Everton Independent Research Data


Everton to defend Cahill's FA charge
By Ian Doyle, Daily Post
Dec 1 2005
EVERTON will today appeal to the Football Association in an attempt to save Tim Cahill from a three-game suspension. The Australian midfielder has been charged with violent conduct by the FA following the incident involving Celestine Babayaro during Sunday's 1-0 win over Newcastle United. The Nigerian fullback was similarly punished and yesterday admitted the charge, but Everton will submit written evidence to an FA commission today in defence of Cahill. Goodison officials have viewed television footage of the incident and have decided to back the 25-year-old, although no Everton club representative is permitted to be present at the hearing. Should the appeal fail, Cahill will receive an immediate suspension and miss Saturday's game at Blackburn Rovers as well as the trip to Manchester United and the home clash with West Ham United. It would be a major blow to Everton manager David Moyes, whose side have won three of their last four Premiership games and who dismissed the weekend altercation as "not enough for anyone to warrant a booking or anything". Neither Cahill nor Babayaro was punished by referee Howard Webb during the game, but the match official has since reviewed the footage with officials from Soho Square and decided to take action against both. Alan Shearer escaped censure earlier this week after he appeared to elbow David Weir during the hot-tempered encounter. His team's feisty approach has earned plaudits from Everton manager Moyes, who praised the way his players responded following the 4-0 drubbing at West Bromwich Albion. "The players knew what was required," said Moyes. "It was severely lacking the week before. Only when you look at that performance compared to West Brom do you realise how below par we were at West Brom. "Fair play to the players because they made sure they put it right by doing the right things. I said to them that they had to come away by the end of the game and make sure it was noticeable they were hurting. "All our supporters will have gone away saying that they had seen the players fight for everything and were desperate to compete.
"That's something that we have always got to have in our game. We want to improve our football and we are desperate to make that better. It should never mean that you drop your level of commitment." Nuno Valente (hamstring) and Mikel Arteta (knee) are early doubts for Saturday's visit to Blackburn. Meanwhile, it has been claimed Everton have become the latest Premiership club to show an interest in Shrewsbury Town goalkeeper Joe Hart. Goodison goalkeeping coach Chris Woods was among the crowd to see Hart play against Rochdale on Saturday.

Trundle 'can do' job for Everton
Daily Post
Dec 1 2005
KENNY JACKETT believes Lee Trundle would be a success in the Premiership amid speculation linking him with Everton. Jackett has spoken for the first time since Everton manager David Moyes watched Swansea's 2-2 draw at Tranmere last weekend and says Trundle could supply the goals for Everton but remains confident the striker will stay put. Jacket said: "Lee could score goals in any team, but like most goalscorers, service is the key. "Lee's said he's an Everton supporter and if the opportunity comes to play in the Premiership I can understand that."

Spaniards urged to track Arteta's World Cup claims
Dec 1 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES has urged Spain head coach Luis Aragones to pay a visit to Goodison Park and consider Mikel Arteta's World Cup claims. Everton's playmaker has been in outstanding form this season, filling a variety of positions across the middle and quickly establishing himself as a fans' favourite following his £2m summer move from Real Sociedad. Having started his career at Barcelona and numbering Paris St Germain and Glasgow Rangers among his former clubs, Arteta

certainly has the pedigree to play at the highest level - and Moyes has been quick to champion his claims. "I think he is someone Spain could consider but maybe this World Cup might come a little bit too quick for him," Moyes suggested. "Maybe after this World Cup will be his time, possibly the next European Championships. But if the squad isn't at full strength or the door isn't shut, then I think Mikel Arteta should have a look in. "Since he has come here, his form has improved. I'm sure the Spanish manager is keeping his eye on a few boys across the road, so it wouldn't do him any harm to pop in here to take a look." Arteta's emergence as one of Everton's key figures has been an undoubted highlight for Moyes this season and he was again instrumental during the 1-0 win over Newcastle United. That is why the Everton boss will give Arteta every chance to recover from the slight knee problem that forced him off last Sunday, before the trip to Blackburn Rovers this weekend. Mikel is looking a good player at the moment," Moyes added. "His form for us has been excellent. He's now playing regularly for Everton in the Premier League. "He came on loan last season and did well but this year it has been a different challeng "We can play him in two or three different roles, which helps but he is definitely someone we can trust with the ball and we always think he can create something for us." Everton, meanwhile, must wait until this evening to discover whether their appeal to the Football Association to save Tim Cahill from a three-match ban has been successful. If found guilty, the Australian inter-national's suspension will begin immediately, ruling him out of the games against Blackburn, Manchester United and West Ham United. Everton would not be able to appeal. Should the FA dismiss the charge, Cahill will be free to play but if they deem the incident with Newcastle's Celestine Babayaro is worthy of a bigger suspension, Everton will have grounds to appeal.

Stan's devotion to Blues so fan-tastic
Dec 1 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON super fan Stan Tyrrell, described as a man who lived life to the full, has left a lasting legacy.
Stan, an overwhelming choice as the Liverpool Echo's Blues Fan of the Year at February's Sports Personality Awards dinner, has passed away after a lengthy illness. He was 42. He leaves a wife, Debbie, and three children - Steven (10), Amy (8) and Mia (6). The big Evertonian of 35 years, whose hero was Duncan Ferguson, was the backbone behind the Bootlebased supporters group Walnut Blues. He started out organising a mini-bus for a few friends to travel to away matches, but became so popular that more than 100 Evertonians now travel with Walnut Blues to Premiership grounds across the land. Though diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer in January, Stan refused to allow that stopping him following Everton and he realised one of his big ambitions when he travelled to see the Blues face Villarreal in the Champions League qualifier. His last visit to Goodison Park was for the 1-1 draw with Chelsea, when he was a guest of chairman Bill Kenwright, while his final trip with Walnut Blues was to see his beloved team win at Birmingham last month. His brother, Colin, said that one of Stan's best experiences was the 1984 FA Cup Final against Watford - the day after his 21st birthday. "I remember Stan kept saying to us that he didn't want any presents off us for his birthday - all he wanted was money to get to Wembley. He was over the moon that we won," said Colin. Sister Monica added: "Everyone knew him; everyone loved him. He loved travelling and got the most out of life." His funeral will be held at St Robert Bellarmine's Church, Harris Drive, Bootle (11.30am), on Monday.

The jury
Dec 1 2005 Liverpool Echo
Can McFadden and Beattie provide the answer to Everton's recent lack of goals? BEATTIE and McFadden is a dual strike force that is far from perfect but undoubtedly the best combination Moyes has at his disposal. The pair looked the part against Sunderland in the Cup last season, but they have been unable to forge a regular partnership. It was unfortunate for Beattie that he didn't cap a fine performance on Sunday by putting away that chance; the miss prompted an ironic chorus of "Beattie for England" from the Geordie following, but on this showing he'd do a better than Alan Shearer for a start. As for McFaddden, he must surely see that the best way of securing a regular place in the team is to reproduce some of his Scotland performances in a central position. Moyes can write McFadden and Beattie on the teamsheet and tick the boxes that say 'power',' trickery', 'shooting ability' and to a certain extent, 'pace'. The manager has got until January to find someone who can tick the 'goal poacher' box too.
FROM what we saw against Newcastle you would have to give McFadden and Beattie another run out together at Blackburn. Only time will tell if the partnership will flourish but in the second half we created more chances than we have recently which is a positive. Beattie seemed to prefer being the target man, thus giving McFadden having more freedom to roam. If they can continue this form over a few games and also start reading Arteta and Van der Meyde's play better, then the partnership could be the best we've had so far. I still feel we need to sign another striker with genuine pace and quality in front of goal. There are times when only a few chances will come in a game and so far this season we haven't had a striker who can consistently put those chances away.
AS our schizophrenic season took a positive turn on Sunday, it was nice to see a handful of chances created - although the hesitant and rushed finishing did reflect the lack of confidence that still exists in front of goal. Much of the credit for this increased number of opportunities should go to the latest striking partnership to be tried as an answer to our goalscoring problems. The willing running of both McFadden and Beattie stretched Newcastle and allowed late midfield runs into the box, which should have resulted in more goals for Cahill and Van der Meyde. Such has been the nature of the season however that supporters will remain sceptical of any talk of a long-term renaissance until a longer series of results is recorded. It is also doubtful that we will face a worse centre-half pairing all season. Titus Bramble, in particular, played like he'd fully exploited the new licensing laws.
IT is blatantly obvious that James McFadden will never be a Premiership footballer. While at Motherwell he scored goals for fun in a struggling team, he hasn't been able to do the same at Everton. When he first arrived there were a couple of excellent performances but a regular goalscorer he is not and I expect he will eventually return to Scotland. Having said that, after Sunday's superb save he may have a future at Everton. After all, he can't be worse than Richard Wright in goal! James Beattie is now getting an uninterrupted run in the team and on the whole his performances have improved, but he does needs a regular partner alongside him who can also get goals. We are still to see the very best of Beat-tie but he does have the ability. If we can get a partner for him in January, we should start to score more goals.

Everton says beers to footballing legend
Dec 1 2005 Liverpool Echo
EVERTON FC, and its main sponsor, pay tribute to George Best. Well, I think we can say it's what he would have wanted. Others may prefer the heart-warming tribute paid by John Motson on Football Focus. He told a wonderful tale of how he and Best were dining together on this year's Grand National day, when the football legend asked the past-his-sell-by-date commentator who he was backing in the big race. Motson said he had received a hot tip on Hedgehunter. "With that, George immediately called over a waiter, counted out £1,000 and asked him to go and put it on Hedgehunter. "That was the type of man he was." Yes, an incorrigible gambler as well as an alcoholic. Thanks for bringing that up, Motty.

Blues ticket news
Dec 1 2005 Liverpool Echo

Blackburn v Everton in the Premiership on Saturday, December 3 (3pm) STAND tickets for this fixture priced £32 (adults), £20 (over 65s) and £15 (under 16s) are currently on general sale from the Park End box office during normal office hours. Identification will be required upon entry into the stadium for concessionary ticket holders. Man United v Everton in the Premiership on Sunday, December 11 (4pm) STAND tickets priced £39/£32/£31 (adults) and £19.50/£16/£15.50 (under 16s and over 65s) are currently on general sale from the Park End box office during normal office hours.
Identification will be required upon entry into the stadium for concessionary ticket holders.

Best was brightest of British stars
Dec 1 2005 Evertonia, Liverpool Echo
Alan Ball, the honorary president of Evertonia, returns with his monthly column and focuses on the legacy to football left by George Best...
THE world of football will say farewell to a rare talent this weekend with the funeral of George Best. I was a contemporary of George's during the late 60s and early 70s. We were playing football at a time when seemingly all of the continent's finest footballers were in the UK - people like Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Roger Hunt, Martin Peters, Colin Bell, Jimmy Greaves, Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles. But amidst all of those names it was always George's that stood out. He was as close to the complete player as you could ever get. He is rightfully up there with the likes of Pele, Maradona and Johann Cruyff. I loved the fact he was brave as well. In those days the talented players had to be stopped and that meant being tough and sometimes going over the top. But he could handle the physical stuff. It is an enormous shame that he never had the opportunity to showcase his ability on the big stage. Had he played in a World Cup everybody would have been able to appreciate his talent - there could have been no doubts of his standing in the game. It was a great time for domestic football because there was so much competition and good players at every club. That is reflected in the fact that, between 1966 and 1972 seven different clubs won the old first division title. George was in a fabulous Manchester United side but they won the title only once in that time. The same can be said for the great teams at Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester City and my beloved Everton. There was so much competition. So much quality. And George was the player we all still talk about. If he were playing in the modern game he would be idolised on a level that may be hard to comprehend. People talk about the Premier League being the best in the world. But if you look beyond the fabulous production values employed by Sky and the millions invested in teams, it is clear there are only two or three top quality sides. The rest are much of a muchness. When you compare that with the late 60s when I was part of a fabulous Everton side that only won the title once in 1970 - and which included two wonderful players in Howard Kendall and Colin Harvey who only earned one international cap - it becomes clear there was more competition and there was a greater depth of quality. George was the star from that era. And his memory deserves to shine for generations to come.
* THERE is a small but vocal community of Evertonians down here on the south coast who were delighted by last weekend's victory over Newcastle. It was a vital three points for the Blues after the poor performance against West Bromwich Albion. The result owed a great deal to the qualities that will need to be utilised regularly if the Toffees are to climb away from the bottom half of the table.
They scrapped and fought for every ball. That is what any side has to do to achieve success.
* Evertonia is the perfect Christmas present, with adult membership costing £19.99 and junior membership costing £9.99. To join Evertonia call 0870 442 0202 or visit www.evertonfc.com/

Carsley delight at one-year extension
Dec 2 2005
By David Prior, Daily Post
LEE CARSLEY has revealed his delight after the injured midfielder won a contract extension that will keep him at Goodison until 2007. The 31-year-old has been sidelined by a knee injury all season having played a significant role in Everton's Champions League qualification last term. His current deal was due to expire next summer, however, and the club have decided to act with the Republic of Ireland international still fighting his way back to full fitness. Carsley said: "I had originally been approached by the club towards the end of last season. However, there was a lot going on and we decided to leave any further discussion until the summer. "Then, of course, the manager and the club were involved in a lot of other transfer business so, as there was no rush on my behalf, we waited again until things had settled down. "Once myself and the boss sat down to discuss things, it was all done and dusted very quickly. I love it at Everton and always wanted to stay." Carsley hopes to return to the first-team frame by the new year. He added: "Obviously, I'm a bit frustrated at the moment but I'm focused on getting back to full fitness."

FA reject Everton's Cahill appeal
By David Prior Daily Post Staff
Dec 2 2005
TIM CAHILL will miss Everton's next three games against Blackburn Rovers, Manchester United and West Ham after losing his appeal against an FA charge of violent conduct. A Football Association disciplinary commission yesterday dismissed the Goodison club's claim that referee Howard Webb had dealt with the Australian's clash with Newcastle's Celestine Babayaro on Sunday. Everton's appeal had been centred on their belief that referee Webb had a clear view of the incident - during which the pair appeared to lash out at each other as they jostled for a free-kick - and had acted upon it, deciding not to punish either player. But the FA thought otherwise, with Newcastle's decision to immediately accept Babayaro's three-match ban - as the Nigerian would probably have missed two of those games in any case through injury - unlikely to have helped Everton's cause. An FA spokesman said: "Members of the commission were satisfied that Tim Cahill was guilty of misconduct in breach of FA Rule E3. Therefore the player is suspended for the next three first team matches." The news is a significant blow for David Moyes's men as they look to continue their move away from the lower reaches of the table. It is also a setback for Cahill, 27 next week, who has only just returned to the side after suffering a groin injury helping Australia to the World Cup finals in last month's play-offs. With fellow midfielder Lee Carsley still recovering from a knee operation and not likely to be back until the new year, Cahill's absence will cause Moyes an unwanted headache.
Potential midfield target Roy Keane, meanwhile, was last night linked with a move to West Bromwich Albion. Baggies manager Bryan Robson has made contact with his former Manchester United team-mate with a view to bringing him to the Hawthorns. Keane, 34, has been linked to numerous clubs since departing Old Trafford by "mu-tual consent" last month. And Robson said: "I've spoken to Roy and he knows there is an option to come to this football club. "At the moment, Roy has got loads of options available to him and within a few weeks he will make a decision on which challenge he wants. But only Roy Keane will be able to decide what that next challenge is going to be."

Rovers' reputation on the up - Hughes
Dec 2 2005
By Jim Van Wijk, Daily Post
MARK HUGHES believes people may now finally start to take Blackburn seriously. Rovers booked their place in the last eight of the Carling Cup on Wednesday night following a dramatic late comeback against Charlton at The Valley, having trailed 2-0 with only 15 minutes to go. The victory made it just three defeats from their last 11 matches in all competitions as Hughes's men, who welcome Everton to Ewood Park tomorrow, continue to improve and climb up the Barclays Premiership table, rather than stare anxiously over their shoulders at the relegation zone. Rovers have, though, often been criticised for a perceived robust style and of deploying confrontational tactics - most notably last season by Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and then Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger following their FA Cup semi-final. However, with the return of Wales striker Craig Bellamy and the likes of former England squad man David Thompson - who smashed in a spectacular 30-yard equaliser on Wednesday - fit again, as well as Norwegian winger Morten Gamst Pedersen continuing to impress, there are plenty of reasons for Hughes to be positive about the months ahead following some determined team performances. "We have been playing well for some time," the Blackburn manager maintained. "We are a determined team and we play it the right way. "We have labels we are trying to get rid of - and the only way we will do that is by playing well and winning football matches. That is what we are starting to do." Hughes stressed: "I keep on having to defend my team and I will continue to do it, but I think people are moving away from that now."

Charge Shearer
Post Soapbox, icLiverpool & Daily Post
Dec 2 2005
Charge Shearer
IF THE FA can't charge Alan Shearer because the referee saw it and dealt with it, then they should charge the referee for not issuing the correct punishment (a red card). Shearer's actions deserved a six-match ban. David Moyes should look at Greg Halford of Colchester in January. He is almost as tall as Peter Crouch, but scores goals and can play at the back, in midfield and up front. Michael Phillips (via email)
In safe hands
NIGEL Martyn is the best goalkeeper we've had since the great Neville Southall. However in my opinion, overall the squad is under-strength in all departments. Simon Jones, Chester
Too quiet
I AGREE we are having too many "silences" imposed on football crowds.
Maybe at matches these should be restricted for very special locals (eg Ken Bigley) and a very few major figures from the game, such as George Best (more so than, say, Johnny Haynes?)
Trevor Brennan (via email)
Super record
TO THE people calling for Moyes to go, get a grip. Look at his record since taking over.
Mark Thomas (via e-mail)
Trundle doubt
PUTTING Cahill on a charge is a joke. What's all this about Lee Trundle? A good player in his division but he has not even proved it in Division One yet! As for the small minority who have a pop at Tony Hibbert, lay off. Have you ever noticed that when his form dips and he gets dropped he always comes back better. I think a bit of competition would be good for him.
Bobby Collins, Liverpool

Abrasive Rovers are measure of progress
Dec 2 2005 By Mark O'Brien Everton supporter, Daily Post
EVERTON'S players get a real chance tomorrow to show whether the humiliation at the Hawthorns was genuinely a blip, a collective off-day marring their otherwise steady recovery, or whether the win against Newcastle was just another false dawn. Because, for clubs like Everton, it's visits to places like Ewood Park or, for instance, the Eastlands Stadium, Villa Park and the Valley, that provide the real indication of just how good your side really are. Generally speaking, in any given season you're expected to beat the Portsmouths and the Sunder-lands, the sides who will struggle for survival, while generally losing, especially away, to Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea. So, the difference between relative success and failure, ie whether you spend the season worrying about being too near the drop zone or hoping to secure a European place, tends to be how you fare against the other traditionally mid-table sides, especially when you visit their grounds. Mark Hughes's team have been particularly strong at Ewood Park this season. They are also, to put it mildly, one of the top division's more abrasive sides, so Everton will need to reproduce the same level of commitment that they showed against Newcastle. Unfortunately though, their cause will be hampered by the FA and the start of an almost guaranteed three-match ban for Tim Cahill, a player who made a big difference on his return to the team on Sunday. How is it that the sport's governing body's rules can continue to be so perverse that they are free to punish Cahill and Celestine Babayaro for what was a stupid little tussle - 'handbags', if you will - while they have no power to reprimand Alan Shearer's elbowing of David Weir? It seems like rough justice, although fair play to Weir for dismissing the incident afterwards - a far cry from the Geordie skipper's reaction after Justin Whittle dispensed a spot of rough justice at Grimsby. Back to tomorrow's game though, if Everton can match such a combative side as Rovers and even take just a point it would go a long way to convincing the fans that they really are starting to make progress. And if James McFadden, for instance, really does think that he, along with James Beattie, really are the answer up front for the team - and they did play well last week - then this is the sort of game where they have to produce the goods.

Keane in talks with Everton
Dec 2 2005 Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES has confirmed he has held talks with Roy Keane over a possible move to Goodison Park. The Everton boss has spoken with the former Manchester United captain twice since he left Old Trafford last month but there is still a long way to go before anything is decided because the Blues are just one of a number of clubs to have expressed an interest in him. Keane's representative Michael Kennedy met with officials from both Real and Atletico Madrid on Tuesday, while Keane himself has had face-to-face talks with West Brom, West Ham and Bolton. He also met with Celtic boss Gordon Strachan yesterday. While the 34-year-old has harboured ambitions of playing for his boyhood club, it is understood that he is unsure whether Celtic can provide a big enough challenge for him. Given that he is a long way from peak condition - Keane has been sidelined since September when he broke his foot against Liverpool - he is sure to take his time before deciding on where he goes next. Keane, who will have to dramatically reduce his wage demands from the £90,000 a week he was on at Old Trafford, would not want to move to a club that that would jeopardise his relationship with Manchester United supporters and he is equally reluctant to uproot his young family.

We will tough it out for Tim
Dec 2 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
ANDY van der Meyde is confident Everton can shrug off the blow of losing Tim Cahill for three games and maintain their recent revival. The Australian international will miss tomorrow's match at Blackburn Rovers, as well as the fixtures with Manchester United and West Ham United, after losing his appeal against an FA charge of violent conduct. Everton had claimed that referee Howard Webb had already dealt with Cahill's clash with Newcastle's Celestine Babayaro but the FA's disciplinary committee felt otherwise and suspended him. It is a headache that David Moyes could do without, yet Van der Meyde feels things could work in the manager's favour as there are a number of squad players straining at the leash to be given a chance. "Being without Tim is a pity because he is a good string to the team, it's a loss for us but we have a lot of players who can play there so it is a chance for them to show what they can do," said the Holland international, who believes he is getting close to capturing top form. "I feel I am getting stronger and stronger, and I am training well, I am playing in the games for longer and I don't get tired any more. My legs just stop." Signed on a transfer deadline day for £1.7m from Internazionale, a groin problem meant van der Meyde was forced to wait to make his debut but he has now started Everton's last four games. "I get cramp and I have to go off, so I just have to listen to my body." he added. "Against Newcastle, it was 77 minutes, so I hope in every game to have five minutes more, play a lot of games and be important. "I like to play on the left. It is difficult for defenders to defend the crosses like that but we have the chance to change positions and make problems. "It keeps us sharp as there are a lot of players who can play there." Lee Carsley, meanwhile, has been given a boost as he continues his rehabilitation from a long-term knee problem after signing a contract extension that will keep him at Goodison Park until 2007. Though he is still some way from appearing for the first team again - Moyes is not optimistic about having him available for the Christmas period - he is an influential presence around the club.
"Once myself and the boss sat down to discuss things, it was all done and dusted very quickly," said Carsley. "I love it at Everton and I always wanted to stay. I'm focused on getting back to full fitness."

Fired up Faddy desperate to stay on strike
Dec 2 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
BUZZING around the penalty area, twisting two hapless central defenders this way and that, James McFadden's performance against Newcastle United last week has given Everton manager David Moyes food for thought. There have been occasions during his career on Merseyside when McFadden - after arriving from Motherwell with a lofty reputation - has not always delivered what was expected ofhim. Certainly his goalscoring record - one in 56 Premiership appearances - is far from ideal. However, the signs in recent weeks have been promising. The Scotland international has been setting the club's Bellefield training HQ alight after Moyes had thrown down the gauntlet to his strikers. The manager - exasperated by Everton's paltry goal tally - has made it quite clear that he intends to do some business when the transfer window opens for business again and is looking to make one, possibly two, new additions. But he has also stated that if a striker already at Goodison Park can come up with the goods in the meantime, so much the better. McFadden's virtuoso performance could not have come at a better time. Consistency is now the key. "I have been feeling good," McFadden said. "I needed to prove I was ready, and we played in a way that makes our players thrive. I've said for a while that I love to play as a striker." He is likely to continue alongside James Beattie when Everton travel to Blackburn Rovers tomorrow and will be hoping Brad Friedel is not in the same kind of inspired form as Shay Given was last Sunday. Yet eight goals in 23 appearances for his country shows McFadden knows how to find the net at international level, and Moyes now wants him to transfer that form to the Premiership. Should he do that, he may save his manager from dipping into his transfer kitty. "I said not so long ago that I wanted people to take the challenge on and we are still looking for that but if Faddy can do it, that's great," said Moyes, whose side will be looking for their fourth win in five games at Ewood Park. "His performance against Newcastle was good. He held the ball up well for us and worked really, really hard. "He got some shots at goal, which we haven't been getting recently, so that was a plus. "Hopefully his goalscoring is something that he will improve on. But it's not just him that we have been lacking goals from. We've been lacking them throughout. "But we are pleased with James. He's looked very good in training and I can see improvements in the work that he does. "He is maturing, much more than he was a year or two years ago. He is only 22, so hopefully if his improvement continues then he has got every chance of being a very good player." While Moyes is convinced there is sparkling talent waiting to blossom from McFadden, one man who has seen exactly what he can do at close quarters has never doubted his credentials. When practice games take place at Bellefield, Joseph Yobo always does his best to make sure he is on the same side as McFadden to spare himself being put through the mill. Whether it is nutmegs, feints or shimmies, McFadden will do his best to run rings around his team-mates and Yobo believes it is only a matter of time before his pal starts embarrassing Premiership defenders in a similar fashion. "From when he came here, he has been a talent," offered Yobo. "He is a wonderful player and in training he is one of those players that you hate to play against. He has quick feet, everything. I'm just happy for him because against Newcastle, he showed he has got the character. He fights very hard for everything. It was a tough game but he fought so hard for the team. "He showed what a player he is but hopefully he can improve on this as well. Faddy can cause any central defenders trouble because of his quick feet. "When you play against him, you never know what he is going to do with the ball. He has got a great shot on his left foot as well. He makes things difficult for opponents to know what he'll do. I think he will find out what position is best for him when he is playing like a second striker. "He likes upsetting defenders and can do that." Given they have had another week to work on their partnership at Bellefield, Yobo agrees that McFadden and Beattie's partnership can only get better. If they can strike up a similar tune against Blackburn, goals should follow. "Beats worked well with him," said Yobo. "He's another player who has showed a lot of character. He gives us a lot of options and confidence. "He did very well for us and it was just unlucky for him that he did not get the goal he deserved but his all-round performance was very good."

Shearer TV shocker is given the elbow
Dec 2 2005 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
THE BBC screened a new version of that old Hitchcock classic, 'The Lady Vanishes', on Sunday night.
Except this time it featured Graeme Le Saux and Adrian Chiles - and it wasn't an old lady doing the disappearing, but an elbow. You see, I was at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon and I know I saw Alan Shearer plant what appeared to be a pre-meditated elbow into David Weir's face. I know it was captured on TV because there are monitors inside the Goodison Park press box - and the collective intake of breath which accompanied the replay showed I hadn't imagined the incident. So where was the analysis on Match of the Day 2 later that night? Where was the frame by frame dissection on Sky TV the next night? In fact, where was the same type of media outcry which accompanied Alan's own bleatings when he was the victim of a similar incident in a Carling Cup tie earlier this season? It wasn't there. It disappeared, as effectively as Miss Froy in Hitch's psychological classic.
In fact, the only intelligent analysis of the incident I found all week came on Century FM's always engaging 'Legends Phone-In' (although description of Garry Owen as a "legend" always has me wondering whether they've lost a hyphen somewhere between the leg and the end).
It set me wondering whether the same vanishing trick might have been perpetrated had, say, Duncan Ferguson behaved the same way. Then I remembered. Big Dunc has never appeared on a BBC pundits' panel. He has never swopped banter and bonhomie with Richard Keys ahead of an England friendly international, and he has never captained his country. That can be the only answer, can't it, to Shearer's challenge on Weir not being widely advertised and debated. Tim Cahill and Celestine Babayaro were both hit with violent conduct charges from the same match. No arguments.
Both players clearly swung punches at each other. Cahill missed, but that's beside the point. He tried to punch his opponent, and that clearly constitutes violent conduct. What might have been a mitigating circumstance is that both players reacted instinctively. It was red mist stuff - an ill-judged over-reaction in the hurly burly of a penalty box tussle. In no shape or form could it be considered a deliberate, calculated piece of thuggery. Contrast that to Shearer's behaviour. Shearer turned his head to look where Weir was standing. Then directed an elbow into his face. This is the same Shearer, of course, who complained bitterly when a Grimsby defender did exactly the same to him in that Carling Cup tie earlier this season. The same Shearer who opened up an horrendous gash in Gareth Southgate's forehead. The same Shearer who almost took Neil Lennon's head off, then threatened to withdraw his services from the national team if he was banned. And the same Shearer whose flying elbows saw a Sol Campbell header which would have secured England's place in the 1998 World Cup quarter-finals disallowed. The incident with Weir may well have been just an unfortunate accident - but the lack of TV analysis means we haven't even been given the opportunity to debate the matter properly. I think Shearer elbowed Weir. Our excellent Echo columnist, Barry Horne, does not, and mounts an interesting counter-argument in tomorrow's Football Echo. That's already more debate on the issue than was aired on our TV screens this week.
Shearer has been, and still is, a wonderful footballer. His status as a modern football legend is both deserved and entirely appropriate. But he isn't above the law. So why do we continue to indulge him? Answers on a postcard to the BBC and Sky.

Angry Moyes fuming over Cahill 'stitch-up'
Dec 3 2005 By David Prior Daily Post Staff
DAVID MOYES has launched an astonishing attack on referee Howard Webb and the Football Association over the decision to ban Tim Cahill for three games. Cahill will sit out today's Premiership trip to Blackburn Rovers as he begins a suspension imposed this week for his clash with Celestine Babayaro in Sunday's home win over Newcastle. The decision has infuriated Moyes, and the Everton manager took the unusual step yesterday of leading journalists through a frame-by-frame defence of his player via an overhead projector and the official Prozone match footage. Moyes stopped short of actually branding the official a liar, yet there was no doubting the implication, and he has also told Goodison insiders he does not fear FA punishment as he has already suffered it by losing the Australian for three vital matches against Rovers, Manchester United and West Ham United. Referee Webb had triggered the disciplinary procedure by omitting any mention of the first-half flare-up between Cahill and Babayaro in his match report, enabling FA Compliance Officers Tariq Shamal and David Lampitt to then refer the matter to a Disciplinary Commission, who imposed the three-game ban for violent conduct. But Moyes claimed that for Webb to say he did see the incident was "not true", adding that the FA's treatment of Everton amounted to a "stitch-up". He said: "Webb claims he didn't see the incident but I think it is obvious that the referee is looking straight at it. The referee said that he saw the players square up but he didn't see the first part of the incident. "Both players were probably deserving of yellow cards because of the scuffle and knowing you cannot raise your arms." Moyes continued: "Maybe he felt that because he'd already booked Babayaro it would have meant sending him off. "For me the biggest thing was for him to tell the FA that he didn't see it. That is not true. To say that is ridiculous. "We can prove that the referee saw it. He was six yards away and facing it, we should have been able to at least say that. "He had several conversations with Tim Cahill and Tim was in no doubt that the referee had seen it. It has been a complete stitch-up." Moyes was also highly critical of Everton's lack of a right to appeal. "It's ridiculous," he added. "How can it be that you can have no representation at all? "We had no representation at all, all we can do is send down the evidence but we have no idea if they even looked at it. "What other profession would not allow you to appeal? If you were sent home from work you'd have a right to appeal. The system is completely flawed."
Moyes was further angered by the fact that the FA have decided to take no action against Alan Shearer for an alleged elbow on David Weir during the match, because the referee claimed he did witness that incident. Moyes said: "We didn't come out and make a big case of the Alan Shearer incident with David Weir, and we won't do so. But there was a situation that on another day the player could have been sent off. "He said he saw that one, so we take his word for it. But on the Cahill situation the referee claimed he didn't see it. But I will stand in front of anyone and prove to them that the referee does see what happened between Babayaro and Cahill and doesn't make a decision." The Football Association later rejected Moyes's claims, adding that the system used in the matter - designed to speed up the banning process - was agreed during the summer by both the Premier League and Professional Footballers' Association. "The referee said he did not see what happened in that particular incident," said an FA spokesman. "We have to respect that because the referee is the final arbiter of the game."

Everton waiting on Keane decision
By David Prior, Daily Post
Dec 3 2005
EVERTON will discover on Monday if they have been successful in their attempt to lure Roy Keane to Goodison. David Moyes yesterday confirmed he has held talks with the 34-year-old, who is looking for a new club after ending his 12-year association with Manchester United by mutual consent on November 18. Celtic, Manchester City, West Ham and West Brom have all expressed interest in signing Keane, who fell out with United after his interview for United's in-house television channel MUTV was withdrawn from the schedules. However, Spanish giants Real Madrid have emerged as favourites after reports revealed their interest in bringing Keane to the Bernabeu on a short-term deal. It is not clear when Moyes held talks with the Republic of Ireland international, with the Goodison manager only saying: "I can confirm we have had talks with Roy Keane." On Wednesday, West Ham assistant manager Peter Grant revealed the club have been in contact with Keane's advisors. He said: "We've made contact to say we're interested. We would love the opportunity to speak to him. If Roy decides he wants to come to London - then bang, we're in for him." The player's representatives believe the debate over his future - with Keane unable to sign a contract until January 1 - will be concluded early next week. Keane's advisor Michael Kennedy said: "We should know by Monday what is happening with Roy."

Beattie aiming to tee up a success on Rovers return
By David Prior, Daily Post
Dec 3 2005
IT was on a Lancashire golf course in the summer of 1998 that James Beattie, about to drive off the first tee, received a phone call that instantly changed his life. Tom Finn, the Blackburn Rovers secretary, was on the other end of the line. "He basically said we've sold you to Southampton," said Beattie. "It was less 'do you want to go?', more 'we've sold you'. I started crying." It was indeed a monumental shock for the 20-year-old Beattie. Bought an Ewood Park season ticket when he was nine and raised in a Rovers-mad household, the striker had planned for little else beyond his beloved blue and whites. Blackburn's Premiership title win of 1995, he freely admits, still represents "the best moment of my career". And having just completed an excellent year in Blackburn's reserves, the Lancaster-born striker was looking forward to the coming season when he believed he had a real opportunity to establish himself in the first team. That dream, in an instant on that tee, had been shattered. "I was absolutely distraught when Blackburn said they'd sold me to Southampton," he said. "It just came totally out of the blue. "Obviously when something like that happens to you when you're a young lad it was hard to see what was going to happen, especially at a club like Southampton which was miles away from my family, and I'd always lived at home. I was preparing to go back and try and get in the first team when they suddenly said 'we've sold you'. Stuart Ripley was at the time being sold to Southampton, and I think Dave Jones (then Southampton manager) asked Roy Hodgson (then Blackburn manager) 'what about James?', and I think the exact words were 'yeah, take a chance on him'. And he did. "I'd supported Blackburn all my life and I didn't know what to do. I rung my dad and I think we spent about 20 minutes on that tee. I can't remember how I played after that - probably the usual crap." Once the initial shock had worn off, the idea suddenly became less alien to the confident youngster; rather, he suddenly sensed an opportunity. After all, Blackburn had only recently spent £7.5million on Kevin Davies, ironically from Southampton, while another striker, Chris Sutton, was still the first name on the team-sheet at Ewood Park. A meeting between Beattie, Beattie Snr and Dave Jones was quickly set up. "Me and my dad went down and saw Dave Jones and it only took about two or three minutes to decide that he was a genuine guy and I really wanted to go and work for him. "He made me feel as if he really wanted me, and during that week I turned the whole thing into a challenge. He told me I wouldn't get into the first team straight away, so that was my next goal - to get in. I think I got in about November time and I ended up as Player of the Year." In hindsight, that bombshell on the first tee proved to be the catalyst that saw Beattie's career propelled on its upward curve that culminated in his £6m move to Goodison earlier this year. Beattie proved a revelation on the south coast, eventually claiming 68 goals in 204 appearances and winning five full England caps. Memories of that phone call produces few tears now. "Looking back on it now it was the best move I ever made," added the 27-year-old. "At the time I was gutted, but now it's wonderful, because I wasn't going to get the chances at Blackburn that I got at Southampton. It developed me as a person as well." Today, returning to east Lancashire with Everton, Blackburn fans will hopefully get the chance to see what they've missed out on. The conflict in loyalties presents no problem for Beattie. "I always get a good reception when I go back and there's still a couple of lads there who were there when I was," he said. "So it's nice to go back. I've supported them for 20 years but obviously going back there with Everton now I'll be looking to get a result." But while proving himself to old and new fans is still top of Beat-tie's priority list, he still retains a nagging wish to catch the eye of a certain bespectacled Swede. "I haven't given up hope of going to the World Cup," he said. "And the only way I'm going to do that is to keep working hard and playing well. "If Mr Eriksson says yes or no then that's up to him." Beattie is likely to continue alongside James McFadden today, the partnership having shown much promise against Newcastle last weekend. For McFadden, the task is now to continue to transfer his international record - which currently reads eight goals in 23 caps - to the domestic stage. Given his current form, it is surely only a matter of time before the Scottish winger begins to improve a record that reads one goal in 56 games for Everton. Manager David Moyes is hopeful. "I said not so long ago that I wanted people to take the challenge on and we are still looking for that but if Faddy can do it, then that's great," said Moyes. "His performance against Newcastle was good. He held the ball up well for us and worked really, really hard. He got some shots at goal, which we haven't been getting recently, so that was a plus. "Hopefully his goalscoring is something that he will improve on. But it's not just him that we have been lacking goals from. We've been lacking them throughout. But we are pleased with James. He's looked very good in training and I can see improvements in the work that he does. He is maturing, much more than he was a year or two years ago. "He is only 22, so hopefully if his improvement continues then he has got every chance of being a very good player."

Everton fans jailed over trouble after game
Dec 3 2005 Daily Post
TWO men who took part in disorder following an FA Cup tie between Everton and Manchester United were yesterday locked up for five months. Christopher Green, 19, and Kevin Davies, 24, threw missiles and taunted the away football fans as they were escorted from Goodison Park to the city centre after the game on February 19, Liverpool Crown Court heard. Lee Bonner, pro Christopher Green, of Carnation Road, Fazakerley, and Kevin Davies, of Moss Grove, Birkenhead, had both been charged with violent disorder, but pleaded guilty to affray. Michael Bagley, defending Green, said emotions had been running high as it was Wayne Rooney's return to Goodison Park following his move and Manchester United won the match 2-0. Judge Bryn Holloway detained Green in a young offenders' institution for five months and jailed Davies for five months. They were also each given six-year football banning orders.

Blackburn 0, Everton 2 (D,Post)
By David Prior at Ewood Park, Daily Post
Dec 5 2005
THERE was hardly a flare-up to speak of, but David Moyes will probably still be sat in front of his overhead projector this morning. Only a frame-by-frame dissection of that 29th-minute incident will ever truly convince the Everton manager that, yes indeed, it happened. James McFadden scored.
Having said that, while the Scottish winger's second goal in 57 appearances will undoubtedly take time to sink in, Moyes may spend even longer poring over the slo-mo replays of that seem-ingly rarer occurrence still - a second goal for Everton. This season is growing less predictable by the week. But if Saturday's win was a tale of the unexpected, the utterly clinical way in which Everton despatched their hosts will leave Rovers manager Mark Hughes with no less to investigate today.
And while he may be tempted to focus his inquiries on the role played by referee Mark Halsey - or to be more precise, his assistant Mark Warren - he would do better to simply credit a superior villain.
For once Everton had quashed Rovers' early promise, courtesy of an astute tactical shift from Moyes, they gained in confidence, took their chances and swept out of east Lancashire with a new 'best-of' under their belts. And this was some scalp. Blackburn had won six and drawn one of their eight home games so far this season, their most recent Ewood encounter having sent away specialists Charlton packing to the tune of a 4-1 thumping. But just as they have done against the better sides all season, Everton raised their game. Those battling qualities upon which their performances depend so much were maintained at the Newcastle level, not dipped back to the West Brom level.
What made it even more impressive was the way they coped with the loss of Tim Cahill - the suspension of whom had forced an upset Moyes into that elaborate defence via the Prozone match footage on Friday. The Australian's absence left behind a flimsy-looking central midfield partnership of Simon Davies and Leon Osman, the latter making his first start since October 2, but the unfamiliar four - and then five - across the middle coped admirably. As did, crucially, the defence. David Weir and Joseph Yobo were outstanding in managing the very real threat posed by Craig Bellamy and Morten Gamst Pedersen, at least once the latter had failed to take the two chances afforded to him inside the first 10 minutes. Even Richard Wright, replacing the hopefully short-term injury victim Nigel Martyn at half-time, did himself no harm with a display that, an early fumble aside, was relatively assured. Moyes' dismay at losing Cahill had no doubt been intensified by the expectation that, especially given Lee Carsley's continued absence, Everton's hopes of building on the win over Newcastle would be seriously endangered. Those fears seemed entirely justified in the opening stages. Blackburn, buoyed by their remarkable Carling Cup recovery at Charlton in midweek, surged forward with uncomfortable ease and should have taken a lead as early as the third minute when David Thompson's cross was thumped wastefully into the visiting end by Pedersen after Steven Reid's smart dummy. The Norwegian was given similarly scant attention seven minutes later, and his floated curler after cutting in from the left flank managed to beat Martyn but, fortuitously for the visitors, not the far post. The hosts' early tempo soon gave way to a more leisurely pace as Everton gained a foothold in the match, Moyes having responded to the worrying initial signs by withdrawing McFadden into a five-man midfield. On the back of his excellent performance against Newcastle last week, much of the build-up to the game has involved the winger being written about in far more favourable terms than during much of his 27-month stint on Merseyside. All he needed now was a goal that might begin to take some of the embarrassment factor away from that scoring record. Moyes' tactical shift did not at first seem to help McFadden much in that aim, but sheer determination - a quality never doubted in the feisty Scot - gave Everton that all-important opening goal just before the half hour. Phil Neville's long ball was eventually won by Andy van der Meyde, the ball bouncing into the path of McFadden, who beat Michael Gray to a header that bounced beyond Brad Friedel and inside the American's far post. His beaming smile, so in contrast with that customary scowl, was almost shocking. The goal had come from Everton's first opportunity of the game, but it sparked a period that essentially decided it. With 32 minutes gone, James Beattie was released through the middle and, faced only with leaden-footed veteran Andy Todd, he decided on a cheeky pass-andrun strategy. No doubt sensing the worst, Todd instinctively stuck out a hand that prevented Beattie with a clean run on the goalkeeper. Referee Halsey missed the infringement, but not so his assistant on the far side who bravely called the official over and informed him of the true nature of what was a blatant professional foul. Halsey, after a lengthy jog across the pitch, duly brandished the deserved red card and Arteta almost added insult to their injury, swinging the resultant free-kick just wide of a beaten Friedel's post. Custom now dictated that Everton would shut up shop and play out the remaining hour like their lives depended on it. The shock was almost palpable then when, on the cusp of half-time, the visitors claimed a second goal in a game for the first time since May 15. Another gutsy challenge, this time Beattie on Tugay, saw Osman presented with a loose ball that the 24-year-old at first hoped to despatch somewhere in the direction of Friedel. With no way through, however, Osman decided instead to lay off a weighted ball for Arteta, who unfurled a superb right-footed shot from outside the penalty area that flew beyond the Blackburn goalkeeper. With the gargantuan cushion that goal now afforded them, Everton's substantial support could at last wallow in a victory, rather than collectively hold their breath until the final whistle had been blown. Given their numerical advantage, Everton were able to protect the lead in a largely untroubled second period, seeing out a victory that extends their recent record to four wins from five. That's the sort of form that, whisper it, will see Everton into the top half and beyond before too long. After the start his side made this term, Moyes really will be rubbing his eyes in disbelief then.
BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Gray; Thompson (Khizanishvili 45), Reid, Tugay (Kuqi 66), Pedersen; Bentley (Emerton 83), Bellamy. Subs: Savage, Enckelman.
BOOKING: Bellamy (foul).
SENT OFF: Todd (deliberate handball).
EVERTON (4-4-2): Martyn (Wright 45); Hibbert, Yobo, Weir, Neville; Arteta (Kilbane 63), Davies, Osman, van der Meyde (Ferguson 58); Beattie, McFadden. Subs: Kroldrup, Bent.
BOOKING: Arteta (dissent).
REFEREE: Mark Halsey.
ATT: 22,064.
NEXT GAME: Manchester United v Everton, Premiership, Sunday 4.05pm

McFadden striking for Goodison future
By David Prior Daily Post Staff
Dec 5 2005
JAMES McFADDEN hopes his goalscoring performance on Saturday will spark a run that will finally see him earn his place in the Everton team as a striker. The Scottish winger claimed only his second goal in 57 appearances - his other coming at Tottenham way back on January 1 - as David Moyes's men secured their fourth win in five games in impressive fashion at Ewood Park. Mikel Arteta added a stunning second as the Goodison side scored more than once in a game for the first time this season, while Blackburn had Andy Todd sent off for deliberate handball. McFadden's goal capped an excellent week for the Scot following his excellent display in the win over Newcastle, suggesting he is at last beginning to establish himself in Moyes's side. And McFadden, who has been a far more prolific goalscorer for Scotland, wants a run in the side now to prove he can be as effective in a striking role at club level. He said: "I've been moaning about not playing as a striker, but the manager's given me a chance now and I've scored a goal and hopefully I can continue to be playing as a striker and grab a few more goals. "Hopefully I've been doing well in the games. If I can get on a bit of a run and not get injured then hopefully I can stay in the team a little bit longer." McFadden believes that Everton's recent run of form - the defeat at West Brom aside - is increasingly turning their awful start into little more than a bad memory. "I think it's behind us now," added the 22-year-old. "We're concentrating on keeping the form up and keeping the performances at a high level that we've set. "We've had a bad start but there's no point in looking back on it because you can start taking negative points from it. We've just got to move on and continue to work hard on the pitch and grind out more results. "It wasn't one of the prettiest performances, but it was a hard-working performance, and obviously we got two goals which is the most we've scored in a single game this season so it's pleasing, especially when it's away from home." Phil Neville's ball, nodded on by Andy van der Meyde, set up McFadden's chance but the winger still needed to be brave to beat the advancing Brad Friedel with a deft header. He added: "I'm delighted with the goal. Beatts has gone up for the header and I've run for his flick-on, it's gone into Andy's path and he's headed it on and then I saw Brad coming out so I just tried to nick in in front of him and get the header in, and fortunately enough it's gone in. "Overall I wasn't too pleased with my performance to be honest, but that's two games now I've been part of a winning side and I'm pleased with the way that the team's performed and the fact that we've got the right result. "It was against the run of play, but that's the way it goes sometimes. Maybe we were fortunate at times but you need that, maybe earlier on in the season we weren't getting those breaks and getting the goal, so it's nice and if that's the way we're going to win games then that's fine." On Arteta's superb effort, McFadden added: "It was a great goal, Ossie's done brilliantly to set him up and Mikel's put it away with a great finish." nd McFadden hopes Everton can now maintain their form at Manchester United next week, having ground out a goalless draw at Old Trafford last season. We'll be going to try and win the game," he added. "Last season the way we played at Old Trafford set us up for the season." The Ewood Park clash - Everton's 4,000th in top-flight football - did however come at a cost with Nigel Martyn forced off at half-time with a groin injury. The 39-year-old will have a scan today to determine the extent of the damage and whether he has a chance of making Sunday's game at Old Trafford. Arteta, meanwhile, picked up a knee problem at Blackburn but is definitely out of the Old Traf-ford game after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season.

Moyes happy for Europe to be distraction
By David Prior Daily Post Staff
Dec 5 2005
DAVID MOYES would gladly settle for the distraction of European football again next term - despite the problems it caused at the start of this season. Blackburn manager Mark Hughes had suggested prior to the game that Everton's struggles throughout the first few months were due to their ill-fated exploits in the Champions League and UEFA Cup. But despite the European hangover taking a long time to clear, Moyes is in no doubt he would love a return to the Continent. "I would settle for being in a European spot again next season if it was in any way possible," he said. "To be honest, I thought we did start this season well. We played well in both games with Villarreal, in the game at home to Manchester United and away at Bolton. It was the period after that that we couldn't get many results. We obviously didn't get many then, but it was the games that followed that made it look like a terrible, terrible start. "But now is not a time for us to look back and decide why we didn't start particularly well, although I will look at it. "I just want to make sure we are away from the bottom half of the table before I analyse what went wrong." Moyes felt Everton's Ewood Park victory demonstrated his side are now much improved from earlier on in the campaign. "We feel we are doing much better," said Moyes. "The results have been very good, but I am still looking for more from our performances. "However from where we have been to where we are at, to get four wins out of five, that's a great run for any club whether you are at the top of the league or the bottom."
Everton head to Old Trafford next Sunday with a chance to atone for the season-opening defeat at Goodison Park, and with confidence at its highest all season. "Our confidence and self-belief are growing, and we can build on it," insisted Moyes. "The players are learning how to win again, and now we are on a run that's great for any club, whether you are at the top of the league or the bottom." Moyes refused to elaborate on their pursuit of Roy Keane following the midfielder's departure from Manchester United three weeks ago. The club confirmed they had held talks with the former Republic of Ireland captain, but they remain one of many interested parties looking to sign the 34-year-old, with Real Madrid among the front-runners. "I am not going to say how the talks went, or whether they were positive. I will keep things private," said Moyes. "But we are just one of 20-30 different clubs looking to sign him."

Time to see why he's a great Scot
View From The Stands by Conor Francis Everton supporter, Daily Post
Dec 5 2005
FORGET Peter Crouch's first goal - the real 'where were you?' moment of the weekend came at Ewood Park. Where were you when Everton scored two goals in a game? Indeed it was remarkable. And that it should come at the famously stingy home of Blackburn Rovers make it even more sweet.
In truth, we needed a belated dose of some of that luck we've been missing all season to get us out of a soggy east Lancashire with such an excellent result in tow. Had Morten Gamst Pedersen not blazed over from six yards early on then we could well be talking about another kind of afternoon entirely. But he blazed over he did, and for a change we made the most of our letoff. I'm delighted for young Faddy. He's always seemed to me to offer more than that dreadful goal ratio - one that makes Crouch look prolific - would have you believe. What's more, most of those 57 games so far have come from the bench. But finally he's beginning to look like a player. I thought he had a good game against Newcastle and while he probably didn't play as well at Rovers, he got the goal and sometimes that's worth a whole lot more in terms of confidence than simply playing okay. He was brave to get the goal as he did and let's hope it's the start of some great things from the lad. Credit should also go to Leon Osman. It was a tough job asking him to fill Cahill's boots - especially as he hasn't had much game time of late - but he did well and the composure he showed in setting up Arteta's stunner was impressive. So four wins in five - we've finally woken up, it seems. Let's keep it going.

Blackburn 0, Everton 2 (Echo)
Dec 5 2005 By Dominic King
SPRINTING back to the halfway line pursued by delighted team-mates, arms hoisted up in jubilation, it was an image to light up a miserable winter's day - James McFadden celebrating his first Premiership goal of the season. While all the talk about you-know-who has finally ended, perhaps the debates about the inclusion of McFadden in Everton's starting line-up will quieten after he played a starring role in another important win. Since the young Scotland international moved to Goodison Park in August 2003, there have been times when he has flattered to deceive, and some critics have questioned if he has what it takes to make it in the English top flight. But if he can carry on reaching the lofty standards he has done in the past couple of weeks, then McFadden is more than capable of becoming an important member of David Moyes' squad, particularly if he has finally found his shooting boots. Prior to Saturday's trip to Blackburn Rovers, McFadden had only scored once in 56 Premiership appearances. When compared to his international tally of eight in 23 games, it was a statistic that beggared belief. Given Everton have struggled so badly in front of goal this season, the 22-year-old didn't need reminding it was an area of his game which demanded immediate improvement. What better way to respond, then, than coming up with the goods when it mattered most? Deciding to take a chance by carrying his run into the box, as well as showing bravery to get the better of Michael Gray to poke a header past Brad Friedel, few could argue McFadden deserved to get on the scoresheet at Ewood Park. Hopefully, a few more will follow now that Moyes has given him the central striking role that McFadden has always maintained he is most suited to. What's more, there have been definite signs of promise in his partnership with James Beattie. Having spoken after the victory over Newcastle United of the importance of setting the tone from the front, Beattie and McFadden worked tirelessly as Everton recorded their fourth win in five Premiership games. True, their cause may have been helped by referee Mark Halsey's decision to send Andy Todd off in the first half, but by that point McFadden had put Everton in front - and recent history shows that when the Blues score first, invariably they win. Slowly but surely, the nightmare start to the campaign is being corrected and scoring more than one goal in a game for the first time since last May is bound to provide another injection of confidence into the squad.
It is a clear sign that progress is being made when there is a slight feeling of frustration after a victory such as this one. Of course, everyone was delighted, but the manager's expression afterwards suggested he wasn't completely satisfied. With a bit more savvy and ambition, Everton could - possibly should - have got a few more goals after the break. As Blackburn chased the game, they left gaps that could have been exploited. No matter. Carry on in the manner that they played for 25 minutes before the break and there is no doubt that Everton will win more matches than they lose. Organised, efficient and ruthless on the break, they refused to buckle in the face of severe early pressure. The obnoxious Craig Bellamy is unlikely to win many popularity contests, but he is certainly an effective player and his searing pace caused Everton's defence some anxiety early on. It was easy to see why Moyes wanted to sign him in the summer. One rapier-like thrust after nine minutes saw him play in Morten Gamst Pedersen, who had eluded the attentions of Tony Hibbert, but there were huge sighs of relief as the Swede's deft chip clipped the outside of the post. Pedersen had already blazed one glorious chance wide in the third minute, following good work from David Thompson down the right and a smart dummy by Steven Reid. Nigel Martyn - substituted at half time because of a groin problem - knew little about the shot that whistled past his upright. Aware the home side had been afforded far too much space in the opening exchanges, Moyes shuffled his pack to stifle Blackburn building up a head of steam. McFadden moved to the left flank to form a five-man midfield and the switch paid dividends. Once McFadden had put Everton ahead, and Todd had received his marching orders, a swagger that has not been seen a great deal this year returned to their play. The excellent Mikel Arteta and Simon Davies pulled the strings in midfield. So it came as no surprise when Arteta grabbed the second, arriving at the perfect moment to fizz a curling effort beyond Brad Friedel into the top corner after excellent work by the recalled Leon Osman. Game over. After the break, Blackburn did their best to get back into the game but, with Joseph Yobo once again outstanding, substitute keeper Richard Wright's goal was barely threatened, bar one uncomfortable moment when he fumbled a cross. A word, too, for David Weir. Yobo may have been grabbing most people's attention, but the Everton skipper is doing his bit, too. Some critics point to his lack of pace and wonder when £5m man Per Kroldrup will play, but Weir has barely put a foot wrong. As soon as it became apparent that there was going to be no brave comeback from the home side, the game fizzled out as a contest which makes Arteta's booking - his fifth of the year - for dissent, all the more infuriating. He will now have to sit out against Manchester United next Sunday and his guile will be missed. Even though he was only 70 per cent fit at the weekend, he was by some distance Everton's creator in chief. Still, there was much to take heart from and though they never got close to matching the heights that they did against Newcastle, compared to some of the wretched displays of the autumn it was a significant step in the right direction. Nevertheless, the Premiership table still has a sobering look about it and everyone at Goodison Park will be aware they remain in a precarious position. But, on the other hand, there is enough evidence to suggest Everton are building up a head of steam. December - with eight games - was always going to be the month that would shape Everton's destiny. Having started it in the best possible manner, if they continue in the same form, the Blue half of Merseyside will be breathing much easier come the new year.
BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Gray; Thompson (Khizanishvili 45), Reid, Tugay (Kuqi 66), Pedersen; Bentley (Emerton 83), Bellamy. Subs: Savage, Enckelman.
BOOKING: Bellamy (foul).
SENT OFF: Todd (deliberate handball).
EVERTON (4-4-2): Martyn (Wright 45); Hibbert, Yobo, Weir, Neville; Arteta (Kilbane 63), Davies, Osman, van der Meyde (Ferguson 58); Beattie, McFadden. Subs: Kroldrup, Bent.
BOOKING: Arteta (dissent).
REFEREE: Mark Halsey.
ATT: 22,064

Arteta's joy and despair in Blue revival
Dec 5 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
MIKEL ARTETA has shrugged off the frustration of his fifth booking of the season and believes sitting out next week's trip to Old Trafford could be a blessing in disguise. The Everton midfielder has been carrying a troublesome knee injury for the past few weeks and didn't train in the week prior to Saturday's trip to Blackburn. However, that did not stop Arteta pulling the strings once again before grabbing his first Premiership goal of the campaign as Everton sealed a 2-0 win. His joy was tempered, though, when the 23-year-old picked up a needless yellow card, which means an automatic one-match ban. But Arteta has put his disappointment to one side and feels it will give him more of an opportunity of being fit for Everton's hectic run of fixtures later this month. "I don't think it was a booking because I didn't stop them playing or anything, but that's it," said Arteta. "I will miss next week but hopefully my knee will recover. "I will have to look to the next game. We have got so many games in December and I need to be ready. I really wanted to play at Old Trafford but that happens in football. "I hadn't trained all week and my knee is killing me. I wanted to play because it was important as Tim wasn't playing. I've been playing well but I can get better." The latest victory means Everton have now won four of their last five matches, allowing them to creep away from the relegation zone. Arteta, nevertheless, feels there is room for improvement. "We are looking better," he added. "That was a really difficult game to win. We struggled a little bit early on but after we got the first goal it was much better. "When I scored the second, everything was looking much better. We played some good football at times. We are looking more solid and more like last year. "We are still in a complicated situation. If you lose two or three games again, you will be struggling. We need to be really strong every week and do the best that we can." On a personal note, Arteta was delighted to find the target and with James McFadden also grabbing his first of the year, perhaps Everton are coming close to solving their goal drought. Manager David Moyes has made it clear that he wants his players to share the scoring responsibility and Arteta hopes the result at Ewood Park is a sign of things to come. "I was happy with the goal," he said. "I'm not the type of player who is going to score 10 goals a season but if I can chip in with four or five, I can do it. I was close with another free-kick as well. "But that is something that I think everyone has got to take a bit more responsibility for. We have found it difficult to score but we can take confidence from scoring two goals. "We must now go to Manchester to try and get a result. We won last weekend and we knew if we lost against Blackburn it would be the same again. We need to go step by step but look forward."

Chance for Wright as Martyn sidelined
Dec 5 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
NIGEL Martyn was today set to undergo a scan to determine the severity of the groin problem that saw him substituted during Everton's 2-0 win against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. The former England international has been in outstanding form this season, but it looks as if he will have to spend the next two weeks on the sidelines after injuring himself at Ewood Park. His likely absence will give Richard Wright a rare chance. That news took the gloss off what had otherwise been another satisfactory afternoon for manager David Moyes. Moyes has already resigned himself to being without the suspended Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta next Sunday when Everton travel to Manchester United. "I don't know whether Nigel will be fit," said Moyes, whose side face a trip to Millwall in the FA Cup third round. "He could have done with coming off five minutes before half-time. It will give Wrighty an opportunity if he is not fit. "Mikel has had a problem with his knee for a while. It's not deadly serious. But it's enough for him to feel it late in games, so we have had to take him off a couple of times recently. "He will be suspended next week after picking up a stupid booking." Moyes, meanwhile, was happy to see Everton take another step on the road to recovery after taking maximum points for the fourth time in their last five matches thanks to goals from James McFadden and Arteta. While they never quite hit the heights of the win over Newcastle, Everton did enough to continue their climb away from the relegation zone but Moyes felt his players were guilty of taking their foot off the pedal late on. That said, he was delighted with the performances of Joseph Yobo and David Weir, who never gave any joy to Blackburn's strikers, while Moyes was equally thrilled that McFadden finally got his name on the scoresheet. "I enjoyed the result," said Moyes. "I would have maybe liked the performance to be a bit more in control. But we got the goals at crucial times and getting the second goal before half-time made it much easier.
I had a chance to see Blackburn play in midweek and I thought they were exceptional. In the opening 20 minutes against us, they showed that. "I was concerned about the way Blackburn played. With Bellamy up front, you are always worried about his pace. "He stretches your team, it makes things very difficult. "We changed things around and it made us look a lot more compact. There weren't so many holes for them to play into and I had to make sure that we didn't concede. "From that, we had a platform to build on and we got the goal. "We looked more settled and more in control after that. The two centrehalves did a really good job against Bellamy, Bentley and later on Kuqi. I'm pleased with them." The win moved Everton up another place in the table and having taken 13 points out of the last 18 available, they are leaving their early season form behind. Moyes, however, is aware that there are still some big tests ahead. "We are on a good run," he said. "Sometimes you don't realise because of where you have been that you are on such a good run. "We have won four out of five games, so we have done okay just now. "It's a good start to December for us. We have got an awful lot of games coming up away from home. "I knew that it was going to be difficult but if we can get ourselves away from the bottom that would be great."

Wright time to make most of big chance
Dec 5 2005 Analysis by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
THE half-time news that Nigel Martyn would be replaced at Ewood Park on Saturday was met with moans, groans and tremors of apprehension. That was undeniably down to the reliability of the 39-year-old goalkeeper. But it also had a little to do with the baggage which accompanies Richard Wright. Since he accepted responsibility for a goal on his debut against Tottenham three years ago, he has failed to instil an air of assurance among Evertonians. If Martyn has to stand down for a spell, this is his big chance. And with a trip to Old Trafford looming he knows he will have plenty to do.
Wright needs to do what he has failed to do so far throughout his Goodison career - grab his chance with both hands. Edwards turns on the style MERSEY performance of the weekend? While Peter Crouch and James McFadden will have their advocates, there is only one winner for me. The display of 18-year-old boxer Paul Edwards at the ABA finals at Wembley had everything. Character, style, skill and tons and tons of guts. His display topped anything else produced by Mersey sportsmen throughout the weekend.

Martyn in race to be fit for Old Trafford
By Ian Doyle, Daily Post
Dec 6 2005
EVERTON are sweating on the fitness of Nigel Martyn ahead of their trip to Manchester United this weekend. The goalkeeper was forced off at half-time of the 2-0 win at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday having suffered a groin injury late in the first half. Martyn underwent a scan yesterday on the injury, of which the results will be known this morning. But the keeper is already rated at only "50-50" for Sunday's Old Trafford clash. As a precaution, Everton manager David Moyes yesterday recalled Iain Turner from his loan spell with Wycombe Wanderers. If Martyn fails to recover in time, Richard Wright - who came on as substitute at Ewood Park - will continue to deputise, with Turner on the bench. One player who will definitely be missing at United is Mikel Arteta, who picked up his fifth booking of the season on Saturday and a sub-sequent one-match suspension. Arteta did not train at all last week as he attempted to nurse a knee injury, and the Spaniard is taking consolation from the fact his enforced absence will enable him to recuperate ahead of the hectic festive period. "I have only played once at Old Trafford and I really wanted to play again but that happens in football and maybe it is more important that I played against Blackburn," said Arteta. "I will miss the next game, but I will try and recover my knee as best I can and look at the next game. We have so many games in December so I need to be ready for that." Meanwhile, Sunderland have declined a request from Everton to bring forward the kick-off time of their New Year's Eve meeting. Following a request from shareholders at the recent Everton AGM, chairman Bill Kenwright was prompted to investigate the possibility of bringing the time forward. But Sunderland yesterday confirmed the game will still kick-off at 3pm. * THE mini-derby at home to Liverpool reserves, originally scheduled for December 13, has been postponed.

Saint Mikel
Post Soapbox, icLiverpool & Daily Post
Dec 6 2005
Saint Mikel
MIKEL ARTETA is wonderful. I was talking to a Reds fan last week who wants him at Liverpool (well Mikel is Spanish after all!). I fear we'll miss Arteta more than Martyn when it comes to Man U, but having Neville back in midfield if we finally get one of our left-backs fit will make a huge difference.
Weir and Yobo at the back: class. The perfect blend of youth and experience, although like everyone else, I can't wait to see more of Per Kroldrup.
Mike Allen, Merseyside
Going fourth?
OUR first 14 matches this season: five wins, one draw, eight defeats, with four of the wins and the draw in the last six games. The last 14 games of last season: five wins, two draws, seven defeats, with with only two back-to-back wins! Maybe we've turned the corner and we could still finish fourth again!
Tony Cleary (via e-mail)
Leon's a hit
Well done Blues - 13 points out of 18. That's European form, even though we're playing worse than when we were losing. I asked for Osman to be given a run and he didn't disappoint - he should be given the next two games and if he carries on with his inventive play Davies should make way when Cahill is back.
Jeff Streems, Wirral
Thanks for ban
I HATE to say it, but Cahill being banned for three matches could be a blessing in disguise.
At Ewood Park the team looked good, and after all the travelling he has done over the past two seasons he could consider it his rest time. He should be refreshed and hungry to contribute to the Blues' push in the second half of the season.
Ken Myers, Formby
Sleeping easy
THANK you Blues for another week's sleep - this is getting to be a good habit.
John Johnson (via e-mail)
Find a keeper
TRUST us to lose Nigel Martyn just when we are shaping up nicely. Richard Wright has looked less than capable and has made too many howlers which have cost us games.
Good as Nigel is, he can't go on for ever. How about a new keeper in January?
Bob Stone (Oxton)

Carsley homing in on Blues comeback
Dec 6 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
LEE CARSLEY is being primed for a return to action in the New Year after committing his future to Everton. Having spent the last seven months on the sidelines with damaged knee ligaments, the Blues midfielder had his spirits raised last week when he was offered a new deal to keep him at Goodison Park until July 2007. Carsley was an influential figure in the Everton side which secured a fourth-placed Premiership finish last season and manager David Moyes felt the time was right to reward the 31-year-old. Now Moyes is looking forward to the moment when the club's medical staff give Carsley the green light to play again. "Lee was coming out of contract in six months and I felt why not just get it done now?" said Moyes. "He has added a year to his contract and hopefully we can get him back soon. "He's making progress but hasn't played a game since Fenerbahce in pre-season and we'll be looking to get him going again in the new year. "But he played an important part in what we did last year and I think it is very important to keep a strong squad together." Moyes could certainly have done with Carsley being around this weekend to boost the numbers for the trip to Old Trafford, especially as Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta are both suspended. With four wins in the last five games, though, Everton can make the short hop down the M62 in good spirits and Moyes hopes the lively atmosphere in the camp can continue. "We are looking at things positively," he added. "The points we have taken recently would stand alongside most of the top teams. "We need to make sure that in the next five games, we get a similar points total if we can. We are on a good run and it's a good start to a month where we have a few games away from home."
Moyes, who recalled Iain Turner from a loan spell at Wycombe yesterday, was awaiting the results of Nigel Martyn's scan on his damaged groin. But the early indications look bleak and the former England international could be ruled out for the next two weeks, handing a chance to Richard Wright. "Not playing has been so frustrating," said Wright. "I have waited a long time for this and I want to keep the jersey." * The mini-derby, scheduled to take place next Tuesday night at Haig Avenue, has been postponed. A new date has yet to be arranged. * Sunderland have turned down Everton's request to bring forward the kick-off time of their game on New Year's Eve from 3pm.

First ladies
Dec 6 2005 By Tim Johnson, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON LADIES take on Arsenal in the Women's FA Cup semi-final at Marine on Sunday - with four Merseyside schoolgirls in the probable line-up. England and Blues keeper Danielle Hill - who, at 17, is in her final year at Alsop School in Walton - is joined by fellow Alsop sixth-former Chantelle Parry, St Bede's student Jayne Eadie and St Julie ' s defender Fern Whelan. Hill, who has been sidelined for several weeks with a knee injury, is hoping to be back for the semi-final showdown. She told Junior Xsport: "I haven't played for six weeks but I am now back training hard and I have targeted the Arsenal game for my comeback from my cartilage injury. "I am hoping to be fit, but it will all come down to a fitness test before the game." Hill is the granddaughter of former Reds striker Tony
Hately and niece of former Rangers and England striker Mark, has endured an up and down season after becoming number one choice for the England under-19s at the European Champion-ships earlier this year. Danielle first shot to prominence as a 15-year-old shot-stopper of some ability in the Notre Dame College side which captured the under-16s National Schools title in 2003. And she believes her all-round game has stepped up a gear as a result of joining Everton, adding: "I have now improved my kicking off the ground and can reach over the halfway line. "I must get better at my game awareness, but I think this will come with experience. My main ambition is to win things for Everton and keep on developing my international career."

Blues ticket details
Dec 6 2005 Liverpool Echo
Everton v West Ham in the Premiership on Wednesday, December 14 (8pm) GENERAL sale is in operation from the Park End box office. Supporters should note that a dial-a-seat service on 08707 3837866 will also be in operation for this fixture. Due to West Ham United not taking up their full allocation, Everton can offer a limited number of tickets for juniors (under 16) for the price of £5 when accompanied by a full paying adult (one junior/per adult). Tickets are available on a first come first served basis. Everton v Bolton in the Premiership on Saturday, December 17 (3pm)
EVERTONIA members-only sales continue from the Park End box office during normal office hours. All members will need to produce a valid membership card in order to purchase a ticket within this priority period. Members should note that Evertonia membership entitles the holder to one ticket per membership. General Sale will commence on Monday, December 5, from the Park End box office at 9.30am. Supporters should note that a dial-a-seat service on 08707 3837866 will also be in operation for this fixture.

Everton Res 2, Wigan Res 0
Daily Post
Dec 7 2005
EVERTON RESERVES continued their recent good run with a comfortable FA Premier Reserve League North win over newly-promoted Wigan Athletic at Haig Avenue. The Blues included Per Kroldrup, Nuno Valente and Li Tie for the game against Paul Jewel's second string and despite not really being threatened, Everton never managed to impose themselves properly on their opponents in a drab first half. Indeed the best chance of the first 45 minutes fell to Paul Hopkins just before the break but the youngster's effort hit a post after Valente had put in a good cross. Wigan had a couple of half chances earlier when Sam Litchfield and Michael Hazeldine had tested keeper Iain Turner goal but on the whole Everton shaded the opening half, going close through Li Tie and Hopkins before the latter hit the woodwork. The second half proved much more productive for Andy Holden's side and they took the lead on the hour mark thanks to a goal from Hopkins. The Blues striker was played in by James Harris and let fly with a terrific volley past Floyd Croll in the Wigan goal to make it 1-0.
Kroldrup, Li Tie and Valente were all replaced before the final 15 minutes with one eye on Sunday's Premiership clash at Old Trafford while Everton's youngsters increased their lead. Victor Anichebe was on hand in stoppage time to sidefoot the ball home to round off a good night for Everton, now eighth in the Premier Reserve League North following a third win in four games.
EVERTON: Turner, Wynne, Kroldrup (Vidarsson 68), Hughes, Valente (S Wright 68), Seargeant, Li Tie (Phelan 72), Harris, Wilson, Anichebe, Hopkins. Subs: Jones, Downes.
WIGAN ATHLETIC: Croll, Heywood, Waterhouse, Lee, Roberts, Joyce, Middleton, Montrose (Stephan 73), Hazeldine, Litchfield (Smith 71), Owen (Williams 78) Subs: Saunders, Moore.

Martyn winning race for fitness
By Ian Doyle, Daily Post
Dec 7 2005
NIGEL MARTYN is winning his race to be fit for Everton's trip to Manchester United on Sunday. The goalkeeper underwent a scan earlier this week on the groin injury that forced him off during half-time of the 2-0 win at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. Everton manager David Moyes subsequently recalled Iain Turner from his loan spell at Wycombe Wanderers as a precaution, with Richard Wright on standby to make his first start of the season. But the prognosis is that Martyn has suffered just a minor strain and has a fighting chance of being available for the weekend journey to Old Trafford. "Nige injured his groin kicking the ball towards the end of the first half and obviously he had to come off," said head physio Mick Rathbone. "It's not so bad, he has had a precautionary scan which we do with all injuries and that agrees what what we have seen clinically, which is that it is a relatively minor groin injury. "I would hope he won't be out too long but the one thing is that he will have to kick the ball which is at the back of my mind." Meanwhile, Everton can expect to find out by the weekend whether they have been successful in their pursuit of Roy Keane. The former Manchester United midfielder was expected to reveal his decision on Monday, but that was postponed after Real Madrid, favourites to land the Irishman, sacked coach Wanderley Luxemburgo. And Keane's representative Michael Kennedy said yesterday of an impending announcement: "(As far as a date is concerned) we're looking at towards the end of this week."

Valente recovery boost for Blues
Dec 7 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
NUNO VALENTE has put himself in contention for Sunday's trip to Old Trafford after bringing an end to his injury frustration last night. Having been absent since damaging a hamstring against Chelsea on October 23, the Portugal international played for 67 minutes as the Blues' second string beat Wigan 2-0 at Haig Avenue. With Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta suspended, manager David Moyes could be ready to hand Valente an instant recall against Manchester United, allowing him to push Phil Neville into midfield. It has been a frustrating time for Valente, who was just starting to show his true colours before being hamstrung, but Moyes hopes that the 31-year-old's troubles are now behind him. "Hopefully Nuno will be ready," Moyes said today. "He played in the reserves last night with Per Kroldrup and Li Tie and we will see how they all come through. "Like any other players who come in, it's not always easy to settle. But he was just starting to get there when his hamstring went." Moyes has also received an upbeat bulletin on goalkeeper Nigel Martyn's fitness. There were initial fears when he hobbled out of Saturday's 2-0 win at Blackburn that he would face a minimum of two weeks on the sidelines. However, there is an outside chance that Martyn will be ready for United. "We don't think it is too severe," said Moyes. "We don't know how long it is going to keep him out. We are still hopeful that he might be okay for Sunday. But we will wait and see because we are not too sure." Reports today, meanwhile, suggesting Everton are close to wrapping up a £2m deal for Preston's David Nugent are wide of the mark. While Moyes has kept an eye on the 20-year-old and will continue to monitor his progress, there has been no contact between the clubs.

False sense of security
Dec 7 2005 Echo Letters, icLiverpool & Liverpool Echo
AFTER Everton's wins against Newcastle and Blackburn I read all the positives about the games in the ECHO. When I look at the reality, we are a Championship side with Championship players. We performed well against Newcastle who were missing one or two players, but I dread to think what would have happened if that penalty had been awarded. I still see a bleak season and a dogfight ahead unless we perform miracles in January. People keep going on about a lack of fire power. This is true but let's look beyond that. The midfield has no grit or creativity apart from Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill. And the defence is not worth mentioning. If it wasn't for Nigel Martyn we would have the worst defensive record in the league. January still seems a long way off.
Anthony Gallagher, Claughton Village
EVERTON'S fortunes have taken a turn for the better in recent weeks and a lot of that is down to luck. The Toffees seem to need a bit of luck at the moment and in the last few games we've had it.
The team is still not assertive enough and they need to play more skilfully. They are not playing good, attractive football and we need a driving force from midfield. Until we get to January we can't improve the personnel but we must keep on winning in the meantime. One goal is enough if we are resilient in defence.
Roger Dawson, Llanfairfechan
IT was a good win on Saturday for the Blues. David Moyes played a trump card in using Leon Osman in the starting line-up instead of Kevin Kilbane. Well done also to Joseph Yobo, who was fantastic again, keeping Craig Bellamy quiet. Mikel Arteta's goal was great. How unusual it was to see an Everton player scoring a goal like that! A striker still has to be our priority in January though, as well as a midfielder.
Ben Sykes, Wirral
WHY is Football ECHO columnist Barry Horne always talking up Simon Davies as if he's Pele?
I don't like to pick on individual players but I'm sick of Barry constantly telling us what a top player Davies is when all I've seen in his mainly poor performances for us is that he's an ordinary (at best) player who is definitely not worth the £4 million we wasted on him. I've yet to meet a Blue who rates Davies and I'm sick of reading and hearing Horne banging on about this very average player.
S Twist, St Helens
MIKEL ARTETA has been our most important player in our good performances this season, so it is a blow to lose him for the next game. European qualification may be a step too far now, because the Premiership is panning out as it did last season, with every team playing well in fits and starts.
Teams with points already on the board will stagger towards the finish as we did last year. All we can do is keep getting results to try to close the gap.
Pete Downs, Liverpool
HAS anyone else noticed that when Kilbane doesn't play, Everton often win? I don't care how many midfielders we have missing at Old Trafford, I just hope David Moyes doesn't play Kilbane!
A top 10 finish and an FA Cup win would turn a nightmare season into a great one.
Meanwhile, is Per Kroldrup ever going to get a game or did David Moyes purchase him for ornamental value only?
Phil Fry, Kirkby
DON'T be fooled by James McFadden's second goal in 56 games. It does not mean we don't still need two class strikers and a creative midfielder. God help us if Richard Wright plays against Manchester United. They will score at least seven!
Ron Tindall, Birkenhead

Anichebe's late strike seals points for Blues
Dec 7 2005 Liverpool Echo
EVERTON Reserves made it three wins out of four as they overcame Wigan Athletic at Haig Avenue.
The Blues included Per Kroldrup, Nuno Valente and Li Tie for the game against Paul Jewell's second string, but despite not really being threatened, Everton never managed to impose themselves prop-erly on their opponents in a drab first half. Indeed the best chance of the first 45 minutes fell to Paul Hopkins just before the break, but the youngster's effort hit a post after Valente had put in a good cross. Wigan had earlier had a couple of half chances, when Sam Litchfield and Michael Hazeldine tested Iain Turner in the Blues goal, but Everton generally shaded the opening half, going close through Li Tie and Hopkins before Hopkins hit the woodwork. The second half proved much more productive for Andy Holden's side and they took the lead on the hour mark thanks to a goal from the previously unfortunate Hopkins. The Blues striker was played in by James Harris and let fly with a terrific volley past Floyd Croll in the Wigan goal to make it 1-0. Kroldrup, Li Tie and Valente were all replaced before the final 15 minutes with one eye on Sunday's Premier League clash at Old Trafford, but Everton's youngsters still increased their lead. Victor Anichebe was on hand in stoppage time to sidefoot the ball past Croll to send Everton up to eighth in the Premier Reserve League North. EVERTON: Turner, Wynne, Kroldrup (Vidarsson 68), Hughes, Valente (S Wright 68), Sergeant, Li Tie (Phelan 72), Harris, Wilson, Anichebe, Hopkins. Unused subs: Jones, Downes

Everton warned off Nugent bid
By Ian Doyle, Daily Post
Dec 8 2005
PRESTON manager Billy Davies believes it would be "suicidal" for David Nugent to be allowed to join Everton as he slapped a multi-million pound price tag on the striker. The England under-21 international has been strongly linked with a move to Goodison when the transfer window reopens in January. David Moyes is a long-time admirer of the 20-year-old, and enquired about his availability during the summer as he sought to bolster his side's strikeforce. An exorbitant asking price scuppered any move, but the Everton manager is expected to move again for Nugent in the New Year with a new striker still top of his shopping list. However, Preston manager Davies has insisted that he does not want the former Bury forward to leave Deepdale. "David Nugent being a mad Evertonian might have created a bit of a monster but I have no intention of letting David Nugent go in the next transfer window, especially after selling Richard Cresswell (to Leeds in August)," said Davies. "To let our other young striker go at this point would be suicidal. No matter how much speculation or how many stories come out, the situation will still be the same in three weeks' time.. "I might as well put it to bed now. The ones that are thinking they can maybe get Nugent for a couple But he added: "I've said before and I'll say again, David Nugent has still got development to do at Preston North End. "I do think he will want a bigger stage but his time is not right at the moment. "In a couple of years' time that time will be here and it would need to be an astronomical figure coming into Preston North End before we ever consider anything for David Nugent. "Certainly, it is a figure that is miles off the mark that you see in the paper." Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta is expected to be available for Wednesday's home Premiership clash against West Ham United as he recovers from an ankle injury.

Blues urged to keep focus
Dec 8 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES will urge Everton's players to remain focused on their own job when they bid to extend their recent winning run against Manchester United on Sunday. United were reeling today after being dumped out of Europe by Benfica last night, but Moyes has no intention of letting events at Old Trafford wreak havoc with his preparations for the game. The Blues have secured four wins in the last five matches but the manager is well aware there is still plenty more hard work to be done if Everton want to keep climbing the table. "We are trying to keep it going," said Moyes. "We are trying to get back to the way we think it should be, which is winning more regularly. At the moment, we are doing that. But we are going to have to keep doing that to get away from the bottom. "We have to make sure we get a few more good results. In the last six games, we have had four wins, one draw and one defeat. "Of course we were disappointed with the defeat but we had to try and put it into perspective and we know that the players have come up with good results since." Moyes has been especially pleased with the way his squad have responded to the criticism that came following the 4-0 drubbing at West Brom last month - a result that could yet prove a watershed in the campaign. "I think the players realised how low it was that day," Moyes reflected. "We know to be successful in the Premier League that two or three times a season you need to win three or four games in a row if you can. "We have probably had our first one now, but we need to repeat it. At least we are showing signs of going in the right direction." Meanwhile, Preston boss Billy Davies has told Everton target David Nugent that he has no intentions of selling him in the transfer window. The Blues have been linked with a £2m move for the 20-year-old, but Davies is not listening to speculation. "David Nugent being a mad Evertonian may have created a bit of a monster, but I have no intention of letting him go," said Davies. "I told him a month ago."

The jury
Dec 8 2005 Liverpool Echo
If called upon, can Richard Wright prove an able deputy for Nigel Martyn? "OH god no" was one of many cries I suspect was heard during half-time on Saturday. Why? Because it heralded the return to first team action of Richard Wright. I was one who thought that after working so hard to get such a lead we were now bound to throw it away because of the man coming on to replace Nigel Martyn.
It may sound harsh but he doesn't fill me with hope. I've nothing against the man. I just think he's a terrible goalkeeper. I feel nervous when he goes for a cross, when he goes to kick a ball and when he picks a ball up. It's not like he's in a position like left-back where you can get away with the odd mis-take. He's in the position where no one can cover for him. I'd love him to prove me wrong on Sunday but I just don't have that much faith, belief or hope.
I'M no authority on goalkeepers but I do know when one instills confidence in the team and the back four and I'm afraid that Richard Wright isn't that keeper anymore. When we first signed him he was an England keeper and had enjoyed a great first season between the sticks. No one can deny he's a great shot stopper. Unfortunately he's turned more into David James than Paul Robinson over the last few years. His positioning is questionable and he has flapped at more crosses than I like to remember. All that said, he deserves his chance. While Martyn is injured, he's the most experienced keeper on the books and has waited patiently and we'll need to get behind him. If things go bad his confidence will be even worse and I'll be crossing my fingers Nige is back sooner rather than later.
IT is going to be very hard to see Richard Wright taking over the reins in goal if Nigel Martyn is unfit at the weekend. Martyn has done brilliantly for Everton and has finally been the goalkeeper that replaced the great Neville Southall. He has instilled faith into the Everton fans and faith in the back four. I honestly don't thing Wright is good enough. He had a decent first season for us when we finished seventh, but since then because of Martyn's form he has hardly featured and when he has featured it's been like a pantomime. Wright played for the whole of January and the last two games of last season. Everton conceded 21 goals. So it may be time for Iain Turner to get a chance in the first team if Martyn is injured for the United game. Wright has waited very patiently and some may say he deserves another chance, but Everton need to call time on his Goodison career.

IT'S a real blow to have lost Nigel Martyn, Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill before the game against United. When Richard Wright replaced Martyn last season we did seem to leak goals although it wasn't necessarily always his fault. Against Blackburn, Wright didn't exactly inspire confidence in the back four when he managed to fumble and drop the first catch he had to take. However, he made a couple of useful saves after that. Wright is probably lacking confidence and match sharpness so it's unfortunate that his first game for a number of months comes against United. On the other hand the defence are playing well at the moment and Wright is an England international and has played to a high standard in the past. This will probably be his last chance to prove himself at Everton and I hope he takes it.

Bolton stand in way of Keane's Everton move
By Ian Doyle Daily Post Staff
Dec 9 2005
EVERTON will battle it out with Bolton Wanderers for the signature of Roy Keane. The two North West clubs have emerged as front-runners in the race for the Irish midfielder, who has been without a club since his surprise departure from Manchester United last month. Keane was believed to be on the brink of agreeing an 18-month deal with Real Madrid last week until the Spaniards' interest cooled following the sacking of coach Wanderley Luxemburgo over the weekend. In any case, it is understood the player's family would prefer to remain in the North West region, with Keane having recently purchased a £4million house in South Manchester. Everton manager David Moyes held talks with the 34-year-old last week and are hopeful the presence in their squad of Keane's former Old Trafford team-mate Phil Neville will help sway the former Republic of Ireland skipper. A decision on Keane's future may arrive as early as today, with Celtic, West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United among those also awaiting the announcement. Meanwhile, Richard Wright has vowed to make the most of his possible first-team opportunity this weekend. With Nigel Martyn still struggling with the groin injury that curtailed his involvement at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, Wright is in line for a rare start when Everton visit Manchester United on Sunday. The 28-year-old's 45-minute substitute appearance at Ewood Park was his first senior action of any kind since his last start at Bolton in May. And Wright said: "I am really looking forward to it, it has been a long time and a long wait, so I just want to make sure I go out there and perform well. "When I came on on Saturday, one of the Evertonians said 'this is your chance', and they were right. I am going to work as hard as I can to take that. "I was delighted to play against Blackburn, it has been a long time just plugging away. "It gets frustrating when you are training all week and not getting a game on a Saturday. "I knew Nige had an injury prior to the game, but he was passed fit. Then he had a different injury which he came off the pitch with, so it was a surprise." Wright added: "I have been involved in some big games at Old Trafford with Arsenal. Whatever team you go there with is a great occasion but we are very much looking forward to it and the lads are in good spirits and it will be an interesting game." Elsewhere, Thomas Gravesen's agent claims to be unaware of a deal in place that gives Everton first option on resigning the Real Madrid midfielder. The Denmark international has been linked with a return to Goodison in the New Year, with Everton manager Moyes having previously stated he would welcome back the 29-year-old. But Gravesen's agent John Sivebaek yesterday said of any contract clauses: "I don't know about that. If it's the case, there might be some kind of agreement between Everton and Real Madrid, but if there is, I haven't heard of it. "I've seen the (rumours in the) papers but again that's all I know. At the moment he has two-and-a-half years left on his contract at Madrid and while there is nothing new, he'll stay there."

Getting our pride back
Post Soapbox, icLiverpool & Daily Post
Dec 9 2005
THE regime in place at Everton - Moyes, Kenwright and Wyness - are steadily bringing the club back to its best. Think about it - the best financial turnover in our history, a manager who has two yearly awards under his belt, a fourth and seventh-placed finish, a Champions League and UEFA Cup campaign. He is also bringing in his own players, not the inherited ones, so get off his back and let's get behind him - I for one am proud of my team again.
Jeff Strong (via e-mail)
Overdue win
WE'RE long overdue an Old Trafford victory. I know Everton are way behind United on the pitch but apart from last season's draw our record over the last 10-12 years there is woeful. Even clubs like Derby and Leicester have won there more recently than us. Imagine the confidence boost a win at OT would bring. Come on boys let's do it this time.
Steve Harrop, Liverpool
IT'S scant consolation I know, but look at Villarreal topping their Champions League group, with United bottom. Think back a few months and Everton were desperately unlucky not to have knocked out the Spaniards in the third qualifing round. What I'm trying to say is that we're nowhere near as bad as some people have been saying. A mid-table league finish is still definitely on, and a good run in the FA cup could yet salvage the season. Winning the FA Cup = European place. Let's go for it!
Alan Bryer (via e-mail)
Santa's list
HERE'S my realistic Christmas wishlist - Green ((Norwich), Keane (unattached) or Gravesen (Real); Keane (Spurs) or Johnson (Palace). I think we need the above three or their equal, we do not need more unproven average journeymen such as Nugent and that 29-year-old veteran from Swansea.
Barry Simm, Merseyside
Be positive!
I WOULD like to know which Liverpool supporter decides what gets printed in the Everton letters page? Each week its the most negative letters that get printed and it makes me angry, God knows what it does to the manager and the morale of the players when they read the rubbish written. I would not mind if I knew a single person who thinks we are a side full of "division one players" or that our "defence is rubbish" yet each week the letters printed are negative. You're telling me that there are only pessimistic Blues around? No way!
Barry Woolrich, Liverpool
Larsson hope
TOP of my Christmas wish-list would be one Henrik Larsson. He wouldn't cost, would score goals and take the pressure off Beattie. I feel as though Vaughan is missing out on an ideal opportunity due to injury to break into the team. It would be a shame to spend a fortune on a middle of the road striker when we could have a decent prospect already in the squad. For this reason I feel that Larsson would not cost much and we would get a couple of seasons out of him, but importantly he is someone who Vaughan could learn a great deal. I would be very interested to see who leaves in January.
Chris River, Merseyside

We must maintain our turnaround now
By Mark O'Brien Everton supporter, Daily Post
Dec 9 2005
WE THOUGHT last week that a trip to Ewood Park would test the validity of Everton's recent revival and James McFadden's claims that David Moyes no longer needs to look for a new striker in January. While the Scot's brave goal and James Beattie's hardworking performance probably won't be enough to dissuade their manager from trying to bring in another forward when the transfer window reopens, it's difficult to argue with the form of the whole side given they now have four wins from their last five league games. By winning the game they have in hand on most of the mid-table sides, Everton could feasibly move up to 13th place, with the same points as Middlesbrough, the team in 10th. That's a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for a team who many had nailed on for the drop following that catastrophic start to the season. However, that doesn't mean we can afford to become complacent. The improved results have all come as a result of hard work and effort - the football has rarely been that great - and so the players must now realise that they have to maintain that, whether they are facing Manchester United, as they will on Sunday, or Sunder-land on New Year's Eve. We can't afford to take our foot off the pedal and try to coast through against anyone. That will apply in the FA Cup too, where the Blues have been the given probably the only tie that is more unpopular than drawing the other lot from across the park. Millwall are always at great pains to point out that their reputation for trouble is undeserved, but there is a history of bad blood between the two clubs. Likewise on Sunday, fans should be careful around Old Trafford. It's just about the most unfriendly place in the Premiership for Scousers at the best of times, but after the trouble following the FA Cup tie at Goodison last season, it may be even more unfriendly this time around. On the pitch we face an even tougher test than we did last week at Blackburn. That defeat at Benfica will have stung the whole team who have also rediscovered their form of late, and they will be determined to get back to winning ways. Given that our midfield will be even more depleted than last week, thanks to Mikel Arteta's suspension, it's probably safe to say then that David Moyes would be delighted to take a point from Wayne Rooney and co and then all three from the midweek match against West Ham.

Blues in driving seat for Keane
Dec 9 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON have emerged as favourites to win the race for Roy Keane's signature. The former Republic of Ireland international's future has been the source of much debate since he left Manchester United last month but it is understood that he is close to making a decision. Many clubs have courted Keane but the 34-year-old is loathe to uproot his young family and wants to stay in the North West, especially as he has just bought a new house, leaving Everton and Bolton as his two main suitors. With a move to Real Madrid falling through following Wanderley Luxemburgo's sacking, Keane had talks with Celtic yesterday, however the contract they have offered him is significantly less than those on the table from Everton and Bolton. But following 12 successful years at Old Trafford, it is understood Keane does not want to jeopardise his standing among United supporters by going to their Greater Manchester rivals, handing Everton pole position.

Osman looking for three more points
Dec 9 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
LEON OSMAN is ready to build on last weekend's promising return to the first team when Everton travel to Old Trafford on Sunday looking for a fifth win in their last six matches. Osman should continue in midfield as both Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta are suspended, while Andy van der Meyde has emerged as a significant injury doubt. The 24-year-old is relishing the task, stating: "Everyone is playing well on the training ground and whoever comes into the team is definitely up to the task," said Osman. "Injuries and suspensions give other people a chance, as has happened with myself and Faddy. It is up to players to take their chance. "In the last couple of weeks, I have been feeling as sharp as ever. I was desperate to get back in the team and show people what I can do. "We can't make excuses for the way we started the season. It was poor by anyone's standards. We knew we had to get over that and thankfully we have done. Hopefully, we can now keep this run going."
Manager David Moyes has been thrilled with the way Osman took his chance at Ewood Park and admitted that the midfield can consider himself unlucky that he had not made the frame sooner.

"Leon has been playing well in training," said Moyes. "He has been very close to start for a few weeks. I have been watching him closely and he is much brighter in his work than I had seen him for a long time. "He was just a little bit unfortunate that he didn't get in the side earlier. But he knows that he is going to have to keep playing that way if he wants to stay in the team."

I feel as if I've been here all my life - Neville
Dec 9 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
THERE is little Phil Neville has not experienced during his glittering career but this weekend he will enter previously uncharted territory - the visitors' changing room at Old Trafford. Once an integral member of Sir Alex Ferguson's squad, now enhancing his reputation on Merseyside, Neville is guaranteed a hero's reception from Manchester United's supporters when he makes his first return on Sunday. Having won almost every major club honour in 389 appearances for his boyhood club, scoring eight goals in that time, the England international sought pastures new in the summer after Ferguson told him he could not guarantee him regular football. United's loss has certainly been Everton's gain. Quick to show the ability which has won him 52 caps for his country, Neville has fitted seamlessly into David Moyes' team, performing with distinction in midfield and at left back.
Above all, he has proven himself to be a leader. The type of character, ironically, that Ferguson - tormented by United's calamitous midweek exit from Europe - could do with now, especially after the much-publicised departure of Roy Keane. Few in the game would be better placed than Neville to comment on United's current predicament but, understandably, this model professional has too much respect for his former club to pass judgment and keeps his own counsel. Instead, he prefers to talk about the way things have gone for him on Merseyside since making that £3.5m switch in August, and is quick to pay tribute to the rest of Everton's squad for helping him bed in so quickly.
"From day one, I have felt at home here," said Neville, who has appeared in all but one of Everton's 19 fixtures this season. "People say it takes you six months to settle in at a new club. But for me, it hasn't been anything like that. "I felt a part of it straight away. Credit to the manager and credit to the players. They are an unbelievable set of lads. It's been an easy transition. A transition I thought was going to be really difficult because I'd been at one club for so long. "But the transition has been pretty simple really. Even though we had a bad start, I still felt at home here. I feel now as if I have been playing here all my career. It's been easy really. "When you are playing regularly, you do tend to settle quicker. As soon as I came here, I was playing in a big Champions League game against Villarreal. "You want to get straight into the action. There was no build-up or anything. I was signed, we played Villarreal and then Manchester United. All of a sudden, we were into the thick of the season. There was no dwelling on past glories at Manchester United." As well as he had played in the opening weeks, though, results never came. Bottom of the table in October, it was clear things needed to change and to shake things up, Moyes planned a short trip to an outward bound centre in the Lake District and there has been no looking back since. Neville said: "That was a big turning point. As many games as you play, you don't really get to know people just by coming into training for a couple of hours every day. In the Lake District, I shared a room with Simon Davies. We all got to know each other. "We went out and as new players, there are certain initiations. Karaoke! That's a famous part of the club. As much as you dread it, you have all got to do it. But it's over now and there's no way I'm getting on stage again!" Much more comfortable with a ball at his feet than a microphone in his hand, Neville will be in his element at Old Trafford when Everton look to register a fifth win in the last six games and continue climbing up the table. With Nuno Valente expected to return, Neville will more than likely be back in midfield, with an important role on his shoulders. With Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta both banned, Neville suggested James Beattie holds the key to success. "In the last couple of weeks, James has been unbelievable," he declared. "He's led the line, playing up front by himself. Centre forwards can often be the ones who win you games, whether or not they score. "James is getting his fitness and his confidence back. He looks the part. We were all very pleased with our victory at Blackburn, who are one of the most improved teams we've played this season. "But it seems to me at the moment, though, when we get a goal, we look unbeatable. The second goal was a great strike by Mikel. I know the gaffer has been calling for him to be put in the Spanish squad and he's certainly playing very well."

Latch on to tale of goals for top cause
Dec 9 2005 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
I GOT a little carried away when Bob Latchford became the first man for six years to score 30 league goals. And, as a result, there's a little piece of Goodison Park turf still growing in the back garden of a Byland Close home in Formby. But even 27 years later, the Latch still has the ability to excite . . . except now you can help a good cause, too. The Everton Former Players' Foundation is publishing a book next spring called, quite simply, 30 - the story of that 1977-78 season. All proceeds go to the Foundation, which does inestimably good work in looking after Goodison's gone but not forgotten heroes. For £30, you can have your name in the hardback edition of the book, which will be personally signed by Latchford. Add £3 for postage and packing and send your cheques to The Everton Former Players' Foundation, PO Box 354, Liverpool L60 4QS, call 0151-520-2362 or e-mail subscribe@boblatchford.com - not forgetting to include the name you want to appear in the book and the address to be posted to. My cheque's in the post.

Redknapp reaction a little over the top
Dec 9 2005 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
SOMEBODY really should pull Jamie Redknapp to one side and whisper the words "people in glass houses . . ." to him. Nice guy Jamie was quite rightly horrified by Michael Essien's challenge on his old Anfield team-mate Dietmar Hamann. "Disgraceful," he squeaked. "Shocking, appalling etc etc."
But wasn't Essien's assault a carbon copy of the tackle Redknapp himself perpetrated on Tim Cahill last October? - an almost identical replica of a dreadful challenge that saw Cahill limp off, and Redknapp escape punishment? It was - and it highlighted the short memories and the hypocrisy which courses through football. Check out Sepp Blatter's reaction to this week's controversy.
Essien can now be charged by UEFA because referee Herbert Fandel "didn't see" his challenge.
Just two months earlier, however, the FA wanted to punish Essien for an equally appalling challenge on Tal Ben Haim. But FIFA said 'no', even though referee Rob Styles admitted he hadn't seen the incident clearly and wanted to upgrade his original yellow card to a red. The difference this time is that while two domestic teams were involved again at Stamford Bridge, this latest incident occurred in the Champions League. Criticism in England is one thing, censure across the continent could count against Herr Blatter next time there's a vote for FIFA president. Redknapp obviously has a short memory. Sepp Blatter? I'll let you decide.

Man United 1, Everton 1 (D,Post)
Dec 12 2005 David Prior At Old Trafford, Daily Post
THEIR fans sung 'Keano', their players left Old Trafford unsatisfied with a point. What a surreal season this is becoming for Everton Football Club. The chants may yet fail to beckon the former Manchester United captain down the M62, but David Moyes should not worry either way. On Keane's former stage yesterday, Everton proffered further evidence that theirs is a revival set on foundations that are utterly, unshakeably real. How this campaign has turned on its head.
Gritty, spirited and ultimately dominant, Moyes's men should have snatched a first victory at Old Trafford in 12 years. Where in last season's goalless draw they were simply stubborn, yesterday they were inventive and exciting. The home fans who booed on the final whistle were in the minority; most were simply exhaling in relief. United had been supposed to come out roaring after their haplessly poor impersonation of lions in Lisbon last week. But the wounds inflicted by Benfica - how Everton know the pain of a Champions League exit - were still raw and an unsympathetic Goodison side took full advantage. That this was done without three regulars - Nigel Martyn,, Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta - only drums home just how impressive a performance this was. Richard Wright turned in a man-of-the-match display that, in one afternoon, answered fears over his mental aptitude for this level. Phil Neville was, typically, on inspired form against his former employers, helping to restrain Wayne Rooney to an almost anonymous level for much of the second half. Again the back-line stood firm, breached only by a goal that owed more to a brilliant United move than any genuine failings by the visitors. James McFadden, meanwhile, continues his emergence as a genuinely exciting prospect. How infuriating, if still inexplicable, that miserable start to the season now seems. The effort is not noticeably more intense and the spirit of togetherness has in truth never deserted them, through all this term's low points. What they have now is simply a greater ability to convert their chances and a greater belief to go to places like Old Trafford and Ewood Park and take the game to their opponents. A productive Christmas and the new year could yet see Everton mounting the heights of last year. United still appeared to be lamenting their midweek Champions League exit as they dozily gifted Everton a glorious chance after just three minutes. The normally calm Edwin van der Sar suffered an attack of the Fabien Barthezs when his hope-lessly wayward pass-out was cut out by Leon Osman, who flicked the ball back towards James Beat-tie. The striker connected first time, but his goalbound shot was somewhat fortuitously blocked by Mikael Silvestre.
It was the catalyst for a hectic opening that, once Wright had kept out Alan Smith's shot at one end, eventually led to Everton taking the lead at the other. The phrase 'he only needs a goal' has become as well--worn as any in the footballers' vocabulary, but few goal-shy strikers have demonstrated its validity as obviously as McFadden in recent weeks. Having claimed just one goal in his first 56 Everton appearances, the young Scot now has two in two and the confidence he was so sorely lacking is seeping back by the week. Indeed it could well have been his infrequent troubling of the scoring charts that resulted in the swathes of space afforded to the winger after eight minutes yesterday. Rooney had inadvertently begun the move in his own half, and once Kevin Kilbane's strong run spilled the ball to Osman, the midfielder slid a pass that found McFadden unattended on the left flank. After using up some of that vacant grass, the winger unleashed a powerful shot that beat van der Sar at his near post. It was just the start Moyes had hoped for, eager as he no doubt was to test the restlessness of the natives, but hopes of a first league win at Old Trafford since 1993 received a setback just eight minutes later. And although it was an excellent goal from United, Paul Scholes's floated ball over the top being turned beyond Wright by Ryan Giggs, Joseph Yobo will be disappointed to have allowed Giggs to glide past him with such ease. The equalizer derailed Everton's early momentum and United proceeded to take charge of possession for the remainder of the half. Their domination at least allowed Wright, deputizing for the injured Martyn, the opportunity to show why talk of his demise may have been somewhat hasty.
Wright shipped 10 goals on his last two full games for the club, but since coming in to the side at half-time at Blackburn he has looked a far more reassuring presence. Yesterday he barely put a foot wrong, saving sharply from Gary Neville's volley just before the half hour and dealing nerve-lessly with what little United could throw at him. Even better was his save from Rooney's 66th-minute shot that had dangerously deflected off Phil Neville and forced Wright to tip over the bar at full stretch, while he was called into similarly swift action by Cristiano Ronaldo's late free-kick. For patience alone over what has been a miserable couple of seasons, the former England international keeper certainly deserves the break he now seems to be getting. The second half promised more of the red tide that had ended the first; Everton, though, had other ideas. Instead of merely protecting their point, Moyes's men even had the nerve to take the game to their increasingly ragged hosts - with an iota more composure in the final third, they would have claimed a fourth away victory of the season. McFadden remained a lively threat up front, always dangerous in possession, but he should have taken more advantage of a sweeping move in the 65th minute. With only Kieron Richardson back for United, Simon Davies fed the Scot but with a more cultured finish required McFadden chose to fire a head-high shot that van der Sar comfortably saved. Four minutes later McFadden was back on the offensive after dispossessing the hapless Richardson; this time he chose to go alone and dragged his shot wide of the United goal. Sir Alex Ferguson's men, by this time, were resembling a shapeless and idea-free mess. Everton swept forward with abandon, and if only substitute Marcus Bent displayed more composure in attempting to supply Duncan Ferguson late on, that long-awaited win could have been theirs. No matter. For once, the performance was just as valuable as the points.
MANCHESTER UNITED: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Richardson (Rossi 79), Park (Ronaldo 64), Smith (Fletcher 74), Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, Saha. Subs: Howard, Brown. BOOKING: Smith.
EVERTON: Wright, Hibbert, Yobo, Weir, Nuno Valente, Osman, Davies, Neville, Kilbane, Beattie (Ferguson 87), McFadden (Bent 81). Subs: Kroldrup, Li Tie, Turner. BOOKINGS: Osman, Weir.
REFEREE: R Styles (Hampshire).
ATT: 67,831.
NEXT GAME: Everton v West Ham United, Barclays Premiership, Wednesday, 8pm
MAN OF THE MATCH Richard Wright
There were several candidates for the award, but Wright deserves it for a show of real guts

You're going the right way to keep your place
By David Prior, Daily Post
Dec 12 2005
DAVID MOYES believes Richard Wright could keep Nigel Martyn out of the team if he continues to show the form that helped Everton to a deserved point at Manchester United yesterday.
Moyes's men claimed a Premiership draw at Old Trafford for the second successive season, continuing their recent revival and further moving them away from the relegation zone.
James McFadden had given the visitors an eighth-minute lead with his second goal in as many games, Ryan Giggs responding eight minutes later for Sir Alex Ferguson's embattled side.
But in an Everton performance dotted with several impressive individual displays, goalkeeper Wright - only playing because of Nigel Martyn's groin injury - stood out on his first start for the club since May. And Moyes believes there is no reason why the 28-year-old, who is set to also play in the home games against West Ham and Bolton this week, cannot hold down his place in the side - even when Martyn regains fitness. He said: "Richard's done well and I'm really pleased for him. He's had to watch Nigel Martyn performing very consistently. He was a good goalkeeper and he's suddenly not become a bad goal-keeper. "He's had some performances when he hasn't performed as well as he should have done, but hopefully that will give him the confidence to keep it going." Moyes added: "Yes he could keep his place, that's the way it is. If I think you're doing well enough, then you'll be in the team. If you've got good people pushing you, then you'll have to play really well all the time. "Wrighty has had to wait for his opportunity, he has had one or two games where I'm sure he would be the first to say he's not played as well as he should have done. "And yes I have had to talk to him a couple of times, and I've always said you'll get your opportunity, you've got to be ready to take your opportunity." Moyes paid tribute to his players, who had to overcome the absence not only of Martyn but also Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill, but admitted to feeling disappointed that they had not claimed what would have been a largely deserved win. He said: "Today we were without three or four regulars and yet we've come here and got something, so everyone who's come in has done a good job for us. "If you'd said to me would I have taken a point before the game then I would have shook your hand and walked off. But the longer the game went on, we're a wee bit disappointed that we didn't end up with more than that. "I think we're defending much better than we have been doing. "We've become a wee bit stronger, but for whatever reason we just didn't start the season off well. But the players now are really knuckling down and I think we're doing much better all round. "Probably just the disappointing bit was that we didn't go and get a second goal. But saying that we needed everyone behind the ball to make sure we defended well because they've got ability that can hurt you." Moyes also hailed the performances of James McFadden and Phil Neville, the latter on his first return to Old Trafford since his move to Merseyside in the summer. He added: "I thought Phil Neville was outstanding for us today. He plugged all the gaps, made it hard for Manchester United to get through and played that holding role. Phil has probably been one of our most consistent players since he's joined, whether it be at left-back or in midfield. "James is starting to get goals, I was pleased with his goal today and I was pleased with a lot of his play today. We'll continue to work on his decision-making, we're at him all the time in training about it and he is improving. But he was a threat when he got it and he's had three or four attempts on goal." Moyes, meanwhile, claimed he would respect any decision Roy Keane takes as to his next club as rumours suggested the former United skipper had undergone a medical at Real Madrid. Spanish newspaper Marca reported that the 34-year-old was in Spain yesterday to seal an 18-month deal with the Bernabeu club. Everton are still one of a number of clubs thought to be interested in Keane, and last night Moyes said: "Probably myself and eight or 10 other clubs are interested, but whatever decision Roy takes I'll respect. We've been hoping to hear something for a while, but I'll respect his decision."

Police bills go unpaid in match-day fees row
By Andy Kelly, Daily Post
Dec 12 2005
MERSEYSIDE'S major football clubs are involved in a standoff with the police about the cost of covering their games. The Daily Post can reveal today that neither Liverpool, Everton nor Tranmere have paid any of their bills for policing since the start of this season. It follows an attempt by Merseyside Police Authority to ask the clubs to contribute more towards the cost of police cover for their home games. The MPA asked for an average 43% rise in payments for games, reflecting a new charging regime compiled by the Association of Chief Police Officers. Despite the rise being the first for a decade, the new charges have not been accepted by the football clubs. They are now waiting until an agreement is reached before paying any of the outstanding bills from the 2005/6 campaign, which is already four months old. Liverpool have played around 15 home games already this season due to the long pre-qualifying campaign for the Champions League, while Everton and Tranmere have played about 10 each. If the clubs do not reach an agreement with the police authority, it could refuse to support the licence application needed for any home game on the grounds of public safety, possibly putting fixtures at risk. Further talks are due to be held on January 5 and all sides are hopeful of thrashing out a deal. Everton FC spokeman Ian Ross said: "We've been in negotiations with the Police Authority and those talks are continuing. "We are confident of a successful outcome." The situation on Merseyside follows a damaging row in Greater Manchester which has ended up in the courts. Greater Manchester Police issued Wigan with a court summons for unpaid match-day policing after the club refused to pay what it regarded as extortionate bills. The situation on Merseyside is still well away from that, but the clubs are undoubtedly disappointed at the levels of the rise presented to them. Liverpool FC spokesman Ian Cotton said: "We were surprised that this was presented to the clubs as a fait accompli." Chief Constable Bernard Hogan-Howe and MPA treasurer Steve Houston met with the clubs in the summer and it is expected that chairman Bill Weightman will be involved in the talks. Cllr Weightman said: "We have a tremendous expertise on Merseyside for policing our clubs and our record speaks for itself. I'm certain that will continue." Last week the MPA received its annual funding settlement from the government which amounted to a 3.7% increase. While this was better than some previous years, the pressures on the MPA budget remain significant. Only one-off savings and the use of reserves have allowed the authority to balance its budget over the last few years. This year's draft settlement leaves a current deficit of £8.6m for 2006/07 if committed service levels are to be maintained, although part of that will be covered by an increase in the police precept in council tax. All in all, it leaves an authority which believes it has a duty to receive value-for- money for the service it provides to the clubs. In the context of multi-million pound operations, it believes the increased charges are minuscule but the clubs have yet to agree.

Everton drawing on the positives
By Bill Richards, Daily Post
Dec 12 2005
IT WAS a gritty 0-0 draw at Old Trafford last year that signalled the measure of Everton's prospects for the season. Let's hope the portents are equally good for the latter stages of a campaign that threatened to fall flat on its face after another battling display at the Thea-tre of Lost Dreams. Given the list of players unavailable for selection, it is right we hail the efforts of those who were picked. Step forward Phil Neville, who seemed determined to prove that if Roy Keane does choose Spain rather than Scotland Road, Everton would not rue his decision. Tigerish, galvanising, fine leadership... qualities the Irishman might have added to Goodison, but which Neville showed in abundance. Richard Wright proved he's put his Highbury hammering behind him to suggest that reports of the death of his Goodison career are greatly exaggerated and premature. The only nagging doubt is it could have been so much better. Golden chances went begging, notably when McFadden gave Van der Sar the chance to redeem himself for being beaten by a belter from the Scot at the near post in the opening minutes of the game. And a lame effort from Marcus Bent who had two options - to go for goal himself or play in Duncan Ferguson. He opted for the third and passed it straight back to the United defence. Or am I being churlish when the point gleaned and the fact that Everton avoided any kind of morale sapping heavy defeat sets us up nicely for a run of games that could leave us far more handily placed in the league by the time the derby comes around. After the start to the season, I'll take it is a positive result. And expect a few more...

Ferguson: Anxiety got better of players
By Simon Stone, Daily Post
Dec 12 2005
SIR ALEX FERGUSON admitted Manchester United's desperation got the better of them at Old Trafford as a bad week got even worse as their Barclays Premiership title hopes were virtually extinguished by Everton. After suffering a calamitous Champions League exit in Lisbon on Wednesday, the Red Devils were held to a 1-1 draw by the Merseyside outfit.
The result left United 12 points adrift of runaway leaders Chelsea, kept them in third spot behind Liverpool and brought more pressure on Ferguson's shoulders as he tries to battle through one of the toughest times in 19 years at the club. While Ferguson insists he is not both-ered by the demands his high-profile job brings, the weight of expectation is clearly affecting some of his players. "The players were desperate to win but we got a bit anxious in the second half and started trying to get the ball forward too quickly instead of just playing our football," he said. "It is frustrating because we are dropping too many points at home.
"Like everyone else, we are hoping Chelsea drop points. If they do, we have to be in a position to do something about it." Ferguson's comments could be an echo of those from last year and in truth, United are no more likely to haul Jose Mourinho's side back now than they were 12 months ago. It is not so much character which is lacking, after their devastating midweek loss United would have disintegrated in the face of James McFadden's seventh-minute opener - the fourth time this season they have conceded inside 10 minutes on home soil - if they had been totally lacking in guts. But, as the game wore on, so the self-belief slid away and they couldn't build on Ryan Giggs's equaliser. "We are all hurting," said Ferguson before the game. "But we must grit our teeth and get on with it. We certainly must not slip into feeling sorry for ourselves."

Man United 1, Everton 1 (Echo)
Dec 12 2005 Dominic King At Old Trafford
DURING a season of vastly contrasting fortunes, some things never change. Everton are unbeatable when they score first. Unable to buy a goal in the opening calamitous months, slowly but surely David Moyes' squad have rediscovered their shooting boots and the results are there for all to see. Inch by inch, the Blues are creeping away from the relegation zone.
Yesterday's trip to Old Trafford was the 20th match of Everton's campaign and the eighth occasion they have poked their noses in front. Only Premiership champions Chelsea and Manchester United have pegged them back. It may take a while longer to fully correct the damage inflicted by six consecutive defeats between August and October but things are firmly back on track. Determined, disciplined and growing in confidence, this is much more like it. The challenge, of course, is to make sure this resurgence does not peter out. The signs, though, are promising, because Everton have noticeably stepped things up - there was nothing fortuitous about this draw. While they rode their luck in the early stages, once the Blues took the lead on seven minutes when James McFadden - played in by Osman following good work by Kevin Kilbane - drilled home, there was no looking back.
The Scotland international had started the move and again showed he is in fine form, arguably the best he has been since arriving at Goodison Park two years ago. Keep performing like this and few will be able to doubt his credentials. Fortune had certainly been on Everton's side prior to McFadden's opener, as Alan Smith fluffed a glorious opportunity when shooting straight at Richard Wright after being teed up by Paul Scholes. The advantage, however, was short lived. Scholes set Ryan Giggs away with a wonderful ball and, having timed his run to perfection, the Welshman weighed up his options before slipping his effort past Wright. That allowed Rooney a chance to goad the travelling supporters, standing in front of them, face scrunched up in anger, manically gesticulating before heading off to celebrate with that well-known lover of all things Merseyside, Gary Neville. It was as unpleasant as it was predictable. He could have been remembered as one of the greatest players ever to pull on a blue shirt. Instead, he has now become a figure of hate. Such a shame because he is a wonderful, wonderful talent. As the Old Trafford empire shows signs of crumbling, Rooney's performances have remained consistently high and he was inevitably at the heart of everything good the home side created. Credit to Everton for refusing to buckle under pressure. The spirit was typified by Phil Neville, a gutsy competitor who would not allow his old pal Scholes and Smith an inch in midfield, launching into tackles and chasing any loose balls. It was no surprise to see Smith hauled off with 15 minutes left. "I wish he was still here," grumbled a rueful Wilf McGuiness, the former United manager in the Press box. United's loss is Everton's gain. The irony, that Neville is the type of player they need, will not be lost on Sir Alex Ferguson. "One of the hardest things I have had to cope with in the last year was accepting that Phil was going to leave us," Ferguson wrote in his programme notes. "He was a pillar of what you hope for in a player - loyal, committed and honest." Though he left with the sponsor's bubbly, he was not the only one to breathe defiance. Simon Davies covered plenty of ground, getting forward whenever possible, while Osman did his best to build on last weekend's promising return to action at Ewood Park. Such effort ensured that the anticipated onslaught after the break never quite materialised. For all the possession United had, they never did a great deal with it. Joseph Yobo and David Weir were once again terrific. Indeed, the longer the game remained level, the more Everton - urged on by their boisterous, noisy following - grew in belief that they could register a first win at Old Trafford since August 1993. United were susceptible on the break and McFadden was denied a second by a smart van der Sar stop after Davies had galloped forward with purpose, while another effort from the 22- year-old whistled past the upright. Running out of ideas, United resorted to humping long balls forward and never looked like threatening. When they did get sight of goal, they found Wright in no mood to be beaten. Those who feared a drubbing with him in goal had nothing to worry about.
It has been a difficult year for Wright. Betrayed by injury and a loss of form, it is a bitter irony that he was the man between the posts for heavy defeats against Tottenham Hot-spur, Arsenal and Fenerbahce. But he certainly has ability and this performance will have done wonders for his confidence. The save he made to deny Rooney the goal he so desperately craved on 66 minutes was, if you excuse the pun, right out of the top draw. Ferguson acknowledged afterwards that Wright was in "inspired" form and while you could not disagree with that statement, it was hard to see where he was coming from when he said United deserved to win. They didn't. If Everton had headed home without anything to show for their Herculean efforts, it would have been a travesty. This was another positive step forward on the long road to recovery, as they work tirelessly to correct their early season woes. The Blues can now look forward to the rare treat of back-to-back home games this week, against West Ham and Bolton. With the same application shown at Old Trafford, the table will certainly make pleasant reading.

Goodison points vital now - Neville
Dec 12 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
PHIL NEVILLE today insisted Everton must make home advantage count as the Blues prepared to face West Ham and Bolton this week. Neville - oustanding for the Blues yesterday on his Old Trafford return - felt Everton were full value for the point they took from a 1-1 draw which puts a bit more daylight between themselves and the bottom of the table.
It has taken a while, but the Blues have started to hit their stride in recent weeks and a run of one defeat in seven games has gone some way to atoning for the dreadful start to the campaign. Neville, however, attributes the turning point to have come in another 1-1 draw - with Chelsea back in October - and is delighted to see belief return to the team's performances once again. Now with two matches at Goodison Park in the space of four days, Neville feels similar levels of commitment will enable Everton to draw further away from the danger zone. "Since the Chelsea game when we got a draw, we have started to play the kind of football that the gaffer wants us to play," said Neville. "I'm loving every minute of it and playing every week. The added responsibility of playing in central midfield is making me enjoy my football. Long may it continue. "It was so good to put on a performance. We took the lead and took the game to them. We didn't play with fear. With a bit more quality we maybe could have won. "We have got two home games this week and we need to do well. But I enjoyed the game and things went well. We needed an extra man in midfield as I was preoccupied with Wayne Rooney." Neville certainly played as if he had a point to prove to the club that sold him in the summer and he deserved huge credit for not letting the occasion get to him. "I was trying just to look straight forward when I was in the tunnel and I could feel a few eyes on me from the left," said Neville. "Some of them were saying "smile you miserable sod!" It was difficult but it was great to come back. You never forget how special that place is. "I got a good reception. It was great. The fans have always been good to me and I wouldn't have expected anything else really." Meanwhile, Everton are still waiting to hear what decision Roy Keane has made regarding his future, now that Real Madrid have suddenly emerged as favourites for his signature. That had been Everton's position until yesterday morning but reports now claim that Keane has agreed an £80,000-a-week contract to move to the Spanish capital. Blues boss David Moyes has kept relatively tight lipped on the situation but has made it clear he will respect whatever Keane decides to do

McFadden can be even greater threat
Dec 12 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES today tipped James McFadden to maintain his fine form after the rejuvenated striker grabbed his second goal in as many games. The Scotland international has been a breath of fresh air since returning to the starting line-up against Newcastle last month, playing another important role in yesterday's 1-1 draw with Manchester United.
Having been urged by Moyes to add goals to his armoury, McFadden has responded in the best possible manner with crucial efforts at Blackburn and Old Trafford. Now the Everton manager is urging McFadden to keep up the good work and believes the 22-year-old will become an even more potent threat once the rough edges to his game are polished.
"He's starting to get goals," said Moyes. "I was pleased with his goal and a lot of his play. The bit we are continuing to work on is his decision making. "He was a threat when he got the ball and he ended up with three or four attempts at goal, which was good." Another man to come in for special praise from Moyes was Richard Wright, who excelled in his first start of the season and made light of the injured Nigel Martyn's absence. Wright has suffered in the past 12 months with injury and loss of form, while his sporadic appearances between the posts have coincided with some heavy defeats. Moyes, however, has faith that the one-time England international can recapture his best form and will have no problems selecting him if he performs as he did against United. "Richard has done great and I am really pleased with him. He's had to watch Nigel Martyn perform very consistently, but he is a good goalkeeper.
"He probably knows there have been some performances when he has not done as well as he should have done. Hopefully, that will give him confidence to keep things going."
Moyes, meanwhile, felt Everton were slightly unfortunate not come away with more for their efforts following a performance brimming with encouragement. The Blues have now only lost one of their last seven matches and Moyes is happy with the progress that has been made in recent weeks. "We worked in midweek on how we were going to come here and be really positive from the start. We had a plan B when we needed to change around," he reflected..
"If you had said to me before the game 'would you take a point?' I would, but the longer the game went on I'm disappointed we didn't get more. "Coming to Old Trafford and getting something is a bonus. We are defending much better than we have been doing and we are stronger. "The players are really knuckling down. We were without four regulars yet still managed to go there and get something. "We have not got a massive squad, but we've got a decent one. Everyone who has come in has done a job for us and we're pleased with that.
"The only disappointment is that with the opportunities we had, we didn't finish it off. But we needed everybody behind the ball to make sure we defended well."

Wright aims to relaunch his Goodison career
By Richard Williamson Daily Post Sports Editor
Dec 13 2005
RICHARD WRIGHT is hoping he can use his Old Trafford heroics to help re-launch his career at Everton. The Goodison Park goal-keeper produced a series of crucial saves in Sunday's showdown as Everton took a well-deserved point from a 1-1 draw with Manchester United. The performance went a long way to erasing the memory of some disappointing displays on Wright's limited opportunities to stake a claim for the goalkeeper's jersey. A groin strain ruled Nigel Martyn out of Sunday's game and will leave him on the sidelines again when Everton host West Ham tomorrow night presenting the former Arsenal custodian with the perfect chance to reclaim the number one shirt. The 28-year-old was making his first Premiership start of the season, having not been involved since the final games of last season when Everton slumped to demoralising defeats against Arsenal and Bolton. But as he reflected on a job well done at Old Trafford, Wright offered a honest assessment of some of his earlier efforts. "To be honest I haven't performed when I have been involved," he admitted.. "I have conceded a few goals and as a keeper it is never nice. To come in and perform the way I have gives me the assurance that I can perform at that level. "But I have to do that consistently to make sure I can keep Nigel out of the team." Wright is determined to build on his positive display against Hammers at Goodison Park and admits he has been grateful to the fans for their support during some difficult times as he found himself out of the frontline for such a long time. "It has been a long time and I would just like to thank all the fans and everyone who has been behind me," he said.. "They have been fantastic. I am the first to hold my hand up if I don't perform well and if you don't do it you don't deserve to be in the team. "But a lot of people have been behind me and I really appreciate that. Hopefully this is a stepping-stone for me to build on now and start performing well more and more." Wright believes the whole team's display against Sir Alex Ferguson's side shows that they are putting their rocky start to the season behind them. "It was a great performance on Sunday," he added.. "Obviously scoring early doors made them come out a bit but the players in front of me defended fantastically and we are delighted to get a point, which at Old Trafford is never easy. There was no doubt in any of the players' minds what we could do." Wright added: "We just had to make sure we could go out and perform on the pitch. You realise you are going to get everything thrown at you at Old Trafford. "I thought we weathered that a little bit but unfortunately they got a goal, which was disappointing. But we kept positive and got the point. "We could have maybe pinched it at the end, so we are very pleased with the performance, but we now have to take it on to Wednesday."

Resolute defence
Icliverpool And Daily Post
Dec 13 2005
A DRAW was a good result on Sunday as both teams had chances. I thought Everton were so resolute in defence and very dangerous on the break. James McFadden has been a revelation and I feel his part-nership with Kevin Kilbane is starting to bear fruit. If we don't get Roy Keane, I'll be sorry for he would provide us with an added dimension and could assist in moulding the team into a very effective unit. I was also pleased that Richard Wright distinguished himself so well and is not a spent force as had been predicted. It was great to see Mr Moyes with a wide smile on his face.
A Roger
(via e-mail)
Glorious chances
I ALSO thought we were going to get done on Sunday, even though I've always been an optimist when it comes to the Blues. But in the end I was gutted that we didn't win. Three glorious chances towards the end and we didn't take one of them. McFadden, Kilbane, Wright and the exceptional Phil Neville; they did themselves proud! Still see us getting into Europe by hook or by crook.
Shane Wilson
(via e-mail)
WELL done Everton. Beforehand I would have bitten your hand off for a point at Old Trafford, but I thought we were the team with more urgency and structure to our play.
United just whacked it up to our 18-yard box. At times their quality shone through, but we matched them and should of won with more composure. Richard Wright: well done, your performance was outstanding. It was not your fault for the goal and McFadden: Keep the goals coming, lad.
S Street, Everton
Things looking up
IT WAS especially good to see Wright and Killbane play well. Hopefully that will shut up the small negative minority, who are never happy unless they are having a pop at someone. Hopefully we will win tomorrow and Saturday. It's all looking up and it feels great to be a Evertonian again. The derby game is going to be an epic.
Barry Woolrich, Liverpool
Festive hopes
THOSE of you that penned negative comments prior to the Man U game must be feeling foolish now. No cricket score at all. Good battling performance by the Blues and some great displays by Wright and Kilbane. On paper we have a decent set of fixtures ahead now especially given our recent form. I'm optimistic for a good points haul over the festive break: 14 from 18 possibly...
L Bow
(via e-mail)

Beattie targets England dream
Dec 13 2005 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
JAMES BEATTIE is hunting the goals which he believes could fire him into Sven Goran Eriksson's World Cup squad next summer. The Everton striker will lead the Blues attack against West Ham tomorrow, seeking to build on the most consistent run of appearances of his Goodison career. And he hopes that by building on his goals tally he can convince the England coach to add to his collection of five England caps. "I haven't given up hope of going to Germany," said Beattie. "If I keep playing the way I am at the moment, and start scoring goals like I know I can, it could happen. "I'm just going to keep my head down, play well for Everton and see what comes of it. if I go on one of my scoring runs, it will be hard for Mr Eriksson to ignore me. "Well, it might not be that hard - but at least I'll put myself back in the frame." Beattie's last England cap came in the home defeat by Denmark two years ago. But since then he has seen his old Southampton team-mate and current Liverpool striker Peter Crouch replace him in the England set-up. "I kept him out of the side, but when I came here and Crouchy got his chance, he took it tremendously well," explained Beattie.
"He has great ability on the floor and he's a good target man. But when I'm fit I'm as good in the air as anyone. I can hold the ball up and I can score goals." The two James' - Beattie and McFadden - are likely to continue up front against The Hammers tomorrow, with Mikel Arteta also returning. With Nuno Valente showing no reaction after his return on Sunday, Matteo Ferrari fit and Per Kroldrup champing at the bit for his first team debut, Moyes is finally getting something resembling a first team squad to choose from. And he still hasn't given up hope on signing Roy Keane. "Like everybody else we're just waiting to hear some-thing," said the Blues boss.

We've got winning habit back
Dec 13 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
HAULING themselves away from the relegation zone bit by bit, Sunday's feisty display against Manchester United offered compelling evidence that Everton are running into form at just the right time. With home games coming up against West Ham United and Bolton Wanderers, if the Blues continue in the same vein as they have done for the past few weeks then they will have plenty of room to manoeuvre during the hectic Christmas period. Captain David Weir, however, knows that it could have been so very different. When they were bottom of the table, a crisis of confidence threatened to inflict even greater damage on a season that had promised so much. But having regrouped and turned a losing habit into a winning one, the Everton skipper - along with everyone else at the club - would now like nothing more than to finish the calendar year with a flourish. Complacency will not be an issue. "We've done well," said Weir, who has played every minute of every Everton game so far. "Obviously we had a blip at West Brom and that hurt us but we have responded from that and it is up to us to avoid anything like that happening again. "It was worrying for everyone, regardless of whether you are captain, player or supporter. To be in the bottom three and to be struggling for results week in, week out obviously has an effect on you.
"But we have picked up in the last month or so and got a few points on the board. We are climbing up the league and things are a bit brighter now. That's the nature of football. It changes quickly. "You have got to realise that a good result around the corner can change things for you. There is a fine line between winning and losing in this league. You can get in a winning habit or you can get in a losing habit. "We had got into a losing habit, for whatever reason. It can be hard to shake off when you are going down that road. It took a bit of turning around but we realised that we are capable of winning and we have moved on." As manager David Moyes pointed out at Old Trafford, the key to Everton's upturn in fortunes has been the form of his defence. Four clean sheets in those seven matches suggests a return to business as usual. Typically, the self-effacing Weir plays down his input, happy to stay out of the limelight and get on with his business without fuss or fancy. Ask him to speak about his central defensive partner, however, and Weir has no trouble waxing lyrical. "Joseph Yobo has got all the attributes in the world," said Weir. "He's got everything really to be top class. It's just getting a level of consistency. "He's really young to be playing in that position but he ' s always learning. "The Premier League is a tough place to learn. Every slight mistake or half mistake you make is punished. It's up to Joe to cut them out but he has done that recently. We try and help each other. That's the nature of the game. "The nature of football is that you can't dwell on your mistakes. You can't let them affect you. You deal with it, look ahead to the next game and Joe has done that. He hasn't gone into his shell."

Cup heartbreak as the Blues are gunned down
Dec 13 2005 Women'S Football By Paul Garrity, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON LADIES fell to a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal in their Premier League Cup semi final at Rossett Park. The last time the sides played in October, the match ended 3-3, but the Gunners had the edge this time. Nerves played a big part in the early exchanges, with the Blues having the first opportunity, but Chantelle Parry shot high and wide from a tight angle.
Arsenal's Anita Asante saw her 20-yard shot comfortably saved by Blues keeper Rachel Brown, before the home side's Michelle Evans fired into the side netting. The opening goal arrived after 40 minutes when Jayne Ludlow had the space to fire home across Brown, following a great run and cross from Kelly Smith. After the break, Arsenal maintained the pressure, as Julie Fleeting shot wide and Smith's curling free kick was well held by Brown.
In response, Everton's Amy Kane had a 20-yard effort saved by Emma Byrne, as did Parry a few minutes later. But the killer blow came when Rachel Yankey took advantage of slack defending to pull a ball back for Scotland international Fleeting, who drove in the second.
It was disappointing for the Blues, who will be looking to keep the pressure on the teams above them in the league, and have another crack at the FA Cup in the New Year.
On Sunday, Everton face Leeds at Marine FC (1.00pm kick off), while Liverpool attempt to continue their promotion push with a tricky trip to Aston Villa. Fifth placed Tranmere are away to Curzon Ashton.

We must press home advantage, says Moyes
Dec 14 2005 By David Prior Daily Post Staff
DAVID MOYES has stressed the importance of making home advantage count tonight - despite admitting to the worst injury crisis he has ever known at the club. Having played just six out of 15 league games at home so far this season, Everton welcome West Ham to Goodison looking to build on a run that now extends to just one Premiership defeat in seven.
And Moyes believes it is now vital his side use their home games - with Bolton also visiting on Saturday - to propel their charge up the table. He said: "We've got an opportunity now to get away from the wrong end of the table. "It's a little bit imbalanced, in as much as we've had nine away and six at home, and I don't think it balances up until the middle of February.
"It's a big December for us because we've got seven games - you could hardly have anymore if you tried. "Home games are really important for us as we go into the second half of the season. If we look at past history at Everton we've had some good results at home in the last season or two so we need to try to do that. "This is a rearranged game, a game in hand so it will be nice if we can take something from it." Mikel Arteta, who was suspended for the impressive 1-1 draw at Manchester United on Sunday, returns to the side while Richard Wright continues in goal with Nigel Martyn (groin) expected to be out for at least another week. Martyn is just one of a glut of players currently occupying the treat-ment room - only Sunderland are worse off in the Premiership - and Moyes admitted the clash at Old Trafford had represented a fitness nadir for the club. "For Sunday's game it was probably as bad as I've known it," he said. "Martyn, Cahill, van der Meyde, Pistone, Naysmith, Carsley and Vaughan were all out, and Arteta, who was suspended, could have missed the game anyway with a knee problem. "I had two fitness tests before the game with Marcus Bent and Duncan Ferguson before the game and Joseph Yobo played for us with a bit of the flu. "I couldn't have had it any worse, so we were really down on numbers. We're probably working at the moment with about 30-40% of the squad out injured." Moyes was still unable to offer any more news on the chase for Roy Keane after Real Madrid president Florentino Perez played down the Spanish club's interest in the player. "I don't know any more about it," confirmed Moyes. "We're concerning ourselves with the players we have and preparing them for the next match rather than players we don't have. "It's everybody else who wants to know what's happening. The managers of the clubs involved are quite comfortable with the situation and giving the boy time he needs to make his decision - he'll make his mind up in his own time."

Striker can deliver seasonal cheer
David Prior, Daily Post
Dec 14 2005
AFTER David Moyes told the assembled throng at last month's AGM that his New Year to-do list began with the words 'buy a new striker', one man seems to have taken it more personally than most. James McFadden, perhaps sensing that his time to deliver had well and truly arrived, has reacted to the Everton manager's admission by finally realising some of the potential that led Moyes to lavish £1.25million on him back in 2003. Having largely under-whelmed during his first two years at Goodison, flittering in and out of the team and claiming just a solitary goal in over 50 appearances, McFadden now has two in two - and an upgrade in performance that suggests his star is firmly on the rise. Blackburn and Manchester United can now both testify to the speed and opportunism that saw him coined the brightest talent in Scotland when still a teenager at Motherwell, from where Moyes plucked the fiery young Scot. And while he may still have some way to go to convince Moyes to keep his chequebook shut when the transfer window reopens in January, the manager has certainly been persuaded that his side's attacking depth is not as shallow as had been feared. Asked if McFadden could be his "new" striker,, Moyes said: "He's going down the road towards that. "He needs to show that he can be the striker and he can be the one to score us a goal. We've definitely been short of goals, it's a statistic we can't hide from, we need to score more goals. "But he's getting goals, he's looking more like it, and he's a very willing worker, and if he makes mistakes he's willing to try and put it right." Maturity is the key for McFadden, so far as Moyes is concerned, and the need to marry a bit more nous to that raw talent. "Faddy was at the time probably the hottest talent in Scotland, with the most potential, but we took a gamble to get him here," added Moyes. "In his first two or three games, he was nothing short of outstanding against Leeds United and then Middlesbrough, so we know there's an ability there. "It's about maturing - if you look around there's not many 19-year-olds who play in the Premiership. He's now 22 and he's beginning to mature, and with age he will become better. "His big thing is that he needs to make some better decisions and not to give the ball away easily. "He's got to make the right decisions more often, and four or five weeks ago I started to see him becoming better, becoming more trustworthy on the ball, and because of that you start to earn your chance of getting in, and he's done well. He's certainly not disappointed me at all since he's been here. He's probably disappointed himself that he's not got himself into the team, but I think he's realising more now what's required to play down here. "Constantly he's being told about doing the right things, trying to make sure that the last thing he does is the correct thing, whether it be a pass or a cross or a shot.
"I was close to putting him in a few weeks ago because I thought he looked much brighter in training, and he's proved that. But he's got to keep working very hard to stay in the team."
Much debate has surrounded McFadden's best position in the side, whether as an attacking winger on the left or right, an out-and-out striker, or even a more orthodox midfielder. The player has frequently been switched around, even mid-game, and Moyes admits he is still not sure of his best location. "He's capable of playing anywhere up front," Moyes added.. "He's played wide for us at times, and I don't think anybody would say what his best role is. But he can do them all, and if he gets his decisions right he's got the ability to play. "I wouldn't want to pigeonhole him - playing up front gives him a little bit more freedom but he's happy to play in any of the roles, he's happy to play wide left or wide right, and he's comfortable in any of the roles. I think at the moment he would want to be a centreforward." McFadden will get another chance to demonstrate his credentials for fulfilling that very role tonight, when Alan Pardew brings his lively West Ham outfit to Merseyside. After their plethora of away games this season, Moyes is hoping a return to the home comforts of Goodison will continue his side's movement away from the danger zone, particularly with the Londoners having won just once on the road this season. With Portsmouth and Wigan both having provided an unpleasant surprise at Goodison this season, however, Moyes is not taking the Hammers lightly. "They're doing really well," he said. I'm sure their first objective will be to get the points to stay in the Premier League, like the majority of us, and then after that they'll look to push on. But they've had a fantastic opening." With the run Everton are on at the moment, confidence should no longer be too much of a problem. "If you took the West Brom game out of it you'd have to say that we're on a good run of results," said Moyes.. "We want to try and keep that going as long as we can. I wasn't particularly happy with some of the performances in some of the games, but I thought there were signs in the Manchester United game that were beginning to get a wee bit of confidence. "We're a wee bit tougher now, and we're keeping a few clean sheets which has given us a platform to try and get a goal. "In the early part of the season we couldn't score a goal at all, we're beginning to look a bit more like it, albeit not totally convincing. We are getting much harder to beat and that's good."

Carroll keen to see front men continue their fine form at Goodison
By Alex Lowe, Daily Post
Dec 14 2005
ROY CARROLL is backing West Ham strikers Bobby Zamora and Marlon Harewood to continue their recent run of form against Everton tonight. The Hammers face their third away game in nine days determined to bounce back from last weekend's frustrating 3-2 defeat at Blackburn. Victory at Goodison Park could lift West Ham up to seventh place in the Barclays Premiership - depending on how Wigan get on at Manchester United. Zamora and Harewood have both found form on the road, firing West Ham to victory at Birmingham and finding the net against Blackburn at the weekend.
"The two guys up front, Bobby and Marlon, have done very well these last two games and they'll be important against at Everton," said Carroll,, the West Ham goalkeeper. "We were disappointed with the result at Blackburn, especially after such a good win at Birmingham. "But we've scored four goals in two away games and that's a real positive for us that we'll take into the Everton match.
"This is going to be our third game away from home in a row and with the way we've played in the other two it definitely gives us confidence." West Ham manager Alan Pardew slammed referee Mike Riley for his performance in Saturday's game, which he declared had hinged on the "harsh decision" to award Blackburn a penalty. But Carroll insists West Ham have shaken those frustrations and will not suffer any form of Ewood Park hangover in Merseyside. "Even though we didn't get the result at Blackburn, it wasn't a poor performance," said Carroll. "It's a tough place to go and we can go into the Everton game definitely believing that we can take something away with us. "Hopefully we can start at the back by keeping a clean sheet and then nick a couple of goals." West Ham will have a different look at the back tonight with Christian Dailly set to replace injured centre-half Danny Gabbidon, who required six stitches in his knee after colliding with advertising boards at Ewood Park.
"It was a big blow to lose him because he's a great player and he's been doing really well this season," Carroll added. "He and Anton have formed a great partnership and it will be a blow to not have him at Everton."

Patient Moyes is still Keane
Dec 14 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES will not allow his pursuit of Roy Keane to jeopardise Everton's most crucial stage of the season. Having only lost one of their last seven fixtures, three of the Blues next four matches are at Goodison Park and Moyes is urging his players to make home advantage count, starting tonight against West Ham United. The topic of Keane's future, however, has lurked in the background ever since Moyes declared an interest in the former Manchester United skipper and rarely does a conversation with the manager pass without his name being mentioned. Moyes, though, has had little trouble keeping his own counsel, knowing Keane will make an announcement when he is ready.
Instead, Moyes is channelling all his energies into ensuring his side continue on an upward curve.

"I think all the managers (who are in for Keane) are all quite relaxed and sitting back, giving Roy the time that he needs," said Moyes. "We've had a tough start to the season. But we have to try to use our home form to get some good results." Moyes will have Mikel Arteta available again after suspension and he looks set to come straight back into the starting line up. The Spaniard should be the only change to the team that performed with such credit at Old Trafford and Moyes is hoping for a repeat show against West Ham. "Winning gives you confidence and hopefully we can keep going," he added. "We have got a few wins and we want to keep it going. "We had some chances on the break late on against Manchester United, we had to defend very well. If you go there, your goalkeeper is going to have to play very well and you're going to need a bit of luck. "We had all those things and on another day, we might have nicked it. But we have just got to keep doing what we believe in."

Prove you're my Wright one
Dec 14 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
WHILE some greeted the news Richard Wright would start at Old Trafford with a shudder of apprehension, David Moyes had nothing but confidence in his goalkeeper. It proved well placed. As Nigel Martyn was forced to stay at home resting his injured groin, Wright made the most of his moment in the limelight with a display that exuded calmness and composure and left Sir Alex Ferguson declaring him to be "inspired" between the posts. Wright, hugely influential in helping Everton escape from their weekend clash at Manchester United with a point, will get a chance to build on that promise when another United - West Ham - travel to Goodison Park this evening.
Martyn may have been a model of consistency since his move from Leeds in the summer of 2003 but Moyes has made it quite clear that Wright now has an opportunity to make up for lost time and show the talent that won him a place in England's Euro 2000 squad is as bright as ever.
Though the past two years have been difficult, as fitness and form problems compromised his progress, Moyes has never questioned Wright's attitude nor his application and knew he would be spot on if and when he had to call upon him. So, with Martyn unlikely to be ready for first team duty until the Aston Villa match on Boxing Day, opportunity knocks for Wright and his manager will be most surprised if the 28-year-old doesn't prove up to the challenge. "Sometimes maybe as a goalkeeper you could class going to Old Trafford as a good thing," said Moyes. "He has got the abilities and everything it takes to be one of the best in this country. "When he came here from Arsenal, he had been a little bit unfortunate that his spell there had coincided with David Seaman's spell in goal, but he was still in the England squad. "He will get confidence from playing games.
He has got to keep playing well in these games and we are looking for him to do that. Nigel has been very consistent for us. "He's made very few mistakes and that's why he has kept hold of the number one jersey. But Richard was unlucky in that he got injured and we had to bring another goalkeeper in. "Nigel was available and he's proved to be a good signing, but Richard's training has been first class. "His workrate and his effort has shown if he takes that onto the field there will be nothing to worry about. Football throws you opportunities. You have to be ready." As Wright looks to take a significant step in his Everton career, the same applies to Nuno Valente, who made light of a six week injury enforced absence with an assured display against United. Putting the shackles first on Park Ji-Sung, then Cristiano Ronaldo, Valente confirmed the impression made before being sidelined that he is getting to grips with the pace of English football after a difficult start.
"Nuno played well on Sunday," said Moyes, about his £1.4m summer signing from Porto. "He's quality. He's a Portuguese left-back who will play at the World Cup next summer.
"He's got a Champions League medal, a UEFA Cup medal and you don't play regularly at those levels if you are a mug. He's a good player. "Sometimes it can be difficult to come to a new country but just before he got injured, his performances were raising game by game. He showed that against Manchester United." Moyes, meanwhile, is hoping that Everton can maintain their recent hot streak against West Ham this evening, knowing that another positive result would take them even further away from the relegation zone. Following a run of one defeat in seven games, the mood in the Blues camp is predictably good, and the manager wants it to stay that way for as long as possible. "When you lose games it is difficult for everyone to walk around smiling and happy but we are feeling much better about ourselves," said Moyes.. "But we must keep that going and make sure we keep our levels of performance up. Hopefully, we can have a good run until the end of the season."

Point is not enough!
Dec 14 2005 Icliverpool And Liverpool Echo
IT was a superb performance by the Blues at Old Trafford but I was disappointed with the result - and I don't say that many times after coming away from United with a point. It is very important that over the next six games when four are at home we get at least 15 points. I'm delighted to see fringe players like James McFadden and Leon Osman playing so well. They have been like a breath of fresh air these past few weeks.
Paul George,
TEN out of 10 for effort for the Blues against Manchester United but we still lack real quality and give the ball away time after time. We still grind and spoil to get results. We used to play teams off the park with good football.
Trev Lynes,
I WAS really happy with our effort at Manchester United and the really pleasing part was that we weren't hanging on for the draw. It was a good result without Cahill and Van der Meyde. We didn't miss Martyn either, so well done to Richard Wright.
Jeff Jones,
IT is massively important that we win our next two home games and move into mid-table safety. If we do, we should be able to attract players like Robbie Keane and Thomas Gravesen. I still think if we can continue to improve and score some more goals we can get a UEFA Cup place.
Dave Cramb,
RICHARD WRIGHT did well at Manchester United so he now needs to keep that up and try catching a few crosses and shots instead of parrying them out into the danger area. Nuno Valente also had a good game and he, along with Simon Davies, is looking better each game.
Phil Neville was great too and James McFadden is going a long way to proving himself.
Will Davies,
DAVID MOYES has done it again. The best signing in the Premiership last season was Tim Cahill and if his form keeps up, Phil Neville can claim that accolade this season. It was another great display against Fergie's fading army. What would Ferguson give for Neville now that Roy Keane gone?
Phil Jeffers,
ANYONE debating the qualities of Kevin Kilbane or James Beattie should look at it like this: Kilbane is an average player who has the odd good game, but he always gives 110%, and this is why the fans put up with him. In contrast, Beattie is a more talented player but fans I know are gradually turning against him because he doesn't seem to be making the effort - either on the pitch or to simply get fit. When I pay my £30 to watch a match, I would much rather watch Kilbane running his heart out than Beattie strolling around chewing gum and dreaming about an England place.
Pete Kilkenny,

Help us honour the biggest fans around
Dec 14 2005 Liverpool Echo
TODAY the ECHO begins the search to find the most dedicated football fans on Merseyside. We want to honour the die-hard Evertonians, Kopites, and Rovers supporters, whose loyalty knows no limit. It could be a fan who hasn't missed a game in years or someone who goes to incredible lengths to follow their team. Over the coming weeks we will be collecting your nominations before our judges select a winner for each of Merseyside's big three clubs. The winners and their guest will rub shoulders with stars at the ECHO's 34th Merseyside Sports Personality of the Year at the Crowne Plaza on February 6. The overwhelming Blues choice last year was Stan Tyrrell, who recently died of cancer at the age of 42. Stan was the backbone of Bootle-based supporters group Walnut Blues, self-lessly organising tickets and travel to away matches - even on pre-season trips abroad.
Ian MacDonald, spokesman for Everton Independent Supporters Club, said: "It's a hard act to follow after Stan won it last year. "There are a lot of unsung heroes out there and this offers the chance to bring them to the fore." Les Lawson, secretary of the Mersey-side branch of the Official Liverpool Supporters Club (AIB), said: "Competition promises to be very tough this year. "I know a number of fans who have not missed a game home or away over the past 12 months. Whoever comes out on top in the ECHO awards will have shown the utmost dedication." Last year's Reds winner was committed supporter Andrew Ward. He suffered serious head injuries when he was struck by a car at the age of 14 and spent six months in a coma. Doctors predicted he wouldn't be able to sit up or talk, but he made great progress in his rehabilitation. Despite being confined to a wheelchair he travelled to every match at home, away and in Europe with parents Billy and Ann.
Last year's Tranmere winner was Gilbert Upton, who attended his first game with his grandad during the war, and has written several books on the club, including its definitive history. If you know someone who goes that extra mile to support their club we want to hear from you. Send the name and daytime contact details of your nomination, plus your own contact details, to Sports Personality Fan of the Year, Sports Desk, Liverpool ECHO, PO Box 48, Old Hall Street, Liverpool, L69 3EB. You can also email them to sport@liverpoolecho.co.uk. Don't forget to tell us why your nomination deserves to be crowned Fan of the Year 2005. * YOU could join us for free on this fantastic night, as one reader who votes for the Merseyside Sports Personality of the Year will be chosen at random to attend the star-studded event in February with a guest. Simply email your selection to us at sport@liverpoolecho.co.uk. Include your name, address and phone number. It's a night to remember - so get your votes in now.
* To purchase seats at this prestigious event please contact the ECHO's Event Department on 0151 472 2711. Seats are priced at £80 each plus VAT.

Everton 1, West Ham 2 (D,Post)
By David Prior at Goodison Park, Daily Post
Dec 15 2005
IF NOTHING else, Everton are doing an excellent job at managing expectations this season. Just when there's a glimpse of sun on the horizon, the clouds come racing back again. It was defeat at West Brom that served as the first great dampener, successfully extinguishing all the optimism generated by late autumn victories over Birmingham and Middlesbrough. Now it's an ill-timed home defeat that will have the same effect, coming as it does after results against Newcastle, Blackburn and Manchester United that had dared to provoke thoughts of a belated charge up the table. Not yet, it seems. For while much credit should be given to Alan Pardew and his West Ham side last night, the ease with which Everton squandered their lead and then so ineffectually sought to restore their advantage should act as a sharp reminder that the problems of early season are far from eradicated.
This should have been the night that Everton, having done so much good work on their travels recently, returned home in some triumph and used their game in hand to maintain an upward momentum. In returning to last season's vintage, to those qualities of miserly defence and stealthy attack, the last three games had seemingly offered a glimpse to the future that this campaign would now fulfil. But while this was nowhere near as bad as the Hawthorns debacle, it's plain to see that this season is not going to be so simple. The peaks and troughs are evidently here to stay. Thankfully, Everton have an almost instant chance to make amends. Bolton visit on Saturday for a game which now assumes greater significance if Moyes's men are not to find themselves drifting back towards the drop zone. After all if third-from-bottom Birmingham win their game in hand, they're just two points behind Everton. It's also a chance to prove that the syndrome that is so often seen as fatal for Premiership strugglers - a failure to win their home games - is merely a passing problem, not an inbuilt disease. So far, the statistics do suggest the latter. A measly four goals in seven home league games - two desperately hard-fought 1-0 wins and the Chelsea draw providing the only respite - is the kind of form that Everton must turn around. The away form will not continue to bail them out all season. It had all started so promisingly last night. Everton were unchanged from Old Trafford, which while rewarding Sunday's commendable display was probably more a result of uncertainties over Mikel Arteta's knee, with the Spaniard restricted to a place on the bench for his comeback from a one-match suspension. During the build-up to the match, Moyes had pinpointed the sudden emergence of a few goals as the main reason behind his side's improvement, and with just nine minutes on the clock his point was clinically emphasised once again.
James Beattie had already spurned one chance, failing to get on the end of Tony Hibbert's bouncing cross, but he made amends after a quality move that implied that the confidence picked up at Ewood Park and Old Trafford had been brought back home. It was that man James McFadden again, who after his successive goals at Blackburn and United turned provider with a powerful run down the left channel. Even a few months ago the Scot's surge would doubtless have ended in anti-climax, but he looks a smarter player now - something Moyes also highlighted before the game - and again he chose the right option here, slipping an excellent ball in that Beattie, pulling away from James Collins, turned past Roy Carroll. An early goal is normally enough to guarantee Everton a smooth passage through a game, but such optimistic feeling was soon deflated by two unfortunate incidents. First McFadden was forced off having damaged a foot attempting to correct some lead-footed control, and then the visitors drew level. It was Thomas Repka who had sent in the original cross from the right, but there was little danger inherent in the Czechoslovakian's supply until Marlon Hare-wood and Nuno Valente combined to miss it altogether, the ball ricocheting off an unsuspecting Weir and bouncing beyond a wrong-footed Richard Wright. Moyes chose to criticise his defence afterwards, but it was the absent luck, rather than any absent defender, that was chiefly responsible. It was a break that neither the skipper, excellent in recent weeks, nor Everton, deserved. Somewhat stunned, the home side began to lose some of their earlier shape, with substitute Marcus Bent failing to provide the same attacking threat that McFadden had and West Ham, and in particular Marlon Hare-wood, causing more problems at the other end. The loss of cohesion continued after the break, with the Hammers gaining more of a foothold in the game.
Harewood should have done better with a free header after Hayden Mullins's centre, and the former had another chance soon after that led to a worrying burst of goal-mouth pinball. Amid the gathering tension, Arteta's eventual introduction resulted in an audible cheer of relief from the home fans. Hibbert, rather than Leon Osman or Kevin Kilbane, was the player to make way, suggesting the right-back had picked up some kind of knock. Phil Neville duly slotted into Hibbert's position and Arteta took the former Manchester United player's place in central midfield. Any hopes Arteta would arrest the slide were short-lived, however, and with 23 minutes remaining West Ham took the lead they would not lose. Benayoun skipped away from Neville on the left flank and then turned inside Arteta before curling a well-placed shot that seemed destined for the far corner.
Wright reacted superbly and palmed the ball aside, only for the encroaching Zamora to gobble up the loose ball. After that, Everton threatened only in fits and starts, with Beat-tie centring for substitute Duncan Ferguson to head goalwards before Neville's pull-back set up an Arteta effort that was deflected wide. Simon Davies had Everton's best chance to restore parity, but the Welsh midfielder hopelessly misjudged Osman's centre and headed the ball well wide. In truth, though, West Ham probably deserved the points. All Everton must hope now is that this latest blip triggers a similar reaction to the last one.
EVERTON: Wright, Hibbert (Arteta 61), Yobo, Weir, Nuno Valente, Osman, Neville, Davies, Kilbane (Ferguson 68), Beattie, McFadden (Bent 20). Subs: Turner, Kroldrup.
BOOKINGS: Hibbert, Osman.
WEST HAM: Carroll, Repka, Ferdinand, Collins, Konchesky, Benayoun, Fletcher, Mullins, Etherington (Dailly 86), Harewood, Zamora (Newton 86). Subs: Hislop, Bellion, Aliadiere.
BOOKING: Fletcher.
REFEREE: P Walton (Northamptonshire)
ATT: 35,704
NEXT GAME: Everton v Bolton Wanderers, Premiership, Saturday 3pm

Everton out to disputed penalty
By Chris Wright, Daily Post
Dec 15 2005
Full-time 2-2, after extra-time Reading 3, Everton 2
EVERTON went out of the FA Youth Cup at the first hurdle against Reading after a controversial penalty five minutes from the end of extra time at the Made-jski Stadium last night. Neil Dewsnip's side had come from behind twice in normal time of the third round tie to force the extra period. But with a penalty shoot-out beckoning Reading's Simon Church went down in the area. It appeared as if there was little or no contact, but referee Flynn gave the spot-kick and Scott Davies scored to put Reading through to a fourth round tie at Nottingham Forest in the New Year. It was a cruel blow for Everton on a disappointing night. Reading went ahead on 24 minutes when Pierre Joseph Dubois headed in a cross from the left. But the visitors hit back straight away when a short free-kick was powered home by John-Paul Kissock. Bjarni Vidarsson had an effort ruled out for offside at the end of the first half. But Reading took the lead again on 55 minutes when Church scored from close range after a shot came back off the post. Everton battled back and Victor Anichebe had his shot cleared off the line. But Dewsnip's youngsters finally forced extra time after Phelan scored from the spot with seven minutes left after Vidarsson was brought down. There were few chances in extra time until the decisive spot-kick ended Everton's Youth Cup hopes for another year.
READING YOUTH: Hamer, Kelly, Spence, Karacan, Ujah (capt) (Bygrave 74), Pearce (Sigurdsson 108), Church, Davies, Marum, Dubois, Bignall (Piotrowski 59). Subs: Williams, Bayley.
EVERTON YOUTH: Jones, Irving, Molyneux, Dennehy (Elder 81), Holt, Kearney, Kissock, Phelan (capt), Downes (Connor 105), Anichebe, Vidarsson. Subs: Clancy, Morrison, Densmore.

Let's start another unbeaten sequence
By David Prior, Daily Post
Dec 15 2005
DAVID MOYES called on his players to embark on another good run after seeing Everton's revival grind to a halt against West Ham last night. Moyes's side suffered a fourth Premiership home defeat of the season when Bobby Zamora pounced midway through the second half. David Weir had earlier conceded an unfortunate own goal to cancel out James Beattie's ninth-minute opener. The result ended a run which had seen Moyes's men earn seven points out of nine - as well as just one defeat in seven - and denied them a crucial opportunity to gain ground in what was their game in hand.
And Moyes, while lamenting the goal that saw Everton transformed from the confident outfit they had appeared in the opening stages, is hoping the loss will spark another good sequence. He said: "I'd settle for that result if we go six or seven games unbeaten again. We've had quite a good run. Tonight was a chance with our game in hand to maybe make things a little bit easier because we took four points from two difficult away games recently. But it wasn't to be. "We'll put it right. I've said to the players, I hope we go on another good run like we've been on before tonight." He added: "Whether we had won or lost we still know we're not out of trouble yet. We know that we're going to have to win a lot more games to make sure that first and foremost we're a Premiership side." A foot injury to James McFadden, which led to the Scot's withdrawal moments before Weir's own goal, had seemed to act as the catalyst for the slide to defeat. But Moyes maintained it was more a mixture of poor defending and West Ham's excellent display than condemned his side to their first defeat since the 4-0 hammering at West Brom. He said: "I thought in that period we looked more likely to make it 2-0 rather than 1-1, but after we lost the goal they got much better. "We made a poor decision in the lead-up to the goal. It was just a poor goal to lose by Premiership standards. We didn't recover after that, and West Ham played well. "I think we were disappointed with the way the goal went in. It went in when we had 10 men on the pitch. It wasn't even a good cross, and that was a disappointment. "I think West Ham played well tonight, and I think there were signs that we looked a bit weary from Sunday." Moyes added: "We started very well, but we found them a handful tonight. "They changed their team. They started with Harewood through the middle with Zamora then after 10 minutes they put Benayoun behind the striker, with Harewood wide right.
"So I think their change caused more problems than ours." The manager added: "We tried to keep going forward and they had a lot of power and pace up front which made things look worse than they perhaps were. "The better team won, we can't really have any complaints about the result."
Meanwhile, West Ham manager Alan Pardew couldn't believe what he had seen after his side moved up to seventh. The Hammers' third away win of the season hoisted them above Wigan, who lost to Manchester United, last night and in the thick of the teams battling for a UEFA Cup spot. "I was pinching myself at some of our play against a team which is bang in form," said Pardew. "We are just trying to have the best season we can. "We are looking above not what is below us and we will continue to do so. "I am very proud of this team and the way they are going about things. "You only have to look at the statistics - they show that you have a 65% chance of winning the game if you score first but we keep putting that to bed."

Hammers boss hails front two
Daily Post
Dec 15 2005
WEST HAM manager Alan Pardew praised his strike pairing after impressive displays against Everton in the win at Goodison Park. Bobby Zamora netted for the third successive game to seal maximum points for the visitors, but Pardew also recognised Marlon Harewood's contribution as the Hammers came from behind to win 2-1 and move up to seventh in the Barclays Premiership. "Our two strikers had different agendas but both were superb," said Pardew. "Bobby gets into some great positions and deserved his goal. Marlon got through a tremendous amount of work for us and that was one of the best displays he has given us." Pardew admitted he was left pinching himself due to the quality of West Ham's approach play in a thoroughly-deserved win. An own goal from Everton captain David Weir restored parity after James Beattie sidefooted the hosts in front. The game's decisive moment came midway through the second period when Matthew Etherington's surge ended with Everton goalkeeper Richard Wright palming the ball into the path of Zamora, who adjusted his momentum to guide home. The scoreline could have been more representative of the promoted Hammers' dominance had Harewood converted some of the chances carved out early in the second half. "I was pinching myself at some of our play against a team which is bang in form," added Pardew. "We are just trying to have the best season we can. "We are looking above, not what is below us, and we will continue to do so. "I am very proud of this team and the way they are going about things."

Keane looks set for move to Celtic
By Rob Brady Daily Post Staff
Dec 15 2005
EVERTON look to have missed out on signing Roy Keane. The former Manchester United skipper was today expected to commit his future to Celtic. Everton manager David Moyes had held talks with the player in a bid to persuade him to move to Goodison, but the ex-Republic of Ireland star is believed to be ready to move north of the border and join the club he supported as a youngster. Keane, who sensationally quit Old Trafford last month, had been courted by Bolton and Real Madrid, as well as Everton. Celtic have so far declined to comment, but the 34-year-old is understood to have already under-gone a medical at Parkhead. However, he would not be eligible to play for his boyhood heroes until the transfer window opens on January 1. News of Keane's expected arrival has gone down well among supporters of the Scottish Premier League leaders. Peter Rafferty, President of the Affiliation of Celtic Supporters Clubs, said: "He would be a great signing for Celtic and most Celtic supporters would love to see it happen."

Everton 1, West Ham 2 (Echo)
Dec 15 2005 By Dominic King
SHUFFLING down the stairs of the Main Stand, hands in pocket and face like thunder as he headed for home, one disgruntled Evertonian muttered the five letter word to perfectly sum up the mood of a ground - tired.. True, there are some who will have had the chance to reflect on last night's disjointed, lethargic performance against West Ham and feel another adjective of similar length would be more appropriate. Draw your own conclusion to what it is. As disappointing and dispiriting as this latest setback is to stomach, though, when it is put into context, there is reason to believe this was just a one-off, a bridge too far for a squad currently battling a number of worrying fitness issues. If the kind of display that reared its ugly head against West Ham had been a regular occurrence, then there would be little room for argument if Everton were today being castigated from pillar to post. Compare it to the kind of displays which have followed the feisty 1-1 draw with Chelsea two months ago and it becomes more evident that Everton took a break from the norm last night - even if it was desperately unwelcome and unexpected. Urged by manager David Moyes in the build-up to the game to make home advantage count, Everton blew their lines in the meekest fashion. West Ham - for all their subtle passing and movement - weren't even made to sweat to take the points. It wasn't good enough, by any stretch of the imagination and the looks on the faces of the Everton players as they left Goodison Park mirrored the expressions of a frustrated, finger-jabbing few in the stands. They had let themselves down. But while that is true, it is also worth remembering Moyes' squad has been stretched to breaking point by injuries and suspensions to key players. Some have gritted their teeth to get points and played on when it would have been easier to sit out. Considering the Herculean effort they put into holding Manchester United on Sunday, perhaps it was inevitable that this game would come too quickly and Everton's able-bodied few would struggle. The key now is to make sure it is nothing more than a blip. Four games in seven days at Christmas will be a concern but Moyes should have key men like Tim Cahill, Andy van der Meyde and Mikel Arteta back at full fitness for that period. Yet it could have been so different. It took Everton a few moments to get into top gear - Paul Konchesky was allowed far too much time to get an early shot in - but when they did, they did so irresistibly, making the most of some naive West Ham defending. There was a sign of things to come when Tony Hibbert picked out Beattie after six minutes, clipping a ball to the near post that Beattie flung himself at to meet but could not divert past Roy Carroll. He did not, however, have long to wait to get his name on the scoresheet for the first time in four matches. McFadden slalomed forward with purpose, wriggling away from Yossi Benayoun before curling in a perfect cross. Beattie gleefully did the rest. Everton's £6m man lacks nothing in confidence, suggesting in a recent interview that he harbours ambitions of playing in next summer's World Cup and if he keeps scoring perhaps - just perhaps - Sven-Goran Eriksson may take notice. That is for the future and it is his Everton career which needs to take top priority at present. But he is getting there. Nine consecutive starts have helped him recapture his best form. Beattie will get better. So, too, will Everton. That doesn ' t disguise the fact, nevertheless, that the game against West Ham was nothing other than a glorious missed opportunity to leap another few places up the table. Somehow Alan Pardew's men were level before the game had reached its first quarter. Failing to heed the early warning they had f rom Konchesky, Everton's defence fatally dithered on the edge of their box and offered Tomas Repka a chance to cross. Sizing up which target he wanted to pick out, Repka angled his centre to the near post and while Nuno Valente and Marlon Harewood both missed it, the ball ricocheted off the unfortunate David Weir past Richard Wright. Cue widespread groans. But the most significant incident of the first half had still to take place. Lamentably, it happened just as Everton were regrouping, when McFadden collided with Repka and was forced to hobble off. The Blues' creative spark followed down the tunnel. From bursting with vim and vigour, Everton's play became inexplicably flat and West Ham were allowed to coast to half-time. There was no huff to go with the puff and Roy Carroll's goal was barely threatened. The malaise continued after the break. Not even the introduction of Arteta - demanded by an increasingly irritable crowd - was enough to raise Everton out of their slumber. Harewood had three good efforts to put the visitors ahead. So it came as no surprise when, on 67 minutes, Bobby Zamora obliged
Etherington had forced a tremendous save out of Wright after skipping past Phil Neville but he was powerless to prevent the former Tottenham striker rolling the ball into an empty net. What followed was as infuriating as it was inept. Everton were unable to muster even the hint of a revival, never mind a shot at Carroll's goal. If anything, it was West Ham who were the most likely to score again. Unsurprising, then, that by the time referee Phillip Walton brought proceedings to a halt, three-quarters of Goodison Park had already scurried off home, cursing the lack of creativity and cunning. They'll be back on Saturday, though, to see the game against Bolton - and hopefully by that time, the squad will have rediscovered their freshness.
EVERTON (4-4-2): Wright; Hibbert (Arteta 60), Yobo, Weir, Valente; Osman, Davies, Neville, Kilbane (Ferguson 68); McFadden (Bent 20), Beattie.
WEST HAM (4-4-2): Carroll; Repka, Ferdinand, Collins, Konchesky; Benayoun, Mullins, Fletcher, Etherington (Dailly 86); Harewood, Zamora (Newton 86).
GOALS: Everton - Beattie (8) West Ham - Weir (o.g 18), Zamora (67)
BOOKINGS: Everton Hibbert (foul 50), Osman (foul 81) West Ham - Fletcher (foul 72)

Injured Van der Meyde targets derby return
Dec 15 2005 Liverpool Echo
ANDY VAN DER MEYDE today provided Evertonians with the perfect pick-me-up by targeting a derby day return to action. The Holland international damaged a thigh in training last week and has missed Everton's last two Premiership games against Manchester United and West Ham amid fears he could be out for anything up to six weeks. However, Van der Meyde has revealed his injury is not as serious as first thought and he has already circled the date in his diary when he wants to re-appear - the Goodison Park showdown with Liverpool on December 28. "I hope I can be back quickly and I hope that I won't be out for too much longer, maybe two more weeks," said Van der Meyde.
"I hope to be back for Liverpool. I always think positively and hope to be ready in time for this game. At the training ground a week ago, I had a shot at goal, it was a hard shot and I strained the muscle in my thigh. "It was very painful at the time but now it feels much better, so I hope that it won't be too long before I can play again." While that news will come as a fillip to manager David Moyes, he will spend today sweating on the fitness of James McFadden who hobbled out of last night's defeat to West Ham with a damaged foot. The Scottish star is due to have a scan today - with worst fears pointing towards a broken metatarsal. Meanwhile, Nuno Valente has insisted that Everton will not be dwelling on their first home defeat since September even though it has come as huge blow to all that the Blues could not build on their promising performance at Old Trafford. Since returning from a six-week lay off with a hamstring problem, Valente has looked sharp and was one of a handful of players who did not allow their standards to drop against West Ham. That, however, came as little consolation to the 31-year-old and he is looking to quickly move on, starting with the game against Bolton on Saturday. "We started well, we started playing good football and scored a good goal but unfortunately they got a goal back and they tried to make things difficult for us," said Valente.

"They got another goal and played good football. We have a game on Saturday and after the whistle, I did not think about that. "All I thought, like everyone else, was that I am disappointed. It's important now to get a home win."

Careless equaliser led to our downfall, says Moyes
Dec 15 2005 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES believes the shock of conceding a sloppy goal contributed more to the Blues' defeat last night than the enforced switch caused by James McFadden's early substitution. The Blues striker had already created the opening goal for James Beattie, when he limped off with a suspected broken foot. And while the Blues were down to 10-men The Hammers drew level when David Weir deflected a cross past his own goalkeeper. "I don't think the early substitution was as damaging as the nature of the goal we conceded," explained Moyes. "It was a poor goal to lose by Premiership standards. We were disappointed by the way it went in. "It wasn't even a good cross. I think that's where the disappointment came from and they got better to be fair. "There was a poor decision in the lead-up to the goal... ach, it was just a poor goal to lose. "But regarding the switch, if you noticed, they changed their team first. "They started with Marlon Harewood down the middle with Zamora and after 10 minutes they changed, put Benayoun behind the striker and Harewood wide right, so I think their change caused more problems than ours really. "West Ham played well and there were signs that we were a little bit weary from Sunday. We started the game very well and were on top of it, but we found them a handful." Hammers' boss Alan Pardew, however, was thrilled by his team's result. It was only West Ham's second victory at Goodison Park in 20 years and he said: "I will remember this night for the rest of my managerial career. "Without meaning any disrespect, we put on a football show. I have a lot of respect for this part of the world and know how difficult it is to come here. "I was pinching myself at some of our play against a team which is bang in form." Moyes, however, is hoping his side now shows a similar reaction to their last upset at West Bromwich Albion. "I'd settle for that result if we go six or seven games unbeaten again like we have just now," he said. "We have had quite a good run and tonight was our game in hand and a chance to maybe make things a little bit easier for ourselves, because we've taken four points from two difficult away games recently and tonight was a chance for three points from a home game.
"It wasn't to be, so we will put it right. "We know we have to win a lot more games to make sure that first and foremost we are a Premiership side."

Refreshed Cahill set for return
Dec 15 2005 Evertonia, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON began preparations today for their second home game in the space of three days boosted by the prospect of Tim Cahill's return. The Australian international has missed the club's last three matches after being found guilty of violent conduct during the victory over Newcastle last month.
But he has now served his suspension and is in contention for a return to the side against Bolton at Goodison on Saturday. Everton assistant boss Alan Irvine believes the Australian international will benefit from the break from competitive action - having played virtually non-stop competitive football for club and country in the last 12 months. He told Evertonia: "Obviously Tim has had a really hard couple of years with the amount of international football he has been playing during the summer months. "And of course there are the demands of moving up from the Championship to the Premiership. This has been an opportunity to get a little bit of a breather and in actual fact we have given him some time off (during his suspension). "Hopefully that has helped him to recharge his batteries and feel refreshed for when he comes back." Cahill was able to enjoy a few days holiday with his family following his suspension. Prior to his suspension Cahill had played 20 matches this season for club and country, including the recent World Cup play-off matches against Uruguay in South America and Sydney.
* EVERTONIA is an exclusive members club for fans of the club that offers a range of fantastic benefits. The ability to buy match tickets for home Premiership games in advance of them going on general sale is a massive advantage to fans purchasing tickets for the derby. Junior members are automatically entered into a draw to be selected as a mascot for matches. Junior membership costs just £9.99, with adult membership £19.99.

The jury
Dec 15 2005 Liverpool Echo
What did you make of last night's performance? LAST NIGHT'S defeat to West Ham is probably the most disappointing result so far this season. After our great performance at Manchester United, we failed to produce the same good form in what should have been a comfortable home win. We started off brightly, playing some nice football and producing a great goal. But once West Ham equalised, all the players' heads dropped and our performance deteriorated as the game went on.
The team lacked quality in all areas and the pride for Everton Football Club was non existent, which has been the story so far this season. Therefore it was not a surprise that West Ham scored another and went on to win the game. It was a disgraceful and humiliating performance that the team collectively should be held responsible for. The club needs to focus on staying in the Premiership and to do so we need to fight for every point, every week rather than only when the 'big games' come around. Moyes needs to get the belief back into the team and attempt to improve performances before this problem gets out of control.
BEN McGRAE Hunts Cross
WHAT a missed opportunity! From what was a chance to get closer to the top of the table and put some distance from the bottom turned into a frustrating and disjointed performance. We just seemed to lose our way when McFadden went off and when we conceded, we never recovered.
As much as you can reserve criticism for the players, Moyes' tactics and substitutions must be questioned. How could he get is so right last week and the week before and for it to go so wrong last night? I would say we are now back where we were some five weeks ago. A crucial and more difficult game beckons on Saturday against Bolton.
THERE are so many negatives, where do I begin? How about the fact that Phil Neville can't pass to a blue shirt. Come to think of it, all of the 'new' players are proving ineffective. But surely by far the worst of the bunch must be Per Kroldrup. Although he hasn't kicked a ball in anger, he must be totally useless if he can't displace David Weir. That's a few negatives out of the way, now on to something that really saddened me; the cruel reality of Duncan Ferguson being past it. I've always been a fan and the sight of him warming up always gave me hope. Last night I knew what to expect and it does seem that Big Dunc has finally lost 'it'. But at least that's preferable to Marcus Bent, who never even had 'it' to lose. The problem with the current Everton team is that, paradoxically we get more positive results when we adopt a more negative attitude. This is my final negative.
THE fact that we showed so much good possession early on, only compounds the misery. For 15 minutes it looked as if, for once, we were going to be able to sit back and enjoy some good football and a few goals. Sadly, that is no longer the Everton way. The way in which we fell apart shows that the team's confidence is still fragile. It is difficult to decide the more important factor in the team's demise: The own goal or the loss of McFadden. Substitute Bent continued his 12-month long sulk and seemed to spread nerves wherever he decided to wander. Sadly, as is so often the case with Everton, the combination of Arteta, Van der Meyde, Beattie and McFadden in attacking positions, which had looked so promising, has been torn apart by injury. We can only hope that enough injured players and indeed enough confidence can be restored by Saturday.

Stubbs to be denied return to Goodison
By David Prior Daily Post Staff
Dec 16 2005
ALAN STUBBS is unlikely to be granted a return to Everton in the January transfer window. Reports yesterday claimed that the central defender was keen for a way back to Merseyside - where his family are still based - as he is unhappy at struggling Sunderland. Former skipper Stubbs, 34, left Goodison in the summer after turning down the club's offer of a one-year contract extension. He later suggested his decision to leave was influenced by Everton's insistence on a clause written into the contract relating to the cancer he had beaten four years ago. The club fiercely denied the allegation, and the bad blood created by the allegations should prevent any hope of a reunion now. Another player who won't be coming to Goodison in the new year is Preston's David Nugent.
Much speculation has linked the 20-year-old striker with his boyhood heroes, although manager David Moyes has denied any interest. And now the England Under-21 international has sought to end the rumours himself, revealing he is close to signing an extension to his contract at Deepdale - which already runs until 2008. He said: "(Preston manager) Billy (Davies) has made it clear to me I won't be leaving in January and I'm happy with that. "There are clubs interested in me but I'm a Preston player and hopefully I will be for the remainder of my contract. "I'm hopefully going to be signing a new contract and over the next few weeks there will be talk of sorting it out, so me and my agent will be looking at a new contract or an extension for more years, and I hope that I can see them all out here. "Being an Everton fan I always wanted to play for them when I was kid so for them to be interested in me is fantastic. "But I'm still only young and I've got a lot of years left in the game, so hopefully in a few years' time when I've got more experience I could go there." Meanwhile, there is still no news relating to the extent of the foot injury suffered by striker James McFadden against West Ham on Wednesday.

Moyes calls for Everton to rekindle form
By Richard Gibson, Daily Post
Dec 16 2005
EVERTON manager David Moyes has challenged his team to reproduce the kind of form prior to Wednesday night's 2-1 defeat to West Ham. They came into the contest having taken 14 points from their previous seven matches and Moyes said: "I told the players after the match that we had been in a good run and to put this run aside and try to make sure we go on another good run.
"We have to look at the bigger picture. If you take the last eight games we have been in a good stretch of form. "If we get one of these every so often where we win four or five and draw a couple I will settle for that." Meanwhile matchwinner Bobby Zamora is hoping he has proved his Premiership class after a third goal in as many games shot West Ham into seventh place. Zamora, 24, netted the winner at Goodison Park to cap a memorable 10 days which also included him scoring at Birmingham and Blackburn. Given his chance up front, the former Tottenham striker has begun to hit the kind of streak which encouraged top-flight teams to take note following success with Brighton. Deemed a failure at White Hart Lane Zamora is revelling in rebuilding his reputation, among Alan Pardew's happy family in his native east London. "Glenn Hoddle was the manager who signed me for Spurs and football is about opinions so if a new manager comes in and does not take a liking to you, that is part and parcel of the game," said Zamora. "There is no bitterness. "But if you went five games without scoring at Tottenham people called you a failure. "Alan Shearer goes 10 or 12 games and nothing happens, Jermain Defoe 10 or 12 games, nothing, Peter Crouch, nothing.
"I am a confident lad, I know what I can do and I have proved that in the last couple of weeks."

Sponsor insult
Post Soapbox, icLiverpool & Daily Post
Dec 16 2005
WHEN the announcer said that the Everton-West Ham game was being sponsored by the 'News of the World', my suspicions were aroused. Glancing round the stadium there it was in the Bullens Road Stand, the billboard for 'The Sun'. What were Everton doing taking tainted money from the newspaper that lied about the Hillsborough tragedy? Maybe newcomer and Everton Chief Executive Keith Wyness could take time out from his busy schedule to meet the Hillsborough Justice Campaign and gain some understanding and insight into why both sets of supporters to this day boycott 'The Sun'. Sorry Keith, but when someone calls your family 'scum', you don't invite them back into your house. 'The Sun' didn't just insult Liverpool Football Club, they tried to trash the whole city. The grief was shared across the city - that's why the first scarf laid at Anfield in memory of Hillsborough was a blue one.
Richard Knights, Liverpool 12
Blind faith
WHAT a woeful team Everton have become this season. Anyone up for a European tour then? Bolton are! Middlesbrough are! And we have the cheek, and that's what it is, to insult the only team on Merseyside who actually win things. If Gerrard Houllier had won what he did with Liverpool while at Goodison Park, the club would have named a stand after him. But Liverpool sack him and get an even better coach; that's what happens when you strive for success. There is too much apathy at Everton to ever aspire to the levels our neighbours have set, and too much blind faith in an unproven manager.
Brian Barnes (via e-mail)
Derby fears
I WATCHED the Liverpool match. Now I'm not bothering to go on the 28th -we're going to get well beaten. They look ominous.
Frank Harrison, Newton
Without fear
I AM a loyal follower of the club of the people. Let me tell you we will avoid relegation this year and next year we will be the best again as we will buy Robbie Keane from Spurs and Robbie Savage from Blackburn.
Barry Blewitt, Wrexham
No consistency
THIS IS now the worst and most inconsistent Everton team I have witnessed. Beaten at home by newly promoted clubs means the writing is on the wall for the future.
Geoff Jenkins (via e-mail)

Defeat bursts the Everton bubble
By Mark O'Brien Everton supporter, Daily Post
Dec 16 2005
WHAT A difference 90 minutes make. Before Everton played West Ham, everyone was feeling justifiably bullish following one of our best performances at Old Trafford in years. The 1-1 draw against Manchester United - that could so easily have ended up as an Everton win - coming on the back of victories against Newcastle and Blackburn, looked like final proof that the team was well and truly over their early season problems. And when James Beattie netted the opener it looked as if that good form was set to continue. It was disappointing, then, to see Everton surrender so meekly after David Weir's own goal and allow West Ham - who are a decent side but no world-beaters - to out-play them for long periods. David Moyes' tactical nous was applauded on Sunday when he switched to a five-man midfield to try and stifle the influence of Paul Scholes, but his decision to do something similar at home to the Hammers looked less inspiring. James McFadden was unlucky to get injured at a time when he's playing relatively well, but Moyes' decision to then put Marcus Bent on the wing and have Leon Osman in some sort of ill-defined floating role made Everton look disjointed and awkward. Too often this season, one substitution seems to necessitate three or four changes in the line-up, inevitably with one of the full backs being sacrificed and Phil Neville dropping back. It's no wonder that the players often struggle to get into any sort of rhythm. If Everton don't improve considerably against Bolton Wanderers tomorrow then they shouldn't be surprised if they once again take nothing from a home game. Thankfully Tim Cahill will be returning from his enforced absence and will presumably go straight back into the starting line-up. While there was clearly a certain logic behind the decision to reward the players who played so well at Old Trafford, West Ham were a completely different proposition and it seemed odd to only use Mikel Arteta for the last half hour, although Moyes was perhaps mindful of the Spaniard's recent injury problem.
There were a few, admittedly very quiet, whisperings about UEFA Cup places, but Wednesday certainly put paid to all that - the game in hand is gone and those teams in the bottom three no longer look quite so far away.

Dane in line for Blues debut
Dec 16 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
PER KROLDRUP is in line to make his long-awaited Everton debut tomorrow if Joseph Yobo fails to recover from a shoulder injury. The Danish international was the most expensive of the Blues' seven summer signings - he cost £5.1m when joining from Udinese in July -but so far injury and the form of Yobo and David Weir has left him a frustrated spectator. That, though, could change against Bolton Wanderers. Yobo, who will be given every chance to prove his fitness, had a scan on his shoulder yesterday to determine how badly he was injured during the 2-1 defeat against West Ham on Wednesday night. But if Yobo does not receive the green light that will see Kroldrup -a non-playing substitute in the last seven matches - will be thrust into battle as Everton seek to get back to winning ways against a physical Bolton side. Yobo, however, is not the only fitness worry that manager David Moyes has, as it is still unclear whether James McFadden will be available for selection after damaging his foot. Moyes will decide tomorrow morning. In brighter news, Moyes has Tim Cahill back after a three-match suspension and he hinted that Mikel Arteta could be ready to return to the starting line-up after starting from the bench against West Ham. "We haven't done too badly without Tim," said Moyes. "We didn't miss him at Blackburn and we didn't miss him at Manchester United, but it is good to get him back in the squad. He shouldn't have been suspended in the first place. "The performance of the players over the last six or seven weeks has been really good. Mikel has been part of that but he wasn't part of the squad that went to Manchester United and got a good result. "That is why we went with the same team against West Ham. Mikel has played very well for us this season and he was a bit unfortunate to be out." Moyes, meanwhile, is preparing to renew acquaintances with his old pal, Sam Allardyce. "It's always a tough game against Bolton,"
Moyes added. "They are hard to play against, always putting you under pressure and they try to play around the edge of your box. "Sam has done really well to take Bolton to the levels that they are at."

Nuno transfer bid a bolt from the Blue
Dec 16 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
HAD Sam Allardyce followed up a tentative phone call with a firm offer, Nuno Valente could have been wearing white rather than blue at Goodison Park tomorrow afternoon. The Bolton manager has cultivated a 'wheeler dealer' reputation for himself in recent years, given the way he scours the continent looking for bargains, and shortly after Euro 2004 his search for a left-back took him to Valente's door. Valente was a member of the Portugal squad which reached the European Championship final against Greece, not to mention a Champions League and UEFA Cup winner, so Allardyce could not question his credentials. There were, however, a few obstacles in the way. Firstly, FC Porto had just seen manager Jose Mourinho move to Chelsea, taking Paolo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho - two of the Portuguese champions' vaunted defence - with him to Stamford Bridge. They were loathe to lose another. The other stumbling block was a transfer fee. More used to bringing in players on Bosmans, Allardyce simply didn't have the funds to finance a deal and pursued other options. Bolton's loss looks to be Everton's gain. Some people may have questioned David Moyes' wisdom in signing the 31-year-old in the summer, particularly after a couple of shaky displays in his initial weeks at the club coincided with Everton's disastrous run of form. A hamstring injury sustained against Chelsea on October 23 also meant that he was forced to sit on the sidelines for six weeks, just as he was starting to show glimpses of his true worth. But since returning to the team in last weekend's 1-1 draw with Manchester United, Valente has looked much brighter. Ask Park Ji-Sung and Cristiano Ronaldo, both of whom were never given a look-in at Old Trafford.
Valente was also one of a handful of players to emerge from Wednesday night's 2-1 defeat to West Ham with credit, motoring up and down the flank as he tried in vain to keep Everton's recent run of form going. Unable to take solace from his own display, in the tunnel afterwards his thoughts immediately switched to Bolton. Though the irony was not lost that he could have played for Allardyce, there was only one thought on Valente's mind. "Yes, there was an interest from Bolton," Valente confirmed. "But at this moment, Everton are the most important thing for me. I would want to win on Saturday no matter who we were playing, so it doesn't matter that it is Bolton.
The last few weeks have been good for us and we have played good football. But we will try and turn the situation around and start to play like the Everton teams have done before. "It is good because the motivation is there to get into the top half of the league and we can recover. They have missed out on getting three points against Aston Villa and they have had a difficult game. We need to be at our best in the next few games." Playing four matches in eight days over the Christmas period may come as a culture shock to Valente, but it is a challenge he is ready for and he is well aware of the need to start picking up points. West Ham offered Everton the golden opportunity to put daylight between themselves and the relegation zone, so it is not difficult to understand the sense of frustration in the camp. Valente is desperate to put things right. "We started well, started to play good football and we scored a good goal," he reflected. "But we were a bit unfortunate they got a goal back and they tried to make things difficult for us. "After the goal, we played some good football and worked hard. It was unfortunate that we lost. I do not like to feel like that after the game. We are very disappointed. "We could have gone half way up the table. But we have to forget about this and hope to win the next one we play to start the good run again." As eager as he is for the team's form to pick up, Valente still feels Evertonians have yet to see his best. Bit by bit, he is learning to deal with the pace of English football and immersing himself in a new culture. "I am happy because when I first came here, I had not had a good preparation with Porto," he added. "I had been training with the B team for the six weeks before I came to England. It was difficult because I had to get my body used to English football. "But I feel that I am in better physical shape now. Every game I am getting better. I know more about the country and am getting used to living in a new city. It was a very difficult time for me at Porto towards the end. "I feel normal now. I feel comfortable. I am at 90 per cent but maybe I want to get to 120 per cent!"

Why Sam's so anxious to put one over rival
Dec 16 2005 Liverpool Echo
SAM ALLARDYCE hopes to inflict more disappointment on David Moyes tomorrow after both Bolton and Everton missed out on the acquisition of Roy Keane. Allardyce insisted Wanderers were serious alternatives to Celtic in the chase for free agent Keane, who quit Manchester United last month.
The 34-year-old, who also interested Everton, opted to join the club he supported as a youngster rather than spearhead the Lancashire club's challenge for UEFA Cup honours and a top-six Barclays Premiership finish. "We will probably both cry over our beer after the game but I hope I am not crying as much as Dave because we have got a result against him!" declared Allardyce, ahead of the Barclays Premiership encounter at Goodison Park. "Not being able to clinch Roy's signing is particularly disappointing because that is a world class player you are talking about. "He was a top class player who, on January 1, I could put into the team and say 'this man is going to make us better'. "I had no doubts at all about that. Where I can go and find that now is virtually impossible."

Keane suggested he gave serious thought to a move closer to home but wanted a change of scene rather than continue his career in England, following 13 years with United. "We were right there as one of the two or three clubs he was going to choose from," added Bolton boss Allardyce. "When you come so close, yet so far, it is an even bigger disappointment than just a straightforward 'no'.
"Yet I am pleased we got to the stage we did, the way the negotiations went and by the fact it does not appear to be the financial side of it where Roy has made the choice. "It's down to his childhood dream of playing for Celtic and to the size and pull of that football club. We would like to wish him all the very best." One former international midfielder who is thrilled to be involved with Bolton this weekend is Welshman Gary Speed, a lifelong Everton fan and former Toffee. "I love playing against them, especially at Goodison Park," said Speed. "I supported them as a kid and it is a fantastic stadium."

Struggling with work-rate and energy
Dec 16 2005 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON'S leg-weary performance against West Ham on Wednesday has given David Moyes some festive food for thought. He rewarded his heroes from Old Trafford by naming the same starting line-up - but they didn't have the energy, the appetite or the legs to justify that thinking.
It is a problem Everton have suffered from for years - and why Moyes has desperately tried to reduce the average of his squad. With a gameplan based on work-rate and energy, when they are faced with more than one match a week, they struggle. After an important Boxing Day defeat of Manchester City last Christmas, they lost 2-0 at Charlton. They were destroyed by Spurs a few days later. The wretched FA Cup upset at Shrewsbury came at the end of a gruelling four-match in 10-days sequence. And from Boxing Day this year, the Blues have four games in eight days.
If Blues fans are not going to endure an unhappy Christmas once again, Moyes may have to rotate his squad as well as his resources will allow. That could mean Matteo Ferrari, Duncan Ferguson, Kevin Kil-bane and Lord Lucan's lovechild himself, Per Kroldrup, all being pressed into action. Otherwise Wednesday's weary display won't be the last.

The land of make believe
Dec 16 2005 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID WEIR and Alan Stubbs were offered identical contract extensions by Everton last summer.
And neither was happy with the terms. But Weir bit the bullet - and stayed on - while Stubbs opted for a year at Sunderland, with the 'added security' of a year's option. Weir has played every minute of every Premiership match this season, Stubbs has been in and out of the Sunderland starting line-up. Now, according to that impeccable source "a friend of Stubbs," Alan "is unhappy at Sunderland" finds the "travelling very difficult" and "would like to go back to Everton, and ideally would like to move next month when the transfer window opens." Really? Well, while we're playing make-believe, I would like to play centre-forward for Real Madrid, on my 43rd birthday later this month, and allow Halle Berry to pop peeled grapes into my mouth at half-time, wearing that swimsuit she sported in the last James Bond movie. I would say my chances are marginally better than Alan's.

Ferguson's Goodison career nearing an end
By Christopher Beesley Daily Post Staff
Dec 17 2005
DUNCAN FERGUSON'S Everton career could be over as early as next month after manager David Moyes revealed his fears that the centre-forward could finally be losing his long-term battle with injuries. Although there is no specific ailment preventing Ferguson from turning out - he's featured in all but two of the side's fixtures this season - the player,, who turns 34 in 10 days' time, has admitted to Moyes that he feels that he may no longer be able to compete at the top level. Moyes said: "Duncan is struggling. He's considering calling it a day as his body is finding it hard. "He's going to look at his future in January as he is possibly not feeling at his best. "He's feeling as if he's ready to make a decision as over the last month or so he's been struggling and has been a little down."
Moyes also confirmed that it was Ferguson himself who came to him to discuss the frustrations he has been experiencing. He said: "Duncan approached me and it's been very tough on him. "His body and his legs are very sore and he's not feeling as if he's up for it. "Generally, that's the way he feels. "I spoke to him and he maybe feels that he can't still perform at this level. "You've got to give him credit for being open and honest about it." Moyes believes that it is the player's personal pride that has led to his admission. He said: "Duncan finds it hard not being able to make the kind of impact that he would like in matches and that's what is hurting him. "I don't think that it has anything to do with him not playing all the time. "He did well for us last season, often coming on for us as a substitute and scoring crucial goals. "It was those displays that earned him a new contract until the end of this season." If Ferguson does decided to call time on his Goodison career, it will serve to heighten the need to bring in additional striking forces to the club when the transfer window opens in January.

Moyes tried to bring back Speed
By Ken Gaunt, Daily Post
Dec 17 2005
DAVID MOYES has revealed that he tried to bring former Wales captain Gary Speed back to Everton.
Speed decided to join Bolton in a £750,000 move from Newcastle in July 2004 despite a number of other offers. Such was his impact in his debut season that Bolton qualified for European competition for the first time. They are now scheduled to face Marseille in the last 32 of the UEFA Cup in February. Moyes was disappointed at missing out on securing the services of lifelong Everton fan Speed, who made 50 league appearances for the club between July 1996 and 1998. "I rate Gary Speed very highly," said the Everton manager. "I would have liked to have brought him back here before he went to Bolton. "He has done really well there and been a good signing for them.
"Gary certainly does not play as a 36-year-old, that's for sure."

Everton goalkeeper signs on loan deal for Chester
Dec 17 2005 By Neil Turner, Daily Post
CHESTER CITY have signed the Everton goalkeeper John Ruddy on a temporary basis, after the Football League gave them special permission to register an emergency loan player.
City's squad has been decimated by injuries and suspensions, but with first-choice keeper Chris Mackenzie and reserve-team shot-stopper Ryan Brookfield both sidelined by injury, they had a major goalkeeping crisis and faced the prospect of selecting an outfield player to wear the number one jersey. Ruddy, who joined Everton from Cambridge United during the summer, has signed for City initially on a seven-day loan arrangement, which will be reviewed by the Football League next weekend. Ironically the 19-year-old Cornishman had a loan spell with Rushden & Diamonds and City manager Keith Curle was relieved to see his injury problems eased, if only temporarily. He said: "John is a quality goalkeeper who has a bright future ahead of him in football. "We are thankful to both the Football League for allowing this emergency loan to proceed and also to Everton who have come to our rescue in our hour of need." Curle continued: "Selection is simple this week, basically anybody that is available is in. It is no use moaning about the situation.

Everton 0, Bolton 4 (D,Post)
Dec 19 2005 By David Prior at Goodison Park, Daily Post
WHAT a difference a year makes. On derby day 12 months ago, Tim Cahill clambered on top of a pile of his celebrating team-mates, stuck his arm in the air and created what became the iconic image of a season in which his team, too, scaled previously unchartered heights. It was a picture that spoke of the renewal within Everton, of the optimism and pride that Cahill and Co were bringing back to the blue half of Merseyside, and of the excitement at what the future, surely, had in store. Some future. In hindsight, that glorious win over Liverpool offered as false a dawn as there can be, even for supporters who have known more gloomy mornings than an Icelandic winter in recent years.
An afternoon that appeared to represent a genuine redressing of the local balance does instead seem to have been the catalyst for the wildly differing fortunes of the sides since. Fortunes that now see one peering down from the top of the (European) world, the other still tumbling inexorably down the mountainside. Where will it all end? For while Everton have managed to gain a foothold once or twice over the past few months, the overall gravity of decline has eventually seen their fall continue at ever more blurring speeds. Don't dwell too much on this result. It wasn't a 4-0. While the game was still live, Saturday witnessed nothing as pitiful as the West Brom defeat. On another day, Everton would have walked off with a goalless draw and Sam Allardyce would have felt less hard done-by than he did in the reverse fixture in August, when his side won the shots competition 17-3 yet lost 1-0. But in denying it 'season's worst' status,, there's no doubt which prize this result wins hands-down. This, without doubt, was Everton's Most Worrying Result so far. It witnessed a nightmarish reprise of the kind of capitulation that so ended their European interest on that black night in Bucharest. Then it was four minutes of madness that killed the contest; now it's five.
Then, just as on Saturday, Everton displayed organisational abilities that were nothing short of inept.
They showed an utter lack of understanding of the need to 'shut up shop', to take stock and rebuild rather than dissolve like snowmen in a desert. Again, they proved themselves leaderless in a crisis - and that's not just David Weir's fault; if there's one thing more lacking than a Goodison goal this season, it's collective responsibility. Consider this: had Weir been substituted and Phil Neville injured on Saturday, just who would have been thrown the captain's armband? Exactly. And that's quite an indictment for a team averaging 27-years-old - Chelsea's John Terry, for instance, has only just celebrated his 25th. But even if Winston Churchill had been skipper on Saturday, he's unlikely to have answered the biggest problem of all - the extraordinary lack of goals that is so anchoring Everton this season. It's a tale of attacking failure that increasingly explains the panic that appears to set in whenever Everton go a goal down these days. Panic that reflects the innate belief in the team that there's no-one around to hit the target. When you're scoring once every 191 minutes, as David Moyes's side are in the league this term, that's an under-standable feeling to have. And what of Moyes himself? He was eager to take the blame himself on Saturday, but secretly he must have felt like severing all association with the men he had sent out two hours earlier. He must have wondered quite why he'd made such a fuss of Cahill's three-match ban - the returning Australian was virtually anonymous all afternoon on Saturday. As a former defender himself, he must have appreciated the full dreadfulness of that second-half cave-in. His verdict - "if you go to the parks on a Sunday morning you will not see goals as bad as the ones we conceded," - was rightfully meant to embarrass those responsible. He needs new players desperately. He needs a striker - an outand-out, goalscoring marksman - as early in the January transfer window as possible. The others do not necessarily need to be bought. The time has surely arrived to summon Per Kroldrup from hibernation - the reasons for continuing to harbour him from Premiership exposure have now evaporated. Lee Carsley's midfield presence is missed more than ever. Similarly, Andy van der Meyde's crossing ability. And with Duncan Ferguson evidently nearing the end, James Vaughan's return to fitness must be followed by an increased presence on the bench. Moyes needs all these players. Although doubts are beginning to emerge about whether his message is actually getting through anymore, he cannot be reasonably judged while his resources remain so thin. Any doubt over Bolton's attitude ended after 36 seconds when Kevin Davies delivered a challenge on Phil Neville that was at best clumsy, at worst a version of battery. It left the former Manchester United player in obvious, handwaving pain on the floor, but he was able to continue after a couple of minutes' treatment. Davies' tackle, while thank-fully proved the peak of Bolton's ferocity, nevertheless set the tone for the bruising approach the visitors are justifiably renowned for. Physically overawed, Everton were bullied out of any kind of shape or rhythm. Not that Bolton therefore deserved the goal that came their way after 32 minutes. Having failed to test Richard Wright at all - a skied clearance from the Goodison number two had in fact provided his main source of worry up to that point - Stelios took a free-kick from the left that Davies headed beyond Wright and into the far corner. James Beattie's attempted clearance was fractionally too late for the assistant referee; Davies's 18-game hunt for a goal was over. Unlucky as they were to be behind, Everton found little joy in their attempts to seek parity. The likes of Bruno N'Gotty and Radhi Jaidi were hulking barriers to that. Before Leon Osman came on to test Jussi Jaaskelainen twice late on - the latter resulting in another missed sitter from Beat-tie - Everton were scarcely allowed a glimpse at goal. By that stage, of course, it was four. First substitute Ricardo Vaz Te was afforded the freedom of Good-ison to set up Stelios's first. Then Nuno Valente carelessly hauled down Davies for Gary Speed to convert from the spot. Finally Stelios again, gleefully taking advantage of a defence bearing more gifts than the half-time blue Santa, rifled high past Wright. Four chances, four goals for Bolton. Unlike that UEFA Cup debacle or even the Hawthorns horror, this is one result that can't be casually dismissed as a blip. While not quite as bad, it is more damaging than either because it has confirmed the full breadth of the decline. There's now no question of the sweeping nature of the problems suggested at various other times this season, and indeed this calendar year.
Answering those problems will determine nothing less than the club's Premiership survival. Happy Christmas, Evertonians.
EVERTON (4-4-1-1): Wright; Hibbert (Osman 77), Yobo, Weir, Valente; Arteta, Neville, Cahill, Davies; McFadden; Beattie. Subs: Kroldrup, Bent, Turner, Kilbane. BOOKINGS: Hibbert (ungentlemanly conduct), Neville (foul).
BOLTON (4-3-2-1): Jaaskelainen; O'Brien, Jaidi, N'Gotty, Speed; Faye (Djetou 84), Okocha (Hunt 67), Nolan; Diouf (Vaz Te 73), Giannakopoulos; Davies. Subs: Walker, Nakata. BOOKINGS: Davies (foul), Faye (deliberate handball).
ATT: 34,500.
NEXT GAME: Aston Villa v Everton, Barclays Premiership, Boxing Day, 3pm

'Sorry' Spaniard in pledge to Goodison fans
By David Prior Daily Post Staff
Dec 19 2005
MIKEL ARTETA promised that he and his team-mates would seek to learn from the "many mistakes" that saw Everton sink to their worst home defeat in 12 years. The Goodison side crumpled to a second home defeat in three days, and a fifth in all in the Premiership, as Bolton's 4-0 win exacted emphatic revenge for Everton's victory at the Reebok Stadium earlier this season. It also conclusively ended hopes that Everton had emerged from their early season form, and they now enter a hectic Christmas programme only four points clear of the relegation zone. And Arteta, who admitted he felt "sorry" for the fans who had been at Goodison on Saturday, claimed Everton now had to regroup and look to improve in every area of the team. He said: "We're really disappointed and really sad, and we need to try to think why we're doing badly. We aren't scoring and we made so many mistakes - we created the goals for them I think. "It's unbelievable and playing at home you feel even more disappointed. It's not the first time this season when we've conceded so many goals, and it was an awful afternoon for us. It's disappointing as well because we had two games at home and it was a chance for us to move up the table. We need to analyse what happened because I think we played in their half for almost all the game and tried to create things and at the end of the day we lost the game again. "I don't think we deserved to lose 4-0 but at the end of the day it was a 4-0 defeat. We need to try and forget this as soon as we can. "Now we have so many games coming up that are very important for us. We need to try and get up for the next one. There are so many games to play and now we need to improve our performances." Two goals from Stelios Giannakopoulos, a Gary Speed penalty and a Kevin Davies header earned Bolton what was in the end a flattering margin of victory. But midfielder Arteta said the play-ers were playing a part in their own downfall. He added: "We need to improve a bit of everything. We've been a little bit unlucky, but that's not all, because that doesn't make you lose so many games. "Today we have made so many mistakes and we have created the goals for them and made life easy for them when they weren't doing anything.
"You feel very sorry for the fans because they come here and even when we were losing 4-0 they were still singing 'Everton, Everton'. "You can't really say anything apart from thanking them for their support, you can't really ask anything else from them because they have been very understanding with the team. Last year was very good and they've accepted that this year is different and that says a lot about them. "All we can say if that we'll try as hard as we can to have better performances.
"Depending on how we manage this situation, we can get the confidence up and start getting results. We now have eight or nine days to prepare for the next game. We really need to think about what we need to do in few games." Bolton manager Sam Allardyce, meanwhile, believes the result fired a warning shot to the Premiership's leading pack. He declared: "This is a fantastic result for us and it will make everyone else stand up and watch out. If it was Arsenal you would be raving about the quality of the finishes, so why not do the same about us? "They were outstanding goals, especially the ones from Stelios Allardyce was thrilled with the way his team responded after securing a place in the last 32 of the UEFA Cup in midweek. The Bolton manager continued: "I am so pleased for Kevin. He had become ever more anxious about his scoring rate. "This time around it was an unlikely one as the ball just popped up on his head and went over Richard Wright.
"It was a crucial goal and we have gone on to punish Everton severely. "Once we weathered the storm and made the breakthrough the game changed. "Everton had a lot of pressure without really threatening us. We rose to the challenge when they threw balls into our box, our defending and mid-field units held firm. "We have gone and picked them off. When they've tired, we have introduced some fresh players and destroyed them in the last 15 minutes."

Moyes: Worse than Sunday park football
By David Prior Daily Post Staff
Dec 19 2005
DAVID MOYES could not believe the poor defending that saw his side fall to their worst Goodison defeat in 12 years. Three second-half goals in five minutes condemned Everton to a second home defeat in three days, leaving them back in the relegation mire. He said: "If you go to the parks on a Sunday morning you will not see goals as bad as the ones we conceded "One was a short pass, another a blatant penalty-kick, and finally one came from a slip. They were very poor goals and it is difficult to say I could have done a lot about that. "I don't think it was a 4-0 scoreline - we shouldn't have been down at half-time. We played well in that period. We tried to create chances, we tried to create openings. "But the end result is frustrating and disappointing. We've had to endure two bad home games after a decent run. They are poor results by our standards." Everton now have a seven-day break before they begin a run of four games in eight days over the Christmas period. And Moyes is firmly of the belief that his players then deserve a more substantial break than they are presently afforded. "Too much is expected of Premier-ship players, and supporters as well, with all those games crammed in," he said.. "This year it looks as though they have tried to squeeze one more game in. That's too much if you are a loyal fan. My preference would be to play on January 1 then shut down for two weeks. We could start the season a week early if need be. "I don't think we will ever change the format where Boxing Day is a big football day. People want to get out of the house and be entertained. I am all for that." Two-goal Bolton midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos blasted the "aggres-sive" nature of the Everton fans. The Greek international said: "It is very hard to play in front of a crowd like that. They were very aggressive, and that is the first time I have seen it that bad in England. "They booed for every throw-in and every free-kick, much harsher than any other game I have played here. "Maybe they are frustrated because their team is not doing well. That must be hard to take after last season, when they did brilliantly. Being on a bad run affects the players' confidence, and maybe it is having a bad effect on the crowd as well." Meanwhile former Evertonian Gary Speed, added: "The whole objective was to get three points and there was no extra delight because it was against my old club Everton. "I'll be looking at the results next week and hoping to see that Everton have won. "Apart from this game, I am still an Everton fan. I thought we were poor in the first half where Everton had the better game. Fortunately, we got a goal to go in at half-time and once the second goal went in the result was never in doubt."

It's all about today's results
By Ken Stewart, Daily Post
Dec 19 2005
EXPLAINING what went wrong on Saturday is a fairly simple task. It's just that it involves a few choice words, so I'll tone it down; we were rather poor. While we had plenty of the ball, what did we do with it exactly? Pass it across the midfield and then what? Knock it back to Wright, who would then either fluff his kick or send it straight back to their keeper. It's not that we're poor, we were dire.
We can't pass a ball around; the first thing a footballer should be able to do is pass. Other teams knock it round with what seems to be plenty of confidence. Our players get edgy if there's someone within 50 yards of them. The one player who can create something, Arteta, is often alone in terms of ability and support. He has to try and work his own way out of the corner while the rest of the team stand and watch. Up front we do "try" and put in a bit of an effort. But the defence are so insistent on missing out the midfield that any ball that comes the forwards' way is usually over head height.
The defence is too slow. While David Moyes had been loyal to the core, David Weir cannot keep getting into the team because of loyalty. We're in a business of results. We need those results and we're not getting them and sadly he's failed us twice in a week. In goal Wright keeps his record of not keeping a clean sheet in? Answers on a postcard. Seven goals in a week; at least it's not seven in a match. Everton are one of the worst sides in the league. It doesn't matter how the side looks on paper, it's what they do on the pitch and sadly for the first time this season doubts are starting to creep in about Moyes, well for me anyway. I want Moyes to stay. His achievements in the past have put him in high regard, but it's the present which is the most important.

Everton 0, Bolton 4 (Echo)
Dec 19 2005 By Dominic King
'TIS the season to be jolly, we are told so often at this time of year. Is it really? Following this latest inexplicable effort at Goodison Park, where on earth will Evertonians find festive cheer? Certainly not from their side's Premiership campaign, which can best be described as schizophrenic. How does a team that defends like lions and takes points off Chelsea and Manchester United contrive to take nothing from home games against West Ham and Bolton? Up and down, up and down, Everton yo-yo from the sublime to the ridiculous each week. When will it stop? Why is it so difficult for the team to find consistency? Where have all the mistakes come from? Is anyone really enjoying this stomach churning campaign that promised so much but is delivering little other than heartache and frustration? From having looked as if they had atoned for their shambolic start to the season with a steady run of results - West Brom apart - between the middle of October and the beginning of December, all of a sudden the alarm bells are ringing again. Loudly. While everyone was in agreement after Saturday's defeat that Bolton were not four goals better than Everton, the most worrying aspect was the way David Moyes' side fell asunder after Stelios had scored Bolton's second goal. It never used to be happen. Looking ragged and heavy-legged, Everton lost their shape in an alarming manner and never mustered the hint of a revival. Leon Osman and James McFadden may have had a couple of shots in the dying minutes but that was only after Bolton had eased down.
A couple of seasons ago, Everton were fantastic at salvaging games from seemingly hopeless situations. Until the final whistle was blown, the Blues were always in with a chance. It's hard to argue that point this time around. Quite simply, if Everton fall behind in a match, they lose. From the moment Kevin Davies - booked after 36 seconds for scything down Phil Neville - nodded Bolton ahead just after the half hour, there was a sad inevitability about what would happen. Pessimism? Hardly. Everton have played eight home matches in the Premiership since they got things under way in August against Manchester United. They have won twice, drawn one and scored four goals, conceding eleven. They are damning statistics. But the bitter irony is that this was not the worst Everton have played this year. No. The shambles at The Hawthorns takes that dubious honour, closely followed by the defeats against Dinamo Bucharest, Manchester City and Portsmouth.
It still wasn't very good. While they matched a Bolton side who will accumulate more points than admirers because of their unedifying style, there was very little to worry their goalkeeper Jussi Jasskelainen, despite Everton having 66% of possession. Although Tim Cahill, Mikel Arteta and Simon Davies were all bright and busy, they couldn't fashion anything for the helpless James Beattie, who took a buffeting from the colossal Bruno N'Gotty and Radhi Jaidi. Everton were still in there pitching when McFadden had a goal correctly disallowed on 72 minutes for offside but few could have predicted what would happen in the ensuing moments, as Bolton took full advantage of some woeful defending. Joseph Yobo and David Weir have quite often been outstanding this year but neither will look back with any fondness at this offering. Weir's careless pass led to the second goal, while Yobo was partly culpable for the fourth, both scored by Stelios. One wonders how fit Yobo actually was on Saturday. He damaged his shoulder heavily against West Ham and appeared to play with some kind of strapping on his hand against Bolton. But if he wasn't 100%, what does that say about Per Kroldrup? Moyes paid £5.1m to sign the Danish international from Udinese and while hernia surgery ruled him out of the opening weeks, he has been injury free for the last few months. Sitting and suffering will hardly do his confidence any good, will it? Kroldrup should, fitness permitting, get a chance when Yobo heads off to the African Nations Cup in the New Year but will he get any action during the Christmas period when Everton play four games in eight days? If not, why not? Sandwiched in between Stelios' double was a penalty converted by Gary Speed after Nuno Valente had hauled down Kevin Davies. There were no complaints as referee Alan Wiley pointed to the spot. Richard Wright cut a forlorn figure as he picked the ball out of the net after that and it has hard not to feel a degree of sympathy with the one time England international. He couldn't be faulted for any of the goals. Yet, once again, he was between the posts for a thumping defeat, just as he was against Spurs on New Year's Day, at Arsenal at the end of last season and against Fenerbahce in August. Similar sentiments apply to the rest of the team. Starting with the trip to Aston Villa on Boxing Day, Everton face a crucial run of fixtures that will define what happens in the second half of the season. Depending on which Everton team turns up, you would say three of those games - Villa, Sunderland and Charlton - are very winnable, while anything can and often does happen in a derby match. But with progress being compromised by the frustrating tendency to shoot themselves in the foot, it would take a brave man to predict what will happen. Wouldn't it be nice, though, if Everton found the consistency to give supporters a Merry Christmas? Well, it is the time of year when everyone gets to make a wish...
EVERTON (4-4-1-1): Wright; Hibbert (Osman 77), Yobo, Weir, Valente; Arteta, Neville, Cahill, Davies; McFadden; Beattie. Subs: Kroldrup, Bent, Turner, Kilbane.
BOOKINGS: Hibbert (ungentlemanly conduct), Neville (foul).
BOLTON (4-3-2-1): Jaaskelainen; O'Brien, Jaidi, N'Gotty, Speed; Faye (Djetou 84), Okocha (Hunt 67), Nolan; Diouf (Vaz Te 73), Giannakopoulos; Davies. Subs: Walker, Nakata.
BOOKINGS: Davies (foul), Faye (deliberate handball).
ATT: 34,500.
NEXT GAME: Aston Villa v Everton, Barclays Premiership, Boxing Day, 3pm

Arteta: It was a bad dream
Dec 19 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
MIKEL ARTETA today reflected on Everton's 4-0 drubbing against Bolton Wanderers and admitted it was like waking up in the middle of a nightmare. The Blues midfielder was unable to offer any excuses as to why Everton fell apart so spectacularly in the second half and accepted the players deserve the criticism that will come their way. But given this latest defeat followed hot on the heels of being beaten by West Ham at home, Everton have suddenly slipped into a precarious position in the table ahead of the festive period. And Arteta is well aware the alarm bells will start to ring even louder if the errors that undid them on Saturday resurface in the coming weeks. "We made so many mistakes and created the goals for them," he said. "That is something we must improve. But it hasn't been the first time this year that we have conceded so many goals. "To be honest, it was an awful afternoon. We were thinking that if we got a result, it would improve the table for us. We need to analyse what happened and move on. "There are still so many games to play. We were unlucky but that's not all because that doesn't make you lose so many games. "We feel really, really down. It's a really strange feeling, like being in the middle of a bad dream. It's just awful." Everton must wait until Boxing Day for a chance to redeem themselves and Arteta knows the club is heading into a defining period. "This is really crucial," added Arteta. "We have some time to prepare for the next game but we need to think about what we are going to do." Similarly, Tim Cahill agreed that while the scoreline flattered Bolton, Everton could have no complaints about the final outcome because of some individual errors. "It is very disappointing because we have embarrassed ourselves. And we worked so hard early doors," said Cahill, who returned to the side after a three game suspension.
"But obviously we made three big mistakes and they scored three goals. I think if Faddy's goal had been allowed it would have been a different story but that's just ifs and buts. "You look and see how hard we have worked and to come a way 4-0 was unbelievable. They are a good team but we were never 4-0 losers. "We just got punished for being sloppy and making mistakes. When you make mistakes in this league you are going to lose games. And the biggest thing is the disappointment."

'We didn't deserve to lose by four goals'
Dec 19 2005 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
A DEVASTATED David Moyes blamed individual errors on Everton's heaviest home defeat for a decade. The Blues boss believed the 4-0 hiding by Bolton - the biggest Goodison reverse since Norwich City won 5-1 there in September 1993 - was a freak result. "We weren't deserving of a 4-0 defeat, that's for sure," he sighed afterwards. "But if you want to defend the way we defended . . . you won't see the three goals in the second half on a public park tomorrow. "I don't think we should have been down at half-time. We didn't deserve to be behind. I thought we played well in the first half, trying to create chances, trying to make openings and I don't know if Bolton were in our box more than once. "In the second half, if anything we didn't start quite as well, but we had a chance - which was rightly given off-side - then we have a short pass, a blatant penalty kick and a slip. It was really poor. "I'll take responsibility for the team, but it's very difficult to stand here and say there's an awful lot I could have done about that. They were poor, poor goals." Following the 2-1 defeat to West Ham on Wednesday, the Blues wasted an excellent opportunity to move away from the relegation zone and into the safety of mid-table. But they now face a crucial run of four games in eight days over Christmas, starting with a tea-time trip to Aston Villa on Boxing Day. "They have been two bad home games for us," added Moyes. "I thought we played quite well today, but once the goals went in I think they had a demoralising affect after doing so well and going two down when it could quite easily have been one-each. "It was a penalty kick to make it three and before you know it, it was curtains really. "That's the way things go. If we had got the equaliser I think most people would have said Everton looked the more likely team to go on and win the game. "We have had good chances between the game on Wednesday and today to do better, and we have been disappointed and we are feeling down. It's not something we expect to happen here." Bolton boss Sam Allardyce agreed that the 4-0 scoreline had flat-tered his side - but believed his strikers deserved credit for the quality of their finishing. "Once we'd weathered the storm in the first half and got the all important goal that changed the game somewhat," he said. "The credit to our team is the way they continued to keep Everton at bay, who were throwing everything at us, and not allow them to create a worthwhile chance to score a goal out of all the pressure we had to soak up in the first half and all the balls into our box, we mastered that challenge today. "Our problem was that in possession of the ball we weren't very good, but that was down to Everton closing us down and putting pressure on." Allardyce also had words of praise for the officials. "The assistant referee gave the goal, under extreme pressure from the fans, so we have to be thankful that a major decision was given the right way, as was their disallowed goal," he added. "We have then gone and picked them off when they have tired and moved our team around when they've thrown everything at us and introduced one or two fresher players and destroyed them basically in the last 15 minutes.
"If it was Arsenal you would be raving about the quality of finishes, so rave about us for a change."

No way to disguise lack of firepower
Dec 19 2005 Analysis by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
MOST journalists, like most fans, haven't played football at anything higher than Sunday League level. Most managers have. But does that mean that they are always right and we're always wrong? Does it mean they can spot subtle nuances of the game which are invisible to those of us who pay - rather than are paid - to kick a ball around? Because that was the argument mounted after a harrowing Saturday afternoon at Goodison Park. Both David Moyes and Sam Allardyce were singing from the same Christmas songsheet. Big Sam believed his side had been flattered by a 4-0 away win. Devastated Davie claimed his side had played well. But 34,000 traumatised supporters thought otherwise - as most trudged out of the stadium long before the final whistle, while those who stayed behind did so solely for the purpose of booing the side in Blue off the park. The match stats added credence to the managers' arguments. According to those anoraks from the BBC, Everton enjoyed 67 per cent possession and enjoyed a corner count of 10 to none. But the far more telling statistic was that goalkeeper Juusi Jaaskelainen wasn't asked to make anything approaching a meaningful save until the 87th minute. One cynic joked afterwards, "Is that why Everton's motto starts with Nil?" No-one laughed. Because Everton's current plight is not even remotely funny. The lack of goal threat has become a trend this season that is ensuring last season's heroics are being rapidly forgotten. Everton have played nine matches at home in the Premiership now. They have scored a wretched four goals. And on Saturday they never looked like adding to that total - placing an intolerable burden on the defenders to keep a clean sheet, a burden they never looked like carrying. Everton nominally played a 4-4-2 formation - but in fact James Beat-tie was left on his own to forage on scraps for most of an awful afternoon. The Blues undeniably played well enough in two-thirds of the pitch to claim possession of the ball for longer periods. But they never even once looked like showing the wit, ingenuity or creativity to chisel out a scoring chance. Everton's midfielders played like there were land mines littered around the Bolton penalty area. Even in the closing stages, when Jaaskelainen finally had saves to make, they came from long range shots. The Blues defence and midfield formed two rigid banks of four, Beat-tie was usually the only man to be found inside the penalty box - while James McFadden was largely anonymous. Everton simply don't look equipped to score goals. And there was one truly terrifying comment made while the scoreline was still respectable which underlined Everton's plight. "Goalkeeper apart, that is the strongest side David Moyes could possibly put out," said one exasperated fan. Like it or not, Everton are going to have to find out how good Per Kroldrup is during the Christmas programme - because the admirable David Weir can't be asked to carry on dragging his creaking limbs through three games in six day spells - and Marcus Bent will have to end the sulking which saw him left on the bench throughout the whole of Saturday's
shambles. But most of all, Everton will have to take on board a change of shape, a realignment of attacking ambition . . . because they haven't ever looked like scoring goals all season. The last time they truly looked commanding, passed a team to defeat and created chances left, right and centre was against a virtually relegated Crystal Palace, last April. We are told there are only limited funds to spend during the January transfer window - but Everton need an attacking boost from somewhere, especially if Duncan Ferguson carries out his threat to hang up his boots in the New Year. Goals change games, those experts from within the game constantly tell us. But those touchline amateurs aren't seeing enough of them this season to change enough games to keep Everton out of trouble.
And that is leading to worry lines becoming etched on the faces of most of them. Everton's last truly commanding away performance came at Villa Park last season. How they desperately need a repeat of that display - in front of the Boxing Day cameras, too. Anything less and Everton could really be dragged into the relegation mire - regardless of what football managers may tell you.

Goodison humbling shamed all of us
Dec 20 2005
By David Prior Daily Post Staff
TIM CAHILL has admitted that Saturday's 4-0 home defeat to Bolton left him and his Everton team-mates "embarrassed". The Australian's return to the Goodison side after a three-game ban coincided with one of their worst performances of the season - and their heaviest home loss for 12 years. Coming just three days after another home defeat, against West Ham, it has intensified the fear of a new year relegation struggle. But with the hectic Christmas programme of four games in eight days fast approaching - beginning with Boxing Day's trip to Aston Villa - Cahill knows his side must not dwell on the result. The midfielder said: "It is very disappointing because we embarassed ourselves. And we worked so hard early doors but obviously we made three big mistakes and they scored three goals. "You look and see how hard we have worked and to come away 4-0 was unbelieveable. They are a good team but we were never 4-0 losers. "We just got punished for being sloppy and making mistakes. When you make mistakes in this league you are going to lose games.
"And the biggest thing is the disappointment." Cahill concedes that the current run has left him suffering mental more than physical damage. He said: "I'm feeling all right physically but I feel a bit battered (mentally). I have got a week to get over it and we will see what happens." The Merseyside derby follows just two days after the Villa Park game, before a trip to Sunderland on December 31 and a home game with Charlton two days later. It is a spell that Everton know must see them reversing an increasingly worrying trend. Over the last 12 months Everton have won only 14 of 45 games, losing 24, while in the Premiership they have won just 11 of 35 and lost 19.

Lack of fight
Dec 20 2005
Post Soapbox, icLiverpool & Daily Post
Lack of fight
THERE was no hard work, fight, determination or guts against Bolton - that's why Everton lost.
Brian Kirkbride (via e-mail)
Change needed
THE playing formation that allows teams to run all over Everton is a system that needs replacing. Bill Kenwright should thank David Moyes for all his hard work, but the results don't lie. I believe that if we should lose in the FA Cup Moyes will go. Sad, but the club comes first.
Robbie Doyle (via e-mail)
Up and down
WE know what Everton are capable of (Chelsea, Manchester United) but also West Ham/West Brom/ Bolton. Pure inconsistency! Invariably they do well against "bigger" teams,, but then we slip back and have to start over again. We do have, on paper, a decent team but if they can't perform on the pitch week in, week out changes must be made. Errors in defence cost us against Bolton, but not changing the team quickly enough did not help either.
Tracey Griffiths (via e-mail)
Charity goal
I RECENTLY saw a picture of a mini bus donated by Duncan Ferguson to help local youngsters. I bet that doesn't get a mention. What a shame it's taken him to point out to Moyes he's not able to hack the Premiership anymore before Moyes noticed it. At least he can go with his head held high. Good luck for the future Duncan, you're a legend. Shame about the rest of the team. Maybe they could use the bus to take the team to somewhere far away and lose them!
Sean Childer, Wirral.

Van der Meyde to miss derby
Dec 20 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
ANDY van der Meyde is fighting a losing battle in his desperate bid to be fit for next week's Merseyside derby. Having enjoyed a bright start to his Everton career following his summer move from Inter Milan, the Holland international has missed the last three games with a thigh injury sustained in training. One of life's natural optimists, Van der Meyde suggested last week that he felt the Goodison Park clash with Liverpool would be a suitable starting point to get his season back on track. However, Everton manager David Moyes today admitted it is unlikely that Van der Meyde will be available during the Christmas period and revealed his fears that he will be without the 26-year-old for the foreseeable future. "I don't think Andy will be fit," said Moyes. "He's got a serious injury and I think that it's going to keep him out a few weeks longer. He's running but at the minute he can still feel the injury. We think it might be a bit longer than we first thought. It looks like it is a thigh strain. "He did it in training last week. When it first happened, it looked bad but after a couple of days it settled. Unfortunately it looks like it will keep him out a wee bit longer." Meanwhile, as Everton head into Christmas following successive home defeats against West Ham and Bolton, BBC pundit Alan Hansen has backed Moyes to emerge from this difficult spell and lead the Blues out of trouble. The former Liverpool defender is impressed by the way Moyes led to a fourth-place finish in the Premiership last year and baffled by Everton's struggles this time around. But he says he is convinced Moyes can find a remedy for their ills. "Everton's slump is a strange one," said Hansen. "They had a really good result against Chelsea that got their season going, then had a good run of results. "They got an excellent draw at Old Trafford and would have looked at home games against West Ham and Bolton as a real chance to get at least four points. They got none and didn't really deserve to get any, either. "It's all a far cry from last season when they seemed to be able to battle through anything, hold on to results and looked capable to cope and bounce back from anything that went against them. "But I will say again that Everton would be right to keep faith with their manager because I do think they will stay up come the end of the season."

Speed reveals: I would have been delighted to sign for Blues again
Dec 20 2005 Liverpool Echo
GARY SPEED has backed his old Everton side to bounce back from Saturday's mauling. And the Bolton goalscorer admitted that on a different day he might have been wearing Royal Blue once again at Goodison Park. Speed was an influential member of the Bolton side which triumphed 4-0, converting the 77th minute penalty which ended the match as a contest. And Everton boss David Moyes admitted last week he had considered bringing the former Goodison skipper back to the club when he left Newcastle for Bolton. Speed said he had heard of Everton's interest - but only after he had signed for Sam Allardyce - and despite the controversy which surrounded his first Everton exit he would have relished a return. "I only heard Everton were interested again after I'd signed for Bolton," he explained. "The day that I signed, probably about half an hour afterwards, I heard!
"Would I have considered Everton if I'd heard earlier? God, yes! Obviously I'd have considered it. But in those situations sentiment goes out of the window. When I first signed for Everton from Leeds I said then I didn't sign for Everton because I'm an Everton fan, I signed for Everton because they were a great club and I wanted to be successful. "If I was coming from Newcastle and Everton were interested again, obviously it would be a privilege and an honour to be linked. "The flak I've had in the past wouldn't have made any difference to my decision. I haven't reacted at all to the flak and people can read into that what they like. That wouldn't have influenced my decision at all."
Speed tucked away a penalty kick on Saturday to seal Bolton's comprehensive away win, but he admitted afterwards that Everton had been unfortunate. "I wouldn't be worried about Everton," he said. "They have too many good players. They showed that last year and it's not a dramatically changed squad from last season. They can do well on their day. "Tim Cahill's back now and Lee Carsley's not far away, so once you get these important players back hopefully they can climb the table again. "First half Everton were the better team, but after the break Sam just said 'keep it tight' for 10 minutes because Everton will come forward and search for a goal - the crowd demands that - and when that did happen it opened up at the back for us. "Vaz opened them up with a great run and once the second goal went in the result was never in doubt. "The scoreline did flatter us in the end, because obviously Everton were the best team in the first-half, but we did get the goal and 1-0 down at home the crowd here demands they push forward . . . and rightly so. "It did leave a bit of space to exploit on the break and the gaffer did the trick for us with the change. "I'm an Everton fan, but as soon as I go onto that pitch I'm playing for Bolton and I just want to get three points for them, which we got. "There's no extra delight because it was Everton. Hopefully next week I'll be looking at the results and Everton will have won. "Apart from this game, I'm still an Everton fan, but I was delighted to get the three points." Now 36, Speed shows no signs of slowing up. He started at left-back against the Blues, before switching to midfield where boss Sam Allardyce admitted he gave the visitors an extra dimension. "If I play left-back every week I won't be carrying on that much longer!" he joked. "I feel good, I feel really fit and I don't feel 36. I do now . . . but in training I don't! "I'll just carry on as long as I can. "I don't really enjoy playing left-back as much as midfield, but Ricardo Gardner has been injured so needs must. "You have to do a job for the team and I tried to do it to the best of my ability . . . but I was happy to get back into midfield when Vaz came on!"

Wolves Res 3, Everton Res 1
Daily Post
Dec 21 2005
EVERTON RESERVES fell to their first defeat in five games after going down 3-1 to Wolves at Bucks Head ground in Telford. The Midlanders had former Liverpool midfielder Paul Ince in their line-up and despite Everton taking the lead Glen Hoddle's second string saw Everton off with a hat-trick from striker Leon Clarke. Everton fielded a young side with Iain Turner back in goal following his service on the first team bench. The Blues opened the scoring on 15 minutes when a cross reached Aiden Downes at the far post and he volleyed home from close range. Within two minutes however Wolves were back level, Clarke beat Turner from inside the area for the first of his three goals.
Wolves continued to pressurise the visitors and took the lead just before the break, Turner was again beaten by the pacy Clarke after a quick break form the home side. The second half continued in the same fashion, Wolves on the attack and Clarke behind most of the moves, on 56 minutes the young striker broke free of the Everton defence again to finish superbly past Turner and effectively finish the contest. Paul Ince nearly made it four with a trademark free-kick which hit a post as the home side comfortably saw the game out.
EVERTON: Turner, Wynne, Boyle, Wright, Hughes, Seargeant, Harris (Phelan 73), Vidarsson, Wilson, Hopkins, Downes. Subs: Jones, Holt, Molyneux, Kearney.
WOLVES: Oakes, Ross, Rafferty, Olofinjana, Craddock, Lowe, Stewart, Ince, Clarke, Davies (Harrison 58), Jones (Riley 74). Subs: Little, O'Connor, Salmon

Dutchman set to miss out on hectic festive programme
Dec 21 2005 By Ian Doyle, Daily Post
EVERTON'S worst fears appear to have been realised with David Moyes admitted Andy van der Meyde may not play until the New Year. The Holland international suffered a thigh strain during training before the trip to Manchester United 10 days ago. Initially, van der Meyde was expected to be out for four weeks, but that prognosis was revised as the player responded quickly to treatment.
The midfielder had targeted next Wednesday's Goodison derby against Liverpool for a comeback, but now it appears the 26-year-old will miss the entire festive period with the injury. "I don't think Andy will be fit," said Moyes.. "I think he's got a serious injury and I think that it's going to keep him out a few weeks longer. "He's running but at the minute he can still feel the injury. We think it might be a bit longer than we first thought. It looks like it is a thigh strain right up at the top of his leg.
"When it first happened, we thought it was bad but after a couple of days we thought it wasn't so bad. Unfortunately, it looks like it will keep him out a wee bit longer." Everton begin their holiday campaign on Boxing Day with a trip to Aston Villa. That is followed by the derby two days later, before a visit to Sunderland on New Year's Eve and a home clash with Charlton Athletic on Monday, January 2. It promises to be a crucial period for the Goodison side as they aim to bounce back from Saturday's demoralising loss to Bolton Wanderers and steer clear of the relegation zone. However, Everton manager Moyes has reiterated his belief the Premiership would benefit from a short mid-season break. "The Christmas period is too much for the players and it is too much for the supporters as well," he said. "I think we have four games in the period and if you are a supporter then to play for four games at this time of the year is too much but it is part of the culture here."
He added: "My preference would be that we would shut down on January first for two weeks. But only two weeks. "It would start up a fortnight directly after that and give the players a chance to have one week's break, and as well let the punters get their money back and recharge their batteries."

Working class football heroes
Dec 21 2005 Daily Post
Life was very different for top footballers in the days before the maximum wage was abolished. Mike Chapple reports THE disparaging phrase "you don't know you're born" was one regularly fired at an older generation to the younger. But it could never ring so true if it were levelled at today's Premiership football elite, with their £100,000 a week wages and mansions in Alderley Edge, if their lifestyle was compared to their predecessors from Britain's alternative golden age of football.
Then the terraced grounds of the league clubs would be filled weekly with up to 70,000 paying fans while the objects of their support out on the field earned a pittance yoked by the strangulating contracts of their masters. The plight of professional footballers, up until Jimmy Hill's successful crusade to abolish the £20 maximum wage in 1961, has never been more vividly exposed than in Gary Imlach's powerful My Father and Other Working Class Football Heroes, the winner of the prestigious William Hill Sports Book of the Year. Gary is the son of Stewart Imlach whom Everton fans will primarily remember as the club's former trainer from the 70s. But Stewart also had a distinguished footballing career that began at Bury in 1952 and reached a high point when he was named Man of the Match for Nottingham Forest in their FA Cup Final win against Luton Town seven years later. Gary, who grew up in Formby and whose mum Joan still lives there, was a young insider at Goodison. Consequently, the book is full of evocative recollections of mixing with the Blues heroes of the day such as Ball, Harvey, and Kendall with anecdotes to match. For instance the true story behind Ball's awful white Hummel boots is sensationally revealed. There are also affectionate memories such as the day Stewart came home with Everton's 1969-70 football league championship trophy thrown in the back seat of his VW Beetle. Gary and his brothers Steve and Mike wasted no time in gathering the lads on their road to pose for an impromptu "team" photo around the hallowed prize. But the book's cutting edge comes from Imlach's one man search for his father and the game he loved so much. It was search that only became "crystallised" inside Gary after Stewart's death in 2001 on an epiphianic trip to a football programme fair. It would have been his Dad's 70th birthday and he was looking for souvenirs of his Dad's career including the 1958 World Cup in Sweden in which Stewart played for Scotland. "Obviously I was kicking myself after he died that I hadn't sat down and asked him more about his career," says the 45--year-old face and voice of TV's Tour de France cycling and American NFL football coverage. It was a journey that began in his Dad's birthplace the Scottish fishing town of Lossiemouth, where he discovered that Stewart was the first Imlach in five generations not to take to the sea. His talent on the ball was discovered early on in his home town but even when he signed for Bury aged 20 in 1952 he still had nine months of his joinery apprenticeship left to serve. The club duly found him a local joiners where he could finish it because these were the days when despite being called professional and being watched by thousands every week a second full-time trade was needed to survive. The figures put matters in perspective. In 1952 the average manual wage in the UK was £8 13 shillings. Footballers could earn up to £14 during the season and £10 during the summer. But this was only if they were on the league maximum. Players Union figures, however, state that only 20% of them were. In 1955, the union claimed the average footballer's wage was £8 while factory workers were earning approximately £3 more. In a neat summary of the spirit that motivated the book Gary says: "My father and his team-mates came from the same stock as those who packed the terraces every week to watch them. And they knew they were heading back into that community when their playing days were over - perhaps,, more accurately, had never really left." Perversely their deprived circumstances fuelled theirs and the games popularity. Says Gary: "A side effect of not being paid what they were worth meant that they received greater identification from the fans. Sometimes the players would even catch the same bus as the fans going to the ground. It's something that also helped to boost the sense of community in those days. "That's what's been lost - but there's no point in crying about it. The players of today now get paid what the market dictates. And the fans can still have a bond with players even if they get paid 50 grand a week - that's if they're seen to be putting in the hard graft." It's the players who aren't putting in the work for the club that the fans despise - and that's where the problem lies with the game's potential demise, says Gary.
Besides the maximum wage restriction, the football mercenaries of today would have found it even more inconceivable to have played under the constrictions of the retain and transfer system.
Stewart's contract when he signed for Bury was, like every other footballer's of the time, for a mere 12 months. They also had a right to his services indefinitely - a privilege that was not reciprocated to the player. It meant that at the end of the season, a club could release a player, put him up for sale or retain him - on reduced wages if they'd had a bad year. Any player who refused the terms would be paid no wages. If he demanded a transfer they could refuse and/or put an outrageous price on his head. The ultimate damning stroke was that while he was transfer listed he was paid no wages.
When Gary got round to meeting his Dad's surviving team mates he was not only surprised but enraged by what he discovered. "You sort of think you know what went on in the days before the maximum wage was abolished but then you discover just how one-sided the contracts were and how iniquitous the retain and transfer system was." Ultimately Gary's seeds of disillusion with football didn't begin while researching for the book - they had already been sown when he returned to the UK in the 90s after nine seasons in the US reporting primarily on the NFL. "When you're growing up you fit in with footie without even trying. But I came back and the Premiership had been launched while I was away. I was seeing all these games and thinking 'Who the hell is he?' and I knew that I would have some catching up to do." He adds: "The idea that the club always cared about its fans was something of a self deception - the clubs care about fans the same way as Tesco cares about its customers. Nowadays football is like the housing market where there's this polarisation of the haves and have nots. The problem lies with convincing the haves to allow the have nots to have more of the share." Such pitfalls were the same for yesterday's footballers - and so a problem has come full circle and with it, a childhood spell broken. As Imlach movingly confesses near the book's conclusion and just before his father's death: "I'd lost the ability to see past the state of the game. My father stared straight through it and saw what he'd always seen... It was a passion he'd been born with and he'd sustained it - and it had sustained him - for nearly 70 years. He'd handed it down to me and my brothers and I'd mislaid it. Whose fault was that - mine, the game's, no one's in particular? I wasn't sure but I knew it was something I couldn't tell him, any more than I could tell him that he was pretty much the only reason I still paid the game any attention at all."
* GARY IMLACH will be signing copies of My Father and Other Working Class Heroes (£15.99 Yellow Jersey Press) at Pritchard's Bookshop (01704 875 765/01704 875640) in Brows Lane, Formby, from 4pm tomorrow.
A talented outside left
MY FATHER And Other Working Class Heroes shoots from the hip, and in writing it Imlach has been as honest about his own playing days as his father's. Gary was a talented, promising outside left like him. But the one way they differed was on-field discipline, as the author is the first to admit. Stewart was never booked in 423 league and cup games as a player. In fact he only once had his name taken when, as part of Everton's coaching staff, he challenged a decision by referee Pat Partridge in a defeat for the Blues at Derby County in 1973. The only time Imlach even ever heard of his dad losing his temper on the pitch came from his mum, Joan, after Stewart had died. It was when he was playing for Bury in retaliation against a notorious hatchet man, Brian Makepeace of Doncaster Rovers. Whenever they met Imlach would skin Makepeace and the full back would duly clog the winger. One day it got to be one chop too many as Gary so succinctly explains. "Justice was generally deferred until the perpetrator had the ball himself within range of one of the designated hard men on his victim's team. This time, my Dad couldn't wait. "'He clatterered him again,' said my mother. 'And your Dad had him on the ground hammering him'. "'What did the ref do?' "My mother replied: 'He just said: Now, now, Stewart I'll deal with this - and got on with the game'." Imagine how the likes of card-happy modern-day refs would have dealt with that one? Gary's own fall from grace was far more catastrophic - and, worst of all, in front of his Dad. Stewart attended two district school cup finals in which his son played for Formby High School. The first year, Gary scored from a spectacular long-range half-volley at Marine's ground. The next year, in the same final on the same pitch, it was altogether different. "Two or three weeks before the game," writes Gary,, "the threats had started. The opposition full back was going to put me out of the final by breaking my leg. School football on Merseyside always involved a fair bit of physical menace. Traditionally, the best teams came from the toughest areas and Liverpool had plenty of competition. Formby was where Liverpool kids came on day trips to visit the pine woods and the beach - we were too middle class to be allowed to be any good."
Early on, Imlach scored another - this time from a free kick.
But thereby he sealed his fate with his nemesis. "He might as well have produced a baseball bat from down his sock for all the disguise that went into the challenge. When he came in with both feet I jumped high over the danger. But while I was up there some overdeveloped sense of injustice took over. Why should it take me being carried off in order for him to get his comeuppance? I landed, turned and swung my left boot as hard as I could in his direction. I connected perfectly with his head just as I had with the free kick." Gary walked to the dressing room before he was actually sent off and there felt the full force of his father's fury. "Right, that's you! That's you!" he said. "That's you finished is what he meant, but in his fury he didn't have the patience to get to the end of the phrase. I understood him well enough." Over 30 years on, while writing the book, Imlach admits he had reservations about putting so much heart on the sleeve stuff into print. "I've never been a big fan of confessional journalism or literature which is so prevalent at the moment," he says with a laugh.
"So while I was telling some of my own story I thought hang on, your contributing to all that stuff that you keep saying that you hate so much." Thankfully, he didn't give it too much of a second thought - because in not doing so he's produced a passionate sports classic to top this or any year.

Star quizzed over racial abuse claim
Dec 21 2005 EXCLUSIVE by Jessica Shaughnessy Daily Post Staff
EX-EVERTON star Francis Jeffers has been questioned by police over allegations he racially abused an Asian taxi driver. The 24-year-old striker voluntarily went to a police station to be questioned.
Last night, Jeffers denied using racist language against the man and said he had done nothing wrong.
The Daily Post understands a Liverpool taxi driver has accused the one-time England striker of hurling racial abuse at him after a row about his fare. He was picked up in Liverpool city centre eight weeks ago and taken to his home in Ormskirk where the alleged incident took place.
Jeffers was invited to attend at a Liverpool police station on Monday after the taxi driver made a formal complaint. He is expected to be questioned again in the New Year when officers will pass the file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who will then decide whether to prosecute. He has not been formally arrested for any offence. A spokesman for Jeffers said: "Mr Jeffers has co-operated fully with the police and is happy to help with any investigations. "He totally denies using any language which may be perceived as being racially abusive or any wrong-doing whatsoever."
Jeffers, who was born in Liverpool, was once hailed as one of the Premiership's best young strikers, beginning his career as a YTS trainee at Goodison Park where he was soon offered a five-year contract by Everton FC. He made his senior debut at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, 1997, at the age of 16, and scored his first Premiership goal against Coventry City two weeks after turning 18. In 2001, Arsene Wenger bought the young star for £8m, and took him to Arsenal. The manager nicknamed Jeffers his "fox in the box" for his ability to pick-up loose balls in the area and convert them into goals. But Jeffers endured a frustrating three seasons at Highbury, and was sold to Charlton Athletic last year for £2.6m. He joined Glasgow Rangers on a four-month loan deal on the final day of the August transfer window.

Everton stars make children's Christmas anything but blue
Dec 21 2005 Daily Post
EVERTON'S first-team squad made their annual Christmas visit to Alder Hey Children's Hospital to distribute presents yesterday. The players, together with manager David Moyes and the training staff, spent several hours visiting as many wards as possible, cheering up the children, many of whom will be spending Christmas away from home. They came with a sackful of presents to hand out to the children. An Everton FC spokesman said: "The visit to Alder Hey is something the players look forward to every year."

Blues relaunch stadium dream
Dec 21 2005 By Tony Barratt, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON could be ready to quit Goodison Park for a new stadium. Chief executive Keith Wyness has had talks with financial experts about funding a 50,000-capacity stadium costing around £125m.
A decision could be made as early as the New Year and a potential location for the proposed new ground has already been indentified. The club would say only that the location was about two miles from Goodison Park. The Everton board has been considering options since the collapse of the Kings Dock project in February 2003.
The choices are:
* Moving to a new stadium
* Sharing a stadium
* Redeveloping Goodison.
Mr Wyness said: "All three options are still available." A shared stadium with Liverpool has been on the agenda for the past few years, backed by the Northwest Development Agency and Liverpool's new council leader Warren Bradley. Everton retain an open mind about sharing. Liverpool prefer to go it alone, although their own stadium plans are believed to have been jeopardised by rising costs.
Mr Wyness added: "Pretty soon we're going to have to make our own decision, probably early in the New Year. "A new build on another site looks as if it could be the most deliverable option. "We're now in a much better financial position to take on more long-term debt. "There are other commercial operators who have been in touch with us and are prepared to work on funding it."
Everton's financial position has improved dramatically in the past 12 months, giving Mr Wyness renewed confidence that a new stadium was again a valid option. In November Everton announced the best financial results in the club's 127-year history. Turnover rose by 34% from £44.7m last year to £60m. Everton secured a place in the Deloitte and Touche top 20 club rich-list for the first time, and finishing fourth in the Premier-ship brought a greater slice of prize money, with greater revenue from live televised games. The superstore is selling more, and profit-after-player trading shows a turnaround of £38.9m, from a loss of £15.4m to a profit of £23.5m. That includes the transfers of Wayne Rooney and Thomas Gravesen to Manchester United and Real Madrid. It is likely that the club is looking at the option of a stadium complex incorporating retail, commercial and residential developments. Central Docks where the Summer Pops were held has been mooted as a potential location.
We say . . .
We've been here before.
Everton reveal they are in talks over building a brand new stadium. Last time it ended in disaster. This time the club says it is in a far better financial situation. But it doesn't have the money in its back pocket to finance a new home. So it will have to borrow. Today we report the fact that chief executive Keith Wyness has been negotiating with potential developers and financiers. Wyness has gone on the record and that is to be applauded. But the question on every Everton fan's lips today is simple "Will it ever happen?"
The ECHO will be delighted if it does. The club either has to get a new home, share with Liverpool or overhaul Goodison Park - it cannot go on as it is. Wyness says the preferred option is a new ground. The unanswered questions are: Is the money really going to be available and where is it coming from? If is available, what is the difference between now and last time? Can the club afford to burden itself with a mortgge of, say, £75-£80m - even if a partner stumps up the other half of the cash? Doubtless today's news will also rekindle the shared stadium debate. We are currently no nearer knowing if Liverpool FC's new home will go ahead. Now Everton are talking about their preferred option to do their own thing. There are clearly more questions than answers right now for the fans. Over to you Liverpool and Everton.

Vaughan setback hits Blues plans
Dec 21 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
JAMES VAUGHAN has suffered a setback in his recovery from a knee operation and will be out of action until well into the New Year. Having become Everton's youngest goalscorer in Everton last April when he netted in the 4-0 home win over Crystal Palace, many supporters had anticipated big things from the 17-year-old this time around. But his progress has been compromised as he has struggled to recover from cartilage surgery. It was thought Vaughan would be out for six weeks when he was first ruled out, but Blues boss David Moyes today admitted that he is unsure when Vaughan will be available again. "He is still struggling," said Moyes, whose side have struggled desperately for goals this season. "James has had some fluid drained from his knee and an injection to try and settle it down because it hasn't happened since his operation. "I don't think he is going to be back any time soon. He's only a young boy. He's only 17, so to say that we are missing 17-year-olds shouldn't be the case. "But it's the boy's development that we are worried about. It's an important year for him and he's missed a lot of it with a knee injury. We know that he has got a lot of attributes. "His commitment and attitude are first class. We know that we have got someone who, when we play him, will put defenders under pressure. He is a young boy and will only get better with time." Moyes, meanwhile, has indicated that he would like to see the Premiership follow the lead set by its continental counterparts by taking a break for winter. Everton will play four games in the space of eight days, starting at Aston Villa on Boxing Day, and the manager is concerned by how his small squad will cope with the demand. But he also feels the fixture list puts an unnecessary strain on supporters and feels everyone would benefit from a complete rest.
"The Christmas period is too much for the players and it is too much for the supporters as well," Moyes said. "I think we have four games in the period and if you are a supporter then to pay for four games at this time of the year is too much but it's part of the culture here. "My preference would be that we would shut down on January 1st for two weeks. But only two weeks. "It would start up a fortnight directly after that and give the players a week's break. It would also let the punters get their money back and recharge their batteries."

A Blue, Blue Christmas
Dec 21 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON'S players took the opportunity to play Santa yesterday as they made their annual festive visit to Alder Hey. Laden with presents, the vast majority of the squad, plus manager David Moyes, his assistant Alan Irvine and Blues legend Graeme Sharp, spent two hours walking around the wards, chatting to patients and their parents, the majority of whom will spend Christmas in hospital.
"It's difficult because you see so many families in hospital with their children at Christmas and that's really sad," said midfielder Mikel Arteta. "When you see this, you realise what is important.
"To be healthy is the most important thing in life and it's good to try to help the children. If you can make them happy and smiling it's good because every single day, it is difficult for them.
"Some of the fathers I saw were really sad because they knew the children would not be home for Christmas. If we can help them in some way, that's great." Goalkeeper Nigel Martyn agreed, saying: "The players look forward to this day. It's a chance to get out of training and put a smile on the children's faces. "Things are put into perspective when we come here. Hopefully most of the children we see can get home for Christmas but unfortunately there will be some who can't.
"It's difficult for them and their parents. But if us coming here for a couple of hours can help take their mind off things, all well and good." Seeing how ill some of the children were certainly puts things into perspective and Marcus Bent admitted that if the players could help in any way possible, they would do so. "It's nice when you walk around and you see a smile on the kids' faces," said the striker. "They're doing something that they don't do every day and that is meeting their idols.
"Hopefully that will bring them a little bit more happiness at Christmas and that is what Christmas is all about." Alder Hey fundraising manager Chris Done was delighted with the way the visit went and was quick to thank the club. Aside from buying presents, the club has also made a donation to Alder Hey's Imagine appeal and Everton and Liverpool players will warm up before the derby match next week in Tshirts promoting the charity. "It's really good that they take time out of their busy schedules," said Chris. "Between them, they have seen all the children and every child gets a present, which the players bought themselves. "There was an amazing buzz around the hospital when the play-ers were here, just fantastic. The children really enjoy it, no matter if they are red or blue. They all have a wonderful time." The visit to Alder Hey was the first part of a hectic day for the Blues. Afterwards, the squad headed to Goodison Park to meet junior Evertonia members at their Christmas party before staying on for a Christmas Carol concert, which was attended by more than 2,000 supporters.

Blues paying the price for their summer transfer market failings
Dec 21 2005 Echo Letters, icLiverpool & Liverpool Echo
LIKE every other Blue I was wiped out by the Bolton result, but when David Moyes came to the club there is no doubt he saved us from going down. And if we had gone down, with the board we have today, we would still be down there. But the facts are that Moyes, for all the criticism he has to take, has kept us in the top flight. Finishing fourth last season, with the finance he had, was a miracle which a lot of fans seem to have forgotten. It was achieved by players you are now reviling. It's no wonder Bent, who carried our attack last season, is not the player he was. He ran his heart out for us last season and scored some vital goals.
Jim McDermott, Heswall
THE demise started at Spurs a year ago when we lost 5-2. Since then we have been on the end of 7-0, 5-1, 4-0 and 4-0 defeats among many, many others. It was obvious long before the end of last season that major surgery to the squad was needed. Ultimately, however, we all know that we messed up in the transfer market in the summer when we had a chance to put things right and move forward. We are now suffering as a consequence. All we can do is hope that we stay up and maybe put it right next summer. It's going to be a long, long season. Hang in there folks!
Dan Kedley, Bootle
LIKE all Blues, I am frustrated by the results. We have some good players in certain positions and should be more consistent. I not sure about the tactics that Moyes uses and it appears neither is he.

He can't seem to adjust to a player being out, often making several tactical changes. I don't want to pick the team for him but I would not move Phil Neville around the park. Left-back is a problem position so play him there. This solves a problem and means that other players can hold on to their position and get on with the job.
Brian Somerville, Huyton
I'VE been an Evertonian since 1950 and I am angry, disgusted, frustrated and sad at the awful state of our once very proud club. We have a manager who sees a draw as a good result. Our players need rest far more than others who play far more games at other clubs, and unlike other clubs we don't seem to be able to buy players cheaply to star in the Premiership. We need to change the manager and hope that the new man can bring some players with him and breath new life into our ailing team.
Trevor Lynes, Liverpool
THE same old story from the Everton players is trotted out every few weeks about 'this result hurts'.
Yes, but I bet when they pick up their wage packets that softens the blow, hey lads.
Ray Morgan, Cardiff I ACTUALLY think we have a better team than last year. Although our results have been awful this season a lot of that is due to having injuries and not having enough fire power. If Moyes had signed Phillips, Cole, Vassell or Camara things would be very different.
Barry Woolrich, Toxteth
ALTHOUGH on the whole Moyes gets the most out of the players we have, I'm very frustrated by our moves in the transfer market. What exactly are our scouts playing at? Keeping a fairly UK-born or experienced Premiership squad is good, but that doesn't mean that we can't sign foreign players with that bit of skill. To buy an English player with real quality may cost a fortune, but when did we last sign a relative unknown that took the Premiership by storm? Other clubs seem to manage it. I for one would like to see some real transfer activity this January to add a handful of quality players to the squad. You don't necessarily have to spend a fortune if you have the right scouting network.
Mark York, West Derby
AS a lifelong season ticket holder of 40 years I believe that the club has failed to live up to the Premiership standards since its inauguration in 1992. Chairmen, directors, managers, players and club staff can all be held responsible for the demise that has led to today's situation. It is not going to change overnight but change it must. The facilities at the youth academy are now in jeopardy, while with regards to the stadium, the club seems content to jump on the shirt tails of Liverpool. The current boss has raised the bar 5% but there has been no real attempt by the club to think innovatively. And the players? What we've got we must work with and on the bright side Neville is a quick thinker in every situation. Every aspect of the club needs shaking into the Premiership because this is not a dress rehearsal for some future life and the club needs fresh impetus and experience everywhere.
Ken Taylor, Liverpool
I AM beginning to have major doubts about Moyes. I have kept faith over the recent period, but fear that it may already be too late for him to turn things around. Kroldrup must be given a run-out, Kilbane must go, Faddy should be given more time up front and we need at least two strikers in January. Another 4-0 drubbing and Moyes must go. I can take defeat but the number of drubbings is beginning to really hurt.
Michael James, Dingle
WHO would replace Moyes if he was sacked? What magician will step in and wave a magic wand? Moyes has my support and I still believe he will turn things around. It's a pity that attitude isn't shared by more Blues fans.
Trevor Ingham, Tuebrook
EVERTON are a very sad team at present and a 4-0 drubbing must have a disastrous effect on their confidence. Weir must be dropped in favour of Kroldrup and if that does not help then goodness only knows. The team is so lightweight it makes you cry. It is up to Moyes to make the squad play to the best of their ability. We have some good players but they fail to perform as a team.
Roger, Llanfairfechan

Run ended by Clarke treble
Dec 21 2005 Liverpool Echo
FORMER Liverpool midfielder Paul Ince led Wolves Reserves to victory over Everton Reserves as the Blues fell to their first defeat in five games at Bucks Head ground in Telford. The Midlanders saw Everton off with a hat-trick from striker Leon Clarke despite the Blues taking the lead early on.
Everton fielded a young side with Iain Turner back in goal after being on bench duty for the first team. The Blues opened the scoring on 15 minutes when a cross reached Aiden Downes at the far post and he volleyed home from close range. Within two minutes, however, Wolves were level when Clarke beat Turner from inside the area. Wolves continued to pressurise the visitors and they took the lead just before the break, with Clarke finishing smartly after a quick break. The second half continued in the same fashion with Wolves on the attack and Clarke was behind most of their moves. On 56 minutes the young striker broke free of the Blues' defence again and fired past Turner to effectively finish the contest. Ince nearly made it four with a trademark free-kick which hit the post as the home side comfortably saw the game out. The sixth-placed Blues remain one point and one place ahead of Liverpool but the Reds have three games in hand.
EVERTON: Turner, Wynne, Boyle, Wright, Hughes, Seargeant, Harris (Phelan 73), Vidarsson, Wilson, Hopkins, Downes. Not used: Jones, Holt, Molyneux, Kearney.
WOLVES: Oakes, Ross, Rafferty, Olofinjana, Craddock, Lowe, Stewart, Ince, Clarke, Davies (Harrison 58), Jones (Riley 74). Not used: Little, O'Connor, Salmon.

Martyn may make festive first-team return
By Ian Doyle, Daily Post
Dec 22 2005
EVERTON could have Nigel Martyn available for part of the festive period as they bid to arrest their slump in form. The goalkeeper has been sidelined since suffering a groin injury during the victory at Blackburn Rovers earlier this month. Richard Wright replaced the 39-year-old at half-time at Ewood Park and has since deputised during the draw at Manchester United and the home defeats to West Ham United and Bolton Wanderers. Wright is expected to retain the gloves for the Boxing Day clash at Aston Villa. But with Everton facing a busy holiday programme of four games in eight days, manager David Moyes is hoping Martyn can return to full fitness and press his claims for a starting role. Young goalkeeper Iain Turner was recalled from a loan spell at Wycombe to cover for the injured Martyn, and believes he is prepared to step in should the situation arise. "It is good experience to be in the first team squads," said Turner. "Hopefully I will get a chance but Wrighty has come in and done well. "You don't want to wish injuries on anyone, but there is a busy period of games coming up and I am ready if a chance arises. "We have a few internationals amongst our goalkeepers and we have good banter, but only one can play so you are going to have to fight for it."
Everton's hopes of Premiership progress have been hampered by a succession of injuries to key personnel, but long-term absentees Gary Naysmith and Lee Carsley are expected to return to full training early in the New Year. However, James Vaughan has suffered a setback in his recover from a knee ligament injury sustained while on England under-19 duty in September. The 17-year-old has made only one first-team appearance for Everton this season having scored on his debut against Crystal Palace in April to become the club's youngestever goalscorer. But Moyes said: "He is still struggling. James has had some fluid drained from his knee and an injection to try and settle it down because it hasn't happened since his operation. "I don't think he is going to be back any time soon. He's only a young boy. He's only 17, so to say that we are missing 17-year-olds shouldn't be the case.
"But it's the boy's development that we are worried about. "It's an important year for him and he's missed a lot of it with a knee injury. We know that he has got a lot of attributes."

A new Goodison is all up to Liverpool
By Larry Neild, Daily Post
Dec 22 2005
0ShareEVERTON FC will wait until rivals Liverpool decide on the future of Anfield before considering the future of Goodison Park, the club insisted last night. Club officials have distanced themselves from reports on both sides of the Irish Sea that the Blues are involved in talks about a new ground.
There is even speculation that a site within two miles of Goodison Park is already being lined up as a new home for Everton FC. The club wants to await a definitive decision by Liverpool FC on its future, and whether they will build on Stanley Park, elsewhere, or refurbish and extend Anfield.
The critical point for Everton's board is whether the hopes of a shared ground can be revived.
Liverpool FC has made it clear that it wants its own sole use ground. But the North West Regional Development Agency says public money through its office will only be forthcoming for a joint stadium. Until Liverpool FC makes its final decision, the hope remains that a shared ground will be revived at some stage. Last night an Everton FC spokesman said: "Nothing has changed as far as we are concerned. There are no new talks about a new ground." Commentators say that Everton's improved financial position has increased the club's chances of securing external private finance for a new ground, funded by large-scale borrowing. But that is a long way from what are said to be talks about a 50,000-seater stadium costing £125m. Liverpool FC is facing tough decisions in the next couple of months over the viability of the proposed "new Anfield", with rumours the cost of the venture has risen to £200m. An Everton source said: "There really is nothing new in these suggestions about our own plans. The situation is exactly the same as it was a year ago."
The club have declined to make any official comment on the new claims but the situation on Merseyside involving both clubs and their proposed new homes is reaching a climax.
At Everton's AGM on November 24, chief executive Keith Wyness made it clear a new ground was still under consideration along with sharing with Liverpool or re-developing Goodison Park.
Liverpool have had constant opposition to the development and their overall plans for the past four years and are in danger of losing public funding in the process. They must come up with cash by February or more EU funds might be withdrawn.

Chester looking to prolong Ruddy deal
By Neil Turner, Daily Post
Dec 22 2005
CHESTER CITY will today apply to the Football League to extend the loan transfer of Everton goal-keeper John Ruddy for a further period. Ruddy joined the Deva Stadium club last week as City's two registered keepers Chris Mackenzie and Ryan Brookfield are both injured. However, the League only sanctioned a seven-day loan deal, and City manager Keith Curle is anxious to prolong the arrangement. "John did well for us against Rushden and Diamonds last weekend, I have spoken to David Moyes and he has given me permission to extend the loan. "We have a mini-crisis in the goalkeeping department at the moment, and we are extremely grateful that David is helping us in our hour of need." Three of City's injured players have started light training, while two others are recovering from surgery, much to the delight of Curle. "Michael Branch, Justin Walker and Gregg Blundell have started rehabilitation work on the pitch, it's pleasing to see them building up their football movement again," he said. "Two of the other injured players appear to be in positive mood following their recent operations. "Chris Mackenzie and Sean Hessey are in good spirits after their ops, and whilst they will both be out of action for between six to eight weeks, their attitudes and eagerness to get back to work is a credit to them."

Arteta: Time to turn it on
Dec 22 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
MIKEL ARTETA is backing Everton's players to silence their critics by serving up a show at Aston Villa similar to last season. The Blues head to the Midlands on Boxing Day following two demoralising home defeats against West Ham United and Bolton, looking anxiously over their shoulders.
Villa Park, however, holds many happy memories for Evertonians, particularly last season when Arteta stamped his class and authority all over a match David Moyes' side won 3-1. But with Villa on the same number of points as Everton in the table, Arteta knows winning is the most important thing. "We need to try to do something there," said Arteta, who has been in outstanding form. "We have got to get points, go there with our heads up and make everyone happier again. "We have got to change what we have done in the last two games. We have watched videos of the Bolton game and, to be honest, in some parts of the game we did okay. It wasn't a 4-0 game. "If we win on Monday, everything will be much better again and we can build from there. We need to start winning again and transmitting positive things. "I'm sure the team will react well against Villa. We played some very good football the last time we went there. We looked lively and created many things. We must do it again." Everton boss Moyes, meanwhile, has had chance to digest the performance against Bolton and still feels the scoreline did not reflect his side's display.
The league table, though, does not cater for hard luck stories and Moyes appreciates that if Everton make the same mistakes as last Saturday, they will be similarly punished. "We were on a good run, but haven't really played well in the last two games," said Moyes. "But I had a good opportunity to go through the Bolton game and in the first half, they were in our penalty box twice. "In the second, there was only a period of five minutes up to the 70th minute where we even came close to being under pressure. But we lost terrible goals and we didn't score."

Who will fund a new Goodison?
Dec 22 2005 By Nick Coligan, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON could qualify for millions of pounds of European funds if they choose the right site for a new stadium. A financial jackpot could be on offer if the club identifies the right location for its proposed £125m, 50,000-seater ground. Yesterday chief executive Keith Wyness confirmed the club is looking at three options, with the preferred being a new ground within two miles of Goodison.
Today one leading city economist identified the Central Docks, home to this year's Summer Pops, as "perfect" for a stadium. Located in Vauxhall, one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country, it is ripe for regeneration funds. The club was today silent about the plans, but the ECHO will be passing fans' questions directly to Mr Wyness from our website and letters pages. Peter Stoney from Liverpool University's management school, said: "Grounds are now about more than just football, they need retail and leisure facilities. "Central Docks is a 100-acre, brownfield site, available to develop and big enough for other facilities. "It is easily accessible for many people and is walking distance from the city centre. "A new railway station could be built between Moorfields and Sandhills. "It is very close to some of the most deprived areas in the whole country. You can make a good case for it." Liverpool FC were awarded £9m of European money for their own plan to build a new stadium on Stanley Park. Although public money cannot be used to pay for the ground itself, it can fund the regeneration of surrounding areas. But any site will face a rigorous investigation by city planners before the green light is given. City council chief executive Sir David Henshaw said: "We have had discussions with Everton about a number of options. "We are always anxious to support the club, and we look forward to receiving proposals from the club when they are ready."
Council leader Warren Bradley, an Everton season-ticket holder, still prefers the idea of the two rivals sharing a stadium. He said: "You go to watch the spectacle on the pitch, not where you sit.
"One 70,000-seater stadium would suffice for Liverpool and Everton and the clubs would have more money to put players on the pitch, which is what the fans want to see. "If they joined forces, they might receive public money from the Northwest Development Agency and Europe to deliver a first-class stadium."
Eleanor Barham found out what the fans thought of a new stadium
Neil Dodd, 56, of Edge Hill, said: "What's the sense in having a big stadium when they can't fill the one they've got unless they're playing a big team? "They should spend money on the team - they should be challenging for the premiership next year."
Ruth Blanchard, 36, of Kirkby, said: "They should spend money on the players. The ones we've got are really good, but they need to buy young players as an investment. "I do hope the plan to build a new stadium does go ahead but it should not have a new name."
Richard Jones, 20, of Waterloo, said: "We need a new stadium, but only in the long term. The old one's getting a bit dated and we need to move with the times. "It would be good to get a big sponsor to do it because they would give us a lot of money."
Chris Higgins, 24, of Formby, said: "Improving the team and the stadium go hand in hand. We need a new ground to get more revenue. "The facilities are poor and the stadium's hard to get to, but I have no faith in the board to see the move through."
Jan McColgan, 49, of Crosby, said: "They need a new site to keep up with other clubs. If Liverpool's getting one, we should too. "I don't mind if they get a company to sponsor the new stadium. We've got used to the Reebok and JJB stadiums."
Stephanie Grace, 17, of Halewood, said: "Apparently we're in the top 20 richest clubs so they should improve the team and move. "They do need to move -the current stadium's small and gets really full. But I don't think the move will happen."

Blues still have grounds to hope
Dec 22 2005 Sports View with Echo Sports Editor John Thompson
CHRISTMAS is a time of hope.
But even the biggest optimists in the Gwladys Street end should not get too carried away into believing Everton may soon resurrect detailed plans to move out of Goodison Park and into a brand new stadium.
The facts are this.
Fact No 1: For years Everton have known they need to rebuild Goodison Park or move to a new ground. That's why four years ago the club spent thousands of pounds and thousands of hours formulating detailed plans to build on the Kings Dock. Let's not go there, eh?
Fact No 2: Some politicians and government quango big-wigs think Everton and Liverpool should still team up and share a new stadium. But Everton don't want it, Liverpool certainly don't want it and the vast majoroity of the fans on both sides don't want it. People in power can bleat on about it all they want, but, it's not on the agenda and can't be forced upon the clubs.
Fact No 3: Keith Wyness this week confirmed Everton are still actively pursuing a solution to a problem that obviously did not go away with the regrettable decision not to build on Kings Dock. No one should be too surprised. Goodison Park is looking past its sell-by date and the Blues chief executive and his team are clearly exploring every avenue to find a new way forward.
Fact No 4: That includes speaking to people who might help finance a deal. But the most important dialogue is being pursued privately with potential commercial partners. Put the accent on potential. Just as seems the case at Liverpool, the hunt is on but there's no sign of a catch yet.
Fact No 5: Thanks to David Moyes guiding the team to fourth spot last season, and also to Wyness for modernising the Goodison set up and improving revenues, the club is in now in a much healthier financial state. But it is nowhere near being able to take out a huge mortgage to build a new stadium. Things aren't suddenly going so well that Everton can instantly afford to borrow the tens of millions needed and upsticks to a brand new home.

Fact No 6: No specific site for any new stadium has been decided upon. So supporters would be wasting their time guessing about a mystery site two miles away from Goodison. Yes the old Central Docks site might be an option one day. But it's not been earmarked as a favourite by the Blues board. Apart from Liverpool and Everton, there's another major club on Mersey-side curently looking to move to a new stadium - St Helens Rugby League Club. Saints chairman Eamonn McManus this week revealed to the Echo how he hopes to seal a deal next year which will see the Super League giants quit Knowsley Road in three years. But with so much still to be done and agreed, he advised caution and spoke of the importance of 'managing expectations'.
McManus has got it spot on. Because moving house is both exciting and stressful for everyone involved and the same goes for sports fans. Right now it's important Evertonians understand that they are better off hoping to get as many points as possible this Christmas. Because they are not about to get a new stadium deal, though one day, who knows. Blues fans should never, ever give up hope.

Sort out the team first
Dec 22 2005 Liverpool Echo
EVERTON fans today had a message for their club - sort out the team before worrying about the stadium. Three years after the financial fiasco that saw plans for a stadium at Kings Dock crumble, fans were sceptical about relocating. John Munro, coordinator of Everton's Southport Supporters Club, said: "Nothing is ever simple with Everton. "I have always supported the redevelopment of Goodison unless the club categorically says it cannot be done. "I would prefer to stay at Goodison until the team is sorted out on the pitch. But I would not be against moving if the time was right.
"This year's accounts look pretty impressive and we have made real inroads, but we still need to improve the financial side." Phil Parker, chairman of the Sons Of St Domingo group, said: "They have been talking about new stadiums and possible sites for 10 years. We have got stadium fatigue. "We should be aiming for Champions League football, which would produce the funds to support a project like this. "But within reason, I would support a move if it projected the club back where it should be."

Kroldrup keen to join action
Dec 22 2005 Liverpool Echo
PER KROLDRUP is finally hoping to step from the Goodison shadows this Christmas. The Danish defender is still waiting to make his debut - four months after his £5m move from Udinese.
But he finally hopes to step in during the busy festive period. "With the number of games coming up I hope it will bring a chance for me," he said. "I have been ready and waiting in the last couple of months but Joseph (Yobo) and David (Weir) have been doing well. I am still waiting." Kroldrup forged his career in Italy, where there is traditionally a break from league action over Christmas. As a result, he admits this year's busy schedule is new to him. The defender added: "I have never experienced a Christmas like the one here because of the number of games. It will be new to me because in Italy they normally have a couple of weeks off, but it won't be a problem. "My parents are coming over and other members of the family, so it is fine."

Imlach is this year's Christmas hero but it's time to give - give Motty a miss
Dec 22 2005 Liverpool Echo
Expecting a book token for Christmas? Looking to stock up your bookshelf in the New Year sales - and need a helping hand? Chief Sports Writer DAVID PRENTICE has compiled an essential guide to what is hot, and what's not, from the Christmas sports book releases. My Father and Other Working Class Heroes - by Gary Imlach WE waxed lyrical about this volume two months back - and since then the judges for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year have agreed, handing the author their £20,000 first prize. If you only have £15.99 to spend this January, this is the book to spend it on. A wonderfully moving account of a son's search for the father he wished he'd known better . . . Nottingham Forest's FA Cup winning winger and later Everton trainer Stewart Imlach. Too good to do justice in three paragraphs, this is the sports book of this year, and many other years, too. Buy it.
Published by Yellow Jersey Press £15.99
Both Sides of the Border - by Archie Gemmill
HUGELY entertaining and candidly written - this puts the autobiographies of many modern football stars to shame. From its attention grabbing opening sentences, "I nearly didn't make it past the ripe old age of 14. My head felt ready to explode." to Gemmill's run-ins with Brian Clough, this is excellent stuff. There's also an intriguing tale on how he almost signed for Everton.
Here's a sneak preview. "In September 1970 I was definitely going to Everton. Months earlier the men at Goodison Park had been crowned champions of England and here was their manager, Harry Catterick, generously offfering me a four year contract with a £5,000 signing on fee and wages starting at £225 a week, rising to £250, £275 and then £300. "Yet I joined Derby for £70 a week, no signing on fee, a colour television and the promise I'd get my front room re-carpeted. "Alan Ball senior definitely wanted me to meet Brian Clough. Call it ego or just natural inquisitiveness, Ball was up for it. Like so many other managers in the game, he probably wanted to experience the great man in action and then go home, taking great delight in thinking he'd beaten him." He didn't - largely because Clough followed Gemmill home after their meeting, slept on his couch and refused to leave until he had charmed Archie - and his wife, who detested Clough, into signing for the Rams. The book contains a fascinating foreword by Clough penned shortly before his death.
Warmly recommended. Published by Hodder & Stoughton at £18.99
When Saturday Comes - The Half Decent Football Book
DOES what it says on the tin. Good in patches, ordinary in others. According to the blurb, WSC is "Packed with more quality than the Chelsea subs bench (and better value), smarter than a Thierry Henry finish with discussions of everything from John Gregory's firmly held views on art to Gary Lineker's wince-inducing match of the day puns . . . the people who brought you the world's finest half decent football magazine have now written a rather good book." Self praise is no recommendation. But at 468 pages there's plenty of this A-Z format volume - for £20. The sleeve picture of two old tea ladies chatting earnestly as they leave the ground, mind, while a Spurs winger ships the ball into a penalty area, is priceless.
Football Gentry - The Cobbold Brothers - by Brian Scovell
THE men behind Ipswich Town had a healthy sense of perspective about football. John Cobbold was once asked about his likes, and remarked: "One, girls - they are the best invention ever invented. Two, good company, which always improves with a glass in one's hand. Three, living in the country and four, football." Shooting partners of King George VI, the Queen Mother and Churchill, this is as far removed from 'Working Class Heroes' as you can imagine, but has its moments nonetheless.
£17.99 by Tempus Publishing
Motson's FA Cup Odyssey - by John Motson
"THE perfect guide to everything you wanted to know about the competition," apparently. Interesting, but po-faced, containing facts like: "When West Bromwich Albion played Leeds United in a fifth round replay in 1979, it was the seventh time the two sides had met each other in all competitions that season." Like its author, dull. Save your money. £9.99 Chrysalis Books
Kings of Europe - The best of the Champions League - by Bernard Brady
BIG, glossy and arty account of the European Cup. Pictures are good, if you like that type of thing.
£16.99 from Appletree Press
Jimmy - the autobiography of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
FORMULA football autobiography with only passing moments of interest. Save your money for Archie Gemmill's story. Priced £18.99
The Life and Death of Marco Pantani - by Gianfranco Josti

THE last Tour de France winner before Lance Armstrong, Pantani was found dead on Valentine's Day 2004 in a Rimini hotel room, aged just 34. Written with the blessing of his family, this is both heart-lifting and heart-sinking.
Ghost written by the charismatic Pantani's favourite cycling journal-ist, Gianfranco Josti - this is excellent value at £12.99.
Published by Chrysalis books.
Stand Up Pinnochio - by Phil Thompson
AN intriguing and illuminating story of a man who devoted his life to Liverpool Football Club. Packed full of anecdotes, revelations and hand on heart analysis of his time at Anfield.
Published by Trinity Mirror North-West £17.99
Colin Harvey's Everton Secrets - by John Keith
COLIN HARVEY was Mr Everton.
From the time he made his debut as an 18-year-old in the San Siro Stadium, through spells as player, coach, manager and finally youth team guru, Harvey witnessed life from every perspective inside Goodison Park. Entertainingly and honestly written by local journalist John Keith, this is the riveting story of a genuine Everton legend.
Published by Trinity Mirror North-West £17.99
Der Ball Ist Rund - by Mike Owen
AS much a work of reference as it is an entertaining trawl through Everton's European archives, this 264 page work highlights Everton's roll-ercoaster European fortunes. Recommended.
Price £7.99
Road to Rotterdam - by Mark O'Brien
AN insider's account of Everton's glorious European campaign of 20 years ago - containing the thoughts and reminiscences of journalists, players and fans - plus plenty of contemporary pictures.
Published by Head Products priced £8.95

The jury
Dec 22 2005 Liverpool Echo
How can the Blues make it a happy Christmas?
WHAT would make me happy over Christmas would be to see us play with more determination, conviction and confidence. Last season if we went a goal down at home, fans would expect, at worst, to get a point out of the game if not all three. However, this season going a goal down leads to nothing but pessimism as there is no belief that we can come back. I hope that Father Christmas Kenwright finds the money to help Moyes make some quality signings in January including at least one striker with pace (please!) to get us some goals. If this is going to be Duncan's last Christmas with us I hope he can give us one last match-winning performance against Liverpool. While I'm wishing for things it would also be nice for Nigeria to suddenly drop out of the African Nations as the prospect of our back four without Yobo is a scary one. I hope when Kroldrup finally gets his chance he turns out to be a £5million prince and not an ugly sister!
IT will be very difficult for Everton to make it a happy Christmas. Not only have they shown they are incapable of winning, they are incapable of performing well, keeping clean sheets and most of all, scoring goals. This isn't helped by the manager's negative and one-dimensional approach. The West Ham game was a disgrace and then the Bolton game? Well, there's no need to even comment on that. Things have got to change in January. More signings maybe? And if Moyes buys a player, is he actually going to play him? Something must be seriously wrong with Per Kroldrup if he is unable to get a game before Davie Weir. I have never seen Weir play so poorly and this is definitely the right time to play Per. Whatever happens, Moyes has got to have a serious think and sort out this fiasco. God Help us on derby day.

How can the Blues make it a happy Christmas?
IT was hard to avoid the feeling on leaving the ground on Saturday that the remaining three games of 2005 will be pivotal not only for Everton's season but also David Moyes' future at the club.
The derby aside, failure to take points from two very winnable away games at Aston Villa and Sunderland will increase support for the vocal minority requesting a change of manager.
It is to be hoped that Andy van der Meyde's return will be as soon as he suggested - his pace and influence have been sorely missed in recent games. In addition, the introduction of Per Kroldrup can no longer be delayed, if only to convince the Goodison faithful he actually exists.
For all the talk of a lack of natural leader, it's up to each individual to take personal responsibility, as there have been far too many capitulations. Another could have serious consequences.
AFTER some bright performances the team has suffered a couple of confidencesapping defeats. While the result against Bolton looked a bad one, we had played some reasonable football, but the way we capitulated in the end was the worrying aspect. That fighting spirit so often seen last season is missing, along with the consistency we expect from the defence. Bolton tore us apart at times, particularly late in the game. But defending is the responsibility of everyone and I just don't feel we did it well enough as a unit. Of course, the lack of firepower and pace up front is another problem for David Moyes, who has got to get his troops in the right mood for the battles ahead.
I want to see greater determination from the players during the festive games, and not see heads drop if we concede. Otherwise, it could be a long, hard winter for the fans.

Christmas is crucial - Sharp
Dec 22 2005 Evertonia, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON legend Graeme Sharp believes David Moyes' side are entering a crucial period of the season. The Blues must contend with four matches in the space of eight days over the festive period, beginning with the Boxing Day trip to Aston Villa. Matches against Liverpool, Sunderland and Charlton follow in quick succession. Having lost the last two Premiership outings against Bolton and West Ham, Sharp admits it could be a pivotal week. He told Evertonia: "It is an important period, it doesn't matter when you play. But there are some tough matches in there. People talk about the league table after Christmas looking like it does at the end of the season. "If you are down there at Christmas they usually say that you won't get out of it. West Brom proved that wrong last year but we need to get results over Christmas." Sharp, admitted into the club's list of Everton Giants last week, believes Tim Cahill could be a key player during the Christmas period after returning from a three-game suspension for last weekend's encounter with Bolton. Cahill played virtually non-stop for 12 months because of international commitments during the summer, and Sharp believes he will be reinvigorated for the festive rush. He added: "Obviously he doesn't want to miss games, but it gave him a rest."
Meeting players is the highlight
OVER 100 junior members of Evertonia met the players at their Christmas party at Goodison.
The Evertonians walked down the tunnel and entered the home dressing room where the players were gathered ready to sign autographs, chat to the youngsters and have photographs taken.
Dawn Farrelly, from Evertonia said: "It was a great party. "All the children really enjoyed themselves with the highlight being the chance to meet the players. I am sure they will cherish the memories from the day." The children also played games, enjoyed party food, had their faces painted and met Father Christmas in the fun-packed bash in the Alex Young Suite.
The members were selected at random from the database.
Membership of Evertonia is £9.99 for juniors and £19.99 for adults.
Call 0870 442 1878 or visit evertonfc.com for more information.

Curbishley's poised to make move for Bent
By Ian Doyle Daily Post Staff
Dec 23 2005
CHARLTON ATHLETIC are ready to tempt Everton into parting with Marcus Bent by lodging a £1.5million bid in the New Year. The Addicks were linked with a move for the 27-year-old during the summer transfer window, although David Moyes insisted at the time he had no intention of selling the player. However, the Goodison manager could revise his opinion given he must generate funds to facilitate any major dealings when the market reopens next month. And with Moyes keen to bring in a new striker - Preston North End striker David Nugent remains a prime target - it would further persuade him to allow Bent to leave. Charlton manager Alan Curbishley has been a long-time admirer of Bent, who was brought to Everton from Ipswich Town for £450,000 in June 2004. The striker has found himself on the periphery at Goodison in recent weeks, having started just once in two months and seen James Beattie and James McFadden form a partnership in attack. Bent made a bright start to his Everton career, scoring six goals before last Christmas as he helped his new team into the Premiership top three. However, he has scored only twice in 39 appearances during 2005.
Bent is nevertheless expected to figure for Everton over the festive period, with the busy schedule giving Per Kroldrup hope he is close to making his Premiership debut. The Denmark international has not appeared for his new club since his £5million move from Italian outfit Udinese in the summer. But with four games in eight days and the prospect of Joseph Yobo having to report for African Nations Cup duty for Nigeria in January, Kroldrup is ready to step in. "With the number of games coming up I hope it will bring a chance for me," said the 26-year-old. "I have been ready and waiting for my chance in the last couple of months but Joseph and David (Weir) have been doing well. I am still waiting and hopefully my chance will come." Everton travel to Aston Villa on Boxing Day with a point to prove following their 4-0 Goodison humbling against Bolton Wanderers last weekend. And Mikel Arteta is hoping for a repeat of their last appearance at Villa Park in February, which resulted in a 3-1 victory and one of Everton's best performances of the season. "We need to try to do something there," said the Spaniard. "We have got to get points, go there with our heads up and make everyone happier again. We have got to change what we have done in the last two games. "We have watched videos of the Bolton game and to be honest, in some parts of the game we did okay. "I'm sure the team will react well against Aston Villa. We played some very good football the last time that we went there, we looked lively and created many things. We must do it again." Meanwhile, Malaga have reiterated their intention to extend their loan for Anderson da Silva until the end of the season. Everton currently hold ownership rights of the player after he left Racing Santander in the summer, although da Silva is currently ineligible to play in the Premiership because he does not qualify for a work permit. He was immediately loaned out to Malaga until the end of the year, but the Spanish side remain keen to keep da Silva at the club for the remainder of the campaign. "The coach (Antonio Tapia) is happy with the player and I am convinced that we will reach an agreement," said Malaga director of sport Manuel Ruiz Hierro.

Heath: Rotterdam was lowest point in my career
Daily Post
Dec 23 2005
ADRIAN HEATH, one of the stars of Howard Kendall's great side of the mid-80s, reveals in a new book how the Cup Winners Cup Final of 1985 represented one of the lowest points of his career.
After playing his part in the early part of the cup run, he was forced to sit out the rest of the '84/85 season with a serious knee injury sustained in a challenge with Sheffield Wednesday's Brian Marwood, and in an interview for the book, 'The Road to Rotterdam', he says: "I can honestly say that although that night in Rotterdam was a terrific occasion and people will never forget it, for me, sitting in the stands with Mark Higgins, that was the worst time for me during my injury.
"The injury was just a disaster for me anyway because I was playing so well when I got it and Bobby Robson had said he was going to call me up for England and I was over the moon with that, and then it happened. "Sitting there that night was as low as I'd felt at any time, because I so much wanted to be out there, and there I was sat in the top of the stand with Higgy." The book, which tells the story of the whole cup campaign through inter-views with some of the players who took part as well as the fans and journalists who watched it unfold, contains plenty of happier tales though.
Written and compiled by Mark O'Brien, it details the antics and exploits of the Evertonians who went to extraordinary lengths to watch their team, travelling to the likes of Dublin, Bratislava, Sittard and Munich before that historic final in Rotterdam itself. It also contains 32 pages of colour photographs, the majority of which have never been published before, which help recreate the atmosphere of probably the greatest season in Everton's illustrious history. "The Road to Rotterdam" is currently available from HMV as well as the Everton club shop and also online at www.whenskiesaregrey.com/

New resolve
Post Soapbox, icLiverpool & Daily Post
Dec 23 2005
New resolve
POOR Everton have failed to play well for 12 months and if they have won or drawn games, it has been more by luck than design. The questions I wish to ask is why can't a team of reasonably talented professionals compete against teams of a similar standard? Why is it that they seem devoid of ideas and confidence and appear unable to beat a man, pass a ball, defend resolutely and, above all, put a few balls into the opponent's net. I hope that all the staff at Everton FC promise to have New Year's resolutions to change things around in 2006. Come on, pull your socks up and play your utmost for the best club in the land. I have so little confidence in the team at present that the forthcoming game against Sunder-land worries me.
Roger Jenkins (via e-mail)
Crowded out
A 50,000 capacity stadium? We'll be lucky to get 20,000 in 2010 the way things are going. Wouldn't it be better to spend the £100million on some players and then take stock? Jack Smethers, Wallasey
Lack of points
MY OWN feelings on David Moyes are mixed. We have been up or down the Premiership in consecutive seasons, we don't play good football and can't score goals. I have been inclined to stick with him on the basis that we would struggle to pay a better replacement and a lack of transfer money would put people off. We are on course to finish with 36 points and have already spent more than we will have available in January. The four fixtures up to New Year's day are critical.
If we take six points, we can look at 40 points and safety. If we don't take any, we really will be in free fall.
Brian Barnes, Huyton
Thanks for visit
I'D JUST like to thank the Everton players and David Moyes for taking time out to speak to my daughter Kerri while visiting Alder Hey. Although she is a Liverpool fan, she was very happy to receive the gifts and would like to thank them all. Thanks from the Fowler family.
Margie Fowler, Liverpool
Moyes deadline
GIVE Moyes until at least the end of the season; he will keep us up. If you want rid of him, who are you going to bring in?
Jon Clarke, Waterloo

Everton in need of Christmas cheer
By Mark O'Brien Everton Supporter, Daily Post
Dec 23 2005
WHEN Everton go wrong this season, they certainly do it with style. While everyone was hoping for a backlash after the West Ham defeat, instead we got a hammering from Bolton to add to similar humiliations at the hands of Bucharest and West Brom. At the final whistle, the feeling among the fans was about as far away as possible from the after-glow of the Manchester United match. We came away from Old Trafford looking like a team on the up, and slightly disappointed with only a draw, yet five minutes of dreadful defending gifted three points to Bolton and had angry fans streaming for the exits. Increasingly, the dissent and criticism of David Moyes is focussing on the fact that we're letting silly goals in and yet there is a £5million defender sat on the bench, yet to make an appearance in a competitive match. The Everton manager's seeming reluctance to throw him into the fray is adding fuel to rumours about the true pedigree of Per Kroldrup. The situation has got to a point now, though, where even if he did start, perhaps instead of David Weir, who struggled against West Ham and Bolton, the pressure on him will be almost intolerable. Unless he's the new Brian Labone - and we are all pretty sure that he isn't - then he seems to be on something of a hiding to nothing. It would come as no surprise at all if stories in some papers about him being sold back to Udinese are true. The whole Kroldrup situation, along with the signing of James Beattie, who is playing better now than he ever has for us but still rarely looks like scoring, calls into question Moyes's judgement in the transfer market and has left a lot of people wondering whether he is liable to strengthen the squad sufficiently in January. There is room for improvement in almost every department yet, by all accounts, there isn't likely to be a great deal of money available. So signing Robbie Keane certainly seems like something of a pipe dream. Regardless of what happens in the New Year, it's the existing squad who we need to pull out all the stops in these critical games over the Christmas period. There is still a small gap between ourselves and the bottom three, but if we don't take a fair chunk of points then we could easily find ourselves entering 2006 back in the relegation zone and looking for a new manager, never mind new players.

We must believe again - Moyes
Dec 23 2005 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES has urged his Everton players to rediscover the resilience and character which carried them to the brink of a European place two years ago. "Two seasons ago we were fantastic when we went a goal down and we were never beaten," he said. "But it has been disappointing this season when we have lost a goal. We have to change that." During that 2002-03 campaign the Blues bounced back from conceding early goals to overcome Southampton, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Blackburn. The following season they even retrieved a 3-0 deficit against Manchester United, before cruelly losing a last minute decider. But this season the Blues have failed to grind out even a single point after the opposition have scored first. "I think it's more to do with not having scored enough goals ourselves and maybe a lack of self-belief that we can get one," explained Moyes.
"We have to start getting some goals and then if we do go behind, we will need to see if we can get back into games. "I wouldn't put it all down on the strikers. Maybe we haven't created enough for them. Maybe they have not had enough opportunities, so we'll have to look at that as well.
"Certainly we can see that we are well behind on where we would like to be in terms of goals scored this season." The Blues have recorded a measly nine goals in 17 Premiership matches this season - and with Duncan Ferguson considering retiring in the New Year, their striking options will be diminished yet further. Everton's Boxing Day opponents Aston Villa, meanwhile, have closed down their Bodymoor Heath training ground for two days after an out-break of 'flu. Mark Delaney, Gareth Barry, Olof Mellberg, Liam Ridgewell and Luke Moore have all been laid low by the virus - and the training ground has closed down to stop the infection spreading. Boss David O'Leary said: "There is a flu virus. I am going to shut the place down for a couple of days but I think we will definitely be alright by Boxing Day. "It's not like we have a game on Saturday. We've had a few hard days training and a couple of days away from the place might freshen the players up as well and then we'll have a good training session on Saturday and Christmas Day."

Festive spirit alive with goals of Christmas past
Dec 23 2005 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
ON the day before Christmas Eve, how about a heart-warming football tale from Christmas past?
A tale of give and take in equal proportions, a story of share and share alike in the true festive spirit?
They do exist - and you don't have to look too far back to find them. Let's start by asking what most of you will be doing at three o'clock on Sunday? Watching the Queen's speech? Tucking into a roast dinner? Trying to throw one more down the hatch before your landlord's patience is completely exhausted? Or snoozing in your favourite armchair? What I can say with absolute certainty is that you won't be sitting in a stand watching a football match kick off. Because Boxing Day is now the preferred date for festive football. But, for many years, a football match was as much a part of Christmas Day as turkey and trimmings. And our local clubs fully embraced the concept of giving just as much they received. That can be the only explanation for the quite remarkable scorelines recorded on Christmas Day and Boxing Day by our two big clubs. Throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s, there was a trend for the same clubs to play each other on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
And, if you thought that familiarity would mean a series of tight, boring draws, think again.
Sunderland, for example, came to Goodison Park on Christmas Day 1934, and Everton posted their biggest win of the season - a rip-roaring 6-2 scoreline. The cock-a-hoop Blues travelled to Roker Park for the return the following day. But any feelgood factor was immediately wiped out by a 7-0 slaying - the Blues' heaviest defeat of the season. This was the same season that Sunderland and Everton proved so evenly matched in the FA Cup . . . the teams drawing at Roker Park, going to extra time in the Goodison replay and Everton eventually winning a classic tie 6-4. But dramatic Christmas scoreline swings were the norm, and the long journeys, probably made on the day of the game, couldn't be used as an excuse for the odd fluctuations. The year before, Everton went to Newcastle on Christmas Day and won 2-1, then 24 hours later lost 7-3 at Goodison. Everywhere you look in the Everton record books the Blues would win one and lose one against the same opposition over Christmas. In 1955, Everton played a Boxing Day match at Birmingham . . . and lost 6-2. Twenty four hours later they brought them back to Goodison and won 5-1. In 1947, the Toffees went to Sunderland on Christmas Day and lost 2-0. A day later at Goodison they beat the same opposition 3-0. Twelve months earlier, it was Derby County - a 4-1 win on Christmas Day, a 5-1 Baseball Ground hiding on Boxing Day. The year before it was Blackpool's turn - a 5-2 reverse at the seaside on Christmas Day; a 7-1 demolition on Boxing Day on Merseyside. And so it went on . . . 1937: Leicester City, 1-3 away, 3-0 at home two days later; 1936: Derby County, 7-0 celebration on Christmas Day, 1-3 reverse on the 28th; 1932: Blackburn, 1-3 on Boxing Day, 6-1 the next day; 1931: Blackburn, 3-5 at Christmas, 5-0 on Boxing Day. It would be nice to think that the Blues' directors had sat down with their old First Division counterparts in front of a roaring log fire, swirled a glass of scotch, and said: "Let us run up a really big score in front of our fans for Christmas, and we'll let you do the same the next day. Keep everyone happy." Except Liverpool's directors must have enjoyed exactly the same conversations. Barnsley were beaten 5-2 at Anfield on Christmas Day 1945, but just 24 hours later the Reds slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Oak-well. The following year wins were swopped in 24 hours with Stoke - 1-2 away, 2-0 at Anfield; then Arsenal, 1-3 at Anfield, but a 2-1 win at Highbury, Blackpool, in 1950 - 0-3 away, 1-0 at home; Ipswich in 1954, a 6-2 stroll on Christmas Day, a 2-0 win for the Portman Road outfit on the 27th. Perhaps, the predictability of the Christmas scorelines is why the authorities finally called time on Christmas Day football - either that or dwindling gates.
The last Christmas Day football match kicked off on Merseyside in 1957. Everton entertained Bolton - and a crowd of just 29,584 (in a season when 71,868 had crammed into Goodison to watch the visit of Manchester United) saw a 1-1 draw. The previous year, just 22,001 had watched Liverpool labour to a 1-0 win over Leyton Orient on Christmas Day. The next day, Liverpool went to Brisbane Road and, bucking the trend, won 4-0.
Bah, humbug!

Aston Villa 4, Everton 0 (D,Post)
Dec 27 2005 David Prior At Villa Park, Daily Post
SO Per Kroldrup isn't a figment of the imagination, after all. If only this horror of a season was.
Having watched for so long from the sidelines, the £5million Dane can finally testify to the realities of a season that appears to be plumbing a new depth by the week. A second successive 4-0 defeat, yet another spineless capitulation, has surely now eradicated any suggestion that Everton are somehow too good to go down. No longer is it a question of whether there will be a fight for survival, it's whether Kroldrup and Co. are ready for it. This was a nightmarish vision of deja vu. Just as they did against Bolton, Everton caved in to embarrassing effect. Just as at Goodison nine days ago, Everton appeared idea-less in adversity to an extent that places a serious question mark over their ability to cope with the situation they now encounter. Drained of confidence and belief, devoid of any semblance of creativity, David Moyes faces the challenge of his footballing career to resurrect a season that is tumbling headlong into oblivion. And while Milan Baros's scandalous opening goal may again provide a useful get-out clause for another cold, dark day in the West Midlands, it must not be allowed to cloud the full extent of the problems currently besetting this team.
That this result should come at the venue of last season's peak performance only intensifies the gloom. Never have the slick passing and calculated finishing of that 3-1 win seemed further away than they did last night. It was 10 months ago, but it feels like 10 life-times. It even seems as if Everton's fragility is now inspiring their opponents. Prior to last night, Villa Park had witnessed a home win only five times in the whole of 2005. Villa hadn't even won on Boxing Day for six years.
And yet, like Bolton, West Brom and Dinamo Bucharest before them, Villa were transformed into world-beaters, injected full of the confidence they had seemingly garnered from staring at the crestfallen faces across the park. It was a night that had boded ill from the start. With the porous defeat to Bolton finally having made the reasons for his continued hibernation redundant, David Weir and Nuno Valente were removed from the squad and Per Kroldrup became flesh.
The six months since his summer move to Goodison had proved an increasingly fertile breeding ground for various wild rumours about his quality as a player; or at least, as a £5m player.
Now, at last, was the day he had probably feared and dreamt about in equal measure.
But while he had the support of every travelling and watching Evertonian, he did not have the immediate confidence. With David O'Leary clearly having decided to test the new man's nerve from the first whistle, Villa drove forward in Kroldrup's direction three times inside the first seven minutes. A fifth-minute punt forward should really have been snuffed out by Joseph Yobo, but the Nigerian dithered and that allowed Luke Moore to completely out-pace Kroldrup and lob a ball he should never have seen over the head of Nigel Martyn, returning to the side in place of Richard Wright. Luckily for the visitors, the ball found the side-netting. It was worrying sign though, and two minutes later Baros embarked on two runs that further exposed Kroldrup's leaden-footedness.
Not that anything else was really expected after such a spell on the sidelines, but now is not really the time to be bedding new players into such a vital position. This time, first the former Liverpool man's control and then a generous decision from Mike Riley spared the Dane's blushes. Thankfully, Everton quickly assumed a greater control on the game and relieved some of the pressure on Kroldrup, who will need time. Indeed for a time they gained the upper hand, with James McFadden a lively presence and James Beat-tie evidently eager to prove something to the club he turned down in favour of the Merseysiders. That said, had he taken one of two excellent first-half chances the game could have taken a much different direction. The first arrived after 17 minutes, when after Tim Cahill's switch to the right flank, Mikel Arteta swept in a superb left-footed cross that Beattie wastefully headed over. Four minutes before half-time, Arteta was again the provider but Beattie skied carelessly high into the crowd, much to the delight of the home crowd he had spurned at the start of the year. By then, of course, Everton were a goal down courtesy of a dis-graceful error from Mike Riley. Twice the official failed to pick up blatant handballs, first from Liam Ridgewell and then from Baros, who virtually controlled Gareth Barry's ball with his arm before hooking it beyond Martyn. As so often this season, this first goal proved to be the watershed in Everton's performance and laid the foundations for the pitiful fare that followed after the break. Three minutes in, a corner from James Milner - needlessly conceded by Yobo in what was a basic lack of communication - was flicked in by Mark Delaney. His first league goal since August 1999, indeed. With the game drifting away with little hint of an Everton revival, defeat again became a humiliation. Baros and substitute Juan Pablo Angel swapped training-ground one-twos before the latter fired through Martyn's legs, and barely sixty seconds later Villa swept forward again, Aaron Hughes crossing for Baros to make it four. The good news for Everton is that they have an immediate chance to redeem themselves, even from this Boxing Day flooring. The bad news is the chances of them doing that are surely minuscule, even in the topsy-turvy land of derby football. The truth is that tomorrow will bring together two sides whose fortunes have embarked on wildly different journeys since David Moyes uttered that infamous assessment of Merseyside's hierarchy back in May. Perhaps there's one glimmer of hope. After this low, it's surely time for things to get better.
Captain for the day, he did everything in his power to arrest the malaise around him
ASTON VILLA: Sorensen, Delaney, Hughes, Ridgewell, Bouma, Milner (Bakke 62), McCann, Davis (Craig Gardner 83), Barry, Moore (Angel 70), Baros. Subs: Taylor, De la Cruz.
EVERTON: Martyn, Hibbert, Yobo, Kroldrup, Neville, Davies, Cahill (Ferguson 81), Arteta, Osman (Bent 65), Beattie, McFadden. Subs: Wright, Kil-bane, Ferrari.
REFEREE: M Riley (W Yorkshire).
Att: 32,432.
NEXT GAME: Everton v Liverpool, Barclays Premiership, tomorrow, 8pm

Moyes misery as Everton suffer more strife of Riley
By David Prior, Daily Post
Dec 27 2005
DAVID MOYES has criticised referee Mike Riley for allowing the goal that sparked Everton's second successive 4-0 defeat at Aston Villa. The Goodison club's hopes of pulling clear of relegation trouble suffered another serious setback as they were humbled by Aston Villa, just nine days after losing at home to Bolton by the same scoreline. Two goals from Milan Baros and one each for Mark Delaney and substitute Juan Pablo Angel completed another dismal day, Everton's third 4-0 loss of this Premier-ship campaign. But it was Baros's first that attracted Moyes's ire, with the official having failed to spot either a blatant use of the arm from the former Liverpool striker or a handball from Liam Ridgewell in the lead up to the 35th-minute opener. Moyes said: "It was a blatant handball which should have resulted in a booking, not a goal. It was actually two hand-balls, because if you look at it Ridgewell handles it as well and Baros has his arm up there dragging it back in.
"The referee is looking straight at it. We got done a couple of weeks ago because a referee claimed not to see an incident, and the commission came in and banned Tim Cahill for three games. This referee was looking at it today, as well, but that commission won't come in and change that as well. Mistakes happen in football and it wasn't solely down to the referee, but I've got to say a big part of the way the game went in the first half was down to him. "I tried not to use the referee in any way as an excuse, but it was a turning point." Moyes did, however, admit that his side were looking "fragile" at the moment, and was critical of Joseph Yobo for need-lessly conceding the corner from which Villa effectively sealed victory with a second goal soon after the break. He added: "I thought we played quite well in the first half, and we had one or two good chances. We needlessly conceded the corner for the second goal." Moyes added: "Then the corner got through far too easily; we had a chance to go and attack it, but the marking wasn't good enough. But I was more concerned that we conceded a needless corner. "The ball came into the box and I think we could have let it go through with the correct shout, and that was only two minutes into the second half. "It was not unlike the Bolton game. I didn't think we played terribly badly, we made some chances and some openings which we missed. But we look very fragile at the moment and liable to concede goals. We've had too many days like this, it shouldn't be happening. This is a tough challenge, that's for sure." The game saw the long-awaited debut of £5million summer arrival Per Kroldrup, who Moyes insisted had done "okay". The manager is now hoping tomorrow's derby clash against inform neighbours Liverpool would provide an instant chance for his players to atone. "We cross the white line again on Wednesday night and we've got to be ready for that one," he said.. "It's a bonus in some ways that we play so soon, because we definitely need to come out with more credit than we are doing at the moment. The football isn't bad, but we're too soft-centred and we're not being tough enough to make sure teams don't score, and that if they do score they're going to have to work much harder than they are doing."

Villa defeat adds to humiliation
By Conor Francis, Daily Post
Dec 27 2005
JUST when you thought our season couldn't get much worse - it has.. Nine days ago, Evertonians were bemoaning the gutless, leaderless and all-round inept display delivered in the 4-0 licking dished out by Bolton. And yesterday we offered little more than a whimpering repeat. Yes, the main offenders (David Weir, Nuno Valente and Richard Wright) of the bruising Bolton defeat were consigned to sit out the Villa Park trip, but few things changed on the pitch. For all the pre-match talk of turning around our season, Everton, save for a mini-spell 20 minutes before the break, were lacklustre and barely tested the palms of Thomas Sorensen all afternoon. Instead, what transpired was nothing short of farcical. How we contrived to make a team as poor as Aston Villa look first-class is quite startling, but the problems facing David Moyes as he heads into the crucial January transfer window period are evident. The lack of pace and eye for goal means we look unlikely to score, the lack of steel in midfield results in us regularly being outbattled (few Everton teams have looked so fragile) and the lack of confidence and authority at the back means we are undeniably shaky even against the weakest of strikeforces. It is a grim assessment. But it is not over the top. Thankfully with the likes of Sunderland, Birmingham - and dare I say it, Portsmouth, we are still a little way short of relegation material. I still have faith in Moyes - however he is now entering the most pivotal time in his Everton managerial career. I just hope tomorrow's game restores some pride rather than adding to the embarrassment.

Baros admits to helping hand
By John Curtis, Daily Post
Dec 27 2005
ASTON Villa match-winner Milan Baros admitted handling the ball to set up his opening goal against Everton as David O'Leary's side romped to a 4-0 victory. Everton felt a sense of injustice when the Czech Republic striker used his hand to control a cross from Gareth Barry before tucking away the opening goal after 36 minutes. But that will not worry him or Villa in the short term as they moved further away from the relegation zone but left Everton manager David Moyes to reflect on a third successive defeat. Villa cashed in on their good fortune to deadly effect with Mark Delaney, Juan Pablo Angel and former Liverpool forward Baros again netting in a one-sided second period.
Baros said: "Yes I think maybe it was handball. To be honest, I think it was but the referee hasn't seen it. But it was a very important goal for us. "We went 1-0 up, the whole team played well and we deserved the win today. I felt good and we're happy with the three points. "We have a very important game with Fulham in two days so we have to forget today and be ready for that."
Delaney, who scored to silence his critics after requesting a transfer from Villa, admitted the goal - his first in six years - came at the right time. "It's been a long time, but I fancied it today playing at centrehalf," he said.. "It was a vital second goal, at 1-0 it could have gone either way." Villa manager O'Leary said: "It was a lovely start. I thought we totally deserved it, we dominated from the start and should have scored more in the first half. "The players' commitment, attitude and hunger was fantastic. "I thought the first goal was important, I was delighted it came because I thought we should have been two or three up before that. It might have been fortunate, I haven't seen it, but we got it and we deserve a break this season - and if we got it tonight, I'm delighted."

Aston Villa 4, Everton 0 (Echo)
Dec 27 2005 Dominic King At Villa Park
AFTER a wait of 192 often long days, finally Evertonians got their first glimpse in a competitive game of the man whose name has sparked countless debates in recent weeks. Per Kroldrup, welcome to the Premiership. Sadly, the much-discussed Kroldrup will not look back on his Everton debut with any great affection. On a freezing cold night in the West Midlands, this miserable season lurched to a new, worrying low. It must be emphasised that Kroldrup was not the reason Aston Villa ran out easy 4-0 winners. Once again, it was familiar old failings. Lacking creativity, verve and a general to rally the troops, when will this misery end? While Moyes made three changes to the side that was beaten 4-0 by Bolton Wanderers at Goodison Park nine days ago, the alarming aspect of this latest stomach churning reverse was the manner in which Everton collapsed. Again. Losing their shape alarmingly as they chased the game to no avail, Everton ultimately made Aston Villa look world beaters. The same Aston Villa who had only won five times at home throughout 2005 prior to last night. These are worrying, worrying times. Once a formidable unit who were never beaten, who would kick, scrap and fight for everything, Everton have developed a soft underbelly. It only takes one goal to knock the stuffing out of the side and any resistance is token. Equally alarming is the fact that these heavy defeats are becoming commonplace. Since they secured fourth place in the Premiership last May with a 2-0 defeat of Newcastle, Everton have been on the wrong end of a handful of hidings. Arsenal. Fenerbahce. Dinamo Bucharest. West Bromwich Albion. Bolton Wanderers, now this. Their confidence shattered, the squad creaking, Everton were over-whelmed by a Villa side who showed infinitely more hunger and character. At the final whistle, Kroldrup - who replaced the rested David Weir - trudged off looking bewildered.. He would have known from the first kick-off that he would have been in for a hard night but few could have predicted how events would unfold. Kroldrup didn't have long to wait for his first involvement. As Joseph Yobo dithered over a long ball, Moore scampered through, winning a challenge with the Denmark international to get a sight of Martyn's goal but he lobbed over when well placed. It was the speed of Milan Baros, however, that caused Kroldrup most problems early on. Twice in the space of 60 seconds, the former Liverpool striker sped past him but Martyn was equal to the task. Fortunately, Everton soon got a foothold back in the game, as they found their shape, worked tremendously hard and refused the home side any space in which to play. Mikel Arteta and Simon Davies were both prominent figures. Establishing a base for themselves, Everton should really have taken the lead on 17 minutes when Tim Cahill switched play for Arteta, who picked out the unmarked James Beattie with a fine cross, only for the striker to miss the target. Not for the first time this season, they were made to pay for not making their superiority tell when Baros pounced. How the goal was allowed to stand, though, only referee Mike Riley will know. Television replays confirmed what the naked eye had seen - that not only did Liam Ridgewell use his hand to start the move flowing but Baros, having got goalside of Kroldrup, had brought the ball under control with his arm before poking past Martyn.
You can always tell when an official has erred when players react so furiously, so to see Martyn and Phil Neville leaping around in protest, while James McFadden used colourful language to make his point, emphasised that Riley had blundered. Badly. Had the result stayed at 1-0, it would have been understandable had we talked about that decision. Instead, we are left to sift through the wreckage of another humbling. On this evidence, it won't be the last time we do it, either. There was nothing wrong with the legitimacy of Villa's second. Mark Delaney - who last hit the target back in August 1999 - nipped in at the near post ahead of Tony Hibbert to convert James Milner's right wing corner. Game over. Insult was added to injury in the dying minutes when the running of Juan Pablo Angel and Baros caused mayhem in Everton's defence. Twisting this way and that, tying defenders in knots as he traded passes with his Czech mate, Angel's goal was a beauty. Baros applied the coup de grace 60 seconds later when he was picked out superbly by Aaron Hughes, rifling past the helpless Martyn. This one-time England keeper did not deserve to be on the end of this scoreline. Some may point to the fact that Everton had one or two chances and argue that Riley's decision proved to be the defining moment. But it would be wide of the mark because there was still enough time for Moyes' men to claw their way back into the game. When Everton last visited Villa Park, they were riding on the crest of a wave, produced their best performance of the season and headed for home celebrating a magnificent 3-1 win as they stretched clear of Liverpool in the table. Now the Premiership makes alarming reading and Rafael Benitez's in-form side are the next visitors to Goodison Park. It could be just the game to reignite the fire in the squad. Something needs to because, make no mistake about it, Everton are in embroiled in a relegation fight - and, alarmingly for everyone at the club, it is one they do not look like winning.
Man of the match
Nigel Martyn:
Didn't deserve to be on the end of this scoreline.

Clutching at straws for derby miracle
Dec 27 2005 David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
EVERTONIANS with longer memories than they have faces today can find one straw to clutch at ahead of an ominous Merseyside derby. Eight years ago, Everton turned in one of the most wretched, deplorable, abysmal capitulations it has ever been my misfortune to witness, in a Rumbelows Cup tie at Coventry. Boss Howard Kendall ordered his players to lap the pitch. They refused and for one awful moment there was mutiny in the air. Three days later Everton beat their Merseyside neighbours 2-0 in the unlikeliest of derby day upsets. It was a rare ray of light in a dreadful season, Everton eventually escaping relegation on goal difference. But the fact that we are even talking about that side in the same sentence as the current crop, shows how far things have fallen since last season's fourth place finish. To lose one Premier-ship match 4-0 is careless. To lose two in quick succession hints at a deeper malaise and a worrying lack of character and spirit.
Everton must redis-cover those qualities, because this current Liverpool team doesn't look like the kind of side which will give up the kind of presents Ruddock, Kvarme and co gave in 1997.
And if Everton lose badly tomorrow night, there could be more than just mutiny in the air at Goodison Park.

We have to show some pride - Neville
Dec 27 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
PHIL NEVILLE has urged Everton's players to take the chance to put some pride back into their faltering season in the 202nd Merseyside derby. The England international admitted he was devastated by the way Everton collapsed in the second half of yesterday's 4-0 defeat against Aston Villa and knows the patience of supporters is wearing thin. But rather than look to the Goodison Park clash with Liverpool with a sense of dread, Neville - captain at Villa Park in David Weir's absence - feels the only way Everton's players will regain the backing of fans is by seizing the moment.
"We lost 4-0 last week, 4-0 yesterday and 4-0 at West Brom," said Neville. "If I was an Everton fan, I would be disappointed by the way the team is playing at the moment. Wednesday night is the derby and we need to restore some pride. "It's a game that we can't let our supporters down. We have let them down here. As players we take full responsibility. On Wednesday night there will be no excuses. There are no excuses here but there certainly won't against Liverpool. "I wish we had a chance to play this morning. When you lose 4-0, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Every single player in the dressing room wants to put right what we haven't done here." While Neville and his team-mates were aggrieved that Milan Baros' first half goal was allowed to stand following a blatant handball, he accepted the performance afterwards was anything but the standard required.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect was the fact that Everton's players went into their shells when Mark Delaney scored within minutes of the re-start and Neville knows it is time for everyone to stand up and be counted. "It was disappointing," he said. "We thought first half we probably shaded it and were the better team. We felt a bit hard done by with the first goal and if we'd lost the game 1-0 we'd have been talking about that. "But we lost the game 4-0. No excuses. We came out second half and we conceded a couple of corners. At 2-0 down we left ourselves a mountain to climb. The disappointing thing was the way we reacted to the second goal. "At 2-0, you have got big men up there like Duncan and Beats, you always feel that you can nick a goal and get back in the game. But we didn't do that and we are disappointed. It knocked the stuffing out of us."

Moyes is keen for Blues to harden up
Dec 27 2005 By John Curtis, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES admitted his side have a "soft centre" after they were crushed 4-0 by Aston Villa to leave them hovering above the Premiership relegation zone. Moyes can justifiably claim Everton were hard done by for the opening goal from Milan Baros, who clearly handled before putting Villa ahead. But he was equally concerned with some sloppy defending which enabled Mark Delaney, Juan Pablo Angel and Baros again to net in the second period. It was the third time Everton have conceded four goals in the past seven games and Moyes knows they have to improve in tomorrow's derby clash with Liverpool. He said: "The first goal was blatant handball. Deliberate handball should result in a booking but resulted in a goal against us. The referee was looking straight at the incident.
"I try not to talk about referees but that was the turning point. "We had played quite well in the first half and had one or two good chances. But we look fragile at the moment and liable to concede goals. "We are letting them in far too easily. We are not playing terribly badly but giving sides too many goals. "We are having too many days like this and they shouldn't be happening.
"We've got to get ready for Liverpool now and we definitely need to come out with more credit from that game. "Unfortunately, it looks at the moment like we have a soft centre to our game which we have to eradicate." Villa manager David O'Leary felt his side were due a slice of good fortune after several refereeing decisions had gone against them in recent weeks, most notably when defender Liam Ridgewell conceded four harsh penalties in the space of five games. He said: "I felt we ran out worthy winners. We started the game very well and should have been a few goals ahead. "We then maybe got fortunate with the first goal. I haven't seen it but the TV people say the ball hit Milan's hand."

Goals can turn our fortunes around
Ian Doyle, Daily Post
Dec 28 2005
IT has been a shade more than nine months since the last Merseyside derby. Evertonians, though, would be forgiven for feeling as though it was a lifetime away. Liverpool may have won that Sunday afternoon in March but it was Everton who emerged triumphant in the battle for fourth place in the Premiership to finish above their neighbours in the league for only the sixth time in 42 years.
But after David Moyes perceptively hailed his team as being "the best in the city", circumstances have transpired to prove the exact opposite. Liverpool's European Cup victory over AC Milan was a mere precursor as Everton slipped out of the Champions League and UEFA Cup this season and tumbled towards the bottom of the Premiership while their nearest rivals went from strength to strength. Some turnaround. Now Everton play host to the 202nd Merseyside derby this evening in the knowledge that defeat could see them slide back into the relegation zone. While the last meeting between these sides at Goodison a year ago saw Lee Carsley's solitary strike put Everton 12 points clear of Liverpool, Moyes's side go into this game 17 points behind their opponents having played two games more. The Boxing Day humiliation at Aston Villa followed a similar 4-0 thrashing at home to Bolton Wanderers and another setback on their own turf to West Ham United, bringing to a screeching halt the mini-revival bolstered by victories over Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United and Middlesbrough and honourable draws with Chelsea and Manchester United. And as he attempts to rouse his troops for a repeat showing of last year's derby win, Moyes admits he is at a loss to explain his side's worrying inconsistency. "I'm not sure what the answers are to our current form," he says.. "We just don't seem to know what sort of team is going to turn up. "We aren't anything like what I want or anything like I expected. But it's a fact. All of us have to do better. "Some days we look as if we are really hard to beat and playing well. And it might sound a bit crazy, but in the last two games we have lost 4-0 I think we have done quite well football-wise. But we have made very poor mistakes that have cost us goals." Suffocating defence was the foundation for Everton's success last season, but already this campaign they have shipped 27 goals, 10 coming in the last three games. Indeed, their five shut-outs in the Premiership this season have led to their only league victories. Evidently, when Everton keep a clean sheet, they win. Small wonder Moyes demands a defensive improvement. "We've got four centre-halves at the club who are internationals; Joseph Yobo with Nigeria, David Weir with Scotland, Per Kroldrup with Denmark and Matteo Ferrari with Italy," says the Goodison manager. "We've got two left-backs who are internationals; Nuno Valente with Portugal and Phil Neville with England. So we've got plenty of good defenders who are all of international quality. "But it isn't just the defenders. We have to start defending from the front. The players do work hard enough for each other, but there are no excuses, we have not played well enough to win the games in the last couple of weeks." While keeping the ball out of their own net has proven a problem, rustling the opponents' onion bag has been an even more troublesome proposition. Nine goals in 18 league games is a statistic that requires no elaboration.
"We have missed chances and that makes it even worse," admits Moyes. "Not scoring and conceding too many is a recipe for disaster. I have felt we were the better team in both matches for a long time, but it is goals we can't find. People may think 'he's off his head' - but they can think that because that is how I see it. "We have had chances recently to get some goals but haven't done that, and then made mistakes that have led to results that haven't been warranted." Moyes can take encouragement from the fact that playing the best appears to bring the best out of Everton this season. But coming up against a Liverpool defence that has kept eight successive Premiership clean sheets, Moyes admits his players will have to reproduce the type of performance that earned a point at Old Trafford to gain any reward this evening. "The combination of our recent performances and Liverpool's good performances and good results have got people saying they are favourites," he says.. "It's easy to see that and easy to say that. "But it's probably a good thing the derby is coming up now. It's a game we have to be ready for, prepared. I think the scheduling of it in among this run of games can be questioned a bit, but nevertheless, it is a good game. "We've not done well in the last three games but prior to that we had picked ourselves up a little bit. "Obviously, we're not full of confidence after conceding goals like we have. I can't turn around and say we feel great, because we don't. "But we have enough quality to do better than we are doing at the moment." Everton's midfield is likely to do battle with derby debutant Mohamed Sissoko, a player who could easily have been lining up for the Goodison side had Liverpool not come in with a late £5million offer to lure the Mali international to Anfield. And Moyes reveals: "I felt it was a deal that we were very close to completing. I was disappointed. We were talking about a lot less than Liverpool paid. I met the boy in Amsterdam, and I thought we had a chance. "It felt a bit like getting gazumped on a house. But it has gone now. He had the qualities we were looking for." Everton have lost every game in which they have fallen behind this season, and not since the visit to Southampton in February have they salvaged even a point after being in arrears. And Moyes says: "I don't think the players' heads are going down when we fall behind, but it is disappointing that we haven't been able to fight back from conceding the first goal. "We're trying, but things are going against us at the moment." Tonight would be the perfect time for that fortune to change.
Everton v Liverpool Head-to-head
Overall League Record (Everton first)
P172 W55 D54 L63
Premiership Meetings
2004-05 H 1-0 A 1-2 2003-04 H 0-3 A 0-0 2002-03 H 1-2 A 0-0 2001-02 H 1-3 A 1-1 2000-01 H 2-3 A 1-3 1999-2000 H 0-0 A 1-0 1998-99 H 0-0 A 2-3 1997-98 H 2-0 A 1-1 1996-97 H 1-1 A 1-1 1995-96 H 1-1 A 2-1 1994-95 H 2-0 A 0-0 1993-94 H 2-0 A 1-2 1992-93 H 2-1 A 0-1 Best Betting Odds H 9-2 (total bet) A 5/6 (Stan James) D 23/10 (bluesq.com)

Everton must work hard to match rivals
By Colin Harvey, Daily Post
Dec 28 2005
COLIN HARVEY gives his low-down on where the big match will be won and lost Defence Everton's defence must not fall into the trap of allowing Peter Crouch the time and space to bring the ball down and feed passes to his team-mates. While he is tall, he does not have the greatest power behind his headers and tends to glide the ball rather than bullet it. But he is very adept at linking up with players around him, especially with Steven Gerrard flying up to join him. Everton will want to keep him higher up the field, but if Djibril Cisse plays he is the sort who will happpily latch onto a pass over the top and find space behind the defence. If Fernando Morientes plays, he will pose a bit more of an aerial threat with a bit more power.
Mikel Arteta will be an influential player for Everton with his ability to deliver quality passes and crosses. He does not often go out wide and round the opposition, but cutting inside he offers Everton a bit of subtlety they miss when he is not there. The home team will be looking to redis-cover the qualities that served them so well last year and at Old Trafford most recently. To match Liverpool they will need to be hard-working and put in the endeavour that can help offset the extra quality the visitors have in the middle of the park. Phil Neville will be looking to break up Liverpool's momentum and not give the likes of Xabi Alonso the chance to pick out the forward runs of his team-mates.
Liverpool's run of clean sheets is testimony to the way they have been playing together as a team. Rafael Benitez has got his ideas about how he wants to play over to the players and everyone who comes into the team knows exactly what is expected of them. Like Chelsea, it does not matter who is asked to fill a position or whether it is there normal role in the team, Liverpool's players know what is required. Everton's attack must do all they can to put the Liverpool defence under pressure while they must not waste any set pieces such as free kicks or corners. Sami Hyypia falls into a similar category as David Weir. Both are top-class defenders, but they can be caught for pace. Hyypia gets round this by dropping off and giving himself that extra yard so that he can clean up any danger. Both the Finn and Jamie Carragher are superb readers of the game, so Everton will need to get amongst them to stop the interceptions and deny them any time on the ball. Carragher has had a superb season and if England are looking for a player to fill the holding midfielder role in front of the back four they could do worse than turn to the Liverpool man. Pepe Reina has come to terms with being a goalkeeper in the Premiership now. In England keepers have to deal with more crosses and under a much stronger challenge from the opposition players than would probably be tolerated abroad. But the defence offers a lot of protection in front of him, and that has given Reina the time to adjust. But it will be up to the likes of James Beattie, who has been in good form recently, to put in the effort that will unsettle the Liverpool rearguard.
PETER CROUCH - has got the burden of scoring his first goal for the club off his back. Kevin Davies does not score many for Bolton, but does not recieve the same attention as Crouch. Davies is regarded as a pivotal figure for the attack, whether he scores or not, and Crouch plays a similar role for Liverpool - linking the play and providing opportunties for others as well as being able to score himself.
JAMES BEATTIE - in a decent run of form, which will have helped his confidence, while his fitness levels have improved. And there is no better place to score a match-winner as an Everton striker than in the derby. Colin Harvey was talking to RICHARD WILLIAMSON

Time to stand up and be counted - Moyes
By Ian Doyle Daily Post Staff
Dec 28 2005
DAVID MOYES has called on his under-fire players to "stand up and be counted" ahead of this evening's 202nd Merseyside derby at Goodison. Everton entertain Liverpool having suffered consecutive demoralising 4-0 defeats, the home loss to Bolton Wanderers being followed on Boxing Day by a similar reverse at struggling Aston Villa. They followed a home setback against West Ham United and keep the Goodison outfit firmly ensconced among the Premiership stragglers just three points clear of the relegation zone. Moyes and his players have come in for strong criticism following their poor showing this season that has left them in 16th place, having scored only nine goals in 18 league games. And after shrugging off any suggestions of feeling the pressure, the Everton manager yesterday issued a rallying cry to his squad and insisted they should consider themselves fortunate to be playing for the club. "Personally, I am coping with things fine," said Moyes.. "It is a big job, was a big job before I arrived and that hasn't changed since I've been here.
"But I don't like losing in the manner we have done recently. The players are aware of that. I am looking for them to stand up and be counted. "We're looking for a big performance from all the players, and I think they know that too. "They have a responsibility. It is a privilege to play for Everton and they must never lose sight of that. They should be very thankful they are at this club and playing here, and we're looking for them to show that."
Moyes is adamant he retains confidence in his own abilities despite Everton's desperate sequence of results, and believes a victory this evening would be the catalyst for a much healthier new year.
"I am not feeling any extra pressure at the moment, just the same pressure I felt when I came here as I had to prove I could be a Premiership manager having come from Preston," he added..
"It hasn't shaken my confidence at all. I'm used to being involved with winning teams and I will be again. "We also had a bad time at the start of the season, so we just have to get on with it and get through it. If we can win the derby, then it would make things look much rosier." Moyes added: "I don't listen to the phone-ins, but I know if you don't win games you expect criticism. "Everton is a club that has always had difficult times, so maybe the phone-ins are used to it. Maybe the last year or so has been a surprise that we haven't had that much criticism on them. I'd never ask the supporters for patience and from the first day I have been here I said I couldn't expect any patience.
"All I asked for was to be given a chance and see what happens." Moyes faces a potential defensive headache, with centre-backs Per Kroldrup - who made his long-awaited debut at Villa Park - and Joseph Yobo both facing fitness tests this morning. "Both are doubts but I am hoping one of them will make it," said Moyes.. "Per hurt his ankle in the first half of the game against Villa and Joseph's shoulder injury has been causing him problems for some time." David Weir is expected to return having been rested against Aston Villa, with Nuno Valente also back in the squad.
Andy van der Meyde (thigh), Gary Naysmith (ankle), Lee Carsley (knee), Alessandro Pistone (knee) and James Vaughan (knee) remain out.

Supporters right to be upset with us, admits Neville
By Paul Walker, Daily Post
Dec 28 2005
PHIL NEVILLE believes Everton fans have every right to be angry with their team as they continue to plunge towards relegation, conceding a glut of goals as they go. They host Liverpool at Goodison Park in the 202nd Merseyside derby tonight desperate to turn things around after three successive defeats saw them ship 10 goals. Utility man Neville conceded: "We lost 4-0 last week, 4-0 at Villa on Boxing Day and 4-0 at West Brom recently. "If I was an Everton fan I'd be disappointed with the way the team is playing at the moment. "For the derby game we need to restore a little bit of pride. It's a game we can't let our supporters down in. We let them down at Villa and as players we take full responsibility. "In the derby there will be no excuses. When you lose 4-0 it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth and every single player in that dressing room wants to put right what we didn't do right against Villa." Everton go into the derby on the back of three defeats, which were preceded by encouraging wins over Newcastle and Blackburn and a draw at Manchester United which appeared to suggest the tide had turned. "A couple of weeks ago when we drew at Old Trafford we maybe got ourselves a little bit carried away by looking at the top half of the table with two homes games to come," added Neville. "But the realisation now is that we are in a real dogfight and this Christmas period is crucial to all of us. "You hear it every season, don't you? "You always think you are too good to go down but when you are down there and are sucked into it, anything can happen so we need to get ourselves out of it - and fast,," he added. "The derby is a massive game for the players and probably the best way to get the Villa defeat out of our system is to go into the biggest club game we have had this season and get a result." But Neville admits he is concerned by the way Everton collapsed after conceding a second goal which doubled the lead given to Villa by Milan Baros's 'handball' effort which was missed by referee Mike Riley. "We felt a little bit hard done by with the first goal but the disappointing thing was the way we reacted to the second goal," he said..
"At 2-0, if you nick a goal you can get back in the game but we didn't do that and were disappointed in the end, and that second goal knocked the stuffing out of us."

Six of the best recent derbies
Daily Post
Dec 28 2005
FA Cup final, May 1989 Liverpool 3 Everton 2:
The year of Hillsborough ended with Liverpool going for the double. John Aldridge and Stuart McCall scored in normal time, but although McCall netted again, two goals from sub Ian Rush won the trophy. The following week saw the famous Arsenal win at Anfield that deprived Liverpool of the title.
FA Cup R5 replay, Feb 1991 Everton 4 Liverpool 4:
Rated by many as the greatest ever derby, and a match that proved Kenny Dalglish's last as Liverpool manager. Peter Beardsley (twice), Ian Rush and John Barnes all put Liverpool ahead, but Cottee forced extra time and then scored the fourth equaliser after Barnes had sneaked Liverpool ahead again.
Premiership, Nov 1994 Everton 2 Liverpool 0
Joe Royle's first game in charge immediately lifted the gloom that had hung around Goodison all season. Duncan Ferguson, in arguably his best dis-play for the club, headed home Andy Hinchcliffe's corner to put Everton ahead. The duo combined again to allow Paul Rideout to seal a memorable win.
Premiership, April 1999 Liverpool 3 Everton 2:
Robbie Fowler scored two but after his second one he dropped to his knees and proceeded to 'snort' the byline much to the disgruntlement of the Everton fans who had been abusing him. Olivier Dacourt and Franny Jeffers scored for Everton, but Patrik Berger struck the winner.
Premiership, April 2001 Everton 2 Liverpool 3:
A classic match with Liverpool fighting to get into the Champions League and Everton again struggling against relegation. It was deep into injury time and Liverpool were awarded a free kick. McAllister must have moved the ball 20 yards closer to the Everton goal before firing home a long-range winner.
Premier League, Dec 2004 Everton 1 Liverpool 0:
The day Everton really arrived at the top table. They had gone seven years without winning a home derby but they bettered Liverpool into submission with a ferocious display. Lee Carsley wrote his name into folklore with an edge-of-the-box effort that squeezed past Chris Kirkland.

Time for Everton to repay the fans
By John Nelson, Daily Post
Dec 28 2005
WHERE to start?
After two consecutive 4-0 defeats it is pretty difficult to know what David Moyes plans in order to shake up a Liverpool team that's flattening everything in its path. But one thing's for sure - if our current crop of players fail to raise their game tonight then there could be serious repercussions.
It is bad enough conceding eight to the likes of Bolton and Aston Villa, but when this follows defeats to Wigan, West Brom and West Ham all inside the first half of a season, you know you have got serious problems to attend to. On the other hand, a victory tonight could rejuvenate our season and at last give us reason to cheer. I'm hoping for a much improved performance throughout the squad - but most of all from our midfield, who have lacked any steel and creativity. This has resulted in our forwards looking isolated and fighting for even the smallest of openings while the lack of robustness in the centre of the park has heaped pressure on our underfire back four. Club skipper David Weir is sure to come in for new boy Per Kroldrup while I expect Phil Neville to slot back into a five-man midfield and Nuno Valente to be restored at left-back, resulting in a side which should be ready to take the fight to Liverpool - we are at home after all. Primarily, we must not allow Liverpool time on the ball. On paper they have a far more technically gifted side, which is why it is imperative we push them from the off. I'm hoping James McFadden can find the glimmer of sparkle he showed a few times this season while James Beattie continues his will-ingness to fight for every ball and chase down seemingly lost openings. Mikel Arteta, meanwhile plays such a huge role in dead-ball opportunities - this may in fact be our best hope to nick a goal and who knows, maybe even Big Dunc can enter at the 11th hour and snatch a famous winner. Stranger things have happened. Would you like to give a view from the stand on a future game? Send your name and telephone number to sport@dailypost.co.uk

Benitez: Europe's Everton problem
By Ian Doyle Daily Post Staff
Dec 28 2005
RAFAEL BENITEZ has revealed he sympathises with David Moyes over Everton's hugely disappointing campaign. Liverpool travel to Goodison this evening for the 202nd Mersey-side derby looking to extend a run of eight successive Premiership wins. By contrast, Everton have lost their last two games 4-0 and are just three points above the relegation zone. And Benitez has a view on just why Everton have struggled since last season's fourth place finish and their first campaign in the Champions League, which turned so sour with their elimination in the third qualifying round and then the exit from the UEFA Cup. Benitez said: "It is very difficult to play in the Champions League for the first time and then to concentrate on your domestic football. "You lose some games in the domestic league and you lose some confidence. "Teams play hard, finish well in the top four and then start thinking about Champions League. Players lose concentration, you can lose a couple of games but must not lose confidence."

Bent's a fan of 'big boy'
Daily Post
Dec 28 2005
MARCUS BENT believes there is nothing bigger than the Merseyside derby. The Everton striker is competing for a starting place in this evening's 202nd meeting with Liverpool. And he said: "The derby is so important to us. We know exactly what it means to the fans and we value it so highly as well. The win over Liverpool last year was amazing. It would be great to experience that again.
"The derby is different to London because as a youngster I was brought up at Brentford and we had derbies but this is massive. "This is the big boy. You can't get any bigger than this. "Everyone will be off work, everyone will be up for it, everyone will be in good spirit."

Perfect time to bring on old rivals
Dec 28 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES will urge Everton's players to seize the moment this evening (Wednesday) and get their season back on track against Liverpool. Following Monday night's 4-0 defeat against Aston Villa, the Everton manager spent yesterday with his staff at Bellefield trying to raise the spirits of his squad ahead of a Merseyside derby that has assumed huge importance. Three consecutive defeats have left the Blues looking anxiously over their shoulders at the relegation zone and Liverpool will be red-hot favourites to extend the sequence to a fourth game. Moyes, however, feels that the derby match is just the type of game to lift Everton out of their slump and will be looking for a positive response from a squad that has under-achieved in recent weeks. "We can't do anything about Villa," said Moyes, who is considering recalling Duncan Ferguson. "It's history and we have got to move on and the next game is coming on us very quickly. I think it probably is a good time to have the game.
"We can only wait and see what happens. Our recent performances are the reason people are saying that Liverpool will be easy winners because they have had some good results and good performances. It's easy to see that and easy to say it. "But our performances are nothing like I would want or nothing like I would expect. But it's a fact. We need to act from that and all of us will have to do better. We will look for a big performance from the players." But Moyes, who will give fitness tests to Per Kroldrup and Joseph Yobo before deciding on his team, knows if the mistakes against Bolton and Villa are repeated, there will only be one outcome. "It might sound crazy but the last two games we have lost 4-0, we have actually done quite well in them football wise," Moyes argued. "But we have made very poor mistakes which have cost goals. We've had chances to get goals but not taken them." "When we have made mistakes on top of that, which have led to results that I think haven't been warranted. If you make mistakes and don't score any goals, then you are more than likely going to lose." Tonight's game will see Moyes come face-to-face with Momo Sissoko for the first time since he missed out on signing him from Valencia. The Everton chief, though, is keen not to dwell on what happened in July. "It was a deal which we were very close to completing and we were disappointed," he added. "I met him in Amsterdam and it was a bit like getting gazumped on a house but it is gone now."

Let's turn it on for fans
Dec 28 2005 Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
WHEN Phil Neville severed his long association with Manchester United to join Everton, he headed to Merseyside with dreams of playing in Europe and being involved in regular battles at the top of the table. How things change. Since he moved to Goodison Park in a £3.5m deal last August, days before the Champions League qualifier with Villarreal, the ambitions of Neville and his team-mates have altered dramatically. Survival rather than silverware is foremost in everyone's minds now.
Consecutive 4-0 defeats against Bolton Wanderers and Aston Villa has left Everton with shattered confidence and teetering precariously above the drop zone. Portsmouth, showing signs of revival under Harry Redknapp, are within three points of Everton, while West Bromwich Albion - a club that knows what it takes to win a relegation - are also within striking distance. There is no margin for error. Having lost their last three matches, halting the mini-revival through late autumn dead in its tracks, tonight's Merseyside derby has now become hugely important to shaping the remainder of Everton's campaign. While there maybe some supporters who look at the fixture, compare the recent records of the sides and feel an impending sense of doom, Neville makes it clear that now is the time for everyone to stick together as they have done in the past. Everton had lost six consecutive Premiership fixtures when Chelsea arrived on October 23 yet they dug deep to secure a deserved draw, while David Moyes' side showed resilience by the bucket load to grab a point at Old Trafford earlier this month. Such grit and determination will be needed if Everton are to stand any chance of stopping this latest run of defeats and stemming the Red tide. Fail to do so and Neville knows the alarm bells will be ringing louder than ever. " I think it ' s one of those situations again," offered the England international, who captained the Blues for the first time at Villa Park in David Weir's absence. "A couple of weeks ago when we drew at Manchester United, maybe we got a bit carried away and started looking at the top half of the table with two home games to come.
"The realisation is that we are in a real dog fight. This Christmas period is so crucial to all the clubs at the bottom of the table and it is crucial for Everton Football Club. "You know, you hear it every season that you always think there is someone who is too good to go down but when you are down there and you get sucked into it, anything can happen. We need to get out of trouble. And fast.
"It's been a season where we always seem to be bouncing back from defeats. We have to again prove our character. We've done it in the past this season and we'll have to do it again on Wednesday night. "It's a massive game for the players. It's a derby game and probably the best way to get Aston Villa out of our system to go into such a fixture. It's probably the most important game we've had this year." Not surprisingly, the book-makers have Liverpool as hot favourites to continue their winning sequence and Neville has no complaints with that assessment, especially on the back of Monday night's capitulation at Villa Park. But derby matches rarely go according to plan as Neville, a veteran of countless local skirmishes in Manchester, knows only too well. There is no other fixture in the calendar that Evertonians want to win more and the players are well aware of this.
"We lost 4-0 last week, 4-0 at Aston Villa and 4-0 at West Brom," said Neville. "If I was an Everton fan, I would be disappointed by the way the team is playing at the moment. Wednesday night is the derby game and we need to restore some pride. "It's a game that we can't let our supporters down. We have let them down here. As players we take full responsibility. On Wednesday night there will be no excuses. There were no excuses after Villa but there certainly won't be against Liverpool."

Kroldrup can only improve - Sorensen
Dec 28 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
HAVING been forced to wait an age to make his Premiership debut, Per Kroldrup will be keeping his fingers crossed that his next appearance is not so long in coming. After his baptism of fire at Villa Park on Monday, it remains to be seen whether Kroldrup will keep his place in the starting line up for tonight's Merseyside derby or David Weir is drafted back in. Being on the end of a 4-0 drubbing is hardly the way to gain confidence in a new country, especially as Kroldrup will have felt he had it all to prove to his teammates and supporters following his £5m summer move from Udinese.
One man, though, who knows Kroldrup very well is adamant that the 26-year-old will go on to prove himself to be an excellent signing for David Moyes and become a Premiership hit for Everton.
Aston Villa goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen watched from afar as Kroldrup battled with Milan Baros and Luke Moore but is well aware of his capabilities, having played with him on numerous occasions for Denmark and is adamant he will leave his debut behind. "Per has been unlucky with injuries," Sorensen said. "It was his first start and English football is so different from playing in Italy but the times that I have played with him in the Danish team, he has been tremendous. "I'm sure he will get past the game on Monday night and he will prove his quality. He is a very composed player. He reads the game well. He's tall and strong and can deal with headers on the level that is needed.
"So I can only see him getting better and better. You need to give him time because it is difficult for all players to come from other leagues. They always need that bit of time to settle in.
"Per will find it hard in the beginning but the more he gets used to the pace of the match, he will adapt because he definitely has got the qualities to do that. I'm sure he will become a good signing for Everton." There will be some who saw the score-line from Villa Park and immediately point the finger at Kroldrup but Sorensen argues that is both unfair and wide of the mark. From his view point, the Blues were simply way below par. "The defeat had nothing to do with Per," added Sorensen. "Everton as a team didn't play up to their best. We created chances and as the game opened up, we were bound to score more."

Everton 1, Liverpool 3 (D,Post)
By Ian Doyle, Daily Post
Dec 29 2005
SOME unfortunate festive television scheduling meant Bill Kenwright could yesterday afternoon be seen giving the most unlikely of tributes. "I don't care whether you are a Red or a Blue," gushed the Everton chairman. "When that song comes on, you aren't human if you don't have a lump in your throat." The tune, believe it or not, was You'll Never Walk Alone, originally from the musical Carousel but claimed by neighbours Liverpool as their unofficial anthem. And as it rang around Goodison Park last night, Kenwright certainly wasn't the only Evertonian to sense the tears beginning to well. While the last meeting between the two sides here reaffirmed a shift in the powerbase of Mersey-side football, this latest encounter underlined that transfer had been all too temporary for David Moyes and his Everton team. A ninth successive Premiership victory was the deserved reward for Liverpool who, despite a rousing home response towards the end of the first half, had too much quality for their near rivals without the aid of the second-half sendings off of Phil Neville and Mikel Arteta. Liverpool's win closed the gap to second-placed Manchester United to four points with two games in hand, maintained pace with leaders Chelsea and condemned Moyes's men to a fourth successive defeat that keeps them perilously close to the drop zone. And make no mistake, a relegation battle is what Everton are now facing. The mini-revival of barely a month ago has become but a distant memory, hope and expectation replaced by trepidation ahead of Saturday's visit to rock-bottom Sunderland. While this was nothing like the abject capitulations against Bolton Wanderers and Aston Villa, even Moyes himself was moved to reveal his concern that despite immense effort and bags of commitment, Everton continue to fall well short of the lofty standards they set themselves last season. They may have responded to their manager's call "to stand up and be counted", but sheer hard work and pride in their jersey was not enough against a Liverpool side who, while hardly vintage, exposed the gulf in class that has grown between the teams since the summer. Everton had the wind blown completely from their sails by a clinical Liverpool opening in which Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard repeated their goalscoring feats of Boxing Day. James Beattie's instinctive header before the break gave the home side hope, but that disappeared once Djibril Cisse restored the two-goal advantage for the European Champions two minutes after half-time. Individual errors - particularly in defence - continue to undermine Everton's efforts and while Moyes pointed to the contentious decision to disallow another Beattie header in the first half, he had the good grace to question whether it would have made much difference to the outcome. It wouldn't have. The cliché goes that the form book is thrown out of the window for these local encounters. Yet a glance at the record books suggests form is often indicative of the derby outcome - witness last season's results - and last night was no different. Rafael Benitez claimed beforehand to have learned the lessons from his chastening first derby experience here last December having underestimated the fixture, and with practically his first-choice team on the field he was in no danger of being outfought again. The selection was justified. With Mohamed Sissoko and Xabi Alonso in dominating form, Harry Kewell continuing his improvement and Gerrard marauding down the right flank, Everton's five-man midfield was over-run during an opening half-hour that ultimately decided the game. But it was the attack, where Crouch was partnered by Cisse, that gave Moyes's side the greatest torment. A defence whose confidence had been knocked by conceding 10 goals in their previous three games struggled to contend with Crouch's presence and the raw pace of Cisse, so much so that during spells of the first half it appeared Liverpool could score with every attack. The Frenchman gave note of the visitors' intentions when,, having been fouled by Weir on the right, he flashed a volley wide from Gerrard's free-kick. Yobo then produced a fine tackle to deny Crouch as Liverpool's high-tempo start pressed Everton back. The home side countered with a long-range Tony Hibbert effort that Pepe Reina did well to parry despite being unsighted, but Beattie was relieved to see the flag go up for offside after he ballooned the rebound well over the bar. There was an element of the inevitable, however, when Liverpool struck the opening blow on 11 minutes with a well-crafted and expertly-taken goal. Sissoko was first to Weir's headed clearance on the halfway line and, after Cisse had laid the ball off, Gerrard's diving header forward put Crouch in the clear, the striker moving nimbly around Nigel Martyn before slotting home. Matters got worse for Everton seven minutes later when, having failed to properly clear a Liverpool free-kick, the ball eventually fell to Gerrard who unleashed a venomous drive from 20 yards that flew past Martyn after taking the faintest of glances off Yobo, the defender having not been the bravest in his effort to block. Everton were a disorganised, demoralised mess at this point and after Cisse had flashed a drive over following a Crouch flick-on, the first murmurs of discontent could be heard among the shellshocked Goodison faithful. Groggy, Moyes's side roused themselves - they had to - and after Kevin Kilbane's header flicked off Steve Finnan, Yobo headed Arteta's corner too high. Neville fizzed a shot that was deflected wide and though Beattie had the ball in the net on 38 minutes after nodding in Tim Cahill's cross, the Australian was controversially adjudged to have ran the ball beyond the dead-ball line. Television replays suggested Everton had been hard done by.
Nevertheless, it was a sign Moyes's men were finding their bearings and, perhaps guilty of over-confidence born from their perfect start, Liverpool mistakenly sat back. Everton took advantage by dragging themselves back in the game three minutes before the break when Arteta's deep cross from the right was headed goalward by Kilbane, flicked on by Simon Davies and Beattie twisted his neck to nod in past Reina. It was the first league goal Liverpool had conceded since October 22 - 762 minutes of action. The home crowd anticipated a second-half charge, but that air of expectancy dissipated 74 seconds after the restart with another incisive finish from the visitors. A break out of defence saw Kewell release Cisse down the left, and the Frenchman ran 40 yards, skipped past a weak Weir challenge and side-footed past Martyn. That deflated Everton, and as Benitez's side reasserted a measure of control Gerrard struck a free-kick narrowly over from range and then came even closer with a blockbusting drive. Everton's task became almost impossible when Neville, who had been booked 12 minutes earlier for a foul on Cisse, received a second yellow for upending Sissoko on 68 minutes. The home crowd were upset with the Mali-an's theatrical fall, but it was the correct decision. Everton huffed and puffed with Liverpool content to pick them off on the break, but Beattie wasted a glorious chance to ensure a grandstand finish when he again blasted miles over when in front of goal after Yobo's flick-on. Arteta's unnecessary injury-time sending-off merely rubbed salt into the gaping wound for Everton. The end of 2005 cannot come quick enough for Moyes. For Liverpool fans, however, this was the ideal belated Christmas present.

Moyes's dismay at 'stupid' red cards
By Ian Doyle, Daily Post
Dec 29 2005
DISAPPOINTED David Moyes last night branded Phil Neville and Mikel Arteta "stupid" after the pair were sent off in the Merseyside derby. Everton went down 3-1 at home to Liverpool to record their fourth successive defeat and remain just three points and one place clear of the relegation zone.
James Beattie gave the Goodison outfit hope with a 42nd-minute strike after Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard had given the visitors a flying start, only for Djibril Cisse to restore Liverpool's two-goal advantage two minutes after half-time. And Everton's task was made even more difficult when Neville was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 68th minute before being followed down the tunnel by Arteta in injury time. Everton must now pay a £25,000 fine after accruing six bookings during the game, and Moyes admitted his disappointment at his redcarded duo. "I think the boys were stupid in the end and I've told them both," said the Everton manager. "I'm disappointed with the sendings off and the two should know better. "But they wanted to show that it mattered and that they cared about it, and I would rather have it that way than the other way. But they let their teammates down. The two of them are going to miss games because of it, so that disappoints me."
Neville and Arteta will now both miss Saturday's visit to Sunder-land, with Neville's red card his second of the season. Moyes had no complaints with the red cards but he questioned the decision to chalk off a Beattie header in the 38th minute. Tim Cahill was adjudged to have ran the ball beyond the dead-ball line before crossing for the striker to nod home, although television replays suggested the referee's assistant may have made an incorrect call. And having seen his team the victim of a mistake by Mike Riley to allow Milan Baros's opener for Aston Villa on Boxing Day despite a clear handball by the striker, Moyes said: "I feel hard done by. The last thing I want to do is moan about referees, but we have had a couple of quite tough ones in the last week or so. "The ball was in for the cross, and whether that would have had an effect on the game at the point we will never know."

Outclassed in all departments
By Ken Stewart, Daily Post
Dec 29 2005
WHAT else should I say? What else can the players say? What else can David Moyes say? There's been so many excuses and they're all becoming so hollow and tiresome that I don't care anymore. No effort, no commitment, no pride, no nothing. As the players down there cappuccinos and eat their croissants in the conservatory of the six-bedroom mansion we working class folk, the ones who pay there wages, will walk into work thinking 'why did I waste my money last night to go and watch that?' There's nothing on that pitch or touchline at the moment to give us hope. We're woeful in every single department. Moyes noted he "couldn't fault the effort", well I suppose I'll take it upon myself to fault it then but I can't really, you see he's right, because there was no effort to fault.
I love David Moyes, he's transformed the club, given me some great times but all this 'the players are playing well' stuff is ringing hollow in the ears of most fans. Tell it like it is David! I have no hope for the team now, we are most certainly going down. Over the years we've always had three teams worse than ourselves but name a team worse than Everton right now. We have scored the fewest goals in the league and have the worst goal difference; it's a recipe for disaster. I thought last night, naively now looking back, that it could have been a turning point for Everton. I think this is the worst Everton side I've seen and they are yet to prove me wrong after the Bucharest, West Brom, Bolton and Villa games. Evertonians, this is the team that will take us down, for the first time since 1951. Don't be fooled, but be prepared.

Moyes: Let's stick together to end slump
By David Prior And Ian Doyle, Daily Post
Dec 29 2005
0ShareDAVID MOYES has called on his Everton players to stick together as they look to arrest a slump that has left them on the brink of the relegation zone. Last night's 3-1 defeat in the Mersey-side derby was the Goodison club's fourth in row, a sequence in which they have also shipped 13 goals. Moyes's men now lie just four points clear of second-from-bottom Birmingham, who have a game in hand, and the season's second half now looks like being a fight for Premiership survival.
And the manager believes his side's hopes of pulling clear of trouble rest on them remaining as committed to the cause as they were against Liverpool last night. He said: "I said to the players that we are all in this together and we will stick together and hopefully turn things around. "We know we are not playing well at the moment, but the players wanted to show that they were committed and I think that they did that tonight. I thought the players worked really hard. It is worrying that we have still lost 3-1, but the players did work really hard." Moyes admitted his side's poor start had proved decisive in the 202nd clash between the two local rivals. Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard both benefitted from slack marking to put the Anfield club 2-0 ahead inside 18 minutes. "I wanted us to be in the game from the start but we went a goal down early on," Moyes added. "I have not seen if the second goal takes a deflection, but from then on we were forced to chase the game."
James Beattie did claim a goal back for Everton before half-time, but Djibril Cisse's strike moments after the interval effectively ended the game as a contest. Moyes said: "I said at half-time that we were in with a shout if we kept doing the right things, but then straight away we went and conceded a third and it was a long way back after that. "It was down to individual errors. We should have done a lot better with the first and third goals." Bottom club Sunderland now represent a must-win game for Everton on New Year's Eve, although the Mackems' cause was helped last night by the postponement of their game at Bolton. Moyes admitted his side had to stop leaking goals at such a rate if they wanted to end their losing run at the Stadium Of Light. "Most of our players were good enough to get fourth in the Premiership last season, so we are hoping for much higher standards now than in the first half of the season," the Scot said. "But we have to stop conceding goals. Everyone knows that we have had trouble scoring this season, but in the last few games we have started leaking them in. We have to stop that. "It will be a difficult game at Sunderland but it is one that we have to try and win."

Nightmare festive period seals swift shift of power
By David Prior, Daily Post
Dec 29 2005
THAT jockey at Leopardstown must be a relieved man today - there's someone around who has celebrated more prematurely than he did. When, last May, David Moyes supped champagne in his conservatory chair and confidently announced a new hierarchy on Merseyside, he probably knew only an extraordinary turn of events would result in those words coming back to haunt him.
Extraordinary? That doesn't quite do them justice. Moyes's self-appointed kings have not just been deposed from the throne, they've been deprived of all privileges and kicked back down the stairs to feed on scraps with the rest of the basement stragglers. Such a slide was unbearable enough, but then there were the neighbours. Seemingly taking last December's derby defeat as their cue, Liverpool conquered the Continent and then, with Rafael Benitez finally cracking the Premiership code, proceeded to reassert domestic superiority. Even with a few more glugs of that bubbly, Moyes would not have believed it. What a backdrop for the derby. Forget bragging rights - last night's game was about nothing of the sort. For the blue half, it meant much more. It was a question of pride, of responsibility, and, in Moyes's words, of standing up and being counted. For the reds, it was - almost - just another game. Such contrasting priorities probably explained last night's game. The usual rule of the derby did not seem to apply. Great levellers they may be, but when fragility and nervousness meets confidence and swagger, the identity of the opponents tends to be irrelevant. While Everton looked like a team who had lost 4-0 twice in the last fortnight, Liverpool looked like a team who had spent several hours poring over the videos of those same eight goals. From the first minute, the hosts' weak spots were targeted with ruthless efficiency. Steven Gerrard, having welcomed Phil Neville into his first Merseyside derby with a tackle that suggested his appetite for the game was alive and well, was relishing the ocean of space he found himself in. Having seen his side stifled and suffocated on his first visit to Goodison, Benitez could probably not believe the extent to which his side were able to roam at leisure. Three months ago, his side would not have taken advantage. But Liverpool are unrecognisable from those profligate days when goals were separated by hours.
Now it's only the against column that ticks over so lazily, and it was almost to be expected that they would benefit in the match-deciding way they did. First Crouch, completing his journey from journeyman to legend, and then Gerrard, powering in a shot that Nigel Martyn barely caught sight of as it flashed into the back of the net. There was little comeback for Everton after that. It was the start even the most optimistic home fan had feared, and with their already edgy fans silenced, the original 'long night' was assured. That's not to say they lost heart. No doubt with their manager's pre-match reminder ringing in their heads, they rediscovered some of the pride largely missing against Villa and Bolton. Liverpool, helpfully, took their foot off the pedal. Had it not been for the dreadfully soft way in which they conceded seconds after the break, James Beattie's header could have meant something more than the consolation it eventually did. Possibly. At least it ended their rivals' clean--sheet record. So where now? For Everton, their nightmare at Christmas continues. Now they must pick themselves up from what will be an energy-sapping setback, and their task at Sunderland in two days' time was not helped by the postponement of their game at Blackburn last night. Somehow Moyes must pick his players off the floor and prepare them - mentally,, most importantly - for the second half of this relentlessly unfestive season. The last few games is hardly overflowing with evidence that he currently knows how to, though. For Liverpool, their credentials as serious title contenders look more convincing by the game. Their defence was breached last night, but the way in which Carragher, Hyypia and co. dealt with everything else Everton could throw at them does not suggest any imminent bursting of the dam. The fluidity of Benitez's rotational policy continues to impress. The likes of Mohamed Sissoko - so beloved by the home supporters last night, not least for his extremely amateur dramatics - and Stephen Warnock can come in and not rock the cruising boat to any negligible degree. In all, it was as uneven a derby as two seasons ago, and Liverpool's 3-0 plundering at Goodison. Given Graham Poll's overly officious refereeing, it could and perhaps should have been more emphatic than even that game. Moyes would probably be the first to retract those ill-advised words, now. For him, being number two on Merseyside is the least of his problems.

Despondent skipper facing up to dogfight
By David Prior, Daily Post
Dec 29 2005
DAVID WEIR claimed Everton now needed to "face up" to the fact they are in a relegation dogfight. The Everton skipper returned to central defence last night after being rested for the 4-0 defeat at Aston Villa, but he could do nothing to arrest the Goodison club's worrying slide. Should Birmingham win their game in hand, Everton will lie just a solitary point clear of the drop zone having shipped 13 goals in their run of four straight defeats. And Weir admitted his side had to realise they were in a scrap - and that points had to be fought for. He said: "Morale in the squad is okay, considering, but obviously every defeat knocks your confidence and it's not a pleasant experience at any time when you have a few on the bounce. But this is when you find out about people and the team. "We've just got to face up to the facts. We're at the bottom of the league, we're in a relegation battle and we need to start winning games. "Whether it's by playing well or whether it's by just battling results out, we've got to do it, there's no getting away from that. "The sooner we can do that and get some more points on the board the better, whoever it's against."
Manager David Moyes had suggested in his pre-match press conference that the players needed to show more pride - as well as more awareness of the "privilege" of playing for Everton. Weir, however, insisted that was not a problem. "I don't think so," he said. "I think the players know that and appreciate that they are at a fantastic club with fantastic backing and that we should be doing better. I don't think we need anybody to remind us of that." He added: "To be honest it's just another defeat as far as I'm concerned, that's the bottom line. "Maybe there were some positives to take out of it but in a derby game you just want to win really. "The first 10-15 minutes there was nothing in it and then, all of a sudden they're 2-0 up with goals that we should have done something about. "So it's disappointing - you can't keep giving teams of that quality a two-goal start. I'm not sure how they had so much space, they probably started the game better than us and they got the opportunities, they're a good team. We didn't really match them. "You've got to go through your bad spells without conceding goals and at the minute we're not doing that - we're conceding in our bad spells and that's something we've got to look at." Weir refused to criticise Graham Poll, despite the referee red-carding both Phil Neville and Mikel Arteta. "I think the referee does what he thinks is right, I don't think he's there to upset and do anything controversial," said the Scotland international. He plays it as he sees it and so I don't think there's really any point in blaming him."
Everton now travel to Sunder-land on New Year's Eve, and Weir said his side had to get back into the "habit" of picking up points again, having arrested a similar slump earlier in this Premiership campaign. He added: "We were in this situation earlier in the season when we seemed to be consistently getting beaten. There didn't seem to be any way of turning it around but we turned it around and got on a good roll. "Now we seem to have got back in that bad habit of losing games, and the sooner we turn it around and get on a run of victories then obviously the better."

Everton 1, Liverpool 3 (Echo)
Dec 29 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
THE side that forged its reputation on resilience and being hard to beat needs to get back to basics. Quickly. Formerly masters of the 1-0 win, able to suffocate the life out of opposition attacks before pouncing when chances came their way, Everton at present cannot buy a clean sheet for love nor money. While there can be no question that David Moyes' side matched Liverpool in terms of effort, application and desire last night at Goodison Park, once again they were unable to play catch up after making the slightest mistakes. Just as Bolton Wanderers and Aston Villa had received before them, Rafael Benitez's side - first through Peter Crouch, then Steven Gerrard and finally Djbiril Cisse - were given a helping hand to three points. It has to stop. Confidence maybe at a low ebb at present but that is hardly surprising considering Everton have conceded 13 goals in their last four matches and only mustered up two of their own. But there is no point dwelling on statistics. No, now is the time for Everton to dig deep and quarry into their reserves of self belief and determination to dis-cover the stubbornness and obduracy that made them such a feisty proposition during their march to fourth place last season. Never mind losing to Liverpool. Never mind the appalling refereeing of Graham Poll, who once again could not let a televised match in which he was officiating pass without making himself the centre of attention. The only thing everyone connected with the club and those who love it with their heart and soul should be thinking about are the up and coming Premiership fixtures against Sunderland, Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth. Continue the run that has made Christmas so miserable in those three games and then there will be real, real cause for concern. But should they find the vital ingredient they have been sorely missing then Moyes could yet find a recipe for respectability. A glance at last night's teamsheet showed Moyes adopted a safety first attitude. James McFadden and Leon Osman were axed from the side that lost in such demoralising fashion at Villa Park, with Nuno Valente, David Weir and Kevin Kilbane both returning. But perhaps the biggest surprise was the omission of Duncan Ferguson from the 16. The veteran striker maybe edging close to the end of his career but surely if there was anything to galvanise one last hurrah from him it was the sight of a Red shirt. Maybe the old legs simply won't carry him anymore. Instead it was left to Beattie with Cahill supporting from deep to get the better of a Liverpool defence that had not conceded a Premiership goal since October 22 at Craven Cottage. To whip the crowd into a frenzy, highlights of last year's breathless 1-0 win - the victory which suggested a seismic shift in the footballing power on Merseyside - was shown and the home support was certainly in fine voice when the teams came out. Yet aside from one crunching intervention from Joseph Yobo, it was Liverpool who started the brighter. Cisse volleyed wide from a Steven Gerrard free-kick, while Peter Crouch was thwarted by Yobo. Crouch, however, did not have long to wait to make the breakthrough as Everton struggled to go the early pace. When Momo Sissoko won a header in mid-field, he started a move which effectively went some way to deciding this 202nd local spat. On the ball went to Cisse, back to Gerrard, who set Crouch galloping through. Martyn did his best to narrow the angle. However, the 24-year-old danced around his challenge and rolled the ball into the Gwladys Street net. If that wasn't bad enough for Evertonians to stomach, the misery was exacerbated on 17 minutes when Gerrard picked up a loose ball 25 yards out, skipped past Tim Cahill and had too much time to fizz a drive past Martyn. Given it has been so long since Moyes' men have managed to overturn a deficit - February 6 at Southampton was the last occasion - the only hope Everton had from that point was if their neighbours took their foot off the pedal. It happened. Sensing the increasing discontent off their supporters, Everton raised themselves in the latter stages of the opening period. Beattie had a goal disallowed when Cahill crossed from the right. Television replays showed the ball to have gone out of play. Moments later, though, Everton were given something to cling to. Arteta's deep cross was knocked on from Kilbane to Simon Davies, who acrobatically picked out Beattie. From three yards out, he breached Reina's goal for the first time in 762 minutes. Lamentably, it was nothing but a false dawn. Within 74 seconds of the restart, Harry Kewell hooked a ball forward for Cisse to chase. Allowed to motor into the area unchallenged, Cisse breezed past Weir before bending a wonderful effort beyond Martyn. Everton may have had plenty of possession in the final third but, as we have seen so often, they never looked like doing anything with it. If anything, Liverpool looked the more likely as Gerrard proved with a shot that whistled past the post from distance. Poll then ensured the game finished on a scrappy note, with a flurry of yellow cards in a short space of time. Damagingly for Everton, two were brandished to Phil Neville and he will now miss Saturday's trip to Sunderland. Even more crushing were the two given needlessly to Arteta. In normal circumstances, you would say a game against a side that have won only once this year would represent a formality. Not now. Everton must be ready to dig deep.
EVERTON (4-5-1): Martyn; Hibbert, Weir, Yobo, Valente; Arteta, Cahill, Davies (McFadden 56), Neville, Kilbane; Beattie
LIVERPOOL (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Hyppia, Carragher, Warnock; Gerrard (Garcia 85), Alonso, Sissoko, Kewell (Riise 80); Crouch (Morientes 77), Cisse.
GOALS: Everton - Beattie (41); Liverpool - Crouch (11), Gerrard (18), Cisse (47)
BOOKINGS: Cahill (20 foul), Neville (56 foul), Kewell (64 dissent), Crouch (70 dissent), Beattie (72 foul), Arteta (87 dissent)
SENDING OFF: Neville (68, second booking), Arteta (second booking 90

Yobo to delay departure for African Nations
Dec 29 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
JOSEPH YOBO today provided Everton with a welcome boost when revealing he is prepared to delay his departure to the African Nations' Cup for the sake of his club. The Blues' central defender is waiting to hear from the Nigerian FA what date he will be required to join up with the Super Eagles for the tournament which begins in Egypt early next month. Yobo, however, is so concerned with Everton's current plight that he does not want to leave manager David Moyes and his colleagues in the lurch during a period that will go a long way to defining their season. While confidence has been severely dented by four consecutive defeats, the latest a 3-1 reverse last night at the hands of Liverpool, Yobo says there is no point dwelling what has gone as the challenge ahead is of far greater importance. Though the Premiership table makes grim reading at present, the 25-year-old is convinced Everton can change things for the better and he is determined to play a key role in the forthcoming matches against Sunderland, Charlton and Portsmouth. "I'm struggling with injuries and everything but I am committed to Everton and I want to do my best," said Yobo, who is carrying a shoulder problem. "Each time we lose like this, it is very depressing and makes it even harder for me to think about going away. "At the moment, I'm here and I don't know what is going to happen. But the longer I can stay here, the better. I am committed to my club and obviously I don't want to leave until I feel better. "I won't leave until Everton feel comfortable for me to go. I will only go when I have to. I'm just looking at the games that we have got coming up and think that they are games where we can really pick up points. "I'm looking to be fit for those games. I don't know how I am going to feel but I just want to do my best for Everton. "With the way things are going for us, I'm not looking at the national team. We have got three good games coming up and I can see us winning them and getting going again. "I'm committed here and want to give my very best before I leave."
Though he was bitterly disappointed with the end result, Yobo felt Everton could take something out of last night's derby but acknowledged that Liverpool were always holding too many guns.
"We got our first goal and thought we could take it into the second half," Yobo added. "But a few minutes into the second half, we conceded another goal so it became difficult for us. "We fought very hard and we are disappointed with the result but if we keep fighting like this, we will be okay."

My battling Blues will stick together
Dec 29 2005 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES refused to castigate his players after they slumped to a third home defeat in a fortnight last night. "I thought the players worked really hard tonight. I've credited them. I thought they worked really hard and put in a good shift," he declared. "Am I worried then that we lost 3-1? Yes, but that's a different question. I thought the players worked really hard. "We know we're not playing well at the moment, but they wanted to show they were committed and I thought they did that tonight." Asked what his biggest worry of the night was, he explained: "I am worried that we set out to try and be in the game, to contain the game, and we were two goals down very early on.
"I've not seen the second one, whether it takes a big deflection, but that disappointed me and we were forced then to change, which worked for us. "We said at half-time we are in with a right shout of getting back in the game if we keep doing the right things, and within a minute we've conceded a third. "I've had a chance to see the first goal and the third goal and we should have dealt with them both much better. "The third was a free-kick into their box and they broke on us. It should have been us putting them under more pressure. "But the players know we are all in this together and we will stick together and hopefully get the results we need." The Blues finished the match with nine-men - Mikel Arteta and Phil Neville both sent off for second bookable offences - while James Beattie had a goal controversially disallowed after the ball was ruled to have gone out before Tim Cahill crossed. But Moyes added: "I don't want to moan about referees and linesmen again, because we have had quite a number of tough ones go against us in the last week or so. "The ball was in, the ball was in for the cross, but whether that would have had any effect on the game I'm not sure.
"I thought the two boys sent off were stupid in the end. They were both on bookings and should have known - and I've told them both - but they wanted to show that it mattered. They wanted to show that they cared about it. I'd rather have them that way than the other way. "They both know they have let their team-mates down and they will miss games for it, which disappoints me."
Both will be missing at Sunder-land on Saturday, and Moyes said: "Sunderland is tough, but it's one we need to go and try to win. Although we've been saying that with every game. "We will be hoping for much higher standards than we have shown in the first half of the season. We have to do better and we have to start by stopping conceding goals. "We know we've had a problem for the majority of the season scoring, but recently we've started to concede far too many."

Chasm in quality
Dec 29 2005 By David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
HAVING seen every other footballing tactic fail them in recent weeks, Everton ran out for the derby match clinging onto the window principle. You know the one - that peculiar footballing thought process that says in derby matches at least, the form book usually flies out of said window.
Last night, however, somebody had locked it. The 202nd Merseyside derby ran as true to form as possibly any of the 201 which had preceded it. Liverpool, a side which had just won eight successive Premiership matches - all without conceding a goal - looked every inch the Premiership's form team, as they comfortably beat an Everton team which had just lost back-to-back matches by an aggregate of 8-0. And they effectively wrapped the game up by the 17th minute. James Beattie's 41st minute consolation merely provided a mood of defiance around Goodison Park during the half-time interval.
It lasted barely 75 seconds after the restart, until Djibril Cisse killed off the match for good. That strike ensured Rafael Benitez's name was chanted relentlessly from the away section of Goodison Park. There wasn't one solitary rendition of their rivals' red--haired version. It had been conspicuous by its absence at Villa Park, too. But while David Moyes raised Evertonian eyebrows by suggesting his side had played well during back-to-back hidings by Bolton and Aston Villa - blaming individual errors for his team's plight - this time he might just have had a point. Moyes stuck stubbornly behind his men after the 3-1 defeat. Some might say he didn't dare alienate them with two crucial and winnable matches looming. But, in truth, they simply never looked good enough to challenge a Liverpool team in this kind of form, playing this quality of football. Everton tried to take the game to their neighbours as best they could. But they were facing a side which has grown in authority, style and swagger since their watershed week in London two months ago. Then they made more mistakes. Everton gave away possession cheaply to allow Peter Crouch to sweep past Martyn; Joseph Yobo reared away from Steven Gerrard's shot like the ball had been dipped in sulphuric acid. Then, just when Beattie's goal had given the Blues hope, David Weir let Cisse run straight through him and clip in an uncharacteristically classy finish. As if individual errors weren't enough for Moyes to contend with, he couldn't even turn to his tartan talisman. Many fans had hoped to see Duncan Ferguson produce one last derby hurrah. They prayed that, already contemplating retirement, he might want to bow out with a bang against the team he has so often tormented. It seems, however, that his legs weren't up to it. As a result, his lurking presence couldn't even be used on the substitutes' bench. Not that his presence would have perturbed the rock-steady firm of Carragher and Hyypia unduly. They defended superbly yet again, against a willing but increasingly isolated Beattie, and provided the platform for the midfield triangle of Alonso, Sissoko and Gerrard to pass Everton to death. All three possess stature, too, while the Blues' triangle of Davies, Cahill and Neville looked lightweight in comparison. When Neville trailed a foot for Sissoko to tumble theatrically over in the 67th minute, that trio was reduced by 33 per cent and was the signal for many to exit the blue sections of the stadium. They missed Beattie crash another close range shot into his favourite section of the Gwladys Street stand - the same one efforts against Newcastle and Middlesbrough also landed in - but his work ethic was admirable. It was just never going to be enough against a Liverpool team which can now combine aggression and bite with quality and class. As Liverpool's ecstatic fans were only too happy to remind the other half of the city - it was 3-1 in their cup final.
In about 48 hours time, however, Everton face an even more important match: A Premiership play-off - and this is a match Everton most definitely can win. They must go to Sunderland without Mikel Arteta and Neville, Andy van der Meyde and probably Davies, without a striker who can't push his body through the pain barrier any more, and another whom Moyes patently does not trust.
That can be the only reason for Marcus Bent being left in the dug-out during successive home matches, while the Blues have been crying out for goals. Oh, and Sunderland had last night off as well, after somebody forgot to put 10 bob in the Reebok Stadium meter. But excuses won't wash any more for Evertonians. Saturday's clash is one they simply must not lose, or Monday's date with Charlton may see more than the sound of silence directed towards Moyes. As for Benitez, he will step out at Anfield on Saturday to yet more renditions of La Bamba. On last night's evidence, it will be a long time before that song wears out.

Davies gives Moyes another injury worry
Dec 30 2005 By Richard Williamson, Daily Post
SIMON DAVIES is the latest player to hand David Moyes a selection headache - after being injured by one of his own players. The Wales international is a doubt for the weekend's crucial trip to bottom of the table Sunderland. Manager Moyes already has a number of problems in the midfield area as a result of the 3-1 defeat to derby rivals Liverpool that has left his side perilously close to the relegation places. Both Mikel Arteta and Phil Neville were sent off at Goodison Park and miss the game against Mick McCarthy's strugglers. Neville, sent off earlier in the season, is also ruled out of Monday's home date with Charlton though Arteta will only serve a one-match ban, the Football Association has confirmed. Davies suffered an ankle injury in an accidental collision with Neville when they tried to cut short a Xabi Alonso forward run as Everton's misfortunes show no sign of abating. Davies collapsed in pain and soon left the field limping. Physio Mick Rathbone confirmed: "He has sprained his ankle. He'll obviously have intensive treatment over the next few days. We will take him to Sunderland and have a look at him on Saturday morning and give him every opportunity to be fit." Defender Nuno Valente (ankle) is also an injury doubt for Everton, who face the prospect of a £25,000 fine from the FA after picking up six bookings during their fourth consecutive defeat.
Centre-back Per Kroldrup was ruled out of the derby with an ankle injury received during his debut in the 4-0 hammering at Aston Villa on Boxing Day. Everton need to reverse their downward plunge quickly and now face a run of games, with Portsmouth on January 14 following the New Year double-header in the Premiership, which could have a huge bearing on their season. And winger Kevin Kil-bane has pinpointed a return to miserly defence as providing a launchpad to a more productive second half of the season. The Republic of Ireland international believes Everton are paying a high price for individual errors. Kilbane said: "A derby game at Goodison is one you do not want to lose but we defended badly and it has cost us. "We have conceded 13 goals in the last four games and that is not good enough for the standards that we set ourselves. We have got to get it right again. We know that individual mistakes have been made but it is down to the whole team because one mistake can lead to two, which can lead to three, and we've got to put it right together." He added: "We started very sloppily and then we managed to settle it down before scoring just before half-time. We had our tails up and we did not want the half to end. A lot of positives were said at half-time but we shot ourselves in the foot again straight after the break."

Crucial matches lie in wait to halt slide
Dec 30 2005 Fanscene By Mark O'Brien, Daily Post
IF ANYONE knows how to stop Everton's present slide then please, don't be shy in coming forward.
David Moyes seems to have tried just about everything, in terms of the shape of his team and the personnel, but the end result doesn't seem to change, no matter who we face at the moment: we keep getting hammered. Earlier in the season it was the lack of goals scored that was the greatest concern, with all eyes on the January transfer window and the opportunity to hopefully bring in another striker. However, it is now abundantly clear that the problems run far deeper than that.
Most alarming is the way that this Everton side seem incapable of matching their opponents physically, especially in midfield. The central defenders aren't playing well, but they would look a lot better if opponents weren't walking straight through us. The likes of Mohamed Sissoko and Steven Gerrard were too strong on Wednesday, but the signs were there a while back, when the likes of Damien Francis dominated the middle of the park for Wigan at Goodison. In the coming months we're going to need to scrap for every point if we're to stave off the very real threat of relegation, and that means winning the physical battles first and foremost, and to coin an old cliché, to win the right to play football. Last season that was what we were so good at, bullying teams and breaking their will, but it seems that maybe we are feeling the loss of characters like Lee Carsley and Alan Stubbs just as much as the more celebrated talents of Thomas Gravesen. We look doomed at the moment, but there are a lot of points to play for and, remarkably, we still have some breathing space between ourselves and the drop zone, although it is being whittled away with every passing week. The next three league fixtures, then, are simply immense. Any side in our position harbouring any thoughts of saving themselves must be looking to take more or less maximum points off Sunderland, Charlton and Portsmouth. There's simply no two ways about it. Regardless of who we do or don't bring in during the transfer window - and indications are that we shouldn't be expecting any of star names that were bandied about earlier in the year - it's what the present crop do in the next fortnight or so that could decide our Premiership fate. Hopefully the players feel that just as acutely as the fans.

Winning ethos
Dec 30 2005
Icliverpool And Daily Post
EVERTONIANS will bang on about the disallowed James Beattie goal, but the truth is they were beaten by a far better side and I was surprised that Moyes, albeit between the lines, admitted as much. Great performances across the board and Crouch is proving his worth every day. I'm not sure what Everton have been doing to end up in the bottom few because they put us under decent pressure at times, but if they were as blinded by the reality of their fourth-place finish as their manager was, then it's understandable. It really would have been interesting had we got the wins we deserved at the beginning of the season, but the ethos, as much as the side, Rafa is building is starting to take my breath away - it is quick,, powerful football which at times produces some fabulous one-touch stuff from a team of players, not stars.
Sam Nation,
Price of failure
EVERTON can't afford to sack David Moyes, because it will cost them several million in paying the old manager off, luring a new manager in and then finding the funds to bring in some fresh faces on the playing side.
Jay Jenkins
(via e-mail)
Newell the man
GRAHAM 'Liver-Poll' was awful in the derby match and dished out too many cards. As for dithering Dave, it's time to go. Bring on Mike Newell; he's done a fantastic job as a manager.
Trevor Tasker
(via e-mail)
Robson's choice
A WOEFUL derby result, but hardly unexpected. We've been falling apart since this time last year and are now in a crash dive. Moyes has been given time and money but it's time to show him the door and install a caretaker - Sir Bobby Robson and/or Kendall - to try to save us from the drop. Roll on 2006 and good riddance to 2005.
Dennis Rotheram
(via e-mail)
Tumbling down
I WITNESSED the demise of our team against Liverpool, but even as a supporter of David Moyes I fear for the club's Premiership future. We have gone into free-fall. Against Liverpool we had no discipline.
Jim McDermott,
Heswall, Wirral
Royle return

NO sentimentality, Moyes should be sacked now and another manager brought in (Joe Royle or David Jones?). Moyes should go because of his record since last January. Poor team selection and tactics (4-5-1 at home?) and a disappointing transfer record, with the Rooney money squandered.
If the team go one goal down, the match is lost and Everton collapse. Football is 90 minutes and not first goal wins.
Steve Irons
(via e-mail)
Arteta wasted
DESPITE being our most inventive player, Mikel Arteta is forced to play a more defensive role and always lacks options when he does get the ball to feet. Why is this? Because we are terrified of trying anything in case we lose the ball and come under pressure, as we lack the organisation to cope with both pressure and breakaway attacks.
Peter Jones
(via e-mail)
Sporadic threat
ON AVERAGE, we impose ourselves on games for about 12 minutes. During this time our attacking play is direct, sporadic and predictable and also very tiring. We never pin teams back or put them under any sustained pressure. Ball players, like Arteta, have to do most of their work when we don't have possession and when he does get the ball there is nothing on for him except a hopeful ball forward.
Peter Barron,
Winning ethos
PLEASE, we cannot use a lack of investment as an excuse. Walter Smith could and Howard Kendall could in his third stint, but Royle and Moyes both spent money.
Peter Davis
(via e-mail)

Chester make request to keep Everton goalkeeper
Dec 30 2005
By Neil Turner, Daily Post
CHESTER CITY last night re-applied to the Football League for a further extension of the emergency loan transfer of the Everton reserve goalkeeper John Ruddy. The 19-year-old Cornish-man has been on loan at the Deva Stadium for the past fortnight, but his latest seven-day deal is due to finish at midnight this evening. City's two recognised keepers Chris Mackenzie and Ryan Brookfield are both still injured, so City are hopeful that they will receive a further week's extension to Ruddy's loan arrangement in the next 24 hours. If Ruddy is granted an extension to his stay, he will be available to play in City's game against Macclesfield tomorrow afternoon, and also on Monday when Chester entertain Oxford United at the Deva Stadium. Meanwhile, Chester had to alter their training arrangements yesterday because of the freezing conditions. The club's normal training facility was frostbound, so manager Keith Curle hastily arranged for the players to train indoors. "One of the main criteria for management at this level of football is pragmatism and ingenuity," said Curle.
"We started looking for alternative arrangements early yesterday morning and thankfully a local gymnasium was extremely helpful and readily agreed to help us. "The players adapted well to the new training environment and in a way it proved to be a change from the normal sessions."
Curle has been boosted this week by the return to fitness of record-signing Gregg Blundell, who has not played since sustaining a neck injury last October. Blundell has trained this week and is expected to be included in the squad who face Macclesfield Town at Moss Rose tomorrow afternoon.

Yobo set to delay African departure
Dec 30 2005
By Paul Walker, Daily Post
EVERTON defender Joseph Yobo is prepared to delay his departure for the African Nations Cup as long as possible to help his club out of their tough predicament. Everton's 3-1 Merseyside derby defeat to Liverpool on Wednesday leaves them one place above the Barclays Premiership relegation zone. Injuries are mounting up at Goodison Park while Phil Neville and Mikel Arteta have joined the list of absentees after both were sent off for two yellow cards. Yobo played against Liverpool despite a shoulder injury and is expected to link up with Nigeria for the African Nations Cup in Egypt at some point next month. But the defender insists he will do everything he can for Everton - for as long as he can. "I'm struggling with injuries but I am committed to Everton and I want to do my best," the 25-year-old said. "Each time we lose like this, it is very depressing and makes it even harder for me to think about going away. "At the moment I am here and I do not know what is going to happen. But the longer I can stay, the better. I am committed to my club." Yobo added: "Obviously I don't want to leave until I feel better. "I won't leave until Everton feel comfortable for me to go. I will only go when I have to. I am just looking at the games that we have got coming up and think that they are games where we can really pick up points. "I am aiming to be fit for those games. With the way things are going for us, I am not looking at the national team. We have got three good games coming up and I can see us winning them and getting going again. I am committed here and want to give my very best before I leave." Everton should know in early January how long they will be without Yobo, with the tournament running from January 20 to February 10. Nigeria's first game is against Ghana on January 23.

McCarthy confident he can turn season around
Dec 30 2005
By Damian Spellman, Daily Post
SUNDERLAND manager Mick McCarthy is scouring the globe for the players who he hopes can rescue their disastrous season to date. McCarthy, whose side ended a run of nine successive league defeats with a 0-0 draw against Bolton on Boxing Day, hopes to recruit two key men during the January transfer window to strengthen his squad for a desperate scrap. He has already been linked with a loan move for Celtic's former Newcastle and Bolton midfielder Alan Thompson, while Israel goalkeeper Nir Davidovic spent a successful spell on trial with the Black Cats earlier this month.
McCarthy is refusing to identify his targets, but has revealed he is considering a series of options as he prepares for the opening of the window. "I would like to add to the squad, but I won't comment on individual players," he said. "It's tantamount to tapping them up. I won't get involved in that, but yes, I would like to bring a couple of players in." Speaking of Davidovic, he said: "He has gone back. We are having a look at a number of players around the place. We bring players in constantly to have a look at. "He did really well but at the minute he has gone back to play for his club, Maccabi Haifa." McCarthy's comments came as he prepared his side for tomorrow's clash with fellow strugglers Everton at the Stadium of Light following the postponement of Wednesday's game at Blackburn when he, his players and most of the travelling fans had already arrived at Ewood Park.
However, he had few complaints about either the decision or the schedule, which has handed every Premiership team four fixtures in the space of eight days. "It wouldn't have been safe to play on it and it was only going to get colder. But it was really difficult for the fans. I feel sorry for them. Four games in eight days is excessive"

Moyes: We have the heart to pull through
Dec 30 2005 By Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES is backing Everton's players to show the necessary heart and character required to hoist themselves away from the relegation zone. Four consecutive defeats over a ruinous Christmas period, culminating in the 3-1 reverse against Liverpool on Wednesday night, has left Everton hanging too close to the relegation zone for comfort. Moyes is not hiding from the fact his side are currently performing well below par and making mistakes which are being catastrophically punished, something that needs rectifying immediately. But ahead of tomorrow's crucial trip to Sunderland, the manager feels he saw enough energy and commitment against Liverpool at Goodison Park to suggest the players are ready to roll their sleeves up and fight their way out of trouble. "We have got to stop conceding goals," said Moyes. "We went into the game against Liverpool to make it harder for them to score against us but they scored two early on and the plan went out of the window. "But the players never let their heads drop and I have told them it's a start. Effort is the least we can give people. "At the moment we are missing our ability to play much better than we have been doing. We need to try and get that back quickly. "I hope the recovery comes from the heart. We will all be at Sunderland tomorrow trying to get a result. We hope that everyone sticks with us." Everton will be without both Mikel Arteta and Phil Neville for the trip to the Stadium of Light after they were red carded against Liverpool. Neville will also miss the Charlton game on Monday as he has now been sent off twice this season. The fitness of Joseph Yobo and Simon Davies is also a headache for Moyes but he is counting on whoever he drafts in against Sunderland to follow the example of the squad on Wednesday night. "We asked for the players to show big heart and commitment through the game and they did that," he added. "The opening part of the game we let a goal in that was unfortunate and another that should have been dealt with. "We know we are not playing well. We aren't going to say anything different. But they gave me as much effort as they could. Liverpool got off to a great start, but credit to the players of Everton for keeping going."
Meanwhile, Everton have played down reports suggesting moves for Greek striker Angelos Basinas - out of contract after being released by Panathinaikos in September - and FC Thun defender Jose Goncalves are imminent.

Kilbane hopes for Light at the end of a long tunnel
Dec 30 2005 Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
KEVIN KILBANE makes his first return to the Stadium of Light tomorrow with nothing on his mind except getting Everton's season back on track. Having spent four years of his career in the North East, making 124 appearances for Sunderland, Kilbane will always take more than a passing interest in seeing how the Black Cats are doing. With only one Premiership win to their name this season - that against Middlesbrough on September 25 - Mick McCarthy's men are anchored to the bottom of the table and seemingly poised for a quick return to the Coca- Cola Championship. Kilbane, though, knows the natives in that part of the country, as well as the manager and players, will continue to believe Sunderland have a chance of defying the odds until it is mathematically impossible.
He is also well aware Sunderland will see the visit of an Everton side which has lost its last four matches and will be without key midfield personnel in the suspended Mikel Arteta and Phil Neville as a chance to embark on the road to recovery. The Republic of Ireland international was a member of the last Sunderland side that won a Premiership game at home - against Liverpool on December 15, 2002. No surprise, then, he is desperate his old employers don't end that sorry statistic against his current ones. "I'm not looking at anything other than for us to get three points on Saturday," said Kilbane, a model of energy and aggression in the derby on Wednesday night. "I'm honestly not thinking about any sort of revenge mission. "I don't know what we'll do at Sunderland but we've got to continue to create chances "We've got to be positive and optimistic. It's a massive game and one that we can't slip up in. "We can't let them get their season up and running. We can't be the team that goes there and lets them get their first win of the season. "That would be unacceptable. We've got to impose ourselves on them and not let them play. "If we can do that then I'm sure we can come away from Sunderland with a result. "Phil and Mikel will be missing and they are two big play-ers that we are going to miss. We haven't got a big enough squad to cope with suspensions like that. "But we've got to stick together and we've got to have enough strength in depth to get the right result."

Everpool '05
Dec 30 2005 David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
ROUND about this time of year I like to indulge myself - and spark a few arguments - by selecting a Merseyside Team of the Year. By that I don't mean Burscough - but a combined Everton and Liverpool XI, made up from the most impressive individuals of the last 12 months. It's never easy, especially in recent years when a worrying lack of contenders has limited options. That's not been the case this year, although I've still had to select a 4-5-1 formation because... well, can you name two decent strikers from the six who have regularly represented our sides? Enjoy. And feel free to rip it apart and send in your own. GOALKEEPER: Pepe Reina has broken a Liverpool record for clean sheets this season, but I'm still going for NIGEL MARTYN between the posts. Reina still occasionally looks vulnerable at crosses, but Martyn doesn't have a weak facet of his game - and, for the sake of equality, it's tough enough trying to squeeze Everton players in! RIGHT-BACK: It's a straight fight between Tony Hibbert and STEVE FINNAN. For me Finnan is a shoo-in. CENTRE-BACKS: The first name on the team-sheet - and my captain - is JAMIE CARRAGHER. It's astonishing that he was undervalued for so long, but now the Kop wants a team full of Carraghers. Alongside him is ALAN STUBBS. The Blues' former captain wrongly thinks I have a personal axe to grind against him., I just think he was badly advised to leave in the summer. His leadership and resolve have been missed.

LEFT-BACK: Perm any one from nine! Nuno Valente, Gary Naysmith, Alessandro Pistone, Matteo Ferrari, Phil Neville, Steve Watson, Djimi Traore, John Arne Riise and STEVE WARNOCK all played there during 2005 - with no one displaying the consistency to make that role their own.
I've chosen Warnock because he has been steady, solid - and because I want Riise in midfield!
RIGHT MIDFIELD: Luis Garcia has been occasionally inspirational, but also frustrating, Leon Osman failed to deliver on the promise he showed in 2004, while Antonio Nunez suggest he really was the illegitimate love-child of Mr Bean. Which leaves the sublime MIKEL ARTETA. The kind of midfielder older Evertonians thought it was their birthright to enjoy, the Spaniard is a rare Blues presence in a tasty looking midfield five.
CENTRE MIDFIELD: Lee Carsley would have had every chance of inclusion, but for an unfortunate injury, as would Dietmar Hamann. But look at the competition.
STEVEN GERRARD is one of the most influential mid-field players in world football, XABI ALONSO is one of the classiest, most measured metronomes in Europe, while TIM CAHILL edges out Momo Sissoko on his pre-Confederations Cup form. A trio to give any team problems.
LEFT MIDFIELD: Harry Kewell made more headlines for the texture of his backside, Kevin Kilbane disappeared without trace, but JOHN ARNE RIISE enjoyed one of his most consistent years.
STRIKER: Beattie, Bent, Ferguson, Crouch, Cisse, Morientes and McFadden combined scored less in 2005 than Chelsea's English midfielder managed! But, for his sureness of touch, workrate, awareness and, latterly, finishing - PETER CROUCH leads my Everpool line.
DISAGREE? Write to me at Sports Desk, Old Hall Street, Liverpool L69 3EB. Or e-mail daveprentice@liverpoolecho.co.uk

Blues v Sunderland tickets
Dec 30 2005 Liverpool Echo
STAND tickets for Everton's Premiership clash with Sunderland (3pm) at the Stadium of Light are still on sale from the Park End Box Office until 2pm this afternoon, priced £25 (adults) and £18 (over-65s under-16s) . After that they will be available on the gate at turnstile 61. Please note that i-d will be required upon entry to the stadium for any concessionary ticket holders. Tickets for Monday's home clash with Charlton at Goodison (3pm) are still on sale at the box office, but the Dial-A-Seat service on 08707 383786 is also in operation for this fixture. Tickets for the FA Cup third round trip to Millwall on January 7 (3pm) are currently available to Season Ticket holders upon sole production of voucher no 43 from the box office, priced £19 (adults), £12 (over-65s) and £10 (under-16s).
Joe Mercer and People's Club members should present voucher 43 from their Season Ticket books. All other executive members need to present Cup Priority voucher 12 from their Season Ticket books. Please note that i-d will be required upon entry to the stadium for any concessionary ticket holders.










December 2005