use in American Football where a contract is a two-way thing. A player who isn't pulling his weight can be cut - even if his contract has time to run. That would certainly focus the minds of the players on what is important.

Blues fan whose reports are 'better than Motty's'
Dec 2 2003 J Blue, Liverpool Echo
OUR search for diehard young Evertonians continues. Each month we are featuring your nominations for our JBlue Fan of the Year competition. At the end of the season the JBlue member judged to be the most loyal Evertonian will win a fantastic prize, including a VIP day out at Goodison.
This month we feature Owen Carlyle, of Aughton near Ormskirk. The six-year-old was nominated by his uncle David Harrison, who was a season ticket holder at Goodison for 30 years until he became disabled. Mr Harrison said: "I have never known a youngster be as mad about a team as Owen is with Everton. He goes to all the home games with his dad Neil, who is a Liverpool supporter by the way. "I'm in a wheelchair and can no longer go to the games, so Owen comes to see me after every match and gives me a full run down. It's better than listening to John Motson." Owen, whose favourite Everton star is Wayne Rooney, plays in goal for junior side West Lancs Colts. He became a Blue rather than a Red thanks to his uncle and grandfather, who are both Evertonians. Mr Harrison added: "His biggest thrill of all is that in February he will lead Everton out as the team mascot against Aston Villa. His bedroom is being painted blue and white with the Everton badge on the wall. He has a signed photo of Wayne Rooney which will take pride of place on the wall when his bedroom is finished." nIf you know of a young Evertonian who deserves our Fan of the Year title, tell us why and send their name, JBlue membership number and a daytime phone number to contact their parents to JBlue Fan of the Year, ECHO Sport, PO Box 48, Old Hall St, Liverpool L69 3EB.

Moyes pays tribute to Smith's swift rise
Liverpool Echo Dec 2 2003
EVERTON boss David Moyes is no stranger to outstanding sporting newcomers. And he was delighted to present the Newcomer of the Year award to Stephen Smith at the BBC's North West Sports Awards in Manchester last night. The young Rotunda ABC boxer was voted top newcomer, ahead of Manchester City's England under-21 footballer Joey Barton and Lancashire cricket starlet Sajid Mamood. Brother of exciting newcomer to the pro ranks Paul, Stephen is forging an exciting reputation of his own in the ring. Bowring Comprehensive pupil Amanda Taylor was voted Young Sports Achiever of the Year. The British junior national champion in Taekwondo has not lost in England for 18 months.

It's tea but no sympathy for visitors
By Damian Spellman, Daily Post
Dec 3 2003
STEVE McClaren is ready to take a leaf out of the Manchester United coaching manual in a bid to bring success to Middlesbrough. The Teessiders go into tonight's Carling Cup fourth round clash with Everton having extended their unbeaten run to six games in all competitions with Sunday's 1-0 Premiership victory at Manchester City. They have lost just two of the last 11 matches and conceded only four times, and while they have found goals hard to come by themselves, McClaren knows just how precious narrow victories can be from his days as number two to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford. "I remember being at Manchester United and always saying that those 1-0s are great results," he said. "They're the ones that win you things at the end of the season.
"The more you can continue along those lines of being hard to beat and keeping clean sheets, then you'll pick up results." Boro have not conceded a single goal in their last five Premiership outings, a new club record, and that is the result of a conscious decision to make themselves more difficult to beat. After collecting just one point from the first 15 on offer this season, McClaren dispensed with creative Brazilian Juninho in favour of his more robust compatriot Doriva, and he, in tandem with George Boateng in the midfield, has provided greater protection for a mean back four. The manager freely admits he would prefer to see his side play with the panache he firmly believes it has, especially after the addition of Gaizka Mendieta and Bolo Zenden, but is happy with the foundation his players have laid. "I like to play," he said. "Although we got the result on Sunday, we were disappointed with the performance. We can get the ball down and play. We've got creative players who can play, and we didn't perform when we had the ball on Sunday. "But anybody who's actually seen us in the games we've played against Chelsea and Newcastle, we played outstandingly. The game we lost against Leeds, we had 27 chances on goal and lost the game. "It's getting the balance between playing good football and getting results and defending well. At the present moment, we're doing them both." Boro have already beaten Everton at the Riverside Stadium in the league this season when McClaren and Toffees boss David Moyes clashed angrily on the touchline after the visitors failed to return to the ball to the Teessiders when they had played it into touch to allow an injured player to receive treatment. "I'll invite David in for a cup of tea before and we'll get the blows out of the way before the game," McClaren said with a smile. "It was a high pressure game and tensions were riding high. I think it was the last couple of minutes - we needed the win, they needed the win and it was just one of those things that happens. "I know David Moyes very well. We shook hands afterwards and there's no problem." Moyes' side have struggled to match their league form of last season, but McClaren insists his side can take nothing for granted. "They're a talented team, they've got good players - they've got Rooney, they've got Radzinski, Campbell, Gravesen, Yobo - they've got a good team and a good work ethic," he said. "You don't become a bad team overnight and they've got the potential, like all the teams in the Premier League, of winning on any given night or day." Boro have doubts over Doriva, Juninho and Boateng, and long-term absentees Ugo Ehiogu and Stuart Parnaby have been recalled to the squad as cover.

I won't get fed up and walk out
By Andy Hunter, Daily Post Dec 3 2003
DAVID MOYES has assured Everton he will not walk away from the first crisis of his managerial career. The Blues are under intense pressure to perform at Middlesbrough tonight after slipping back into the bottom three following their latest away day capitulation at Bolton. Everton's alarming slump, plus recent problems with high-profile strikers Duncan Ferguson and Wayne Rooney, have raised fears the Scot is disillusioned with life at Goodison Park. Moyes - a reported Tottenham target - received support from an unlikely source yesterday when Gerard Houllier backed his Merseyside rival to revive Everton's fortunes. And last night the Blues boss insisted he fully intends to confront the first major test of his managerial reign. Moyes admitted: "This is a challenge. It is a situation I am not used to and I hope I never get used to it either. "It is a test for me and I'm looking forward to dealing with it. In football you will always get periods when things aren't going as well as they should, and every manager can tell you that. "But there is no chance of me getting fed up with things and walking out. "The situation will change, I have no doubt about that. This is a group of players, now boasting the additions of James McFadden, Kevin Kilbane, Francis Jeffers and Nigel Martyn, who for most of last season were between fourth and sixth and only dropped out of that on the final day. "We were still in contention for a Champions League place at Easter, when we played Liverpool and then Chelsea in three days. If those results had gone the other way who knows what might have happened?" He added: "There is no way I'd consider leaving. I came to Everton to win something and I want to win something with Everton. That has not changed at all. "Last season might have been regarded as winning something if we had got into Europe. But we didn't and now we have to try and win something else this season. "If it is the League Cup then good, but no matter what we win it will have to be done together and that is what we aim to do." Everton - who could be without Joseph Yobo for tonight's Carling Cup fourth round tie - have won only once in seven league games. But Liverpool manager Houllier, himself a target for criticism this season, has no doubt Moyes will lead the Blues out of danger. "I feel some sympathy for David Moyes at the moment," said Houllier. "A lot of unfair things are being said about him at the moment. It is difficult to manage a team that is suffering a crisis of confidence but David has proved his worth in the past and with what he did last season. He was voted a manager of the year, he was recognised by everybody, and now there is too much criticism of him. It does go around, there was Bobby Robson, me, Peter Reid and now it's David. Welcome to the club! "It will be a short-term thing and I hope the Everton board is as strong as ours. People must realise that where a club has stability and continuity, plus belief and support from the people around the manager, there is always success in the air. "I hope that he will get that because he deserves it. We live in an era of quick fix, quick everything. Not only in the media but in life generally. "You can be a hero one day and a zero the next. I have spoken to him, but this is an opportunity to give my support. "I rate him as a manager. He has shown in the past that he deserves the time to put things right now. Everton did well last season, and I know all about raising expectations and what that means." When told of Houllier's view Moyes said: "We have spoken, we had dinner a couple of weeks ago. I must say I am grateful for his words, it was not something I was expecting."

A quick chance to make amends
By Andy Hunter, Daily Post Dec 3 2003
David Moyes has not seen eye-to-eye with some of his players lately IT'S the rumour the conspiracy theorists are revelling in - David Moyes has lost the Everton dressing room. Yet only when secret video footage emerges of the Scot regularly walking into Goodison's broom, medical and kit stores by accident will that tired explanation for Everton' s slump find any foundation. There has been a major fall-out with Duncan Ferguson, of course, though the only surprise there is that it didn't happen sooner, and handling the development of a one-off like Wayne Rooney continues to offer daily challenges. But for the real reason behind the Blues' sudden Premiership plummet there is only one place to look - Everton's away form or, rather, their complete lack of it. Valid questions about the attitude of Moyes' squad stem not from internal suspicions but the abject displays that have yielded no points and four deserved beatings at Middlesbrough, Tottenham, Blackburn and Bolton. In seven away games this season the Blues have lost five and drawn the other two, in contrast to a home record spoiled only by Liverpool and Chelsea. It was at The Riverside where the rot started in September. Now, as they return in the Carling Cup tonight, Moyes admits Everton cannot afford to leave themselves open to any more accusations about their commitment. He said: "The fact it (attitude) is getting talked about suggests there is something in that and we have to put it right. At home we are galvanised by the support of 40,000 Evertonians, but we need to take that same attitude into our away performances as well. "We did well at Arsenal on the opening day of the season, then went to Charlton and were unfortunate not to come away with a win. "So we have put in a few decent away performances but the last three or four have been poor. "We didn't expect that and now this is a chance to try and put it right again. I'm glad we are away from home and that the games are coming quickly now as it gives us the opportunity to put things right. "There is a great togetherness here. We have had a chat about things and we know what we have to try and do now.
"It's probably better to have a cup game at the moment, but we haven't done well away from home and we need to correct that. "A cup run can benefit your league form but most managers would say Premiership survival is the priority and, let's be fair, it is." Three months ago Middlesbrough were a softer option than they are now, but still triumphed thanks to Joseph Desire-Job's scrambled early goal. Moyes admits: "Middlesbrough are doing well now. They didn't have the best of starts but are on a run of results now. "Our first half performance up there earlier in the season was dire, but in the second half we had the chances to take something from the game and didn't take them. 'We put a lot of pressure on them but they were able to soak it up, as they did at Manchester City on Sunday when they counterattacked and nicked a goal to win the game." With Kevin Campbell, Ferguson, Steve Watson, David Weir, Alessandro Pistone and Scot Gemmill all out, and Joseph Yobo struggling with a neck problem picked up in training, Moyes has few options to shuffle his pack after The Reebok result. Francis Jeffers is on stand-by for only his second start of the season, while Leon Osman may make his full debut in midfield. Otherwise, it is the question of 'What next for Rooney?' after his early substitution and reaction thrust him into the spotlight at Bolton. But Moyes said: "I subbed Tommy Gravesen and nobody has asked me why I did that, so I find it strange when I take off an 18 year-old kid and I get asked about it. "That is strange. I substitute people every week and I never get asked about that, and yes, Wayne will be involved at Middlesbrough. "It was frustration on Wayne's behalf the way the game was going. "He is still in my thoughts and is part of the squad."
Results are the be-all and end-all of cup competition, but given Everton's recent troubles it is also performance that counts tonight. Moyes adds: "This tie is important for us, but maybe not quite as important as picking up points in the Premiership. "We know it will be a tough game, but if we get through we are in the last eight and that is something we want. 'Regardless of what the competition is I am pleased we have a game this week after the display at Bolton. We can do with the match for lots of different reasons. "Regardless of the competition, a win is a win. It breeds confidence. Some of our home performances have been excellent, we get roared on by the crowd and everyone is behind us. It is away from home that we struggle and this gives us another chance to correct that."#

Schwarzer chasing a cup treble
Dec 3 2003 Liverpool Echo
MIDDLESBROUGH goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer returns to the Carling Cup trail against Everton tonight hoping for a third bite at the cherry. The 31-year-old Australian is one of the few men in Steve McClaren's squad who played in Boro's successive League Cup finals in 1997 and 1998,
the closest the Teessiders have ever come to lifting a major trophy. As a result, he has a high regard for a competition often treated as second rate by some Premiership sides. "It has always been something that a lot of teams historically have never really taken too seriously, but it is something that we have always taken seriously," he said. "Clubs like Middlesbrough see it as a chance to get into Europe, so we go out there to win." McClaren has taken the opportunity to field some of his squad players in the previous two rounds and may be forced to do the same tonight, although for different reasons. Brazilian Doriva is struggling with an ankle injury while central midfielder partner George Boateng suffered a bang on the head at the City of Manchester Stadium and Juninho has a tight hamstring.

Rooney guns for Boro
Dec 3 2003 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES will ask Wayne Rooney to provide the spark which can revive Everton's season at Middlesbrough. Speculation was widespread that the young striker would be rested for tonight's Carling Cup tie at The Riverside, after the 18-year-old was substituted with more than half-an-hour remaining of Saturday's defeat at Bolton. But the Blues' boss will today name Rooney in his starting line- up, with orders to repeat the demolition job he produced in the same competition in the same part of the world last year. Rooney was outstanding in last season's third round success at Newcastle, and while he is expected to start on Teesside it remains to be seen who will partner him.
Francis Jeffers and Leon Osman are both eager to start, but Moyes has suffered even more injury blows further back in his team. Joseph Yobo is a severe doubt with a ricked neck sustained in training, while Alex Nyarko injured his back - also in training - just half-an-hour before the team bus left Bellefield yesterday. "Alex would have started," said Moyes, "but as it is he wasn't fit enough to even travel. "It doesn't look like Joseph is going to make it either, which gives us a decision to make at the back." Moyes has two options. David Unsworth could switch across to central defence - a role he started his career in - allowing Gary Naysmith to return at left-back, or Peter Clarke could be given the chance to exorcise the ghosts of Everton's 2-1 defeat at Blackburn in his las t f irst team appearance. Yobo and Nyarko will join an already cluttered injury list which includes Kevin Campbell, Duncan Ferguson, David Weir, Alessandro Pistone, Steve Watson and goal-keeper Richard Wright. "There's a lot of experience there," said Moyes, "but we have the players to overcome their absence." Middlesbrough also have injury problems, with Evertonians breathing a sigh of relief that Brazilian maestro Juninho is among their casualties. He joins compatriot Doriva on the injured list and midfielder George Boateng. Long term absentees Ugo Ehiogu and Stuart Parnaby, however, are back and likely to be named on the substitutes' bench.

'I came to Everton to win something' - Moyes
Dec 3 2003 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
A CUP tie in the sombre setting of the Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough, proved a fitting graveyard for the aspirations of the last Everton manager. The man who replaced Walter Smith after a traumatic FA Cup quarter-final defeat hopes the same setting can revive his own fortunes.
David Moyes takes the first team to have struggled under his stewardship to Teesside for a Carling Cup fourth round tie - and is urging a positive mental attitude. "We have had the same personnel and the same tactics in home games as we have away from home, but our performances and results have been very different," Moyes said. "That must say something about our mental outlook and we have to try and get that right. "I am sure the level of support we get at Goodison Park helps. The part the fans play in our home matches should not be under-estimated, but we also get an excellent support away from home and it's time we started to reward them. "The Carling Cup is a competition we would love to make progress in. There's no doubt our league position is more important - but we certainly won't be treating it that way with our team selection or our attitude. "I came to Everton to win some-thing and that hasn't changed. "Last year might have been classed as a success if we had qualified for Europe but we missed out, so we have to now try and win something else.
"If that were to be the League Cup, it would be very, very nice. But whatever it is we will do that together." Everton's recent results - highlighted by wretched performances at Blackburn and Bolton - have seen Moyes face the first barrage of criticism of his managerial career. It is a new experience, but one he insists he will not walk away from. "It is a situation I am not used to and I hope I don't get used to it either," he said. "It is a test and I amlooking forward to that. "When you start in football, there is nothing surer than you will always have periods that are not as good as they should be. "I don't think there is any manager who can say he hasn't experienced difficulties. "There is no chance of me getting fed up with things and walking out. The situation will change. There is no doubt in my mind about that. "This group of players - plus McFadden, Kilbane, Jeffers and Martyn - were for most of last season roughly between fourth and sixth place until the final day of the campaign.
"At Easter, we were having a chance of making the Champions League. There is no question the ability is here and there is no question that I will go." Moyes will, ironically, find one sympathetic soul at the Riverside - in the opposition dug-out! The Blues' boss and his Middlesbrough counterpart clashed at the end of the clubs' Premiership match there in September - with stewards having to restrain them. But Steve McClaren joked last night: "I'll invite David into my room before the game for a cup of tea - and we'll get our blows in then! "In all seriousness that's forgotten now and I'll look forward to chatting with David before the match." Moyes must hope McClaren's teamare just as accommodating.

Pascucci has been quick tomakehis mark
Dec 3 2003 Youth Cup Preview, Liverpool Echo
PATRIZIO PASCUCCI is a young man in a hurry.
Everton's teenage Italian striker scored inside a minute of his first appearance in royal blue in a pre-season friendly in Austria last summer. He took marginally longer - 12 minutes - to announce his arrival in a reserve league outing, and tonight hopes to make just as dramatic an impact on his Youth Cup debut in Coventry (7pm). Pascucci, who celebrated his 18th birthday last week, is in the Blues squad to take on Coventry City at Highfield Road. He will be no doubt motivated by the experience of previous youth team strikers. Wayne Rooney hammered eight goals to guide the Blues to the Youth Cup final in 2002. Four years earlier Francis Jeffers was a scorer in the final when Everton last landed the trophy. Signed on a free transfer from Lazio in the summer, Pascucci already has a first-team squad number - 23 - and a professional contract. "Patrizio trains at Bellefield during the week and joins us on Fridays," explained youth coach Gary Ablett. "He's done okay this season and we hope he carries that on at Coventry. "It's just a pity we can't call on Wayne!" EVERTON (from): Lake, Flood, Potter, Gerrard, Fox, Booth, M Jones, J Jones, Barry, Lynch, Pascucci, Martland, Gallagher, Wynne, Hughes, Kearney, Wright, Seargeant, Wilson, Harris, Boyle, Johnson, Hopkins, Fowler.

Middlesbrough 0, Everton 0 (D, Post)
Dec 4 2003 Andy Hunter Reports From The Riverside, Daily Post
RECENT AWAY displays have left Everton open to accusations of throwing in the towel - and at the end of last night's struggle they were chucking things again. Mercifully it was only their shirts that were tossed away at The Riverside, straight to the travelling faithful in a show of unity that should not go unnoticed. Cruelly, however, it was not in celebration of a place in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup as the Achilles heel of a penalty shoot-out returned to haunt Everton and, for all their endeavour and graft, they headed home with the familiar feeling of defeat once more. At least this time there is no criticism following them back to Merseyside after a performance that deserved better and will hopefully lead to better when they next set out on the road. It was tough in the extreme on Everton who, missing key players and on the back of their Bolton mess, matched Middlesbrough in every department and could so easily be toasting their first away win of the campaign this morning. And it was especially harsh on Leon Osman who was within a finger-tip of becoming the hero in the final minute of extra time and ended up the only villain of an otherwise immaculate penalty shoot-out. Francis Jeffers also had the chances to open his second goals account for the Blues in a performance full of discipline, solidity and craft that bodes well for the Premiership future - providing it is replicated at every destination, of course. Wayne Rooney may be heading for a rest but it didn't come at The Riverside as David Moyes smoothed over the Reebok rumpus in the best way possible by playing him from the off. The attack did change, however, as Tomasz Radzinski made way for Jeffers to give the De La Salle duo their first Everton start alongside each other which lasted 99 minutes before eight replaced 18, this time with no complaints or extra reasons why. With such a mobile, yet small strike-force, it was imperative the Blues improved the supply line, and with that in mind Li Tie was handed his first start of the campaign. The Chinese international has his detractors, especially where tackling is concerned, but there is no question he is one of the few midfield men at Goodison who can deliver the killer pass. Well, at least that was the conclusion from last season anyway. This year all the midfielder has delivered is a headless chicken cameo at Arsenal that brought a dismissal and now this, another bizarre display that began with two passes straight into touch and never improved. With the Blues already lightweight compared to Middlesbrough they couldn't afford passengers, and the opening 15 minutes were depressingly familiar for the travelling Evertonians with their side constantly on the back foot and showing no sign - either throug h invention or tenacity - of working their way out of it. Nigel Martyn (pictutred top) was by far their busiest and impressive player early on, producing a flying save to divert the excellent Gaizka Mendieta's header on to the post and into safety, then excelling to tip over a 25-yard curler from the Spanish international. With Mendieta and Bolo Zenden dominated the wide play, Middlesbrough looked a safe bet to add to Everton's away day Blues. And yet... Pedestrian their midfield may have been, isolated their attack certainly was, but after Martyn's stop from Mendieta the visitors finally began to show some self-belief in possession, the result being they turned the game around completely. James McFadden started to carry the ball with more conviction and Thomas Gravesen began to find his range as Boro were dragged out of the comfort zone. And in Jeffers Everton had the liveliest striker on the pitch, despite a display of inevitable rust in front of goal. The on-loan star has required plenty of patience to rebuild match sharpness after two years kicking his heels in frustration at Arsenal, and here was evidence it is beginning to pay off.
On the half-hour he finished the Blues' first good move with a towering header that flashed over, then had three decent chances to test Mark Schwarzer on the floor. Jeffers' first, the best, came on 33 minutes when Gravesen's cross bounced kindly into his path. But from eight yards out his angled half volley sailed over. Schwarzer then denied the striker twice inside a minute. Their only concern at this point was the anguish of Rooney who, while dangerous from deep, does appear in need of an arm around the shoulder. Whatever the reason, living up to a huge profile or a barren run in front of goal, the youngster is trying desperately to weave his magic every time he gets the ball. No harm in that, of course, when confidence is soaring, but at the moment he seems to be trying too hard to transform his and Everton's fortune. At least the second half showed more signs of that happening, as the Blues continued to look purposeful. David Unsworth, back in his favoured centre-half role in place of the injured Joseph Yobo, headed past his own goal-keeper but fortunately also wide within a minute of the restart, yet it was Everton to whom the clearer chances kept falling. Jeffers glanced Lee Carsley's near-post cross inches wide, then 60 seconds later the midfielder released Hibbert clear inside the box. Rather than shoot, the full-back teed-up Rooney but Danny Mills threw himself in front of the shot to block. Having stretched Middlesbrough for over an hour Radzinski appeared an ideal choice to test tired legs even more. Instead it was Steve McClaren who made the change, the much-maligned Michael Ricketts coming on, and the tie swung Boro's way again. Seven minutes from time they had three great opportunities in the one move, as Ricketts and Massimo Maccarone both found themselves clear in the area only to be denied by Unsworth blocks. Finally the ball was turned back in by Zenden, and from five yards out Maccarone somehow shot wide. Martyn carried his one-man mission to thwart Mendieta into the added half-hour, twice denying the former Valencia skipper before Radzinski finally entered the fray. The Canadian's pace was soon on display as he broke from a sustained spell of Boro pressure to set up Jeffers on the 18-yard line only for the striker to fire well over. Maccarone produced a ridiculous dive in the area, an acknowledgment he was winning absolutely nothing against Unsworth, while Mendieta inevitably went closest for Boro when he bent a free-kick inches wide. Four minutes later Osman, on as a late sub for Jeffers, almost made the perfect introduction when Radzinski's cross cannoned off Franck Queudrue six yards out. He connected cleanly, but another deflection off the French full-back just took the sting out of the shot and allowed Schwarzer to save. And so to penalties, where the Aussie foiled Osman again. This time with far heavier consequences for the Blues.
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Mills, Riggott, Southgate, Queudrue; Mendieta, Boateng, Greening, Zenden; Maccarone, Nemeth (Ricketts 77). Subs: Nash, Ehiogu, Davies, Cooper.
EVERTON (4-4-2): Martyn; Hibbert, Stubbs, Unsworth, Naysmith; Carsley, Gravesen, Li Tie (Linderoth 116), McFadden; Rooney (Radzinski 99), Jeffers (Osman 107). Subs: Simonsen, Clarke.
BOOKINGS: Everton's Li Tie, Unsworth, Gravesen (foul).
REFEREE: Mark Halsey.
ATT: 18,568.
PENALTIES: Gravesen 1-0, Ricketts 1-1; Unsworth 2-1, Zenden 2-2; Osman 2-2, Mills 2-3; McFadden 3-3, Maccarone 3-4; Stubbs 4-4, Mendieta 4-5

Trouble-shooter Bond takes Blues' eyes off the cup
Post Past With Phil Redmond, Daily
4 2003
THE game that always sticks in my mind whenever we play City at Goodison is the sixth round FA Cup tie in 1981. After a near miss the previous season, when Brian Kidd's sending off was instrumental in us losing the semi-final against West Ham, Gordon Lee's young team embarked on a thrilling cup run. Arsenal, finalists for the previous three years, Liverpool and the then formidable Southampton, had been beaten in previous rounds, and the quarter-final draw gave us, on paper at least, the easiest draw so far. City, though, were no mugs and were on the type of run that brought us the cup in '95. The previous autumn they had been firmly anchored to the foot of the table as Malcolm Allison's return went badly wrong. Big Mal got the bullet in the November and John Bond had transformed a team of losers into a formidable cup fighting unit, with only a couple of journeymen signings. After the previous crowd mayhem at the Southampton replay in round five - crushing rather than boxing - Everton made the City game all-ticket. A full house of 53,000, including 13,000 City fans, filled Goodison on a wet March day. The game was a thriller, played on a mud heap. In the first half City had the best of things, Steve McKenzie, Britain's costliest teenager (what do you mean, who?), rattled the Everton bar as the Toffees midfield duo of Asa Hartford and Steve McMahon struggled to control the game. Just before the break, vastly underrated striker Peter Eastoe got onto an Imre Varadi cross and slipped the ball past Joe Corrigan. Just before the break is meant to be the best time to score and unfortunately, in injury time, Gerry Gow, a sort of 80s Barry Horne, levelled the scores after some dodgy marking in the Blues' defence. Lee obviously gave his team a stern talking to at the break, because Everton came out flying after the interval. Within five minutes, Varadi was felled in the box and Trevor Ross slotted for 2-1. Roared on by a success-starved crowd who sensed that this was definitely our year, Everton continued to pour forward, and a second goal seemed a formality. Corrigan saved brilliantly from O'Keefe and Varadi waltzed round the stricken keeper before slicing wide of an empty net from five yards. That was the turning point. With about five minutes to go and with City tiring on the heavy pitch, the strains of "We're on the march with Gordon's army" rang around the packed ground. However, it was then that things went horribly wrong. Paul Power, later to star in a Blues title-winning team, was sent through onto a bouncing ball. With two defenders in attendance things didn't look too bad, until Jim McDonough came flying out of his goal, leaving the muzzied Manc with a simple lob for 2-2. In the final minutes Corrigan again had to react brilliantly to deny Varadi, before a youthful Kevin Ratcliffe took an early bath after sending the head in on City wideman Tommy Hutchison. Like many, I thought our chance was gone as the cup run had been based on our formidable record at Goodison. And so it was, City turned us over at Maine Road and Everton's season quickly fell apart.

Moyes: Don't blame Osman
By Andy Hunter, Daily Post
Dec 4 2003
DAVID MOYES took responsibility for Leon Osman's crucial penalty miss at Middlesbrough as Everton's Carling Cup hopes crashed in a shootout. The Blues delivered a vastly-improved away display at The Riverside and had the chances to have secured a quarter-final place at Tottenham.
But after 120 minutes of stalemate the game finished in a penalty shoot-out - held at the home end on police advice - with Spanish star Gaizka Mendieta sealing the victory for Steve McClaren's side.
Osman, denied by Boro' keeper Mark Schwarzer in the dying minutes of extra time, was left in tears after missing the only spot-kick of the night. But Moyes absolved the youngster of blame for Everton's exit - and revealed he ordered Osman to take the kick. The Blues boss said: "It was my decision for Leon to take the penalty, not his, and he shouldn't be blamed in any way. "I told the five lads as soon as the team came off the field who I wanted to take the penalties so there was no doubt, and I wanted Leon to take one because he scored a great one for the reserves last week.
"These things happen to young lads in big games but it is part of his learning curve and he's got every chance." Moyes was left mystified by the decision to hold the shootout in front of the Middlesbrough fans, with local police over-ruling FA guidelines for the end to be determined by the toss of a coin. But otherwise he was proud of his team's response to Saturday's abject away display at Bolton. He said: "Things like that happen in football. I can't be disappointed because the lads played well tonight. We needed a good performance and they gave one. "We haven't done well away from home lately but we responded well tonight and given the amount of players we had missing I thought the lads showed they can come in and do a good job for us. "We had opportunities both in normal time and extra time to have won the game but it didn't quite go for us.
"You can't always win games but you can show that you want to win them all the time and the lads gave it their all. They cannot be criticised in any way. "No-one wants to get beat but performances lead to results and if we keep playing like that it will go for us." Moyes added: "It is hard to get a result here. Middlesbrough don't concede many and they've got another clean sheet which they'll be pleased with. "Franny had chances but he was there to miss them. A few just spun past the post and he was getting into good positions. They will come for him if he carries on like that."

Coventry Youth 1, Everton Youth 0
Daily Post Dec 4 2003
EVERTON'S youngsters went the same way as their Liverpool counterparts, crashing out of the FA Youth Cup at the first attempt. The Blues made an early exit from the competition as a result of a second-half goal from substitute Paul McCrink at Highfield Road. Everton certainly started the brighter side with Joey Jones and Italian Patrizio Pascucci both having chances in front of goal. Both, however, put their efforts over the Coventry crossbar. The same pair combined again minutes into the second half, Pascucci putting in Jones but this time the youngster saw his shot saved by City keeper Jonathon Tuffey. Everton continued to squander chances and were given a warning of what was to come on 62 minutes when Ben Mackey found himself in on the visitors' goal, but Sean Lake was equal to the challenge and made the save. Everton responded well and again should have scored. Gavin Lynch thought he had scored with a powerful header but his effort went flying over the bar. Jones, a thorn in the Coventry side all night, then found substitute Paul Hopkins after some good work but the young striker pulled his shot wide of the post. Just as it looked like Everton would earn a creditable draw second-half substitute Paul McCrink popped up on 85 minutes to lob Lake and win the game for Steve Ogrizovic's side. It was disappointing for Everton but the defeat leaves Tranmere Rovers as the sole Merseyside representatives left in the competition at only the fourth round stage. It is the second year in succession that Everton have tumbled out at the first stage.
COVENTRY CITY YTH: Tuffey, Oddy, Giddings, Partridge, Wall (McCrink 46) Osbourne, Hall, Nicell, Mackey, Thornton (Baines 90), Goodman (Newbold 88). Subs: Belford, Gooding
EVERTON YTH: Lake, Wynne, Fox, Hughes, Gerrard, Wilson, Seargent, Barry, Pascucci (Hopkins 62), Lynch, J Jones (Boyle 86). Subs: Gallagher, Booth, Wright
* FORMER Everton stars Alan Ball, Tommy Lawton and Gary Lineker have been added to the National Football Museum's Hall of Fame. The trio join Blues legend Dixie Dean and former midfielder Paul Gascoigne, who were inducted last year. The Hall of Fame is, like the National Football Museum, based at Preston's Deepdale Stadium. Ball made 249 appearances, scoring 78 goals, for the Blues while Lawton scored 70 goals in 95 appearances.

Middlesbrough 0, Everton 0 (Echo)
Dec 4 2003 By David Prentice At The Riverside Stadium, Liverpool Echo
THE Riverside Stadium proved the graveyard of another Everton cup run last night. But while the manager perished along with the cup dream on Teesside 18 months ago, this reverse could prove the rebirth of David Moyes' managerial fortunes. Everton lost a penalty shoot-out to Middlesbrough, with poor Leon Osman the only player to miss from 10. But they won back their fans with a performance full of zest, character and running. The series of royal blue jerseys tossed into the away section while Middlesbrough were celebrating their shoot-out success seemed symbolic of the togetherness between supporter and player last night. It was difficult to work out which set of fans was the more satisfied as Gaizka Mendieta's penalty finally split the sides after two and three quarter hours of action, with the large Everton contingent almost as noisy as the home support.
As for 'losing the dressing room', Moyes clearly hasn't lost the Everton fans, judging by the frequency and volume of the 'red-haired' chants booming from the away section. It was a strange sort of night all round. Despite 120 minutes of goalless action, the fourth round Carling Cup tie was hugely entertaining. And if Everton's finishing had matched their approach play, they would have been contemplating a quarter-final trip to Tottenham rather than another unsuccessful League Cup campaign. But with big performances from Gravesen , Martyn, McFadden and Unsworth - plus a lively return to striking duties by Francis Jeffers - Moyes finally has positive selection dilemmas ahead of the weekend's visit of Manchester City. Last night with two small, mobile strikers starting in Wayne Rooney and Francis Jeffers, Li Tie's selection in midfield seemed a logical choice given the extra vision and ability to play a forward pass the Chinese star offers. But when have Everton ever been logical? For 25 minutes Tie didn't put a foot right. With his first two passes he managed the remarkable feat of placing the ball with slide-rule precision directly into touch 30 yards from his nearest team-mate - on both sides of the ground. Everton could ill afford to waste good goalscoring opportunities. But that's just what they did with the game barely three minutes old. Thomas Gravesen jiggled the ball cleverly into a crossing position on the right-hand edge of the Boro box, clipped a measured cross onto the unmarked Lee Carsley's head, but the connection suggested a cranium shaped like a hexagon rather than a sphere. A little over half an hour later, Gravesen clipped the same ball from the same position to the same man, this time left-footed. The ball broke off the Irishman for Jeffers and, after a swift repositioning of his feet, he fired another better than acceptable opening over the bar. In between times, Nigel Martyn had to show Saturday's Bolton aberration was the exception which proves the rule, twice saving Everton with splendid tip-overs.
The first, from Mendieta's header, was clawed frantically onto a post. The second was a wonderful back-breaking effort from a dipping Mendieta volley which goalkeepers half his age have no right to repel. The Spaniard was looking ominously inventive. Back when Everton boasted one or two dogs of war in their engine room, Joe Royle would wink at messers Horne, Ebbrell or Parkinson, identify a danger-man and offer the suggestion "discourage him". The closest Everton have to that kind of abrasive presence circa 2003 is Carsley - and he was operating wide on the right. With half-time looming, Martyn had to show his expertise once again, timing a dash from his penalty area to absolute perfection to snatch the ball away from Szilard Nemeth's unmarked burst through the middle. It had been a bright, inventive opening half by Everton - and in the opening minutes of the second period the Blues showed they were in the mood to sustain that. Carsley's right-wing cross was guided with sublime deftness by Jeffers just inches wide, then a dazzling bout of inter-passing between Tony Hibbert and Gravesen carved Boro's rearguard wide open. The young full-back found himself on the edge of the six-yard box with only Mark Schwarzer to beat. It's some years since Hibbert found the net at any level of football and it showed as he elected to pull the ball back for Rooney. Everton exercised a measure of control rarely seen on their travels this season, but in a crazy 84th minute were almost undone. Boudewijn Zenden, at best a peripheral figure, finally produced a cross from the left which David Unsworth managed to throw himself ahead of Michael Ricketts to block. The ball broke for Mendieta and this time Carsley produced an heroic challenge, before Zenden curved a cross in again which Massimo Maccarone met at the near post with a dramatic lunge but flashed a foot the wrong side of the post. That would have been hard on Everton. The very least they deserved was to take the tie into extra time. Not that anyone was relishing a further 30 minutes. Neale Barry is never a popular man at a football ground. But the hapless match official from Scunthorpe usually does something more substantial than hold an electronic timer over his head to evoke supporters' ire. It was the miniscule amount of time his board showed which caused the groans. 18,568 optimistic souls were hoping for a little more than two minutes of time added on. The first significant action of the first period of extra time was again provided by the electronic board. It signified another substitution for Rooney. But even if the youngster hadn't exactly been electric, no-one could quibble about a 98th minute switch. And the affectionate pat on the cheek Moyes offered the teenager suggested Saturday's spat had been consigned to the history books. The injection of Tomasz Radzinski's pace had been called for from the bank of Evertonians for some time, and its impact was immediate. He carved out another excellent opening for Jeffers, but with James McFadden utterly unmarked just yards behind him, he teed the ball up then blazed it high over. The last time these teams met in September, the rival bosses clashed over accusations of unsporting behaviour. Maccarone sparked another unseemly incident on the pitch this time when he toppled under Unsworth's challenge in a clear bid to con a penalty. It didn't kid the outstanding Mark Halsey, though, who even managed to keep play flowing through the arguments. Leon Osman was finally introduced into the fray, 107 minutes after he had originally believed he would be running on. But his first significant involvement was to concede a free-kick which Mendieta curved agonisingly wide. Five minutes from time he almost produced a hugely significant moment. Radzinski's cross bounced off Franck Queudrue to the youngster just yards from goal. His shot clipped off the same defender and Schwarzer plunged to his right to make a dramatic stop. Sadly Osman's most significant intervention was still to come - but not before the perhaps almost as decisive intervention of the Cleveland Police. In the interests of safety, apparently, they decided the penalty shoot-out should be held at the end of holding the Middlesbrough supporters. Whether that helped unerve young Osman is unclear, but his was the only shot which failed to beat Schwarzer and ensured another Everton League Cup campaign ground to an early exit. But at least this exit offered hope for the future. Now Everton must build on it against Manchester City on Sunday.
MIDDLESBROUGH: Schwarzer; Mills, Riggott, Southgate, Queudrue; Greening, Boateng, Mendieta, Zenden; Maccarone, Nemeth (Ricketts 77). Not used: Nash, Ehiogu, Davies, Cooper.
EVERTON: Martyn; Hibbert, Stubbs, Unsworth, Naysmith; Carsley, Gravesen, Tie (Linderoth 116), McFadden; Jeffers (Osman 107), Rooney (Radzinski 98). Not used: Simonsen, Clarke.
REFEREE: Mark Halsey.
Bookings: Tie (62 mins) foul, Unsworth (101) foul, Gravesen (119) persistent misconduct.
PENALTY SHOOT-OUT: Gravesen (scored) 1-0, Ricketts (scored) 1-1, Unsworth (scored) 2-1, Zenden (scored) 2-2, Osman (saved) 2-2, Mills (scored) 2-3, McFadden (scored) 3-3, Maccarone (scored) 3-4, Stubbs (scored) 4-4, Mendieta (scored) 4-5.

Blues in for Russian ace
Dec 4 2003 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
RUSSIA'S vastly experienced skipper, Victor Onopko, is the man David Moyes will turn to when Joseph Yobo disappears for more than a month on African Nations Cup duty. Moyes has invited the 34-year-old, who has collected 104 international caps, to Bellefield tomorrow to train with the Blues' squad. And he hopes that he can persuade the Real Oviedo defender to join on-loan until the end of the season. Everton cannot move until the transfer window opens in January - which coincides with Yobo's commitments.

We are backing the boss
Dec 4 2003 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
FRANCIS JEFFERS has issued a firm statement of unity after Everton's heart-breaking penalty shoot-out defeat at Middlesbrough last night. "I can tell you now there's nothing wrong with the camp. There's no problem with spirit here," he rapped. There have been rumours of dressing room unrest and players disaffected by the manager's arduous training methods in recent weeks. But players and coaching staff stood in a line, arms linked, during last night's shoot-out - and after Mark Schwarzer's save from Leon Osman's penalty had sealed Everton's Carling Cup exit they all headed to the away fans where at least half-a-dozen took off their shirts and tossed them into the crowd.
"We did that as a 'thank you' to the fans more than anything," added Jeffers, "because they were right behind us all night and I'm just glad we gave them a performance "The gaffer told us that was probably our best performance of the season - and for me to be involved in a performance like that that was really pleasing. "We are all together. I haven't been here that long, but to me the boys have always been together. "Obviously we're all behind the manager because he's doing a great job.
"We're going through a bit of a sticky patch in the league, but we wi l l bounce back and if we play like that against Man-chester City we will get the result. "We didn't show that at Bolton and the fans rightly questioned us, as they did in the first half at Blackburn - because that ain't good enough for Everton Football Club. "The boys are back together, working hard for one another and we are all digging in. We can't wait for City now." Jeffers had been substituted by the time the penalty shoot- out commenced and was unable to participate, but he explained: "The gaffer picked the penalty takers but if I'd been on the pitch I'd have loved to have taken one . . . even though my legs had gone. "Ossie (Leon Osman) showed some great bottle to step up and all credit to him. Their penalties were good and so were ours, but their keeper made one good save." Manager David Moyes selected Everton's five penalty takers. "It was my decision to select the penalty takers. I didn't want them umm-ing and aah-ing over who was taking them so I took the decision for them to try to keep them as confident as possible," he said. "I chose Leon because he scored a great one for the reserves last week. "You can't always win games, but you can show you are trying to win games and that's what we did tonight. "There will be no criticism from me and there can't be any from you. Performances lead to results and I thought the performance tonight merited a result."
* FRANCIS JEFFERS will be among the guests at a charity night at the Railway Hotel in Kirkby tomorrow night (Friday 5 December) - to raise funds for bowel cancer equipment in Fazakerley.

Everton youth waste chances
Dec 4 2003 Liverpool Echo
EVERTON'S Youth side were dumped out of the FA Youth Cup at Coventry despite putting up a stern performance. The Blues enjoyed most of the goalmouth chances and really should have at least earned a draw but were undone by a goal from substitute Paul McCrink at High-field Road. Everton certainly started the brighter side with Joey Jones and Italian Patrizio Pascucci both having chances in front of goal. Both, however, put their efforts over the Coventry crossbar. The same pair combined again minutes into the second half, Pascucci putting in Jones. This time the youngster saw his shot saved by City keeper Jonathon Tuffey. Everton continued to squander chances and were given a warning of what was to come when, on 62 minutes, Ben Mackey found himself in on the visitors' goal. Sean Lake was equal to it and made the save. Everton responded well and again should have scored. Gavin Lynch thought he had with a powerful header but his effort went flying over the bar. Jones - a thorn in the Coventry side all night - then found substitute Paul Hopkins after some good work but the young striker pulled his shot wide of the post. Just as it looked like Everton would earn a creditable draw, second half substitute Paul McCrink popped up on 85 minutes to lob Sean Lake and win the game for Steve Ogrizovic's side. Coventry will now face Nottingham Forest in a Midlands derby, while Everton's defeat leaves Tranmere Rovers as the only Merseyside representatives left in the competition at the fourth round stage.
Everton Youth: Lake, Wynne, Fox, Hughes, Gerrard, Wilson, Seargent, Barry, Pascucci (Hopkins 62), Lynch, J Jones (Boyle 86). Not used: Gallagher, Booth, Wright.

Preview: Everton v Manchester City
December 05, 2003
Manchester Evening News
MANCHESTER City boss Kevin Keegan is set to make changes for Sunday's visit to Everton.
Keegan was left fuming by his team's performance at Tottenham on Wednesday, when they crashed out of the Carling Cup, and with Sun Jihai and Paulo Wanchope added to his squad some under-fire players will be sweating anxiously over their places. Keegan also hopes to have David Seaman fit again after the veteran keeper missed the last two games with hamstring and rib complaints.
Neanwhile Everton boss David Moyes is hoping it will be a case of home sweet home for his troubled side when they face City on Sunday.
Bottom three
Everton are back in the bottom three largely because they have failed to win away this term and that makes Goodison Park the best place to turn their season around. Their last away win was at West Brom in April and since then they have picked up only two points from 27 in eight months on the road. At home, they have won four times in the same period. Moyes said: "Some of our home performances have been excellent." City, slipping after a promising start, have also seen their away form dip with just one win in five league matches. Moyes sees that as an incentive. He said: "We are all in this together. The players need encouragement from the manager and we need it from them."
PROVISIONAL SQUAD: Seaman, Ellegaard, Schmeichel, Distin, Dunne, Sommeil, Wiekens, Jihai, Bosvelt, Berkovic, McManaman, Sinclair, Reyna, Tarnat, Sibierski, Barton, Anelka, Fowler, Wanchope, Macken, Jordan.
Pick your starting XI and formation for Sunday
Everton v Man City
Everton 13/10 Draw 12/5 Man City 17/10

Why fast-learner Moyes held fire over shoot-out
By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
Dec 5 2003
THERE were lessons to be learned from Everton's heart-breaking Carling Cup exit on Teesside. And David Moyes showed he is a fast learner. The beaten manager's press conference is never a comfortable experience, but Moyes handled Wednesday's wake with a skill and an experience he might not have shown 18 months earlier. The mood he created was upbeat and encouraging - and then Moyes showed just how swiftly he is adjusting to Premiership management. The decision by Cleveland Police to overrule referee Mark Halsey and order the penalty shoot-out to take place in front of the Middlesbrough supporters was served up almost as a press conference postscript.
"By the way boys, what's the rule governing penalty shoot-outs?" he asked a perplexed audience.
"A toss of a coin? Thank you. That's my cryptic clue for the night." And he was gone. Later investigation revealed Moyes had argued with the chief of police over the decision - in identical circumstances to Birmingham boss Trevor Francis when Lancashire Police made the same decision in a play-off semi-final at Deepdale. Moyes was the opposing manager that night. He watched and learned. Francis lost the plot. He threatened to pull his team out of the tie and piled such pressure on an already hug e lypressurised situation that his side never had a hope in hell of keep-ing their cool. They lost. On Wednesday Moyes argued briefly with the police, then stepped back, saying: "If that's your decision we'll get on with it." So next time Wayne Rooney jets off on a commercial promotion and has a stinker the following Saturday, don't expect a 55th-minute substitution.
PS: Why would a shoot-out at the Everton end of the Riverside constitute more of a safety risk than one at the Middlesbrough end? Answers on a postcard please to the chief of Cleveland Police. (The guy with the red and white scarf).

Stiff City test for under-19s
Academy Football With Chris Wright Daily Post
Dec 5 2003
EVERTON'S Academy sides' focus turns away from the FA Youth Cup and back to League action tomorrow. After Wednesday night's 1-0 defeat by Coventry City at Highfield Road the Blues will be aiming to bounce back quickly from the disappointment when they travel to Manchester City in the FA Premier Academy League. Neil Dewsnip's under-19s were beaten 2-1 by Wolves in their last league game before the in-service training weekend. But before that they had gone on an eight-game unbeaten run to take them into second place in Group A. But tomorrow they face runaway leaders City hoping to close the gap to just five points. And Wednesday's Youth Cup means tomorrow's match will be another test of their character and development. Dewsnip said: "The result was disappointing obviously, but the performance was encouraging. "We felt the team performed quite well in all aspects, apart from the obvious which was scoring goals." Prior to the Youth Cup defeat the Blues had performed with credit and Dewsnip was quick to stress to his players they should continue that tomorrow. He added: "The lads were devastated as you can imagine after the game, particular in the manner of the defeat - to lose in the last few minutes. But one of the things we reminded them in the dressing room afterwards was that so far this season it has been very encouraging and positive." There were no new injury worries from the match. And the Blues hope Brian Moogan can return after a slight hamstring strain. The 18-year-old midfielder was ineligible for the Youth Cup anyway, but he has had a couple of weeks' rest and should be fit to return to the side. Gary Ablett's under-17s are also second in the table. But with just three points separating them from leaders Manchester United they will be trying to regain the leadership over the next two weeks before the Christmas break. The U17s scored a superb 4-1 at United two weeks ago and similar performances tomorrow and next week at home to Bolton would see them put the pressure on the leaders.

Show Moyes door
Icliverpool And Daily Post
Dec 5 2003
Show Moyes door
UNLESS we want to be playing in Division One next season the time has come to show Moyes the door. He is the most over-hyped manager we have ever had, and worst of all he believes his own hype.
There are many very good reasons but most worrying is his breathtaking arrogance and failure to take any responsibility for some of the worst ever served up by an Everton team (Soton home, Blackburn away, Bolton away). There has been no change from the rubbish football we played under Royle and Smith; it's all tackling paper bags and long balls, not a creative player in sight. Last season's league position was a fluke and we should get Peter Reid in immediately. Two years ago we'd have killed for Reidy what's changed? He is the only choice and clearly the right choice.
Roger Rogerson, (via e-mail)
Rooney price
ALL this talk of selling Rooney for £30-50million.
Beckham went to Real for £16m, the rest of the alleged £22m only depends on Real making millions more on the commercial side from the deal. Now Vieri is being touted for £8m. If Everton sell Rooney, in the current climate, it's for £12-15m tops!
T Gunner, Liverpool
ROONEY is the most over-hyped player I've ever seen and he will be a has-been by the time he reaches 20 years of age. Sell him now and use the cash for some decent players.
J Savident, Cheshire
Give Wayne space
PLEASE let's not go down the same path as the other lot over the park who constantly moan about Owen going, or Heskey must go and Houllier this and that. Rooney is only 18 and is passionate about Everton FC, he's an ambassador for us on a national stage and makes me proud when he plays for England and at last again we have a vested interest in the progress of our national team. Give the lad space, he's desperate to score for Everton as much if not more than for England. He is loyal and we want him to stay as Moyes builds a young team for the future. Rewards will come, foundations our being laid for the future in our young talent and we are bringing great players through.
Steve Laws, Liverpool
Build on Boro
THAT was better Blues. More fight, more craft. Good away performance. Build on this performance.
Frank Johnson, Liverpool
Leon's class
TO THOSE doubters out there - read David Moyes talking about winning something with Everton.
It's in his blood to turn things around, so after hailing him the Messiah get off his back and let the guy get on with it. Well done the Blues for showing the spirit at Boro. As for Leon Osman, I salute you, don't let it get to you mate, we think you're class and your time will come.
Peter Lourdes, (via email)
Wrong decision
I BACK David Moyes all the way, but he does make some questionable calls.
In a game that has draw written all over it, why would you take off BOTH strikers in extra-time just as a penalty shoot-out is looming? And having looked past Osman all season and for most of the Middlesbrough game, how can he put so much responsibility on his shoulders by giving him the third pen to take? Either Jeffers or Rooney should still have been on the field at that stage. Osman could have come on for Li Tie and Radzinski for Linderoth at just about any time with no loss of momentum.
Peter Fearon, Liverpool

Osman doesn't deserve penalty blame
Fanscene By Mark O'Brien, Daily Post
Dec 5 2003
THE more things change the more they stay the same. There was an air of inevitability on Wednesday night as extra-time drew to a close at the Riverside. Last season's triumph at St James' Park aside, Everton's track record in penalty shoot-outs is hardly illustrious, but after matching Steve McClaren's side for much of the preceding two hours it was still a disappointing way to go out.
Should Leon Osman have taken a penalty? With hindsight it's easy to say he shouldn't or to look for some senior player and ask why he never took one - see Duncan Ferguson in 1998 - but ultimately Osman (pictured) wanted it, after all he takes them for the reserves on a regular basis. No doubt if Michael Ricketts had missed Boro's first kick Steve McClaren's judgement would have been questioned, but he slotted so nobody cares. No one said that Wayne Rooney shouldn't have been allowed to take one at St James Park last season either; at the end of the day someone has to miss and one team has to go out. In this case, unfortunately, it was us. Obviously you have to feel sorry for Osman, but he's a professional like the rest of his team-mates and part of being a professional is learning to deal with adversity and disappointment. He has to be positive - it's testimony to the belief that the manager and the players have in him that they were happy for him to step up in the first place. Apart from the result, the Blues as a whole can take some consolation from the fact that they put in a much-improved performance to the one at the Reebok, although in all honesty it would have been difficult to have played much worse. While we still struggled to deal with crosses, especially in the early stages, and our finishing was less than exemplary, there could be no question of a lack of effort or application at the Riverside, and if that remains the case then the rest will come right over time and we will start to climb the table. Quite frankly there is too much whispering and too many people making guesses and assumptions about what is going behind the scenes at Everton at the moment - every defeat or poor performance is being used an example to prove that Moyes has 'lost the dressing room'. It's funny though that no-one ever seems to look at displays like this one at Boro or the home game against Wolves and deduce that he's 'found the dressing room'.
Our fate ultimately rests with the players though and they can do themselves and their manager a world of good on Sunday if they can break another of their irritating habits - playing badly on the telly - and beat Manchester City at Goodison.

Moyes deal for Davis is unlikely
By Ian Doyle, Daily Post
Dec 5 2003
DAVID MOYES' hopes of luring Sean Davis to Goodison in the New Year appear even more remote after the midfielder opened contract talks with Fulham. Davis revealed yesterday he is on the brink of committing his long-term future to the Cottagers, just months after being prepared to walk out on the Londoners. The 24-year-old had agreed a £5.2million transfer to Everton in August only for it to collapse at the last minute after it became apparent the player would not pass a medical. Moyes had insisted last month he was still keen on making a move for Davis when the transfer window reopens in the new year, despite the player withdrawing a transfer request at Fulham. But Davis revealed yesterday: "I'm in talks with Fulham and I hope we can sort something out and put pen to paper." The news means Moyes is likely to turn his attentions to other midfield reinforcements, with the Blues continuing to monitor the progress of West Bromwich Albion youngster Jason Koumas.
One player who will be coming to Everton is Russian skipper Victor Onopko.
The 34-year-old centre-back is at Bellefield today to train with the Blues' squad, with Moyes is hoping to persuade the Real Oviedo star to sign on-loan until the end of the season. Moyes needs defensive reinforcements with Joseph Yobo expected to be absent for as long as six weeks as he plays for Nigeria in the African Nations Cup in January. The Blues must wait until the transfer window opens in the New Year before making a formal move for Onopko, who has 104 international caps. Francis Jeffers, meanwhile, has laughed off rumours of division among the players and manage-ment at Goodison. "I can tell you now that there is nothing wrong with the camp," said the striker. "There's no problem with spirit here. "We are all together. I haven't been here that long, but to me the boys have always been together. "We are behind the manager because he's doing a great job." Jeffers started alongside Wayne Rooney at Middlesbrough on Wednesday as the Blues produced a much-improved performance, despite being eliminated from the Carling Cup on a penalty shoot-out. "The gaffer told us that was probably our best performance of the season - and for me to be involved in a performance like that was really pleasing," said the striker. "If we can play like that against Manchester City then we can get the result. "We didn't show that at Bolton and the fans rightly questioned us, as they did in the first half at Blackburn, because that wasn't good enough."
* WAYNE ROONEY was yesterday named best newcomer for 2003 by the Sports' Journalists Association.

Tie puts in his claim
Dec 5 2003 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
LI TIE hopes his surprise selection at Middlesbrough on Wednesday can be a catalyst to kick-start his season. The Chinese international was a first team regular last season - starting the first 21 Premiership matches and only slipping out of the frame in February when the seeds for Everton's successful season were already sown. His appearance at the Riverside, however, was only his second start of this season. But despite his infrequent appearances, Tie believes he is a better player now than when he first joined the Blues 18 months ago. And he has put that improvement down to increased communication skills. "Last season was completely new for me, but this season I understand things a lot more, so it's helping me to improve and I think I'm doing things better than last year," he said - still speaking through an interpreter but able to understand much more. "Sometimes you have good times, sometimes you're not good enough, but I am still going to try my best to keep on improving myself and I will be back. "For me all the pressure comes from myself. I was injured and then ill, so wasn't able to train as often as I would like. That wasn't good for me.
"Now I need to play more and more reserve team games and show the manager that I'm improving. Hopefully I'll be back in the first team as soon as possible." Everton face Manchester City on Sunday - a clash guaranteed to attract major exposure in China with City's inclusion of Sun Jihai. Last season's corresponding fixture was screened live to the People's Republic - and they were thrilled when both Chinese stars laid on goals for their team-mates. Tie is uncertain whether he will retain his place on Sunday, but he is confident whoever plays will help turn Everton's season around. "All the players are sticking together and working hard to put things right both on and off the pitch," he explained, "so I think we'll improve sooner rather than later. "At the moment I think it's a difficult time for all of us.
"Last season we did very well and I think that this season expectations were high for us to get better. We've lost a few games, which isn't good, but I think we'll start winning again soon."

Sharpie: Jeffers will end Blues drought
Dec 5 2003 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
FRANCIS JEFFERS has been backed to end Everton's goalscoring drought - by a man who hammered 159 during his Goodison career. Graeme Sharp is second only to Dixie Dean in Everton's goalscoring charts, and he reckons Jeffers is the man who can end a bleak spell of four goals in Everton's last nine matches. Jeffers started only his second match of the season at the Riverside on Wednesday, which ended - just like his first against Southampton - a goalless draw. But Sharp said: "Francis Jeffers is a goalscorer. He's just been unfortunate for whatever reason. Since he moved up from Arsenal he hasn't had many starts. "The gaffer has chosen Radzinski and Wayne Rooney on occasions but everyone knows that Francis is a proven goalscorer. "He's a young player and he's still got an awful lot to offer Everton Football Club. He'll have looked at Wednesday as an opportunity to stake a claim." Jeffers' pace and movement helped engineer a number of goalscoring chances - but Sharp believes as soon as Jeffers scores once, a deluge will follow. "I think Francis just needs a goal to kick-start his Everton career," he added. "He's desperate for a chance. Before Middlesbrough I think he started one game against Southampton, which was a poor game overall for the team. But he is desperate for a chance. "Results haven't been good so I'd say that most places are up for grabs. That's what David Moyes wanted in his first season and I'm sure that he wants that now as well. "In the past Franny has proven he can play at the highest level. He's had a couple of years away at Arsenal playing with world-class players so that would have enhanced him as a football player as well."

Russian On mission to earn deal
Dec 5 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
RUSSIAN skipper Viktor Onopko has arrived at Bellefield eager to convince Everton boss David Moyes he is the ideal replacement for Joseph Yobo. The Blues will lose the Nigerian central defender for six weeks in the New Year because of the African Nations Cup.
The 34-year-old Onopko has been earmarked as cover for Yobo and began a trial with the Blues today. Moyes said: "The Russian season ends in December. This is a good opportunity to bring Viktor over for a couple of days to look at him. "I went to watch him play for Russia against Wales a couple of weeks ago. He is a big strong defender with plenty of experience." The former Spartak Moscow and Real Vallecano defender is eager to taste Premiership football. He said: "I actually held talks with Bolton in the summer before moving back to Russia short-term. But now I am a free agent and coming to England remains a major ambition. "I've always been a huge admirer of the English game." Onopko has played more than 100 times for Russia. He is keen to secure a short-term deal with the Blues, similar to the deal which brought Richard Gough to the club during Walter Smith's reign, in order to cement his place in the Russian squad for next summer's Euro 2004 finals.
Yobo missed Wednesday night's Carling Cup clash with Middlesbrough because of a neck injury but the Nigerian international was set to provide a boost to the Blues today by returning to training. He may find his return to the first team against Manchester City on Sunday blocked by David Unsworth, who impressed at centre-half at the Riverside.

Everton 0 Manchester City 0
December 07, 2003
Maznchester Evening News
CITY extended their run without a win to seven games after this scrappy stalemate with Everton at Goodison Park. The Blues could have lost the game as Thomas Gravesen nearly won it for the home side with a shot against the post in the final moments. But City had the better chances, particularly in the first half, and recovered from the loss of David Seaman with a recurrence of his hamstring injury. City were the better team for much of the game as they passed the ball better, but are lacking the flair they showed earlier in the season. Ex-Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler, on the receiving end of abuse from the Everton fans, showed some skill after just four minutes when he took down a Joey Barton long ball and volleyed over the crossbar from 20 yards, all in one flowing movement. City produced their best chance of the first half when Nicolas Anelka skinned Tony Hibbert and crossed for Trevor Sinclair to send a diving header wide on 36 minutes before the England winger fed Fowler in space, but his mis-hit his shot wide

City heroes: Asa Hartford
December 07, 2003
Manchester Evening News
AS the Mancunian and Merseyside Blues square up at Goodison Park today, one man who has represented both clubs will deserve a show of respect from fans of the two teams. Clydebank-born Asa Hartford spent two years of his career with Everton, but it was with City that he earned his place in football's hall of fame. Hartford first came to the attention of the Manchester club while representing West Brom in the 1970 League Cup final, but it was a surprise discovery during a medical that brought the Scot to national attention. A transfer to Leeds fell through after routine tests revealed that the young Scot had a hole-in-the-heart condition. Leeds pulled out but City had no such qualms and they stole in to secure his signature. He was signed in August 1974 from West Brom for £210,000 and made his debut in a 4-0 win over West Ham.
An industrious and inventive player, Asa defied the medical condition that would have ended many careers, and an ability to score his fair share of goals aided by an abundance of tenacious tackles proved a vital quality in the City engine room. He won a League Cup winner's medal in 1976 and, when Scottish manager Jock Stein took note, Asa went on to win 36 of his 50 full caps while on City's staff. In June, 1979, Hartford moved to Nottingham Forest, but before he could say Robin Hood he was packing his bags after just three games and heading back North to join Everton. He stayed at Goodison for two years. In 1981 he achieved the highlight of his international career as he led Scotland to the 1982 World Cup finals. Asa returned to City, re-signing in October 1981 for £375,000. This time, however, things didn't work out. An ankle injury kept him out for three months. Relegation from Division One came at the end of the 1982-83 campaign and in May 1984, he left City to join North American side Fort Lauderdale Sun. On his return to England, Hartford joined Norwich, and then went on to enjoy spells with Bolton, Stockport County, Oldham, Shrewsbury and Bury, before rejoining City for a third time in July 1995 as Alan Ball's assistant.

Everton v City: Player ratings
December 08, 2003
Manchester Evening News
Seaman: Little to do while he was on the pitch and injury remains a huge concern 5 Sun: Half of China is reputed to have tuned into this game so it is a good job he was fit 6
Sommeil: Radzinski is an awkward customer at times, but the Frenchman did well enough 5
Dunne: Has never had a better spell than the one he is having now. Cleared off line and went close at other end 9
Distin: Not a natural left back but it didn't show as he patrolled his flank resolutely 6
Wright-Phillips: Quieter than normal but caused wholesale panic at times 6
Barton: Returned home and put on show for his Evertonian family 8
McManaman: Let his feet do the talking rather than his newspaper column 6
Sinclair: Better than of late and managed to get involved more as an attacking force 6
Fowler: Managed to get himself into plenty of shooting positions but couldn't find the target 6
Anelka: The enigma continues to captivate and frustrate in equal measure. Needs a goal 5
Subs: Ellegaard (for Seaman 53): Didn't look like three goal mauling in midweek had harmed him - 7 Wanchope (for SWP 77): Two decent defensive headers late on - 5. Not used - Berkovic, Reyna and Sibierski
BOOKINGS: Everton - Naysmith (56);
City - Barton (90)
REFEREE - Jeff Winter (Stockton) - High profile and highly demonstrative with it - 6
EVERTON: Martyn, Stubbs, Unsworth, Radzinski, Jeffers (Campbell 64), Li Tie, Naysmith, Gravesen, Rooney (McFadden 46), Carsley, Hibbert (Kilbane 46). Not used: Simonsen, and Linderoth.
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Everton 0, Man City 0 (D, Post)
Dec 8 2003 Andy Hunter Reports From Goodison Park, Daily Post
'I'M trying to accentuate the positives," said David Moyes in response to a thorny question about Everton's precarious league position on Friday. Right now, however, the answer is whether they still outweigh the negatives. A second clean sheet in succession, out of the bottom three and plenty of chances to have secured the victory over Manchester City they just about deserved will provide the basis for hope today. Yet at the same time causes for concern continue to cloud their increasingly frantic fight to escape a relegation dog-fight. An alarming lack of self-belief, leading to some appalling decision-making and final balls, is one major problem for a team that should be far higher up the table but regularly fails to turn the evidence into anything substantial. Then there is the on-going saga of Wayne Rooney and how to handle this awkward stage of his prolific development without hindering both the Blues and their undoubted world-class talent. The sight of Everton's most talented creative outlet sat suited on the bench after only 45 minutes as his team-mates struggled to turn promise into a way past Kevin Keegan's side summed up the problem now facing Moyes. Goodison's chief has landed slap back in the middle of a Catch 22 and currently there is no obvious way out, namely; how to find the spark of last season without the wonder who provided much of it. England internationals apart, Rooney is suffering from all the symptoms of second-season syndrome and is clearly being worn down by them. The effort and commitment of the boyhood Blue remains intact, yet tackling and chasing the opposition were the highlights of his brief display yesterday and the entire planet now knows he is capable of so much more. Once he recovers from this crisis of confidence, as he will, Everton's season will prosper as a result. But their present precarious position at the wrong end of the table requires immediate attention and Rooney's role in this scrap is vexing Goodison Park. Moyes made his mind up inside 45 minutes, however, as he hauled the youngster off early for the second league game in succession. Given his first-half performance there could be few complaints this time, yet he remains Everton's most gifted individual and even way short of his best, the Blues suffer without Rooney. The 18-year-old had been deployed in the floating role behind Tomasz Radzinski and Francis Jeffers as Moyes went for a different approach to unlock City. Rooney has flourished in that position for England, which in many respects best utilises his creativity and power. Yet even during their brightest spell in the first half hour they struggled to keep possession up front or find the final pass and, with even greater responsibility to solve those problems than usual, the spotlight fell on the young star who instead looked off the pace and low on confidence. What he, and Everton, would do for a fluke of a goal to reignite his season. Unfortunately, he wasn't given much hope of even that yesterday. Despite their star's burden, just a goal was all the Blues required to complement the confident start made against Kevin Keegan's team. Their passing and movement was far superior to their visitors, but they never tested David Seaman once before the break due to poor delivery in the final third and also an ludicrous inability to stay on their feet. When they should have troubled the hirsute veteran they displayed a generosity they simply cannot afford and City belatedly grew in confidence as a result.
It was Gary Naysmith who came closest in the opening 45 minutes with a low left-footed free-kick drilled through a packed penalty area and inches past the far post. Rooney's only opportunity arrived two minutes later when he was picked out by Thomas Gravesen's pin-point cross. But ghosting unmarked into the box, he glanced a header well wide of Seaman's goal. Radzinski was nearer when he nodded an ambitious attempt from the corner of the area, but the Canadian wasted a glorious opening on 36 minutes to break the deadlock. Alan Stubbs released the striker into the space he relishes with a great lofted pass, yet unmarked he mis-controlled horribly to allow ex-Evertonian Richard Dunne to clear. That let-off was one too many for the Blues as it stung City into action and, from nowhere, they began to stretch and test the Everton defence. Robbie Fowler, given his customary Goodison reception along with Steve McManaman, was sent scurrying clear by Trevor Sinclair a minute after Radzinski's slip but pulled his shot well wide under pressure from Stubbs.
Sinclair then forced a solid save from Nigel Martyn himself before sending a looping header over the Blues keeper, which required a stout intervention from David Unsworth to stop Nicolas Anelka and Fowler profiting at the back post. Growing City pressure, Moyes explained, was the reason for Rooney's departure but Everton's cause was hindered further by the ankle injury that forced Tony Hibbert off at the interval too. With no defenders on the bench Naysmith had to revert to right-back as Kevin Kilbane became an unorthodox left-back, and the Blues lost much of their earlier flow. Even so, they still had glorious opportunities to have sealed a much-needed win. City prospered in the second half although with Fowler continually hooking shots well wide they failed to deliver a convincing argument for three points. Everton would have taken them had either of the 'Mitchell brothers' shown any conviction in the penalty area. Lee Carsley was the first culprit when, three minutes after the restart, he blazed high over the bar when Gravesen's free-kick fell perfectly for him at the exposed back post. Then, in the midst of a thrilling finale that almost made amends for the 84 minutes that preceded it, the Danish international missed the chance of the game at the end of a flowing Everton break. Kevin Campbell, back from injury as a late substitute, released Radzinski down the right. His square ball rolled just where Gravesen wanted it as he sprinted from half-way to the edge of the area, but even as he shaped to shoot the lack of confidence was obvious and a scuffed, weak shot trickled onto the post and out. Keegan summed up the game afterwards when he said: "We had good possession and good situations but, just like Everton, if we had more confidence we would have picked the better final pass or better decision. "Players err on the side of caution when they aren't winning and both sides' chances were ruined by the final pass." At the final whistle, the home crowd underlined the thin line between the positives and negatives. Some booed, most applauded, but the bottom line is it will be a dark winter if their leading lights don't shine.
EVERTON (4-3-3): Martyn; Hibbert (Kilbane 46), Stubbs, Unsworth, Naysmith; Carsley, Gravesen, Li Tie; Radzinski, Rooney (McFadden 46), Jeffers (Campbell, 63). Subs: Simonsen, Linderoth.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-4-2): Seaman (Ellegaard 52); Jihai, Dunne, Sommeil, Distin; Wright-Phillips (Wanchope 76), Barton, McManaman, Sinclair; Fowler, Anelka. Subs: Reyna, Sibierski, Berkovic.
REFEREE: Jeff Winter.
BOOKINGS: Everton's Naysmith (foul), City's Barton (foul).
ATT: 37,871.

Wayne will come good
By Andy Hunter, Daily Post
Dec 8 2003
DAVID MOYES last night backed Wayne Rooney to overcome his worrying slump in form - despite hauling the Everton prodigy off early again. The 18-year-old was substituted at half-time as the Blues struggled to find a way past Manchester City. Moyes' move, eight days after he withdrew Rooney in controversial circumstances against Bolton, followed another disappointing display from the England international who has scored only once in the Premiership this season. But as he denied talk of a widening rift with the Goodison hero the Blues manager insisted Rooney would recapture last season's fabulous form once he emerges from the first testing spell of his top-flight career.
Moyes said: "I thought it was the right choice to take Wayne off at the time. It was my decision.
"What goes on in the dressing room is between me and my players but he is a great boy who is doing terrifically well. We are very pleased with him. "He is a special talent who is only 18 and we are trying to nurture that talent and bring him on as much as we possibly can. I am sure it will turn for him if he keeps his head home, I've no doubt about that." The Blues manager explained: "We had started well. We played Wayne behind the front two and to begin with it worked quite well but then they started to put us under a lot of pressure in the last 15 minutes of the first half and created a lot of opportunities. "That concerned me, and I made a tactical decision at halftime to change things around. "But Tony Hibbert took a knock on his ankle as well and we ended up having to make a few changes. With David Weir, Joseph Yobo and Alessandro Pistone all injured we finished with a make-shift back four but I thought they played really well for us in keeping another clean sheet.
"I was disappointed we didn't build on the start we had but we haven't been beaten and that is important for us at the moment." Despite a disappointing draw the point was enough to take Everton out of the bottom three. But they should have collected all three when Thomas Gravesen missed a glorious chance to snatch victory in the 84th minute. Moyes said: "It was end to end in the last ten minutes and we were unfortunate not to have won it. Thomas should have scored. He is a good player and I thought he'd tuck it in even though it was on his unfavoured left foot." The Blues boss also rebuked claims his team are suffering from a crisis of confidence.. And on the FA Cup third round draw, in which Everton were drawn at home to Nationwide League Division One side Norwich City, Moyes added: "I'm delighted - I was just dreading Shrewsbury again."

Fans forum
By Gary Kruger, Daily Post
Dec 8 2003
WELL, the Blues are out of the relegation zone, and we got an okay performance from the players. But what we all want to see is goals, and we are certainly struggling to find the back of the net.
The Toffees started out with Tomasz Radzinski alongside the goal-shy Francis Jeffers, with Wayne Rooney playing in the hole behind the front two. I was optimistic and excitedly waiting for the kick-off, thinking that we could cause the City defence some problems. However, what the first half gave was some half chances from Naysmith, Radzinski and Jeffers, a misfiring Robbie Fowler, and a complete headache, as I was scratching my head as to where Everton were going to find a goal from.
We did get some good news at halftime. Norwich at home in the cup. The second half saw the under-used James McFadden and the hardworking Kevin Kilbane come on for Rooney and Tony Hibbert. Rooney isn't living up to the expectation this season that his superstar status requires. He needs to be performing every game, even if he doesn't score, and the fans need to see a change quickly. We had a few chances to go ahead, with Radzinski providing easily the best chance of the game with minutes to go. He squared the ball to Graves-en, who smashed the ball against the upright and obliterated Everton's chances of gaining a vital victory. This game proves that when Rooney isn't playing well, goals and chances don't flow. Let's just hope he gets back to business some time soon, and give us all an early Christmas present.

Everton 0, Man City 0 (Echo)
Dec 8 2003 Liverpool Echo
IT is easy to jump on the bandwagon which has trundled through the Premiership in the last few months proclaiming Everton over-achieved last season. Fuelled by the Toffees' unexpected seventh place finish, passengers have been jumping on the wagon in increasing numbers since the club dropped into the bottom three for the first time under David Moyes. But while it may be a popular mode of transport at the moment, it is not necessarily the right one. There is an alternative. This season the side has failed to play to its potential and, as a result, has under-achieved. If you look at some of the players the Blues now boast, seventh place does not seem that unreasonable an expectation. Suggesting they over-achieved last year does the squad a disservice. Last season was an example of a young squad led by a young manager setting a benchmark. There is enough quality and potential there to ensure they reach that mark this season. But yesterday, as so often this season, Everton failed to do themselves justice. Anybody who watches Everton regularly will accept that there have been instances when the side has played football which has been, at the very least, on a par with the best of last year. But those moments have been far too sporadic. The side has been too inconsistent this season. They have been too prone to error at key moments, most notably in front of goal. The problems facing the Blues were all too apparent in the closing 10 minutes of the clash with Manchester City. For the opening 80 minutes neither side played with any confidence.
That is probably no great surprise when you look at their recent form. But in the final 10 minutes a sense of urgency finally materialised in Everton's play. Time and again they surged forward desperately in search of the goal which would give them all three points. But the endeavour which paved the way for the goalscoring opportunities was not matched with the kind of clinical eye for goal which made them the league's surprise package last year. That point was made clear five minutes from time. Substitute Kevin Campbell played a perfectly weighted through ball down the inside right as the Blues launched a counter-attack. Tomasz Radzinski raced onto it, evaded the challenge of Sylvain Distin and squared a ball from the edge of the box into the path of the unmarked Thomas Gravesen. As he received the ball he should have unleashed a shot to leave substitute keeper Kevin Ellegaard with no chance. Instead, he took a touch before producing an unconvincing left-foot effort which skipped beyond the keeper but bounced back off the base of the post. Gravesen didn't seem to believe he had what it took to finish off the move. That was symptomatic of Everton's whole performance. The manager insists morale is not a problem. The players echo that sentiment. But until they produce the goods in a league match you can't help feeling there is a sense of uncertainty in the side's play. Confidence is the key. But they can take a small morsel of comfort from the fact this dour draw was enough to guide them out of the bottom three, if only on goal difference. And now they must keep on climbing. The manager certainly has belief. He demonstrated yesterday he is also willing to shake things up in a bid to kickstart a decent run of form. When the team was announced an hour before kick off there were a few raised eyebrows. How did the manager intend to accommodate Francis Jeffers, Wayne Rooney and Radzinski? The Blues chief has dabbled with a 4-3-3 formation in the past without a great deal of success. The opening game of last season against Tottenham and the Worthington Cup exit to Chelsea spring to mind. But yesterday the ploy was different. Rooney was utilised in a position just behind the front two, with Thomas Gravesen slotting in just in front of the back four as part of a diamond-shaped midfield. The Dane and the teenager are the Blues' most talented ball players. Using them as the points of a diamond provided the pair with ample opportunity to do what they do best; pass with accuracy or run at the opposition. On paper it is a tactic which makes sense. Indeed, using Rooney in a more withdrawn role is something a lot of pundits have called for in the past.
But in reality the Blues lacked width and Rooney struggled to settle in his deeper role. It may have seemed tailormade for him but, at the moment, wherever he plays, the hugely talented teenager is struggling for form. And so after a lacklustre opening 45 minutes Moyes made a significant change, discarding his Claudio Ranieri book of tactics. But while the change in system did not work as the manager had hoped, by employing the formation he sent out a message, a very positive message.
After the break Moyes reverted back to a standard 4-4-2, taking off Rooney and Tony Hibbert, who was struggling with an ankle injury, and introducing Kevin Kilbane and James McFadden. Naysmith switched to right back, Kilbane filled in at left-back and McFadden probed the left wing, with Gravesen and Li Tie in the middle. After the interval the home side looked much more settled.
And they should have underlined that point by taking the lead in the 63rd minute. Gravesen curled a ball in from the left, Lee Carsley headed the ball back and Kilbane was on hand to volley goalwards. His effort seemed to have the beating of substitute keeper Kevin Ellegaard but the intervention of Richard Dunne's not insubstantial right leg diverted the effort over the bar. It was closer than any of the Blues' handful of efforts in the opening period. Two of the best of those fell to Rooney. He may not have been at his best in the position behind the striker's but he was given more sights of goal as he ghosted into the area late. The best example of which came in the 18th minute when he was allowed a free header from seven yards. But he couldn't get enough on Gravesen's cross and the effort fell well wide. It was a similar story 11 minutes later. Jeffers laid the ball off for Rooney to run onto 22 yards out. He unleashed a fierce drive just as diminutive firebrand Shaun Wright-Phillips clattered into him. The shot fizzed high and wide. Other half chances went begging for Jeffers and Radzinski but they could not be faulted for failing to find the target. By contrast, when City did break free and attack the home penalty area they looked more capable of getting on the scoresheet.
It delighted the fans in the Gwladys Street to see former Red Robbie Fowler miss two superb opportunities. There was more of a sense of relief when former Blue Dunne rifled a volley inches over the bar from the edge of the box. Add to those misses a Trevor Sinclair diving header which found the side-netting and it was easy to see why Moyes chose to abandon his first-half experiment.
The second half provided the visitors with fewer sights of the Everton goal. But they were given the chance to leave Goodison feeling hard done by. When David Unsworth, who was otherwise faultless as a central defensive partner for Alan Stubbs, dragged back Wright-Phillips in the 69th minute and referee Jeff Winter blew his whistle the home fans feared the worst. The offence had clearly taken place a yard inside the Everton area. But instead, Winter awarded a free-kick a yard outside the box and the home side breathed a sigh of relief. The entertainment had been minimal but that lack of quality enabled the Blues to take a point from the match; enough to steer the club out of the bottom three. It doesn't ease the frustration of another below par performance, but it could provide the kind of psychological boost the Toffees are so obviously in need of. I may be an eternal optimist. I may be clutching at straws. But this side is far better than the league position suggests. And given time they will prove it. Indeed, the table is so tight, it is too early to rule out a finish in seventh spot - or possibly better.

Moyes hails rearguard
Dec 8 2003 By Stuart Rayner, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES paid tribute to his patched-up defence after watching it keep out former Liverpool strikers Robbie Fowler and Nicolas Anelka at Goodison Park yesterday. While the Blues endured another frustrating day in front of goal against Manchester City, a shut-out at the other end at least ensured that Moyes' team picked up the 0-0 draw which moved them out of the Premiership relegation zone on goal difference. A first-half ankle injury to Tony Hibbert meant Everton played the entire second period with three of their back four - David Unsworth, Gary Naysmith and substitute Kevin Kilbane - in unfamiliar positions. With David Weir, Joseph Yobo, Alessandro Pistone and Steve Watson all out injured, Moyes went into the game without a recognised defender on the substitute's bench, but was pleased with the response of his stand-ins. "With not having many defenders at the club at the moment with the likes of Weir, Yobo and Pistone all out injured, we ended up with a real makeshift back four," Moyes admitted afterwards. "Gary (Naysmith) had to play right-back and Kevin Kilbane had to play left-back. Even Unsy (David Unsworth) playing centre-half is nearly unrecognisable for us. "We're pleased for those boys because they helped us get a clean sheet in a very makeshift back four, so all credit to them." Hibbert's withdrawal, though, was overshadowed by Wayne Rooney's substitution for the fourth consecutive Everton game.
The manager was reluctant to add too much to the column inches which follow the young striker's every move, but explained the move was tactical as he abandoned the 4-3-1-2 formation used in the first half. "I thought we started the game well, and for the opening 20 minutes or so I thought playing Wayne behind the front two worked, and it looked as though we were putting them under pressure," Moyes said. "But I thought in the 15 minutes or so leading up to half time, Manchester City just started to get one or two opportunities so I felt at half-time it would be better if we changed it round tactically a little bit. "I just thought bringing Rooney off was the right choice at the time - that was the decision I made." City boss Kevin Keegan thought the absence of goals was caused by a lack of confidence on both sides. "You can put it down to a lot of things but you can't doubt both sides wanted to win it," Keegan commented. "Good situations for both teams were ruined by the last pass. "But we still created enough chances to win the game." The game was Steve McManaman's first start since the former Liverpool player voiced his unhappiness at being left on the bench for consecutive games. But Keegan put that down to the form of fellow Scouse midfielder Joey Barton. "At the moment Barton is playing so well for us," Keegan said. "Instead of being one of those who looked like fighting for a place, he and Shaun Wright-Phillips are holding one down. "Leaving Steve out disappointed him - he made that clear."

Time we became ruthless - Unsy
Dec 8 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
DAVID UNSWORTH believes it is time for Everton to get ruthless. The Blues have kept three clean sheets in their last four matches but have won only one. The problem has been scoring. Yesterday's goalless draw against Manchester City at Goodison means Everton have now failed to score in seven of their last 10 games in all competitions. It helps explain why the club currently finds itself precariously above the relegation zone, with only goal difference keeping them ahead of Aston Villa.
Unsworth, who has returned to centre-back in the last two games because of injuries to David Weir and Joseph Yobo, admitted after yesterday's match: "We are thankful to have kept a clean sheet but we have got to start taking our chances now. It is no use keeping clean sheets if we are not putting our chances away at the other end. "It is not a case of singling anyone out, but as a team we are going to have to be a bit more ruthless in front of goal. "We could have nicked it in the last couple of minutes when we hit the post. "Last year those kind of chances were hitting the post and going in. We need a little bit of luck but we also need to be more ruthless. "We have got a platform now because we did well in midweek and we have done well as a team in as much as we dug in and showed grit. "Now we have to match that with more quality in front of goal. "In this league if you win two on the bounce you can climb a lot of positions. That shows you how tight the league is.
"Last season we were nicking a 2-1 or a 1-0. You are talking the difference of a few millimetres between hitting the post and scoring." Too often this season Everton have failed to do themselves justice. But Unsworth insists the lack of decent form has nothing to do with disharmony in the dressing room. He reveals: "We don't think we have hit anywhere near the form we showed last season and when we do we will go up the table. "But it has never been the case that morale is low. The gaffer is open enough to come to the senior players and talk things through. "People are trying to see something that actually isn't there. I can honestly say there is no problem with morale.
"We are still training the same, if not harder. We are still the same group of players, the team spirit is as good as ever. "We are not doing anything differently. There is no magic wand. Just a little bit of luck and we would have won the game (yesterday)." Unsworth is revelling in his role as central defensive partner to Alan Stubbs. But he admits he is still a bit rusty after so long as a left-back.
"It is nice to play in there," he adds. "I learned my trade as a centre-half but since I came back (after my season at West Ham) I have been more or less a left-back. "So it is nice to get back in there. It does take a bit of getting used to. "It is funny how moving those 10 yards can change the game. Stubbsy had to shout over to me a couple of times because I was drifting towards left-back.
"You have got to be disciplined and you have got a job to do. But as long as Alan and I can keep getting clean sheets it gives the lads the opportunities to go up field and be as ruthless as we want them to be. "We have got the basis of a pretty young squad here. "It is a young team and they are learning all the time. At that age you can't produce it week in and week out and you have to give them the benefit when they have a quiet game here and there. "That is when it is up to the older players to push them through it and that is what we are trying to do. "It is a case of digging in, keep getting the clean sheets and then the lads up front and in midfield will come good and get the goals for us. It is only a matter of time."

Nyarko admits: Walking out was a mistake
Dec 8 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
ALEX Nyarko has revealed for the first time he believes he made a huge mistake by walking out on Everton in 2001. The Ghanaian midfielder became a figure of hate for the Goodison faithful when he vowed never to play for the club again following an altercation with a fan at Highbury in April 2001.
But after extended spells on loan with Monaco and Paris Saint Germain, Nyarko returned to Everton in the summer and now regrets that he has spent much of the last two years away from Everton.
He reveals: "I feel good, I feel positive and I feel that maybe I should have been like that for the last two years. "I was away for two years and then I came back. I think this is my club. This is where I belong and I want to stay here. "In those two years I was thinking and I decided that I had to take the decision myself to come back here and join the group and train. "It took me time but I realised that is what I had to do, I had to do this myself. "The ball is in my court to stay in the group and I enjoy the group." Nyarko made his first appearance for the club in almost two and a half years in the Carling Cup second round victory over Stockport. He has been assured by manager David Moyes that he will not be judged by events that took place before his appointment as manager. And after a series of impressive performances for the club's reserve side, Nyarko is once again pushing for a return to first team action. He has also been boosted by the reception he has received from the fans, who have also seemed willing to forgive and forget. He adds: "The fans supported me and it was nice. You feel blessed and it makes you feel you want to do something. "Before my first game back people were coming up to me in the dressing room saying, 'come on Alex, it's not new for you, you've done it before, you know you can do it, play your own game and enjoy it'. "I tried to enjoy the game and adapt, I wasn't particularly flash. It was good. "I will take whatever comes and work hard. I respect David Moyes and the other coaches. They are helping me a lot. You are learning in football everday, like life."

Roo rumour is 'rubbish' blasts boss
Dec 8 2003 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES has described as "rubbish" reports of another bust-up with Wayne Rooney. The young striker was substituted at half-time of yesterday's goalless draw with Manchester City.
And some reports today suggested Rooney reacted badly to the decision. The Blues' boss utterly refuted the suggestion, but is keen that the 18-year-old does not become the subject of more unfounded media speculation this week. Yesterday's substitution was the second time running Rooney has been replaced, following his 55th minute withdrawal at Bolton the week before.
But Moyes is acutely aware of the need to protect the youngster right now and will not discuss the teenager publicly. Rooney stayed on the subs titutes' bench throughout the second half and was in the dressing room after the match, before being selected for a random drugs test. After yesterday's match Moyes said: "He is a great boy who is doing terrifically well. We are very pleased with him.
"He is a special talent who is only 18 and we are trying to nurture that talent and bring him on as much as we possibly can." The positive impression made by Kevin Campbell as a late substitute increases Moyes' options up front, while Duncan Ferguson may play for the reserves tomorrow night at Hyde United against Manchester City. But the Blues are waiting to discover the extent of Tony Hibbert's ankle injury which forced his half-time substitution. Joseph Yobo should shake off a neck injury in time to deputise if necessary.

Unsy's back in his old routine
Dec 8 2003 Liverpool Echo
WITH more than 370 career games to his name, David Unsworth has got used to cruel souls extracting the urine. But he wasn't expecting it at Goodison Park, and certainly not after a second faultless display in a row in his old central defensive role. This time, though, it wasn't the boo-boys giving Unsy grief at Goodison. It was those unforgiving inspectors from the drugs testing unit who selected the defender and his young teammate Wayne Rooney to provide a random sample.
It took more than an hour for the dehydrated defender to produce. But that was the only cause for concern for Unsworth yesterday, after he showed there could be life after Joseph Yobo - even without turning to a 34-year-old Russian. It is curious how Unsworth eventually came to be rein-vented as a left-back. Early in his career he showed sufficient promise in central defence - particularly in memorable FA Cup displays against Jurgen Klins-mann and Mark Hughes - to merit his only England cap. Many London judges say his performances at West Ham in a central defensive triangle were the best of his career. But after returning to Merseyside he joined Richard Dunne and Peter Clarke at the suffering end of Walter Smith's passion for turning centre-halves into full-backs.
He has stayed there ever since. Yobo's looming African Nations Cup commitment could see an extended stay at centre-half, and on the evidence of his last two matches he won't let anybody down. But it is at the opposite end of the pitch Everton have problems. You would have thought the TV execs might have got the message by now. Everton have appeared on live TV in some shape or form eight times this season. They have lost six - and yesterday's snoreathon matched their best result - goalless draws at home to Southampton and Manchester City. "They're coming back onto the pitch," advised the well-meaning steward at half-time yesterday. He was overwhelmingly ignored, the entertainment provided by two men pulling numbered balls from a drum proving infinitely more appealing. The press pack reluctantly returned, but matters only revived for the closing 10 min-utes of another grim Goodison afternoon. It is not a crisis yet at Everton.
But if they continue to squander chances as waste-fully as they have done all season, it soon will be.
Twelve months ago, with Wayne Rooney an unexpected and dramatic provider of stunning match- winners, Everton were turning games like these into 1-0 wins and 2-1 wins. This season, with the youngster suffering difficult second season syndrome, th ey la ck that inspiration. Brian McBri d e came in around about this time last year to offer a timely boost. Could it be time for another big man - Kevin Campbell perhaps - to repeat the feat in 2004?

Why doubting young Rooney is just looney
By Mark Lawrenson, Daily Post
Dec 9 2003
I HAVE never known such pressure on a young player than is being heaped on Wayne Rooney.
He's still only 18 for heaven's sake - and what did any of us know about life at that age, let alone football? But it seems everyone is expecting the teenager to take a game by the scruff of the neck and drag Everton, by the sheer force of his own performances, up the table. But the Blues have plenty of experienced players who should be playing their part in lifting them above the relegation battle. David Moyes cannot even substitute the youngster without finding himself fielding questions about another perceived "bust-up". I think Moyes is doing a good job in handling the situation. I don't think even Michael Owen had to endure such hype. Ryan Giggs was probably the last young player to find himself at the centre of such interest and expectation. As an out-and-out Everton fan, Rooney will be as frustrated as anyone that things are not clicking into place at the moment. He wants to play - and play well - for the Blues and help them to the top of the table, but the last few weeks have shown how reliant the football club has become on him. Perhaps a spell as substitute, coming on to influence games in the last 20 minutes, would help but it is a measure of how far Rooney has progressed that he has earned a starting place. But when that doesn't work everyone is suddenly asking: "What's gone wrong with Rooney?" He is still trying like mad - and hurting like hell when things don't go right. Doing well 'playing in the hole' behind the front two in the Premiership is a far cry from performing well in that role for England against Liechtenstein - who wouldn't get in our second division. But I still fear the longer Everton are stuck near the foot of the table, the closer comes one of the biggest decisions they will ever make. Selling Rooney is still unthinkable to many Evertonians - and understandably so - but if the millions raised by a transfer fee can be ploughed back into strengthening the squad with several new faces, then it may be a decision that safeguards the long-term future of the club. In the meantime, Portsmouth away at the weekend becomes another game Everton cannot afford to lose. Taking the positive out of a negative situation, it was another clean sheet against Manchester City and they need another one at Fratton Park. If Everton stop losing, they can build from there. It is time for patience - there are plenty of matches left to turn things around. Blackburn and Bolton - who should have won at Fulham on Saturday - have shown that and I am sure the Blues will follow suit.

I'd lose track of the scoreline – Ratcliffe
By Nick Hilton, Daily Post
Dec 9 2003
KEVIN RATCLIFFE did not know what the score was in many of the games he played for Everton.
The most successful captain in Goodison history reveals for the first time today that he often found himself asking team-mates, "how many goals is that?" when Everton scored. Ratcliffe admits the memory shutdowns would only occur at times when Everton were comfortably ahead in matches.
However, this applied to a large proportion of games during the peak of Ratcliffe's career in the mid-1980s, when Everton were an irresistible force, winning two League champion-ships, the FA Cup, and the European Cup Winners Cup in four seasons. Ratcliffe confesses: "I have a bad memory in certain situations. I would lose track of the score in Everton games once we went three goals up.
"If we scored again I might turn to Derek Mountfield or Dave Watson and say: 'Is that three or is it four?' I honestly didn't know. "Other times I would bluff it. If someone asked me after a game what I thought of the fourth goal, I would say something very general, because I honestly didn't know which goal it was." Ratcliffe puts the problem down to the intensity of his focus on the job at the heart of the Everton defence. "I was so wrapped up in stopping the opposition from scoring that very little else would intrude into my thoughts," the former centre-back says. The condition re-occurred during Ratcliffe's career as a manager in the third division with Chester City (1995-99), and Shrewsbury Town (1999 to 03). He says: "Once we had got a game wrapped up the score would go out of my head. At Shrewsbury I would have to check with my assistant, Dave Fogg, what the score was because I had started thinking about what I would be doing in training the next week, or even what we would do in next week's game. All sorts of permutations were in my head." It may well have been one of the secrets of Ratcliffe's success as a player, that he was too absorbed in his football to count his blessings. When Everton were at the height of their powers around 20 years ago, Ratcliffe remembers days when confidence was so phenomonally high throughout the team, that he was certain some games would be won before he went into them. They always were.
Ratcliffe says: "When I was young, an ex-player told me that I would realise I was in an exceptional team, when I knew I was going to win a game before it kicked off. "That happened with the Everton team of the mid-80s. Even if we went one down I would wonder by how many we were going to win by. "Super confidence like that is very rare. It only comes from winning games week-in, week-out, month-in, month-out. "The great majority of teams and players will never experience such a feeling. They are always going to have to work hard for what they get. "Even on the days at Everton when I did not feel quite right in myself, I could look around and get all the reassurance I needed. I would look at Gary Stevens and Dave Watson and think, 'who is gonna get past them?'. "Then I'd look at Neville Southall and think, 'they are not gonna get past him'. "I am sure the other players in that side did the same when they felt they might be about to have an off-day. "You would draw strength from the players around you and at the same time you knew they would not allow you to drop your standards. "All good sides have at least one inspirational player who gets the most out of the others in the way Roy Keane does at Manchester United. "We had three or four of them at Everton then. They all let people know if they were not performing." Welshmen Ratcliffe and Southall were two of them, Scouser Peter Reid, another. Ratcliffe recalls there were a lot of strong characters in that team. "We motivated each other and fought for each other. "You never had players missing training or coming in late. Everyone wanted to be there every day. "Teams with a spirit like ours were rare. The Liverpool team of the early 80s had it of course and great players too. That isn't easy for me to say as an Evertonian. "More recently I think of the Blackburn side that won the title in 95. They were not over-blessed with talent. Alan Shearer was the only star player. But they played to a system similar to ours that worked very well and the collective spirit they had carried them through."
Ratcliffe's name will forever be inter-linked with Howard Kendall, the manager who put the great Everton team of the 80s together. But the manager who introduced the youngster from Queensferry into first team football, was Kendall's predecessor, Gordon Lee. Ratcliffe made the first of his 472 Everton appearances in 1980, at a time when Lee knew he had the young, raw material at Goodison to build a good side in the nottoo-distant future. The problem, Lee recalled last year, in an interview with the Daily Post, was that putting them all in the side at the same time, represented a major risk. Said Lee: "We had a good crop of young players at the time in Kevin Ratcliffe, Gary Stevens, Steve McMahon, Kevin Richardson, and a young striker I signed from Dumbarton, called Graeme Sharp. "I knew that if we put four or five of them in the first team, at once, we would be inconsistent and our league position at the end of the season would not be good. Even so I went with them. In my opinion, it was the right thing to do for Everton, although I am not sure it was the right thing for Gordon Lee." Everton finished 15th at the end of the campaign, and Lee lost his job, to be replaced by Kendall. He too understood the dangers of blooding too many young players at once, and signed a clutch of experienced men from the mid-price range to stabilise the team. The names of early 80s recruits, Alan Ainscow, Mike Walsh, Alan Biley, Mick Ferguson, Jim Arnold, and even Micky Thomas, won't go down in Goodison folklore. But Ratcliffe doubts whether Kendall's great Everton side could have emerged without them. He says: "If they had not been there, we might not have progressed in the way we did. Graeme Sharp had to win his place from Ferguson and Biley and I had to battle with Mike Walsh for mine. I think Howard Kendall soon realised how quickly we were coming on, and then signed a lot of younger players who were also in their early 20s, like Trevor Steven, Kevin Sheedy, Alan Harper, Derek Mountfield, and Adrian Heath. "He threw in a couple of experienced hands like Peter Reid, and Andy Gray, and it all came together." Since parting company with Shrewsbury at the end of last season, Ratcliffe has been working in the broadcast media, and committed some of his recollections from 14 years at Everton to print. The result is a lavishly illustrated book "My Memories of Everton" by Kevin Ratcliffe, which is now in the bookshops, at £14.99, and is published by Bright Spot Publications. The project was instigated by Simon Shakeshaft, the physiotherapist, who worked with Ratcliffe at Shrewsbury. Sales of the book will help raise funds for the fight against testicular cancer, with the publishers and Ratcliffe making donations.

Off-form Rooney still fits bill for Kenwright
By Andy Hunter, Daily Post
Dec 9 2003
BILL KENWRIGHT last night lent his support to Wayne Rooney as Everton united behind their teenage sensation. The 18-year-old's struggle to recapture last season's dizzy heights continued on Sunday when he was substituted at half-time against Manchester City. After his decision, David Moyes insisted he had no doubt the striker would recover from the first serious dip of his professional career. Now Kenwright has underlined the club's complete backing for Rooney - who he believes is feeling the pressure of being thrust into the national spotlight. "My thoughts about Wayne Rooney are exactly the same as the manager's," said the Blues' deputy chairman. "We are blessed by having probably the greatest 18-year-old talent in the world at Everton, and we have to make sure we look after it. "I had my usual hour-long talk with David on Sunday, and we both agreed that of all the publicity about Wayne lately - good, bad and otherwise - it could only be the kid himself who is getting hurt by it. "Wayne doesn't want to be as ineffective as he has been for Everton recently, and neither does he want to read about himself for all the wrong reasons. It worries me that the boy is getting hurt by all this. "Never mind saying he will come back as strong as ever - he hasn't been anywhere yet. He's just an 18-year-old boy. You look at him, and he is a young lad who only turned 18 six weeks ago. He's a kid who is so worshipped by everyone at this football club, and that in itself puts another onus on him. "But you've got to remember he is a lad who goes home to his mum and dad every night, and we shouldn't lose sight of that." Rooney's problems with Everton, in contrast to his flourishing international career, has prompted a whispering campaign within the England-obsessed national media that he needs to quit his boyhood club. But while admitting there are no guarantees he will never be sold, Kenwright insists Rooney remains a fundamental part of the club's future. He added: "Personally, I would never sell him in a zillion years, but I can't talk for the manager or the football club. "I am just one person here, so who knows what is going to happen. Don't take that the wrong way, but you never know what might happen in football. "I would love Wayne Rooney still to be here alongside myself and David Moyes in another 10 years, but you can't be sure. "I am nothing to do with the football side and don't want to be. "I am just so impressed with everything about David Moyes, everything he does and everything he brings to Everton and how much he helps me in my job. "I am happy to leave all the football decisions to him." Kenwright insists that Moyes will revive Everton's long-term fortunes. But he indicated the manager - who remains anxious to bolster his midfield - will have little cash to spend when the transfer window reopens on January 1. He said: "What David is trying to do here is invigorate the squad with youth, but that takes time. "We always talk about sustainable growth at this club. There can be no quick or easy fix. "You have to be patient when you are trying to bring on young players. "We may have spent some time in the bottom three recently, but I know that in David Moyes we have the manager who will undoubtedly get us back up the table. "This time last year, I was the happiest guy in football. "I'm not the most miserable guy in football now, but I have to tell you about the Carling Cup tie at Middlesbrough when we went out on penalties. "The game didn't finish until five to 11, and it was a four-hour journey home. "I got to Rugby at about two in the morning and suddenly realised I was sat there in my car crying. A 58-year old man crying about a result from three hours earlier. That is how it gets to you. "I would love to be able to say we had £100million in the bank and were chasing a place in the Champions' League, but at the moment it is all about sustainable growth. "Last year we made £3m and spent £8m, and the maths tells you we were £5m down. "There is hardly a club in the land that's not trying to deal with margins like that, and it is very, very difficult."

Lay off the boos
Icliverpool And Daily Post
Dec 9 2003
Lay off the boos
WATCHING the Blues fail to score again is a bit worrying, but with a bit of luck and a bit more confidence, which is clearly lacking in all areas, we will get back to winning ways soon. Sunday's result could have gone either way, so we should be grateful for the point. We should have won it at the end, but that's where the confidence comes into it. What really annoys me are the Blues fans who booed the lads off at the end. In all the years I have watched the Blues there have been some bad games, but I have never ever booed them off. The last thing the players need is to hear that at the end of the game. We need to get behind them no matter what.
Peter Bernard, Liverpool
Fearing the worst
WELL 0-0 against a team who are playing poorly at the moment. I suppose Everton should be happy picking up any points the way we are playing. It's going be one long hard graft this season and I fear the worst.
F Latimer, Liverpool
Tailor the tinkering
A DISAPPOINTING game but a point is welcome. Strange that Moyes waited for a league game to tinker with his squad when he had a perfect opportunity to do so in the cup? Rooney could adapt to that role very well if he's given licence to roam and find more space. Martyn is Everton's number one. Wright's good, but still learning. Also a big welcome back to Li Tie. It may take him a few games to get back into the swing of things but I'm hopeful he can help us with his energy and willingness to scrap.
M Tilley, (via e-mail)
Grave situation
DREADFUL game of football at Goodison. The last five minutes got a little better, but oh what a miss by Gravesen. Internationals should not miss chances like that. The Blues midfield could not buy a goal and their passing was terrible again. David Moyes is the right man for the job. I just hope the board will back their man and make some money available when the transfer window opens in January. Pity we can't get a Russian or Arab billionaire to invest in the club.
J Dunlop (via e-mail)
Must do better
FIFTEEN league games gone, a point (al-most!) a game. Thirty-eight games is the season and 38 points total won't cut the mustard. Fifteen games, 15 goals won't do. Fifteen games and we've failed to score in eight of them while keeping only five clean sheets. As my old school report card used to say - must do better.
Bill Gard, (via e-mail)
Fresh start
ANOTHER 0-0 and we don't look like scoring. Now, I'm not one of those 'Moyes out!' idiots, but I think we should try Leon Osman from the start next game. None of our strikers look confident and while the midfield's solid, it's hardly bulging with natural goalscorers. Moyes seems unsure about using Kilbane and McFadden for the full 90 and Carsley is solid but in no way a wide or attacking player. Sometimes a team just needs someone fresh and direct to kick-start things . . .
F Pembridge, Liverpool
Tightrope walker
JAMES McFadden should play more, Rooney should not be taken off in every match and Fergy should be on the bench. We aren't creating chances. It's so frustrating after a great season last year, but Mike Walker once had a good season at Norwich and we all know what a great manager he turned out to be. I'm not saying it was a fluke, and I do like Moyes, but something looks to be seriously wrong at Everton at the moment. I fear we need more than one midfielder as a lot of people seem to be saying.
Mark McDermott (via e-mail)

Blues close in on top of table
Academy Football With Chris Wright Daily Post
Dec 9 2003
EVERTON under-17s moved to within one point of FA Premier Academy League leaders Manchester United with a five-star performance against their neighbours City on Saturday. Gary Ablett's side made it nine goals in their last two games with a 5-0 victory over City at Platt Lane. It was the perfect tonic after the Blues crashed out of the FA Youth Cup in midweek at Coventry City. And coupled with Manchester United's 1-1 draw at Crewe it means the Blues have a great chance to go into the Christmas break this weekend top of the table. If United fail to beat Blackburn Rovers at home and Everton can win against Crewe at Netherton they can regain top spot. Full-back Stephen Wynne opened the scoring, volleying home from the edge of the box when a corner was cleared straight to him after half-an-hour. And although the Blues were always on top it wasn't until the second half that they made their superiority tell. Striker Paul Hopkins hit two goals in ten minutes to take his tally for the season to five. Further strikes late on from Boyle, who slid in at the far post and substitute James Vaughan, who smashed home after a good turn made sure the Blues ran out emphatic winners. Ablett was naturally delighted with his side's performance. He said: "It was a very good performance and the result was kind to them really. We could have scored seven or eight and it would have been a fair reflection." It was a different story for the Blues under-19s as they went down to their second defeat in as many matches, as they lost 4-1 at Manchester City. Coupled with the Youth Cup loss Neil Dewsnip's side will be keen to get back to winning ways before the Christmas break in the final match of the year against Bolton at Netherton this Saturday. After a goalless first-half City proved too much for the Blues youngster in the second half. The Sky Blues hit four goals and the only consolation for Dewsnip's side was England youth international Scott Brown's fourth goal of the season on the hour.
EVERTON UNDER-19s: Lake; Flood, Potter, Gerrard, Fox; Brown, Wilson, Barry (Booth 65), Joey Jones; Garside, Lynch (Pascucci 80).
EVERTON UNDER-17s: Gallagher; Wynne, Hughes, Kearney, Wright; Johnson (Irving 80), Seargeant, Harris, Boyle; Hopkins (Fowler 75), Phelan (Vaughan 75).

Hype won't help Wayne out of dip
Dec 9 2003 David Prentice Liverpool Echo
IT has become one of the great after dinner tales of our time. The wine waiter of a posh London hotel had carried a magnum of Grand Cru champagne to a suite, where he is greeted at the door by a somewhat-dishevelled George Best. Peeping over the soccer idol's shoulder he can see a king-size bed, strewn with bank notes recently liberated from the hotel casino - upon which reclines the reigning Miss World. So folklore has it, the waiter tuts disapprovingly, turns to Best and says: "Where did it all go wrong?" Wayne Rooney could be forgiven for telling his own, tamer version of that story 10 years from now. At the tender age of 18, before most footballers have even started their professional career, during a season when he has been injured, suspended and stricken by 'flu - and become the youngest England goalscorer ever - he is being asked precisely that same question.
It is just as absurd. Rooney is going through a dip in form - and needs supporters and friends now more than he has ever done. What he does not need are commentators as distinguished and authoritative as the Sunday Times and its daily equivalent asking if his time at Everton is up.
"Is it time for boy wonder to move?" asked that most august of observers Hugh McIlvanney.
His article had clearly been read with interest by Tony Cascarino, whose Monday morning follow-up was headlined: "Rooney must leave Everton if he is to fulfil early promise". Surrounding Rooney with more talented performers would allow his sublime talents to flourish, away from the pressures of carrying Everton's hopes on his shoulders alone. But two short words - one of four letters, one three - tell those theorists where to get off, although not necessarily the two they would expect.
Joe Cole. Another prodigiously talented youngster who left the safe, but struggling confines of West Ham United for the more expansive environment of Stamford Bridge. So far this season he has started a total of six Premiership matches. What Rooney needs now is less exposure, less publicity and more protection. Making him the subject of a £35m transfer would do just the opposite.
It would also take him away from the manager who has successfully steered him from youth team to European Championships in 18 electrifying months. Like all teenagers, Rooney may not appreciate the influence his mentor David Moyes exerts on him. But in a world of unrealistic hype, over-expectation and dramatic shock-horror headlines, Everton's pragmatic manager offers one of the few steadying hands on Rooney's shoulders. He has not performed well for Everton this season. And his manager has been quick to tell him. The last thing he needs are people telling him he is better than he is - difficult given the astonishing talent he so clearly possesses - or a high-profile switch increasing the glare of publicity he so clearly feels uncomfortable in. He has not played well for, ooh, three matches. And has been correctly hauled off early in two of them. But all that indicates is a dip in formhe can play through. In his debut season at Everton Football Club, one international star, idolised by millions, was substituted on an alarming 18 occasions - including one run of six early darts in succession. But he was not 18-years-old and he wasn't English. So the stuttering start to Li Tie's Everton career barely meritted a mention. Rooney, though, is hauled off early in two successive Premiership games and ITV's Premiership asks: "Has Wayne thrown a wobbler?"
It comes with the territory, of course. Anybody so young, so talented and so English will always attract headlines. Maybe it is time to protect him from a few. His greatest impact last season came from the substitutes' bench - and it wasn't until Tomasz Radzinski succumbed to injury in April that he actually made more than three successive starts. As for Everton, does anyone seriously think that the £35m the Blues could spend on new Slaven Bilics, Danny Williamsons, Ibrahima Bakayokos and Alex Nyarkos would offset the slump in merchandising sales, the undoubted slump in crowds, the decrease in live TV appearances - not to mention the atmosphere of disaffected betrayal which would course through the club? So let's ditch all talk of Rooney leaving Everton any time soon, get right behind the boy and celebrate his precocious talent. Once Rooney starts rampaging through Premiership defences again, dispatching the occasional howitzer into opposition nets and mesmerising defenders with his acceleration and ball control - as he undoubtedly will - this kind of talk will be quickly forgotten. Until the next time, of course.

Defensive injury boost for Moyes
Dec 9 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON'S defensive options have been given a double shot in the arm. Goalkeeper Richard Wright has avoided having to play out the remainder of his career in pain after a successful knee operation in the United States and full-back Tony Hibbert could be back in action for the Blues this weekend at Portsmouth. Wright is set to be back in first team contention in two months after a successful operation at Dr Richard Steadman's clinic in Colorado last week. The keeper has not made a first team appearance since September because of a persistent knee problem. An exploratory operation and a series of consultations failed to establish the cause of the pain. But last week's trip to the States finally pinpointed the problem and the keeper has now been told that when he recovers from the op the knee problem should finally be a thing of the past. The 26-year-old should be able to return to training in six weeks. There is equally good news for Hibbert, who had to miss the second half of Sunday's goalless draw with Manchester City after sustaining an ankle injury. The Goodison medical staff were worried on Sunday the injury was serious, but the prognosis today is much better.
Manager David Moyes told the ECHO: "It is not as bad as we thought and he does have a chance for the weekend. "He took a kick in the first half of Sunday's game. We thought he was going to be okay to start the second half but when he tried to put his boot back on after applying ice to his foot it was causing him problems. "It meant we had to make a quick change but a lot of credit should go to Gary Naysmith, who switched over to right-back, and Kevin Kilbane who went in at left-back."
That enforced change highlighted the Blues' lack of defensive options against City. But if Hibbert fails to prove his fitness ahead of Saturday's trip to Fratton Park, Steve Watson is set to step in at full-back. The 29-year-old made his return to action from a hernia operation for the reserves last week. He will play again tonight at Manchester City and if he proves his fitness, is set to be in contention for a return to first teamaction. Tonight's reserve team will also include strikers Kevin Campbell and Duncan Ferguson. It will be Ferguson's first competitive outing for the Blues since making peace with the manager following a row three weeks ago. Meanwhile, Bill Kenwright has urged for patience regarding young striker Wayne Rooney. The 18-year-old has been criticised for some under par performances this season. Kenwright said: "My thoughts about Wayne Rooney are exactly the same as the manager's. "We are blessed by having probably the greatest 18-year-old talent in the world at Everton, and we have to make sure we look after it. "I had my usual hour-long talk with David on Sunday and we both agreed that of all the publicity about Wayne lately - good, bad and otherwise - it could only be the kid himself who is getting hurt by it. "Wayne doesn't want to be as ineffective as he has been for Everton recently, and neither does he want to read about himself for all the wrong reasons. It worries me that the boy is getting hurt by all this."

Blues fightback sinks Toffees
Manchester City Res 3 Everton Res 2
December 10, 2003
Manchester Evening News
MANCHESTER City Reserves staged a valiant comeback last night in the Barclaycard Premiership Reserve League North against Everton at Hyde United. Having had most of the play in the first 45 minutes, it was not until the hour mark that City struck through Sibierski, who latched on to a Bosvelt pass and rifled home. But Everton mounted a spirited comeback and three minutes later had drawn level when Scott Gemmell chipped Schmeichel 20 yards out. Duncan Ferguson then put Everton in front with a powerful free kick.
However the Blues second string were not to be outdone and once Everton keeper Iain Turner had made a rash challenge on Lee Croft in the penalty area, Chris Shuker didn't miss with the spotkick.
And it got even better for the home side when Karl Bermingham's shot was only half parried by Turner and Negouai popped up to put City in front again. That was the way it stayed as the young Blues side ended Everton's seven-match winning run and lifted themselves to sixth in the table.
Manchester City Reserves next match is against Bury, their north west rivals in the Manchester Senior Cup at Hyde United next Tuesday (7pm kick off).
MAN City Team: Schmeichel, Murphy, Jordan, ND'Laryea, Onouha, Negouai, Croft, Bosvelt rep placed by J ND'Laryea 65 mins, Sibierski replaced by Bermingham 65 mins, Berkovic replaced by Tandy 65 mins, Shuker. Subs not used: Mathieson and Warrender.

Why I could quit football - Ratcliffe
By Kevin Ratcliffe, Daily Post Dec 10 2003
WHEN Kevin Ratcliffe resigned at Shrewsbury in May at the end of the craziest of his eight seasons in football management, he decided it was high time to take a few months' break from the game.
The former Everton and Wales captain (pictured) judged he would wait until what he calls "the sacking time of October and November" before pursuing another job in football. Those months have passed, the usual crop of vacancies came and went without Ratcliffe making a serious attempt to chase any of them - and now he is no longer sure he wants to go back into the business at all. The reasons for staying out grow stronger by the day for Ratcliffe, who marked his 41st birthday last Thursday. They boil down to three basic issues. First, the past six months provided Ratcliffe with a kind of complete relaxation he has not enjoyed in more than 20 years of almost constant involvement in the game as a player, coach and manager. Second, a new media role this season with BBC Wales provides him with a view of the game from the out-side looking in and a platform to speak his mind with greater freedom than he is used to. Third and perhaps most pointedly, Ratcliffe has become increasingly uncomfortable about the moral decline within professional football. He views with alarm a game fractured by the formation of the Premiership 11 years ago and corrupted by massive injections of money, very little of which trickles down to the lower divisions. The focus of his deepest disapproval are the relationships between club owners, managers and players. In spite of the salary reductions experienced by many footballers in the lower divisions following the collapse of ITV Digital, Ratcliffe believes players at all levels of a domestic game are over-paid and argues that many give poor value for money to their clubs. Ratcliffe says: "I'm starting to think about looking for some work outside football for the first time because I'm not enjoying the way the game is going. "For me, a big problem is the attitude of modern players. The amount of respect they show their clubs is absolutely shocking." The manner in which the players' morale collapsed at Leeds this season, albeit under the pressure of acute financial difficulties at Elland Road, infuriated Ratcliffe. He saw former Everton team-mate Peter Reid lose the manager's job as Leeds surrendered tamely to defeat after defeat earlier this season. "That was an example of players getting the manager the sack," says Ratcliffe. "Part of the problem these days is that players often earn a lot more than the manager and that is bound to diminish the manager's power. "If a manager clamps down on them with a fine for breaches of discipline or missing training it still does not seem to mean anything to them. "They go to the union or seek a tribunal. The discipline and commitment to a club I grew up with are values you don't see so much any more. You can see it on the pitch. Some young players today look as if they don't care if they are letting themselves down or not. And sometimes they are not being shown the bes t example by older professionals. "I don't believe the FA and the Football League deal firmly enough with players who don't act in the best interests of their clubs or the game. "The PFA have done a lot of good for football but I believe now they should be doing more to protect the well being of the game in general." Ratcliffe suggests attempts by the Football League clubs to drive down players' wage levels in the last two years have not been as successful as some are claiming. He says: "Players' wages have not come down so far. The clubs are saving money by cutting back on squad sizes. That's why so many players are out of work and it's why the Football League are now allowing clubs to take larger numbers of players on loan.
The wages in the bottom division are still quite frightening in my view. I don't mind players being well paid if they are giving their manager and their club value for money in terms of achieving things.
"But too many of them seem to be prepared to just go through the motions and pick up the money at the end of the week." Ratcliffe believes it is time for clubs to move away from the established practice of paying players salaries that are guaranteed whether they are injured, dropped or suspended. He favours an approach being tried by Bolton among a few others of keeping basic salaries to a minimum and loading the big money into bonus payments based on appearances and results. Ratcliffe says: "Clubs should be asking themselves the question: What is a player worth when he is not playing? "The answer very often is a lot more than they can afford. I think the clubs have got to look at getting better value for money from players." All of this might suggest Ratcliffe would like to blame Shrewsbury's drop into the Conference last season on the failings of his players. Not so. On the day of his resignation at Gay Meadow Ratcliffe took full responsibility for a season that saw Shrewsbury beat Crewe, Port Vale and Everton then lose to Chelsea in a money-spinning FA Cup run before crash-diving out of the Football League with a disastrous collapse of form in the final months of the Division Three campaign. Ratcliffe's views on the subject have not changed. "It was my fault," he says. "I signed those players and picked the team that went out and beat Everton and got all the credit for it. I also picked the team that had a bad second half of the season. "It was my job to pick the players up and get them going again after the Cup run but it did not happen.
"Shrewsbury made £600,000 from the Cup run - the best financial performance in years - and got relegated. It was my biggest disappointment in football." Ratcliffe says he finds the prospect of returning to management in the lower divisions increasingly less attractive. Pay rates are one turn-off, lack of job security another. Managers who occupy their positions for the extended periods Ratcliffe enjoyed at Chester (four seasons) and Shrewsbury (three and a half) are a rarity. The average period of tenure is two years and falling. Managers are becoming as disposable as razor blades as clubs demand immediate success from the men they put in charge of team affairs.
Ratcliffe says: "Manager's contracts these days are not worth the paper they are written on. Managers are getting sacked halfway through two-year contracts but many clubs don't pay them off properly or at all if they can help it. "Not enough people in the game are prepared to stand up and play hard ball with clubs over contracts that are not honoured. "They don't want to be the ones who take the club into administration. "Managers at the top end of the game are treated better than those working at the bottom. "The lower down the divisions you go the worse it gets."

Radzinski is made to wait
By Andy Hunter, Daily Post
Dec 10 2003
EVERTON are under pressure to make a decision on Tomasz Radzinski's future as Premiership rivals wait in the wings for the Canadian hitman. The Blues striker has approached club officials over extending a contract that has only 18 months left to run. Radzinski, signed from Anderlecht for £4.5million in July 2001, is keen to further his Goodison career after developing into a potent Premiership force. But he is yet to receive any feedback from the Blues over a new deal as the club consider its options - and both Blackburn and Aston Villa are ready to test Everton's resolve to keep him. The Premiership pair are monitoring the Polish-born star's position - along with Spanish side Real Valladolid - and will be encouraged by news David Moyes must sell before he can buy in the New Year. Moyes is anxious to strengthen his midfield but has little chance of landing a top target without offloading one of his few saleable assets - of which the popular Radzinski is one. Selling Wayne Rooney is not on the manager's agenda despite frenzied speculation to the contrary, leaving Moyes to decide how best to shape Everton's squad for the future. Radzinski, meanwhile, believes Moyes should persevere with a three-pronged attack despite calling a halt to those plans after just 45 minutes against Manchester City. The striker partnered Francis Jeffers in attack on Sunday with Rooney floating behind, before the 18-year-old was replaced as Moyes reverted to a 4-4-2. But Radzinski admits: "I think the best games we have played as a team are when we have three guys up front. "I believe defenders who play against three attackers have so much to do. It must be hard to deal with us all, especially with the speed of our link-up play. "I'm not going to suggest anything because I'm not the manager. But it's a very good option to have when we are all fit. "I know that 4-4-2 is a very good option, but 4-3-3 can be lethal if you have the players to do it and I think we do. The manager will always make the right decision for the team - I can guarantee that." Duncan Ferguson made his first Everton appearance since his bust-up with Moyes last night with a goal in the reserves' 3-2 defeat at Manchester City. He was joined in the team by Kevin Campbell, who pressed his claims for a recall at Pompey this Saturday. Tony Hibbert has not been ruled out of the trip to the South Coast despite suffering an ankle injury against City. The Blues right-back was forced off at half-time and is a doubt for the crucial away trip. But Moyes said: "It is not as bad as we first thought and he does have a chance for the weekend. "He took a kick in the first half of Sunday's game. We thought he was going to be okay to start the second half but when he tried to put his boot back on after applying ice to his foot it was causing him problems." Victor Onopko, meanwhile, has curtailed any chance he had of moving to Everton on loan by cutting short his trial period with the Blues. The 34-year-old Russian defender was being considered as a temporary replacement for African Nations-bound Joseph Yobo next year. But he spent just a day's training with the Blues before deciding to head back home to Russia.

Foundation acts on bloodline
By Andy Hunter, Daily Post Dec 10 2003
EVERTON have taken action to end the growing confusion surrounding their former players' charity.
The club, in conjunction with the Everton Former Players Foundation (EFPF), have dropped 'Blue-Blood' from the organisation's title with immediate effect. BlueBlood has proved a phenomenal success since its creation by David France (pictured with his valuable collection of Blues artefacts) and has raised thousands of pounds to help ex-Everton players who have fallen on hard times.
But the emergence of 'Bluenose'- which also specialises in Everton functions but, unlike BlueBlood, is not a charitable organisation - has forced a rethink. A statement released last night by the EFPF, with the full backing of the club, read: "What's in a name? Obviously a great deal if your organisation happens to be the flagship in its particular sphere - as BlueBlood undoubtedly is. "But what happens if similar names threaten your preeminence? Simple: everyone gets confused about who's doing what. "For this reason, the only officially recognised Everton charity, the Everton Former Players' Foundation, is to drop the word 'Blue-Blood' from its identification in favour of its full title. "The Foundation hopes this move will bring to an end misunderstandings which have led some Evertonians to support functions they believed were sponsored by BlueBlood. "In future, the only charity events authorised by Everton Football Club will clearly carry the 'Everton Former Players' Foundation' banner. "Not that other functions are necessarily less enjoyable than our own. It's simply to separate profit-making events which do not benefit ex-players from those of the Everton Former Players' Foundation whose profits must, by charity law, go to Everton beneficiaries only. This should end all confusion. "We are the only charity existing to help former Goodison players and we have the total backing - and trust - of Everton FC, whose chairman, Sir Philip Carter, is honorary president of the Foundation and whose patrons include Bill Kenwright, Brian Labone, Graeme Sharp and Barry Horne. "Last year we raised £104,000 of which £103,000 was spent on the urgent needs of former players. "Most of the money went on orthopaedic surgery as old injuries caught up with our heroes of the past. With surgery so costly - a replacement knee costs £8.000 - we always have a desperate need for extra funds."

Man City Res 3, Everton Res 2
Dec 10 2003
Daily Post
DUNCAN FERGUSON marked his return to action with a goal as Everton were undeservedly beaten by City in Hyde. Steve Watson, Scot Gemmill and Kevin Campbell were also in the Everton side with Watson making his first appearance since October after surgery on a hernia A dull first half which ended goalless had seen chances for Campbell but a combination of good goalkeeping and missed opportunities denied Everton a handsome lead. It wasn't long however before the second half sprung to life as, on thehour, City took the lead. Paul Bosvelt played in the dangerous Sibierski and the Frenchman finished with style past the unlucky Iain Turner. Everton were quick to respond and did so with vigour, first equalising through a tremendous lob from Gemmill, beating son of Peter, Kasper Schmeichel in the City goal. Within two minutes the Blues were ahead, the visitors were awarded a free-kick 20 yards out and Ferguson (pictured), playing his first game since his training ground bust-up with David Moyes, sent in a vicious left-foot drive which flew past the City keeper.
Niclas Alexandersson might have made it three minutes later but his curling shot just missed the post. The home side got back into the game with 12 minutes to go thanks to a dubious penalty awarded after Turner was penalised for fouling Lee Croft. Chris Shuker converted the spot-kick.
City scored their winner on 82 minutes when Sean O'Hanlon was beaten on the left, Karl Bermingham's initial shot was saved by Turner but Christian Negouai was on hand to fire home and win it for Kevin Keegan's second string. Despite the result the return of a number of experienced players would have boosted the watching Blues boss Moyes. MAN CITY: Schmeichel, Murphy, Jordan, D'Laryea N, Onouha, Negouai, Croft, Bosvelt (D'Laryea J 66), Sibierski (Tandy 66), Berkovic (Bermingham 66), Shuker. Subs: Warrender, Matthewson. EVERTON: Turner, O'Hanlon, Clarke, Wilson, Nyarko, Watson, Gemmill, Campbell (Moogan A 73), Alexandersson, Osman, Ferguson. Subs: Symes, Gerrard, Wynne, Hughes.

Watson to the rescue
Dec 10 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
STEVE WATSON is ready to answer a call to arms for Everton after returning to competitive action last night. The 29-year-old is eager to return to the Blues' first team for Saturday's trip to Portsmouth after missing the last eight matches because of a hernia problem. He could step in to replace Tony Hibbert, who is a doubt for Saturday because of an ankle injury picked up against Manchester City. Despite Watson's two month absence he remains the club's top scorer. Everton have failed to net in seven of their last 10 games. Watson hopes to help rectify that at Fratton Park after completing 90 minutes for the reserves last night at Manchester City. He said: "I would love to add to the five goals I got before I was out, but first I have got to get back in the side. "I'm pleased to have played last night. Hopefully that will put me into contention for a place in the squad on Saturday." Duncan Ferguson also returned last night after a spell out through a combination of ill-health and a training ground row which led to him spending time away from Bellefield. He netted in the Blues' 3-2 defeat. Watson added: "Obviously me and Dunc have been missing for a while so it was important to get 90 minutes. Hopefully we will be involved in some way on Saturday. "It is important because we haven't got the biggest squad and me and Duncan have got a bit of experience." Viktor Onopko is not set to become an addition to the Everton squad after the Rus-sian international cut short his trial spell with the Blues. The 34-year-old had been earmarked as a short-term signing to cover for Joseph Yobo, who is set to miss six weeks of the season in the New Year when he takes part in the African Nations Cup for Nigeria. But while Blues boss David Moyes is looking to bolster his defence and is also keen to bring in a new midfielder, the club are not in negotiations to extend the deals of any of the players currently at the club. Tomasz Radzinski is believed to be eager to sign a new long-term deal. The Canadian international, who has been linked with both Blackburn and Aston Villa, only has 18 months of his current deal to run. Everton have received no enquiries for the striker but he remains one of the club's most saleable assets and if a bid were to be tabled it would test the club's resolve. Only David Unsworth of Everton's host of senior squad play-ers in the final year of their contracts has been offered a new deal. He has turned down a one-year extension on reduced terms and the club have yet to table an improved bid.
Scot Gemmill, Niclas Alexandersson, Peter Clarke and Steve Simonsen are among the other players in the final year of their deal and yet to be offered fresh terms.

Moyes looks to the basics
Dec 10 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
LAST season David Moyes produced a blueprint for Premiership success on a string budget. It is a masterplan which a number of top flight bosses have tried to mimic in this campaign. Sam Allardyce is among them, and credited the example set by the Blues on their march up the table last season for the Trotters' recent turn-around in fortunes. After a torrid start to the season, Allardyce went 'back to basics' in an attempt to earn the kind of 1-0 wins which made last season such a successful one for Everton. Allardyce's approach made Bolton's 2-0 defeat of Everton 10 days ago somewhat ironic. It could also have convinced the Goodison chief it was time to take a leaf out of his own managerial handbook. The emphasis over the last week has been on shutting out the opposition, using that as a base to eventually introduce more flamboyance into Everton's game. Sunday's goalless draw against Manchester City was far from a classic - yet another bore draw in front of the live TV cameras. But the result was enough to leapfrog Aston Villa. Moyes admits: "We are not playing exactly the way we want to play at the moment. "You have to start from somewhere. We made great progess last season but we have had to take a few steps backwards in order to get the basics right. "At the moment, that means not conceding goals and being hard to play against, but we want to try and play football that gives us a chance of winning games." It is an approach which has worked for Allardyce. He explained: "Last season, Everton made themselves one of the best 1-0 teams in the country and that is why they were shooting up the league. If we can get that in our make-up we won't go far wrong." The win over Everton extended Bolton's run of games without conceding a goal to five. But it wasn't until the clash with the Blues that Allardyce's men really opened up. "We were able to entertain the fans with our football," added Allardyce. "But four games ago it was a case of having to battle away." If the Blues are to follow that same pattern, then expect more of the same at Portsmouth on Saturday. Moyes haswanted more attacking flair. The signings of Francis Jeffers and James McFadden backed up that approach. But, mysteriously, a lack of goals has undermined the club's progress. The manager saw enough on Sunday to suggest the team are heading towards an up-turn in form. The Blues may even have won the game had Thomas Gravesen enjoyed better fortune with his late chance which hit the woodwork - and extended his run without a goal for the club to 38 matches. "We have been creating chances and opportunities. Whoever it is falling to, we have not been able to produce the finish. "The starting formation on Sunday was aimed at trying to give us more goals. We haven't scored many goals recently so I decided to go with three strikers. "For the first 20 minutes, I thought it went quite well, but we needed to tighten up in the second half. "We need to be tight at the back and hard to beat first and then maybe we can add a bit more flair." And when it comes to flair, the Blues are not lacking options.

Sharp-shooter saves seaside sojourn
Post Past With Phil Redmond, Daily Post
Dec 11 2003
THERE'S only been one league visit to Fratton Park in modern times, when the reigning champions travelled to the south coast back in November 1987. Now 1987 was a very different world for the travelling football fan. Nowadays according to the Sky stereotype, an awayday is a jolly, smiley outing for a replica-kitted Mr and Mrs Middle England and their kids. In 1987, however in post Heysel/pre-Hillsborough Thatcherite Britain, we football fans were seen as "an enemy within", and according to the tabloids of the day we were about as popular as Osama Bin Laden. An away match in those days was very much an endurance test with civil liberties denied by police sick of the then very real hooligan threat. For the Portsmouth game, as an example, the game was made all ticket - a rarity in those days - and the 200 or so ticketless Toffees who travelled down on the off chance of a pay gate found themselves corralled in a police compound for three hours without toilet facilities. This was before getting stuck on the special back to Liverpool, whether they were going there or not.
The match itself was a big one for both teams as Colin Harvey's Everton tried desperately to hang onto the coat-tails of the classic Barnes-Beardsley era Liverpool team. The Reds had spent big in the summer while the champions had left well alone, and now, in the autumn of 1987, the chickens were coming home to roost. Howard Kendall had left, citing the continuing Euro ban as the major factor, and quite a number of the established stars were suffering with injury and lack of form.
Liverpool, meanwhile, were flying. A decent October had left the Blues about eight or nine points behind the Reds and hopes were still high that a title challenge would result. Pompey, on the other hand, were struggling at the wrong end of the table on their return to the big time. The 2,500 Blues who actually saw the game witnessed a messy scramble of a game on a quagmire of a pitch as Alan Ball's collection of wizened old journeymen like Chris Kamara, Noel Blake and Kevin Ball attempted to kick the champions back up north and a very unfriendly home crowd hurled anything they could get their hands on at the Evertonians shivering on the open end. Chances were at a premium and the game was settled by a 25-yard Graeme Sharp rocket late on. Even better was the news that the all-conquering Liverpool team had been held at home by Norwich. Dreams of another title began to form, but alas they were to fade just as quickly.

Campbell to answer Blues SOS
Report By Andy Hunter Daily Post
Dec 11 2003
DAVID MOYES is ready to turn to a traditional target man to solve Everton's alarming lack of firepower. The Blues manager has called on the more diminutive talents of Tomasz Radzinski, Wayne Rooney and Francis Jeffers for most of this season due to the absences of Kevin Campbell and Duncan Ferguson. But the return of the big men this week has bolstered an attack Moyes admits has sorely missed a physical presence this term. Everton have scored in only three of their last 10 games and Campbell at least has a good chance of facing Portsmouth this Saturday. The 33-year-old, who has made only four appearances this season due to injury, was given a 73-minute run-out against Manchester City reserves on Tuesday having made a notable return in Sunday's Premiership clash. And Moyes revealed Campbell can have a vital role to play in Everton's bid to pull clear of danger. The Blues boss said: "I thought when Kevin came on he gave us that option we had been missing. We've said this before, but sometimes you need a big player up front you can hit the ball to and up to the moment we haven't had that. "We have had to be really precise with our passing to try and play in Wayne, Franny and Tomasz." Moyes continued: "But when you have the big fellow up there you can be a little bit less careful and get the ball up there knowing that Kevin will fight and scrap for it as will Duncan Ferguson. "There are different ways of playing and we have tried a lot this season with the smaller strikers because of injury to the two big lads." Meanwhile, Steve Watson has declared himself fit after successfully coming through the reserves' 3-2 defeat to Manchester City on Tuesday. Watson has been sidelined since undergoing a hernia operation two months ago. He said: "It has not been nice to sit and watch what has been happening, the lads have had a bad time and I did not believe when I went in for my operation that I would still be top scorer when I came back. "We are just outside the bottom three and that has to be addressed straight away. "It would be a lot more worrying if we were coming out of March in this position, but we do not want to be where we are. "We felt we could do better than last season, and although it looks at this stage as if that will be difficult, we know we are better than this." He added: "We must get out of the group at the bottom and that has to happen soon. "We do not want to be looking for the 40-point mark in the spring, I have been there and it is not a good feeling. "But there is no problem with the spirit. It has not been a problem, we train hard and it is very competitive. We all go about the game as we always have."

Pistone returns to buoy Moyes
Report By David Prior Daily Post
Dec 12 2003
ALESSANDRO PISTONE yesterday offered boss David Moyes a single ray of light as Everton's defensive gloom deepened. The Italian returned to training and reported no reaction to the hernia problems that have been dogging him recently - even forcing the 28-year-old back to his homeland last week to seek further advice from a specialist. Pistone's latest niggle was deemed not to require further surgery - and now he is targeting a return as early as next week. "To be honest I was fit last week," he said. "I had just completed a full week of training before going to Italy, so it's just about fitness, it's going to be about a week now probably. "Training this morning was okay. I just hope that I'm finally over it now. At the moment I feel okay so I'm just training and let's see how it goes."
Pistone has already been under the knife twice in the last six months, and he added: "It was great to hear that I don't need any more surgery. "I was really worried, just because I couldn't explain what was going to happen, so I was really happy when the surgeon said that there was no hernia again."
Pistone's return failed to alleviate Moyes' short-term problems at the back, however. With the side travelling down to the south coast today ahead of their clash at Portsmouth tomorrow, Tony Hibbert and Joseph Yobo are both doubts, to add to long-term absentees David Weir, goalkeeper Richard Wright, and Pistone. Hibbert picked up an ankle injury against Manchester City last Sunday while Yobo is still suffering from a neck problem. With Everton out of the bottom three only on goal difference and with just one league win in eight outings, further injury problems are the last thing Moyes needs. Moyes said: "Joseph has been a bit sceptical about heading the ball, while Tony is still touch and go. He's keen to travel down to Portsmouth and we'll give him every chance, but I would say his chances of making the game are only 50-50 at best." Moyes must be grateful he has the ever-reliable David Unsworth to turn to. The veteran defender, who is still unsure of his future after turning down a new contract with his current deal ending in the summer, has filled in admirably at centre-half as Moyes' defensive problems heightened. Unsworth has figured in successive clean sheets after switching from his more usual left-back or left midfield role. Unsworth said: "I am enjoying it. I spent the early days of my career, the first four or five seasons, playing as a centrehalf, so the transition has not been a problem. "It has taken a little bit of getting used to, but the more you play there, the more comfortable you become. Long may the clean sheets continue."
Moyes is short of options at full-back, with Gary Naysmith finishing Sunday's game on the right and Kevin Kilbane on the left. But Naysmith may well have to fill the role again if Hibbert does not recover, while Steve Watson, back in contention after eight games out with a hernia problem, could also be pressed into service at full-back. Moyes has Scot Gemmill and Duncan Ferguson also available again after a reserve run out and has more choice up front. He added: "I haven't made my mind up about who is going to be in the squad yet. But I am pleased that they're back and they're involved because we need everybody back. We've been short." Kevin Campbell is likely to return in attack with Tomasz Radzinski, Wayne Rooney and Francis Jeffers to choose from as a partner. Rooney could be rested on the bench after a troubled few weeks where he has been substituted in successive matches.

Moyes looks to the back
Dec 11 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES is convinced he must add to his defensive options in the January transfer window.
The extended absence from the Everton squad of Alessandro Pistone has forced the Blues boss to consider reinforcements. Viktor Onopko was brought in last week for a short trial with the Blues but the 34-year-old Russian international cut short his stay on Merseyside this week. Midfield had been the focus of the manager's spending plans but the news that top target Sean Davis is now happy to stay at Fulham and in negotiations to sign a new contract has left the Blues boss to explore other areas of the team in need of strengthening. There is a very limited transf er budget at Moyes' disposal but there could be an opportunity to bring in a player on loan or to make a short-term free-signing when the transfer window re-opens in January. "If you look at our squad it is in defence where we are a little bit short of numbers," he admitted. "It is something we are looking at. Alessandro Pistone has missed much of the season and he is a player who can play in two or three positions. That has thrown us and left us short. "David Unsworth coming into the centre and doing well has been a big bonus for us. But in general at the moment we are very short of defenders."
At Manchester City last weekend, Tony Hibbert sustained an ankle injury which forced Gary Naysmith to switch to right-back and midfielder Kevin Kilbane to fill in for the Scot. Hibbert is rated as 50/50 by Moyes for the trip to Portsmouth at the weekend. But the return from injury in midweek of Steve Watson for the reserves has given Moyes another option for the right-back slot. And Joseph Yobo, who has missed the last couple of games with a neck injury, has also been training this week, and could be in line for a return. The Nigerian is set to be missing for six weeks in the New Year because of the African Nations Cup.

Blues go Full Monty
Dec 11 2003 Liverpool Echo
EVERTON'S Independent Blues raised more than £1,500 for bowel cancer equipment at Fazakerley Hospital last week - by entertaining as many guests as they appalled! Five of the supporters club's bravest members performed an impromptu "Full Monty" striptease at the end of the charity fund-raiser at The Railway in Kirkby. "You have to admire the lads," said Independent Blues spokesman Ian McDonald. "We had women throwing knickers and I was only introducing!" A signed Wayne Rooney shirt raised £250, while Franny Jeffer s turned up to present a shirt to club secretary Barry Murray

Rubbish talk
Icliverpool And Daily PostDec 12 2003
Rubbish talk
IT'S rubbish to talk of Everton selling Wayne Rooney, and stupid to talk of sacking Moyes. Osman, Rooney, Clarke, McFadden, Hibbert, Chadwick and Yobo - they are the future on Everton. The rest of them are playing out contracts. And why boo the team you support? Why give Campbell grief? Evertonians have short memories.
Come on Blues! Shut the boo boys up.
F MacKenzie (via e-mail)
Sell Rooney - now!
SURELY it is time for the facts to be faced at Goodison Park. We have a mega superstar reputed to be worth in excess of £30million who is simply not getting the service from his team-mates to enable him to use his great talents at Everton. If Everton aren't going to use him as needed, they might as well sell him and solve their debt problem at a stroke. Len Capeling endorse this!
R Edwards, Greasby
Backing Moyes
ALL this talk of Wayne Rooney playing badly, throwing wobblers and leaving the club is out of order.
What the fans and other people have forgotten is that David Moyes told us last season, when Wayne broke out on to the scene, that he was going to protect him by not playing him all the time. Just remember what happened to Fowler with his injuries while Michael Owen is also suffering. Please everyone, let Dave do his job because he knows what he is doing.
Wayne will be back up to scratch soon.
Paul Tyler (via e-mail)
Same old Blues
THE pressure is on from everywhere it seems and questions are being asked about Everton.
Is Moyes a chancer? Is Rooney the real thing? Can Everton afford the price of a cup of tea?
It's probably best just to ignore all this. Crisis, what crisis? We are Everton, this is what we go through every single season bar last year. We haven't been a good team since 1987 and we've been battling relegation most seasons since 1994. We can't afford to buy our way out of trouble so we have to buy young and nurture the talent, so in three or four years the new EFC will start to take shape. That is the life of an Everton fan, that is my life. Crisis? This is normal.
Billy Mahone (via e-mail)
Doubting Tomasz?
ABOUT the statement from Everton concerning Tomasz Radzinski. Let's credit Radz with some intelligence. If the club have said they'll talk about another contract at the end of the season, it's obvious that they are waiting to see how Jeffers and Rooney come on and if they do it's going to be "thanks but no thanks". No wonder he's looked pre-occupied lately. He must feel he's working his tripe off while the big earners are in the treatment room all the time.
Sean Childer, Thornton
Pick up bill, Bill
BILL KENWRIGHT should back David Moyes with money. Last year, Kenwright said Moyes was the best manager in the world, but even the best can only work with what they have got. It is obvious to everyone that we need two central midfield players, one creative and one a workhorse, and a centre-back. If the board doesn't support Moyes, how can the team progress and how can we expect to keep the manager and players like Rooney?
Damian Hughes, Liverpool

It's hard being an upbeat Blue at present
Fanscene By Mark O'Brien Daily Post
Dec 12 2003
IT'S a hard life. That's what everyone says when they see the kipper on Victor Onopko, anyway.
Are things so bad now that even crochety old defenders with an eye for one big score before retirement don't fancy throwing their lot in with us? Or was it just the lack of a Stannah stairlift at Bellefield that put him off? On the other hand, perhaps David Moyes decided he didn't need to take a chance on the Russian given David Unsworth's renaissance at the heart of the Blues' defence.
At a time when loyalties and attitudes are being questioned at every turn, Unsworth, whose future is far from certain, has been a shining example of professional pride. In all honesty, his performance was one of the few positives to be taken from Sunday's televised treat against Manchester City. The manager and the players interviewed after the game have a duty to look for positives, and at least we didn't lose - thanks in most part to Robbie Fowler's star shaped shooting boots - but quite frankly you've got to ask questions if you can't score against one of Kevin Keegan's sides, particularly this one. The experiment with the three strikers was hailed as a bold move, but if more strikers equals more goals then why doesn't every team play with a pack of forwards? Obviously it must be tempting to jig things around and make changes when you're in a bad patch, but often you just exacerbate the problem. The last thing that players lacking in confidence need is something else, like a new formation, to think about. Another small consolation was the impact that the sorely missed Kevin Campbell made for the last 20 minutes of the match. The fact remains that we still look better when we play with a big man or a 'physical presence' up front - in fact there are few teams in the Premiership who don't - and someone who can hold the ball up will probably come in handy at Fratton Park tomorrow. Harry Redknapp's side have hit a sticky patch after a good start to the season but they will be looking at a home game against us as the perfect opportunity to pick up three valuable points. Sadly, that's how teams view us at present, and it's only our players who can change that. They certainly have to start with a lot more conviction than they did at Bolton and Blackburn, because if they think the fans were miffed there, imagine how they'll react to a poor show after travelling over 200 miles to stand in an uncovered end two weeks before Christmas!
So come on Everton, do your bit to make life just that little bit less hard.

Ablett's after Yuletide high
Academy Football With Chris Wright Daily Post
Dec 12 2003
EVERTON under-17s look to end the year on a high by going top of the FA Premier Academy League Group A table tomorrow. Gary Ablett's side will be going all out for victory against Crewe Alexandra at Netherton tomorrow (kick-off 11am), hoping it will take back to the top of the table. The Blues are just a point behind leaders Manchester United and will need the Red Devils to slip up at home to Blackburn Rovers to overtake them. Nine goals in their last two matches, plus just two defeats and 15 conceded show how well Ablett's side have adapted so far in first year as professionals.
Ablett said: "United drew at Crewe last weekend and now we face Crewe. They have struggled a bit, but they have got a lot of players back after injury so it is a game we can't take for granted. But with it being our first home match for about two months it would be nice to go top. It would be a great way to off for Christmas with a win hopefully." Ablett added: "I can't praise the boys highly enough. They have adjusted to the full-time, day-in, day-out of the job, which was new to them. It was also new to me so we are all learning together. But the way they have applied themselves over this past four or five months has been first-class. Another pleasing thing is we are getting some of the U16s involved and last week John Irving, who is an U15 player, got 10 or 15 minutes and that experience will stand him in good stead. "So we are managing to get five or six of the schoolboys involved each week, which is great." Ablett has no major injury concerns ahead of the final match of the year.
Neil Dewsnip's under-19s go into their final game at Netherton against Bolton (KO 11am) with different priorities. After an impressive eight-game unbeaten run in the Academy League the Blues have lost their last two matches, the latest a 4-1 defeat to Manchester City. And added to the premature end to their FA Youth Cup campaign with last week's third round defeat at Coventry, Dewsnip's side will be desperate for a good performance and positive result against Bolton.
Dewsnip said: "It is our last League game before Christmas, but we play Tranmere in the Senior next Tuesday. But having lost the last two league games, it would be nice to finish before Christmas with a win."

Fran: We need a goal
Dec 12 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
THE form guide suggests Everton's first league visit to Portsmouth in 16 years is unlikely to provide a festive goal rush. The clubs have shared just three goals in 1,020 minutes of competitive football over the last month, with the Blues having failed to find the target in seven of their last 10 competitive matches. But a glance down the Goodison Park squad list illustrates the number of options available to David Moyes as he attempts to kickstart the scoring. Most clubs in the top flight would look on enviously at a collection of forwards which includes Tomasz Radzinski, Wayne Rooney, Francis Jeffers, Duncan Ferguson and Kevin Campbell. For Jeffers, the situation is somewhat ironic. "When me and Kevin (Campbell) were playing together four or five years ago that was it, we didn't really have anybody else," reflected the 22-year-old. "It was basically the two of us but thankfully we were banging in the goals left, right and centre. But that is the way it goes sometimes." By this stage of the 1999/2000 season the Jeffers/Campbell combination had plundered 13 goals in 14 matches and was the most prolific in the top flight. Now 33, Campbell has started just two matches this season because of a string of injury problems. And it was his absence from the attacking ranks which was cited by the manager this week as a huge loss over the last three months, and Jeffers understands where the manager is coming from. He explained: "I tend to play better with a big man. I don't think I am the same sort of player as Wayne or Radz. Radz is more of a runner down the channels and Wayne tends to drop in the hole, while I like to play in and around the box and put runs in those areas. "But obviously because we are all small that is probably the one thing the manager was looking at. Maybe we do need a big man up there." After both Campbell and Ferguson came through Tuesday night's reserve defeat at Manchester City unscathed, Moyes must be tempted to throw Campbell back into the first team starting line-up. Jeffers, who had to be patient on the sidelines following his September 1 return on a season-long loan from Arsenal, knows that after starting the last two matches a possible return to the team for Campbell or even Ferguson would limit his chances of keeping hold of his starting berth. "I know Duncan and Kevin both played for the reserves the other night and they do give us another option," he said. "It depends what formation you want to play. What is important is that we have variation at the club now because we have a group of strikers who are all different and all offer something. "There is competition here. If the gaffer wants to play either Duncan or Kevin then obviously there is only one place going but that is up to the gaffer. "He will probably change it throughout the season and I am hoping I can stay in the team. "On the training ground the strikers are linking well and playing well. We are just in need of a goal. "You can even see that on the training pitch." Jeffers himself has yet to score since his return, although he has only started three matches and made five brief appearances as a substitute.
He admits there is a confidence problem amongst the strikers, who have only mustered nine goals between them so far this season. But Jeffers knows that it needs one good afternoon's work in front of goal to change the pattern. He explains: "I need that first to go in and then I will keep going.
"I am getting sharper because of the last two matches. No chances fell to me last week but on another day they will. "It was difficult for the strikers against City because we didn't get much of the ball. We just need a couple of goals to spark us back to life at the moment. "It will give all the strikers a lift once one of us scores. For instance, it wouldn't be a case of Radz scoring and then me being low on confidence because I haven't scored. "We just need to start scoring as a team and then I am sure the habit will spread. "We just need to keep going and to start doing the business at Portsmouth on Saturday." It remains to be seen if Jeffers will be amongst the strikers given the opportunity to do that, and whether he will be joined in the side by the fit again Campbell.

Everton v Norwich tickets
Dec 12 2003 Liverpool Echo
EVERTON'S FA Cup ticket plans for the visit of Norwich City on Saturday, January 3 (kick-off 3pm) are as follows: Normal home league match prices apply, with a junior/over 65s price of £14 available in all stands. Please note that under FA regulations and as condition of the safety certificate, Norwich City have claimed 6,058 tickets in the Bullens Road Stand. Therefore the following season ticket holders in the Bullens Road Stand will be offered a best available alternative seat on application:
Paddock Stand - Supporters seated in seat numbers 151 and below (All Rows).
Lower Bullens - Supporters seated in seat numbers 190 and below (All Rows).
Upper Bullens - Supporters seated in seat numbers 189 and below (All Rows).
Tickets will be on sale to season ticket holders at the Park End Box Office from Monday, December 15, 2003 at 9.30am. Season ticket holders may claim their own seat (subject to availability) on production of cup priority voucher no. 22 (fully completed with their seat details) at the Park End Box Office until close of business on Friday, December 19 (4.30pm). For this game only season ticket holders may claim their seat by phone on 08707-3837866, callers will need to provide their client reference, block, row and seat details as stated on their computer insert along with the registered seat holders name and address details. Supporters should note that a maximum of four season ticket seats can only be purchased any one call. A £1.60 charge per ticket and a £1.60 transaction charge will be applicable for this service. Postal applications may be made enclosing the correct remittance, relevant completed voucher and a stamped addressed envelope to the Box Office, Goodison Park, Liverpool L4 4EL. Supporters should however be mindful of delays in posting, the club cannot accept responsibility for late receipt of applications. Tickets will be available on general sale from Monday, December 22 (non-season ticket holder seats) from the Park End Box Office and also to postal applicants, subject to availability on general sale using our 24 hour Dial-A-Seat service 08707-3837866 from Monday, January 22. There is a £1.60 charge per ticket plus a £1.60 booking charge for this service. Lounge members will need to present cup priority voucher no 22 or FA Cup third round voucher from their Season Ticket books to gain entry to their usual seats.
* The sale of cup tickets will cease at 1pm on the Leicester City matchday Saturday, December 20, the Box Office will however be open after the game.

Onopko transfer not dead
Dec 12 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON'S interest in Viktor Onopko is still very much alive. The 34-year-old Russian international skipper left Merseyside this week after a brief spell with the Blues having not agreed terms on a short-term contract with Everton. But the ECHO understands the centre-back is mulling over the offer of a deal until the end of the season and that he remains keen to taste life in the Premiership.
David Moyes is intent on adding to his defensive ranks because the club will lose Joseph Yobo to the African Nations Cup for six weeks in the New Year and David Weir is still recovering from a knee ligament injury. The Russian season ended this month. Onopko has been offered the opportunity to stay in his homeland but the new season does not get underway until March and the defender wants to maintain his fitness ahead of next summer's Euro 2004 finals. He is expected to give the Blues an answer in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime manager David Moyes is set to call on two of his most experienced Evertonians to guide the club away from the Premiership danger zone.
David Unsworth and Kevin Campbell are set to start at Portsmouth tomorrow after impressing Moyes this week. The manager said: "I think David Unsworth has done terrifically at centre-back. He has played really well in the last two games. "He has been strong and has been nice and controlled in everything he has done." Unsworth has helped Everton keep clean sheets in three of their last four matches. But in attack the Blues have struggled, which could mean a return to the side for Campbell after coming through Tuesday night's reserve match unscathed. Moyes adds: "We need to try and find some goals from somewhere because we are looking to go there and get a win.
"Kevin Campbell and Duncan Ferguson played this week and they give us more choice and some options. "Kevin's form last year, particularly in the first half up until January before he got injured, was excellent. He was a big reason why we did so well last year. His stature is important to us but he gives us vital experience as well." Joseph Yobo is expected to return to the squad tomorrow after missing the last two matches with a neck injury. Tony Hibbert is still rated 50/50 and a decision on the right-back will be left until tomorrow. Steve Watson is also expected to travel with the squad to Fratton Park after completing his first match for almost two months on Tuesday.

'Morale high at Fratton'
Dec 12 2003 Liverpool Echo
PORTSMOUTH defender Arjan de Zeeuw insists morale is still high at Fratton Park despite a run of eight defeats in 10 league games that has plunged Harry Redknapp's side towards the relegation zone. Portsmouth have won just two games in the last three months in the Barclaycard Premiership to lie just two points outside the bottom three. Redknapp's team have failed to score in five of their last six games and were knocked out of the Carling Cup by arch-rivals Sou thampton las t week.
But de Zeeuw believes last weekend's goalless draw at Midd lesbroug h has boosted the side's confidence ahead of tomorrow's crucial home clash. De Zeeuw said: "The draw at Middlesbrough was good for morale. We had lost a few and were thinking 'oh hell'. "We'd slipped down a few places recently and needed something away from home. That's why it was such an important point.
"We've got Everton and Tottenham in our next two home games and we have to fancy ourselves.
"The aim is to stay up and we know in our own minds we 're good enough to do that." Pompey must do without de Zeeuw and Czech star Patrik Berger tomorrow, with both starting two-match bans.

Martyn shirt is Wright target
Dec 13 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
RICHARD WRIGHT has vowed to be back challenging Nigel Martyn for the Everton goalkeeping shirt by early February as he looks forward to bidding farewell to the most frustrating year of his career.
The player underwent an operation on his knee at Dr Richard Steadman's clinic in Colorado last week. It finally seems to have brought an end to the knee problem which has dogged him since January. Steadman, the world's leading knee specialist, has now reassured Wright he is not facing the prospect of playing the rest of his career in pain. The player has been set a rehabilitation schedule which should see him back in contention for a first team place in seven weeks. "We can't rush things because I want to make sure that everything is right and I don't want a scenario where I am back to where I was six weeks ago," admits Wright. "But I want to get back at the earliest opportunity. "Nigel is a good goal-keeper who has played at the highest level and who is very experienced. I knew that if he got in the team it was going to be hard for me and I was desperate to keep my place. "But it got to the stage where I said 'no, I have got to make sure I get myself right and then start fighting for my place again'. "Then I got the knee problem at the start of January, had the silly accident with my shoulder in the summer and the knee persisted into this season." After two unsuccessful operations on the knee in this country there was a worry at Everton that the player would be forced to play the remainder of his career in pain. Wright is relieved that won't be the case. He adds: "There was a point where I thought I may have to play with it permanently. I played throug h it fro m Christmas of last year . "I was getting through games and having to get ice on it to get the swelling down. But the weird thing about the injury is that it didn't bother me when I was doing movement, it was just kicking the ball which proved a real nightmare. "And when you are a goalkeeper who has to smash the ball halfway down the pitch a lot of the time that can cause a problem. I had to get it sorted out. "It has been very frustrating, but I hope everything is sorted out now."

Portsmouth 1, Everton 2 (D, Post)
Dec 15 2003 By David Prior At Fratton Park, Daily Post
DAVID MOYES thought that dropping Wayne Rooney to the bench would also drop him out of the limelight. Fat chance. Like it or lump it - and the Scot clearly lumps it with some venom - his prodigious young talent is seldom off the back pages not because he is England's youngest scorer or Goodison's terrace darling. Nor is it even because he's got a photogenic girlfriend, a sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola or backstage passes to Elton John gigs. Rooney-mania is such because of afternoons like Saturday. Rooney-mania is such because an 18-year-old from Croxteth can start the game as a substitute, turn the game within seconds of his introduction, score the winner, have a couple of scuffles, and still find time for the sort of incident that will still be talked about when he's as old as David Unsworth. It's Moyes' job of course to scald journalists for the somewhat predictable stream of Rooney questions - he has a duty to protect the club's jewel and the player's indifferent form this season has undoubtedly been to a large degree due to the increased burden of expectation placed on him by supporters and media. But after this eventful affair at Fratton Park even the Scot must have sensed he was fighting a losing battle - Wayne Rooney was the name on everyone's lips afterwards not because of who he was, but because of what he had done in the previous hour and a half. What ultimately he had done was to earn Everton their first win away from home since April. Building on some of the improvements shown in the Carling Cup at Middlesbrough, and to a lesser extent last week against Manchester City, the Blues were organised, resolute, and, once they'd papered over the vast hole that allowed Pompey to take the lead, secure at the back. Oh, and they had a bit of style too. Gary Naysmith and Kevin Kilbane linked fluently down the left, Alan Stubbs and Unsworth coped heroically at centre-back, Lee Carsley and Thomas Gravesen toiled doggedly in midfield; for once Everton appeared to fuse as a team. In the end, they deserved a more flattering result. The afternoon had begun dismally for the Blues though. Even before Jason Roberts' opener, the sheets of torrential rain that soaked Everton's travelling support - cowering miserably in Pompey's only uncovered stand - must have forced even the hardiest of supporter to analyse the wisdom of their trip south. And when Teddy Sheringham sliced open Everton's defence to release full debutant Jason Roberts for the home side's opener, the prospect of a quick exit must have flickered invitingly amongst the tarpaulin of Kagools. But fans who travel for six hours to watch their team play are of course made of much sturdier stuff, even if at 3.15pm an Everton comeback seemed about as likely as a burst of sunlight cracking the slate south coast sky.
There were mitigating factors that seemed to have guaranteed a difficult afternoon for Everton. A glance at the subs' bench would show one goalkeeper, one midfielder and three attacking players; enquiries over what Moyes would have done had an injury befallen a defender on Saturday would doubtless have been met with an answer along the lines of "we'll cross that bridge when we get to it". As it was, Alessandro Pistone was rushed back in to cover for the injuries that had left Moyes piecing together a makeshift backline. One area that Moyes could not blame his reinforcements, though, was up front, and after 24 minutes Everton's afternoon took a turn for the better. Steve Watson's injury saw him replaced by Rooney, the 18-year-old slotting in on the right-hand side behind the strikers, and, just like on so many occasions last season, his introduction inspired a vast improvement in Everton's performance. And within three minutes Everton were level. And what a goal. Kevin Kilbane's ball released the impressive Gary Naysmith, who drove in on goal and selflessly centred for the incoming Lee Carsley to calmly sidefoot in the left corner of the net. It was the Republic of Ireland international's first goal since April, but more importantly it was his club's first in four games. The relief, not least among the travelling support who suddenly felt a lot drier and warmer, was palpable. For the rest of the half Everton were dominant, for once revelling in the superiority that the leveller afforded them, for once not helping an opponent up when the situation demanded sustained pressure. On the half hour Everton could easily have gone ahead when Thomas Gravesen pounced on a slack pass from the hosts, and after the Dane slipped a ball to Tomasz Radzinski, his shot was dragged across goal. A minute later and Rooney was handed a free header at the near post from Gary Naysmith's corner, but he did not connect cleanly and the ball bobbled away for another corner. At the back Unsworth and Stubbs were busily trying to attone for their contribution to the vast swathes of space that Roberts had roamed to put Pompey ahead, and Stubbs intercepted a replica Sheringham pass that Ayegbeni Yakubu was poised to pounce on.
But Everton were the fluent force on the pitch, and three minutes before half-time came the goal - and the goalscorer - that every Blues fan would happily have travelled half the country to see.
Naysmith, marauding effectively once again down the left, delivered a deep cross that Pavel Srnicek could only flap as far as Rooney, whose powerful left-footed shot forced itself past the Pompey stopper for the youngster's first goal since August. It was no more than Everton deserved, but that did not stop the air of disbelief that not only were Everton scoring again, but they were threatening to win a game away from home. There was no let-up after the break, either. Now playing towards their sodden supporters, the second half began with a series of corners for the visitors and Kilbane's 25-yard bolt called Srnicek into a fairly desperate save. Five minutes in and Rooney was at the centre of the action again, Kilbane feeding him on the right-hand side and the striker cleverly centred for Radzinski, who was just unable to force in from point-blank range. Just after the hour mark and Everton were given a warning, with Yakubu firing wide from just six yards - Harry Redknapp later admitting the out-of-form striker should have "buried" it. So with 20 minutes to go came the moment that would distinguish the afternoon for reasons other than a rare away victory. Rooney's tussle with Steve Stone ended with youngster shoving the bald midfielder to the ground. Whether there was a theatrical element to the former Nottingham Forest and England man's fall was questionable, but it seemed to convince the hotheaded Rooney that this latest explosion of frustration had earned him the second red card of his career. Off he trudged then, and had virtually reached the tunnel before the fourth official informed him that Uriah Rennie had in fact brandished no such card. Astonishingly, Rooney walked back on, was shown a yellow card, and therefore, to the deafening disapproval of the home fans, had somehow avoided an early bath. "On the day I think Wayne was a bit lucky," agreed his manager. He could say that again. But for the time he was actually on the pitch, he was never less than compelling, never less than totally committed. And a match-winner again. David Moyes won't care how many column inches that ability brings him.
PORTSMOUTH (4-4-1-2): Srnicek; Zivkovic, Stefanovic, Foxe, Taylor; Faye, Stone, Smertin; Sheringham (Pericard 80); Roberts, Yakubu. Subs: Wapenaar, Primus, Sherwood, O'Neil.
EVERTON (4-4-2): Martyn; Pistone, Stubbs, Unsworth, Naysmith; Watson (Rooney 24), Carsley, Gravesen, Kilbane; Radzinski (McFadden 85), Campbell. Subs: Simonsen, Jeffers, Li Tie.
BOOKINGS: Portsmouth's Taylor, Everton's Rooney.
REFEREE: Uriah Rennie.
ATT: 20,101.

Fans forum
By Dave Murray, Daily Post
Dec 15 2003
VISITING fans should be advised to take a change of clothing when visiting Fratton Park. The match ticket says uncovered, and that's what you get. At £29 it is a disgrace to expect fans to sit or stand inside a stadium and get soaked. The Premier League should ensure that facilities are of an acceptable standard before a club is permitted to enter. But they don't care about us, just our cash.
This was a hardworking performance against a pretty poor side, led in midfield by my man of the match, Thomas Gravesen (that'll upset the Welsh guy who sits behind me in the upper Bullens!).
Take nothing away, we were the better side. It was a surprise to see Pistone back in the side after his injuries, but he, and the improving centre-back partnership of Alan Stubbs and David Unsworth, were rarely troubled. The midfield played with some width especially when Rooney - yes, I know I said on Saturday that he should be rested for this game - replaced the obviously injured Steve Watson. For the first time in ages away from home the wide players crossed from the goal-line - it resulted in goals. The big talking point was of course the 'sending off' of Wayne Rooney. The referee, Uriah Rennie, does not get much right in a game but his judgement was correct. Rooney pushed Steve Stone. It is quite clear under Law 12 that you get sent off for violent conduct, e.g. two-footed lunges on players. A push is hardly violent and you see at least 50 every game. The three of us - Rob, Billy and myself - for the first time this season enjoyed the journey home. A 500-mile round trip, soaked to the skin, but three points. It was worth it as the wonderful support that the People's Club attracts will agree.

Portsmouth 1, Everton 2 (Echo)
Dec 15 2003 By Scott McLeod, Liverpool Echo
FOR months Evertonians have been consoling themselves with the old cliche that form is temporary and class is permanent. But that didn't stop everybody feeling a sense of relief on Saturday night after Wayne Rooney netted the winner at Portsmouth. His first goal since the trip to Charlton in August gave the Blues their first away win of the season, at one of the toughest of away fixtures.
At best it takes four hours to get to Portsmouth. At worst, as I discovered on Friday, you can get caught behind an accident on the M40 and that journey can be extended to 10 hours. But by 5pm on Saturday the journey had been worth it. And there is nobody who would agree more than the 18-year-old superstar. Over the last few weeks Rooney has looked a tormented figure. As England's youngest ever player and goalscorer, it is inevitable the media microscope is trained on him. Every possible explanation for his dip in form has been examined. But the reality is the striker is still a kid.
David Moyes has tried his best to help keep things in perspective. And even on Saturday the manager was given the opportunity to remind everyone there is some way to go before Wayne is the finished article. After Rooney's 42nd minute goal completed Everton's fightback to lead 2-1, the youngster grew in confidence. He was running past players with ease, his passes were finding their intended recipient with increasing regularity and he looked more eager than ever. But that confidence led to a rush of blood in the 70th minute. Experienced midfielder Steve Stone challenged him with a sliding tackle. Although it was a clumsy attempt to win the ball there was no malicious intent. But Wayne was fired up and took it upon himself to retaliate, shoving Stone in the chest as the two players got to their feet. Stone didn't help matters by producing an acrobatic tumble to the ground. Uriah Rennie was on the spot in a second and Rooney feared the worst. As the ref reached for his pocket the youngster guessed the outcome and began a disconsolate march off the field and down the tunnel. A perfect reminder of Rooney's lack of experience. Thankfully the card produced was yellow - ensuring it was his goal which dominated the headlines. But the incident was another reminder as to why too much should not be expected from Wayne too soon. It has not been a good season so far for Everton or Wayne. Both the club and the youngster have suffered under the expectations set by last season's success. There is still some way to go before we start to see the Toffees playing with the kind of swagger which made them so thrilling to watch last term. But Saturday will surely help the side return to that form. In defence David Unsworth and Alan Stubbs proved once again what a good partnership they have become in such a short time. This was their biggest test, faced as they were by the lightning fast Jason Roberts and Yakubu. They passed it with ease. Add to that the return of the influential Campbell, a player who brings the best out of the strikers he plays alongside, and it was a good day for the club. But the biggest confidence boost for everyone will have been seeing Wayne producing the goods again. He started on the bench but arrived on the field in the 24th minute as a replacement for Steve Watson, who had been unable to overcome a niggle picked up in the pre-match warm-up in his first game after two months out with a hernia injury. The Blues were one down at the time. Three minutes later they were level. Gary Naysmith, who was excellent as an attacking force down the left flank, charged into the area.
Pavel Srnicek made the first of a series of glaring errors by choosing to charge out at the Scot and Nay-smith capitalised, squaring to Lee Carsley who side-footed from from 15 yards with the keeper stranded. Rooney was not directly involved in the goal. But his arrival had allowed the manager to make a tactical switch which helped negate the main threat from Pompey. In the opening 20 minutes Teddy Sheringham was running amok. He was strutting like a prize cock-erel in the hole behind the front two, not being picked up by the Everton midfield or the defence. Twice the former Spurs and Manchester United star played Yakubu through only for the Nigerian to waste the opportunities. But Roberts fared better, latching on to his skipper's ball, beating the offside trap and charging into the area before slotting his effort beyond Nigel Martyn with 16 minutes on the clock.
When Rooney came on he went on to the right as a direct replacement for Watson, but was given a more advanced role, leaving the rest of the midfield to drop slightly deeper and, as a result, deny Sheringham as much time and space. It meant that, after netting the equaliser, the Toffees were looking less susceptible at the back, but were also causing problems going forward. The winner came four minutes before the interval. Naysmith was the architect once again and Srnicek culpable.
The left-back's early cross was weakly palmed away by the Czech keeper, who proved to be more of a pussycat than a cat between the sticks. The ball went only as far as Rooney on the right of the area. His reaction was instantaneous, quickly checking back in order to fire a first time shot with his left-foot into the far corner of the net. All of a sudden the weekend didn't seem quite such a nightmare.

Campbell aims to take heat off Rooney
Dec 15 2003 By SCOTT McLEOD, Liverpool Echo
KEVIN CAMPBELL has vowed to help ease the weight of expectation on Wayne Rooney's shoulders.
The 33-year-old made only his third start of the season in the 2-1 win at Portsmouth. Rooney had to settle for a place on the bench because of Campbell's return. The former Arsenal hitman believes a spell out of the starting XI will benefit his young team-mate, even though Rooney netted the winner at Fratton Park. "Wayne still needs protecting, without a doubt," he revealed. "I think people have to realise that this is really Wayne's first season. "Last season he played a bit-part and he did really well coming in and playing certain games but this is his first real season where the scrutiny has been on him because he made such an impact last season. "So we can't get too carried away. I'd like him to just keep doing what he has been doing, keep playing his football, he's young and he's learning, leave it at that."

Yobo appeal eases defensive crisis
Dec 15 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON have successfully appealed against losing Joseph Yobo for the crucial Christmas period.
The Nigerian FA informed the Blues last week they were planning to hold a training camp in Faro, Portugal, ahead of the African Nations Cup which gets underway in the New Year. It would have meant Yobo leaving Merseyside on Friday, adding to the club's defensive woes. But after appeals from Everton and Bolton, who were set to lose skipper Jay-Jay Okocha, the Nigerian FA have indicated none of their English-based players have to attend the camp. Everton will lose Yobo for up to six weeks from January 9 for the tournament in Tunisia. The Toffees and Bolton are powerless to prevent Yobo and Okocha playing in the tournament, which runs from January 24 to February 14.
They are concerned about the amount of time Nigeria want to prepare for the tournament.
Nigerian FA general secretary Taiwo Ogunjobi is expected to meet with Goodison officials in the next week.
* Everton chief executive Michael Dunford has heaped praise on the 2,000 fans who travelled to Fratton Park on Saturday. They had to pay up to £29 a ticket to watch the Blues take on Portsmouth, sitting in a stand without a roof on a day when the rain was torrential. Dunford said: "We would like to compliment those fans who travelled to Portsmouth. "It has got to be the worst conditions in the Premier League for visiting supporters. "And so for us to sell out our allocation and for all those fans to travel that distance before Christmas to sit in an exposed stand in the rain is fantastic."

Win answered all our critics
Dec 15 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
ALAN Stubbs believes Saturday's win at Portsmouth was the ideal response to critics who have suggested there is a problem with morale in the Everton camp. Reports in recent weeks have claimed the squad unity which helped propel the Blues into the top six for much of last season has not been present this term. But skipper Stubbs is adamant there has never been a problem in the dressing room and coming back from a goal behind at Fratton Park proves that. "It is disappointing that they went in the lead and if anyone is questioning our character then just look at how we reacted," insisted the central defender. "We have come from behind and when you're down there, it is easy to let your heads drop. "But we have a great strength in mind in the dressing room and a great bunch of lads." The Blues fell behind to an early goal from Jason Roberts, who is on loan at Pompey from West Brom. But within 10 minutes Lee Carsley had equalised and three minutes before half-time Wayne Rooney netted what proved to be the winner. It was the club's first away win of the season and the first since the 2-1 success at West Brom in April. Following the goalless draw with Manchester City last weekend and the impressive away performance at Middlesbrough in the Carling Cup, Stubbs is confident the signs are now there that Everton are getting back on track.
Dropping into the bottom three for the second time this season following the recent defeat to Bolton has proved the catalyst for improvement. But Stubbs is quick to admit there is a long way to go yet. That fact will keep the side focused for the visit of Leicester to Goodison this weekend.
He adds: "The win is just what we needed and hopefully we can build on this now. "We have another game next week and we need to make sure we keep winning. "I felt it has been coming over the last few weeks. Against Manchester City we could have won the game quite easily. We have been keeping clean sheets which has been a bonus for us. "All credit to the strikers, they have produced the goods and we have gone on to win the game. "We probably should have won it a bit more comfortably but there are no complaints from the dress-ing room. We are all delighted with the three points. "I said a few weeks ago it is just a matter of time before we climb the table. Hopefully this can act as a catalyst to get us up in the top 10, where we all believe we should be."

Lesson learnt
Dec 15 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES believes Wayne Rooney took another valuable step in his Premiership education at Fratton Park on Saturday. The 18-year-old grabbed the head-lines for his goal which earned Everton their first away win of the season. But his second half shove on Steve Stone which earned the player a yellow card ensured the headlines weren't all good. It could easily have been a red card, as Moyes admitted. But the Goodison chief, who has been fiercely protective of his 18-year-old prodigy, believes the player has heeded the lesson from the incident. And he has seen signs in the last couple of months to suggest the teenager is now starting to show better control of the red mist which, when harnessed correctly, adds to his armoury. Moyes said: "I think his temperament has improved. He knows himself he has been a little bit fortunate and this might be the day it turns for him.
"Wayne knows he was lucky, he was fortunate. He is mostly guilty of just being young. "He is still learning but he also has a lot of expectation on him from everybody. "Just look at the media, they only want to ask questions about Wayne. "But he is learning. There is a difference between aggression and making sure you don't do the wrong things. "There are a lot of aggressive players in the right way, like Alan Shearer for example." That aggression is a reflection of Rooney's will to win. On Saturday, he got what he wanted. Three points for Everton and his first goal since the away trip to Charlton in August. Getting on the scoresheet made a difference to the player's performance.
"After the goal you could see he was lively and he could even have had another goal or two. "He was brighter and maybe taking him out of the firing line (by putting him on the bench) eased those expectations a little. "There is a lot of expectation on him and I am certainly not going to make them any bigger than they already are." Rooney entered the game as a 24th minute substitute for the injured Steve Watson. He was played on the right of midfield. Moyes explained: "He is such a good player he can play in any number of positions. "I thought that with Portsmouth playing with three forwards on the field we could afford to have an extra forward player. "So I decided to play Wayne on the right-hand side to keep our shape but to play him as a third forward on the right. "If you look at Wayne's performances last season you would mainly recall the ones where he came off the bench. Even the famous Arsenal game. I just think he is a young lad and he is still developing. You shouldn't be looking too deep for a reason." The manager now hopes Saturday's win will spur the Blues on to a run of better form. He has been happy with the attitude and application since the Carling Cup tie at Middlesbrough. Now he wants to see his side playing with a little more of the swagger which was present in their game last season. "It is only one result," added Moyes. "We are going to try and make one result turn into two. We are not getting too carried away with it."

Wayne got lucky
Dec 15 2003 By David Prior, Daily Post
DAVID MOYES rejected renewed concerns about Wayne Rooney's temperament despite admitting Everton' s 18-year-old match-winner should have been sent off at Fratton Park. The Blues striker pushed Portsmouth's Steve Stone to the ground after a tussle and then, in extraordinary scenes, walked off the pitch thinking he had been red-carded by referee Uriah Rennie. However the official - a late replacement for the ill Barry Knight - had in fact only shown Rooney a yellow card, leaving the striker free to resume his part in the game. Rooney had already grabbed what proved to be the winning goal three minutes before half-time - his first strike since August - after Lee Carsley had equalised Jason Roberts' opener. And afterwards his manager candidly admitted he had fully expected Rooney to be dismissed. He said: "I thought Wayne pushed him and normally when you push somebody you have to face the consequences. We expected that, and I think Wayne did as well. "On the day I think Wayne was a bit lucky. I haven't seen anything like that before, but what we'll do is we'll all learn from it and try not to let it happen again. Wayne knows that he was lucky."
Rooney had started the match on the bench as Moyes sought to take some of the spotlight off the high-profile teenager after a run of indifferent form, but an injury to Steve Watson meant he was called into action after 24 minutes. But Moyes was confident his lucky escape had not re-opened fears about Rooney ' s temperament. He said: "No, it's not a concern, because I think his temperament has improved. "Today you would have to say that that wasn't witnessed, but he knows himself that he was a little bit fortunate. He's a young boy who's learning and there's an awful lot of expectation on him." He added: "There's a difference between aggression and making sure you don't do the wrong thing. "There are lots of aggressive players - like Alan Shearer, for example."
More importantly for Moyes was Rooney's goal which gave Everton their first away win since April and moved them up to 15th in the Premiership. And the Scot claimed: "His goal was good and he has a habit of coming on as a substitute and scoring goals. "He just needed a breather but that only lasted 20-odd minutes, but it just brought back a little bit of sparkle to him. "There was a bit more brightness about him today. Maybe just taking him out of the firing line might have just eased it a little for him - there was an awful lot of expectations on him, and I'm certainly not going to be making them any bigger than they already are." Moyes added: "I thought we deserved the victory and had enough chances to win the game. "We made it hard for ourselves by going a goal down but the players showed a lot of character, especially when you've not won away from home for a long time, to keep their heads up and dig deep and come back and get the victory. "It's a big result for us - every result for us at the moment is a big result - and hopefully we'll go and get a big result next week. We've been playing better for a couple of weeks and we've been creating chances, we've been keeping clean sheets and looking a bit more like ourselves, and we've just been needing the goals to go in. "Even today we scored two but I'm a bit disappointed we didn't score three or four.
"But we're not getting too carried away with it. We played well at Middlesbrough, didn't play so well against Manchester City but maybe could have won the game in the end, so I think hopefully we're beginning to build, and that's three games now if you want to look at it in a positive light."

Weir return may ease defensive dilemma
By Andy Hunter, Daily Post Dec 16 2003
DAVID WEIR could ease David Moyes' defensive dilemma this week with a return to training.
Everton's manager is searching for cover for African Nations Cup bound Joseph Yobo in the new year, with a loan offer to Russian skipper Victor Onopko still on the table. Moyes is concerned Everton's frailties could be exposed if Alan Stubbs or David Unsworth become sidelined during a testing six-week period without Yobo. But his anxieties will be eased if Weir is given the green light to resume training this week. The Scottish star has been out since September with a knee ligament injury and saw a consultant yesterday with a view to stepping up his recovery. "We're expecting he will give David the all-clear to resume light training later in the week," said Everton physio Mick Rathbone last night. The Blues are also hoping for positive news on Steve Watson, who lasted only 24 minutes in his comeback game against Portsmouth on Saturday. Watson's early departure raised fears of a reaction to the double hernia operation he had in October. However, Rathbone explained: "Steve just felt a bit of stiffness in his thigh in the latter part of the warm-up. "We don't know why it happened, but after about 20 minutes of the game it was getting progressively worse, so we decided to take him off as a precaution. "It doesn't look particularly serious, it looks as though he's got a minor thigh strain. Hopefully, he'll be there or thereabouts for the holiday fixtures." Watson is unlikely to be risked at home to Leicester this Saturday, but Tony Hibbert and Yobo - who both missed the trip to the south coast with ankle and neck problems respectively - could be in the frame.
Everton will have Yobo available for the Christmas period after refusing a request from the Nigerian FA for him to attend a training camp before the African Nations Cup begins. The Nigerians wanted the centre-half in Portugal from this Friday ahead of the six-week tournament that begins in Tunisia on January 9. But chief executive Michael Dunford said: "We informed them that, whilst we were happy to sanction his participation in the actual tournament, we were not prepared to release him a month early."

Wayne has to ignore wind-up merchants
Dec 16 2003
By Mark Lawrenson, Daily Post
WAYNE ROONEY is in danger of making himself a target for every wind-up merchant in football.
The Everton youngster sent himself off against Portsmouth - only to be recalled by referee Uriah Rennie to be booked for his push on Steve Stone. Rooney reminds me of a young Ian Wright. His then manager George Graham used to tell him to count to ten to avoid getting involved in any incident. But the player used to admit he could not even get to one when the red mist descended!
Lots of people will offer the Goodison teenager advice - but it is down to Rooney to ensure his temperament does not become a problem for the future. His manager David Moyes and assistant Alan Irvine will be stressing the need to steer clear of trouble, but once he crosses the white line it is down to Rooney himself to impose his own self-discipline. He has got to learn - and learn quickly - about how to control himself, otherwise he is going to become a target for everyone in the opposition ranks. Players throughout the Premiership - and at international level with England - will be thinking they have spotted a chink in the teenager's armoury and will be trying to put Rooney off his game. All the shirt-pulling, name calling and niggling is actually a back-handed compliment.
Players will be thinking if they can distract Rooney from playing his natural game it will save them being destroyed by the talented youngster. Alan Shearer was held up as an example for Rooney to follow by Moyes and it is a fitting one. The Newcastle man is an aggressive player, but it is controlled aggression. He knows how to channel it into winding up the opposition, but not then getting involved. It all helps make Shearer a real handful. David Beckham was targeted during his early years. He may not be as naturally aggressive as Rooney, but picks up his yellow cards. The trick is making sure they do not turn red. Players like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, who all burst onto the scene as young players at United, will also serve as good examples. Their form dipped after the initial success but they have come back stronger for it. It is all part of the growing up Rooney has to do and at 18 it is very difficult to see the bigger picture. It has been a frustrating time for the boyhood Blue - who is desperate to do well for the club he loves. He exploded into the Premiership last season and did ever so well, but this season has come up a bit short of what he would have hoped for. However it is no good taking that frustration out on opposing players. He is maturing and needs to continue to do so. He does not want to end up being remembered as a great player but . . . How he handles the flash-points in games is crucial to his future. We should be talking about his winning goal at Fratton Park but it shows how everything he does has become such a big issue.
But it would be wrong if referees were singling him out for any special attention. He should be afforded the same protection as anyone else if the opposition are trying to get at him. I felt it was a yellow card offence, although Wayne has obviously never played cricket. You don't walk until you are given out!

Not for sale
Icliverpool And Daily Post Dec 16 2003
Not for sale
GREAT for Everton to get our first away win, but it's imperative we beat Leicester on Saturday.
Wayne Rooney makes things happen. Can you believe that there are some people who would consider selling him? Arsenal would never sell their top man Henry. Remember top clubs do not sell their best players.
J Dunlop (via e-mail)
Rain and shine
BRILLIANT to see Rooney back on the goal trail again - and that the away jinx is off our backs now. Disgusted that we got charged nearly £30 to sit in the pouring rain, though. The Premier League should do something about that.
E Evans, Knowsley
Rise above it
WELL DONE Wayne on getting the winner on Saturday. He's got to realise, though, that his attitude on the pitch has got to be better than most people's as many referees will be keen to send him off because of who he is. Uriah Heep must have been full of Christmas spirit or something as he's usually one of them.
J Pye, Heswall
Anders is handy
WHAT Everton need is an attacking midfielder since most of our central midfielders are more defensive than offensive. Southampton are reportedly looking to sell Anders Svensson, who is a good player who can score goals both from free-kicks and in open play. Perhaps a player to fill that role since the transfer fee would be within Moyes' budget?
Peter Swinton, (via e-mail)

Expectations can become a burden
By Andy Hunter, Daily Post Dec 16 2003
KEVIN CAMPBELL can still recall how heavily the weight of expectation feels on a teenager's shoulders. So, when he insists his Everton return spells only good news for Wayne Rooney, it isn't self-interest that fuels the 33-year-old's view. Campbell was thrust back into Premiership duty at the expense of the 18-year-old at Portsmouth on Saturday for only his third start of an injury-hit campaign. David Moyes afterwards admitted the switch eased the pressures that have mounted on Rooney in recent weeks, even though they could have swiftly returned had Uriah Rennie opted to cap his match-winning display with a red card. With the Blues crying out for a more experienced, aerial presence in attack recently Campbell now has every chance of keeping the young prodigy out of the firing line. And the veteran striker believes his teenage team-mate will turn the experience to his advantage. Campbell also exploded onto the scene as an 18-year-old with Arsenal in the late 1980s, and despite league championship and European Cup Winners' Cup triumphs, it was a far from easy ride for a young striker - as Rooney has recently discovered. "I experienced something similar at Arsenal," said the Blues striker. "When you come in and you're ripping trees up and doing really well you expect it to happen all the time but football is not like that. "Football's a game where you've got to put the work in and be honest with it. "At times when it's not working you've got to be more honest at your game than when it's going well and to be fair to Wayne he has been honest with it. "He still works hard even if it's not going right for him. That's the only way to get through it and that will make him a better player because when the bad times come that's what makes you a good player. "It's not when the good times are there, it's easy to be good when it's everything is going well but when the bad times are here that's what will really improve him and I'm sure it is going to." Rooney has been afflicted by second season syndrome but for Campbell this campaign represents the youngster's first, given the responsibility he is now under. And the elder statesman admits it remains the duty of all the Everton squad to ease the growing burden on the England international. Campbell explained: "Wayne still needs protecting, without a doubt. I think people have to realise that this is really Wayne's first season. "Last season he played a bit part and he did really well coming in and playing certain games but this is his first real season where the scrutiny has been on him because he made such an impact last season. "So we can't get too carried away. I mean, the boy's just turned 18. We can't be heaping all the pressure on his shoulders. I'd like everyone else to take the pressure off him. "I'd like him to just keep doing what he has been doing, keep playing his football, he's young, he's learning and leave it at that."

Brown stunner caps Blues win
Academy Football With Chris Wright Daily Post Dec 16 2003
SCOTT BROWN'S stunning second-half strike saw Everton under-19s claim a 2-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers at Netherton on Saturday. The England youth international midfielder's 30-yard thunderbolt into the top corner capped a superb comeback by Neil Dewsnip's side and was a welcome win after two consecutive defeats in the FA Premier Academy League. The Blues fell behind after 15 minutes against the run of play, but Gavin Lynch equalised. And Brown's fifth goal of the campaign with 15 minutes left means Dewsnip's side can go into the Christmas break in buoyant mood, ready for their return to action next year and the opening Academy League fixture at Blackburn Rovers on January 10. He said: "It was probably as well as we have played all year. We had lots of chances to score and it was a thoroughly deserved win. It was just what we needed after the two defeats." Gary Ablett's under-17s had to settle for a point in a 2-2 draw with Crewe Alexandra at Netherton on Saturday. It took an injury-time equaliser from captain Mark Hughes to enable the Blues to grab a point. Hughes capitalised on a loose ball after a scramble in the box from a corner and hooked the ball in the net in the fourth minute of added time. The Blues had earlier taken the lead despite playing into a strong wind. England under-16s striker Scott Phelan turned well and drilled in a low shot. Crewe hit back immediately to score after winning possession off an Everton throw-in. But despite dominating possession it looked as if Ablett's side would go down to a 2-1 defeat after Crewe added a second ten minutes from the end. But Hughes' goal ensured they go into the Christmas break still second in the table. Ablett said: "We showed a little bit of character to come back which was great, but it was a game that if we had turned up and played as we have we could have won quite convincingly. But we are still second and the boys have been a credit to themselves." Ablett's side return back with a home match against Liver-pool on January 10.
EVERTON UNDER-19s: Lake; Wynne, Potter, Gerrard, Fox; Brown, Martland (J Jones 60) Wilson, Booth; Lynch, Barry (Anichebe 80). EVERTON UNDER-17s: Gallagher; Irving, Hughes, Kearney, Wright; Johnson (Irving 80), Seargeant, Harris, Boyle; Hopkins, Phelan (Vaughan 75). Subs: Molyneux, Kelly, Morrison.

It's derby delight for mascot Matthew
Dec 16 2003 Jblue, Liverpool Echo
MOST fans can only dream of leading out their heroes in the white-hot atmosphere of a Merseyside derby. But thanks to our fabulous competition, Matthew Langford will be doing just that when the Blues take on Liverpool at Anfield next month. The nine-year-old from Allerton won the chance to be the Everton matchday mascot for what is sure to be one of the most exciting games of the season. Matthew correctly answered that Tomasz Radzinski is the Blues star who plays international football for Canada. He will have the unique opportunity to go behind the scenes as David Moyes' side prepare to take on their old rivals on January 31. Matthew will also get the chance to rub shoulders with Everton stars such as Wayne Rooney, Alan Stubbs and Radzinski himself.
* DON'T forget the JBlue Christmas Party at Goodison Park on Monday. It is a great chance for the 100 lucky young fans invited to the party to meet the play-ers and collect those star autographs.

Goal was offside - Moyes
Dec 16 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON boss David Moyes today heaped praise on his in-form defence and bemoaned the decision which cost them another clean sheet at the weekend. Before Saturday's trip to Fratton Park the Blues had kept three clean sheets in four matches. That record was tarnished by Jason Roberts' first half goal for Portsmouth. But replays of the strike have revealed the pass which led to it found Roberts clearly offside. Moyes is keen to set the record straight. He said today: "Saturday was a good team performance and we did well to come back from the early setback. But that first goal was two yards offside. "The boys have been doing well keeping clean sheets but on Saturday they were punished by an error which denied them what they deserved." Davi d Unswor th has impressed alongside Alan Stubbs in recent games as Everton have had to deal with a defensive injury crisis.
But things are improving this week with club skipper David Weir set to return to full training after six weeks out with a knee ligament injury. Moyes added: "David is slightly ahead of schedule and he will join in with the football work this week. We have got to be careful." Moyes is aware he is set to lose Nigerian international Joseph Yobo for up to six weeks in the New Year because of the African Nations Cup. The defender is currently expected to leave on January 9 but Goodison officials will meet with the Nigerian FA before Christmas in the hope of extending Yobo's stay so he will be available for the January 10 Premiership encounter at Fulham. Steve Watson suffered a minor thigh strain at Portsmouth last weekend and hopes to be fit again for Saturday's clash with Leicester.
Scot Gemmill will be the only senior player in action for the club in tonight's Liverpool Senior Cup final against Tranmere at Prenton Park.

Moyes eyeing Bassila swoop
By Andy Hunter, Daily Post Dec 17 2003
DAVID MOYES last night revealed Strasbourg midfielder Christian Bassila is on his January shopping list. Everton are considering a New Year swoop for the 26-year-old who is anxious to try his luck in the Premiership again following a disastrous spell at West Ham. The Blues manager has confirmed he doesn't have money to spend during the transfer window but is exploring alternative routes to bolster his squad. And he may test Strasbourg's resolve to keep their powerful skipper by offering Goodison outcast Alex Nyarko in exchange. Whether Strasbourg or Nyarko would accept the switch remains to be seen although the Ghanaian, who has failed to force his way into Moyes plans since his summer return, has prospered in France before at Lens, Monaco and Paris Saint Germain.
Moyes, who is also considering loan options, confirmed: "Bassila is one of a number of players we are looking at." The former French under-21 midfielder arrived in the Premiership two years ago but made only two appearances for the Hammers in a season dogged by injury and personal problems.
But he has since returned to prominence and has caught the attention of a number of European clubs. Bassila has scored three goals in 16 appearances this season, collecting four yellow cards and one red along the way. His agent, Monte Carlo-based Willie McKay, revealed Everton have a long-standing interest in the midfielder. "We have spoken before about a move to Everton, but nothing came of it," said McKay. "There has been more interest and he would love the chance to play in England again. "He had a small stint in England before with West Ham, but it proved to be a disaster because of injuries and personal problems. "He is a big friend of Freddie Kanoute and he would jump at the chance to try his luck in England again. He is a lot stronger physically and mentally and he is the captain of his club. "He has done the business for Strasbourg at venues such as Lyon, Marseille and PSG, showing he can perform at the highest level and he feels he could do it in England." David Weir, meanwhile, has been given the all-clear to resume training after recovering from a knee ligament injury. The experienced defender has been out for six weeks with the injury but could be back for the hectic festive programme as Everton's defensive problems ease.
Manager Moyes said: "David's been given the all-clear. He's been training hard in as much as that he's been running and getting physically in a good condition. "Hopefully by the end of this week David will get in amongst the players. If everything goes well he could be back in amongst us over the Christmas period when we're going to need the players." Recent absentees Tony Hibbert and Joseph Yobo are both expected to be fit for Saturday's home game with Leicester City.

Tranmere Rovers 1, Everton 2
Dec 17 2003
By Andrew Stratton, Daily Post
THERE was an added bonus for Everton as they came from behind to lift the Nat West Liverpool Senior Cup at Prenton Park last night. The final was held over from the 2002/03 campaign and with the teams paired together in this season's quarter-finals the game acted as a double header.
There was never much between the teams. Phil Palethorpe in the Rovers goal did well to turn aside an angled shot by Michael Symes in the fifth minute. Craig Gallagher in the Everton goal did not enjoy the same fortune four minutes later when he was only able to help a Paul Brown 20-yard shot inside his right-hand post. Gallagher produced a fingertip save to deny Paul Robinson in the 55th minute before Everton tipped the balance with two goals in eight minutes. Substitute Gavin Lynch, who had only been on for three minutes, found the target with a hooked shot from just inside the box on the hour. Then Scot Gemmill beat Palethorpe with an exquisite lobbed shot from 30 yards on 67 minutes. Rovers produced a grandstand finish but Chris Dagnall had two shots blocked and Joe Fowler fired over.
TRANMERE ROVERS: Palethorpe, Taylor (James 75), Tremarco, Martin (Dickinson 70), Sharp, Scott, Fowler, Jennings, Dagnall, Robinson, Brown. Subs: Pinch, Vaughan, Quadraio.
EVERTON: Gallagher, Wynne, Fox, Gerrard, O'Hanlon, Gemmill, Brown, Schumacher, Symes, Wilson (Lynch 56), A Moogan. Subs: Barry, Potter, Hughes.

TV deal gives Blues more security - Dunford
Dec 17 2003 By Rob Brady, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON chief executive Michael Dunford today welcomed the new deal to screen more live Premiership matches on terrestrial TV, claiming it gives the Blues greater financial certainty.
BSkyB and the Premier League have bowed to pressure from the European Commission, which argued that the satellite broadcaster's £1bn deal to show 138 live Premiership matches a season amounted to an unhealthy monopoly. As a compromise, Sky agreed to sell on the rights to eight games, allowing them to be shown on non-subscription channels over the forthcoming three seasons. Dunford said: "We are very satisfied that a sensible compromise has been reached. The impact on the club will be minimal over three years. We have certainty about it now. The game needs financial certainty. "All the EU wanted to see is a wider platform for supporters to watch football." The compromise avoids direct intervention from the EC, which potentially could have caused the current deal to collapse and threatened the collective bargaining power of the Premiership clubs who has less mass market appeal than the top four. Meanwhile, Everton are still waiting to hear from Russia skipper Viktor Onopko. The defender is still thinking over a move to Goodison after meeting manager David Moyes last week, but he has also had talks with Bolton.
Despite reports to the contrary, the Blues are unlikely to make a move for Strasbourg midfielder Christian Bassila when the transfer window reopens next month because of financial restrictions.

History in the frame
Dec 17 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
EVERY Everton fan who attends Saturday's Premiership clash with Leicester at Goodison will receive a commemorative certificate. It may seem an extreme move for the club's first home encounter with the Midlands club in two in-years. But chief executive Michael Dunford explained: "It is an historic game for the club." "When the fixture list comes out eyes tend to go to games against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United. But the significance of this match falling on the same day as our very first game is unique. "This is our 125th anniversary season and we felt it was right to mark this game because of its timing. On December 20, 1879 we played our first game against St Peter's at Stanley Park and, wearing blue and white striped shirts, won the game 6-0." As a result, every Everton fan who attends Saturday's match will receive an official club Christmas card when they pass through the turnstiles, as well as a commemorative certificate to say they attended the match.
It is the latest in a series of anniversary celebrations by the club. Dunford added: "By way of further celebration on Saturday we will be producing a 72-page programme, which will reflect our glorious history." The programme will include an interview with Roy Vernon's widow and photos from his private collection, a chat with legendary rocker Tommy Steele and a double page spread on all of Everton's England goalscorers, from Dixie Dean to Wayne Rooney.
* Meanwhile, with the opening of the transfer window now just two weeks away the speculation has begun. Monte Carlo-based agent Willie McKay claims Everton have shown an interest in versatile Strasbourg midfielder Christian Basilla. The 26-year-old Frenchman spent a period on loan at West Ham at the start of the 2000/01 season but failed to establish himself because of injury. McKay claims: "We have spoken before about a move to Everton, but nothing came of it. "There has been more interest and he would love to play in England again. He had a small stint in England before with West Ham, but it proved to be a disaster because of injuries and personal problems."

Unsy takes centre stage
By Scott Mcleod Liverpool Echo, Daily PostDec 18 2003
DAVID UNSWORTH'S re-emergence as a central defender is set to save David Moyes a New Year dip into the transfer market. The Blues chief had been eager to tempt experienced Russian international Viktor Onopko to Goodison to help add to the club's defensive numbers when Joseph Yobo departs for African Nations Cup duty with Nigeria. But he has now cooled his interest in the 34-year-old because of Unsworth's blossoming partnership with Alan Stubbs which has seen the duo help Everton keep two clean sheets from three games. Moyes told the ECHO: "David Unsworth has done well and shown me that we may not be desperately in need of bringing another centre-half in.
"He has certainly eased the headache for me over losing Joseph Yobo to the African Nations Cup. I am now not feeling quite so vulnerable about our defensive options when Joe goes." Onopko trained with the Blues last week before returning to Russia and was mulling over a contract offer until the end of the season. He has also been offered deals by clubs in Russia for a longer period and Everton are now not keen to push through a move. Unsworth is in the final year of his contract at Everton and turned down a one-year extension on reduced pay earlier this season. Despite his impressive recent form no new offer has been made and the club are now not expected to sit down and negotiate a new deal with the player until the end of the season. Meanwhile, Moyes has successfully negotiated a delay to Yobo's departure to the African Nations Cup. He had been set to join the squad on January 9, but has now been given permission to stay with Everton until after the January 10 encounter with Fulham at Loftus Road. Yobo has missed the last three matches because of a neck injury. He has been able to train fully, however, and could go straight back into the squad for Saturday's clash with Leicester if he proves he is capable of heading the ball again. Tony Hibbert is also in line for a return to competitive action. But, like Yobo, he may have to settle for a place on the bench on Saturday because of the form of Unsworth and Alessandro Pistone, who returned to the side at right-back against Portsmouth last weekend. Meanwhile, Moyes has categorically denied he is eyeing a January move for Strasbourg midfielder Christian Basilla. He confirmed: "We have no interest in the player at all."

A fine gesture
Dec 18 2003 By John Thompson, Liverpool Echo
WHAT a great move it is from the Blues to give every one of their fans who turn up at Goodison on Saturday a commemorative certificate, marking 125 years to the day since Everton played their first game. Poor old St Peter's took a 6-0 hammering at Stanley Park back in December 1879.
The present day supporters who will surely appreciate the club's gesture even more if the players can reproduce a similar scoreline against Leicester on Saturday - and put some real daylight between the Blues and the dreaded relegation zone.

He sang like an angel - now he just plays like one
By Ashley Gray Daily Post Correspondent Dec 18 2003
THIS is Everton wonderboy Wayne Rooney looking even more fresh-faced than he does now.
England's youngest-ever goalscorer, then aged nine, was performing in a nativity play at Our Lady and St Swithin's RC Primary School in Croxteth. The pictures come from a proud parent's video recording showing the future star in 1994. This Christmas, 18-year-old Rooney has other priorities with a trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United on Boxing Day. Our Lady and St Swithin's head John McCaul remembers Wayne as a polite pupil who always tried hard. He said: "Wayne always gave everything at school his best shot, whether he was on the football pitch or in a nativity play.
"He was always a very respectful and polite pupil and he made a perfect angel." David Ciano, manager of Merseyside Youth Theatre in Liverpool, hopes the region's Rooney-mad youngsters will follow their idol into acting. He said: "Footballers are role models for young people and children.
"I'm sure whatever Wayne Rooney does, others will be happy to follow in his footsteps and we'd be very keen to support that because of the good transferable skills that drama teaches children."

Sheedy the fizz as Blues served champagne
Post Past With Phil Redmond, Daily Post Dec 18 2003
LEICESTER CITY are always a tough team to beat, given that they usually come to Goodison to defend and in the past decade or so we have struggled to break their burly, hard working sides down.
In fact a brief glimpse back through recent records reveals a swathe of low scoring draws interspersed with only a handful of narrow victories for the Toffees. In December 1986 things were oh so different though. The Toffees, with Kevin Sheedy in his pomp, were battering everyone, while the Foxes were on their way down. After annihilating the Geordies 4-0 at St James' Park on the Boxing Day, it was back home a couple of days later, and about 40,000 punters turned up in anticipation. What followed was just an example of the champagne football that was regularly served during that glorious period. After surviving a number of early scares, Leicester fell behind on the quarter hour to a typical poached Adrian Heath effort. Paul Wilkinson, in for the injured Graeme Sharp, slipped in a second before the break before the roof really fell in for the visitors. It was Wilkinson, a far better player than he was given credit for, who forced a Leicester defender to score the third, before Inchy got his second, heading in after a spellbinding Trevor Steven run. Steve Moran headed one back for City before the cake was iced by possibly my favourite ever outfield Blues player. During winter 86-87, I witnessed possibly the best ever run of form by an individual player I've ever seen. Kevin Sheedy was truly inspirational during this period, lighting up many a game with his raking passes, deadly shooting and of course his fabulous set-pieces. He grabbed the fifth against Leicester with a delicate 25-yard chip after leaving two defenders for dead with a delicious turn. It was no surprise to me that the Blues' title bid hit rough waters when the Irish/Welsh genius suffered a knee injury soon after Christmas. He was there when it mattered at the death however, and who can forget his momentous winner at Villa Park in the April, in front of 15,000 plus Toffees? Kevin Sheedy truly was an Everton great.

Stubbs praises Rooney's passion
By Andy Hunter, Daily Post Dec 18 2003
WAYNE ROONEY does not have a temperament problem - only a burning desire to win with Everton, claimed Alan Stubbs yesterday. The Blues sensation found himself back in the spotlight last weekend despite David Moyes' intention to take him away from it at Portsmouth via the substitutes' bench. Rooney (pictured) came on to claim the much-needed winner Everton hope will revitalise his confidence after a barren run in front of goal. He was also embroiled in controversy when he shoved Pompey midfielder Steve Stone but escaped with only a caution. And despite earning a sixth booking of the season for the incident, Blues skipper Stubbs insisted it reinforced Rooney's passion for his boyhood club and not a disciplinary problem to worry Everton. "I'd like to look at it like it shows how much Wayne wants to win for Everton more than anything else," said Stubbs. "He wears his heart on his sleeve and it's fantastic to see, especially when we're in the position we're in and you see players who are right up for it like that." Chief Executive Michael Dunford, meanwhile, believes the new television rights deal has given clubs like Everton greater financial security. Some analysts claim Premiership clubs could lose up to £150m thanks to the compromise deal reached this week with the European Commission, which guarantees eight live games for terrestrial TV every season. Dunford said: "We are very satisfied a sensible compromise has been reached."

Any Rio ban no use to Blues
Dec 18 2003 Liverpool Echo
RIO FERDINAND will be available for Manchester United's Boxing Day clash with Everton even if he is banned over his failure to take a drugs test. Ferdinand's two-day Football Association misconduct hearing began at Bolton's Reebok Stadium with the England defender likely to argue that his offer to return to United's Carrington training ground to take the test on September 23 was rejected by UK Sport doping officials. The 25-year-old is set to claim he merely 'forgot' to take the test and was on a shopping trip in central Manchester with former West Ham teammate Eyal Berkovic when he received a call from United doctor Mike Stone asking where he was. Under FA regulations, Ferdinand faces a maximum two-year suspension from the game, although most observers believe a three-month ban will eventually be imposed by Barry Bright, chairman of the three-man disciplinary panel. But any suspension would not begin until after the 14 days Ferdinand will have to lodge an appeal, clearing him to face Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Sunday, plus the following league games against Everton and Middlesbrough. Such a scenario would almost certainly bring another stinging attack from FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who has already criticised the FA's disciplinary procedures which have allowed Ferdinand to continue playing despite the threat of action hanging over him. England manager Sven Goran Eriksson is among those expected to offer a character witness statement on Ferdinand's behalf, while Berkovic and United boss Sir Alex Ferguson are both expected to give evidence. The FA confirmed yesterday their case would be conducted by leading sports lawyer Mark Gay, while Ronald Thwaites and United's own legal guru Maurice Watkins will represent Ferdinand. Given the hearing into Roy Keane's controversial comments about Alfie Haaland in his autobiography - also headed by Bright - took seven hours at the same venue last year, a verdict on Ferdinand's case is not expected until late on Friday evening, with the unpleasant possibility of the case being extended even further. Worryingly for Ferdinand though, Professional Footballers Association chief executive Gordon Taylor believes the player is going to be made a scapegoat. "Rio forgot to take the test - it is not exactly a criminal offence," he said. "He offered to return to take the test on the same day, but was denied and wasn't allowed to for reasons which have not been adequately explained. "It has gone on for three months since then and all the opportunity to deal with the matter objectively has been lost. Now the whole thing is a complete mess. "On one hand you have Sepp Blatter trying to make Rio out to be Public Enemy Number One, on the other you have the feeling of the FA trying to stand up to Manchester United. "I don't want to pre-judge the hearing, but it appears the FA feel they have to put a marker down. I believe they will look to make Rio a scapegoat. "If that happens, it would be extremely unfair."

Moyes should resist three striker option
Howard Kendall, Liverpool EchoDec 19 2003
DESPITE all the hype that surrounded Wayne Rooney's performance at Portsmouth, I will not be surprised if the lad is on the bench tomorrow. David Moyes has Rooney, Radzinski, Campbell and Jeffers to choose from for the visit of Leicester. It is tempting to play three up front, but I cannot see him going back to that. As was proved against Manchester City, three strikers do not guarantee goals. I always found that it was easier for a back-four to play against three front men. But playing with just two up front, you have to have a balanced partnership and several of the possible combinations - Rooney, Radzinski and Jeffers - just don't seem to click together. Therefore you have got to have either Campbell or Ferguson, when fit, in there alongside one of the others. That gives the attack greater balance. So there is every chance Radzinski will be partnering Campbell against Leicester, with Rooney on the bench. The unfortunate thing about Everton's victory at Portsmouth was that Leeds and Villa also won. The three points gained from Rooney's winning goal had little effect on the bottom of the table. The visit of struggling Leicester is the perfect opportunity for the Blues to put some breathing space between themselves and the drop zone. After that, Everton embark are a testing run of Premiership fixtures, starting with a trip to Old Trafford. The win at Fratton Park, the Blues' first away victory of the season, will have given them a lot of confidence. Their perform-ance was similar to the style that served them so well last season - a hard working team with the players performing for each other. It will still be a difficult match against Leicester. They are a well organised side and they will certainly be motivated after having two men sent off in their last game.

Biggest day in year of milestones
By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo Dec 19 2003
NUMEROUS anniversaries and milestones have been celebrated at Goodison Park in recent months.
One hundred seasons of top flight football, 125 years of history, the 75th anniversary of Dixie Dean's sixty . . . But arguably the most significant of them all is reached tomorrow. On Saturday, December 20, 1879 a team bearing the title Everton Football Club played a match for the first time.
A corner of Stanley Park was the venue, and local church team St Peter's were the opposition. Previously the same group of players had operated under the name St Domingo's. But despite its modest nature, the match did merit a five-line report in Monday morning's Daily Post:
This match, under Association Rules, was played at Stanley Park on Saturday and resulted in a victory for Everton by six goals to nothing. M'Gill, Morris and Evans played well for the winners. The names Morris and Evans have been lost in the mists of time, but Jack McGill's contribution to Everton's history is paid proper tribute in last year's Blue Book. "Jack McGill single-handedly converted Everton from a Sunday School outfit to a professional side," recalled Gordon Watson in its pages.
"He was responsible for Everton joining the newly formed Lancashire FA, he was Everton's first captain, first coach, first star and first unofficial professional. He was equally dexterous and played in eight different positions." That December weekend in 1879, Rugby football was still the most popular winter spectator sport, but the new association version was rapidly gaining in popularity.
Cheshire v North Wales and Mold v Denbigh were the only other football matches to merit a mention in that Monday's Daily Post. The Liverpool ECHO, itself only two months old, had still not started covering football, while the Football ECHO was still nine years away

Rooney sees Blue roadshow back in business
Fanscene By By Mark O'Brien, Daily Post Dec 19 2003
AN away win at last. Admit it, you were worried we were going to go the whole season without getting one. That's not surprising, Maureen Rees (her off Driving School) has had more success than the Blues on the road this season, and many a soaked Evertonian felt their heart sink when the home side took the lead at Fratton Park. Luckily David Moyes' men showed they've still got the spirit and commitment that so characterised them last season, and eventually ran out deserved winners. It was a pleasing performance for many reasons, not least because we saw Wayne Rooney doing what he does best: taking people on and sticking the ball in the back of the net. Much has been made of his spat with Steve Stone and the sending off that never was, and everyone knows he was lucky to get away with it. Admittedly a dismissal would have been harsh, but hardly unprecedented in the current climate - maybe it cancels out the unjustified red card he received at St Andrews last season. Incidentally, it was interesting to hear Arsene Wenger at the weekend when he was asked whether he would consider selling Thierry Henry for £50million. He said 'no' without hesitation, explaining that it's much better to have great players on the pitch than money in the bank. He added fans can understand when you don't have the cash to bring in new faces, but they won't accept you selling your best players. Wise words and ones that could just as easily be applied to Everton and their young number 18. It wasn't all about Rooney at Pompey though; it was also good to see some of the more experienced players returning to the side as well. David Moyes singled out Alessandro Pistone's contribution and rightly so, the Italian's a class act and we always play more football when he's in the team. It's such a shame he's made out of balsa wood. Kevin Campbell's made of slightly stronger stuff, which is lucky because he still knows how to put himself about up front. Although he's already played in a few games this season, Saturday was the first time he's looked fully fit, and what a difference he made. The other strikers at the club all look twice as good whenever they partner the ex-Trabzonspor hitman. Hopefully tomorrow we can notch up another first for the season and secure back-to-back league wins. Leicester are nothing special, but as ever they'll be physical, committed and tough to break down. If we play like we did at Portsmouth though we should match them in those areas and then our extra class should show through. Do two consecutive wins constitute a 'run' or would we have to beat Manchester United as well?

Post soapbox
Icliverpool And Daily Post Dec 19 2003
Rooney's back
WELL done to Everton on Saturday, good result in terrible conditions. Mr Rooney looked back to his best. Hopefully this will give him his confidence back and he can start bagging a few goals for the Blues.
Andy Rossiter, Wallasey
Gifts for Blues
I CAN reveal that at a specially held board meeting this week it was decided that, in view of the first away win, that all the players will receive a special Christmas gift paid for a from the directors' own pockets. The list includes Martyn - a new cap; Pistone - a reversible groin; Rhino - a tic bird; Naysmith - a course of right-sided therapy; Wayne - a set of Ford Ka stabiliser wheels; Gravesen - a woolly hat; Kil-bane - brake pads, Radzinski - a bigger net. And for David Moyes, four-penny worth of loan players gift-wrapped for the January sales.
Steve Jones, (via e-mail)
Don't let it slip
GREAT result for Everton in the rain at Pompey, but the only way to build on a hard-fought win is with a convincing hammering of Leicester. Play Rooney behind Radz and big Kev.
D Itie, Bootle
Getting pushy
THE Rooney saga, regarding the push, made back page headlines yet the week before, and probably the luckiest man not to be sent off, was Steven Gerrard. He made one of the season's worst tackles when Liverpool played their last UEFA Cup match and then goes one better against Newcastle with a two-footed tackle on Solano. Both went unpunished so why didn't the papers concentrate on those tackles rather than Wayne's silly push on Stone.
Peter Briers, Liverpool
Chinese puzzle
I NOTE with interest that Professor John McKenzie is getting off his backside in an attempt to raise funds for Leeds United. If he can use his Chinese contacts to raise funds, why can't we via Kejian. The lack of direction from the board is frightening.
John Oxford, (via e-mail)

Double defensive boost for Moyes
By David Prior, Daily Post Dec 19 2003
DAVID MOYES is likely to have Tony Hibbert and Joseph Yobo back for tomorrow's home game against Leicester after he was finally handed some good news on the defensive front. The Blues boss, looking to build on last weekend's encouraging win at Portsmouth and so secure the club's first back-to-back wins in the Premiership for eight months, was forced to throw Alessandro Pistone back into action early at Fratton Park and had no substitute defenders available if required on the bench. However Hibbert (pictured), who picked up an ankle injury in Everton's 0-0 draw with Manchester City earlier this month, and Yobo, who has been sidelined by a neck injury, both appear to have an excellent chance of making the Goodison clash. Moyes said: "Tony Hibbert's improving and he's got a good chance of being available for Saturday and Joseph Yobo has been training with us everyday - he's not missed a day's training since the day after the Bolton game. "But he's still feeling a problem when he's been heading the ball. "The problem should have, by now, gone away, so he should be back within the next day or so." If both players do prove their fitness the Scot will face a rare selection luxury with his backline, with Pistone, and in particular David Unsworth, having performed admirably as replacements. Indeed Unsworth's form has allowed Moyes to consider aborting plans to bring in a central defender next month. With Yobo away on international duty with Nigeria, Moyes thought he would have to strengthen his squad and has been casting an eye over Russian international Viktor Onopko. But the Everton boss admitted: "He (Unsworth) has done well and shown me that we may not be desperately in need of bringing another centre-half in. "He has certainly eased the headache for me over losing Joseph Yobo. I am now not feeling quite so vulnerable about our defensive options when Joe goes." Moyes added: "We just need to try and concentrate fully on beating Leicester City. "If we do that then we will achieve back-to-back wins. At the moment, it's a big job, it's a difficult game and we'll have to be at our best to get a result."

Rooney in as Watson loses fitness battle
Dec 19 2003 By Scott Mcleod Liverpool Echo
WAYNE ROONEY is set to continue in midfield for Everton after David Moyes confirmed Steve Watson has lost his battle to be fit for tomorrow's game with Leicester. Watson's return to action for the Blues lasted just 24 minutes at Portsmouth last weekend before he suffered a thigh strain. Rooney replaced the 29-year-old and produced a match-winning performance from the right of midfield, which looks set to continue at Goodison Park tomorrow. Watson has been receiving intensive treatment all week but will not be ready to face Leicester at Goodison. Moyes said: "Steve Watson will be unavailable because of the injury he picked up last weekend." Kevin Campbell is expected to once again partner Tomasz Radzinski in attack despite suffering from a head cold. Franny Jeffers is also a doubt because of a throat infection. But the Blues are set to welcome back Tony Hibbert and Joseph Yobo, who both missed the trip to Fratton Park. Leicester arrive at Goodison with a fully-fit squad to choose from. The Premiership newcomers began the season as favourites for relegation but, after spending a period at the foot of the table last month, have now recovered. Moyes warns that Micky Adams' battlers should not be under-estimated as the Blues seek their first back-to-back Premiership victories this season. He said: "We need to try and win and build on last weekend's result. "We are generally decent at Goodison and the lads are very positive after last week. "We are running into a big period for ourselves and we know that if we get the wins now it will make a big difference for us. It is important to keep climbing the table. "Leicester have done really well and Micky Adams is doing a great job. He has got a really hardworking side and they are doing everything they can to make sure Leicester are a Premiership team next year. "They have had some really good results this year and they make it difficult for any team they play. We know it will be a hard game for us. "But if we can create the opportunities we have been doing in recent weeks and hopefully get a few more goals then we will get the result we want." Everton's next game after tomorrow is the Boxing Day clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford but the manager is not looking that far ahead. "I am not putting any more pressure on anyone and I am only concentrating on the Leicester game," he added.

Pompey need a quick fix
Dec 19 2003 Liverpool Echo
EVERTONIANS were charged £29 for the pleasure of watching last Saturday's Premiership match on an uncovered end at Fratton Park. It rained. Heavily. But the result made the experience bearable for the sodden supporters. But would it be just a little cynical to suggest that Pompey - fearing their stay in the top flight may be a brief one - are intent on fleecing visiting fans this season? If so, let's hope their fears prove founded.

Oh yes they will beat panto acts!
Dec 19 2003 Adam Oldfield Liverpool Echo
THEIR form may have been a little Wishee Washee recently, but both Liverpool and Everton enter into the Christmas spirit this weekend by taking on a couple of pantomime acts. Emile Heskey's goals return suggest he has been ignoring chants of "he's behind you" for most of the season, but the Reds striker should make light work of the Wolves defence in what will be a Molineux mauling tomorrow. Likewise, if Wayne Rooney keeps his temper in check and Buttons it with the referee at Goodison, he should help the Blues out-fox Leicester.
With tricky festive fixtures imminent for both Merseyside teams, three points will be the demand of David Moyes and Gerard Houllier and their players won't disappoint. Everton are a worthwhile 4-5 (Stanley) for victory, while Liverpool are afforded the same price with Bet365. Meanwhile, Chelsea (4-5) will look to make up for lost ground following the defeat to Bolton last week, when they make the short trip to Loftus Road. Claudio Ranieri's side already reads like most manager's Christmas wish-lists, so with a bit of fine-tuning, they will return to winning ways. But their hopes of topping the Premier-ship going into the Boxing Day programme will be dashed by London rivals Arsenal. The Gunners are a short-priced 4 -6 (Stanley) to win at Bolton, but should repay punter's faith by avoiding a Chelsea-like upset. After turning over Liverpool at Anfield last week, Southampton must be fancied at 8-11 (Bet Direct) to do the same to visitors Portsmouth tomorrow. Another home banker can be found at Ewood Park as Blackburn (10-11 Bet365) welcome Aston Villa. Graeme Souness will still be feeling bitter after failing to pick up anything at Highbury last Sunday, but the performance gives him plenty to be optimistic about for tomorrow.
Better off with Roo and Owen
FOLLOWING Jonny Wilkinson's unsurprising capture of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award on Sunday, bookmakers are looking to recoup their losses by issuing early prices for next year. William Hill, though, look to have made a grave mistake in thinking the 2004 Olympics will dictate who wins the Beeb's top sporting accolade. Sir Steve Redgrave's former rowing partner Matthew Pinsent is the 9-4 favourite and Paula Radcliffe 5-2 second favourite. But surely the biggest event of 2004 - from an English perspective - is football's European Championships. Major tournaments always produce an England hero - whether the team wins or not. The REAL contenders should be David Beck-ham (5-1) and strikers Wayne Rooney (9-1) and Michael Owen (12-1).

I'm ready to be a Blue for life, roars ace Pistone
Dec 19 2003 By Scott Mcleod Liverpool Echo
ALESSANDRO PISTONE wants to end his career at Everton. The 28-year-old defender has 18 months remaining on his current deal. He has started just six games this season after having to undergo a second hernia operation in the space of 12 months. But he is now fit again and eager to make up for lost time by convincing the club he is worthy of a contract extension. "I really like England and I want to stay here until the end of my career at least," he revealed. "I have always been very comfortable in this country, from arriving in Newcastle and now here in Liverpool. "I like the atmosphere and the people in the city. My contract runs out next season and then it is up to the club. "But I would do anything to stay at Everton because I feel really settled in the area and at this club. But to agree a contract you need two sides. "I will just wait and we will see what happens in the future. If I am playing it puts the ball in the club's court." And, much to everybody's surprise, play he did last weekend. The Milan-born defender made an unexpected return to first team action as a right-back at Portsmouth. He completed the 90 minutes in the 2-1 victory despite having only trained for a couple of days before the game and having not figured for the reserves against Manchester City. It was a gamble for David Moyes but Pistone was so keen to stake his claim for a regular starting berth he convinced the manager he was ready. "To be honest, the gaffer didn't have much choice because there was a shortage in the squad," added Pistone. "Hibbo was injured, Yobo was injured and David Weir was injured. We spoke about it and I gave the gaffer my assurance that I was alright and that I would be able to play. "It was really good for me in terms of fitness because I was okay after the game.
"The main thing is that I have come back and am able to play again. When I first got the injury and was told I needed another hernia operation it was very frustrating. "But after the first week out your head is fully concentrated on coming back as soon as possible, hopefully better than before. "It is hard being injured, but it is rare for a player to go through a full season without getting some injury." The defender's last game before last weekend's trip to Portsmouth was in the Carling Cup against Stockport in Only last week the manager admitted that he had missed Pistone's versatility. With the hectic Christmas schedule looming large, the Italian couldn't have timed his return better. "I think it is good for a team when a player can play in a lot of positions and, to be honest, there are a lot of players like that in our squad," added Pistone. "It is okay playing left or right, as long as you are playing." Despite his adaptability, Pistone has largely been employed as a left-back since his arrival from Newcastle for £3m in August 2000. But last weekend he replaced right-back Tony Hibbert, who missed the trip to Fratton Park because of an ankle injury. Hibbert is expected to be given the green light to return tomorrow but he may find his path back into the teamblocked. Pistone's performance didn't betray the fact it was his first September. competitive game in almost three months. It was the kind of gutsy dis-play you would normally associate with a tough, rugged defender from the home nations. And although the 28-year-old may not fit that stereotype he insists he does feel very English. He recently acquired British citizenship, is married to an English girl and has lived over here since arriving at St James' Park from Inter in 1997. Indeed, had it not been for a handful of Italian Under 21 caps when he was a teenager, Pistone could now be pushing for a place in Sven Goran Eriksson's Euro 2004 squad. "If that were possible it would be great just to have a chance to play for this country," he admits. England's loss is Everton's gain. Whether that continues to be the case beyond the summer of 2005 depends on Pistone's form over the next 18 months, beginning tomorrow against Leicester.

Higgy's highlight
Dec 19 2003 Liverpool Echo
CRAIG HIGNETT has an added incentive at Goodison Park tomorrow. Leicester's 33-year-old playmaker is a boyhood Liverpool fan and former Reds reserve player - and loves playing against Everton. He said: "I still am a Red. My dad is a Blue but the rest of the house were Reds. "My dad used to take me to watch Everton when I was a kid but when I got older I supported Liverpool. "Everton had such a good season last year. "You would have expected them to be up there again this year. They have picked up a bit of late though and you could say they are similar to ourselves. "They had a system that suited them last year and for one reason or other it hasn't quite clicked yet. But it will.

Everton 3, Leicester 2 (D, Post)
Dec 22 2003 Ian Doyle Reports From Goodison Park, Daily Post
WITH apologies to Charles Dickens, Goodison Park played host to its own version of A Christmas Carol on Saturday. Les Ferdinand was the Ghost of Christmas Past, who despite his advanced years demonstrated he has lost none of this appetite for what he is most famous for in these parts - namely, scoring against Everton. Duncan Ferguson was the Ghost of Christmas Present, a hero hailed for the rediscovery of his form earlier this season and then harangued following his Bellefield bust-up, making his return in typically triumphant style. And finally Wayne Rooney was the Ghost of Christmas Future, the young hope delivering another glimpse of what could be for Everton and prompting headlines of a more positive nature after his south coast shenanigans at Portsmouth last week. The remainder of the cast are left to the readers' imagination, but there will be those who had stayaway Blues director Paul Gregg in the Scrooge role. But while it's unlikely Saturday's events will alter the entertainment guru's ways - at least when it comes to dipping into his own coffers to help David Moyes provide Everton some New Year cheer in the transfer market - the ensemble combined to transform a run-of-the-mill fixture into a real Christmas cracker.
The conclusion brought first back-to-back wins for the Blues since April and, highlighting the lack of any real consistent quality among an average Premiership this season, to within two wins of a Champions League place. Credit for the victory must go to boss Moyes, whose second-half substitutions engendered renewed spirit and threat and ensured his Everton side gleaned full reward against plucky Leicester from a game they, in all honesty, should never have looked like losing in the first place. Rooney will, no doubt, once again command the spotlight following the half-hour cameo which showed further signs the weight of expectation is easing on his young shoulders. Rejuvenated after ending his goalscoring drought last week, the spark has returned to his game and he appears to be enjoying himself more, underlined by his well-taken equaliser on Saturday. There were some eyebrows raised when the teenager was not named in the starting line-up - maybe Moyes continued to have reservations after his striker's fiery temperament revealed itself when he was fortunate not to be red-carded for shoving Steve Stone last week. But the decision for Rooney to continue as the perfect 'impact' player, a role in which he shot to prominence last year don't forget, was fully vindicated by the eventual outcome. Clearly his manager believes the right thing is being done. "I think I have been playing it right with Wayne all the time," said Moyes. "The result of playing Wayne Rooney is a different matter to how we have been treating him, and I think we have been treating him in the right way since day one." The Moyes treatment has also been felt by Ferguson (right), who seemed on his way out of the club after that infamous training ground altercation with his manager last month. However, it was soon peace in our time and on Saturday Ferguson made his first senior appearance since the Carling Cup win over Charlton in October. The cheers afforded to Ferguson on his introduction as a late substitute demonstrated what short memories football fans tend to have. And they became even shorter when, with his first touch, the striker nodded down a David Unsworth long ball into the path of Tomasz Radzinski for the Candian to shoot first time from 12 yards to net the Blues' winner 11 minutes from time. In true Duncan style, the big man was then booked moments later for a clumsy challenge, but his re-acceptance into the first-team fold can only be of benefit to both club and player. It wasn't just all about Rooney and Ferguson, though. David Unsworth continued his impressive form at centre-back as if to show the Blues what they will miss if, as looks increasingly likely, he exits Goodison in the coming months. But even he was out-shone by Kevin Kilbane, who is pleasantly surprising everybody with his displays on the left flank and is evidence of Moyes' canniness in the transfer market. Saturday's roller-coaster ride began as early as the fourth minute, when Alan Stubbs saw a header cleared off the line by Billy McKinlay, and soon after Thomas Gravesen came close with two long-range efforts. Despite their complete dominance, the home side had to wait until the 32nd minute for the opener. Stubbs' long ball into the box was challenged for by Kevin Campbell but broke off Muzzy Izzet into the path of Lee Carsley, whose close-range shot was blocked by Leicester goalkeeper Ian Walker but ricocheted back off Carsley and then Steve Howey's leg before flying into the goal.
Saturday marked the 124th anniversary of Everton's first-ever game. But while even he wasn't around to see St Peter's beaten 6-0, Les Ferdinand has been tormenting the Blues for what seems aeons. And his customary goal on the stroke of half-time made him the post-war record league goalscorer against Everton, having scored a remarkable 16 times in 17 games. Not that it should have been allowed, though. Stubbs was harshly adjudged to have fouled Marcus Bent, and his protestations earned only a yellow card and the free-kick being moved forward 10 yards to the edge of the area. Izzet tapped the ball to Ferdinand, who slammed home from 20 yards. Campbell - whose presence up front makes Everton a more cohesive unit - struck the crossbar with a header early in the second half and Kilbane's mazy run ended in a shot which was beaten out by Walker. However, the Blues then fatally switched off in defence in the 57th minute, giving Jordan Stewart time to float over a cross from the left which sailed over the unmarked Ferdinand and Izzet at the far post only for James Scowcroft, coming in off the opposite flank, to stoop and head home from eight yards out. It was a daft goal, and Moyes responded by introducing Rooney. The lift the youngster gave the team was instant, and with 20 minutes remaining Radzinski's ball from the right was held up by Campbell in the area, who laid off perfectly into the path of Rooney to fire into the roof of the net from 18 yards. Cue a celebratory dash, which took the youngster half the length of the pitch back towards the dugout where he rejoiced with some vigour. Do you think he was making a point to anyone? There was only going to be one winner after that, and Radzinski (above left) duly obliged. The Canadian almost made it four after some outrageous skill by Kilbane on the touchline created the chance, while Nigel Martyn had to be alert to tip over an Izzet volley in injury time. This was Everton's third successive win against promoted sides - Portsmouth and Wolves the previously vanquished - and while there are harder tests to come in the next few weeks, the Blues are at last moving in the right direction.
EVERTON (4-4-2): Martyn; Pistone (Hibbert 27), Unsworth, Stubbs, Naysmith; McFadden (Rooney 60), Carsley, Gravesen, Kilbane; Radzinski, Campbell (Ferguson 78). Subs: Simonsen, Li Tie.
LEICESTER CITY (4-4-2): Walker; Impey, Scimeca, Howey (Elliott 51), Thatcher; Scowcroft, Izzet, McKinlay (Dickov 84), Stewart (Davidson 75); Ferdinand, Bent. Subs: Coyne, Hignett.
BOOKINGS: Everton's Stubbs (dissent), Ferguson (foul) and Leicester's Scimeca (foul), Thatcher (foul) and Bent (dissent).
ATT: 37,007.

Everton 3, Leicester 2 (Echo)
Dec 22 2003
By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
A VISIT from the ghost of season's past had a profound impact on Everton this weekend.
Les Ferdinand is one apparition who has given Evertonians plenty of nightmares over the years. But it was a different story on Saturday. The strike which provided the veteran with his 16th goal against the Toffees - a feat not achieved by any other player since the war - merely helped inspire David Moyes' men to their most thrilling victory of the season.
No doubt the manager would have preferred a resolute 1-0 win. And just seconds before the half-time interval and Ferdinand's dramatic, unexpected and controversial goal that seemed a distinct possibility But Ferdinand and Jamie Scowcroft, who netted Leicester's second with a stooping header in the 58nd minute, reminded Everton that they cannot always rely on their watertight defence. Not even Tommy Steele, who is playing Scrooge in the Bill Kenwright production currently showing at the Liverpool Empire, could have competed with Everton in the miser stakes before this weekend. The Blues went into their clash with Leicester having racked up six clean sheets from their previous seven home games.
Another on Saturday would have constituted the most impressive defensive run by the club at Goodison since the championship winning season of 1987. But while the back line has been strong, going forward Moyes' men have lacked a killer instinct. As a result, league points have been more scarce than they should have been. That story continued in the opening half against Micky Adams' battlers. Everton were head and shoulders above their visitors, outplaying them and displaying confidence and quality. Kevin Kilbane was leading the fight, play-ing superbly on the left to create a string of good crosses and leaving full-back Andy Impey to look like a second-rate lower league player. Unfortunately, his fine build up play and the efforts of his team-mates was not reflected by the scoreline, with only a scrambled Lee Carsley goal in the 32nd to show for their efforts. And then Ferdinand materialised and provided a valuable lesson. It was something of a fortunate goal, coming as it did from a questionable free-kick. Alan Stubbs tussled with Marcus Bent 30 yards from goal. The decision could have gone either way but referee Phil Dowd awarded the decision to the visitors. Stubbs lost his cool and threw the ball away in disgust. It wasn't the most professional thing to do, but even his manager was struggling to control his emotions as he became increasingly animated on the touchline. Dowd booked the Everton skipper and moved the free-kick forward 10 yards to the edge of the box. Leicester had created nothing bar a couple of highly speculative shots from distance at that point. Then Muzzy Izzet played the short free-kick into the path of Ferdinand and he leathered a superb shot beyond the wall and into the top corner of the net. That setback focused the minds of the Everton players and in the second half the home side's dominance was laced with a little more adventure. They stopped over-elaborating around the box, seemingly uncertain as to how to complete each forward-flowing move. Instead, they became more direct and, as a result, won the game despite suffering the further blow of conceding a soft goal to Scowcroft. And the winning margin could and should have been greater, with the impressive Kevin Campbell heading against the crossbar and two strong penalty claims turned down. Nevertheless, all three points were earned courtesy of the ghosts of season's present and future. Wayne Rooney will be mesmerising crowds at Goodison for many campaigns to come. But the 18-year-old is impatient to weave his magic now. He is blue to the core and desperate to play in every match. At the moment David Moyes is harnessing that desire to marvelous affect.
In the last two games Rooney has been dropped to the bench and in both matches he has made a goalscoring impact as a substitute, helping the Blues secure their first back to back victories in eight months in the process. Like a caged beast ravenous for a goal when Moyes released him into the action following Scowcroft's strike. His appetite was satisfied in the 71st minute. Tomasz Radzinski charged down the right, skinning Ben Thatcher before crossing low into the six yard box. Kevin Campbell intelligently played the ball back into the path of Rooney and the teenager smashed the ball high into the top left corner of the net.
His mad dash to the touchline to celebrate right in front of the dugout suggested the player was eager to make a point to his manager. But Moyes is intent on being cautious with his young hotshot because he is still far younger than the defender's he is so eager to embarrass every weekend. To put it into perspective, when David Beck-ham was the same age he was learning his trade as a fresh-faced newcomer alongside Moyes during a loan spell at Preston North End. If Rooney is Everton's future, then Radzinski is very much about the present. The Canadian international is now the joint top scorer at the club, thanks to his winner 11 minutes from time. It was created by the returning Duncan Ferguson, who was making his first appearance for the senior side since his well-publicised fallout with the manager last month. He was another eager to make a point and he did just that when he leapt above the three defenders challenging him to nod David Unsworth's long ball into the path of Radzinski. The striker demonstrated quick reactions to match his quick feet by lashing a right foot volley beyond the despairing dive of Ian Walker. It was like being propelled back in time to the most exciting home games of last season. The emotions produced by the dramatic late triumphs against the likes of Southampton, Aston Villa and Arsenal were revisited. With Christmas just a couple of days away, it was a real Charles Dickens moment that was confirmed by a superb late save from Nigel Martyn to deny Izzet.
Such entertainment has been scarce this season. Everton have been solid at home but only against Leeds have they really cut loose. Had they won Saturday's game by one goal
to nil the impact on the team and the fans would not have been as significant. There is something much more rewarding about coming back from behind. Now Everton have done it twice in a week. Last season it was a feat they achieved more than any other club in the Premiership. When you produce a match-winning fightback the team develops a belief they can beat anyone and survive anything. That is not a bad mentality to nurture ahead of a Boxing Day visit to Old Trafford.

Martyn's a Euro star
By Ian Doyle, Daily Post Dec 22 2003
DAVID MOYES has again urged Sven-Goran Eriksson to consider recalling Nigel Martyn after seeing Everton move to within six points of a Champions League qualification place.
The Blues recorded back-to-back wins for the first time since April by beating Leicester City 3-2 at Goodison Park on Saturday, following last week's 2-1 success at Portsmouth. The victory was only secured by a great injury-time save by Martyn (pictured) to deny Muzzy Izzet a Leicester equaliser. And Blues boss Moyes later hailed the 37-year-old for the impact he has made since his arrival from Leeds United for £500,000 in late August - and called on England to reconsider their goalkeeping options. "Nigel Martyn has been terrific and I do feel there won't be many goalkeepers better than him playing at the moment," said Moyes, who saw Alessandro Pistone suffer another fitness setback when he was forced off with a shoulder injury in the 27th minute on Saturday. "Nigel has been a calming influence for us. Prior to the Portsmouth game, we had eight clean sheets out of 13 since he came into the side which is something we hadn't been doing particularly well. He has done tremendously well for us. "He was a top goalkeeper and had nothing to prove. But more importantly Nigel Martyn is a top man, a great individual, and any manager would want him."
Moyes continued: "I think if his form continues and he looks after himself like he has done, he can carry on playing. Goalkeepers tend to go on a bit longer - look at Peter Schmeichel and David Seaman. But Nigel is playing well for us. "He could be in with a shout for Euro 2004 but Nigel himself would admit there are younger goalkeepers coming through. But I can only tell you from my experience and how I've seen him work here that I'll be surprised if there's anyone better than him at the moment. I actually think England know that as well."
Wayne Rooney came off the bench to fire Everton's second goal after strikes by Everton nemesis Les Ferdinand and James Scowcroft had cancelled out Lee Carsley's first-half opener. Duncan Ferguson then capped his first senior appearance since his training ground bust-up with Moyes by helping create Tomasz Radzinski's 79th-minute winner to push the Blues up to 11th place in the Premiership table. But Moyes reserved most praise for another transfer deadline-day signing, Kevin Kilbane, who continued his recent good run of form with another man-of-the-match display. "I hoped some of the supporters here would give him the opportunity and they have done," said Moyes. "His performance against Chelsea here was sensational and again he has really taken the fight to Leicester and delivered crosses.
"Kevin has ability. Okay, he's got weaknesses like we all have but overall his contribution to the team over the last six or eight weeks has been very good. "He is a real honest lad, a hardworking boy, and that's what we've needed from him. He's strong, he's big and we needed that because we were short of size in the team. He has given us balance on the left side." Moyes opted not to bring Rooney back into the starting line-up despite ending his goal drought at Fratton Park last weekend. Instead, he was rewarded by a fine display by Kevin Campbell in attack and the impact of Rooney's second-half introduction from the bench.

Martyn backing pal Rio
By Ian Doyle, Daily Post Dec 22 2003
EVERTON goalkeeper Nigel Martyn has jumped to the defence of former team-mate Rio Ferdinand. The Manchester United defender received an eight-month ban on Friday for failing to take a drugs test in September. Martyn , who played alongside Ferdinand when at Leeds United, has insisted the ban is "harsh" and has slammed FIFA president Sepp Blatter for interfering with the disciplinary process. "Whatever the situation was and whether he did or did not forget, the punishment does seem a bit harsh," said Martyn. "Players that have tested positive for drugs in the past have been handed lesser sentences so it seemed strange. "Maybe the Football Association were put under too much pressure by outside influences and they've reacted to it. "It is disappointing for Rio because anyone who knows him knows that he would never be involved in things like that. It's an oversight, that's all. He's simply forgotten. "Hopefully for Rio, the appeal will go in, the ban is reduced and he is able to compete in Euro 2004 because England need him. He is a quality player. "Rio is Rio, he's just an ordinary guy and sometimes forgets things. I'm sure it's a male thing to have short-term memory loss!" Martyn's career has been revitalised at Everton this year after a season in the wilderness at Elland Road. And while he sympathises with Ferdinand's imminent spell on the sidelines, he has warned he will need the support of his colleague and family to help him through the suspension. "I know how tough it is to be on the sidelines," he added. "After three or four months I began to realise time was dragging, but he has the mental strength to keep on training and be ready when he returns. "It will be harder for him as he knows he will definitely be out for that length of time, while I always had the chance of someone being injured and letting me back into the team. "He has the support of people around him and if you ask any player, they feel for him."

Fans forum
By Danny Gordon, Daily Post
Dec 22 2003
FOOTBALL really is a remarkable game. Not only does it affect how the rest of the weekend goes for the thousands of fans devoted to their respective teams, but it can also affect their Christmas celebrations. Thankfully, for the 37,000 Evertonians who left Goodison Park in high spirits on Saturday, Christmas is going to be a good one. Everton thoroughly deserved their victory, despite a curious 15-minute spell in the second half when they allowed Leicester to take the lead in a game that should have been well beyond them by half time.
David Moyes responded by introducing Wayne Rooney for the ineffective McFadden and what a difference he made. He didn't touch the ball too much but when he did it had class written all over it. He played sensibly; knitting things together with simple passing that gave Everton more possession and put Leicester back under pressure. Following good work down the right from the impressive Radzinski, Campbell set up Rooney who fired home an unstoppable shot into the Gwladys Street net. The fans inside Goodison went wild. I'm convinced their reaction was as much to do with the way Rooney celebrated his goal - showing everyone how much it meant to him - as to the quality of the strike itself. Moyes then threw on Ferguson in what proved to be another inspired move. Ferguson cleverly knocked down for Radzinski to shoot first time in to the bottom corner. Evertonians can thank two of Moyes' deadline-day signings for helping make Christmas a good one. Martyn, who had been largely unoccupied throughout, made a great save in injury time from Izzet. Kilbane had an excellent game and was easily the best player on the pitch.

Basics rekindle Rooney's spark
By Ian Doyle, Daily Post
Dec 22 2003
DAVID MOYES has revealed the 'back to basics' message which has helped revitalise Wayne Rooney's season. The 18-year-old scored his second goal in as many games after coming off the bench to help Everton to a 3-2 victory over Leicester City on Saturday.
It followed a goal drought of almost four months in which Rooney's club form dipped and the Blues sank towards the bottom of the Premiership. However, after being given a break from the starting line-up in recent weeks, Rooney has responded with some impressive cameo performances. And Moyes believes being taken out of the firing line and being told to keep things simple has benefited the youngster. "I think we've just eased probably the pressure on Wayne and the expectations on him," said the Blues boss. "He's now doing the same job he was doing last year, coming on and scoring goals and helping us win games and draw games, whatever it may be. "He has done that and you can see from his face and body language that he is enjoying it much more at the present time than he was four weeks ago. It's obvious. "The important thing is that for his first four touches after coming on, he didn't give the ball away. He didn't do anything daft and this is what we've been telling him - pick the right times to do things simple and to only be clever or do something exciting when the time is right. "I think whenever he comes on people expect him to dance past four people and do something clever. It can't be all that. We instill good habits, we're talking about a young boy and he needs to realise exactly where he is in his development." Moyes had resisted the temptation to start with Rooney, and was rewarded by Tomasz Radzinski scoring the winner and strike partner Kevin Campbell producing a fine display.
"Kevin probably won't get much of the credit but look at his part in Wayne Rooney's goal where he held it up in the six-yard box and set him up for his finish," added the Blues boss. "I know Wayne lashed it in but Kevin played a big part in Wayne getting that goal. "Kevin has led the line the same way he did for the majority of last season. We've needed that. We tried to get the two smaller boys up front for a lot of the season and in some games it worked, but we've needed Kevin or Duncan to be ready to play up front." Rooney was one of two second- half substitutions which helped turn the game for the Blues, who were 2-1 down with an hour gone. Duncan Ferguson made his first appearance since his training ground bust-up with Moyes, but the manager reiterated it was in the past and the striker has a future at Goodison. "I decided to bring Duncan back on the bench and it paid off handsomely," added Moyes. "He is a big part of our plans, he always was. Duncan is back working alongside us all and working hard. It's all over, all in the past. "The substitutions paid off. I didn't think we deserved to be 2-1 down. I didn't even believe we deserved to be one each, but it was. "The players had to dig deep and they are doing that at the moment. It wasn't quite as clean as we've played before but we certainly showed the character and passion which we've instilled here and we showed that today. "The table looks better, but we know we've a long way to go. "It's taken us longer than we'd have liked it to have been but nevertheless we're pleased to have had three or four games where we've steadied the ship a little bit and got decent results with good honest hard-working and hard-tobeat performances." Moyes also insisted Everton's opening goal should be credited to Lee Carsley and not as a Steve Howey own goal. "I think there are a few ricochets but I think it would be hard to give it as an own goal," he said. "He has gone in, it has hit him again, hit the defender again, so for me it was Lee Carsley's. It's two in two games for him as well, so I'll take the midfield players scoring goals."

Rooney provides perfect response
Dec 22 2003 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
FORGIVE me for introducing just a little Bah Humbug into the feel-good factor currently enveloping Goodison Park - but Wayne Rooney's intense goal celebration on Saturday looked nothing like the "kiss and make up, you were right all along boss" gesture it was portrayed in several Sunday papers. The second his right-foot howitzer blitzed into the Gwladys Street net he had one message to make - and he made sure his manager got it.
Rooney was bristling at being left on the substitutes' bench again - and he charged straight to his boss to deliver the suggestion that David Moyes might have been wrong to leave him out. Fortunately he thought better of it at the last minute, sidestepped his manager's outstretched arms and delivered a verbal volley somewhere in the region of the family enclosure. Moyes, of course, could point to the goal as convincing evidence that he was right to introduce Rooney from the substitutes' bench bristling with indignation and anger.
I'm not so sure. For a long time the game with a poor Leicester side, watched by a strangely subdued audience, was crying out for the lift Rooney invariably gives a match whenever he gets possession. Even referee Phil Dowd's correct, but rigidly inflexible application of the laws couldn't rouse a 37,000 crowd for long. It took Rooney's arrival to do that - and decisively so. But what is increasingly apparent is that Moyes is handling characters as different as Rooney and Duncan Ferguson - with all the problems that comes with them - with the sureness of step of a mountain goat. Duncan Ferguson's Everton career appeared all but over a fort-night ago. On Saturday he not only created the winning goal for Tomasz Radzinski with a majestically guided header, he collected a yellow card for a tackle which showed a desire and an enthusiasm to regain possession for his team-mates. With a difficult home game just 48 hours after the Boxing Day trip to Old Trafford, Moyes could do worse than unleash Ferguson and Rooney in tandem against a rocking Rio Ferdinand, leaving the strike-force which started against Leicester fresh for the visit of Birmingham. Just one thought to leave you with. Where does this leave Francis Jeffers, not even considered for a place on the substitutes' bench at the weekend?

Pistone's new agony
Dec 22 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON will be without Alessandro Pistone until well into the New Year. The Italian defender suffered a shoulder injury during the opening half of Saturday's 3-2 victory over Leicester. He underwent x-rays at the weekend which revealed the player has not suffered a break. However, the severity of the sprain means he is set to be missing for "several weeks". He will now definitely miss the Boxing Day clash with Manchester United, Sunday's encounter with Birmingham and the January 3 FA Cup tie with Norwich. Head physio Mick Rathbone told the ECHO: "The xrays confirmed our initial diagnosis after the game. Alessandro has sprained the acromio-clavicular joint in his right shoulder. "We expect him to be out for several weeks." It is a major blow for the 28- year- old, who only returned to the Blues starting line-up for the recent trip to Portsmouth after eight weeks out of the side because of a hernia injury. Inury has restricted him to just seven starts this season, but earlier this month David Moyes admitted the defender had been a major loss because of his versatility. Left-back is his preferred position but he stepped in at right-back for the trip to Fratton Park because of an ankle injury to Tony Hibbert. Pistone kept his place for Saturday's game with Leicester but was replaced by Hibbert midway through the first half after falling awkwardly on his shoulder. The Blues will want to make sure he is fully fit by the time Joseph Yobo departs for African Nations Cup duty with Nigeria following the January 10 Premiership clash at Fulham. Meanwhile, young Everton striker Nick Chadwick has had his loan to First Division club Millwall extended into a second month. Manager David Moyes said: "The experience will benefit him but we can recall him instantly if we need to."

Kilbane: Wayne's in form of his life
Dec 22 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
KEVIN KILBANE has warned Manchester United and the rest of the Premiership that Wayne Rooney is coming into the best form of his life. The Irish international was the man of the match in Saturday's 3-2 victory over Leicester. But it was Rooney's arrival as a second-half substitute when the Blues were 2-1 down which galvanised Everton and helped inspire them to the win. It was the 18-year-old's second goalscoring appearance from the substitutes' bench in the space of a week following his match-winner at Portsmouth. Kilbane said: "Wayne is on fire now. If you had seen him last week in training after his goal at Portsmouth he is looking really sharp. "The lads said that last season when Wayne was coming off the bench it was giving everyone a lift and he proved that on Saturday. I don't think Wayne is too happy being a substitute, but when he comes on he lifts the crowd." Kilbane believes the way in which the side came back from behind to win for the second time in a week has given the side a significant boost ahead of the Boxing Day trip to Old Trafford. "The character we showed shows what great ability and strength in each other we have got. That can help us kick on from here," he said "We have to go to Old Trafford believing we can get a result. I am sure that is the way we will be preparing for that game because we want to build on Saturday. We believe in ourselves." There is no doubt Kilbane is brimming with confidence.
He was mesmerising on the left flank for Everton, causing Andrew Impey countless problems and coming close to getting on the scoresheet himself twice. But the Irishman remained typically modest about his display, adding: "That was probably the most enjoyable game I have had since I came here. "I have really enjoyed myself since I came here and things are getting better and better. "But the credit should go to the team for the way we came back on Saturday because a lot of sides would have gone down and out at 2-1.
"We have done it twice in a week now. But on Saturday I thought we should have been home and dry by half-time. We created quite a few chances for each other and it was disappointing we couldn't find that killer blow to go two or three ahead. "But they have got quality in their side. Les Ferdinand scored a great free-kick and we suddenly found ourselves "We felt hard done by at half-time. But that is the way it goes in this league. Teams are always vulnerable when they are at their best and that is what we proved. We were playing some great stuff when we conceded. "But I felt we are very positive at the moment. I don't know what has happened but in the last couple of weeks the optimism and belief has increased and that is showing with our performances on the pitch." Even Bill Kenwright couldn't contain himself over Kilbane's performance, interrupting our interview to proclaim: "Can I just say Kevin Kilbane was the man of the match, and he was the man of the match at Portsmouth. He is doing a great job for us." It is hard to argue. 2-1 down.

Moyes praises Dunc's return
Dec 22 2003 By David Prentice At Goodison Park, Liverpool Echo
DUNCAN FERGUSON turned down a loan move to Bradford, to become an Everton supersub. The Blues' striker had been targeted by Bryan Robson to join an ex-Everton colony which already includes Michael Branch, Danny Cadamarteri and Gareth Farrelly.
He rejected the approach - and came off the bench on Saturday to set up Tomasz Radzinski's late matchwinner. "I decided to bring Duncan back on the bench and it paid off handsomely. He is a big part of our plans, he always was," said boss David Moyes.
"Duncan is back working alongside us all and working hard. The problems are all over, in the past. "The substitutions paid off. I didn't even believe we deserved to be one each, but it was. "The players had to dig deep and they are doing that at the moment. It wasn't quite as clean as we've played before but we certainly showed the character and passion which we've instilled here and we showed that today. "The table looks better, but it's a long way to go." Moyes also praised his first substitute, Wayne Rooney, who stepped off the bench to score for the second successive week. "I think we've probably just eased the pressure on Wayne and the expectations on him," explained Moyes. "He's now doing the same job he was doing last year, coming on and scoring goals and helping us win games and draw games. "You can see from his face and his body language that he is enjoying it much more at the present time than he was four weeks ago. It's obvious. "The important thing for me is that with his first four touches after coming on he didn't give the ball away. He didn't do anything daft and this is what we've been telling him - pick the right times to do things simple and only be clever or do something exciting when the time is right. "He kept it simple with his first four touches, then scored the goal and went past a defender for the shot which went wide. "I think whenever he comes on, people expect him to dance past four people and do something clever. It can't be all that. We instill good habits, we're talking about a young boy and he needs to realise exactly where he is in his development." Moyes also believes Everton's first goal should be credited to Lee Carsley, with some agencies claiming Steve Howey applied the final touch. "I think there were a few ricochets, but it would be hard to give it as an own goal," he added. "He has gone in, it has hit him again, hit the defender again, so for me it was Lee Carsley's. It's two in two games for him as well, so I'll take the midfield players scoring goals."

Wayne has a ball...
Daily Post Dec 23 2003
EVERTON star Wayne Rooney and his teammates yesterday put smiles on the faces of dozens of sick children as they handed out presents at Alder Hey hospital. The entire Everton first team squad toured the hospital for two hours, distributing CDs, DVDs, teddy bears and other toys. One of the coaching staff dressed up as Santa while club manager David Moyes handed out 30 footballs. Star of the show was the Blues' 18-year-old striker, also a patron of the hospital, who signed two footballs for James and Ben Cunningham on the hospital's cancer ward. Alder Hey fund-raising manager Chris Done said: "Wayne was amazing with the children. "For a lad of only 18, he was so relaxed with them and they absolutely love him. He is a credit to his family and his club."

Blues on way
Home and Away, Your Say On The Big Issues
Dec 23 2003
Blues on way
IT WAS a great result for Everton on Saturday and the lads showed that they are getting their act together again. Coming from behind to win again was fine, but it wasn't the best performance and we will have to raise our game if we are to get anything off the Mancs.
Although he scored our first, I think Carsley was too quiet and Hibbert looked a bit rusty. Rooney's getting his confidence back and although I constantly give Ferguson stick, I would play him from the start against United as he is more of a danger than Campbell. If we come away with a point on Boxing Day it will be a great result, but if we don't play well we could get a hiding.
Peter Brown, Liverpool
Stay grounded
WELL done to Everton for winning two games in a row. Now let's not get carried away as both Portsmouth and Leicester will be in a relegation battle. If we get a result at United then THAT is an achievement. Champions League? Don't be silly. Last week we were getting relegated and now we're on the way to play Europe's elite? It's a little over the top.
We still need investment in mid-field. Also, Rooney plays well and people criticise Moyes for dropping him. If he didn't drop Rooney, the lad would probably still be playing badly. Dropping him was a good decision for Rooney and Everton.
Steve Jones (via e-mail)
WELL done Blue boys! Rooney scored a great goal to make the scores level and helped raise the spirits of the other players to go on and beat Leicester 3-2. Keep it up lads and we'll make Europe this year.
Joey Brown, Liverpool
GOOD to see all the idiots who were slagging off Kevin Campbell have shut it now. He kept Everton up remember and the team looks much better when he is in there.
Pat London (via e-mail)
Bolt from Blue
WHAT a difference a couple of weeks makes! From playing rubbish at Bolton to picking up back-toback wins. The team seems back to its old self, confidence is up, David Moyes is a quality manager, he made cracking substitutions and credit to Super Kev and Kevin Kilbane, who had another top performance. I just hope we can get something at Old Trafford.
Richard Whitehead (via-email)

Blues eye stocking thriller
By Andy Hunter, Daily Post
Dec 23 2003
DAVID MOYES believes Everton's season will be transformed if they finish the festive season in the top half of the table. The Blues face a testing doubleheader over Christmas, away at reigning champions Manchester United on Boxing Day before a home clash with Birmingham 48 hours later. Successive wins have lifted Everton to 12th in the Premiership but with only four points separating his side from the relegation zone, Moyes insists a full recovery has not been made. Yet a healthy return from two tough Christmas fixtures can, he believes, revitalise the Blues' campaign. "Christmas and Easter can really propel your season," said the Blues manager. "It would be very nice to go into the New Year in the top half of the table if we can. That is what we are aiming for. "This time of year is one of the reasons we have big squads. You need them throughout a season but they justify themselves over Christmas and Easter. They are periods that can make such a difference to your season." And Moyes admits he has been encouraged by signs the Blues are recapturing last season's successful habits. He said: "Over the last week or two they've felt a lot better about themselves and I think we are noticing the self-belief that had perhaps been forgotten. "We looked more like the Everton of last season against Leicester. We were tenacious and realised when we needed to work harder to get what we needed. "On Saturday they knew when to put their foot on the pedal and, just like last season, players were coming off the bench to make a difference. "We didn't deserve to come in at 1-1 or to go behind. At that point I thought 'here we go again' but we didn't feel sorry for ourselves and responded well. Scoring goals has been a concern so to get them was a major plus. "In the end the players got what they deserved - three points and a rousing reception from the supporters who I think acknowledged the fact they had dug very deep." The Blues boss added: "It is looking better than it did but we can't think two results constitutes a recovery. We've got to be realistic. We need regular runs of winning games to stay away from trouble at the bottom. That's the only way it can be done." Victor Onopko, meanwhile, will not be heading to Goodison when the transfer window reopens. Onopko signed a one-year deal with Russian outfit Saturn yesterday. The 34-year-old defender (left) had been offered a brief loan deal by Moyes as cover for Joseph Yobo but was holding out for a longer contract.
Alessandro Pistone could be back to ease Yobo's African Nations Cup loss afterall. There were fears the injury-plagued Italian would be out for another lengthy spell when he suffered a shoulder blow against Leicester. But the Blues boss believes the versatile defender will be back before Yobo leaves for Tunisia on January 9. "It is not too bad and hope-fully he'll be back in a week or two," said Moyes.
* EVERTON moved down a place to 12th in the Premiership table last night after Manchester City drew 1-1 at home to Leeds United.
Mark Viduka gave the visitors the lead in the first half after a bad mistake by City's David Sommeil but substitute Antoine Sibierski equalised eight minutes from time.

Big men taking Blues higher
By Mark Lawrenson, Daily Post
Dec 23 2003
WAYNE ROONEY may have dominated the head-lines again after Everton's win over Leicester, but I think there has been another factor in their mini-revival. The use of players like Kevin Campbell and Duncan Ferguson in a target man role has also helped the team.
Fielding a player with the ability to hold the ball up does not just help the attack but also helps take the pressure off the defence. It means the ball is not coming back at the defence as quickly and that limits the opportunities for the oppositition to create chances. It also encourages mid-field players to make runs into attacking areas. Again if they feel the attack is not going to quickly break down, they will think it is worth-while making a run beyond the attackers and stretching the opposition defence. It results in more fluidity and move-ment in the team. Ferguson, in particularly, received a warm welcome back into the Goodison fold. It shows that whatever disagreements between a player and manager there have been off the field, it is what happens on the field that counts. Many Evertonians still treat Ferguson as a hero. Everybody knows he is a real handful to play against - the only problem is that we have never seen enough of him.

Rooney is back on track - Moyes
Dec 23 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES believes Wayne Rooney has rediscovered his hunger for the game.
The 18-year-old has exploded back into goal-scoring action for Everton in the last two games, netting the winner at Portsmouth and scoring the second in Saturday's 3-2 win over Leicester. Both eye-catching displays were produced after coming off the substitutes bench. Moyes does not think it is coincidence. The manager told the ECHO: "He has needed the pressure taking off him and it has been. "He needs to get back to concentrating on being a footbal l player and doing what he does best. "People can see that Wayne Rooney doesn't always have to start to make an impact. "He gives everybody a lift when he comes on but he also finds he gets that little bit more space because opposition defenders are that little bit more tired." That could mean Rooney being used from the bench once again when the Blues travel to Old Trafford on Boxing Day. Meanwhile, former Everton target Viktor Onopko has chosen to sign for Russian outfit Saturn after the Blues' interest in the defender cooled.
The 34-year-old Russian had originally been offered a deal until the end of the season at Goodison.

Freeze on new Blues deals
Dec 23 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON have put a freeze on entering any new contract negotiations until the summer.
That means Wayne Rooney and a host of other senior players will have to wait before putting pen to paper on new deals at Goodison. Reports earlier this year suggested the 18-year-old had been expected to discuss a new five-year deal before the end of the season.
But Chief Executive Michael Dunford revealed today: "All contract talks will take place in the summer. "The club is unlikely to be entering into any talks before then." Rooney still has two and a half years remaining on the deal he signed in February. Contract talks are also expected to begin with Tomasz Radzinski in the summer. The Canadian international has 18 months remaining on his current deal. Alessandro Pistone is in the same situation and eager to extend his stay on Merseyside. David Unsworth has already turned down the offer of a new deal for one season on reduced wages. He turned it down and will now have to wait until his current deal runs out at the end of the season before sitting down with the club again. He is one of a host of players out of contract at the end of the season, the others being Paul Gerrard, Scot Gemmill, Steve Simonsen, Peter Clarke, Niclas Alexand er s so n an d Sean O'Hanlon. Meanwhile, Everton are continuing to hold discussions with Liverpool over the possibility of a groundshare. Michael Dunford will meet with senior representatives from Liverpool, the North West Development Agency and Liverpool City Council on January 6. It will be the third meeting between the parties.

Moyes wants improvement
By Paul Walker, Daily Post
Dec 24 2003
DAVID MOYES believes Everton can still improve on their Premiership finish of last season and get into Europe. The confident Scot who guided the Blues to seventh last term, is prepared to make such a prediction despite the Merseysiders' next game being at Manchester United on Boxing Day. Moyes said: "We have had two consecutive wins but going to Manchester United next is a bit different, we know that. "But even though we lost there last season, we knew we had played well and people said lots of good things about us which boosted our confidence and sent us off on a great run. "I know we have been in the bottom three recently, but I believe we can still do better than last season, and that is what I will challenging my players to achieve." Moyes remembers how his side played so well at Old Trafford last season but still ended up losing 3-0. But that defeat, in which all the goals were scored in the final four minutes, sent Everton off on a run of six successive victories - their best spell of the season - and set them up for the dramatic climax to the campaign which almost brought them a place in Europe. Moyes believes that can happen again, particularly after seeing them rise up the table after successive victories. He said: "We had done so well last season despite the end scoreline. But in many ways that match helped us. It gave us a lot of confidence, there were lots of good things said about us and how we had played." Everton will be without Italian fullback Alessandro Pistone with a shoulder injury, but Moyes has the vast majority of his injury problems now sorted out. He said: "If someone had said to me two weeks ago when we were in the relegation zone that we could better last season's finish, I would have been very unsure. "But after putting a couple of wins together, I hope we can now do better in the second half of the season. Whether we can reach last season's finish remains to be seen. "But I think it is possible, I am going to ask the players to go for it because we have that capability. I will give them that target and let's then see where we can get to." It is going to be a tall order for Everton, who at the halfway stage last term had 31 points. That milestone is now just two games away and Everton have just 20 points at the moment. So there will have to be a dramatic improvement to get them close to improving on last term's seventh-placed finish. Moyes said: "There is always a team that comes from nowhere, look at Blackburn who pipped us for the UEFA Cup spot last season.
"And there is always a team that slips from the middle into the relegation zone. We have to make sure that it is us who are the ones on fire who drive up towards the top." He added: "To move up the table has made us all feel a lot better. We want to go to Old Trafford and do the best we can."

Rooney keen to reach Europe
By Andy Hunter, Daily Post
Dec 24 2003WAYNE ROONEY has insisted Everton can still qualify for Europe despite their disappointing start to the season. The Blues' hero revealed Goodison spirits have been transformed by victories over Portsmouth and Leicester just weeks after they were languishing in the relegation zone. And Rooney, back to form and goals in both games, insists David Moyes' side can recapture last season's form and catapult themselves into the chasing pack. The 18-year-old said: "If we can put a run of results together similar to last year and keep the pressure on those teams above us then I don't see why we can't get into Europe. "There is an excellent spirit within the dressing room. The season has been okay so far but we know there is room for improvement." Rooney dismissed fears he was struggling to cope with the difficult second season at the centre of national attention.
He added: "I don't really think this season is more difficult than my first. I think there is just a lot more expectation this season and that goes not just for me but for the entire squad." And in an interview on the club's website, evertonfc.com, the England international said Rio Ferdinand's eight-month ban could have serious repercussions for next summer's European Championships. "If Rio doesn't go it will be a major blow for England," said Rooney."But there are a lot of quality players who play for England and I'm sure we have the strength in depth to cope." Everton, meanwhile, have confirmed they will not rush a new contract offer to the Goodison sensation before the end of the season. As the Post has said all along, negotiations on extending Rooney's current deal are not due to begin until the tail-end of this campaign. And chief executive Michael Dunford has revealed contract talks with any player are unlikely before the summer. Dunford said: "All contract talks will take place in the summer. The club is unlikely to be entering into any talks before then." Rooney still has two-and-a-half years left on his existing deal but others, such as David Unsworth, Paul Gerrard, Scot Gemmill, Steve Simonsen, Peter Clarke and Niclas Alexandersson, are out of contract next summer and available to leave for nothing.

Wayne's wired up!
Tommy Smith, Liverpool Echo
Dec 24 2003
GOODISON Park is a totally different place when Wayne Rooney's about. His appearance on Saturday was akin to a human National Grid - his immediate impact sparked the team into greater action, lit up the crowd and generally had an electrifying effect on the whole place. From 2-1 down against Leicester, it was as if Christmas had suddenly descended, with "Santa" Rooney bringing his own special gifts to the game. The effect of the teenager, and Duncan Ferguson's re-appearance, suggests that perhaps they should be on from the start and seize the initiative, rather than bringing them on late when the team is chasing the game.

Campbell - Season begins now!
Dec 24 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
THE bait of a place in the Premiership's top six will be the motivation for Kevin Campbell at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. Everton have not beaten Manchester United since the 1995 FA Cup final. But the veteran striker knows that if they can end that run on Friday they will be within a whisker of challenging the likes of Southampton, Fulham and Birmingham in the race for fourth spot. Campbell said: "We are going there for the win. It is all about winning now. You just have to see how far we have jumped after two wins. "Now we are looking at that top six again because it is only five points to fourth and if we could get a couple of wins, who knows what could happen? The season would take a different course. "I think we are just starting to get back to where we were last season. I have said before that we haven't really started yet. "I think we are going to get going now. Our season begins now.
"It is about going there and giving a good account of ourselves. If you sit back, you get beat so we are going to try and be positive. "Everyone likes playing at Old Trafford. You savour every moment and when you are not too far from the end of your career, as I am, you savour these games that little bit more." Manager David Moyes is equally positive ahead of the clash with the Red Devils. His side proved last season that they can give a good account of themselves. They also showed how vital it is to remain focused until the final whistle, with lapses of concentration in the final five minutes ensuring what was set to be a goalless draw became an undeserved 3-0 defeat. Moyes said: "When you go to Old Trafford you have to try and be hard to beat and be fully concentrated for 90 minutes because they can open you up in a split-second. "Last season we went there and played very well for 85 minutes but football is about staying focused for 90 minutes. "They won that day but Manchester United regularly show why they are the best. We are under no illusions as to the task in hand.
"But I want to take my team to places like Old Trafford to try and win. "The players are starting to regain the energy and enthusiasm that was a big part in their performances last season. "There is more purpose to our play and now we can see where we can hurt teams to win games. "A big plus has been getting goals in our last two matches. We scored twice at Portsmouth and three times against Leicester. "We had been struggling for goals but when you start scoring freely again it makes the whole team feel better."

Big threat is so important
Dec 24 2003 By Scott Mcleod, Liverpool Echo
KEVIN CAMPBELL is a firm believer in the adage that size does matter. The experienced centre-forward has started Everton's last two matches. His return has coincided with two of the most impressive victories of the season, winning the first away match of the campaign despite falling behind at Portsmouth and then producing another fightback on Saturday to put Leicester to the sword. During his spell on the sidelines with a persistent hamstring problem David Moyes has had no choice but to play with two small forwards. That has mainly meant a combination between Tomasz Radzinski and Wayne Rooney, although Francis Jeffers has also come into the equation. Each of those players offers the Blues something different. But what they don't offer is the kind of physical presence provided by Campbell or Duncan Ferguson. It is a fact which Campbell believes has hindered Everton this season. He explains: "I think it helps having a big man. Whether it is myself or Dunc, I think it suits us as a team a lot more because it allows Wayne or Radz to pick their runs a bit better because they know they are going to get good set-up ball. "That is very important for us this year and in the last couple of games especially that has been the case. "Having me and Dunc available does help, as we showed on Saturday. When Dunc came on he made a contribution straight away because of his size. "Everybody else could feed around him and get a little knock down and we got the winner from it. The more myself and Duncan keep fit and the manager rotates us you will see the benefit of that. "We have got an embarrassment of riches in terms of strikers. But obviously myself and Dunc, the two bigger players, haven't been available that much this season. "But when we are it really helps us as a squad. You can see in the performances." Being sidelined by injury for an extended spell has helped focus Campbell's mind. At 33, he is enjoying the responsibility of being one of the squad's most experienced players. He adds: "Watching from the sidelines I have realised that the most important thing for me to do when I get back into the team is to get everybody else going. "Even if that sacrifices a bit of my game, I think that is very important. You have got to do what is right for the lads and what is right for the team. "I have realised that if I try and get everybody else playing, the team will get back on track. I suppose that is the experience aspect of it. "I feel that responsibility now. For me, it is not about Kevin Campbell making headlines, it is about Everton doing well. "If I have to sacrifice myself for the good of the team I will do that. "It has been stop-start for me. The most important thing now is to get some games under my belt and not just come in for a couple of games and then have to sit out again. "Getting a string of games will help me feel a lot better. But it is not detracting from what I see and what I am trying to do, I just need to work on being able to do it for the full 90 minutes." The season is now at the halfway stage and Campbell has only made six appearances. He has also to break his scoring duck this year. He came close against Leicester but was denied by the crossbar with a second half header. "It would have been nice to score last weekend," he admits. "I still haven't opened my account this season, but it is going to come. "The most important thing is the team continuing to improve because the better the team is playing the more opportunities the strikers are going to get. "It is a double-edged sword. I have got to help the team play as well as possible and then the chances will start to fall my way."

Preview: Manchester United v Everton
December 24, 2003
Manchester Evening News
AN injury blow to Roy Keane has sparked a Boxing Day scrap for his Manchester United place.
The Reds captain has been ruled out of the Old Trafford encounter with Everton because of a hamstring problem. And Sir Alex Ferguson's medical staff are now battling to get the influential Irishman ready for United's tough trip to Middlesbrough on Sunday. "Roy felt his hamstring tighten at Spurs on Sunday and he's out for the Everton match," Fergie told M.E.N. Sport. "It's not a pull, and the fact that he came off as soon as it started to tighten gives us hope for the Middlesbrough match at the Riverside on Sunday." Keane's absence could provide a window of opportunity for a frustrated Nicky Butt. He has been kept on the sidelines by Phil Neville's impressive form as United's new anchor-man, and been forced to deny rumours of a fall-out with his boss.
But the England player, who has started just eight games for United this term, will face competition from Kleberson for the Keane vacancy against the Merseysiders. The Brazilian has appeared in six of United's last eight matches, and an upturn in his form - after dislocating his shoulder two games into his Old Trafford career - has added to the competition in the Reds' engine-room. United went to the top of the league after the Tottenham victory at White Hart Lane and Fergie said: "We played well at Spurs but once again we went to sleep after getting into a commanding position. "But we are up where we want to be at this stage of the season. It is not going to be an easy league to win and we have to keep the pressure on." The Reds will find solace in their impressive recent record against Everton . Since their 1995 FA Cup Final reverse against the Toffeemen, Sir Alex Ferguson side have won 14 of their 16 Premier League meetings, drawing the other two. Ferguson has already assured Rio Ferdinand of his place in the starting line-up, while Cristiano Ronaldo is in contention to replace Darren Fletcher. Provisional squad: Howard, Carroll, G Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea, Fortune, Forlan, Fletcher, P Neville, Butt, Kleberson, Ronaldo, Giggs, Van Nistelrooy, Bellion, Djemba-Djemba

Neville: Victory all important
December 26, 2003
Manchester Evening News
REDS defender Gary Neville admitted his side could have been guilty of complacency after today's hard-fought win over Everton. United returned to the top of the table after winning 3-2 at Old Trafford but Neville, who gifted Everton an early equaliser with an own goal, felt the performance could have been better. Neville told Sky's Premiership Plus: "The most important thing is we won because we've got two games in two days. We got there in the end. "I thought my own goal affected the smoothness. We were playing fantastic and passing good but it was a bad mistake from me. "They got a lifeline and we were on the back foot. It changed the game. We got a bit sloppy." United, who had led through Nicky Butt before Neville's own goal went on to win after further efforts from Kleberson and David Bellion.
Duncan Ferguson pulled one back late on, but although it proved too late for Everton, Neville was still unhappy United sat back. He said: "I think we get two goals up and can't get the third. We can't get the third. It could be a bit of complacency or looking forward to the next match - I don't know."
Neville however was full of praise for Cristiano Ronaldo, who kept the Everton defence busy throughout the second half. He said: "He was brilliant. He was a constant danger. He wants the ball all the time and if he is fouled he comes back and wants more. He is a brave player in more ways than one."
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson made several changes to his side for the match and was forced to make two more by injuries to John O'Shea and Mikael Silvestre. Butt, Bellion, Kleberson, Diego Forlan and Quinton Fortune were all given the chance to start and Ferguson was pleased with the performances of those brought in. He said: "Our attacking play was very good. It was good for players to come in and express themselves and show they are Manchester United players."
On Everton's own goal he added: "It gave them a lift and allowed them to get a game plan that made it difficult for us. "But we got the goal at the right time. That settled us and made it difficult for them." Ferguson was also happy with his side's defence despite them conceding two goals.
He said: "Their first goal was an own goal and their second was late in the game, and by that time we had changed the back four. "O'Shea has a hamstring injury and with Silvestre it is a knee. We will have to see how these players are. "We will find it difficult against Middlesbrough (on Sunday), their defence is exceptionally good but we will have players coming back fresh and we have the incentive to remain top."

Manchester United 3 Everton 2
December 26, 2003
Manchester Evening News
WAYNE Rooney was upstaged by another of the Premiership's talented teenagers as Cristiano Ronaldo turned on the style for Manchester United. Restored to the Everton starting line-up because of an injury to Tomasz Radzinski, Rooney received the merciless taunting of a record crowd and was eventually hauled off 20 minutes from time after being made to look second rate by United's Portuguese whizz-kid. Tony Hibbert, Rooney himself and Francis Jeffers all took turns to kick lumps out of Ronaldo as Everton suffered their 15th defeat in 17 Premiership encounters with the Old Trafford outfit. But the £12.24million summer arrival from Sporting Lisbon refused to succumb to the physical threat, setting up David Bellion for United's match-sealing third after playing a major role in Nicky Butt's opener. The result allowed United to leapfrog Arsenal and return to the Premiership summit, although the three minutes of stoppage time were more tense than they should have been after Duncan Ferguson pulled a goal back for the Toffeemen. With 14 wins from their previous 16 meetings with today's opponents, Sir Alex Ferguson no doubt felt justified in leaving Ruud van Nistelrooy, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs on the bench.
With Roy Keane and Phil Neville in the stands, it was an unfamiliar United that took the pitch, although it was two of their stalwarts who provided the early entertainment. Even though they have been team-mates for over a decade, it's doubtful Butt and stand-in skipper Gary Neville have ever found their names on the same scoresheet. Between them the pair have contributed just 29 goals in almost 800 appearances for the Red Devils, although only Butt would have been celebrating their combined achievement in the first 12 minutes of today's contest. With his Old Trafford future still far from certain, Butt needed to make an impression on his first Premiership start since November 1 so he had plenty of incentive to drill his 20-yard shot past Nigel Martyn after David Unsworth had nodded Kleberson's hanging cross straight into his path. At that stage, the unfamiliar home side looked a pretty convincing replica of the real thing.
David Bellion and Ronaldo provided plenty of width and Kleberson drifted across the pitch in the manner of Scholes, who watched on admiringly from the bench. Diego Forlan was not far away with a couple of half chances as United made light of the eye-catching absences from their starting line-up. Neville's own goal threatened to undo all that good work as it provided Evertonwith the confidence to drag themselves into the contest. Thomas Gravesen fought a physical duel with Butt in the middle of the pitch, Stubbs and David Unsworth got to grips with Forlan, although it was Campbell rather that Rooney who provided the attacking threat. It took United 20 minutes to get back on top and Ronaldo threatened the Everton goal with a vicious effort before Neville atoned for his earlier blunder by delivering the fine cross that invited the close range finish from Kleberson.
Ferguson could be pleased with the Brazilian's incisive contribution in the attacking midfield role Scholes has revelled in over the past two seasons but it was to the ginger master the United boss turned when John O'Shea limped off five minutes after the break. The most notable aspect of the minutes that followed were the various ways Everton tried to stop Ronaldo's devastating left-wing bursts. Hibbert robbed him with a perfectly executed sliding tackle inside the Everton box after the Portuguese youngster left David Unsworth for dead but had to resort to illegal means to halt Ronaldo's progress the next time he had the ball. Rooney charged in wildly moments later to earn himself a yellow card and after he had been the victim of a dazzling piece of Ronaldo's trickery, the young England striker just missed with a feet first challenge that probably contributed to Moyes' immediate decision to pull him off. In the middle of all this Ronaldo danced to the by-line and drilled a low cross along the face of the Everton goal that left Bellion with the easiest of tap-ins to register the first Premiership goal of his United career. With the points wrapped up, Ferguson must have cursed his luck to see Silvestre fail to rise after being caught by a forceful Francis Jeffers challenge.
The Frenchman eventually hobbled miserably down the tunnel and Everton took full advantage of the hole he left to give the visitors hope in the final minute. United eventually hung on but with Rio Ferdinand currently the subject of an eight-month ban, Ferguson will hope the damage to his other centre-half is not too severe.

Man Utd 3, Everton 2 (D, Post)
Dec 26 2003 Andy Hunter Reports From Old Trafford, Daily Post
ONLY THE width of the River Clyde separates the Glasgow birthplace of David Moyes and Sir Alex Ferguson. As far as their football homes are concerned, however, a vast chasm still exists between Everton and Manchester United. The Blues manager has made it his mission to bridge the gap with the Premiership champions and has made no attempt to hide how long and difficult that journey will be - "A hell of a job," he admitted before kick-off.
Evertonians must accept that reality with the patience Moyes needs to make progress after inheriting years of under-achievement at Goodison Park. But few will have taken the sight of the Blues pressing for an injury-time equaliser at Old Trafford yesterday as evidence they are closing in, even though the performance suggested foundations for a better future are being put in place. Everton players stuck to their task admirably, refused to accept they were beaten and in Wayne Rooney, Tony Hibbert and substitute James McFadden had young players who fit the mould for Moyes' long-term vision. Yet no-one can contest the scoreline flattered them, and this against a United team who, in Old Trafford terms, are classed as second-string. It could have been sheer confidence based on the most one-sided fixture in Premiership history, complacency or an indication of how lightly he took the Everton threat that encouraged Ferguson to ring six changes to the team who beat Spurs on Sunday. United's line-up was still recognisable, and Moyes would no doubt love the players who fall into the "makeshift" category at Old Trafford, but with Ruud van Nistelrooy, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs left on the bench despite injuries to Roy Keane and Phil Neville the gauntlet was truly thrown down to Everton. In that respect, the Blues never showed enough conviction to pick it up. United's starting XI offered an inviting opportunity for the Blues to end a dismal Premiership record against United of 18 defeats in 22 fixtures, but that rarely looked in danger despite the helping hand of an equalising Gary Neville own goal. For all Ferguson's changes the gulf between the clubs was still evident on the pitch. Everton hoped their homegrown 18-year-old sensation would conjure an outlet while at the same time grafting hard out on the right, while United gave an 18-year-old they paid over £12.24million for the licence to terrorise the Blues' defence all game. Cristiano Ronaldo, not unlike Rooney, has endured some difficult times since exploding onto the English stage earlier this season. Unlike Rooney, he plays in a squad that allows him to be taken out of the spotlight, and he returned to the first team relaxed and refreshed to play a major part in all three United goals. By contrast to United Moyes' three alterations were all forced, Rooney replacing Tomasz Radzinski, who was forced out with a tight calf before kickoff, Tony Hibbert returning for the injured Alessandro Pistone and Li Tie back for Lee Carsley.
A settled side enjoying renewed confidence thanks to two successive victories they may have been, but Everton only played like one in brief flashes as United's unfamiliar outfit dominated from the start with the pace, composure and movement. With competition for places so fierce at United Ferguson could at least bank on players going out to prove a point, and only six minutes had elapsed before Nicky Butt made one emphatically at Everton's expense. Ronaldo had already forced Nigel Martyn into saving a flying header when he dissected the Blues' right with a cleverly disguised pass to Kleberson. Brazil's World Cup winning midfielder would prove a menace all afternoon and his telling contributions began with a dangerous cross into the centre that David Unsworth headed clear, only to find Everton's central midfield standing ball-watching as Butt charged in unopposed and found the bottom corner from 18 yards. Kleberson blazed over seconds later as Thomas Gravesen, Li Tie and Tobias Linderoth continued to miss United's midfield runs. But just as that familiar Old Trafford feeling began to emerge for the travelling Evertonians they were presented with an unexpected route back in when Neville headed into his own goal five minutes after the opener. Gravesen drilled a dangerous free-kick in from the right and a fine front post header powered the ball past Tim Howard. At first it appeared Kevin Campbell had applied a trademark finish, but his muted celebrations suggested otherwise and TV replays later showed the United full-back flying in with the final touch.
Lifelines don't usually come so easily at Old Trafford and the Blues had a way back, but while their determination to restrict United was obvious in their effort and fierce tackling they lacked purpose and belief when they did have the ball, and all too often promising build-up play was soon back with their full-backs. United never showed any indecision, stepping up a gear when they needed to and always looking to punish hesitation in the Everton area.
They also showed a far greater ability to cross the ball, although why that gift was restricted to them is a mystery as the Blues regularly hit the first man while the home side almost always caused mayhem in the middle of the box with theirs. Ronaldo then Quinton Fortune delivered expert balls from either wing during one attack, the latter's delivery enabling Diego Forlan to force a fine save from Martyn, while the Portuguese star also tested the keeper with a dipping free-kick and a 20-yard shot just wide after a flowing run. United regained the lead two minutes before the interval, and the source and the scorer were of little surprise. After switching play across the field Neville whipped in a wonderful cross from the right and, not for the first time, Kleberson ran unchecked from his advanced midfield role to connect with an unstoppable header beyond the exposed Martyn. After the break Everton's possession play did improve, though not enough to hurt United where it mattered until the introduction of Duncan Ferguson's aerial power and McFadden's lively cameo offered more penetrative alternatives. Ronaldo's threat continued to increase down the left as his battle with Hibbert developed into a tasty sub-plot. The Blues right-back produced a superb tackle to deny the teenager inside the penalty area, despite howls of appeals for a spot-kick, then clattered the former Sporting Lisbon star with a crunching foul. Ronaldo fired the resulting free-kick into Hibbert's face, an act that brought swift retribution from Rooney who was booked for a late foul and derided by the Old Trafford faithful throughout thereafter.
Any faint hopes of an Everton fightback disappeared in the 67th minute when again Ronaldo foxed his way to the byline and set up David Bellion for a simple tap-in from his low delivery.
In the final minute of normal time Ferguson stooped to glance home Gary Naysmith's cross, which had been inexplicably left by Neville, but with United able to retain control at will the prospects of an extraordinary fightback were too remote. Everton, quite simply, still have an awful long way to go.
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-5-1): Howard; G.Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre (Djemba-Djemba, 73), O'Shea (Scholes, 49); Bellion, Fortune, Kleberson, Butt, Ronaldo; Bellion, Forlan. Subs: Carroll, van Nistelrooy, Giggs.
EVERTON (4-4-1-1): Martyn; Hibbert, Stubbs, Unsworth, Naysmith; Li Tie, Gravesen, Linderoth (Jeffers, 62), Kilbane; Rooney (McFadden, 70), Campbell (Ferguson, 62). Subs: Simonsen, Yobo.
BOOKINGS: Everton's Rooney, Jeffers (fouls).

Man Utd 3, Everton 2 (Echo)
Dec 27 2003 By Scott Mcleod At Old Trafford, Liverpool Echo
HANGOVERS are not uncommon at this time of year. But the one which is troubling Everton today cannot be blamed on spirits. Far from it. The spirit flowing through the Blues' squad yesterday was potent enough to have avoided a sore head at most away grounds in the Premiership. The result may not have been the festive gift David Moyes had been looking for, but the performance was enough to prove that recent victories over Portsmouth and Leicester were no false dawn. Manchester United are a class apart from the likes of Pompey and Leicester and this was a much tougher test for David Moyes. The 3-2 scoreline tells you that the test was not passed. But the way in which the side battled with every sinew was telling. After falling behind in the eighth minute to a Nicky Butt strike, the visitors did not sulk. Instead, they produced an equaliser within three minutes. A Thomas Gravesen free-kick was headed into his own net by Gary Neville under pressure from Kevin Campbell, and further goals from Kleberson and David Bellion seemed to have snubbed out the fire in the play of the visitors. But Duncan Ferguson's stooping header from close range in the dying minutes proved that was not the case. After that effort the anxiety around Old Trafford was tangible. Everton did not play as well as they have in their last two fixtures, but although the football may not have been to the standard of last week's win at Goodison, the guts and determination was the same. Tonight the Premiership table does not make great reading. But I suspect that won't be the case this time tomorrow night if Everton take to the field against Birmingham in the same mood. Not many sides go to Old Trafford and score twice. Not many sides give the home teama fright. There are few strikers in the top flight quicker than Tomasz Radzinski. But the Canadian international was ruled out before the game because of a calf injury. Having once netted twice against United, for Anderlecht in the Champions League, his experience was missed. But in Wayne Rooney, Evertonians could not have asked for a better replacement, and United's England international contingent who have seen the 18-year-old in action at close quarters would probably have preferred Radzinski's name in the starting line-up. Moyes, who had vowed to go to Old Trafford for a victory as opposed to the point many visiting sides chase, chose to employ Rooney on the right as part of an unusual midfield formation aimed at minimising the potent threat of the home side while also maintaining more than a token presence in the opposition half.
The 4-2-3-1 set-up saw Li Tie and Tobias Linderoth sitting in front of the back four, with a more advanced midfield trio of Kevin Kilbane, Thomas Gravesen and Rooney ahead of them. It denied the likes of Kleberson and Quinton Fortune the space to make an impression down the middle, and for one particularly impressive spell midway through the opening half Everton's extended period of possession prompted a series of 'Oles' from the large contingent of travelling fans. But the opportunity to continue the taunting into the second period was undermined by the shoddy marking which presented United with two first-half goals. On eight minutes, a Kleberson cross from the left was headed clear by David Unsworth, who got enough power to guide the ball to the edge of the area but it fell perfectly for Nicky Butt. Unmarked and unchallenged, the recalled midfielder smashed a first time right-foot shot from 18 yards beyond Nigel Martyn and into the net. But this Everton side does not throw in the towel, and the shock of the Blues' quickfire equaliser was not reserved to the crowd. The men in red on the pitch also seemed nonplussed that all was not going their way. Their only serious goalscoring threat seemed to come from Diego Forlan, who produced three goal-bound efforts before the break, one of which led to an outstanding parry by Martyn. Other than that, the keeper had little to keep him busy - and then Kleberson struck in the 43rd minute. Once again it was the result of a late run into the box not being picked up. Wide on the right, Neville curled a cross into the box which the Brazilian steered into the net from six yards out. Everton's frustration at finding themselves behind at the interval was clear in their play in the early periods of the second half as the home side began to stroke the ball around confidently and ensured much of the match was played in Everton's half. Manchester United had the game by the scruff of the neck in that second period.
Increasingly, Cristiano Ronaldo was making an impression down the left, and there were ludicrous calls for a penalty when he was tackled in the box by Tony Hibbert midway through the half. The way in which Ronaldo writhed around in search of sympathy from the ref didn't help him gain sympathy from the Blues. Moments later he was clattered by Hibbert and then Wayne Rooney, who was booked for the seventh time this season as a result. It was no great surprise when he was subbed before the end. A red would not have helped Everton's cause at all. As for Ronaldo, he antagonised Everton further by dribbling into the left of the area in the 67th minute before squaring for Bellion to smash into the roof of the net from close range. That seemed to be the end of the contest. But never bet against Everton fighting back from a deficit. They managed it against Portsmouth and Leicester. And despite a below-par performance yesterday they threatened to snatch a draw. The fact they didn't will fuel the Blues when they take to the field tomorrow.

Tribute to Ronaldo's bravery
December 27, 2003
Manchester Evening News
GARY Neville paid tribute to courageous Cristiano Ronaldo as the Portuguese teenager inspired the Reds to Boxing Day victory against Everton. Ronaldo was battered from pillar to post against the Merseysiders, but refused to be kicked out of his stride. "Cristiano Ronaldo was brilliant. He was a constant danger," said Neville. "He takes the ball all the time. No matter if he loses it, or he gets fouled, he comes back for more. He is a really brave player in more ways than one. "He had a few lumps kicked out of him but people can never question his bravery. "He has to put up with those challenges because of the way he plays. I think if I was playing against him and he was doing all those fancy tricks, I think I would like to stick a few on him! "The tackles on him weren't the cleverest but he showed character. "People want to have a go at players from the continent for diving but you saw those challenges and he had no choice but to try and skip them. "He is very difficult to play against as I know in training. When he becomes more economic in his game he will be absolutely outstanding." United's newlook side with six changes from the pre-Christmas starting line-up at Tottenham proved their mettle when they had an eight minute lead from Nicky Butt scrubbed out by Neville's own goal after 13 minutes. But the England right back refused to makes excuses. "With the changes the manager made we were hoping to settle into the game really well. The players hadn't played a lot together but the first 12 minutes they were fantastic," he added. "However, my own goal affected the smoothness of our performance. My body position was all wrong I was too square on. "It gave them a lease of life and they made it difficult for us for 20 minutes after that." United now go to the Riverside tomorrow where they have lost twice in the last two seasons in the Premiership and the FA Cup. "It is probably one of our most difficult games going over the last two years," said Gary.

Everton 1, Birmingham 0 (D, Post)
Dec 29 2003 Andy Hunter Reports From Goodison Park, Daily Post
WAYNE ROONEY will be, according to his manager David Moyes, the brightest young thing to bestride 2004. A happy New Year to you all. The Everton boss is right to predict bigger and better things for his extraordinary talent but it would have seemed amiss if 2003 passed without a final word from Rooney. In securing a hard-fought win over Birmingham with his third goal in four games he delivered right on cue again, lifting the club's festive spirits following the Boxing Day defeat by Manchester United and his team up to 11th in the process. And in captivating his adoring Goodison audience once more he showed why Everton remains the place for him to realise Moyes' lofty ambition next year and beyond.
The Blues are no doubt braced for another round of speculation over their prized asset when the transfer window reopens on Thursday, and are probably already bored at the prospect of issuing denials to United and Chelsea once it begins. This weekend, Moyes made his move first by stating Rooney is not for sale and remains central to his ambitions to build a new Everton. And if the striker's recent toils with over-expectation fuelled whispers outside the club about his future, yesterday demonstrated why no-one can afford to succumb to multi-million pound temptations inside it. There were three obvious reasons; the goal of course, which gave Everton a victory they deserved but looked beyond them until his second-half arrival, an audacious Marco Van Basten-style attempt on goal so out of context with the rest of the game and, after he'd laughed off another round of slaughtering from opposition fans, a thunderous rendition of "Rooney" from the Goodison faithful which left no-one in any doubt as to where his adoration rests. Obviously Everton have to match adoration with real ambition, but back in mid-table after a difficult Christmas programme and poor start to the season at least offers a decent platform for a belated push to better last season's finish.
Moyes indulged in a spot of festive rotation with four changes from the team beaten at Old Trafford. But despite a new strikeforce in Tomasz Radzinski and the impressive Duncan Ferguson, plus two switches in midfield, the penetration so badly lacking on Boxing Day was again out of reach until the 18-year-old's introduction. It was a brighter display by the Blues, albeit one where their best work was regularly undone by their own carelessness, but against vastly inferior opposition to the champions their struggle to add drive and purpose to their performance maximised the Goodison frustration throughout the first half. Birmingham's ambition was limited to stifling Everton's effort and catching them on a rare break or set-piece, and they achieved the former by bolstering their defensive duties with a deep midfield. Apart from Ferguson the home side rarely found a way past that problem, and it was no surprise at all when Rooney replaced the off-key Lee Carsley at half-time. It could have been much earlier. Deceptively the contest began at a fair pace, the Blues switching play effortlessly and putting the ball in the Birmingham net after only two minutes when Ferguson followed his goal against United with another back post stoop from Kevin Kilbane's deep cross. Unfortunately for the Blues Carsley was standing in an offside position, and unfortunately for everyone the game gradually caught the post-Christmas mood of the spectators - slow and sluggish. What infuriated the home fans most of all though was the fact their side were clearly superior to the Midlanders but only threatened to turn the screw in rare and all too brief flashes. Occasionally the midfield pair of Thomas Gravesen and Alex Nyarko would stretch the Birmingham rear-guard, the Ghanaian's 20-yard drive deflecting into the path of Radzinski whose toe-poke was saved by Maik Taylor and the Danish international blazing inches over from the angle of the penalty area.
Everton's most promising route was in behind City's stand-in left-back Stan Lazaridis and twice the lively Nyarko sent Tony Hibbert scurrying clear with perfectly-weighted throughballs. On the first occasion the Blues defender chose the right option, picking out Carsley who then wasted the cut-back, but on the second two minutes before the break he blazed a cross horribly over with three Blue forwards waiting in the middle. Otherwise Goodison was left relying on hopeful penalty shouts for a way through, and with Rob Styles in charge that was always going to be a forlorn shout. On 12 minutes Kenny Cunningham's clearance inside his own area appeared to hit Matthew Upson's arm but the referee waved play on. That would have been a harsh call on Birmingham, although the same couldn't be said when Carsley was clearly tripped by Lazaridis as he waited for Kevin Kilbane's chip to drop. Again, however, Styles said no. The game was crying out for a lift from Rooney's ingenuity and class and mercifully Moyes delivered at the interval. As did the 18-year-old 23 minutes later. As at Old Trafford, the Blues star again operated on the right but, with more support and ambition from his colleagues, this time his threat was constant throughout the second half. It was Birmingham who had the first chance of the period when Lazaridis sent substitute Clinton Morrison through and Nigel Martyn proved alert enough to smother the danger. But that was a rare foray forward by the visitors, who were increasingly preoccupied by Everton' s improvement in midfield and Rooney's quality distribution. Just after the hour the teenager burst in from the right and cut the ball back neatly for Kilbane who, with his less favoured right boot, drew a near-post save from Taylor. Radzinski forced Jeff Kenna into a desperate clearance with Ferguson waiting for his powerful low cross as the Everton pressure intensified and, in the 68th minute, the long-awaited breakthrough arrived. Gravesen delivered a corner he won into the six-yard box and Taylor, under pressure from Ferguson and Alan Stubbs, could only palm the ball on to the six-yard line where Rooney was lurking and ready to smash the loose ball through a crowded goalline. Raucous celebrations were almost bettered by the applause that greeted his next effort 60 seconds later when, spinning on to a lay-off from Radzinski on the angle of the area, he sent a blistering half volley reminiscent of Van Basten's Euro 88 screamer against Russia goalwards only for Taylor to save. Belatedly Birmingham finally emerged from their shells to push Everton back in the closing stages, without ever causing undue panic in the home ranks. The points were deservedly Everton's, the acclaim appropriately Rooney's. Asked for his young star of 2003 afterwards City manager Steve Bruce offered Charlton's Scott Parker. So that's the sound of sour grapes.
EVERTON (4-4-2): Martyn; Hibbert, Stubbs, Unsworth, Naysmith; Carsley (Rooney 46), Nyarko (Yobo 84), Gravesen, Kilbane; Ferguson, Radzinski (Jeffers 77). Subs: Simonsen, McFadden.
BIRMINGHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Kenna (Kirovski 77), Cunningham, Upson, Lazaridis; Johnson, Savage, Clemence, Hughes (Cisse 66); Forssell, John (Morrison 53). Subs: Bennett, Purse.
REFEREE: Rob Styles.
ATT: 39,631.

Wayne best suits happy headlines
Dec 29 2003
By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
WAYNE ROONEY can be forgiven for thinking only two types of match-days exist in the headline driven world of the modern Premiership. One where he is an angry under-achiever who can't control his discipline. Looney Roon. On the Wayne . . . etc, etc. Or another where he is a world-beating matchwinner. Wayne's World! Rooney Tune! and so on. Rooney experienced both in the space of 48 hours this Christmas. But after a Boxing Day when the only significant impact he made was on a point a couple of inches lower than Cristiano Ronaldo's manhood, he showed yesterday why David Moyes is adamant he will not sell his prize asset, even if Roman Abramovich comes waving more roubles than Paul Gregg could comfortably carry. Once again Rooney made a difference coming on from the substitutes' bench, this time driving in a 68th minute matchwinner. It was almost a repeat of his Leicester City strike - right down to the 60-yard dash to shout demonstrably at the Blues' dug-out that possibly the management team might have erred in not considering him from the start. As a boss who once offered out a six foot four inch goalkeeper on pre-season tour, however, David Moyes does not give the impression of being a sensitive soul. And he'll be delighted to have his ears bashed every home match if he gets an end product like yesterday's. After 14 minutes of promising approach play against Birmingham, followed by 31 minutes of listless, stodgy football, Everton cried out for inspiration more than most of the sellout Goodison crowd craved a break from mince pies and pudding. They got it from Rooney. And there is little doubt that the youngster was aided by the luxury of having a fit and fired-up Duncan Ferguson to feed off. The forward line Everton kicked off with yesterday is potentially a thrilling partnership. But potential is a difficult thing to transfer into productivity. Tomasz Radzinski is the type of forward who can turn a match with one explosive piece of pace or skill . . . or miss a difficult Boxing Day trip to Old Trafford with a tight calf. Yesterday he had just about enough about him to keep Birmingham on their toes.
He was overshadowed by his strike partner, however. Duncan Ferguson is capable of beating most teams on his own - if he's more than half interested. Yesterday he looked completely focused and if Steve Bruce had any grounds for complaining that Maik Taylor was fouled by Ferguson at the corner kick which provided the matchwinner, it was cancelled out by a disallowed 'goal' just a minute and three-quarters into the contest. Ferguson leaped dramatically to plant Kilbane's cross past Taylor. A linesman's flag ruled out the 'goal', but it appeared that Lee Carsley had been the offender - a player Ferguson raced past to reach the header. But the Goodison gallery was in largely forgiving mood. David Unsworth enjoyed another hugely impressive afternoon at centre-half - and was applauded throughout - while another one-time whipping boy received a warm ovation when he was replaced four minutes from time. Remember the old joke . . . what have Michael Jackson and Frank Bruno got in common? The answer, get ready to hold your sides, was that both wear gloves for no apparent reason. And you could add Alex Nyarko's name to that punchline after he emerged for the second half sporting a short-sleeved jersey, curiously with a pair of woollen gloves.
But he did enough to keep his manager happy, although the appearance of Joseph Yobo in that central mid-field position offered some food for thought for the future. The Nigerian has played a World Cup match in that role - and if David Moyes is looking for a holding player to release Thomas Gravesen for more attacking action he could do worse than look at the African . . . as soon as Nigeria's African Nations Cup adventure ends. For now, though, Moyes will be content to give his players a couple of days off, reflect on a positive end to 2003 - and look forward with relish to the first big challenge of 2004. Happy New Year!

Irvine: Rooney is no supersub
By Andy Hunter, Daily Post Dec 29 2003
ALAN IRVINE admitted Wayne Rooney is too gifted to be classed as a supersub despite another match-winning cameo by the Blues star yesterday. The 18-year-old scored the only goal as the Blues beat Birmingham at Goodison to climb to 11th in the table. It was Rooney's third goal in four games, with all his goals coming in games where he has appeared as a substitute. But despite that record, Irvine insisted Rooney's bench duty is part of his development rather than any reflection on his form as he toasted another sparkling display by the teenage sensation. The Blues assistant manager said: "If you cast your minds back to last season Wayne had the greatest impact when he came off the bench, and he's doing that again for us now. "There is absolutely no question of him being our supersub, he is far too good and far too important for that. But it is working for us at the moment. "When he comes off the bench he makes a great impact, he lifts the crowd, he lifts the players. But it also takes a bit of pressure off him by playing him that way and that has helped him too. "After playing on Boxing Day we just wanted to use the squad in the best way we could and we decided if Duncan Ferguson and Tomasz Radzinski were passed fit, they would play." Rooney pounced in the 68th minute in a game the Blues dominated but struggled to create many chances. But the match-winner infuriated Birmingham City manager Steve Bruce, who insisted the goal should have been disallowed for a foul on goalkeeper Maik Taylor. Bruce said: "I thought it was a clear foul. We feel aggrieved by the goal. It was very harsh. "You see that sort of incident week in, week out where a player challenges a keeper and a foul is given. This time there were two players jumping into him.
"The ball has dropped down and Rooney has lashed it into the net. "As soon as I saw it I thought the referee would give a foul with the way the game has gone. It is very rare for a referee not to give that decision but for some reason he didn't today." He added: "I do not want to blast referees, that is pointless. "But this is the second time we have been to this city this season and had decisions go against us. It was a dodgy penalty at Liverpool and now this decision. "It has cost us points, that is vital. How often do you see players go up with the keeper and not be penalised? "We definitely deserved something, especially in the first half when we were the better team. "But our Achilles heel is that we lack the cutting edge, the killer instinct to finish teams off when we are on top." Irvine, meanwhile, was also delighted with the performance of Ferguson, who was handed his first start since his Bellefield bust-up with David Moyes last month. The Scot said: "We were really pleased with Duncan. He is as fit as he has been since we've been here and he was a problem for them all game. "Once we stopped hitting long balls up to him I thought we played much better.
"We became predictable in the first half but there is much more to his game than his heading ability and once we started to use his great touch and technique we improved. "I thought we deserved the win. We played well for most of the second half and although they pushed men forward at the end we defended very well again."

Everton 1, Birmingham 0 (Echo)
Dec 29 2003 Scott Mcleod At Goodison Park, Liverpool Echo
WAYNE ROONEY seems to be in a catch 22 position. He wants a regular starting berth. But every time he comes off the bench and stakes his claim by firing in a goal he provides further evidence for manager David Moyes' assertion that the 18-year-old has been more effective as a substitute since bursting into the first team. Whether you agree with the boss or whether you would rather see the young England international in the starting XI every week, there is one thing you can't argue with - he is a class act. And that is precisely what Everton were in desperate need of at 4pm yesterday. The Blues' hopes of climbing the table and avoiding being dragged into a relegation dogfight were undermined by the Boxing Day defeat at Old Trafford. But while the points were not forthcoming in that game, the performance suggested the wins over Portsmouth and Leicester had not been just a flash in the pan. By half-time yesterday, you could not say the same thing. The professional approach which was displayed in the three previous matches was being seriously undermined by a lack of quality against Steve Bruce's hard-working outfit. In the final third Moyes' men were losing their cool and in midfield they were struggling to take a grip of the contest. With the game at 0-0 it was hard to see where the first goal was going to come from. And then came Rooney. At Old Trafford, where he was employed wide on the right, he was ineffective. He filled that same role against Birmingham when he arrived in place of Lee Carsley and proved the matchwinner. Maybe the manager has a point. As a sub he has been sensational in recent weeks, netting in each of his last three appearances from the bench, this game included. His goal came in the 69th minute, volleying home from three yards following a Gary Naysmith corner from the right. Duncan Ferguson and Alan Stubbs rose to challenge for the ball with keeper Maik Taylor and as the ball fell loose it sat up perfectly for the teenager. It was a huge relief to the home fans, but it was not great surprise. After arriving Rooney provided the kind of incision down the right which had been so badly lacking before the interval. Along with Kevin Kilbane, who was again catching the eye on the left, Everton suddenly had more balance and composure in the final third. The duo combined effectively in the 63rd minute, the teenager drilling in a low cross which picked out the Irish international's intelligent run from the left. His deft attempt was pushed around the near post by Taylor. It wasn't the outcome the Gwladys Street were looking for, but at long last it did provide them with some promise. Minutes later a cheeky nutmeg on substitute Aliou Cisse by Rooney got the crowd on their feet as they drooled at the way in which he turned goalwards and charged at the visitors. Before long his name was on the scoresheet. He was bubbling again. His mad dash to the halfway line to gesture to the family enclosure told you exactly what the goal meant to the lad. Shortly after the restart he charged into the right side of the Birmingham area and fired a fierce drive from a tight angle which Taylor could only parry. He was flying and hungry for more. Birmingham were struggling to cope. It was infinitely more enjoyable than watching him frustrated and wound up, as he was at Old Trafford. On Friday the taunts from the crowd seemed to get under his skin. Yesterday, when the travelling fans dared to have a pop he responded in the perfect manner - he turned and politely reminded them of the score. There were a few scary moments before referee Rob Styles finally blew the final whistle, and the sight of Tomasz Radzinski and Alex Nyarko having to leave the action because of injuries was not welcome.
Had the game ended in a draw there would have been serious questions asked of the squad. They had performed admirably before this match. Failing to beat Birmingham at home would not have been the best way of maintaining that momentum. The looks of concern on the faces of the home fans was justified at half-time. If Everton had been taking notes of the slick, incisive passing football produced by Manchester United during the second half of Friday's defeat at Old Trafford it wasn't obvious here. Birmingham are a solid, workmanlike outfit not disimilar to Leicester, the Blues' previous visitors to Goodison. Had the attacking football on offer been to the standard set during that 3-2 victory then David Moyes' side would probably have been comfortably in front at the interval. Instead, time and again the final ball was woefully poor. Tony Hibbert provided a prime example a couple of minutes from the half-time interval. The build up was neat, stretching Birmingham before Thomas Gravesen slipped a ball down the inside right for Hibbert to run on to. Unmarked, he had three teammates charging into the six yard box in anticipation of a firm, low cross from the right-edge of the box. Instead, his first time attempted cross soared high into the Park End. The groans which echoed around the ground were intensified by the fact it was the last in a long string of anti-climaxes. Hibbert was certainly not the only culprit. Indeed, minutes earlier he had managed to square a ball towards the penalty spot for Lee Carsley, only for the Irish international to complete scuff his attempt to turn the ball goalwards. The possession was not a problem for the home side. It was what they were doing with it. As they sat around the dressing room, sucking on their oranges and sipping their tea - if, indeed, they do actually do that - they will have struggled to reflect on one impressive opening. Radzinski and Gravesen both tested Taylor with efforts from distance and the Canadian international was unlucky not to prod the ball beyond the keeper when a Nyarko effort deflected into his path. But that was about it. What was needed was a spark of magic. It duly arrived.

Gravesen wants to stay
Dec 29 2003 By David Prentice Liverpool Echo
THOMAS GRAVESEN does not intend to become a victim of transfer window wheeler dealing at Everton - and will even sacrifice becoming a father to further his career! It is an open secret that if Blues manager David Moyes wants to add to his squad next week, he must first sell one or two players. And the two Thomases - Gravesen and Radzinski - are often identified as two of his most saleable assets. But Gravesen said this week that he would not be happy to leave Goodison at this stage of his career. "I am tremendously happy to play for Everton," he said. "I watch as much football as I possibly can and I am totally dedicated to my career. I am not thinking about having children. At this point I don't have time for it. "It's a pity that we have been fighting at the bottom, but the statistics show that the club has never been relegated. I just keep that in mind." Gravesen, a reluctant interviewee in England, was speak-ing to Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet. David Unsworth, Duncan Ferguson and, once again, Wayne Rooney, have been the subject of tabloid speculation linking them with moves when the window re-opens. Manchester City and Blackburn are reported to be monitoring Unsworth's situation, with the in-form central defender out of contract next summer, Wolves are reportedly ready to offer Ferguson a loan move while Manchester United are the latest club to join a long list who covet Rooney's signature. But David Moyes said: "I have not had contact about any of those players, nor would I encourage any." And following Rooney's match-winner against Birmingham yesterday, assistant manager Alan Irvine said: "We are not selling Wayne. You can't ever say never in football, but it is certainly not something I can see happening in the foreseeable future." Gravesen, meanwhile, hopes to remain at Everton for several years to come.
"If I can stay abroad until I am 32 or 33 then my dream would be to finish my career in Denmark," he added. With Everton not now in action until next week-end's FA Cup third round tie against Norwich City, Moyes has given his players a couple of days' break after two fixtures in three days.

Deadly silence
Dec 29 2003 By Scott Mcleod Liverpool Echo
EVERTON skipper Alan Stubbs believes Wayne Rooney's resurgence as a goalscorer is down to a change of approach from the teenager. Rooney has netted three times in his last four appearances. He came on as a half-time substitute against Birmingham yesterday and rifled in the only goal of the game after 68 minutes to secure a vital victory for the Blues following the Boxing Day defeat at Old Trafford. It is a goalscoring run which is in stark contrast to the striker's form earlier this season, enduring a 13-match barren spell before finally rediscovering his scoring touch against Portsmouth on December 13. Stubbs explains: "I personally think he had been trying too hard this season but now he is doing the things that we all knew he was capable of. "I am chuffed to bits for him because when he does something like that he silences all the doubters who have written negative things about him in the last four or five weeks. Ability doesn't desert you and it was always going to be a matter of time before it came out again. "Hopefully now he will go on now and become the complete player." Each of Rooney's three goals in the last few weeks have come after his arrival as a substitute. Manager David Moyes has been quick to point out that Rooney's best performances in his fledging career have been from the bench. Stubbs adds: "It is great to have a player like Wayne to come on for us. But he is probably the first to turn around and say he wants to start, he doesn't want to keep coming off the bench.
"But he has been a breath of fresh air for us when he has been doing that lately and it is great for his confidence." Rooney's goalscoring exploits have also been great for Everton's confidence. The Blues have now taken nine points from the last 12 available, and it is a run which the skipper is satisfied with. "We are starting to put a sequence of results together now that we have been craving for all season," he said. "We are starting to go in the direction that we believe we should be going in. It has been a difficult Christmas for us but it has gone well if you are talking about the last couple of weeks. "We have got virtually everything we set out for. If we had got something from United it would have been great but we knew it was going to be difficult. "Our main aim was to get three wins from the four matches and go to Old Trafford to try to get something. And we nearly did that. "All in all, we are thoroughly delighted with the way things have gone." As for the 1-0 win over Birmingham, Stubbs admits it was a nervous encounter. He adds: "They were making it difficult and when we didn't have the ball they were getting in front of their back four. As a result, it was hard at times to pick people out and there was a little bit of tension coming out from the fans and it was creeping into the players. "We then started to look for passes that maybe weren't there because of a little anxiety. But we showed great character because it is not easy when a game is like that. We came through it and we deserved the win. "In the second half we got the ball forward, albeit a bit earlier than we would have liked, and we have been camped in their half until the last five minutes. "It was a grinder but we came through it, showing the character and self-belief that was needed to win the game."

Bruce fumes at foul play
Dec 29 2003 By Stuart Rayner Liverpool Echo
BIRMINGHAM CITY manager Steve Bruce was fuming at the decision that saw Everton pick up a third win in four games yesterday. Sixty eight minutes into yesterday's Premiership clash at Goodison, keeper Maik Taylor was only able to palm Gary Naysmith's cross out to Wayne Rooney under pressure from Duncan Ferguson and Alan Stubbs. The result was a goal for substitute Rooney - who has scored in each of the Toffees' last three wins - and a 1-0 scoreline which Bruce felt was unfair. "We feel aggrieved by it," the Birmingham boss admitted. "It was very harsh because, week in, week out, we see that if anyone challenges the goalkeeper - and it wasn't just one, it was two - a foul is given." Controversial incidents are not usually shown on the video screens at Premiership grounds. But the Goodison fans were shown an instant replay of the goal and that was enough to convince Bruce that his men had been hard done by. "I saw it on the screen," he said, "and as soon as I did, I thought 'foul' because that's the way the game's gone these days. "It's very rare that the referees wave play on. I wouldn't have thought we did enough in the game to win it, but we certainly didn't deserve to get beaten." As with all Everton's victories this month, Rooney made a decisive impact as a goalscoring substitute. "It seems to be working for him to come off the bench and make a great impact," commented Everton's assistant manager Alan Irvine. "It gives the crowd a lift, it gives the players a lift and it probably takes a bit of pressure off Wayne, too." But Irvine insisted that was not the main reason for starting the young striker on the bench. "We were just having at look at how we could best use the squad," he explained, after two matches in three days. "We had to look at the two games together and decide what might be the best teams to get us the result. "It was decided that if Tomasz Radzinski and Duncan (Ferguson) were both okay, they would be the front two."
The performance of Ferguson, in particular, delighted Irvine. "Duncan was excellent. He was a problem for them all the time. "I think once we stopped hitting long balls onto Duncan's head we actually played a bit better. He's got a fantastic touch and terrific technique so you've got to make sure you don't just hit him on the head with the ball." Irvine was also pleased with another steady performance from David Unsworth in his sixth game since being pressed into duty as a centre-back. "He's been thrown into the position with the problems with David Weir and Joseph Yobo," he admitted, "and it's been a real bonus for us just how well he has done."

Rooney's return
Report By Paul Walker Daily Post
Dec 30 2003
EVERTON'S old hands have launched a vigorous defence of Wayne Rooney and declared he is back to his very best form. The 18-year-old, weighed down with so much expectation for country and club, has been carefully eased back by manager David Moyes - and has responded with three goals in four games, the best spell of his career so far. He has scored three times as a substitute recently, justifying Moyes' softlysoftly approach. Rooney scored to clinch a 1-0 victory over Birmingham on Sunday, and won the plaudits and support from his more experienced colleagues. Defender Dave Unsworth, who himself produced another top-notch centre-back display, insisted: "Wayne's impact was superb. He looks like Wayne Rooney of last season. "He looks lively, quick and strong. I am delighted for him." That was when Rooney played without a care in the world to launch a career that has already made him England's youngest international and goalscorer. Since then the pressures have mounted, the spotlight searching and the performances erratic. Unsworth's defensive partner, Alan Stubbs, was quick to add his support. Stubbs said: "The pressure and expectation heaped on an 18-year-old has been ridiculous. "He was criticised too harshly a few weeks ago, but now he's back scoring goals. I am absolutely delighted for him."
A collective arm has been thrown around Rooney's shoulders by his club and team-mates, who have been far from impressed by the latest barrage of criticism. Unsworth added: "The substitutions over the last few games have been excellent for him, given him some space. But give full credit to Wayne, he has come on and worked his socks off to produce the goals.
"He deserved the goal and it was a cracking finish. And he has never given anything but 100 per cent whether he starts or comes on as a sub. "I did not really feel he was having a blip himself - he was playing as poorly or averagely as the rest of the team. It was not just him. Now the team are playing better and Wayne is grabbing the praise for the right reasons. Long may that continue." Moyes missed the after-match press conference, sending number two Alan Irvine to fight the Goodison corner. And the Scot wasted little time in underlining Everton's refusal to even contemplate selling their star asset. Irvine said: "Wayne is an Evertonian and has made no secret of that fact. "He has never mentioned one word about leaving if we do not get into the Champions League. "It has never been an issue and he has no desire to leave the club." Birmingham boss Steve Bruce had more than enough of his own problems to worry about. What he would give for a striker with Rooney's impact?
Bruce has obvious problems up front and will try to resolve them in the January transfer window. Bruce claimed: "If we are going to improve in the Premier League, we must get that cutting edge and we have not got anything like that at the moment. "We are looking. The hard part is whether the really good players are available in January. If they are we will be going for them, if not we will have to wait until the summer." He added: "Our Achilles heel is that we lack the cutting edge, the killer instinct to finish teams off when we are on top. It has been like that for too long. We had great possession but lacked the vital ingredient that is critical in the Premier League - consistent, quality finishing."

Home and Away
Dec 30 2003
Icliverpool And Daily Post
Out of depth
GOING back to Boxing Day, the Blues seemed to be scared of United. Four players stood out as completely out of their depth at this level. Li Tie's lack of defensive work allowed Ronaldo time and space to set up the third goal, Campbell has no pace, Unsworth missed header after header allowing Forlan a free ride and Linderoth is not up to it either. McFadden is sensational and if Rooney has a look at the tape he could do no worse than model himself on Scholes who burst through the centre with sublime one-touch footy.
H Gappe, (via e-mail)
No more sales
IF IT'S been conveyed before, it bears mentioning once again - Everton sell Master Rooney at their peril. Quite simply he is irreplaceable, and while he is not as effective, David Unsworth's services likewise MUST be retained. The brilliance in a team is complemented by the essential component of the toilers; without both components success will be elusive.
Jim Dunne, Liverpool
Europe reality
WE CAN make Europe. Moysey knows what he is doing with the players. We've got enough good players to grab a sixth place spot at the end of the season. All they've got to do is try hard like they have been doing for the past couple of weeks. Also there is one talent who will lead us there and his name is Wayne Rooney.
Craig Knowles, Newport City
Go for Duncan
THE Man U game was embarrassing. First was the insult of resting the better players, then the humiliation of watching Kevin Campbell shuffle around like a 60-year-old. If we need a 'big man' then obviously, DF is vastly better. At least he is big, and nasty and hard, and a way better footballer. Some of DM's tactics and decisions are starting to worry me. A little bit of unease is starting to creep in.
Rene Reddington, (via e-mail)
One-man team
WE ARE a one-man team and he will be sold soon. Rooney will not want to stay with us unless we make Europe and we have no chance of that. Moyes is a good manager but he will leave as soon as a decent job turns up.
Rob Neale, Merseyside
Keep on winning
OK, we lost against Man Utd which is to be expected really, but at least the recent upturn in results has dragged us away from the relegation zone. Let's hope we can keep it up until the end of the season.
Sam Hodges, Childwall

Don't ignore bid for Wayne
By Mark Lawrenson, Daily Post Dec 30 2003
IF David Moyes could ensure two New Year resolutions came true, he'd want Wayne Rooney to stay at Everton and a creative midfielder to join him there. There's no doubt that the Blues are getting the best out of Rooney at the moment by playing him as a substitute. I say this all the time, but people forget he is only a kid of 18. Benching him now won't do him any harm. Having Rooney to throw into the fray is a great tool for Moyes to have. And it's good for the player too - coming on fresh, he gets more of the ball, has more chance to make an impression and his confidence can only grow as a result. However, I'm still not sure about his future at Everton. If Chelsea put £25million cash up front for Rooney, Everton's board - and maybe even Moyes himself - might find it hard to resist. It would clear the debts and bring in some players, and you have to be realistic. If it guaranteed Everton's survival and gave them a fantastic financial base, they have to consider it. And it'll happen at some point. £25m is unbelievable amount in this day and age for such a youngster.
Rooney helped Everton to a good result on Sunday against Birmingham, but the way the Blues were beaten by what in many respects was Manchester United's reserve team on Boxing Day underlines how far Everton are behind the top teams - and how well they did last season. To get back to that level, Moyes - if he has any money - must bring in someone, like Jason Koumas, who can create chances for Rooney from mid-field.

Moyes could be pipped to Pearson
Dec 30 2003
Report By Andy Hunter Daily Post
EVERTON risk losing out on Stephen Pearson after delaying a move for the Motherwell midfielder until the end of the season. David Moyes hopes to make a second raid on Fir Park and reunite the promising 21-year-old with James McFadden at Goodison. But the Blues' financial position means they are unlikely to move during the transfer window - leaving the way clear for Celtic to land the Scottish Under-21 international. Pearson is out of contract at the end of this season, when a tribunal would set any transfer fee because of his age, but is widely tipped to leave Motherwell next month.
And Everton's decision to wait until the summer to conclude a permanent deal could backfire if Celtic, as expected, close in with a nominal £300,000 bid. Motherwell boss Terry Butcher denied a deal with the Scottish giants had been agreed after Sunday's goalless draw at Hibs, where Pearson found himself on the substitutes' bench. But Butcher admitted the club are braced for his departure. The former England defender said: "There has been no deal done (with Celtic) and there is no replacement coming in for him yet. We're looking at replacements if he and Steven Hammell go. We'll just have to wait and see. "There has been talk and communication, but contrary to what has appeared in quite a few newspapers, nothing has been sorted out as yet. "Quite a few clubs have spoken to me about him but there has been no talk of fees or anything like that." The Blues, meanwhile, have collected several slight injury problems over the Christmas programme. Kevin Campbell was left out of the Birmingham win after picking up a calf strain at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. He did pass a fitness test before Sunday's game but manager Moyes opted not to risk the striker, who should be fit to face Norwich in the FA Cup. Lee Carsley (flu) and Alex Nyarko (bruised foot) are among the doubts for this Saturday, although David Weir and Steve Watson could return.

Blues must bring in a few new Rooneys
Dec 30 2003 The Len Capeling Column, Daily Post
THINK Everton and you think David Moyes and Wayne Rooney. In that order. Together they represent a bright future for a once-great team that has fallen from the high places it once commanded. They are an inseparable unit because Moyes has demanded it be so. Sell the kid and I go too. You can't be much clearer than that even when you're dealing with an Everton boardroom that likes the sound of the word muddle. Moyes' vision is of the young England icon going on to be a true Everton great, with the goals to match his obvious thirst to be the very best. Sunday's dispatching of Birmingham City showed the value of the Croxteth crackerjack to the manager's masterplan. At his best, he is simply unstoppable even in a side that has too much about it that is unconvincing. He lifts his team-mates, he lifts the crowd, he lifts expectations to heights that may be difficult to fulfil given the present financial straitjacket which Moyes cannot free himself from.
But Moyes the realist, Moyes the perfectionist, knows he needs a few more players of Rooney quality in order to bridge the chasm that exists between the haves and the have-nots. Money promised earlier now seems to have disappeared. So Moyes, like Howard Kendall and Walter Smith before him, finds himself on his own trying to haul the odd loan-signing in through a crack in the transfer window. That's not the way to build a great team, but then again Moyes' signings have generally been important ones despite the restrictions placed on him. He remains positive, which is probably his greatest asset. Even in defeat he usually finds positives - although his public pronouncements may not always match his private feelings. Seventh place last season gave him and his adoring supporters hope of new horizons. But a board of directors which includes one of Britain's richest men decreed that his shopping should be confined to Poundstretcher. That's a major kick in the teeth for one of the brightest and best. NO ONE emerged with any credit from the Rio Ferdinand fiasco. The FA took much too long to arrange the hearing and then put fearful pressure on judges who represent Soho Square in the sticks. Manchester United cried kangaroo court before producing evidence that wouldn't have cleared the saintly Trevor Brooking. Rio Ferdinand, according to leaks from within the tribunal, was an unconvincing witness, while his chauffeur on the day of the missed drugs test drove a hole through one of the defence's key call times. All in all, a poor show, and, to cap it all, a sentence that seemed unnecessarily harsh. I hold no brief for Ferdinand. He behaved like an idiot. You don't forget a drugs test unless you've been lobotomised in the interval between reminders. So he was clearly guilty and ought to have pleaded so - saving PFA chief Gordon Taylor from sounding so pig-headed. But eight months? I don't think so, despite the constant refrain about athletes routinely facing a two-year ban for the same offence. I think three months would have been punishment enough, sending a clear message to all players that short-term memory loss is the weakest excuse you can dream up. Eight months is what too many drunk drivers get for killing a child. Rio Ferdinand may be a fool, but who has he harmed except himself?
STEVE BRUCE'S grousing about the legitimacy of Everton's winner might have sounded better had Birmingham tried to win the match at Goodison instead of sitting on it. Not once did they make a serious effort to wrest control from an Everton side that struggled to put anything half-decent together. As ever, too many home players were seduced by the sight of Duncan Ferguson towering over his markers, so the easy option was to get rid and pump the ball long. Thankfully, the youngest player on the pitch changed all that to leave Bruce with no option but to cry foul after a game Birmingham were not good enough to win. MANY Goodison fans will have read details in match programmes and circulars about the magnificent work done by The Everton Former Players Foundation. Last year this registrered charity - the only one of its kind in the country - received £104,000 in donations and spent £103,000 of it on helping ex-players meet medical and other urgent bills. If you haven't already helped this most worthy of causes, then send your contributions to The Everton Former Players Foundation, PO Box 354, Liverpool L69 4QS. What a great way to start the new year. DAVE JONES hasn't lost his scouse sense of humour. After his woeful Wolves beat a limp Leeds, he said: "We've given ourselves a fighting chance and that is all I can ask of my players."
Sadly, that asking should have come in August, not late December.

Wright hoping for a happier new year
Dec 30 2003 By DAVID PRENTICE, Liverpool Echo
RICHARD WRIGHT can't wait to see the back of 2003.
And the unlucky Everton goalkeeper hopes that the New Year will usher in a new period of good luck for him. "It has been a frustrating 12 months," admitted Wright, who has been cleared to restart training after months on the sidelines with a mystery knee injury. "But I am looking forward to the New Year and hope it will be a good year for me.". The current year was only a couple of weeks old when Wright injured his knee in a warm-up at Tottenham, handing Espen Baardsen the only traumatic appearance of his Everton career. Wright played on, in some discomfort, to the end of the season. But then during the summer he suffered a freak shoulder injury when he tumbled out of his parents' loft stowing holiday suitcases away. "I had the knee injury last January at Tottenham then had a silly shoulder injury," added Wright. "I played a few games in pre-season but then got injured. "But I am positive and Dr Steadman was positive. Fingers crossed everything will be okay and I can play injury-free again." Wright could be lined up for a reserve team run-out in the next couple of weeks, but he acknowledges that the solid form of Nigel Martyn since he arrived from Leeds in the autumn will make his chances of a first team recall more difficult. And with European Championship places still up for grabs this summer, the 37-year-old could be higher up the international pecking order than his young pretender. "Initially my aim is to get back in the Everton team because Nigel is playing well, but I need to get back in and if I can do that and play to a high standard hopefully Mr Eriksson can get me involved again," said Wright. All of Everton's playing staff enjoyed a day off from Bellefield today, but will be back in tomorrow to begin the build-up to Saturday's tricky looking FA Cup third round tie against Norwich City. The Canaries have sold the entire 6,000 ticket allocation they are allowed under FA rules. Everton's ticket office will be closed on New Year's Day and officials are urging supporters to purchase tickets for Saturday's cup tie before the weekend. The Blues are keen to avoid a repeat of the queues which prevented many fans getting into the FA Cup tie against Leyton Orient two years ago.

Rooney scares the opposition, says Unsy
Dec 31 2003 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo Chief Sports Writer
EVERTON defender David Unsworth has paid tribute to the fear factor Wayne Rooney creates among opposition defences. The 18-year-old striker has come off the substitutes' bench against Portsmouth, Leicester and Birmingham in recent weeks to strike decisive and dramatic goals.
And Unsworth admits that the prospect of Rooney coming on has defences scared stiff. "When Wayne comes on as a substitute, I know how the other defenders feel - and it's fear," he said. "I know what it was like at Old Trafford on Boxing Day against Manchester United. "They had Giggs, van Nistelrooy and Scholes on the bench - and for players like that to come off the bench, it scares the hell out of the opposition. "I would put Wayne in that category with them and it's great for us."
Unsworth is a pal as well as a team-mate of Rooney and travelled to Old Trafford to watch his international appearance against Liechtenstein recently. The pair are both products of Everton's youth academy and Unsworth added: "In training he knows that if he comes near me I kick him, so he doesn't usually come near me. "But he's awesome. His ability is different class and he showed that against Birmingham, not just with his goal, but with another couple of strikes. I thought his touch was good, he looks pacy and strong and he's doing really well." But Unsworth was keen to share the praise around after a recent run which has yielded nine points from a possible 12.
"The defence in the last four or five games have all done well, kept clean sheets which is a big part of our job," he went on. "But it's people like Wayne who deserve all the plaudits for his goal and I thought he was superb when he came on. "I think if we carry on and do what we have been doing then we don't have to worry about what other teams do. Of late, the last five or six games, we have done alright and we are going in the right direction." Ever ton have not improved their contract offer to Unsworth - and a one-year extension is still on the tabl e . The defender becomes a free agent this summer, but could discuss a pre-contractual agreement with other clubs from tomorrow.
He would prefer to stay at Everton, but wants greater security than just a solitary year. Everton, meanwhile, are still monitoring the situation with Mother-well's Stephen Pearson. Another player who comes out of contract this summer, Celtic are favourites to claim his signature. But the player is believed to prefer a move south - and has received positive feedback about Everton from former Motherwell teammate James McFadden. Everton cannot afford to make a cash bid for Pearson.

Unsworth in chance to stay
Dec 31 2003 By Andy Hunter, Daily Post
EVERTON are considering a new contract offer to back-in-favour David Unsworth. Cash-strapped Leeds United are the latest club to declare an interest in the 30-year-old defender after he rejected Everton's offer of a one-year extension to his current deal. Unsworth is available on a free transfer at the end of this season and eligible to sign a pre-contract agreement with another club from tomorrow. Both Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers have been alerted to his position, which has been brought about purely by the length of Everton's contract offer and not the financial terms.
But the Blues are loathe to lose the powerful stopper during the transfer window and are considering revising the original offer to their long-serving defender. Everton had stated the 12-month deal was non-negotiable and remain in no position to agree new deals during January.
However, with Unsworth blossoming in his natural centre-half's role in recent weeks he looks set to be offered a two-year deal that would take effect from next summer. David Moyes can ill-afford to lose Unsworth next month with Joseph Yobo heading for the African Nations Cup, David Weir recovering from injury and a temporary deal for Victor Onopko falling through. The defender, who has formed an impressive partnership with Alan Stubbs, could still be tempted away if Manchester City, Leeds United or Blackburn Rovers offer the three-year contract he was seeking from his boyhood club. But Everton hope a two-year contract would allow a compromise deal to be reached instead. Richard Wright, meanwhile, has been given the all-clear to resume his fight to oust Nigel Martyn from the Everton number one spot. Wright has been sidelined for most of the season with a knee injury but is now back in training after an operation by Dr Richard Steadman in Colorado.
He said: "I am positive and Dr Steadman was positive. Fingers crossed everything will be okay and I can play injury-free again. "It has been a frustrating 12 months but I am looking forward to the New Year and hope it will be a good year for me." Everton are urging supporters to purchase tickets for Saturday's FA Cup tie with Norwich today or Friday. 15,000 tickets are still available but with the Goodison box office closed on New Year's Day club officials are appealing for fans to buy early to avoid a repeat of the problems encountered in the third round clash with Leyton Orient two years ago.



December 2003