Tottenham 2 Everton FC 1: Greg O'Keeffe's verdict as EFC lurch from high to low
Dec 01, 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Everton follow delights of Wolfsburg with more White Hart Pain against Spurs
They were dubbed the most level-headed fans in the Premier League by one respected football magazine.
It’s difficult to quantify, but Evertonians do tend to be a pragmatic bunch. In truth, it’s an inbuilt security mechanism. They’ve seen too many highs, lows and what-might-have-beens to get overly carried away when things seem to be going perfectly. For 20 minutes yesterday the feelgood factor from Wolfsburg translated smoothly from German to English, as the Toffees got off to a rip-roaring start at White Hart Lane. But it’s likely the recent memories of their side’s struggles after Thursday night Europa League action were always at the back of most supporters’ minds.
And it didn’t take long after Kevin Mirallas’s magnificent opening goal in North London, for a long, tortuous release of air from the Royal Blue bubble. Everton have now lost three of their five games after European action, drawn the other and won just one. For all the reasonable talk of greater strength in depth, and the impressive speed with which Roberto Martinez appears to have taken to managing his squad on two fronts, it’s an illustrative statistic. While Tottenham were fortunate to have been at home last Thursday against considerably less demanding opposition than a club which is second in Bundesliga, Everton were next charged with going to a ground where they haven’t won in six years. You have to go back to November 2008 for the Blues’ last triumph at Tottenham.
It was hardly an encouraging historical context, but the way the visitors started suggested a change was on the horizon. It was a short-lived suggestion. Martinez’s side had to soak up an awful lot of pressure and attacking intensity in Lower Saxony last week. And when Tottenham climbed off the ropes and started turning the screw, the Blues defence could soak up no more.
Those worrying early days of the campaign when they seemed only ever a misplaced pass or rash error of judgement away from meltdown have seemed long gone. But the exertions of Wolfsburg seemed to take their toll in the capital. As a back five unit the Blues will kick themselves for the nature of the goals they conceded. There are bound to be sombre faces in Finch Farm when they review the DVD of the decisive moments which proved so costly. For the first, Sylvain Distin’s aimless punt upfield surrendered possession, then nobody in a Blue shirt did enough to close down Harry Kane as he moved towards goal. Tim Howard will know he should have done better than parry the midfielder’s shot into the path of Christian Eriksen, and nobody was alert enough to the Dane’s positioning to stop him converting the loose ball. Not quite the comedy of errors which plagued the Blues back in the autumn, but nonetheless lacklustre in too many phases of the play.
That was compounded by an uncharacteristic error just before the break from, of all people, Gareth Barry. On his return from injury the veteran dwelt too long on the ball and was dispossessed by Kane, who played in Roberto Soldado to score his first Premier League goal of the season. It was disastrous timing. Anyone clinging to historic precedent for hope would have been bereft. The last time Everton rescued a 2-1 reverse at the break to win was a certain home game against Wimbledon in 1994. The stakes may not have been so high this time, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept that Tottenham showed the greater urgency, intensity of pressing and will to win in the second half. Everton had but fleeting moments. Seamus Coleman went through on goal but was denied by the alert Hugo Lloris. And right at the death the Blues had a strong penalty claim denied when Federico Fazio appeared to handle the ball on the line. Galling, but the Blues got out of jail in Germany when Wolfsburg’s opener was wrongly disallowed for offside. Lady Luck evened things up swiftly. The pertinent concerns were those matters in their own control which contributed to this setback. Ross Barkley’s deployment on the flank is becoming an issue. The England midfielder thrives best in a central role, when he clicks with Romelu Lukaku and has enjoyed his most fruitful displays. Out wide he struggles to get into his rhythm and while his talent is such that he should be able to make an impact wherever he is deployed, it feels like a waste to see him out there.
Regardless, Barkley is struggling to take games by the scruff of the neck in the manner he did last season. James McCarthy’s absence was another problem. The solution to his ongoing muscle complaints can’t come soon enough. Everton are far from a one-man team, but they badly missed his endeavour and reliability. It’s hard to imagine Kane having such an influence with the Republic of Ireland man in his face for 90 minutes. Injuries are something out of Martinez’s control. Getting the balance right after euphoric European nights isn’t. It’s a dilemma which has plagued managers of most ambitious top flight sides at some stage, and Martinez doesn’t seem far from finding the right balance. But until he does, Bluenoses will need their level heads to retain a sense of perspective as reality keeps on biting.
Sylvain Distin offers 'no excuses' for Everton FC's defeat to Spurs
Dec 1 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Everton missed James McCarthy at Tottenham but defender admits they were caught out 'from nowhere'
Sylvain Distin insists Everton can’t blame their defeat against Spurs simply on the absence of influential midfielder James McCarthy. The Blues surrendered an early lead to lose 2-1 at White Hart Lane as first half goals from Christian Eriksen and Roberto Soldado cancelled out Kevin Mirallas’s 15th minute strike. Roberto Martinez’s men missed the reassuring presence of the injured McCarthy at the heart of their midfield, after he failed to recover from the hamstring concern that forced him off during the Europa League win over Wolfsburg on Thursday evening.
But Distin, 36, said: “You have to be careful with that. “We’ll win with some players and lose with others. It’s a team effort. “We had a great game at Wolfsburg and James came off early in the game.
"He’s a big player for us but it’s easy to single out individuals and say we lost because they weren’t there. “We’ve had players coming back from injury as well, but we have more players than in the past. We can’t look for excuses. “We started well and Kevin scored an amazing goal but then they scored two goals that came from nowhere. “We didn’t expect them and found ourselves chasing the game in the second half. The effort was there though and that’s the positive we will have to try and take out of it.” Distin was equally reluctant to blame the demands of playing away in Europe on the defeat which saw them drop to 10th in the table. “We can’t expect to win every game,” he added.
“It’s a tough place to come. “I don’t think you can just point your finger at Thursday night – they’re (Tottenham) are tired as well. “It’s easy to read it that way but this is the Premier League. Games are tough. “We can change this feeling quickly. That’s the beauty of the Premier League.
We can’t dwell on it too much. “We have to learn from our mistakes and then move on and be ready. "There are lots of games coming.”
Everton FC transfer gossip: McCarthy won't move to Arsenal, Howard set for MLS move, Sunderland want Atsu
Dec 01, 2014 Liverpool Echo
A round-up of the latest Everton transfer rumours from around the web
Roberto Martinez is trying to tie down James McCarthy to a new contract to stop Arsenal making a January move, according to the Mirror. The newspaper believes Everton do not want to lose any of their big players and are likely to reject bids from Arsenal. The Blues are keen to tie the Republic of Ireland international down to a new deal. The Sunday People believe Tim Howard could be on his way out of Goodison Park - to play in Major League Soccer. It is claimed Howard is in line to become David Beckham’s first signing for Miami. The newspaper also says Steven Pienaar could be on his way out of the club. And finally, the Mirror claim Sunderland want to snap up Christian Atsu in the January transfer window. The Ghana international striker is currently on a season-long loan from Chelsea. Now Chelsea are apparently toying with the idea of recalling Atsu – and this would leave the way clear for Sunderland to move for him in the new year.
Tottenham 2 Everton FC 1: Roberto Martinez's side suffer Europa League hangover
Dec 1 2014 Daily Post
By Phil Kirkbride
Toffees struggle to combine success in Europe with Premier League campaign as Tottenham end their unbeaten run
Everton suffered another European hangover as Tottenham Hotspur brought their unbeaten run to a halt. After the highs of booking their place in the knockout stages of the Europa League on Thursday the Blues slumped to defeat at White Hart Lane. Everton had gone eight games in all competitions without losing and looked to be on course to extend that run after taking the lead through Kevin Mirallas’ wonderful strike. But Spurs, who also qualified for the last 32 of the Europa League in midweek, equalised through Christian Eriksen’s deft finish and then went ahead when Roberto Soldado scored his first league goal of the season. Everton pressed for an equaliser in the second-half but lacked the spark to break the home side down although the Blues had strong appeals for a late penalty dismissed after Federico Fazio appeared to handle the ball in the area.
Yesterday evening’s defeat, Everton’s fourth of the Premier League campaign, sees them drop to 10th in the standings. The inclusion of Gareth Barry and Leighton Baines in the starting line-up had provided a welcome sight for the travelling band of Evertonians before kick off.
Barry, back from an ankle injury picked up early in the month, was paired with Mo Besic following James McCarthy’s latest hamstring set-back. Baines, who also suffered a hamstring problem, took the place of Blue Boy Luke Garbutt who had deputised admirably against Wolfsburg on Thursday night. Seamus Coleman came back into the side at Tony Hibbert’s expense following the impressive win in Germany while Aiden McGeady dropped to the bench as Ross Barkley returned.
Martinez’s selection gave Everton a threatening look and it only took 15 minutes before they broke the deadlock. It has been a highly profitable couple of days for Mirallas because following his goal and assist in midweek he struck a beautiful opening goal here. After winning a free-kick on the edge of the Spurs’ area, the Belgian flyer showed bravery and concentration to bring down the rebound and then poise and class to curl a strike beyond the despairing dive of Hugo Lloris.
Mirallas celebrated by running straight to his manager and hugging Martinez.
Everton’s lead, however, last only six minutes. A loose ball pass by Sylvain Distin gifted possession back to Spurs who quickly worked the ball to Harry Kane. The Tottenham youngster fired on goal, Tim Howard failed to deal with it properly and from the spoils Eriksen deftly chipped the ball over the Everton keeper. As good a finish as it was, the feeling was that Everton’s wounds had been self-inflicted. The equaliser blotted what had otherwise been an excellent start to the game for Martinez’s side and quickly tipped the balance of the game – one the away side would ultimately fail to address. Kane was suddenly at the centre of everything for the home side and the Blues were struggling to pick up his runs in between the lines of midfield and defence.
A deflected effort from Eriksen fizzed past the post as Spurs probed for their second before Soldado failed to capitalise on Besic’s misjudged header. It was a let-off. But the Spanish striker, who struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League, was not so generous just before half-time.
Much of Everton’s early composure had since deserted them and the usually safe bet Barry was dispossessed by the infectious Kane, Aaron Lennon burst forward and threaded the ball through for Soldado. And the former Valencia man made no mistake, sending Howard the wrong way to give the home side a half-time lead. Everton had finished the half sluggishly but showed a greater intent in the opening exchanges of the second period. Coleman was pressed deep into Spurs’ half as Everton probed for a leveller. Spurs, however, were content to soak up the pressure and hit their visitors on the counter-attack. Full-back Ben Davies had Howard at full stretch as he fired on goal from distance but marginally missed the target while Kane continued to cause uncertainty in the Blues backline. Just past the hour mark, Martinez shuffled the pack. A flagging Samuel Eto’o was replaced by Leon Osman, Aiden McGeady came on for Mirallas and Everton re-jigged their formation. Barkley moved into his favoured central role in the hope of conjuring up the spark for an equaliser but the home side were proving difficult to break down. The England midfielder was getting on the ball far more than he had done in the first-half and threaded a weighted pass through for the on-rushing Coleman – only the alertness of Lloris prevented the Blues full-back stealing in at the back post. Time was running out for Martinez’s men to find an equaliser who had struggled to creativity and guile throughout much of the game. And so the direct route looked like being their only way back in and in the melee caused by Baines’ free-kick, Spurs defender Federico Fazio appeared to handle the ball. Everton's strong penalty appeals, however, were waved away by referee Michael Oliver and Spurs held on for a deserved win.
Everton FC boss Robert Martinez believes Blues should have had a penalty at Tottenham
Dec 1 2014 Liverpool Daily Post
By Phil Kirkbride
Manager bemoans Everton's lack of luck against Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Sunday
Robert Martinez insists Everton were denied a last minute penalty by referee Michael Oliver – but refused to blame the decision for their defeat.
The Blues eight-game unbeaten run came to an end at White Hart Lane on Sunday as Tottenham overturned Kevin Mirallas’ wonderful opener to win 2-1. Everton pressed hard for an equaliser in the second-half but struggled to penetrate the home defence. However, the Blues thought they had won a spot-kick in the final minute when Federico Fazio handled in the area as Leighton Baines’ free-kick caused panic in the Spurs defence. However, Oliver waved away the appeals and Martinez, whose side drop to 10th in the Premier League standings, was left to rue what might have been.
“I’ll never blame a decision like that for not getting the result,” Martinez said. “It is part of the game, it happens but it can play a big part. “I am disappointed because Michael Oliver is a really good referee and when the ball hits the arm he is not in an obstructed view. It should’ve been spotted.
“There are points we need to get back in the second-half of the season and learn from these situations but I will never blame a third party of a referee for a defeat. “We should be good enough to come to White Hart Lane and rely on ourselves.” Mirallas struck his second goal in as many games with a curling effort beyond the despairing dive of Hugo Lloris after 15 minutes.
But Spurs were soon level when Christian Eriksen deftly chipped over Tim Howard after the Blues gave the ball way cheaply and then just before half-time, Roberto Soldado put them ahead.
Martinez admits Everton lacked the “intent” to push for a second goal and then failed to preserve their lead. But the Blues boss felt the home team were a touch lucky to score as they did.
“I thought it was a very entertaining game with two teams playing with a lot of energy,” said the Everton boss. “It was a dynamic game and I thought we started the better side and we were well into the game, looking really sharp and we scored that first goal from open play with real style.
“From that point on the game went into a little bit of a strange period.
“From our point of view, we are a lot better at managing the game from that point and we lacked a little bit of intent to get that second goal. “And the Spurs get their goals in a little bit of a fortunate manner. The first goal comes with a little bit of a deflection and the second one could easily have been a punishment for Harry Kane for sliding behind Gareth Barry and luck plays a big part on results and today we feel as though we didn’t get any sort of break.”
Everton FC analysis: Blues badly hamstrung by absence of James McCarthy against Spurs
Dec 01, 2014 Liverpool Echo
'McCarthy’s nagging hamstring issues are a major problem for Everton’s top four aspirations'
James McCarthy is certainly irrepressible.
And on frustrating afternoons like this he also looks near enough irreplaceable.
As Everton’s recurring Sunday afternoon headache throbbed harder as their latest European hangover took hold, the most obvious source of pain relief was out of reach.
To put it bluntly, McCarthy’s nagging hamstring issues are a major problem for Everton’s top four aspirations. They coped without him for much of the game in Wolfsburg but badly missed him at Spurs yesterday. The Blues, usually the more energetic in any battle and the ones with an insatiable desire, were beaten by a side who showed a greater appetite for the three points.
Everton’s failings in North London ran deeper than just McCarthy’s absence, of course.
Maybe there were jaded legs from their commendable efforts in Germany?
Maybe the infectious work-rate of the missing Steven Naismith, nursing his own hamstring complaint, would have made the difference? There’s a strong argument to say Ross Barkley was wasted on the wing and there’s no denying some worrying old defensive habits crept back in at White Hart Lane. But unquestionably, the void left by McCarthy was most glaring of all.
Evertonians have quickly come to adore the Irish midfielder and the value of his essential, no-frills part in the side. But only when he is not there to mop up the loose balls, break up opposition attacks and run harder and faster when his teammates can run no more, can his qualities truly be appreciated. Never more so than against the North Londoners. McCarthy’s midfield axis with Gareth Barry is the heartbeat of Roberto Martinez’s Everton and so when broken up the Blues are considerably weakened. Barry returned from injury in time for the Spurs game just as McCarthy was ruled out with another twinge of his over-worked hamstring. But, picked in his place, Muhamed Besic is no last resort. Far from it. He is a tenacious midfielder with the experience of man-marking Lionel Messi in the World Cup. Besic adds a bite and grit to Everton’s midfield, he also brings a confidence on the ball and a range of passing. The problem is, he’s not quite James McCarthy.
He is not Everton’s insurance policy and there were times it told here. McCarthy offers reliable protection in front of the back four but yesterday Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane found themselves with the freedom and space to cause havoc in between the line of midfield and defence, too many times for comfort. McCarthy is not immune to being caught on the wrong side of an attacker as the over-eager Besic did but the difference is he has the pace to make amends. He also has the speed to bail others out of trouble. McCarthy gives Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman the confidence to pour forward without the fear of leaving gaping holes behind. Too many times against Spurs, Besic looked caught in two minds. Caught between wanting to sit, hold and protect and getting on the ball to prod and probe at the Spurs defence. As the partner to Barry in Everton’s axis he simply has to be the former. Clearly Martinez spoke with Besic at half-time as his positional play improved after the break but then his rabid desire to go hunting after the ball would leave him exposed as the home side soaked up the pressure and broke on the counterattack McCarthy would rarely break rank like that and he would be the one in position, protecting his back four. The 24-year-old makes it look simple when it is clearly anything but and Besic, still adapting to life in England, needs to learn the role if he is to ably deputise in the future. After hosting Hull City on Wednesday night, Everton go to Manchester City. The defending champions have schemers and players with skill and guile beyond what Kane and Eriksen can offer and Besic could well be asked to play alongside Barry again.
The Bosnian is having to learn quickly about the demands of playing in that position in the Premier League. But maybe Everton need McCarthy back quicker.
Blues turn up power for victory at double
Dec 01, 2014 Liverpool Echo
Toffees in assured wins against Bolton and Sale
An impressive round of Regional League fixtures yielded six points from two games for Everton in the Community’s Medicash Powered Wheelchair football team.
The Blues made their presence known at Greenbank Sports Academy, recording a 3-1 triumph over Sale United before firing another three without reply against Bolton Bullets.
Jordan Duke claimed another three goals while England international Marcus Harrison controlled matters with a pair of dominating displays. Harrison and Duke tormented Sale with incisive link-up play, while the contributions of Adam Kent down the flanks caused countless problems.
And from one of the latter’s centres, Duke grabbed the game’s opening goal.
Manager Andrew Brady elected to change things around during the interval, resulting in Kent being replaced by Connor Webb. The raised eyebrows were quickly lowered, however, when the substitute’s first contribution proved to be an expert pull back for Harrison, who rolled the ball into an empty net. Then 2-0 quickly became three, as the England star smashed home his second following a pin-point ball from Duke. Everton custodian John Muat may well have been the only disappointed member of the team when Sale netted a consolation late on, although the keeper could have done little to prevent a fine finish. With confidence now sky high, the Blues imposed their will on Bolton Bullets, who offered little in response. Kent and Harrison both went close before the clinical Duke put the Toffees a goal to the good with a composed run and shot.
Kent was not to be outdone though, and notched his first goal for the team following a clever one-two between teammates Duke and Harrison. The second half saw more changes rung by Brady, but the result was never in doubt, with Duke grabbing Everton’s third after slack marking afforded the sharpshooter too much room.
Everton FC legend Duncan Ferguson turns Christmas blue for football coach
Dec 01, 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
'I thought it was a dream when I saw Duncan walking over to me. I’m totally flabbergasted'
Everton hero Duncan Ferguson turned Christmas Blue for a Merseyside kids football coach.
The Toffees legend gave Paul Rutherford from Kirkby a surprise when he arrived at a training session to honour him as an unsung hero, as part of the club’s Blue Crimbo campaign.
Paul, who manages Quarry Green Tigers Under-9s side, is the first winner of the annual awards which begin today. A search was launched with the ECHO last month to find an amateur football coach who goes above and beyond to make sure his local community can enjoy the beautiful game. And Paul fitted the bill perfectly. Nominated six times, he has campaigned tirelessly to get football pitches marked out in Memorial Park in Kirkby so that children can enjoy playing football without worrying about the cost. Concerned that the price of boots would also put off budding footballers, Paul set up a donate-your-boots initiative to pass on used pairs to those who couldn’t afford new ones. Duncan signed a pair of his own boots and presented them to Paul, along with a 2014/15 away strip for every member of Paul’s team and a goody bag filled with coaching equipment.
Paul said: “I thought it was a dream when I saw Duncan walking over to me. I’m totally flabbergasted. I just try to put a little something back into the community.
“I know Everton are a big club in regards to community-based schemes and I’m made up they’ve come down to look at the work we do.” At today’s launch, hundreds of fans fwill pack into Goodison Park this evening to watch David Unsworth’s Under-21s side free of charge. The ticket giveaway for the fixture against Sunderland will be complemented by a host of activities.
To collect your ticket, simply visit the Park End Box Office, Everton One or Everton Two.
Everton FC boss Roberto Martinez wants high risk football from Ross Barkley
Dec 1 2014 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Blues midfielder produced a couple of trademark surging runs at White Hart Lane on Sunday
Roberto Martinez wants to see Ross Barkley adopt a high-risk strategy as he continues his footballing education. The young Blues midfielder produced a couple of trademark surging runs at White Hart Lane on Sunday, but also lost possession on a handful of occasions.
But the Blues boss stressed after the match that the 20-year-old would not be punished for taking chances. “I encourage him to take risks,” said Martinez. “It’s not a problem if he loses the ball, it’s a problem if he doesn’t get on the ball. I really, really enjoy seeing Ross Barkley growing.
“He’s a young man and he is still working on his decision making but I thought he always made decisions today in the right areas and he’s allowed to take risks.” Barkley started the game at Spurs in a wide position on the right, but enjoyed more success when he moved inside.
Martinez added that Barkley was constantly adding to his footballing education wherever he plays on the pitch. “Well remember, football is a team game and if Ross plays in a position where he attracts other players and he opens space for other players we need to use that,” added the Blues boss. “I don’t think it’s about what he can do with the space that he operates in. I thought Ross was fresh and he looked a real threat at times.” Barkley will be involved again tomorrow as Everton entertain Hull City at Goodison (7.45pm kick-off), with goalkeeper Tim Howard calling for an instant reaction from the Blues. “We’re not a team, and our manager isn’t a manager, who dwells on results,” he said, “We’re just looking forward to the Hull game now. “We’re at home, it’ll be an opportunity for us to get three points and we are confident we can do that, so we go again.”
Everton FC midfielder Gareth Barry praises Kevin Mirallas work ethic
Dec 01, 2014 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
After a lengthy spell on the sidelines the Belgian started three games in eight days
Gareth Barry has praised the work ethic of Everton FC team-mate Kevin Mirallas, who has hit the ground running following a two-month absence with a hamstring injury.
After a lengthy spell on the sidelines following his injury at Anfield at the end of September, the Belgian started three games in eight days - scoring two superbly taken goals in the process.
“Hopefully he has got a few more left in him this season,” said Barry.
“Three starts in a week is fantastic for Kevin and shows how hard he has worked. Hopefully he can stay fit and create more moments like that. “Kevin has just come back himself so that will do us the world of good.” Mirallas opened the scoring at Tottenham on Sunday with a stunning strike - but Barry, back in action himself after a two game absence with an ankle injury - was not so successful.
The midfielder was caught in possession by Harry Kane in the move that led to Spurs winner, and Barry was just glad to get through the 90 minutes with no ill-affects. “It’s always tough when you spend a bit of time out but you want a run of games to get back to where you were before,” he added. “That’s what’s going to happen this week hopefully. “It was on the back of eight games without defeat and that was a big positive, but Wednesday we try and start another one.”
Sunderland edged out by Everton
Sunderland Echo 01 December 2014
Everton Under-21s 3
Sunderland Under-21s 2
SUNDERLAND were beaten by a late goal in an entertaining clash at Goodison Park.
And it took strikes from three of the Blues’ over-age players to seal the home win.
Arune Kone opened the scoring just after the half hour, firing a rising left-foot shot into the top corner from 10 yards. Sunderland had dominated the first half but could find no way past Spanish keeper Joel Robles. After the break, the Black Cats did level, albeit in fortuitous circumstances when Liam Agnew’s shot took a big deflection and looped over the helpless keeper. Everton soon regained the lead through Costa Rican Bryan Oviedo, who drilled home at the far post. Two minutes, later, Carl Lawson had the Black Cats level again, turning the ball home from close range after a good cross from the right. Sunderland looked good value for a draw but then conceded three minutes from time. Everton were given too much time and allowed to cross from the right and Conor McAleny swept the ball from eight yards out to seal the win. It was a good display from Sunderland, though, with Duncan Watmore and George Honeyman impressing.
After 512 days Arouna Kone opens his Everton FC account at last
Dec 1 2014 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
31-year-old Ivorian scored for Everton under-21s in a 3-2 victory over Sunderland tonight at Goodison
Five hundred and 12 days after making a £6m switch from Wigan Athletic, 465 days after he made his competitive debut for Everton FC and 30 minutes into tonight’s Under-21 Premier League match against Sunderland, Arouna Kone finally savoured the sensation of a Goodison goal.
And it wasn’t any old strike either. The 31-year-old Ivorian swung a laser-guided left foot at Jonjoe Kenny’s hook-back to give his comeback from a devastating knee injury a major boost.
And with Bryan Oviedo, another senior star on the comeback trail from injury, netting with an equally crisp strike and Conor McAleny firing an 88th minute winner, David Unsworth’s Under-21 charges triumphed 3-2 in a very positive night for the Blues. Kone also got 75 minutes under his belt, to add to the 45 minutes of Under-21 football he played against Celtic last week, as he played himself into watching boss Roberto Martinez’s plans for next week’s Europa League clash against Krasnodar. Goalkeeper Joel Robles, another with his eye on that fixture against the Russians, was the third senior player permitted against Sunderland’s youngsters and he was comfortably the busiest. The giant keeper kept the Black Cats at bay, especially in the first half when young Sunderland striker Duncan Watmore’s direct and pacy running caused the Blues defence numerous problems. Robles beat out or blocked several efforts before Ryan Ledson swung in a cross from the left, Kenny hooked the ball back into a crowded penalty area and Kone connected first with a shot which speared into the top corner. Denied a clear penalty for a Tyias Browning tackle on Watmore, Sunderland deservedly levelled when Liam Agnew’s shot looped viciously off the unfortunate Kenny and over a this time helpless Robles. But Everton restored their lead when Gethin Jones – a buccaneering full-back very much in the Seamus Coleman mould – crossed from the right, goalkeeper Maksymilian Stryjek palmed the ball out and Oviedo connected with crisp strike to send the ball flashing back past him. Sunderland were level again just two minutes later when Carl Lawson finished from close range, but in an entertaining affair Unsworth’s boys had the last word.
Gethin Jones dribbled to the byline again and pulled back a dangerous cross which McAleny cracked first time under Stryjek. The Blues were playing Sunderland in a free ticket fixture as part of Everton’s annual Blue Crimbo activity, with supporters of all ages allowed into the Park End free of charge and SKy TV cameras screening the clash live. The popular Fan Zone was also in operation, with onstage appearances from newly appointed Everton ambassadors Ian Snodin and Graham Stuart. Throughout the month of December, Everton Football Club will be out and about amongst Merseyside to deliver festive-themed surprises to members of the local community to recognise and reward them as Blue Heroes who go above and beyond for the region on a daily basis.
Phil Jagielka says travel fatigue is no excuse for Everton FC
Dec 1 2014 Liverpool Echo
For the third time this season Blues saw an away match in Europa League followed by an away fixture in Premier League Phil Jagielka has refused to use travel fatigue as an excuse for Everton FC’s White Hart Lane demise on Sunday. For the third time this season the Blues saw an away match in the Europa League followed by an away fixture in Premier League.
Tottenham, by contrast, were at home for the third time this season following a Europa League awayday. But while the fixture list meant that Everton arrived home from Germany in the early hours of Friday morning, then were back on board a train to London on Saturday, Jagielka refused to look for excuses. “Obviously you’d rather sleep in your own bed and have a little bit of a lie in,” he said. “The day’s travelling doesn’t help, but for those that play in those competitions they have to manage things like that. “We’re not making an excuse. We would have liked a kinder draw after the away games but there’s not much we can do about it.” But the Blues skipper did demand more protection from match officials after he felt Spurs were allowed to get away with a succession of fouls at White Hart Lane. Five Tottenham players were eventually yellow carded by referee Michael Oliver, but until the 87th minute only one player from each side had been booked before a late flurry. Jagielka said: “They pressed us really high and made quite a few fouls. I think we could have had a bit more protection from the ref which may have slowed them down a little bit, but as it was they were allowed to keep on coming at us. “Even when they made a few changes there were a few tackles flying in. “But fair play to Spurs. They scored two goals and possibly could have had a penalty themselves towards the end so they deserved the win. “We played pretty well, created a few chances but unfortunately didn’t keep that one goal lead for long enough.”
Jagielka conceded that Everton were agents of their own downfall, shipping two sloppy goals, but also pointed out the good fortune which accompanied Spurs’ equaliser just six minutes after Kevin Mirallas’ stunning opener. “The shot took a slight nick, then Eriksen’s managed to mishit the shot which has sent three of our players the wrong way. Sometimes it goes for you, sometimes it goes against you.”
Ian Snodin: Fatigue not a factor for Everton FC in Spurs loss
Dec 2 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Ian Snodin
"Sometimes you just have to give the opposition credit"
I'm simply not having tiredness as a factor for our defeat at Tottenham on Sunday.
Sure, we had a tough game in Germany on Thursday, but we had the morale boost of an excellent away win – and it wasn’t a gruelling journey. I was on the same trip as the players and we were back in Liverpool by midnight on Thursday, well before any supporters will have arrived back.
We also had a number of players like Leighton Baines, Gareth Barry and Seamus Coleman coming into the match at White Hart Lane fresh, so we can’t use fatigue as a reason for Spurs outworking us.
Sometimes you just have to give the opposition credit. We started brightly and scored a stunning goal to take the lead, but Spurs pressed us high up the pitch and won the midfield battle.
We gave away a couple of poor goals, but sometimes people look too deeply to try and analyse defeats and are too critical. Fingers were pointed at Tim Howard in some quarters for the opening goal, but having never played in goal myself I wouldn’t be one of them. We should have tried harder to ensure that Spurs didn’t get a shot at goal from that range in the first place.
Sometimes you just have to give the opposition credit and Tottenham played very, very well on the day and just about deserved their win. Fortunately we have a match almost immediately to try and bounce back, against Hull City. I’m sure Roberto will make a couple of changes tomorrow – we should see Leon Osman starting and perhaps Steven Naismith if he’s recovered from his hamstring strain – and you can’t really ask for more than a home game against a team who have just lost four in a row to try and start another decent run.
But we can’t be complacent.
Prior to that losing run, Steve Bruce’s side had earned back to back draws at The Emirates and Anfield, but a big crowd at Goodison under the lights should be enough of a motivation for us to try and get back on track again with an important win. After so many international breaks we now have a glut of fixtures which is really going to test the squad. But the players who have come in for games in recent weeks have all impressed. Mo Besic made it clear he wants a regular starting place, Luke Garbutt was impressive out in Germany and Tyias Browning will be desperate for another opportunity after his short taste of first team action earlier in the season.
Hull City at Goodison Park is an ideal opportunity to bounce back – and we have to make sure we take that opportunity.
Souness was a Braveheart in my Battle of Britain – and I paid the penalty
One of my pals at the ECHO (who really should get out more) informed me that today was the 51st anniversary of the time Everton were crowned champions of Britain! Harry Catterick’s champions of 1963 beat Glasgow Rangers 3-1 at Ibrox, then on December 2 1963 drew 1-1 at Goodison Park to become the best of British. As far as we know it was the first time a Battle of Britain had been staged between the English and Scottish champions. And the next time it happened I decided the outcome – in the Scottish champions’ favour, as Graeme Sharp is very fond of reminding me!
It was a British Championship match played out in Dubai in 1987 – and for more than an hour we absolutely dominated. We led 2-0 and were looking good for the win, then Graeme Souness, who was Rangers’ player-manager, brought himself on. He had his socks rolled down, but changed the game completely. And that was Souness the player-manager. I can only imagine what he must have been like to play against in his prime. He helped Rangers pull it back to 2-2 then the penalty shootout got to 8-7 to Rangers before I stepped up against Chris Woods – and missed.
It still didn’t put me off Anglo-Scottish games.
That was a great occasion and I’m sure it would be a success again.
In fact I’d go even further and bring back the old Home International Championships.
As the recent Scotland v England friendly proved there is a massive appetite for games like that.
I’m sure a resurrection of the annual Old Firm rivalry, and England v Wales and England v Northern Ireland matches would be enjoyed far more than end of season international friendlies.
Kev's workrate gives everyone a lift
Kevin Mirallas has come storming back from injury with two superbly taken goals.
But even more than the impact he has had in front of goal, it’s been great to see Kevin come back in and instantly put in a real shift. There’s been no thought of easing himself back, he has come charging straight back with a great work-rate. It’s a huge lift to the side when a wide player is prepared to work as hard as Kevin does, especially when we have full-backs who are told to attack so relentlessly. Trevor Steven was the perfect example of a hard-working wide man when I was playing full-back, and it’s good to see Kevin Mirallas following in that tradition of combining graft with his class.
A Grandad team to play for
As if stories of matches I played in almost 30 years ago aren’t enough to remind me that I’m getting on a bit, my son Ian and his girlfriend Lindsey became parents yesterday.
And even more worrying that’s now my fifth grandchild! I’d like to congratulate the pair of them on the birth of their beautiful baby boy. I’ll be starting the indoctrination process to ensure he grows up a Blue immediately!
Ian Snodin: Everton FC can't use tiredness as excuse for Tottenham defeat
Dec 2 2014 Liverpool Echo
Former Blues midfielder insists the best team on the day won at the weekend but Hulll City clash is perfect chance for Everton to bounce back
I'm simply not having tiredness as a factor for our defeat at Tottenham on Sunday.
Sure, we had a tough game in Germany on Thursday, but we had the morale boost of an excellent away win – and it wasn’t a gruelling journey. I was on the same trip as the players and we were back in Liverpool by midnight on Thursday, well before any supporters will have arrived back.
We also had a number of players like Leighton Baines, Gareth Barry and Seamus Coleman coming into the match at White Hart Lane fresh, so we can’t use fatigue as a reason for Spurs outworking us.
Sometimes you just have to give the opposition credit. We started brightly and scored a stunning goal to take the lead, but Spurs pressed us high up the pitch and won the midfield battle.
We gave away a couple of poor goals, but sometimes people look too deeply to try and analyse defeats and are too critical. Some people pointed the finger at Tim Howard in some quarters for the opening goal, but having never played in goal myself I wouldn’t be one of them.
We should have tried harder to ensure Spurs didn’t get a shot at goal from that range in the first place. Sometimes you just have to give the opposition credit and Tottenham played very, very well on the day and just about deserved their win. Fortunately we have a match almost immediately to try and bounce back, against Hull City tomorrow. I’m sure Roberto will make a couple of changes tomorrow – we should see Leon Osman starting and perhaps Steven Naismith if he’s recovered from his hamstring strain – and you can’t really ask for more than a home game against a team who have just lost four in a row to try and start another decent run. But we can’t be complacent.
Prior to that losing run, Steve Bruce’s side had earned back-to-back draws at The Emirates and Anfield, but a big crowd at Goodison under the lights should be enough of a motivation for us to try and get back on track again with an important win. After so many international breaks we now have a glut of fixtures which is really going to test the squad. But the players who have come in for games in recent weeks have all impressed. Mo Besic made it clear he wants a regular starting place, Luke Garbutt was impressive out in Germany and Tyias Browning will be desperate for another opportunity after his short taste of first-team action earlier in the season.
Hull City at Goodison Park is an ideal opportunity to bounce back – and we have to make sure we take that opportunity. As if stories of matches I played in almost 30 years ago aren’t enough to remind me that I’m getting on a bit, my son Ian and his girlfriend Lindsey became parents yesterday. And even more worrying, that’s now my fifth grandchild! I’d like to congratulate the pair of them on the birth of their beautiful baby boy. I’ll be starting the indoctrination process to ensure he grows up a Blue immediately!
Everton FC refusing to rush James McCarthy back from hamstring injury
Dec 2 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Blues midfielder hampered by nagging hamstring problems
Everton are refusing to rush James McCarthy back to action as they look to get to the root of his hamstring problem.
The 24-year-old missed Sunday’s defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and is a doubt for Wednesday night’s game at home to Hull City. Manager Roberto Martinez insists the Blues must “take a bit of time” to find out why McCarthy has been dogged by hamstring issues recently. “He’s got a hamstring problem and it is similar to the problem he had previously so we are going to take a bit of time and make sure we get him fully recovered,” said Martinez. McCarthy missed the Republic of Ireland’s games with Scotland and the USA last month after picking up a hamstring complaint in the draw with Sunderland. The £13m midfielder featured for Everton after the international break in the win over West Ham United but lasted just over half an hour against Wolfsburg last week
James McCarthy to miss Everton FC's game with Hull City
Dec 02, 2014Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Steven Naismith rated as doubtful for the match at Goodison Park as well
Roberto Martinez admits James McCarthy is unlikely to be passed fit to face Hull City on Wednesday as he recovers from a hamstring injury. But the Everton manager is refusing to give up hope of Steven Naismith of shaking off his own hamstring complaint in time for the visit of the Tigers.
However, Martinez admits the Scotland international only has an “outside chance”.
McCarthy has been hampered by the injury since last month’s game with Sunderland and after limping off against Wolfsburg last week, he missed the defeat at Spurs on Sunday.
Martinez says the Blues are working hard to “get to the bottom” of the problem but says he can’t see the 24-year-old being ready for the game at Goodison on Wedneday.
“He has shown good signs over the last couple of days and we will keep an eye on him,” said Martinez. “But I don’t think he will able to play tomorrow night. “I don’t think he will be ready for that.” Martinez added: “We need to get to the bottom of the problem because there has been a little bit a reoccurrence. “But it is not a major problem, it is due to the amount of games we have had to play. “It is something we want to eradicate. He’s a sprinter so we have to be very, very careful. He is a high intensity footballer.” “Steven is not far away,” said Martinez of Naismith.
“He came off against West Ham because of the accumulation of games.
“He had played in some high profile games for his national team and with us he had been involved in some real high intensity matches. “I would say he has an outside chance and we are keeping the call until the very, very last second.” Everton have been given a fitness boost, however, with Arouna Kone and Bryan Oviedo stepping up their comebacks with goals for the under-21s on Monday night.
“It is a really nice situation to see Arouna Kone enjoying his football,” said the Blues boss.
“He looked really strong and looked back to his normal self. “Bryan Oviedo scored a goal and played for the full 90 minutes which was really positive. “Conor McAleny, after having a frustrating season with a couple of unfortunate knocks, it was great to see him on the scoresheet as well.
“They performed so well last night which was really pleasing to see. It shows me they are ready to help the team.”
Behind Enemy Lines: A Hull City fan's view on his team's struggles and the clash with Everton FC
Dec 02, 2014 Liverpool Echo
Tigers fan Bernard Noble answers our questions on the game at Goodison
The Tigers have been pretty toothless of late.
Hull City head to Goodison Park without a win in six Premier League fixtures and face an Everton side eager to get over Sunday's lacklustre 2-1 defeat to Spurs, a result which brought an end to their eight-match unbeaten run. Are Hull City too good to go down? And what kind of threat will they pose at Goodison on Wednesday? We spoke to Bernard Noble, a director of the Hull City Official Supporters Club, to get the inside track on the KC Stadium side.
How have Hull found themselves on the cusp of the relegation zone?
Bernard Noble (BN): Being in the relegation zone is a difficult time and a worry obviously. I do, however, think we have a good enough squad to stay up. In my opinion, we are far better than other teams in the lower half of the Premier League.
How can we expect Hull to line up?
BN: I think we will go with 4-4-2 and try and catch Everton on the break and try and score from set pieces. What's your take on the 'Tigers' naming situation?
BN: Our members, Hull City Official Supporters Club, have differing views on the name change debate and therefore we must stay impartial and respect all views.
Which Everton player do you think can hurt you most? BN: Your most creative player, I think, is Gareth Barry and he can certainly cause us problems by taking control of midfield and threading pinpoint passes through to your strikers.
How do you assess Everton so far this season?
BN: Everton and going OK and doing well in Europe. They perhaps think they should be higher in the league and perhaps so. They are a top six side and I expect them to be in with a shout for a cup competition this season.
BN: Everton may be a little flat after the Spurs defeat but that could work against us? I think Everton will win 2-1.
Hull City: No Curtis Davies in your XI to face Everton
By Hull Daily Mail December 02, 2014
Yesterday we asked Hull City fans to pick their starting XI for tomorrow’s Premier League game at Everton. More than 2,400 of you voted. Brad Rial looks at the interesting results..
CURTIS Davies has started all 13 of Hull City’s Premier League games to date but, according to our fans poll, it is time for him to be dropped.
Less than half of the voters (46%) said they would start the City skipper at Goodison Park, with James Chester and Michael Dawson the preferred centre back pairing.
That would suggest a return to the back four – a tactic that has been hit and miss for the Tigers so far this season. Steve Bruce this morning hinted at a return for Tom Huddlestone against Everton. If the results of our poll are anything to go by, it is a decision that will prove popular among fans.
It was by no means unanimous (only 56% of those that voted picked him) but the results show that supporters are sticking by the midfielder. Nikica Jelavic was the most-picked player, with 95% of the voters starting him in their XI. It may have something to do with Jelavic being City’s only fit striker (Yannick Sagbo aside) but it is nonetheless a vote of confidence for the Croatian ahead of his return to Goodison Park. Michael Dawson’s performances in recent weeks don’t appear to have gone unnoticed by supporters. The former Spurs man placed second on the list with 93%.
And young Scotland star Andy Robertson was the third most popular choice with 88%.
Liam Rosenior was the outfield player with the tenth-highest amount of votes, just pipping Stephen Quinn to the final place in the XI. Unsurprisingly, Hatem Ben Arfa didn’t feature too highly on the list after his dismal showing at Old Trafford on Saturday. Only Paul McShane, Alex Bruce and Harry Maguire picked up fewer votes than the Frenchman. One other notable omission is Sone Aluko. Despite impressing off the bench on Saturday, only 25% of voters picked the forward to start against the Toffees. Your team in full: Allan McGregor; Liam Rosenior, James Chester, Michael Dawson, Andy Robertson; Ahmed Elmohamady, Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone, Mohamed Diame, Robbie Brady; Nikica Jelavic
Everton FC v Hull City: Three key questions including how the Blues will line up their front four
Dec 2 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Kristian Walsh
The big talking points ahead of the Blues' home game with the Tigers, including how the attack will line up and the start of the push towards the top four
How will the front four line up?
The team-sheet against Tottenham on Sunday looked great on paper, but failed to fully translate on the field. Kevin Mirallas, Samuel Eto'o, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku are – or were – full internationals, all four named in their country's World Cup squad. Domestically, Lukaku and Barkley are two of the most exciting young players in Europe, Mirallas is a proven talent at Goodison and Eto'o is a legend of the game. But something didn't click at White Hart Lane.
Mirallas would pop up on the left, and scored a fantastic goal, but the other three struggled. Barkley started on the right and moved inside, frustrated; centrally, Eto'o floated like a butterfly and stung like one too, while Lukaku had one of his most barren games over the past month.
The absence of Steven Naismith, the perfect player to knit everything together, did not help matters against Tottenham. Roberto Martinez will hope for his return against Hull, though he remains a doubt. If he isn't fit, then the Spaniard has to decide whether he continues playing his best four players in the front four positions, or players that fit more seamlessly into the system.
Barkley, arguably, should always be central if he plays, especially to assist the midfield two behind; Eto'o and Lukaku should be closer together if both start. Mirallas, meanwhile, utilises his directness better on the right. It may require the deftness of Steven Pienaar or the penetrative Aiden McGeady to come in – good players, sometimes great, but not necessarily first-choice when every player is fit.
Is this start of the top four tilt? Defeat on Sunday was made even more frustrating after looking at the table. Spurs now sit in seventh and are just two points from the top four. Quite literally, that could have been Everton. Going into the game, the clubs had the same points, with the Blues possessing the better goal difference. The win would have seen them where Tottenham now are, within touching distance of the Champions League places. And so to Hull and back. Steve Bruce's side are the first team Everton face in this busy period, and they will also be the last when they travel to the KC Stadium on New Year's Day. In that time, they have difficult trips to two of the current top three - Manchester City and Southampton – as well as Newcastle, but host QPR and Stoke. With five points the gap between themselves and fourth, it can be no plainer – victory over Hull is a necessity. A win on Wednesday gives hope; hope they can call upon their great record at City and grab at least a point, and hope Southampton will find December a difficult month. There is also hope Newcastle have their bi-monthly meltdown and Goodison yields two wins from two.
If that was to happen, the Blues would go into 2015 on 33 points, with 16 from a possible 18 – only four points short of where they were at that point last season. A win against Hull can instil that hope. Defeat, however, leads to weary glances at a packed fixture list full of difficult trips and tricky home games.
Bottom of Form
How much will Spurs affect the gameplan?
Perhaps too much can be read into defeat at Spurs. The statistic most interesting read thus: Spurs' players ran 121.6km in their Premier League game against Everton; 5km further than any other side at the weekend. Impressive stuff from a team who clearly had a point to prove in front of a vociferous home support. The Blues may have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Maybe Martinez doesn't need to change much against a side who are struggling near the bottom of the table. The high press of Spurs will not be implemented by Hull, who like to play three at the back with two wing-backs moving down the line, sitting back and looking to spring on the counter-attack.
The Blues boss must decide whether the Spurs game was a one-off, or a glimpse into further issues that must be fixed before Christmas. They kept a lot of the ball, but Spurs were relentless in harassing them. It's unlikely Wednesday's opposition will run 5km more than any other side in the midweek fixtures, so hopefully more of a breather for the boys in blue.
Everton FC looking to recover from Spurs 'hurt' says Roberto Martinez
Dec 02, 2014Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Toffees boss felt his side were hard done by in North London on Sunday
Everton FC are ready to take out their “hurt” on Hull City tomorrow night as they seek a quick recovery from their defeat at Spurs, says Roberto Martinez.
The Toffees boss felt his side were hard done by in North London on Sunday, when they surrendered an early lead to lose 2-1 at White Hart Lane. That clash followed a testing trip to Germany, which the Blues passed with flying colours by winning Europa League Group H courtesy of a 2-0 victory.
The set-back which followed however, meant Everton moved back down to 10th in the Premier League, and despite knowing the Tigers will be a threat, Martinez wants his team to make up for lost ground. “We were hurt on Sunday,” he said. “We deserved better and we’re desperate to be surrounded by our fans again and give everything we’ve got. We know what we’re facing with Hull - they’re a very tough team. “Last season they came to Goodison and pressed us very high with a dynamic, energetic performance. They know how to go away and perform well. The scorelines haven’t reflected how good they are. They were unfortunate to lose at Spurs, got a very good draw at Anfield and were a minute from beating Arsenal at the Emirates. “They haven’t lost anything from last season but thy have added quality so we know how tough they will be.”
Martinez had plenty of praise too for Hull’s experienced manager. “I played for Steve Bruce - that’s how long he’s been a manager,” he added. “He’s a great character; a very reliable man with terrific man-management. “If you look at how many clubs he’s managed and how well he’s done - he’s a top manager.” As he plans his squad for this evening, Martinez was delighted to see Bryan Oviedo and Arouna Kone get through 90 and 75 minutes respectively for Everton Under-21s at Goodison on Monday. The pair, who were both listed as over-age players, scored in a 3-2 victory over Sunderland in front of the watching Everton manager. Oviedo has not featured for the first-team since the 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford in October after undergoing a procedure to remove a screw from the leg he broke at Stevenage at the start of the year. But after witnessing him complete the full game against the Black Cats at Goodison, Martinez says the Costa Rican is very close to a return.
Martinez said: “I think Bryan is such a naturally fit boy that we were expecting him to play for 60 or 70 minutes but in the end he has cruised through the full 90. “It shows you where he is physically. I expect Bryan to be fully fit now and be able to participate in the games.” Martinez (right), however, says he must take more caution with Kone, who has not been involved in a Premier League match for 13 months due to a serious knee injury. “Match fitness is a difficult aspect to work on because he has been out for a year,” added the Everton manager. “He has played 45 minutes and now 75 minutes so he is very close to having an impact in the first-team. “Arouna, being a striker, I think it is easier for him to grow into the games, play a part and have more minutes. We will have to be a little bit patient because you have to keep in mind that he has been out for a long, long time.
“But he looked really strong yesterday. His hold-up play was very good, he was clinical in front of goal and it was very pleasing.” Once the Ivorian is ready to hit the ground running, Martinez predicts he will have some formidable options in attack. “To have a player of his quality – with Samuel Eto’o and Romelu Lukaku – is very good,” he said. “They’re three different strikers with a lot of quality. “It will be an important aspect of our squad. The last game against Krasnodar will give him an opportunity.”
Kevin Mirallas will be offered new deal in summer, says Roberto Martinez
Dec 02, 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
The Blues boss is relaxed about the Belgian forward’s future
Everton FC will wait until the summer to offer “magic” Kevin Mirallas a new deal, says Roberto Martinez.
The Blues boss is relaxed about the Belgian forward’s future, content that he is under contract until June 2016 with the option of a further year also in those terms. Mirallas, 27, is becoming an increasingly influential performer for his side, and gave Everton the lead at White Hart Lane on Sunday before they eventually succumbed to a 2-1 defeat. The Belgium international has recently insisted he is happy and settled at Goodison, and Martinez will look at offering him a new contract when the current campaign is over. He said: “He is a wonderful footballer - the type of player who brings you something different to the side in the final third. “Kevin still has a long term contract with us but we’ll always look behind the scenes to do as much work as we can in those individual aspects. At the moment there’s nothing to mention. “Kevin is fully focussed to be performing in the way he has done recently and get rid of his frustration from when he was injured.
“He’s a star. I’ve said that before - he has the star quality to find that piece of magic or important moment in the game to score a goal. He keeps showing that.” Mirallas was badly missed during his recent two-month injury absence, and has quickly hit the ground running again after recovering from a hamstring damage. Martinez admits a player of his quality would be difficult to replace.
“It’s not easy to find a footballer with that quality who can bring that spark,” he said. “It was a great finish at the weekend and it was a shame that goal didn’t end up with a winning performance as well. “It’s an important period in the season now for everyone to get concentrating on the team.”
It is not only the Toffees manager who is an ardent admirer of the former Olympiakos winger. Team-mate Leighton Baines also reckons a fully-fit Mirallas will be crucial to Everton’s fortunes over the festive fixtures. With seven games to play before the end of 2014, Baines says it’s essential that a player he describes as “one of the best finishers at the club” stays injury free.
“He (Mirallas) has done really well,” he said. “The injury he had was a severe muscle injury, so to come back and play 70/80 minutes in the three games was a real boost for us. He’s always capable of popping up with goals and he scored a great one at the weekend. “He’s one of the best finishers at the club. If you are going to put someone in on goal in an important moment, Kevin would probably be at the top of the list because he’s composed. “He’s always a player that we want to try to keep fit and I’m sure we won’t take any huge risks with him for the sake of it. We need him fit for this period, as we do for the rest of the players.” Baines is used to forming a formidable partnership down the left-flank with Steven Pienaar, but is also enjoying having the skilful Mirallas in the attacking position ahead of him. “Over the years there has been different players who have played in front [of me] and each has got their own specific individual profile of how they like to play,” he added. “Kevin is a player you will leave more one-versus-one with the full-back because he’s got the ability to twist and turn, come inside and, like he showed on Sunday, he can finish really well on his right foot. “It’s a matter of recognising when there is space when he has gone inside or supporting him from behind and letting him do his stuff.”
Everton v Hull City: Bruce hoping fit-again Jelavic can deliver on Toffees return
Yorkshire Post 03 December 2014
IT has been a peculiar year for Hull City.
Just six league wins from 29 outings is not much to show for an unprecedented spending spree that, give or take a million or two, topped £50m. It is a disappointing return for such a huge financial outlay, especially with the historic run to the FA Cup final coming courtesy of the old guard’s efforts as opposed to any of 2014’s big money new arrivals. With that in mind, the jury has to still be out on City’s recruitment over the past 11 months even if there have been notable successes along the way.
Chief among those has to be Nikica Jelavic, who became the first of four record signings that the Tigers have made this year when joining from Everton for £6.5m in mid-January. The 29-year-old has made a big impression in amber and black, his four goals last season coming in games that ended in two victories and the crucial April draw at Fulham that as good as preserved Hull’s top flight status.
This time around, Jelavic started in even more prolific form with four goals in his first seven league outings before a knee injury brought an enforced six-week absence from the side.
He was sorely missed, City’s attack lacking a physical presence in his absence and the goals soon dried up. Jelavic’s return against Tottenham Hotspur on November 23 may not have been able to halt a run of defeats that now stands at four but Steve Bruce is in no doubt as to how vital the Croat is to Hull’s hopes this season. “‘Jela’ has been a terrific signing since he walked in the door,” said Bruce as Jelavic prepares to tonight return to Goodison Park for the first time since moving along the M62 to Yorkshire in January. “It is quite incredible that he has nearly been here a year. He did a lot for us at the back end of last season, won us some important games.
“It is just a shame that when he was starting to hit top form this season he picked up the knee injury.
“That set him back and set us back. For me, the loss of Jelavic started that little dip in form. That was the key.” Jelavic spent two years at Everton and netted 21 goals. The last two of those, which came in a 4-0 FA Cup third-round victory over Leyton Orient, helped persuade Bruce to splash the cash on a striker who had until then found opportunities hard to come by at Goodison.
Shane Long also joined a week or so later for a deal that eventually cost £7m but with both men having already played in the Cup it meant they missed out on the run to Wembley.
Neither let the disappointment of having to watch every tie from the stand affect them, however, as the pair retained the knack of scoring vital goals in the league. Bruce said: “You have to players like ‘Jela’ in your squad. He epitomises what I like in a player. He might not be blessed with silky skills but he’s got the heart as big as himself. “We missed him so it’s great to have him back. I don’t think he’s got anything to prove to Everton because he had a really good couple of years there.
“I am sure he is looking forward to going back. It is always nice to return to your old club and I am sure he will be relishing it. Knowing him like I do, he will be looking at that game for sure.”
Tom Huddlestone is expected to return after being dropped to the bench against Manchester United. Bruce said: “Tom has had a wonderful 18 months here and it was only a matter of months ago there were headlines like, ‘Is he the best player Hull have ever had?’. But then sometimes you have a dip in form and you need to take a break from it and have a look at it.”
Last six games: Everton DWDWWL, Hull City DDLLLL.
Referee: R Madley
Last time: Everton 2 Hull City 1; October 19, 2013; Premier League.
Hull City: Nikica Jelavic will be 'friend turned foe' on first visit back to Everton
By Hull Daily Mail December 03, 2014
NIKICA Jelavic has been backed to spring a surprise on his former club Everton as he makes a first return to Goodison Park with Hull City tonight. Jelavic spent two years with the Toffees after signing from Rangers in 2012, establishing himself as a crowd favourite with a yield of 21 goals from 69 games. A £7m move to join City in January ended his time on Merseyside amicably, but tonight he will be aiming to upset his former employers back on his old stomping ground.
"Jela's been a terrific signing since he walked in the door," said City boss Steve Bruce. "It's quite incredible that he's nearly been here a year. "It's always nice to go back to your old club and I'm sure he'll be relishing it. Knowing him like I do, he'll be looking at that game for sure.
"He did a lot for us at the back end of last season, won important games. "You need players like Jela in your squad. He epitomises what I like in a player. "He might not be blessed with silky skills but he's got a heart as big as himself. "We missed him so it's great to have him back. I don't think he's got anything to prove to Everton because he had a really good couple of years there."
Tonight's trip to Goodison Park has been highlighted on Jelavic's calendar and was targeted for a potential comeback game when initially undergoing minor knee surgery in October.
A rapid recovery saw the former Croatia international return quicker than expected to start against Tottenham and Manchester United and although those fixtures ended with defeats, the striker's influence was felt. Bruce traces the start of City's current slump back to when Jelavic was injured ahead of facing Arsenal on October 18. He added: "It's just a shame when he was starting to hit top form this season he picked up the knee injury. "That set him back and set us back. For me, the loss of Jelavic started that little dip in form. That was the key." Everton will be no strangers to the threat of Jelavic. Despite ending his time at Goodison Park on the fringes of Roberto Martinez's side, a blistering start to life in the Premier League once saw Jelavic bag nine goals in seven games towards the end of the 2011-12 season. Martinez only opted to sell Jelavic in January to keep the striker's dreams alive of playing in the World Cup finals in Brazil and the Toffees boss will welcome the returning son back with open arms. "It will be a great moment to see him," said Martinez. "We played against Niki in the last game of last season when he started but coming back to Goodison will be a special moment for him. "We will always have a strong affection towards Niki and everything he does in his career after tonight." If Martinez is full of admiration for Jelavic, Bruce shares the same sentiment for tonight's opponents. Despite enduring a stuttering campaign beset by Europa League commitments, Bruce believes his side face a team set for a top-eight place.
He said: "Make no mistake, Everton are a very, very good side and they've got top, top players. I wouldn't be surprised if they're going to be in the top six or seven again.
"I would have money on it that they're in the top eight and they could be in the top six because I think they're a very good team. "So we're going to have to be at our best and we're going to have to start playing the way we know we can."
Everton v Hull City: Team news and preview (December 3, 2014)
By Hull Daily Mail December 03, 2014
Team news for Everton v Hull City at Goodison Park in the Premier League on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 (kick-off 7.45pm).
Everton team news
EVERTON boss Roberto Martinez has conceded tonight’s game has come too soon for star midfielder James McCarthy. The Republic of Ireland man suffered another hamstring injury in the Europa League win over Wolfsburg last week and missed the weekend loss at Tottenham.
McCarthy’s nagging injury problems will be assessed until kick-off but there appears little prospect of him being rushed into a return. There is a more positive outlook for forward Steven Naismith. Martinez gives the Scotland international “an outside chance” of playing some part following his own hamstring woes. A fourth game in 11 days leaves Martinez considering changes. The demands of the Europa League have left Everton with a troublesome injury-list that rules out Darron Gibson (knee), John Stones (ankle), Antolin Alcaraz (shoulder). Steven Pienaar (knee) returned to the bench for the weekend defeat at Spurs and will push for a start along with Leon Osman and Aidan McGeady. Arouna Kone and Bryan Oviedo are edging back towards fitness. The pair both featured in the Under-21s game with Sunderland on Monday night but will not be in the reckoning for starts.
Possible Everton XI: Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Barry, Osman; McGeady, Barkley, Pienaar; Lukaku. Subs: Robles (GK), Hibbert, Besic, Mirallas, Eto’o, Atsu, Garbutt.
Hull City team news
HULL City boss Steve Bruce will again be without record signing Abel Hernandez as he hunts a much-needed lift at Goodison Park.
Hernandez missed the Tigers’ 3-0 loss at Manchester United on Saturday after flying home to Uruguay for the birth of his child. The £10m man returned to England on Monday but the demands of long-haul travelling means Bruce will not consider a recall until Saturday’s visit of West Brom.
Fellow Uruguay international Gaston Ramirez is another absentee as he serves the second fixture of a three-game ban. Bruce has indicated he will make changes for tonight’s game, suggesting that Tom Huddlestone will be ushered straight back into the side.
The former Spurs man was an unused substitute at Old Trafford but can expect a recall in midfield.
David Meyler, Stephen Quinn and Liam Rosenior are also in Bruce’s thoughts as he searches for a show of character, while Sone Aluko could be the man tasked with playing off Everton old boy Nikica Jelavic. Aluko replaced Ben Arfa after just 35 minutes of the loss at Manchester United and could be given a rare start in the absence of Hernandez. Robert Snodgrass (knee) has received positive news on his long-term injury but will still be at least four months away from a return.
Possible City XI: McGregor; Chester, Dawson, Davies; Elmohamady, Huddlestone, Diame, Meyler, Robertson; Aluko, Jelavic. Subs: Harper (GK), Bruce, Rosenior, Quinn, Livermore, Brady, Ben Arfa.
Key clash: Leighton Baines v Ahmed Elmohamady
WITH Seamus Coleman on the right and Leighton Baines on the left, Everton’s attacks often develop from deep out wide and maraud in behind.
Baines has become a well-known threat to any visitor to Goodison Park. As well as a danger from set-pieces, England’s established left-back drives on to hurt defences.
Should Ahmed Elmohamady remain in the role of right wing-back and extend his ever-present record, he will be the man tasked with keeping a close eye on Baines. The Egyptian can pose similar dangers to his counterpart when pushing on into the opposition half and it will be vital he asks questions of his own to the dangerous Baines.
Everton form guide
AT best Everton’s Premier League fortunes can be described as steady this season. Four wins, five draws and four defeats put them in a tightly-packed section of mid-table and that lack of consistency is denying them climbs up the table to rival last season. If only their results in the Europa League had mirrored fortunes in the domestic game. The Toffees are yet to lose in that competition and are already guaranteed of a place in the knock-out stages that begin next year.
Last time out: Tottenham 2 Everton 1
A tight battle of England’s Europa League representatives finished with a Tottenham victory over Everton thanks to a rare strike from Roberto Soldado.
Everton struck the first blow with a lovely goal from Kevin Mirallas but their lead would last just six minutes when Christian Eriksen drew Spurs level.
The Toffees tired on the back of their win over Wolfsburg last Thursday and that meant Soldado’s strike late in the first half was enough to give Tottenham a big home win.
The Gaffer: Roberto Martinez
EVERTON fans believe the “School of Science” is back under Roberto Martinez and his popularity knows no bounds for the blue half of Merseyside. The 41-year-old certainly has a history full of promise. At Swansea he began the climb up into the Premier League and during another successful spell at Wigan he won the FA Cup 18 months ago. Martinez enjoyed a happy first season at Goodison Park when succeeding David Moyes, guiding the Toffees to fifth and back to Europe.
Referee: Robert Madley (West Yorkshire)
Assistants: M McDonough, C Hatzidakis
Fourth official: Martin Atkinson
THE task of building on the success of last season will not be easy for Roberto Martinez. A fifth-placed finish saw them challenging for the Champions League until the final weeks of the campaign and such heights already appear beyond the Toffees a year on. The Europa League is testing the depth of their squad and the current position in the mid-table pack leaves room for improvement. Hard to see Everton finishing outside the top-half but they are shy of the consistency needed to challenge the elite.
Memory Lane: August 23, 1952, Everton 0 Hull City 2
HULL City supporters were still mourning the departure of Raich Carter when the 1952-52 season began with a trip to Everton but the remnants of his famous legacy ensured a winning start for new boss Bob Jackson.
Viggo Jensen, signed by Carter in 1949, was the hero of City’s one and only win at Goodison Park.
A goal in either half from the Denmark international was enough to inflict an opening-day defeat on Everton in front of 43,035 fans and point towards a bright future under Jackson.
Jensen’s heroics were commonplace as City lost just two of their opening 10 games in Division Two, but a dismal dip around the turn of the year soon turned the campaign into a relegation fight.
Only two wins in their last three games eventually staved off the threat of a return to Division Three (North) with a final standing of 18th.
Everton were equally unimpressive that season when finishing 16th and were beaten again at Boothferry Park, but at least their renaissance was being formed.
Twelve months later they claimed promotion to the top-flight under soon-to-be City boss Cliff Britton and there they have stayed ever since.
Just five trips have been made to Goodison Park in the 62 years that have followed, with the Tigers losing on every occasion.
Hull City: Joe Robinson, Wilf Hassall, Tom Berry, Bill Harris, Neil Franklin, Denis Durham, Johnny Linakar, Terry Murray, Syd Gerrie, Viggo Jensen, Eddie Burbanks.
Everton FC v Hull City Preview: Roberto Martinez wants Blues to get back to winning ways
Dec 3 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Manager glad to be back at Goodison after challenging away games and vows side will give everything to bounce back from Tottenham defeat
Everton are ready to take out their “hurt” on Hull City tonight as they seek a quick recovery from their defeat at Spurs, says Roberto Martinez. The Toffees boss felt his side were hard done by in North London on Sunday, when they surrendered an early lead to lose 2-1 at White Hart Lane.
That clash followed a testing trip to Germany, which the Blues passed with flying colours by winning Europa League Group H courtesy of a 2-0 victory. The set-back which followed however, meant Everton moved back down to 10th in the Premier League, and despite knowing the Tigers will be a threat, Martinez wants his team to make up for lost ground. “We were hurt on Sunday,” he said. “We deserved better and we’re desperate to be surrounded by our fans again and give everything we’ve got. We know what we’re facing with Hull – they’re a very tough team.
“Last season they came to Goodison and pressed us very high with a dynamic, energetic performance. They know how to go away and perform well. The scorelines haven’t reflected how good they are. They were unfortunate to lose at Spurs, got a very good draw at Anfield and were a minute from beating Arsenal at the Emirates. “They haven’t lost anything from last season but thy have added quality so we know how tough they will be.” Martinez had plenty of praise too for Hull’s experienced manager. “I played for Steve Bruce – that’s how long he’s been a manager,” he added. “He’s a great character; a very reliable man with terrific man-management.
“If you look at how many clubs he’s managed and how well he’s done – he’s a top manager.”
As he plans his squad for this evening, Martinez was delighted to see Bryan Oviedo and Arouna Kone get through 90 and 75 minutes respectively for Everton Under-21s at Goodison on Monday.
The pair, who were both listed as over-age players, scored in a 3-2 victory over Sunderland in front of the watching Everton manager. Oviedo has not featured for the first-team since the 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford in October after undergoing a procedure to remove a screw from the leg he broke at Stevenage at the start of the year. But after witnessing him complete the full game against the Black Cats at Goodison, Martinez says he is very close to a return. Martinez said: “I think Bryan is such a naturally fit boy that we were expecting him to play for 60 or 70 minutes but in the end he has cruised through the full 90. “It shows you where he is physically. I expect Bryan to be fully fit now and be able to participate in the games.” Martinez, however, says he must take more caution with Kone who not been involved in the Premier League match for 13 months due to a serious knee injury. “Match fitness is a difficult aspect to work on because he has been out for a year,” added the Everton manager. “He has played 45 minutes and now 75 minutes so he is very close to having an impact in the first-team. “Arouna, being a striker, I think it is easier for him to grow into the games, play a part and have more minutes. We will have to be a little bit patient because you have to keep in mind that he has been out for a long, long time. “But he looked really strong yesterday. His hold up play was very good, he was clinical in front of goal and it was very pleasing.”Once the Ivorian is ready to hit the ground running, Martinez predicts he will have some formidable options in attack.
“To have a player of his quality – with Samuel Eto’o and Romelu Lukaku is very good,” he said. “They’re three different strikers with a lot of quality. It will be an important aspect of our squad. The last game against Krasnodar will give him an opportunity.”
Why former Everton FC striker Nikica Jelavic deserves a warm welcome on his return to Goodison Park
Dec 3 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Ian Doyle
Croatian shone so brightly during his early days with Blues
Few Everton players have had quite as fitting a farewell as Nikica Jelavic.
Making what would be his final appearance for the Blues, Jelavic netted a brace against Queens Park Rangers in the home FA Cup third round tie in January. But when it come to sealing a hat-trick from the spot, the striker opted to be clever and attempt a ‘Panenka’ style penalty – and promptly chipped against the crossbar. Starting well but ultimately fizzling out, the afternoon encapsulated the Croat’s Everton career. Jelavic, though, should be granted a warm reception on his first return to Goodison with current club Hull City tonight. When David Moyes took advantage of Glasgow Rangers’ fire sale by snapping up Jelavic for just £5million in January 2012, it seemed a canny bit of business. That was underlined by Jelavic’s blistering start to life on Merseyside.
He netted the winner on his first start at home to Tottenham Hotspur and went on to score 11 in 16 appearances by the end of the campaign. They were big goals, too, including strikes in wins at Sunderland and Swansea, a double in the remarkable 4-4 draw at Manchester United and the opener in the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool at Wembley. Finally, here was the striker Moyes had craved to provide the finishing touches to his team’s impressive build-up play.
But after returning from Euro 2012 duty with Croatia, matters began to unravel for Jelavic.
Four goals in his first seven appearances of 2012-13 suggested business as usual.
Jelavic, though, wasn’t hitting the heights. And only four goals in a further 36 appearances in the remainder of the season underlined a chronic lack of confidence and saw him start only one game after March. A subsequent change of manager didn’t bring a change of fortune for Jelavic in 2013-14. And while Roberto Martinez began the season with the Croat leading the attack, the deadline day loan arrival of Romelu Lukaku signalled the beginning of the end for the forward.
Indeed, his brace on his last outing for the club against QPR were the only goals he scored last season before completing a £6.5m move to Hull City in January. With just four goals in his first 16 games on Humberside, Jelavic’s rehabilitation was slow going. But four in nine this campaign – the highlight a memorable volley at Newcastle United – have suggested he is finding his groove again.
Jelavic shone so brightly during his first few months at Goodison that is was always going to be difficult to maintain that form. Leaving Everton earlier this year was the right move for both parties. But Jelavic deserves to be remembered for the good times when he renews old acquaintances this evening.
Everton 1-1 Hull City: Sone Aluko's goal earns a point at Goodison Park
By Hull Daily Mail December 03, 2014
SONE Aluko came off the substitute’s bench to earn Hull City a crucial point which lifts them out of the relegation zone.
Cancelling out Romelu Lukaku’s first-half strike, Aluko’s goal takes the Tigers to 17th in the Premier League table, a place and a point behind West Brom, Saturday’s visitors to the KC Stadium.
Beaten in their last four outings, a first point since their last visit to the city of Liverpool was reward for an improved display by Steve Bruce’s side, who battled hard for the draw.
Bruce made four changes to the side which under-performed in a 3-0 defeat at Manchester United on Saturday. David Meyler, Liam Rosenior, Stephen Quinn and Tom Huddlestone came in for Curtis Davies, Andrew Robertson, Hatem Ben Arfa and Robbie Brady. With Davies dropped for the first time in his City career, Michael Dawson was handed the captain’s armband.
Having dropped into the bottom three following Tuesday night’s games, City knew the importance of taking something from the game and despite the defensive looking set-up, started with the more vigour. Showing more intent in the opening exchanges than in the whole 90 minutes at Old Trafford, City’s 4-4-1-1 formation were heating up a cold night at Goodison, and while that good work never materialised into a goal, confidence was visibly slowly creeping back into the Tigers – confidence that would eventually be knocked back in the 34th minute. They may not have threatened for half an hour, but after City were given a warning when Leon Osman missed with a shot from the centre of the box which should have found the back of the net, Everton weren’t so wasteful minutes later as Lukaku showed Osman how to finish. For all their vim and vigour City had created nothing and now went into the break needing to find a goal to restore parity. It almost came soon after the re-start, but the persistence of Meyler as he cut the ball back from the byline came to nothing as Diame was unable to get on the end of a ball across the face of the box. It was Diame’s last contribution, with Bruce turning to Aluko to see if the Nigerian international could offer more of a threat. The answer was sift and unequivocal. With seemingly nothing on in front of him, Aluko skipped past Distin and drilled a shot past Tim Howard to level the scores. Nikica Jelavic’s header moments later almost turned the game on its head within the space of two minutes, but while it drifted wide, City were again growing in confidence. Parity restored, the Tigers were much better in the closing stages as Everton wilted. While no other real opportunities came their way, City will take great heart from stopping their losing run ahead of a crucial clash with the Baggies on Saturday.
Dave Prentice analysis: Long December ahead for Everton FC
Dec 3 2014 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Tonight Everton tossed away another winning position
If the Premier League did half-time tables, Everton FC would be flying high in second place, just five points behind leaders Chelsea. Yeah. And if Carlsberg did league tables they'd probably crown Liverpool champions, too. Sadly for Merseyside this is the real world.
And tonight Everton tossed away another winning position, two more home points and left the pitch to boos from from a number of disaffected fans. The fickleness of fans should never surprise. But the lack of sympathy from that sizeable minority was surprising. It's only six days since the Blues enjoyed impressive back to back victories against West Ham and Wolfsburg.
Since then they've lost to Spurs and dropped two home points to the worst performing Premier League team in 2015. And the reasons are clear. A gruelling fixture list, coupled with a lengthy injury list, means that a number of key personnel are starting to look, not to put too fine a point on it, knackered. They can start games fresh and with the zest to ping the ball about slickly, but they are struggling to carry that form past the half-time break. Tonight the demanding fixture schedule Everton have endured in the last 11 days - four games and two long away trips – was evident.
There was little tempo to their passing, not enough movement off the ball – and some of their more senior citizens are starting to creak. Sylvain Distin has been asked to play the full 90 minutes of every one of those four games – and three of the previous four prior to that - just a few days short of his 37th birthday. Distin is a consummate professional and a man who manages his fitness supremely. But you can't halt the march of time. Those demands started to show on Sunday with a loose lob forward which gifted Spurs possession in the build up to the equaliser and an even looser challenge which followed. And tonight Sone Aluko skipped past him far too easily for another leveller. Until John Stones can recover from the serious ankle ligament injury he sustained at Old Trafford way back in October – and he still has some weeks to go – Distin will have to soldier on at the heart of the Blues defence. Lucky it's only a trip to the champions on Saturday - after barely 72 hours recovery time. The Blues will need to recover from mental scars of last night as well as physical aches. But this was a fixture which had banana skin written all over it.
Everyone you listened to had Hull as lambs to the slaughter. Or toothless Tigers.
They're the worst performing team in the calendar year of 2014; they haven't won at Goodison for half a century; they lay down and died at Old Trafford on Saturday – and just 400 die-hard fans had enough faith in them to make the trip cross-country from Humberside. Add in a freezing cold night, Everton playing their third match in eight days, injuries ensuring just one change to the starting line-up from the side outworked by Spurs on Sunday – not to mention the presence of a former Goodison favourite in the Hull ranks - and all the ingredients for an upset were present.
Hull made four changes to the side walloped at Old Trafford and the extra freshness showed.
“If there was going to be one team going to win it in the second half it was going to be us,” said Steve Bruce afterwards in his press conference. No-one nudged each other and smirked.
They pressed Everton high up the pitch and the Blues insistence on trying to pass from the back frequently played them into trouble. Ironically, when Everton looked for the early ball forward – probably more often than their manager might have liked - it was occasionally effective with Lukaku putting in a decent centre-forward's performance. They actually scored from a ball played forward early in a first half when all was just about well with the world. Lukaku and his Belgian buddy Kevin Mirallas combined once again to give Everton the lead. It's still not Sharp and Gray. They're not equipped to be Everton's new RAF - Rideout and Ferguson. And it's a mile away from the link up Latchford and Thomas enjoyed. But the men from Belgium have a partnership which is blossoming with every match. Just six days after setting up goals for each other in Wolfsburg, the Belgian duo showed that it wasn't just a penchant for wearing gloves that they shared against Hull.
They were the only outfield players to sport winter woolens on a frosty Goodison evening, but their football match up was just as impressive. Lukaku leaped to flick a header on to Mirallas. His incisive pace immediately left Dawson exposed and his drilled cutback invited the fierce finish from Lukaku.
Just four minutes into the second half Lukaku tried to repay the gesture, sliding the ball across the 18 yard box for Mirallas to flip a shot with the outside of his foot onto the roof of the Gwladys Street net. But Everton rarely came as close again. Mirallas was withdrawn after 63 minutes, the Blues clearly managing his comeback following his well documented history with hamstring injuries.
And Everton missed their link-ups. The pair are clearly close pals off the pitch.
Instagram pictures of the team travelling down to Tottenham showed them sharing a train table, and when Lukaku was last to enter the fray at the start of the second half last night they exchanged encouraging handshakes. That closeness is also manifested in their play. There's an instant awareness of the other's movement, a consciousness of what kind of delivery the other is waiting for. With time ticking away tonight some fans might have hoped for a more direct delivery, a lump into the box just to see if anything might break. Everton stayed true to their manager's principles, but they're fast running out of energy to express it. This time last year they were winning at Old Trafford and flying high in the real league table. This time round they have the gruelling Thursday-Sunday rota to adapt to – and for the time being they're running out of steam.
It's going to be a very demanding December ....
Everton miss their chances while Sone Aluko profits for Hull City
The Guardian, Wednesday 3 December 2014
The natives were audibly restless and with good cause. They have witnessed two wins in seven Premier League home games this season and more lethargic, defensively weak, performances than a club with Champions League aspirations can afford. Hull City, third from bottom at the start of play, were grateful beneficiaries of the latest flat production. Roberto Martínez described the boos that rang out on the final whistle as symptomatic of the frustration that comes with “having three points in the bag and ending up with only one”. That might have been the optimistic outlook at half-time, when Everton had recovered from a sluggish start to lead through Romelu Lukaku’s sixth league goal of the season, but it was redundant by full-time. Hull were full value for Sone Aluko’s equaliser and were inches away from victory when Nikica Jelavic’s header landed the wrong side of a post. The condemnation was for the Everton performance. The visitors made the brighter, more purposeful start to both halves and Everton’s impressive response midway through the opening period was the only time Martínez’s team were on top. They were otherwise laboured, lacking ideas and energy. “We were fantastic in the first half,” the Blues manager said. “We got through the lines really well and had good tempo in our passing. The second half was completely different. It is a difficult moment in the season to find energy. Leighton Baines went off with a bloody nose, our rhythm was unsettled, Hull had one shot on target and equalised. We couldn’t find any energy after that.”
Martínez claims to be unperturbed by Everton’s home form and continues to insist the key is being in contention for the final third of the season. Heavy legs in early December do not bode well.
Steve Bruce, in stark contrast, could take justifiable pleasure in his team’s point. Hull’s run is now one win in 13 matches but having fallen to a meek defeat at Manchester United on Saturday, prompting him to drop the captain, Curtis Davies, and recall three players essential to promotion from the Championship in 2013 – Liam Rosenior, David Meyler and Stephen Quinn – their reaction and intent was impressive. “We have been up against it and so I wanted to make sure we had honesty and endeavour in our play and we got it,” said Bruce. “If there was one team that was going to win it in the second half, it was us.” Everton took the lead after Lukaku flicked Phil Jagielka’s long ball on to the impressive Kevin Mirallas, who evaded Michael Dawson too easily down the right and returned a measured pass into the path of his Belgian compatriot. Lukaku’s finish was swift and emphatic beyond the exposed Allan McGregor. They had opportunities to extend their advantage before the interval but precious few afterwards. Hull’s determined start to the second half was aided and abetted by clumsy defending. Aluko had been on the field for only six minutes when he exchanged passes with Jelavic, evaded a weak challenge from Sylvain Distin and threaded a simple finish inside Tim Howard’s near post. An emphatic introduction from the substitute but a dreadful goal for players of the experience of Howard and Distin to concede.
Greg O'Keeffe's verdict: Everton FC lack killer instinct once again as they throw away more points
Dec 3 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
It can only go on for so long before their lofty goals for this campaign might have to be readjusted
Nevermind defensive cover or a more able deputy to keep Tim Howard on his toes, Everton FC need something else far more urgently under the Christmas tree. Perhaps you can't gift-wrap killer-instinct – but the Blues require a huge dose of it over the festive period nonetheless.
Once again they took the lead against a team they should comfortably swat aside at Goodison Park. Once again they conspired to drop points thereafter. It's becoming an alarmingly predictable pattern for Roberto Martinez's men in this first half of the campaign, when every chance to climb the table is squandered. The statistics do not make favourable reading.
Everton have dropped 12 points from winning positions already, the same as they did during the whole of last season. Based on the frothy premise that their games thus far ended after the first half, they would be second in the table. Instead they're treading water in 11th.
Something unsavoury happens when the Toffees take the lead. Just like against Leicester, Arsenal, Crystal Palace and Tottenham, they did the hard work and then failed to go for the jugular.
At White Hart Lane on Sunday, Martinez was frustrated by how his players didn't get the crucial second goal when their hosts were reeling on the ropes. It was the same script almost 72 hours later, when they punctured Hull's defensive game-plan, but then struggled to go the distance when it counted. It was a cagey opening, with neither side able to work a chance in the final third. Indeed 15 minutes had elapsed before either goalkeeper had a shot to save, and Hull's Alan McGregor only had to bend leisurely to collect a right-footed drive from Romelu Lukaku which was straight at him.
The huddle of hardy souls who had made the journey from Humberside had little to excite them, as their team managed to send several crosses into the Blues area with zero end product.
There was little to excite the home supporters either, but at least they were starting to test McGregor, as Leon Osman's instinctive back heel from Kevin Mirallas' low driven cross forced him to save. The Belgian was switching flanks with Osman to keep Hull's full-backs guessing, but whoever was tasked with stopping him was going to have their work cut out.
He has been rampant since his return from the hamstring injury which forced him to miss two months, and the forward played a key role in the opener. It was something of a direct goal for a side which prefers pass upon pass to cut open defences. Phil Jagielka chipped it upfield and Lukaku played in his compatriot, who skinned Michael Dawson and found the striker with a clever cut back which he dispatched emphatically. It was Lukaku's sixth Premier League goal of the season, and the fifth from his last eight appearances on home soil. He may have flattered to deceive in the opening months of the season, but the man with the record price tag is making a stronger claim for his value with each passing week. The pair almost created another just after the break. This time Lukaku raced onto a clever pass from Gareth Barry and pulled it back but Mirallas' measured chip soared narrowly over the bar. It was beginning to look like a straight-forward evening, but then things are rarely thus at the Old Lady. Out of nowhere, the Tigers were level. Substitute Sune Aluko had only been for six minutes when he collected the ball on the edge of the area. He skipped too easily past Sylvain Distin and then squeezed his shot through Tim Howard's legs at the near post.
Few teams can make life difficult for themselves like the Blues. They might have been out of sight but instead had to contain a resurgent Hull who had something to cling onto and were determined to do just that. Even with both Everton full-backs pushed right up, and Aiden McGeady being asked to come on and produce a spark, the clock continued to tick down ominously with no change forthcoming. Steve Bruce's side deployed every trick in the book to waste time and kill the game, as discontent built among the Goodison faithful. And in response Everton's passing began to feel predictable and uninspired. That was certainly the mood at the whistle, when a last gasp Ross Barkley corner failed to beat the first man and the stalemate was promptly ensured.
Just three wins from their last 10 at Goodison, it's not good enough.
Everton seem world-beaters in Europe, but in the league where they have a prime opportunity to compete for fourth spot they keep stumbling. They need to sharpen their claws and learn to make their dominance count. When adversity beckons at the moment they're too easy to figure out and nullify. It can only go on for so long before their lofty goals for this campaign might have to be readjusted.
EVERTON: (4-2-3-1) Howard, Baines, Distin, Jagielka (Capt), Coleman, Besic (McGeady, 80) Barry, Barkley, Osman, Mirallas, Lukaku.
Subs not used: Robles, Hibbert, Eto'o, Atsu, Garbutt.
Goals: Lukaku (34)
HULL CITY: (4-5-1) McGregor, Rosenior, Dawson (Capt), Chester, Meyler (Brady, 87) Huddlestone, Livermore, Diame (Aluko, 53) Elmohamady, Quinn (Robertson, 89) Jelavic.
Subs not used: Jakupovic, Bruce, Davies, Sagbo.
Goals: Aluko (59)
Referee: Robert Madley
Star Man: Muhamed Besic impressed in midfield where he added greater discipline to his trademark silk and steel.
Everton FC boss Roberto Martinez still aiming for top four despite Hull City setback
Dec 4 2014 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
“We are six points away and you are looking at other teams fighting for the same aim and they are very close to us," says the Blues boss
Roberto Martinez refused to rule out Everton's top four ambitions despite a disappointing home draw with relegation threatened Hull last night. The Blues have won just two of seven Premier League games at Goodison as Hull staged a classic smash and grab raid – scoring with their only shot on target. But Martinez said: “Of course we wanted more points. There's no denying that. But the amount of games we have left is huge. “Are we miles away from the top four positions? No.
“We are six points away and you are looking at other teams fighting for the same aim and they are very close to us. “I don't see that as a worry. We just want as many points as we can get to take us to the first third of the season and see where we are then and what we can fight for.
“Believe me it's been a very tough period for us but you didn't see a single player not giving a 100 per cent today.” There was some booing at the final whistle last night but the Blues boss said he was not surprised by the reaction. “It didn't take me by surprise because I don't think it was a reaction of drawing the game, it was a reaction of having three points in the bag and having the feeling that the first half performance was dominant enough to win the game and then all of a sudden you end up with one point,” he explained. “And at the end we couldn't find the energy to have final push. Our support has been magnificent. “We have high expectations and that's down to the good work of the players. “It was emotion today rather than a moan. That's how I see it.”
Martinez admitted that his team is running on empty at the moment after a gruelling schedule of games. “I don't think confidence is an issue. I think today was a lack of energy,” he added.
“Hull had a different way of playing which makes it easier to get through the game. You're disciplined, you're organised, you're working without the ball an that takes less energy than when you're trying to break a team down. “We have a few players injured. You look at Steven Naismith, Darron Gibson and James McCarrthy, players who if they had been fit in such a busy period might have helped. “We're getting Arouna Kone and Bryan Oviedo back which will be very important going forward. “If I had to point something out it's our involvement with the Europa League. That changes things a little bit. We had another two home games in that league and we have been outstanding, beating Wolfsburg and Lille in two impressive performances. “Teams come to Goodison and give us respect which is a footballing compliment but we need to learn how to carry on getting the points at home.” Martinez went on: “Hull City decided that they were coming clearly to make things difficult, to be very strong defensively and they had two very energetic banks of four with Quinn and Myler in the wide positions. “And I thought we were fantastic in the first half. I thought that we got through the lines really well. We created a good tempo in our passing and we showed a real bravery that is something which got us a very good goal from open play and created another good opportunity.
“We showed a real good intent. “The second half it was clearly different. I just felt that the approach of Hull City suited their role. It's a difficult moment of the season to find energy with so many games. Leighton Baines came off with a bleeding nose, they unsettled our rhythm and in the middle of that Hull City had one shot on target and got an equaliser. “After that we couldn't find any energy. It's very difficult they way we are as a team to be creative and to be strong when you haven't got the energy. “It suited Hull City who were quite direct, very vertical in what they wanted to do and overall I just felt that they stopped and started the game. “The referee did well to add on six minutes, but the longer the game went on I felt it would bw worse for us because we didn't have the energy to be ourselves. “I am really disappointed because the difference between the teams in the first half was good enough to win the game and I don't think my players deserved to only get one point. “I'm not pointing the finger at them, I'm just assessing the game as a whole.
“We had five shots on target, 13 chances they had one shot on target and football decided to give one point each. “I'm just assessing that. “I do think Hull City were stopping the clock and making it very difficult to get momentum. “The referee quite correctly added six minutes on but that wasn't what we needed today. “I'm not bitter about the way the opposition played. I'm just very proud of our first half performance. “I'm disappointed about the second half because it's an awkward moment where Leighton Baines comes off. We lose momentum, Leighton comes back on, one action and it's 1-1. “The crowd were frustrated at the end because they felt they had three points in the bag but they ended up with one.”
Everton FC 1 Hull City 1: What we learned including how Belgian duo can provide long-term success
Dec 04, 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Kristian Walsh
The main talking points after the Blues' disappointing draw, including how Lukaku and Mirallas can give the Toffees success
The Belgian connection can fire Blues
The overall performance from Everton might have been a load of old waffle, but their two Belgians were rare bright spots on a dark night at Goodison Park. Roberto Martinez's success has been founded on partnerships and duos over the past 18 months. His full-backs, Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman, have been integral to him; in the midfield, Gareth Barry and James McCarthy have formed a brilliant axis. Up front, it has been Romelu Lukaku and A.N. Other – sometimes Ross Barkley, sometimes Samuel Eto'o, and even the likes of Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar and Aiden McGeady looking to link up with him. Against Hull, Kevin Mirallas proved the perfect foil, typified by Lukaku's goal – picking up where they left off in Wolfsburg. Back on home soils, against tigers instead of wolves, the big man knocks it down, the tricky wide man beats his man, and Lukaku finishes with aplomb. The burgeoning partnership continues. Most of the time, the best pairs derive from two players who play to each other's strengths, and do so on a consistent basis. This wasn't quite the big man/little man partnership, but it at times it possesses brains, brawn and individual brilliance all in one. Lukaku's presence moves defenders away, allowing space for Mirallas to move into; likewise, Mirallas' endeavour out wide always gives Lukaku a chance in the middle.
It wasn't the perfect performance from them, but the scoreline bears no reflection on how the two Belgians combined. It's one of the few diamonds in the rough disappointment of dropping points. With Mirallas ready to sign a new contract and Lukaku a £28m man, it could be the key to long-term success. The high press is becoming an issue Tottenham's tactics against the Blues on Sunday were a big factor in Everton's 2-1 defeat. Mauricio Pochettino's men ran, pressed, ran and ran some more – and ultimately scored one more than their opponents. Hull City are not a team who press by default. Usually playing with a 5-3-2 wing-back formation, the Tigers sit deep and wait to pounce. But Steve Bruce showed a leopard can change spots, and instead went with a 4-2-3-1 and pressed.
It gave the Blues all sorts of problems. Short balls to the midfield pivots, Barry and Muhamed Besic, were quickly closed down. Jagielka and Distin had little time to move the ball from defence to midfield. Coleman and Baines were, in large, stifled out wide. It caused frustration in the stands, and a lack of synergy on it. Defence didn't find midfield, midfield didn't find attack.
The worry for Martinez is how, in the space of four days, two teams have nullified Everton's best qualities. The fear is just how well a team like Hull managed to do it.
Second half woes continue to harm If games finished at half time, the Blues would be just five points behind Chelsea. But if Apostolos Vellios was any good, he'd have an escalator to the Top Balcony named after him. Here's the facts laid bare. Nineteen first-half goals scored, just 10 in the second; 10 first-half goals conceded, 19 in the final 45. And so it happened again on Wednesday.
The sparring with Hull soon ended when Lukaku opened the scoring and Hull clung on; maybe they knew what gifts awaited after the half time cup of tea. Out they came in the second, no longer meek in their approach, with the Blues retreating as much as possible. Sone Aluko's goal on the hour can be blamed on Sylvain Distin or Tim Howard if necessary – the defender brushed aside too easily, the goalkeeper beaten near post once more - but it ultimately came from a collective mistake. Once again, the Blues looked tired, lacked tempo or urgency, and repeatedly gave away the ball.
Just two players averaged over 90% pass success - against Spurs, there were five; against West Ham, four. It's becoming something of a self-fulfilling prophecy – Everton just cannot do second halves. But they need to learn how to soon to climb up the table.
Improvement is needed soon Comparisons to last season are inevitable, given it was the Blues' best Premier League campaign ever. Perhaps it was unfair to expect 21 wins, just eight defeats and 72 points. Granted, Lukaku and Barry were retained, but the Blues' summer activity did not exist in a vacuum – the rest of the league also tried to improve with pre-season purchases. And so, in a game-for-game comparison to last season, Chelsea have six points more than they did, Manchester City have four, West Ham have an astonishing 14. On the other end of the spectrum, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal are both seven points worse off, with West Brom 10. Bottom of the pile is – of course – Everton with 11 points fewer than last season's corresponding fixtures. This draw against Hull helped towards that tally. A 2-1 win has become a 1-1 draw. If the Blues were to match their corresponding results last season for the remainder of this one, they would finish on 61 points in sixth place. No shame in that. But that depends on the Blues matching every result from now until the end of the season. A fanciful notion, perhaps, but one they must aspire to in order to turn their season around.
View from the Gwladys Street: An Everton FC fan's view on two setbacks, Manchester City and the Europa League
Dec 4 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Kristian Walsh
This week, we speak to Peter McPartland of The Everton Podcast, about what's going down at Goodison Park
Every week, the ECHO gets the views of an Everton FC fan to gauge the feeling among supporters of the week that’s been and the week ahead. This week, we speak to Peter McPartland of The Everton Podcast about the Blues’ disappointment against Tottenham and Hull, as well as Manchester City and the Europa League. The Blues have taken one point from a possible six this week. Where has it gone wrong? It’s been a couple of things of for me. Having older players in key areas has really hurt us especially with us missing James McCarthy’s energy. The other is Roberto Martinez’s inability to change style and be a little more flexible when it’s needed. Sometimes we need to be more defensive and at others we need to go long, especially as that’s how we scored against Hull.
Do you agree with Roberto Martinez when he says the race for fourth is still on?
The league is wide open but if it’s going to happen it needs to happen now otherwise we will just get stuck in mid table mediocrity, which isn't fun for anyone especially the club as attendances will start to drop off. How would you set the team up v Man City? And how on earth do you stop Sergio Aguero? With limited resources I’d set up similar to the Hull game but hopefully if we have either McCarthy or Steven Naismith back that could add some much needed energy and aggression in the midfield. If we set up as open as we’ve been we’ll be turned over so I’d like to see us play on the break especially with Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas in such good form together.
Aguero? God knows, just got to hope he has an off day. Prediction time. How do you see the game at City going? It’s going to be a very tough game and with a fully fit squad I’d fancy us to get something but I think this will be another disappointing day for the Blues.
Any other business? Against Krasnodar, I’d pretty much start the U21 team that started this week against Sunderland with the added additions of Luke Garbutt and Christian Atsu.
With so many games on the horizon it could be a key game for the likes of Arouna Kone, Bryan Oviedo and definitely Joel Robles!
Champions born in the face of adversity
Dec 05, 2014 Liverpool Echo
By MSP LiverpoolEcho
The defending champions got off to the best possible start at Preston’s Uclan Arena, dispatching Liverpool County FA with strikes from James Ford and Mikey Whittaker.
Seven points from a possible 12 represented a solid round of fixtures for Everton in the Community’s Pan Disability D Band. With only one goal conceded in four, which came in the Blues’ only reverse of the day, Andrew Critchley’s side will still see themselves as the team to beat in the Bibby Maritime North West Ability Counts’ League One. The defending champions got off to the best possible start at Preston’s Uclan Arena, dispatching Liverpool County FA with strikes from James Ford and Mikey Whittaker. Slack finishing crept into the latter stages in what the Toffees will feel should have been a greater margin of win. In what was an end-to-end game against Llandudno, neither side looked as though they were able to make a real breakthrough, although Whittaker did go close with an effort deep into the second period in what was a frustrating 0-0 draw. Danby Rovers were to take full advantage of D Band’s sudden goal-shy approach by snatching an early lead in the following encounter. And it proved to be an insurmountable task for the Blues to recover from, although the Danby custodian will without doubt have took the man-of-the-match plaudits.
So many times have champions been born in the face of adversity, a theory Preston was to bear the brunt of in the day’s final encounter. Saving their brilliant best to last, Everton tore after their opponents from the opening whistle. Whittaker doubled his account for the afternoon with a fine finish following a clever one-two with Ford, before Ryan Randall opened his account with a clinical strike. Adopting a three-pronged attack, D Band continued in the same vain in the second period, Randall notched his second following Preston’s failure to clear. Striker supreme Whittaker made it four soon after with what is fast becoming known as a trademark effort.
Bosman bonanza! The 21 free transfers suited to Everton FC
Dec 04, 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Kristian Walsh
There is plenty of top European talent available on Bosman deals next summer
yes have already turned towards the January transfer window and all the fun that entails.
But that window is not just about signing and selling players, but sorting out contracts but current squad members. Talk of a new deal for Kevin Mirallas has already begun.
In January, Antolin Alcaraz and Sylvain Distin are free to speak to other clubs - but the Blues will be available to speak to plenty of top talent themselves.
Here's who could be available to Everton FC next summer on a free – or even a cut-price deal in January if contracts remain unsigned.
If players are under 24, compensation will have to be paid.
Fabian Delph (Aston Villa)
Energetic midfielder who has steadily improved for the Midlands side. Currently out through injury but would add another option to Everton's middle.
Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus)
A mainstay in the Juve side which has dominated Serie A in recent seasons. The right back, signed from Lazio in 2011, can both attack and defend; has also played in two World Cups.
James Milner (Manchester City)
One of the Premier League's most under-rated players. Milner is a workhorse who will always graft for the team – but don't discount his ability on the ball, either. Offers the possibility of playing wide, central midfield or even right back.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke)
Dutch hitman has had a glorious career with spells at Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan. Averaged one-in-two for the national side and could provide a good option off the bench, tutoring Lukaku.
Nigel De Jong (AC Milan)
Tough-tackling defensive midfielder who still has plenty to give, despite his advancing years. Won the title with Manchester City in 2012 which would serve him well.
Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa)
Still no deal for the big Dutch defender, who helped keep Villa up and was phenomenal at the World Cup. For a team who needs a commanding centre-back with proven Premier League experience, he would be a no-brainer.
Andre-Pierre Gignac (Marseille)
Powerful but slow French striker who has flourished under Marcelo Bielsa's swashbuckling style of football, which would give hope he could adapt at Goodison Park.
Fabian Schar (FC Basel)
Swiss centre back who rose to prominence during Basel's fine run to the Europa League semi-final. Good on the ball and a danger from set-pieces with youth on his side.
Younes Kaboul (Tottenham)
With the advancing years of Sylvain Distin, another French defender who could prove useful to the Blues. Can be a very good defender on his day and sound back-up for Phil Jagielka and John Stones.
Winston Reid (West Ham)
The New Zealand defender who has been a big part of West Ham's fantastic season would offer a good option as Roberto Martinez looks to keep his defence fresh.
Stephane Mbia (Sevilla)
Solid central midfielder who has reinvigorated his career after a tough time at QPR. Would offer good competition to Barry, Besic and McCarthy.
Mark Noble (West Ham)
Contract technically ends in June but with the chance of a further two-year extension. While it is unlikely Noble will turn his back on his boyhood club, he is a solid option in the midfield.
Connor Wickham (Sunderland)
Strong, powerful forward who was a sensation at Ipswich but move to Sunderland hasn't fully worked out. Goodison Park could be his place to flourish.
Rasmus Elm (CSKA Moscow)
Central midfielder with a brilliant dead-ball delivery. Ability to play both deep and higher up the pitch makes him a versatile option.
Christopher Samba (Dynamo Moscow)
A successful spell at Blackburn Rovers was followed by a not-so-successful spell at Queens Park Rangers – but with Samba's family still in England, a move would be welcome. Would deal with any set-piece frailties the Blues suffer.
Mathieu Flamini (Arsenal)
Holding midfielder who is a few years younger than Barry, and possibly worth a look at. Spells at Marseille and Milan, as well as Arsenal, give him plenty of experience.
Lasse Schone (Ajax)
With six goals in 12 appearances this season, the Danish international would give the Blues some extra impetus in attacking areas. Can play both central and out wide.
With the goalkeeper situation becoming increasingly uncertain with Howard's run of form, the Brazilian could be a viable option. His performances last season led to a call-up to the national side this season, although injury denied him of a debut.
Yoann Gourcuff (Lyon)
French talent who has fallen off the radar through injuries and loss of form, making just 51 starts since moving to Lyon in 2010. But if fit and firing, would be a fantastic creative outlet for the Blues.
Youssuf Mulumbu (West Brom)
Mulumbu has impressed since signing for the Baggies from Paris St-Germain in 2009, sticking with the side after relegation to the Championship and helping them establish themselves back in the top-flight. A strong, powerful midfielder who can be hard to deal with.
Danny Ings (Burnley)
Former Dorchester Town striker who is now one of England's biggest young talents, rising to prominence with 21 goals in Burnley's promotion season. A goalscorer who is figuring out life in the Premier League; a good goal-poacher.
Kevin Mirallas tries his hand at acting in Everton FC promo video
Dec 04, 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Sean Bradbury
Belgian winger follows in the footsteps of Pienaar and Eto'o in half season ticket advert
Everton FC winger Kevin Mirallas has tried his hand at acting in the latest promo video for half season tickets at Goodison Park. The Belgian star follows in the footsteps of Steven Pienaar and Samuel Eto'o, who gave us this early Christmas present last month - click through to watch that one.
And click the clip above to watch the new ad, which shows Mirallas sporting a fetching festive jumper and blue Santa hat. The video - released today - also includes a distinctive cameo from Roberto Martinez's head, and sees Mirallas high five Father Christmas. Since returning from injury last month, Mirallas has hit his stride quickly. He has scored twice and set up two goals in four appearances, which came against West Ham, Wolfsburg, Spurs and Hull.
Muhamed Besic will be key to Everton FC's chances, says Slyvain Distin
Dec 4 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Summer signing Besic has started Everton’s last three games
Muhamed Besic's boundless energy will be a key asset for Everton FC as they look to climb back up the table, insists Sylvain Distin.
The Toffees momentum has stalled after picking up only a solitary point in their last two league games, leaving them in 11th place with a busy festive schedule on the horizon.
Summer signing Besic has started Everton’s last three games, adding his trademark bite and confidence on the ball to the midfield. And the 22-year-old’s performances have certainly caught the eye of experienced campaigner Distin, who knows they will need all their competitive edge as they travel to one of his former clubs, Manchester City, on Saturday evening.
“He is doing great,” the Frenchman said. “He brings a lot of energy; with the amount of games we have it’s always good to have a fresh player coming in. “He is motivated, he is young, he’s still learning but he’s a good prospect for the club.” Distin was speaking after the 1-1 draw with Hull City on Wednesday – a match which he accepted was a source of disappointment.
“It was very frustrating,” he said. “We didn’t lose the game but we feel like we have lost. We felt the frustration from the fans as well. “They made it tough for us and it was difficult to play forward at times. “We have had a lot of games and that’s going to continue for another month. We have to move on because it is a big game this weekend, then next week, then the following weekend.”
Meanwhile, Everton supporters travelling to Newcastle United will benefit from some reduced prices on tickets for the December 28 fixture. The club’s Blue Crimbo spirit extends beyond Christmas Day as adult tickets for the trip to St James’ Park cost £20. Prices on concession tickets have also been cut. Over-65s and students will pay just £15 and under-18s can book a seat at the match for as little as £10. In total, Everton have received an allocation of 3,161 tickets. The deal, aimed at rewarding Everton’s travelling fan-base for their unwavering and loyal support, forms part of the commitment introduced by all Premier League aimed at filling away ends up and down the country.
As a result, Newcastle United fans will benefit from a reciprocal offer when they visit Goodison Park on Saturday March 14. A similar offer of reduced priced tickets will be available for Everton fans who plan to make the journey to Swansea City on Saturday April 11.
Tickets for the Newcastle United away fixture go on sale to 2014/15 Season Ticket holders with six-plus Premier League credits from the 2014/15 season on Monday December 8 at 8am.
Howard Kendall: Everton FC lacked a killer instinct against Hull City
Dec 4 2014 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
And mental tiredness was a factor NOT physical
Everton FC lacked a killer instinct upfront against Hull City on Wednesday night.
The Tigers frustrated the Blues and sometimes you have to compliment the opposition.
But Everton could not kill them off. They didn’t have that cutting edge going forward.
And it wasn’t just one player, it was every one of the Blues attackers. Looking at last night, you would say Everton haven’t got the killer instinct at the moment. You have got to have a focal point, especially when playing at home and sides come to you, first of all, saying ‘We are here to defend’.
That is what Everton encountered last night and they were tasked with breaking Hull down.
I certainly agree with the argument that Everton could do with mixing things up a little.
Romelu Lukaku’s goal at Goodison on Wednesday came from a long ball and by mixing up the play, Everton would have kept Hull guessing. But what I don’t agree with is the notion that Everton suffered because of tired legs.
That should not be the case.
If anything, the Blues players were suffering with tired brains.
They are mentally lacking, not physically. But it remains important that teams do no leave their legs on the training ground. They have to leave everything they have got for the match.
And so I’m not sure I agree with the extent of warm-ups I see some teams doing these days.
Extensive warm-up routines suit some players but certainly not all.
I’m not so sure that players should be put through 20 minute warm-up routines before a game.
Some players will only need a stretch and a loosening off and then they are ready to go.
Everton’s issues are mental tiredness but these warm-ups may not help.
Barry could be key back on his old patch Given what Roberto Martinez has gone through and what he is doing at the club, Everton are capable of beating anyone.
And that includes the champions Manchester City.
I know supporters will be heading to the Etihad Stadium with a sense of trepidation but I’m optimistic. City, and the way they play, will give Everton more space to implement their system and their own way of playing. There will be more space and opportunities for players such as Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines to attack. Everton, will of course, have to contend with Sergio Aguero.
He is a special player and a massive player for City.
I’ve seen quite a lot of City this season and after a slow start they are making up some ground on the leaders. The plus side going into Saturday night’s game is that Vincent Kompany is a doubt.
And another plus will be that the Blues can travel along the M62 with Gareth Barry.
As part of the loan deal which brought him to Everton last season, he couldn’t play against City.
But he can play on Saturday and there is no doubt he will be looking forward to this game especially.
Barry is so important to Everton and is truly superb in that holding midfield role so it has been great to see him come back quicker than expected after his ankle injury.
His performance will be key for the Blues on Saturday night.
It will be tough, that’s for sure, but I’m optimistic.
A couple of wins and Everton FC will leap up the table
Two wins in the Premier League and you will leap up the table.
It is so tight and compact in there that Everton just need two wins on the spin and they are back closer to where we feel they should be. Just look at Liverpool this week.
The Blues have enough quality to do that.
It’s cramped up there but they’ll climb the table soon enough.
I can’t say I hold much hope for Burnley at the bottom, however.
I fear for them more than anyone and where some of the other promoted sides have spent big this summer, Burnley haven’t.
QPR expect to stay up but it’s different at Turf Moor.
Everton FC defender John Stones pays special surprise visit to young Blue
Dec 05, 2014 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Eight-year-old Connor Munro-Loughlin has spent the four years since he lost his brother Lewis to illness, fund-raising for Alder Hey Hospital who cared for him.
Everton FC and England star John Stones has gone back to school - to surprise a very special young Evertonian.
Eight-year-old Connor Munro-Loughlin has spent the four years since he lost his brother Lewis to illness, fund-raising for Alder Hey Hospital who cared for him.
So Everton decided to surprise the youngster by making a special visit during a schoolday at All Saints Catholic Primary School in Bootle, as part of their Blue Crimbo campaign.
Defender Stones was joined by a Blue Santa, as Connor and his classmates were left shocked and star-struck by the unexpected visit.
Mum Jennifer said: “Connor lost his brother, my little boy Lewis, in 2010 and since then we have done a lot of fundraising for Alder Hey and Connor, off his own back, has been involved as much as possible, whether it’s a Santa Dash or a sponsored walk through Knowsley Safari Park.
“Connor has done more for me than anyone ever could and he doesn’t even realise it. Just by being him, he’s pulled me through the last four years and I’m just so, so proud of him.”
Asked about the surprise itself, Jennifer said: “I knew he’d be shocked but he’ll be able to look back on it and I know he’ll cherish it.” Stones, 20, was on hand to give out blue Santa hats and Everton stockings to the entire class and he gave Connor some extra Blue goodies including tickets to the upcoming Queens Park Rangers game where he’ll get the chance to meet some of the other first team players and join in with all of the festive activity arranged that night.
The Everton defender was proud to be involved in the surprise school visit. He said: “I was nervous myself walking in and surprising him. He’s such an inspiration and he doesn’t even realise it so it was nice for us to be able to give him something back. “I think he was very shocked, his face said it all and I’m really happy with how it went. Hopefully he’s made up as well.” Everton’s ‘Blue Crimbo’ has seen the club embark on a month-long campaign to give back to the local community and reward those who make the region a better place. Duncan Ferguson has already rewarded junior football coach Paul Rutherford in Kirkby and there are plenty more surprise visits planned throughout December.
21 today! Ross Barkley moments to celebrate the Everton FC midfielder turning 21
Dec 5 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Dan Kay
Everton star has developed into one of the country's finest midfielders
Everton FC midfielder Ross Barkley turns 21 today and to celebrate the Wavertree -born star getting the key to the door, we've picked out 21 photographs of his Goodison career to date.
Barkley made his debut in a home defeat to Queens Park Rangers in August 2011 but made his real first-team breakthrough when blasting home a stunning equaliser at Norwich City on the opening day of last season and has been a firm fixture in Roberto Martinez 's side ever since.
His swashbuckling style and powerful surges from midfield have made him a favourite with the Blues faithful and, after making his England debut against Moldova in September 2013 (despite being eligible to play for Nigeria through his paternal grandfather), Barkley went to Brazil and performed well in what surely will not be his only World Cup. What has been your favourite Ross Barkley moment so far? Log in below to have your say
Behind Enemy Lines: a Manchester City fan's view on Saturday's clash with Everton FC
Dec 5 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Kristian Walsh
We speak to City writer and podcast host David Mooney to get his views on the two sides - and his love for Roberto Martinez
Everton FC will look to make a disappointing week better when they visit Manchester City on Saturday.
The Blues have a good record at the Etihad Stadium down the years, but they will come up against a side who possess in-form Sergio Aguero. We spoke to Manchester City writer David Mooney, who also hosts the Blue Moon Podcast, to gauge his views on City, Everton and the game ahead.
Is there any stopping Sergio Aguero? Where do you rate him among the game's current greats?
I think Aguero is proving himself to be up there with the world’s best at the moment. He’s finally getting a run in the team where he’s fit and hasn’t been in and out with little niggles. That he’s been crucial to keeping City in touch with Chelsea when the Blues have had their poor run of form says a lot about how well he’s been playing. He’s pretty much guaranteeing a goal or an assist at the moment and his movement and intelligence up front have been second to none this season.
Who else do Everton need to look out for on Saturday and how will Pellegrini set his team up?
In terms of players who have hit the form heights recently, Yaya Toure. He might not be playing at the level he was last year – which was phenomenal – but he’s starting to get back near it. He controlled the midfield on Wednesday evening against Sunderland and he’s been picking out some wonderful passes in recent weeks and starting to get amongst the goals too. Gael Clichy has been in horrendous form for a long while, but even he’s perked up and has put his best three games in 18 months in since the international break. Whether David Silva will be fit to return will be a worry for Everton, but in his absence Stevan Jovetic has been doing pretty well too.
Is this City side good enough to retain the Premier League title?
It is – though whether it will or not is another matter. The damage may have already been done with a very poor six weeks. That Chelsea are only six points ahead is a bit of a blessing in disguise. When they’re on top of their game, I firmly believe nobody is better than City in the league, but this season Chelsea have been another matter – winning ugly, winning well… just winning. City don’t really tend to win ugly as much as they need to; if Pellegrini can get another December and January like last season, then they’ll be in with a fantastic shout, however.
What have you made to Everton's start to the season?
I’ve been a bit unsure of Everton this season. I hadn’t really been paying attention and thought they were doing quite well, until I saw they were hanging around the bottom half of the table. Then suddenly they were picking up a bit of form and looking handy, but again seem to have stalled somewhat. I’m not sure if it’s the effect of the Europa League or if it’s just a hit-and-miss season, but they’ve certainly got the players and the manager to be higher up the table than they are currently. I’m a big fan of Roberto Martinez and – despite never liking Everton under David Moyes – I’ve really warmed to the club and I think it’s because of the boss.
If you could sign one Everton player for City, who would it be and why?
I think most people will have the same answer for this one – Ross Barkley. The things I’ve seen from him against City and in general have been great. On top of that, he’s English and he’s homegrown – so that would count for a lot in the Champions League. He’s got huge potential and I’d love to see him in Sky Blue in the future.
Prediction time. How will it finish on Saturday?
In City’s current form, I believe they’ll win – but I think with the makeshift nature of City’s defence at the moment, there’ll be goals at both ends. I’m going to say 3-1 to the home side.
Roberto Martinez more minded to focus on positives than pointing finger
Dec 05, 2014 18:16
By Greg O’Keeffe
Roberto Martinez has defended his reluctance to slam his under-performing players, insisting: “We’ll stick together during adversity.”The Everton FC manager has been criticised by supporters for being overly positive after disappointing results, and refusing to single out individuals who have been below par.His reaction to Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Hull City, which caused boos from some of the Goodison faithful at the final whistle, angered fans who disagreed with his assertion that the Toffees had played well.However, Martinez maintains that his style is to inspire his dressing room with positivity and the lure of success, rather than lash out in public when results are not going in their favour.He said: “Sometimes you can come out and criticise people to just get rid of your frustration, to vent your feelings after a bad result.“I will always criticise anyone I feels doesn’t give100% for our football club. But the reality is that I feel our players are as honest as you’ll find in the game.“They are true ambassadors of our club.“We will get adversity during a season and it’s my responsibility to make sure I take the lead in facing that adversity and keeping us developing and learning from that.“As a club the support of our fans is what makes us unique and different.“I’d never try and blame anyone apart from myself. That’s clear.”Despite his easy-going demeanour, Everton’s players have gone on record to insist their manager can be a tough-talker when stern words are required.But Martinez explained why he will never be the type of manager to throw tea-cups in the dressing room, and rule with an iron fist.“I don’t manage in that way,” he said. “I don’t like to see a team that operates under fear or being worried about being punished.“I manage a team based on aspiration; on wanting to achieve and wanting to win.“I want them to strive to make our fans and everyone connected with the club proud and our players have done that.”Addressing the stalemate against Hull, which left Everton in 11th place facing the daunting task of getting back on track with a visit to the Champions today, he said: “Of course we can feel disappointed about dropping points against Hull because expectations are so high we are the first ones to accept that.“Our first-half performance was good enough to win the game. We were terrific in the last 25 minutes of the first half.“Playing so many games maybe cost us once the game went into no-man’s land, with a lot of stop-starting. It was difficult for us to find the energy to get back into winning mode.“Remember though that Hull went to Anfield and kept a clean sheet.“They almost won at the Emirates. This is a team that makes it very difficult in away fixtures and we needed to get the second goal to have a total control of the game.“But if I look at the efforts of the players - one defeat in 10, with the amount of travelling we’ve done - shows our potential.“Of course we want to win every game but I’m more focused on the effort, approach and mentality of players towards winning those games because we need to be as good as we can until the final third of the season.“Then it’s all about the amount of points we get and where we end up.”Despite feeling his side need to “sharpen up”, Martinez insists there should not be too negative a view taken of how they have been faring recently.Everton have had Europa League football to deal with this term as well as several injuries, and their manager admitted tiredness had crept in during the midweek match.The Merseysiders are seven points off the Premier League’s top four and Wednesday’s result means they have won only one of their last five top-flight fixtures.But prior to a 2-1 defeat at Tottenham last Sunday, Martinez’s men were unbeaten in eight games in all competitions, collecting 11 domestic points from the 15 on offer within that period.“It is a bit of everything - it is not just about scoring more goals, or defending better,” he said.“Overall, we just need to be a bit more aware of our performances and the games we are involved in, and maybe sharpen up our performances, making sure we find a way to collect all three points.“We want to win every game, and don’t shy away from that.“But I think it is important to look at the performances, and stats are a little bit confusing.“I wouldn’t be too concerned about looking at it as we have only won once in five - I could say we only lost once in the last 10.“I’m not too relaxed, but that is all I’m saying.“Have we got all the points we deserve? Probably not, and we need to address that.“We are obviously disappointed we had a few draws where we should have won, and a game we lost where we should have got something.“But the margins are very small.”Martinez has no doubt Everton will particularly need to be on their toes in this evening’s game against second-placed reigning champions City, whose 4-1 victory at Sunderland on Wednesday was their fourth in a row in all competitions and saw Sergio Aguero take his tally for the season to 19 goals.“Aguero is a phenomenal talent - one of those players who can single-handedly win a game,” Martinez said.“We have to be very aware tomorrow.“I think City are now playing their best football of this campaign. They are playing with real flair and swagger.”
Roberto Martinez more minded to focus on positives than pointing finger
Dec 05, 2014 18:16
By Greg O’Keeffe
Roberto Martinez has defended his reluctance to slam his under-performing players, insisting: “We’ll stick together during adversity.”The Everton FC manager has been criticised by supporters for being overly positive after disappointing results, and refusing to single out individuals who have been below par. His reaction to Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Hull City, which caused boos from some of the Goodison faithful at the final whistle, angered fans who disagreed with his assertion that the Toffees had played well.However, Martinez maintains that his style is to inspire his dressing room with positivity and the lure of success, rather than lash out in public when results are not going in their favour.He said: “Sometimes you can come out and criticise people to just get rid of your frustration, to vent your feelings after a bad result.“I will always criticise anyone I feels doesn’t give100% for our football club. But the reality is that I feel our players are as honest as you’ll find in the game.“They are true ambassadors of our club.“We will get adversity during a season and it’s my responsibility to make sure I take the lead in facing that adversity and keeping us developing and learning from that.“As a club the support of our fans is what makes us unique and different.“I’d never try and blame anyone apart from myself. That’s clear.”Despite his easy-going demeanour, Everton’s players have gone on record to insist their manager can be a tough-talker when stern words are required. But Martinez explained why he will never be the type of manager to throw tea-cups in the dressing room, and rule with an iron fist.“I don’t manage in that way,” he said. “I don’t like to see a team that operates under fear or being worried about being punished.“I manage a team based on aspiration; on wanting to achieve and wanting to win.“I want them to strive to make our fans and everyone connected with the club proud and our players have done that.”Addressing the stalemate against Hull, which left Everton in 11th place facing the daunting task of getting back on track with a visit to the Champions today, he said: “Of course we can feel disappointed about dropping points against Hull because expectations are so high we are the first ones to accept that.“Our first-half performance was good enough to win the game. We were terrific in the last 25 minutes of the first half.“Playing so many games maybe cost us once the game went into no-man’s land, with a lot of stop-starting. It was difficult for us to find the energy to get back into winning mode.“Remember though that Hull went to Anfield and kept a clean sheet.“They almost won at the Emirates. This is a team that makes it very difficult in away fixtures and we needed to get the second goal to have a total control of the game.“But if I look at the efforts of the players - one defeat in 10, with the amount of travelling we’ve done - shows our potential.“Of course we want to win every game but I’m more focused on the effort, approach and mentality of players towards winning those games because we need to be as good as we can until the final third of the season.“Then it’s all about the amount of points we get and where we end up.”Despite feeling his side need to “sharpen up”, Martinez insists there should not be too negative a view taken of how they have been faring recently.Everton have had Europa League football to deal with this term as well as several injuries, and their manager admitted tiredness had crept in during the midweek match.The Merseysiders are seven points off the Premier League’s top four and Wednesday’s result means they have won only one of their last five top-flight fixtures.But prior to a 2-1 defeat at Tottenham last Sunday, Martinez’s men were unbeaten in eight games in all competitions, collecting 11 domestic points from the 15 on offer within that period.“It is a bit of everything - it is not just about scoring more goals, or defending better,” he said.“Overall, we just need to be a bit more aware of our performances and the games we are involved in, and maybe sharpen up our performances, making sure we find a way to collect all three points.“We want to win every game, and don’t shy away from that.“But I think it is important to look at the performances, and stats are a little bit confusing.“I wouldn’t be too concerned about looking at it as we have only won once in five - I could say we only lost once in the last 10.“I’m not too relaxed, but that is all I’m saying.“Have we got all the points we deserve? Probably not, and we need to address that.“We are obviously disappointed we had a few draws where we should have won, and a game we lost where we should have got something.“But the margins are very small.”Martinez has no doubt Everton will particularly need to be on their toes in this evening’s game against second-placed reigning champions City, whose 4-1 victory at Sunderland on Wednesday was their fourth in a row in all competitions and saw Sergio Aguero take his tally for the season to 19 goals.“Aguero is a phenomenal talent - one of those players who can single-handedly win a game,” Martinez said.“We have to be very aware tomorrow.“I think City are now playing their best football of this campaign. They are playing with real flair and swagger.”
Everton boss Roberto Martinez insists Man City have not tried to sign star Ross Barkley
By Pete Oliver / Published 6th December 2014 (Daily Star)
And the Everton boss is backing his midfield star to show the Premier League champions what they are missing.City tracked Barkley in the summer and are weighing up a potential £40m-plus offer for the England international - who celebrated his 21st birthday yesterday.Barkley will be under the spotlight again at the Etihad Stadium this evening when he will be looking to try to end City's four-match winning run and dent their title hopes.But Martinez is confident Barkley can handle the occasion with the Toffees looking for a first win in three league games to keep the top four in sight. “We have a great relationship with City. We signed Gareth Barry on loan and the relationship has always been good. But there has never been an approach about Ross - never” "We have a great relationship with City,' said Martinez. "We signed Gareth Barry on loan and the relationship has always been good. But there has never been an approach about Ross - never."Ross doesn't care. He could play in the most intense game of football with the most intense atmosphere and the biggest meaning and all he sees is enjoyment, 11 against 11 with a football in the middle."That is the big attribute he has. His best games last season were against the top sides - Manchester City, Arsenal - it has never affected him one bit."If anything I need to make sure he is 100 per cent fully fit when he is on the pitch and fresh in the best possible way but never taking into consideration who we are playing and where we are facing them."That is never a consideration with Ross at all."Barkley scored a stunning goal against City at Goodison last May in a game that City came back to win 3-2 to turn the title race in their favour.The young Scouser hasn't found the net since then with the knee injury suffered in pre-season keeping him out of action until mid-October.Martinez needs him back to his best against a City side starting to fly in pursuit of unbeaten leaders Chelsea.Martinez added: "I consider Man City to be the team in form at the minute."Their performance against Bayern Munich was a turning point. The moment they got that win they added incredible confidence and belief in what they are doing."They have a couple of players that are in the best moment of their careers in Sergio Aguero and Jesus Navas and Yaya Toure is always influential."They have top individuals who feel they have got over the hangover of the World Cup and a slow start. They are in a very happy mood at the moment."
Antolin Alcaraz's return a major boost for Everton FC, says Roberto Martinez
Dec 05, 2014 22:27
By Greg O’Keeffe
Antolin Alcaraz’s return represents a major boost for Everton FC , says Roberto Martinez . The Paraguayan defender has missed the last six games since dislocating his shoulder against Swansea City at the beginning of November.But, after receiving news the injury did not require an operation, the Blues boss has declared the 32-year-old fit for action around one week ahead of schedule.“It is a real boost,” said Martinez. “Antolin should be available for selection on Saturday. He is available probably a week ahead of when we expected him to be back.“When those injuries require an operation it is a longer period, but we were all pleased when the specialist decided to go down this route.“He has trained extremely well and we have been assessing him day-by-day to see how well he has been recovering. I think he is now ready to help the team – maybe not ready to play 90 minutes, but he’s someone who can help us and will be there for us on Saturday.“He was in good form before he got injured so to have him back well ahead of schedule is important. It’s a period when we’ll need everyone.”Meanwhile, Martinez is having to plan without the trio of Steven Naismith , James McCarthy (both hamstring) and Darron Gibson (knee) for the game against Manuel Pellegrini’s side, while John Stones is continuing to recover from ankle ligament damage. Bryan Oviedo and Arouna Kone are also unlikely to feature at the Etihad Stadium despite both scoring for Everton’s Under-21s against Sunderland on Monday.The Blues boss added: “We’re still very similar to where we were on Wednesday. I doubt that Steven Naismith, James McCarthy and Darron Gibson will be fit for the weekend.“Arouna Kone and Bryan Oviedo were obviously involved in the game at Goodison with the Under-21s, which was great news.“John Stones is progressing well. He is still a little bit away from being fully fit but there are very good vibes around the rehab he has been doing.”With Everton’s defence appearing weary after the side’s recent exertions, Martinez explained how close he believes young prospects Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway are to being ready to start top flight games.“Tyias is ready,” he said. “He showed that when he came on in two of the hardest away games you’ll get in the league at Old Trafford and Anfield.“He’s been working with us for a long period now and he’s been working really well.“With Brendan it’s still a little bit of a case of him adapting to the way we play. He’s progressing and doing a phenomenal job but we need to be a bit more patient on that one.”Everton have an in-form frontman in Romelu Lukaku, his strike against Hull being his seventh goal of 2014-15 and his third in four matches.Both Lukaku and Ross Barkley have been showing promising signs of late after slow starts to the season following World Cup action with Belgium and England respectively, the latter due to a knee injury.Although impressing in patches, Barkley is not hitting the back of the net, with only one goal to his name in his last 23 appearances for club and country and none this term.But, once again questioning what should be made of statistics, Martinez has emphasised that he sees Barkley as a natural goalscorer.Regarding the star who turned 21 on Friday and who has been reported to be a City transfer target, Martinez said: “He is a goalscorer – he has the instinct for it and the talent in the final third to be really dangerous.“I don’t look at the stats in that way – I look at the fact he is now fully fit and has been consistently strong for a while.“He has played a big role recently, and slowly he is finding his best level.”
Everton’s Ross Barkley must cope as a marked man, says Roberto Martínez
The Guardian, Friday 5 December 2014 22.30 GMT
Roberto Martínez marked Ross Barkley’s 21st birthday on Friday by insisting the midfielder has “improved massively” since last season but is adapting to being singled out by Everton’s opponents.The England international has endured a frustrating start to a campaign that carried high expectation after last season’s development into a World Cup player with three months spent on the sidelines due to a knee injury.Barkley is yet to recapture last season’s form since his recovery and his occasionally wayward passing prompted a furious outburst from the England manager, Roy Hodgson, towards the end of last month’s friendly win over Scotland.Barkley’s last goal was on 3 May against Manchester City, Everton’s opponents on Saturday and a club who have made no secret of their admiration for the Liverpool-born talent.Martínez, however, who denies the Premier League champions made an approach for Barkley in the summer, says the midfielder remains on course to fulfil his undoubted potential.“I think he has improved massively,” said the Everton manager, whose side received fierce criticism after Wednesday’s home draw against Hull City. “It is unfair to look at Ross’s performances and blame our results on that. Ross is developing all the time. His pass to Séamus Coleman against Spurs shows the ability he is bringing into his game and he showed incredible power the other night against Hull. I am very pleased with his performances. I don’t think he is performing badly at all.“Can he improve? Of course he can because he is a young man who has all the potential in the world. I see massive improvement in certain areas from where he was last season and I think we are going to see the best Ross Barkley in the second half of the season. Pre-season, before the injury, Ross was at his very best. Injury set him back and it stops you from getting the rhythm but after Christmas we are clearly going to see the best of Ross.”Martínez has deployed Barkley across Everton’s front line since his return from injury and admits the 21-year-old has attracted extra attention from opposing teams following last season’s breakthrough campaign.The Everton manager added: “It’s important to remember that Ross is not an unknown any more. When opponents play against him they are making sure it is difficult for him. He has to deal with that but the good thing is that means other players will have the space. You get the benefit as a team.“Sometimes when you are assessing an individual’s form you need to consider what the opposition are doing to try to stop them.”Barkley signed a new four-year contract with his boyhood club in the summer but City continue to be linked with the powerful midfielder. Asked if the champions registered their interest in Barkley this summer, Martínez replied: “No, no, no. We have a great relationship with City. We signed Gareth Barry on loan from them and the relationship has always been good but there has never been an approach about Ross. Never. Maybe it would be an issue if you are a selling club but we are not a selling club.”
Everton’s Muhamed Besic: Why I didn’t ask for Messi’s shirt at World Cup
The Guardian, Friday 5 December 2014 22.30 GMT
Everton’s Muhamed Besic played against Lionel Messi in the World Cup, his first World Cup as well as Bosnia’s, but the thought of asking for a shirt exchange at the end never occurred to him. “I always keep my shirts,” the 22-year-old midfielder says. “I would never change one because playing for Bosnia means so much.”For much the same reason Besic never entertained the idea of trying to play for Germany, even though he was born in Berlin. “I had an approach to play for the Under-19s, so that was when I had to make my decision,” he says. “Maybe it would have been better for my career at that time to choose Germany but my heart always said Bosnia. My parents never tried to influence me. They just let me decide for myself and Bosnia was just inside my heart. All the Bosnia players are like this. Miralem Pjanic was brought up in Luxembourg and played football in France but he always wanted to play for Bosnia. The people have a strong mentality.”Besic ought to be up against one of his compatriots in Edin Dzeko at the Etihad on Saturday evening, except that the Manchester City striker has been out of the team through injury just at the time when the Everton player has been handed a run of first-team games through the unavailability of James McCarthy.“I have never played against Edin and it looks like I might not get the opportunity this time,” he says. “He helped me make up my mind about coming to England but, even though he is only in Manchester, I haven’t managed to see him since. He told me I would probably do well in England but I would have to be patient. He said it is the best league in the world but I might not get first-team chances right away. Now I am here I can see what he means.“I always fancied a move to England. I like the style of play but I don’t believe I have produced anything like my best yet, only around 50% so far. In this league I am prepared to be patient, though. I have come from a smaller league to a team where players have played over 200 Premier League games so I have to wait for my chance. But I do feel I am getting better. I am getting used to the pace of the game as well as getting stronger through gym work.“When I came to England I could see that I was a little bit skinny compared to others, so I am trying to build up weight and strength. I think it might be next season before I am really at my best.”The “smaller league” to which Besic refers was not in Germany but in Hungary. He has not always been as patient as he now seems, or as philosophical about not getting a game every week, and his time at Hamburg came to an abrupt end when he went to see the manager about not being picked. Besic is keen to play down suggestions that Torsten Fink grabbed him by the throat and threw him out of the dressing room, which was how some German newspapers reported the incident, but the upshot was more or less the same. The player’s Hamburg career was over.“He didn’t grab me. It was just a conversation but a fairly final one,” he says. “I was not happy about not playing. I could have stayed but I wanted to go. I went to see the manager about not getting selected and said if he didn’t like me I would go. That is all. It wasn’t like it was described in the papers.”To achieve his goal of playing every week Besic decided he would need to drop a level or two – “Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forwards” – which is how he ended up at Ferencvaros. “I was confident in my ability but for my development I needed to be playing every week,” he says. Moving to Hungary worked for him because he gained World Cup selection, even though he had been playing as a central defender for Ferencvaros and Bosnia used him as a No6, the defensive midfield role he currently occupies.“When I first started out, aged eight, I was a No10,” Besic recalls. “But when I was 16 coaches started putting me further back down the field because they could see I was aggressive. I enjoy tackling. I like the physical side of the game. I was a centre-back for five or six years. The World Cup was the first time I played as a No6.”It was the World Cup, nonetheless, that got Besic noticed. Roberto Martínez says he had been tipped off about Besic while the player was still at Hamburg but first studied him properly playing for Bosnia against Argentina. “He marked Messi out of the game in the first half,” the Everton manager says. “He is a young man with incredible potential but he has been playing in different positions in different leagues. He needs to have one position and work on that.”That is Besic’s intention, too, and he cites Martínez’s enthusiasm as the main reason he chose Everton. He had other offers after the World Cup, including interest from Swansea. “I knew literally nothing about Everton but after speaking with the manager I decided this was the club I wanted to join,” he says. “I think I might have been playing for Basel now without the World Cup. I had been talking to them before going to Brazil, but after the tournament there was suddenly interest from England, Spain and Italy.”Besic did not have the most comfortable of Goodison debuts, not only losing 6-3 to a rampant Chelsea but also being directly responsible for the final goal with an ill-advised backheel in his own half. “Mistakes can happen in football, all you can do is try to correct them,” he says. “I hadn’t given a goal away for two years, then on my first time in England I lose the ball and Chelsea score. I made a mistake against Tottenham, too, because I thought I could head the ball back to the goalkeeper, but I know I must not let it affect my confidence. The manager has said nothing about either mistake. He just wants me to carry on training and learning.”
Roberto Martinez staying sunny but clouds gather over Goodison
Friday 05 December 2014
Roberto Martinez began this season with his face adorning a mural on the side of Goodison Park’s Main Stand.This was a tribute to his impressive first campaign as Everton manager – achieving the club’s highest points’ total since 1987 – but on Wednesday night, after the disappointing 1-1 draw with Hull City, Goodison offered a different kind of verdict as boos echoed around the ground.The result left Everton 11th in the Premier League and followed a home performance widely regarded as the worst of Martinez’s reign. It has not been the start to the season anybody at Goodison would have envisaged after a summer when Romelu Lukaku joined for a record £28m fee and Ross Barkley signed a new contract. Martinez reflected yesterday that this had “created huge expectations” yet Everton are currently nine points worse off than 12 months ago and as they prepare to visit in-form Manchester City today, their anxieties are magnified by the memory of this week last year when it felt like Martinez, questioned now for the first time since arriving on Merseyside as Everton manager, really did have the Midas touch.It was on 4 December 2013 that Everton claimed their first win at Manchester United since 1992; four days later they travelled to Arsenal and delivered another bold statement, matching the Gunners in a footballing contest before earning a 1-1 draw through Gerard Deulofeu’s spectacular equaliser. Twelve months on, they have won just four of their 14 league fixtures . Arguably the most striking statistic of a frustrating, stop-start campaign is that in a league table of half-time results, they would sit second behind Chelsea. Everton have dropped 12 points from winning positions – in the past week they led against both Tottenham and Hull but came away with a defeat and draw – and given that resilience was a key characteristic under David Moyes, this fragility is alarming.Martinez’s sunny disposition meant he was able to share a joke about that statistic yesterday – “I’ve already asked the Premier League and the FA if we can play 45 minutes” – and also come up with a stat of his own, namely that his side have lost just one in 10 in all competitions. “We have been unfortunate at times,” he added. “At times we haven’t been able to take advantage or we’ve been punished when the game becomes more open. That will balance up over the season but I’m delighted we are the team that takes the responsibility of wanting to score the goal and take the risks. At the moment we are getting punished and too many 50-50s are going against us.”For Everton, it seems the tone of their season was set in the opening week. Last year Martinez’s reign had lift-off with a 1-0 home victory over Chelsea. This time, by contrast, they led 2-1 at Leicester before conceding a late equaliser and then threw away a two-goal advantage in a 2-2 home draw with Arsenal. If that had a psychological impact, there are other factors according to Barry Horne, the former Everton midfielder-turned- Sky TV analyst and Liverpool Echo columnist. “Early in the season you had a combination of fatigue from the summer, a few players not being at the top of their game, and players being 12 months older,” he says. “They are small differences but when you consider how fine the margins are, they might add up to a significant difference.”Although captain Phil Jagielka has put his World Cup troubles behind him, Horne notes that Everton have not had a settled back line. Last season they had the division’s best attacking full-back pair in Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines but both have been hampered by injuries. Moreover, Father Time appears to be catching up with centre-back Sylvain Distin and goalkeeper Tim Howard. Distin – back in the team owing to injuries to John Stones and Antolin Alcaraz – turns 37 this month while Howard will be 36 in March and the pair were at fault for goals conceded against both Tottenham and Hull.One worry for Evertonians is whether Martinez can restore last season’s seemingly perfect blend of his own attacking philosophy and the Moyes-instilled resilience that he inherited. A former colleague of the Spaniard at Wigan recalled yesterday a frustrating pattern in games where Martinez’s old side would “have lots of the ball” but “give a soft goal away at the back [and] overplay at times”; there have been echoes of this in Everton’s displays this term.The Europa League is another consideration. Martinez has picked strong sides and Everton have excelled in the competition but they have won only one of five league matches afterwards and the extra workload has meant more injuries, with James McCarthy and Steven Naismith – arguably Martinez’s most consistent performers – both currently sidelined.A final cause for concern is the form of Barkley. The England midfielder turned 21 yesterday but has struggled since returning from the knee ligament injury he suffered in August. Martinez said that “after Christmas we are going to see the best of Ross” as he reflected on the impact of his untimely injury. “I must admit the pre-season, before the injury, was the best I’ve seen him. That was him at his very, very best. He really benefited from going to the World Cup. The injury set him back but now he’s fully fit and he’s played a lot of minutes already.”Martinez accepts that opposition teams are now “making sure it is difficult for him” and City certainly know all about a player who struck a brilliant goal past Joe Hart at Goodison in May. The champions were rumoured to have been quoted a £50m fee when they enquired about him in the summer yet Barkley has not actually scored since then. Fortunately, Martinez believes the bigger stages bring the best out of him. “That is the big attribute he has,” he said. “His biggest games last season were against the top sides – Man City, Arsenal.” Everton will hope for more of that today because they certainly need some inspiration from somewhere.
Muhamed Besic says 'I only wanted to go to Everton' after wealth of World Cup interest
Published: 00:30, Sat, December 6, 2014
By Paul Joyce
He will refuse to countenance taking a backward step against Yaya Toure this evening, but it could easily have been Steven Gerrard and Liverpool in the Champions League on Tuesday he would be plotting to thwart. The World Cup did not simply bring Besic - and Bosnia - to prominence last summer, but shaped his future.“It was a big step because if I hadn’t gone maybe I wouldn’t be playing here,” he said. “I’d be in Switzerland, for example, at Basel because they were interested.“But after the World Cup, Everton came in and clubs from Italy and Spain as well. Swansea were interested, but I told my manager I only wanted to go to Everton.”The rule of thumb is that managers should never base their transfer plans around major tournaments, the logic being that players raise their games on the biggest stage and in the most glamorous locations.I played as a No 10 until I was 16 and then I became a central defender Roberto Martinez was aware of Besic’s talent, but only saw him in person at the Maracana when he was entrusted with shackling Argentina talisman Lionel Messi.Remarkably, Besic was deployed as a defensive midfielder for the very first time in his career that night and fulfilled his brief expertly until the little genius benefited from a moment of slapstick to conjure a moment of brilliance in a 2-1 win.Watch a clip of Messi’s goal and Besic is snapping at his target’s heels once more until he is inadvertently taken out by team-mate Ermin Bicakcic.Everton had seen enough. A £4m deal with Hungarian side Ferencvaros was set in motion.“I was small, very small when I first starting playing,” said Besic. “The first club I had was when I was eight. I played as a No 10 until I was 16 and then I became a central defender.
“The coach moved me back because he saw that I was aggressive!“I was a centre-back for five or six years. The World Cup was the first time I played as a No6 in midfield.“I just play my game. It was the same when I played against Messi. I wouldn’t watch his videos. Only when the manager puts on videos for the whole team will I watch something.“I don’t watch it especially for one player. I am confident that in one-against-one, it is difficult to beat me. I just carry on as normal. Against Messi, if he scores, that is down to his quality.“It was a good experience. Did I swap shirts? No. No. I always keep my shirts. I never change my shirts because playing for Bosnia means so much.”Besic was born in Berlin but pledged allegiance to parents’ homeland when both countries came calling at 19.“I have no regrets at all,” he said. “I had an approach to play for the Under-19s. Maybe it would have been better for my career at that time to choose Germany but my heart always said Bosnia. It was just inside my heart,“My parents never tried to influence me or said, ‘You have to play for Bosnia.’. They just let me make my decision.“All the Bosnia players are like this. Miralem Pjanic (at Roma) was brought up in Luxembourg but he always wanted to play for Bosnia. The people have a strong mentality.“I can’t explain why but back in Bosnia I feel better.”Besic speaks excellent English, but comes across as shy during the course of the interview. He talks down to his feet, studiously avoiding eye contact. Do not be fooled.Listen to what he says and it is clear the 22-year-old is driven to succeed.He is confident in his own talent without sounding arrogant, sure of his destiny, and ready to fulfil Bosnia captain, and Manchester City striker, Edin Dzeko’s prophesy that Evertonians would fall in love with him. “I think Everton fans have seen about 50 per cent of what they will,” said Besic. “I need a bit more time but I hope in another half year when I am really well settled in the league then my quality will come out.“Maybe power and energy are my biggest assets, but I have more so I need a bit more time. I can dribble for example but I’ve not done that yet because I need time to feel the spaces because the football is so fast here.“In one second you can have 10 players on you.“I could tackle as a central defender more.“Playing as a No6 now, I have to learn that if I miss a tackle there is space behind me. You have to be patient.“I have to learn about the style of play here. I do like it (the physicality), but I am a little bit skinny so I need to put a bit more weight on.“I will make progress with that in time. I am in the gym a lot, every day doing a little bit.”While Besic does not talk down an aggressive streak – “If I haven’t got a yellow, I go at 100 per cent. If I get a yellow, maybe then I have to take it easy,” he says, smiling – he maintains his reputation goes before him.He arrived in England having allegedly been strangled by one of his former coaches, Hamburg’s Thorsten Fink, during a dressing room altercation, but looks to set the record straight.“He didn’t grab me,” said Besic, who lives with his girlfriend, Jessica, and says he spends most of his spare time “sleeping.”“It was a conversation and then I said, ‘If you don’t like me I will go.’ That’s all. It wasn’t like it was said in the German papers.“I was not happy at not playing. I could have stayed but I wanted to go, I saw the manager about that because I wasn’t getting selected.“Sometimes you have to step back because when you’re confident you know your quality and know that it will come. I thought at Ferencvaros I would play every game so that was the main reason. I had some problems at Hamburg.“I will play every week here, that’s normal for me. But the manager knows how he will treat me. He knows I will need time. When I am honest I have come from a smaller league to here where players have played over 200 Premier League games so I have to wait for that chance.“I think it will be next season. I have to be patient and need time.”Today a showdown with Toure and in-form Manchester City beckons. Expect no quarter to be given.“Yes. I am confident in my ability,” adds besic. “City are a good team with many good players. We will have to defend well. “They are a strong team and I am honest about that, but we will have to believe in ourselves.”
Everton FC boss Roberto Martinez defends refusal to slam under-performing players
Dec 06, 2014 07:00
By Greg O’Keeffe
Roberto Martinez has defended his reluctance to slam his under-performing Everton FC players insisting: “We’ll stick together during adversity.”Everton manager Martinez has been criticised by supporters for being overly positive after disappointing results, and refusing to single out individuals who have been below par.His reaction to Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Hull City, which caused boos from some of the Goodison faithful at the final whistle, angered fans who disagreed with his assertion that the Toffees had played well.However, Martinez maintains that his style is to inspire his dressing room with positivity and the lure of success, rather than lash out in public when results are not going in their favour.He said: “Sometimes you can come out and criticise people to just get rid of your frustration, to vent your feelings after a bad result.“I will always criticise anyone I feels doesn’t give 100% for our football club. But the reality is that I feel our players are as honest as you’ll find in the game. They are true ambassadors of our club.“We will get adversity during a season and it’s my responsibility to make sure I take the lead in facing that adversity and keeping us developing and learning from that.“As a club the support of our fans is what makes us unique and different. I’d never try and blame anyone apart from myself. That’s clear.”Despite his easy-going demeanour, Everton’s players have gone on record to insist their manager can be a tough talker when stern words are required.But Martinez explained why he will never be the type of manager to throw tea cups in the dressing room and rule with an iron fist.“I don’t manage in that way,” he said. “I don’t like to see a team that operates under fear or being worried about being punished.“I manage a team based on aspiration; on wanting to achieve and wanting to win.“I want them to strive to make our fans and everyone connected with the club proud, and our players have done that.”Addressing the stalemate against Hull, which left Everton in 11th place facing the daunting task of getting back on track with a visit to the champions today, he said: “Of course we can feel disappointed about dropping points against Hull because expectations are so high, we are the first ones to accept that.“Our first-half performance was good enough to win the game. We were terrific in the last 25 minutes of the first half.“Playing so many games maybe cost us once the game went into no-man’s land, with a lot of stop- starting. It was difficult for us to find the energy to get back into winning mode.“Remember though that Hull went to Anfield and kept a clean sheet. They almost won at the Emirates. This is a team that makes it very difficult in away fixtures and we needed to get the second goal to have a total control of the game.“But if I look at the efforts of the players, one defeat in 10 – with the amount of travelling we’ve done – shows our potential.“Of course we want to win every game but I’m more focused on the effort, approach and mentality of players towards winning those games because we need to be as good as we can until the final third of the season. Then it’s all about the amount of points we get and where we end up.”Despite feeling his side need to “sharpen up”, Martinez insists there should not be too negative a view taken of how they have been faring recently.Everton have had Europa League football to deal with this term as well as several injuries, and their manager admitted tiredness had crept in during the midweek match.The Merseysiders are seven points off the Premier League’s top four and Wednesday’s result means they have won only one of their last five top-flight fixtures.But prior to a 2-1 defeat at Tottenham last Sunday, Martinez’s men were unbeaten in eight games in all competitions, collecting 11 domestic points from the 15 on offer within that period.“It is a bit of everything – it is not just about scoring more goals, or defending better,” he said.“Overall, we just need to be a bit more aware of our performances and the games we are involved in, and maybe sharpen up our performances, making sure we find a way to collect all three points.“We want to win every game, and don’t shy away from that.“But I think it is important to look at the performances, and stats are a little bit confusing.“I wouldn’t be too concerned about looking at it as we have only won once in five – I could say we only lost once in the last 10. I’m not too relaxed, but that is all I’m saying.“Have we got all the points we deserve? Probably not, and we need to address that.“We are obviously disappointed we had a few draws where we should have won, and a game we lost where we should have got something.“But the margins are very small.”Martinez has no doubt Everton will particularly need to be on their toes in this evening’s game against second-placed reigning champions City, whose 4-1 victory at Sunderland on Wednesday was their fourth in a row in all competitions and saw Sergio Aguero take his tally for the season to 19 goals.“Aguero is a phenomenal talent – one of those players who can single-handedly win a game,” Martinez said.“We have to be very aware tomorrow. I think City are now playing their best football of this campaign. They are playing with real flair and swagger.”
Kicker magazine salutes Evertonians and their fantastic European mission
Dec 06, 2014 12:04
By Greg O’Keeffe
Blues and Germany just seem to go together.Mention the city of Nuremberg to many and they drift off into a misty-eyed reverie.Maybe Wolfsburg will have a similar effect after another successful, and incredibly Supported, Toffees European mission there has settled into the collective subconscious. Well, apparently it’s not a one-way bond of affection.Kicker is Germany’s number one football magazine and based in Nuremberg, where they still talk about the Evertonian takeover of the town in 2007.Editor Jorg Jakob came to Liverpool last season and attended the Cardiff City game at Goodison, an experience he savoured after a childhood listening to BBC radio reports of football in the 1970s.After the trip he wrote this piece to summarise his massive soft-spot for the Blues.“It’s a long time ago, but people – not only football fans – here in Nuremberg remember it well,” writes Jorg.“Those who love FC Nürnberg, nicknamed the ‘Club’ here in Germany, and who miss seeing them play European football, still remember Everton.“And the Evertonians, to be precise. I still hear them talking about those fantastic couple of days when I am watching Premier League or Champions League football in that Irish pub that the Blues fans made their base in November 2007.“Kicker has its headquarter in Nuremberg. And of course I went to see the match, but I went to see those thousands of Everton fans in town as well. They did their club and city proud. I have to admit, that I’ve always had lots of sympathy for English football and fans and especially for Scousers.“I should confess a soft spot for the red side of Stanley Park but should add that I had an absolutely great time at Goodison and St Luke’s Church when I came to a game last season and reports of that famous Borussia Mönchengladbach-Everton tie were some of the first things I remember reading about football!
“Maybe I am not the most neutral person then but there is no question about those days in Nuremberg.“I was delighted to see Evertonians in full song, so colourful and in a good mood in the town as well as in the stadium.“All day and all night long. When Everton scored, there were jubilant scenes not only in the away end and I still can remember the astonished German faces in the Main Stand: what a support!“A few days ago I experienced ‘Nürnberg-lite’ in Wolfsburg. Well done Everton and Evertonians once more.“Being a regular reader of the Liverpool ECHO and other British media I am fully aware of what happened in Lille.“In Germany and especially in Nuremberg, police and match organisers learned a lot before and during the 2006 World Cup. Hopefully Lille is not a model for what we will see at Euro 2016.“But first of all there is more to come in the Europa League – maybe with a trip to Moenchengladbach next for you Evertonians.”Let’s hope his prediction comes true.* IT IS perhaps better recalled by Bluenoses as the record that sound-tracked their FA Cup final win in 1995.Twice a top five hit for The Farm, All Together Now stormed the chart some five years before Big Joe’s Wembley day in the sun, and has now been re-recorded by a host of artists to mark the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Day Truce during World War One, the events of which inspired the song.All profits from the new release, out on December 15, will go to the British Red Cross and the Shorncliffe Trust.Stars added to The Peace Collective since the original announcement earlier this month include Julian Lennon, David Gray, Clean Bandit, and Leo Sayer.“I’m really proud to be part of such an important record,” says Engelbert Humperdinck, who flew to London from California to record his vocals.“All Together Now is a such a powerful song. Its message of peace and reconciliation is as relevant today as ever.”The Farm singer Peter Hooton said: “I’m so pleased that such an eclectic mix of artistes from all over the world wanted to get involved in the new recording of All Together Now.“For me it’s really important that the real message of the Christmas Truce, of peace, hope and humanity is highlighted, and I think this great new version of the song captures this atmosphere and the feeling of unity and togetherness which was so evident during the recording sessions.”KEVIN RATCLIFFE, set to be re-united on stage with his fellow Everton and Wales legend Neville Southall, admits: “ Big Nev was such a fantastic goalkeeper that sometimes I’d let opposing forwards shoot rather than risk tackling them in the penalty box.”Southall, widely rated at his peak as the world’s best keeper who made an Everton record 751 appearances and won a record 92 Wales caps, will join the Goodison club’s most successful captain Ratcliffe for An Audience With Everton Legends at Southport’s Atkinson Theatre next Friday, December 12.“It wasn’t until you played in front of other keepers that you realised just how good Neville was,” says Ratcliffe.“If a forward was coming in at an acute angle I’d often let them have a pop because the hardest job they had was beating the big man.“He was awesome – even in training.“Our manager Howard Kendall would tell us not to risk conceding a penalty by going in for a tackle because even if an opponent managed to shoot the odds were on Neville making a save anyway.”Ratcliffe is anticipating a lively evening when he links up again with Big Nev and writer and broadcaster John Keith who will talk to the two Goodison greats about their careers and a variety of topics past, present and future.And they will also take questions from the audience to complete a show not to be missed by Everton fans. Tickets priced at £14 can be bought in person from the Atkinson box office or by calling 01704 533333. Available on line at www.theatkinson.co.uk
Manchester City 1 Everton FC 0: Blues on wrong end of referee's early Christmas gift
Dec 06, 2014 19:39
By Chris Beesley
Everton FC found festive cheer sadly lacking at the Etihad Stadium last night as it was opponents Manchester City who were on the receiving end of an early Christmas present from referee Andre Marriner. The Blues were stunned in the 24th minute when the West Midlands official inexplicably pointed to the spot for a penalty kick after their captain Phil Jagielka had merely gone shoulder to shoulder with James Milner on the edge of the area. Marriner's decision – coupled with a couple of other lenient calls in the hosts favour following a pair of wild challenges – left the visitors facing an uphill struggle.With the recalled Tony Hibbert and Seamus Coleman both in the starting line-up for the visitors much of the pre-match talk was over what formation the Blues would adopt. There were suggestions that Roberto Martinez might opt to go with three/five at the back but as it turned out he opted for the old 4-4-1-1 that predecessor David Moyes used so often with Coleman pushed forward to the right hand side of midfield at the expense of Leon Osman who dropped to the bench. The other change from the side that started the 1-1 draw with Hull City saw Samuel Eto'o come in for Ross Barkley. Everton were handed an early boost when the home side's 19-goal top scorer this season Sergio Aguero limped out of the contest just six minutes in to be replaced by 18-year-old Spaniard Jose Pozo but hopes of any more good fortune soon evaporated.A couple of wild challenges from City players that looked more like kung-fu kicks that football challenges both only resulted in yellow cards.Firstly Eliaquim Mangala kicked Samuel Eto'o in the back before Fernando booted Gareth Barry – the man who he replaced in City's midfield – in the head. Each individual incident could easily be interpreted as dangerous play and a red card offence but Marriner chose to only book the culprits and to make matters worse for the Blues in between he handed City the softest of penalty kicks.Everton skipper Jagielka went shoulder to shoulder with England team-mate Milner on the edge of his area and expected no more to come of the innocuous challenge but Marriner stunned the visitors by pointing straight to the spot.Any trip to the Premier League champions is a tough enough assignment to start with but such gifts for City made the task for Martinez's men even more daunting.Home skipper Yaya Toure despatched the resulting 24 minute spot-kick low into the corner to Tim Howard's right with the American keeper guessing correctly but unable to reach the perfectly-struck effort.Everton continued to hold their own against their expensively-assembled opponents but it was telling that they failed to fashion a single shot on target in the entire first half.The visitors best effort came when Pablo Zabaleta could only half clear a left-footed right wing cross from Coleman under pressure from Eto'o but Kevin Mirallas' resultant shot was deflected wide for a corner kick.City started the second half in determined fashion as a purposeful sprint down the left flank by Milner saw him drag the ball back to Pozo only for the substitute to be denied by the timely intervention of Howard's leg.Unlike the power puff nature of his penalty, Milner was soon feeling the pain of a more meaty challenge from Gareth Barry who caught him with his trailing leg.The resultant booking – Barry's fifth of the season – means he will now miss the Blues next Premier League game at home to QPR.In need of some more impetus going forward, Martinez then withdrew Barry's fellow holding midfielder Muhamed Besic for the more attack-minded Ross Barkley.After a quiet game against Hull, the 20-year-old soon made his mark, driving upfield strongly before threading through a pass to Mirallas but Fernando was able to thwart the Belgian with a well-timed block.Looking to close the gap on Chelsea after the Premier League leaders lost for the first time earlier in the day Manuel Pellegrini decided it was time to beef up the focal point of his attack again and withdrew early first half substitute Pozo for the more established Edin Dzeko.Barkley then fed Eto'o for an opening just outside the City area but this time it was Milner who put his body on the line to deflect the former Cameroon international's shot wide.At the other end Milner could have sewn things up when he met a Dzeko's cushioned header but he blazed his shot over the crossbar.With just nine minutes remaining, Everton finally fashioned a clear opening as a good combination down the left started by Barry saw Eto'o play in Romelu Lukaku whose left-foot strike was heading into the far corner of Joe Hart's goal before the England keeper made a stunning parry to deny him.One side of Barkley's game that continues to frustrate is the youngster's tenancy to go to ground easily.Although he was clearly shoved by fellow sub Lampard late on, Marriner booked him for making a meal of the challenge.Considering the class of opposition, this was an improvement from Everton after the flat display against Hull in midweek but ultimately they fell short again and after picking up just one point from the last nine on offer, it's another case of what might have been.
Manchester City step up title chase after Yaya Touré sinks Everton
The Observer, Saturday 6 December 2014 19.39 GMT
Manchester City took advantage of Chelsea’s slip-up on Tyneside to cut their rivals’ lead at the top of the Premier League to three points, though a fifth victory in a row came at the expense of an injury to Sergio Agüero, who departed after just a couple of minutes. Suspected ligament damage will almost certainly rule him out of the crucial Champions League fixture in Rome on Wednesday, and City will hope his absence is not a prolonged one, for they are not the same team without him.Manuel Pellegrini paid tribute beforehand to Agüero’s considerable contribution to his side’s 10 goals and nine points from their last three games, but emphasised that City are not a one-man team. That claim was quickly put to the test here when City’s leading scorer had to hobble off, wiping away tears of either pain or frustration after he twisted his knee in falling following a challenge from Séamus Coleman.Pellegrini had Edin Dzeko on the bench but decided against using him, unsure if he could complete a full game after his own return from injury. Instead he opted for the 18-year-old Spanish striker José Pozo, who made his league debut only last week against Sunderland.Eliaquim Mangala was correctly booked once the game restarted for an outrageous foul on Samuel Eto’o in the Everton penalty area as the Cameroonian came back to defend a corner. After leaping for a header and planting an outstretched boot into the small of Eto’o’s back Mangala could consider himself lucky to stay on the field, but none of the officials had a clear view of the incident and might not even have detected it had not Eto’o stayed on the ground.City were doing most of the pressing, and took the lead midway through the first half when Phil Jagielka conceded a penalty, attempting a tackle on James Milner but ending up going through him from behind without getting any of the ball. At least that is what the referee decided. Whether Milner was going anywhere with the ball after his last touch is another matter, and Roberto Martínez was not even sure a foul had been committed. “All the contact was above the waist,” the Everton manager said. “Shoulder to shoulder is part of the game and Milner’s reaction said everything, he just got up to carry on playing.”Yaya Touré stepped up to beat Tim Howard with a low shot to the goalkeeper’s right, then the next controversy of what was proving an eventful first half arrived when Fernando’s boot made contact with Gareth Barry’s face. It was probably accidental, Fernando was going for a high ball and may not have realised Barry was directly behind him, but he received a booking anyway for having his foot raised so high.Kevin Mirallas saw a shot deflected narrowly wide before the interval but Everton were not creating many chances or showing their usual conviction when behind. Romelu Lukaku was a peripheral figure for the most part as City denied Everton their usual attacking avenues down the flanks, and Eto’o too was hardly in the game. Mirallas was the visitors’ most dangerous attacking player, but only because he was doing most of the work himself, drifting inside to pick up the ball then running with directness at the City defence. The home side perhaps ought to have been further ahead by half-time, though in truth they were not so sparkling either. Milner was a success on the left wing but without Agüero their attack lacked a spearhead and in midfield Touré was too often guilty of giving the ball away.City opened the second half with more determination and Pozo might have had a first league goal but for a save by Howard four minutes in. Milner made a strong break down the left and crossed low, Pozo met it in the area and did everything right, but though Howard was initially moving the wrong way he managed to scramble a low shot away with his feet.The teenager was left to rue Howard’s reactions, for he was hauled off a few minutes later in favour of Dzeko, having contributed enough to merit a warm round of applause from the crowd.Everton sent on Ross Barkley around the same time in an attempt to boost their attacking potency and salvage something from the game, though in withdrawing the neat and industrious Muhamed Besic they risked leaving themselves more open in defence.For a while it looked as though Martínez’s gamble might pay off as Everton enjoyed a brief period in the ascendancy midway through the second half, though all it actually amounted to was a shot from Eto’o that flew miles too high.City immediately did better as soon as Frank Lampard joined the fray, Dzeko knocking the substitute’s diagonal ball into the path of Milner, who deserved a goal but missed the target from near the penalty spot. Finally, as the game entered its last 10 minutes, Lukaku exploded into action for Everton, fastening on to Eto’o’s flick and forcing a fine one-handed reaction save from Joe Hart. That could have been the moment Everton snatched a point, but Hart rose to the occasion, despite being under-occupied for most of the game.While never at their most fluent, City hung on for a narrow victory. They will be anxious to have Agüero back, although David Silva is believed to be ready to return soon. “I will not complain about injuries because we have a squad large enough to cope,” Pellegrini said. “The main thing today was we got the result we needed to get nearer to Chelsea.”
Manchester City 1 Everton FC 0: What we learned including how referees can be crucial
Dec 06, 2014 20:49
By Kristian Walsh
Referee can be crucial
Just what went through the minds of Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando in the first half is anyone's guess. A Carl Douglas tribute band? An audition for Wrestlemania?Everybody was kung-fu fighting in their minds. A couple of superkicks – one to Samuel Eto'o, the other to Gareth Barry – had the Blues apoplectic as Andre Marriner's refusal to show a red card. Both were given yellows, both could have been given more.Referees make mistakes and, at times, supporters can be too involved in maniacal conspiracy theories – but Marriner's performance was one that genuinely changed the game.City could have been down to 10 men by the time he awarded a soft penalty to the home side. Everton had looked comfortable until that point.Everton could have then had a further man advantage when pressing for an equaliser. Romelu Lukaku came close, but the 11 men of City held on.This was a time when the referee really did make a big difference. It doesn't excuse some of the poorer elements to Everton's play, but it wasn't a help, either.
Good luck isn't always welcome luck
Nobody likes to see a professional footballer injured – well, within reason – but the sight of Sergio Aguero sprawled on the turf was especially distressing to see. A player of such quality, and seemingly with such an inherent likeability, does not deserve to miss more football through injury.But removing sentiment from the situation, it appeared the Blues were handed a boost. The pre-match talk surrounded how Aguero could be stopped; Everton were handed an answer within two minutes of kick-off.When is a boost not really a boost, though? Aguero's departure undoubtedly made City weaker, but it also threw the Blues' gameplan into disarray too.Roberto Martinez lined his side up in a 4-4-1-1 formation – a move to combat all of City's attacking strength, but in particular the Argentine.With Tony Hibbert and Seamus Coleman down the right, that pocket of space on the left which Aguero loves to occupy would have been filled by two Everton players. Aguero's absence meant the Hibbert/Coleman tandem didn't quite perform the function it was meant to.Fortune can sometimes bring misfortune, as Martinez found out on Saturday.
Eto'o is a leader
Everton improved in the second half after a difficult first period – a huge reverse of fortune compared to the rest of the season – and Samuel Eto'o was central to a lot of that.Signing the veteran striker did not just add someone with excellent ability on the ball to the Blues squad, but someone who has succeeded at the highest level because of his unwavering mental strength.Sensing an equaliser could be on the cards, the 33-year-old drove forward. He looked to get past players with trickery, pace, intelligence. He made more dribbles than any of his team-mates – five – and kept the tempo of the team up as the game neared its end.That was typified in the final seconds. Eto'o won a corner, sprinted to the ball behind the goal, ran to the corner flag and took it himself.On a disappointing night, there is comfort in the presence of Eto'o – a professional until the end.
Barkley can be a game-changer
It has been a mixed few weeks for Ross Barkley, who continues to recover from the injury which saw him miss the first few months of the season.Largely anonymous against Tottenham and Hull, Barkley found himself on the bench from the start just a day after his 21st birthday.But his arrival reignited the Everton charge. The central midfield, which had become laboured, was alive. Despite having just 35 minutes on the pitch, he produced more successful dribbles than anyone else bar Eto'o.Undoubtedly, he turned the game into Everton's favour, moving about and adding zip to the middle.The previous two of Barry and Muhamed Besic had struggled; Barry, in particular, was having a tough evening. Usually so good with the ball, he completed just 80% of his passes.But Barkley breathed new life into everybody and demonstrated his impact can come whether starting or coming on as substitute.
Man City 1 Everton 0: What the fans are saying
Dec 06, 2014 21:09
By Paul Handler (Manchester Evening Post)
Take a look at how the Manchester City fans are reacting to the win over Everton and the injury to Sergio Aguero.
First well done on the win, second I'm so worried our Sergio is injured. I hope our medical team do their very best to bring our Aguero back fully recovered and ready to be the player everyone wants to see.
Leonard I'd play Demichelis instead of Mangala in Rome. He's been excellent whilst Vinny has been out and we'll need experience in what's sure to be a hostile atmosphere on Wednesday.
CH Nasri is finally being put in a position to succeed. Playing behind the striker he was able to show off his excellent pressing ability. Best on the team at that because he can run forever but also takes clever angles and catches opponents off guard.
Roberto Martinez blasts Manchester City penalty decision
Dec 06, 2014 20:59
By Chris Beesley
Roberto Martinez has blasted the soft penalty the decision that condemned his side to defeat at Manchester City.He said: “To say I was unhappy with the penalty decision is a bit of an understatement.“I’m really disappointed with that action because although it’s clear contact, contact is allowed.“I didn’t think it was a penalty at all. It will be interesting to see what Manuel Pellegrini thinks about it.“It is a ball that is played into the 18 yard box and the defender is allowed to go and challenge it.“It gets into a situation where James Milner stretches himself to reach the ball and changes direction. Phil Jagielka carries on with his run, he can’t disappear so there is going to be a coming together.“There is nothing below the waist. Everything is hip and shoulder. James Milner’s reaction tells you everything. He just gets up straight away and tries to fight for the ball. He’s not even asking for it.Martinez added: “It happens a lot of times. Two bodies coming together trying to get the ball. “If Phil Jagielka had tried to win the ball and collided with James Milner’s legs that’s always a penalty but shoulder to shoulder, it’s just part of the game and should never be given.“Then there was another action on the halfway line. Frank Lampard and Ross Barkley come together exactly the same and Ross gets booked. The lack of consistency during the game is what I don’t like.“With the penalty if I’m honest with you I’m more disappointed with the way it was given so quickly.“Sometimes you need to take a couple of seconds to assess where you are and see if you can get a bit of help.“It was such a disappointing decision from such an experienced referee.”The Catalan was also baffled how City pair Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando both failed to see red for a couple of wild challenges.He said: “I don’t like to see players sent off but when you’ve got a referee who’s going to give a penalty for two players coming together you’re going to use the letter of the law.“Mangala’s challenge is a red card every single time. The ball has been headed away by Samuel Eto’o and it’s not a 50-50. His foot is high and in a very unnatural position and Samuel has got a really strong mark in his back.“That’s violent conduct or very excessive force and it should have been a red card.“Fernando’s challenge is a bit more unfortunate but it’s a high boot. It happens many times.“If that high boot doesn’t touch the head of Gareth Barry then it should be a yellow card but if it touches it and I think it does touch it then it should be a red card.”Martinez doesn’t believe that there is any merit in trying to complain to the authorities over the calls and instead believes some better fortune should be heading the Blues way later in the campaign.He said: “My experience tells me that you should concentrate on trying to get the team not to be affected when such a harsh decision goes so wrong for you.“When you’re young and inexperienced you want to fight the world and put it right to help every referee to make the right decisions but you learn you’re going to get bad decisions going your way. I cannot wait for the second half of the season because it’s going to be so easy to win games playing badly!”
Man City v Everton: Nasri the leader, selection hindsight and more things learned
Dec 07, 2014 (Manchester Evening Post)
By Paul Handler
Samir Nasri, so influential last season, has returned to the top of his game. What was most impressive about his performance against Everton was the attitude. Everyone knows he has quality in abundance, but the work-rate has gone up. There was one positively Paul Dickov-esque moment when he chased down a seemingly dead ball going towards Tim Howard, and eventually hurried Everton into conceding a throw. It was superb all round midfield performance - let's hope he's got something left in the tank for Rome.
Case for defence
Martin Demichelis and Eliaquim Mangala looked assured against a lively Everton attack. City's defence is of course stronger with Vincent Kompany in it, but it wouldn't be a disaster to head to Rome with those two in central defence. Mangala needs a little bit of Demichelis' cool though, the flying kick that floored Samuel Eto'o early on could well see him off in European competition.
As it turned out, City were good enough to beat Everton without Sergio Aguero. Which begs the obvious question, should he have started the game? Hindsight tells you no. It would have been better to protect the club's star player ahead of Wednesday's all important game in Italy.
No I in team
On paper it looks a tough ask for City to win in Rome now. With Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Stevan Jovetic all struggling for fitness, Aguero almost certainly out and Yaya Toure suspended, the Blues are likely to be robbed of a number of key players. It's at times like this when the likes of Fernando, Fernandinho and James Milner must come to the fore, and lift the general level of the side's play high enough to overcome Roma. It will need to be classic "one to 11" performance for the Blues to go through.
Still early days in the Premier League
A couple of weeks ago the Premier League was supposedly done and dusted. One bookie even paid out on Chelsea winning the title. Yet all of a sudden, the gap is down to three points. That is not to say City are now going to power on and leave Chelsea in their wake. The point is it is way too soon for the title to be decided.
Lee Carsley: Everton suffered Ref justice at Man City but Blues didn't do enough
Dec 07, 2014 10:30
You need to be at your best when you go away to Manchester City so going down to a soft penalty is particularly painful.I thought the decision to point to the spot after Phil Jagielka had challenged James Milner was very harsh.I’ve known Andre Marriner for a long time and I didn’t think he had a great view of the incident to be honest because it appeared that Gareth Barry was blocking his eyeline.If I’d have been playing I’d have been gutted to see the ref giving a pen for such an ordinary looking coming together and if the official is in any doubt then he shouldn’t really be awarding them. There wasn’t much Tim Howard could do about the penalty as Yaya Toure struck it right into the corner and despite going the right way it was still out of reach.That could have been the cue for City to go on and pull us apart like they’ve done with so many teams but we hung on in there albeit without creating a great deal of chances ourselves.I don’t think Jags could quite believe the decision and the high challenges from their two lads on Samuel Eto’o and Gareth Barry that resulted in yellow cards could have easily been seen as potential sending off offences on another day.They were dangerous tackles but it just seemed like one of those nights for us.We didn’t get a lot of help from the officials but I didn’t think we did enough to win the game and with 20 minutes to go there seemed to be a lot of tired Everton legs out there.That’s probably due to most of those lads having played in a large part of our recent matches with four games in the last 10 days.They’d looked leggy against Hull although there was a bit more impetus here against a better side.Steven Naismith’s energy was a big miss for us as he’ll run all day but at least Ross Barkley had a bit of a go at City when he came on and we looked a bit more of a threat.
No home comforts after Euro delight
A week can be a long time in football and while we were quite rightly praising the display in Wolfsburg, the picture now looks a bit different.Back then the Blues were seven games unbeaten and looked like they were turning the corner but we can’t get away from the fact that what happened against Tottenham and Hull City was disappointing and frustrating from our point of view.I’m sure it’s just a blip but the team have looked a bit flat.Factors will have come into place including the travelling and the fact that Tottenham had played a home game in their Europa League encounter three days earlier will have made a difference.We shouldn’t be making excuses though and not bouncing back straight away at home to Hull City was tough to take.Steve Bruce had said before the game that he was desperate to come away with something and they will have been delighted to have scrapped their way to a point but it’s up to Everton to be patient and break down these sides at Goodison.
Tough time for Distin but the schedule is well known
I'm well aware from personal experience that the older you get in football it’s not the games that hurt you but the recovery time – or lack of it – between them.It’s obvious that playing three matches in less than a week with just a couple of days off in between will have been a tough ask for Sylvain Distin.Just look across the park with Steven Gerrard and the issue over resting him.Everyone knows the schedule at this time of year and the games are coming thick and fast.With John Stones and Antolin Alcaraz both currently injured, Roberto Martinez has no other senior options in the centre-back positions and sometimes you’ve just got to get on with it.People have talked about Hull’s goal being a soft one but you can get carried away trying to dissect opposition goals and who was to blame but if one of your team-mates is getting beat too easily it’s up to the next man to make sure he’s in there quickly to hit them straight away.Tim Howard will have been disappointed to have been beaten on his near post but he’s kept us in many games with his heroics in the past.
Everton's youngsters are chomping at the bit
The final Europa League group match with Krasnodar should provide several of Everton’s youngsters with the chance to shine in the senior side.I spoke to David Unsworth this week and he tells me that he’s got plenty of good players in his under-21s side and they’re all champing at the bit to get the nod from Roberto Martinez.The likes of Victor Anichebe, Jack Rodwell and James Vaughan were all given run outs in this competition when they were youngsters and it was a valuable experience for them.
Leicester keeping tabs on Everton striker Arouna Kone ahead of possible January loan move
Dec 07, 2014 11:00
By Dean Jones
Leicester City are continuing their striker hunt by adding Arouna Kone to their wanted list, writes Dean Jones in the Sunday People.Last week Sunday People Sport revealed the Foxes will chase Jermain Defoe in the January window.But Everton's fit-again front-man Kone is also on the radar as they look to boost their chances of staying in the Premier League.A knee injury has kept Kone on the sidelines for the past year but he is now returning to full fitness.Everton boss Roberto Martinez insists he can make an impact this season but could be open to the idea of loaning him out to pick up regular game time in the new year.Scouts from the King Power Stadium have been checking him out over the past couple of weeks but the Foxes are also keeping an eye on Rijeka's Croatian striker Andrej Kramaric, who is wanted by Chelsea.
Everton FC fringe players and young guns looking to make their mark on Europa League big stage
Dec 07, 2014 11:45
By Chris Beesley
With group winners Everton FC having already booked their place in the last 32 of the Europa League with a game to spare, Blues boss Roberto Martinez has earned the right to ring the changes against Krasnodar this week.A hectic festive schedule awaits the club over the remainder of the month so Everton are expected to give their big names a breather against the Russians in a match that will provide the platform for several of Martinez’s fringe players to stake their claim for a first team spot.It could be a fantastic opportunity for those who take their chance but just who should we be looking out for on Thursday night?Of course there are a smattering of senior professionals who are in search of a run-out after failing to command a regular spot in the Catalan’s first team plans so far this term.Arouna Kone was one of Martinez’s main men at former club Wigan Athletic with the Ivory Coast striker netting 13 goals in his single season at the DW Stadium.However, the 31-year-old has found things tough since his £6million switch to Goodison Park and after suffering a serious knee injury against Hull City almost 14 months ago, Kone has only just returned to full finess and will be desperate to open his Blues account.Also on the comeback trail after a prolonged spell on the sidelines is Bryan Oviedo.The Costa Rican experienced some extreme highs and lows last season, netting the winner in Everton’s first victory at Manchester United for over 20 years before suffering a double leg break in the FA Cup success at Stevenage.Having been forced to miss his native Costa Rica’s impressive World Cup exploits, the 24-year-old will be hoping to make up for lost time.Also keen for a run-out will be understudy goalkeeper Joel Robles.An FA Cup winner with Martinez’s Latics in 2013, the Spaniard played in all of the Blues cup ties last term but has yet to feature so far this season.The 6ft 5in custodian was spotted warming up keenly when Tim Howard picked up a knock early on against Hull City but the American was able to battle on.On-loan winger Christian Atsu played in the World Cup finals for Ghana this summer but after a quiet start to his spell on Merseyside he’s still got a long way to go to convince Jose Mourinho that he’s worth a place in the Chelsea squad next season.Having impressed in the Blues last European game in Wolfsburg, left-back Luke Garbutt, 21, will be hoping to get another opportunity to impress while Conor McAleny, now 22 will be aiming for a senior recall almost three years after he made a couple of first team appearances.Defender Tyias Browning, 20, was thrown in at the deep end when he made his Everton debut as a substitute in the Merseyside Derby at Anfield back in September and he followed that up with another high-profile outing against Manchester United at Old Trafford.It will be some of the so-far hidden gems from David Unsworth’s development squad though that supporters will be most intrigued to see.Given the injury problems to central defenders John Stones and Antolin Alcaraz that have left Martinez with just two fit senior players in that position, Evertonians will be keen to monitor the progress of highly-rated 18-year-old Brendan Galloway.The Zimbabwe-born England-Under 19 international arrived with much fanfare from MK Dons over the summer having made his senior bow for his previous club aged just 15.But there are plenty of other homegrown options to choose from.Striker Chris Long, 19, netted his first senior goal while on loan at MK Dons last term and also scored for the Everton senior side in a pre-season friendly in Germany against SC Paderborn this summer.Also 19 is left-footed midfielder Conor Grant who featured in several pre-season games with the senior side in the summer of 2013.Midfielder Ryan Ledson, 17, has been named on the bench for Premier League matches both this season and last and captained England Under-17s to victory in the European Championship Finals in Malta this summer.Hailing from Kirkdale, a mere wind-assisted Tim Howard clearance from Goodison Park, 17-year-old Jonjoe Kenny played alongside Ledson in England’s successful side in Malta this summer.Able to play across the back four or in central midfield, Kenny netted the crucial spot-kick in the shootout against the Netherlands that handed the Young Lions the trophy.Despite being born in Perth, Australia, Gethin Jones has represented Wales at several junior levels.Originally a midfielder, the 19-year-old who lifted the Under-18s Premier League title alongside fellow co-captain Russell Griffiths in May has been playing at right-back of late.Ormskirk-born Kieran Dowell, 17, is a fleet-footed dribbler who can operate in several forward positions.If he provides the silk then the steel comes from tough-tackling midfielder Joe Williams, who turns 18 tomorrow.Pass-master Liam Walsh, 17, is a midfielder who won the Everton Academy Goal of the Season award last term.Whoever Martinez chooses, this will be a unique chance to impress because dead rubber or not, a first team opportunity in European competition is a totally different environment that any junior age fixture.
What happened to the Everton FC side who faced BATE Borisov in a dead rubber?
Dec 06, 2014 12:17
By Chris Beesley
Five years ago Everton were in a similar position as they went into their final Europa League group match having already qualified for the knockout stages.A very unfamiliar Blues line-up hosted Belarusian club BATE Borisov at Goodison on December 17 2009 and were beaten 1-0 but what has happened to them since?Long-time understudy goalkeeper at a number of clubs Carlo Nash made his only ever Everton appearance that night.Now 41, Nash was released by Norwich City at the end of last season and has had well-documented problems away from the pitch.When banned from driving in October for clocking 140mph, a sentencing hearing at Manchester Magistrates Court was told Nash has been left with no savings following a prolonged legal battle surrounding his divorce.Still very much part of the Blues first team squad are Seamus Coleman, Tony Hibbert and Leon Osman.Coleman, who had made his debut in a baptism of fire in a 5-0 mauling at Benfica earlier in the European campaign that season has developed into one of the best full-backs in the Premier League having been voted into the PFA Team of the Season earlier this year.Osman netted the winning goal against West Ham United on his 400th Everton appearance last month while after a limited number of games over the past couple of years, Hibbert is now back playing his part for Roberto Martinez.Centre-back Shane Duffy won his first Republic of Ireland cap this year but after failing to nail down a regular spot at Goodison after loan spells with Burnley, Scunthorpe and Yeovil he joined Blackburn Rovers on transfer deadline day at the start of this season.Southport-born left-back Jake Bidwell became Everton’s youngest ever player in European competition against BATE aged just 16 but it turned out to be his only senior call-up and after a couple of loan spells with Brentford he made a permanent switch to Griffin Park in 2013.Great things were expected of teenage sensation Jack Rodwell who had made his Blues debut in the competition two years earlier but despite being capped twice for England while at Goodison, injuries hampered his progress and David Moyes decided to cash-in on the midfielder when Premier League champions Manchester CIty offered £12million for him in 2012.An largely forgettable two-year spell at the Etihad Stadium followed and Rodwell was shipped out to Sunderland this year where he is still struggling to fulfil his early promise.Scouse midfielder Adam Forshaw made his Blues debut that night and would follow that up with just one substitute appearance in the Premier League at Wolves in April 2011.Joining Brentford in 2012 he was named the League One Player of the Year last season and returned to the north west to join Wigan Athletic for an undisclosed fee believed to be in the region of £4million.Globetrotting Nigerian marksman Aiyegbeni Yakubu had already had spells in Portugal and Israel before coming to the Premier League, arriving at Goodison Park for a then-club record £11.25million in 2007.Despite netting 21 goals in his first season, he never recaptured his form after an Achilles tendon injury but has hit the net regularly in subsequent spells with Leicester (loan), Blackburn, Guangzhou R&F (China) and now plays for Al Rayyan in Qatar.Joining Everton aged just six, Bootle’s Jose Baxter had been the Blues youngest ever player when he made his debut against Blackburn on the opening day of the 2008/09 season but despite a loan spell at Tranmere he remained on the fringes of Moyes’ squad and was released in 2012 after rejecting a new contract.He remains in the third tier of English football now playing for Sheffield United via a year at Oldham.Londoner Kieran Agard had made his Blues bow earlier in the 2009/10 season in a League Cup tie at Hull City and was also a stoppage time substitute in a Premier League game against Chelsea.After spells with Yeovil and Rortherham United, he joined Bristol City in August for a reputed £750,000 fee.The first of Everton’s substitutes that evening midfielder Nathan Craig was released in 2011.Spending a year in the Welsh Premier League with hometown club Caernarfon Town he returned to the Football League in 2012 following a successful trial at Torquay United.However, following the Devon club’s relegation to the Conference this year his contract was terminated and he’s now back with Caernarfon playing in the Cyrmru Alliance – the second tier of the Welsh pyramid.German defender Shkodran Mustafi has enjoyed a rapid rise since leaving Goodison Park.His substitute appearance against BATE was his only senior call-up and he joined Serie B side Sampdoria on a free transfer in January 2012.With the Genoese club returning the Italian top flight that year, Mustafi became a regular the following season and after Marco Reus’ injury on the eve of this year’s World Cup finals he was handed a late call-up into Joachim Low’s squad and after making three appearances in Brazil he now has a World Cup winners’ medal. He signed a five-year deal with Spanish club Valencia this summer following an 8million Euro move.Born in Childwall but capped twice by Nigeria this autumn, midfielder Hope Akpan’s nine-minute cameo against the Belarusians was his only taste of first team action at Everton.Joining Football League new boys Crawley Town in 2011, he moved to Championship club Reading 18 months later.
Ian Doyle: Everton FC must compromise style to find home comforts
Dec 07, 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Ian Doyle
"With a powerhouse such as Lukaku prowling the front line, there is absolutely no shame in seeking to capitalise on his pace and physical presence."
They may have only been brief, but you could hear them loud and clear. The unmistakable sound of jeers that greeted the final whistle at Goodison following Everton’s frustrating midweek draw with Hull City. There was probably some currency in Roberto Martinez’s assertion the boos were more about emotion than a moan at his team. But there’s no doubt Everton are struggling to make Goodison a fortress again this season. And that led one Twitter wag to declare the old stadium had become more Care Bear Pit than Bear Pit.
The Europa League hasn’t been a problem.
Wolfsburg and Lille were swatted aside with such nonchalance that Thursday’s forthcoming closing home group game against Krasnador is the deadest of rubbers. In the Premier League, though, matters have gone somewhat awry. After trouncing Arsenal 3 0 in April, Everton have won only three of 10 Premier League games on their own patch. Put into context, the defeat of the Gunners meant they had taken 38 points from a possible 45 at Goodison.
So what has gone wrong?
It would appear opponents, having had a season to assess matters, have worked out how best to negate the Blues. And that usually means pressing high up the pitch and not allowing the central defenders to build from the back.
Martinez needs to come up with a different approach.
Frustratingly, that’s precisely what provided Romelu Lukaku with Everton’s goal on Wednesday night. Unable to play through midfield, the Blues were more direct, a long punt forward flicked by Phil Jagielka flicked on by Lukaku to Kevin Mirallas, who then returned the compliment to his fellow Belgian. Yet having gained such joy, Everton then stubbornly returned to their patient, probing attacking approach.
Hull sat back, picked up an equaliser and their job was done.
If the disappointing draw has proven anything, it’s that Everton need to mix things up a bit more.
And with a powerhouse such as Lukaku prowling the front line, there is absolutely no shame in seeking to capitalise on his pace and physical presence. Injuries and the punishing schedule are starting to take their toll, so Martinez will have to compromise. And not only in terms of his personnel.
Everton FC midfielder Ross Barkley insists "I don't dive - I'm a Scouser!"
Dec 7 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Exclusive: England star Ross Barkley fears he is being unfairly typecast by referees after latest diving controversy
Ross Barkley fears being unfairly labelled a diver by referees and insists: “I’m a Scouser – we don’t do things like that.” The Everton FC midfielder was wrongly booked by Andre Marriner during the second half of his side’s 1-0 defeat at Manchester City, after being felled by a Frank Lampard challenge. Barkley, 21, believes the furore when he was accused of going to ground too easily last month against West Ham is playing on the minds of officials. The England international, who suffered a triple leg-break during a game as a 17-year-old, revealed how incidents such as the one against the Hammers stem from a fear of dangerous late contact. And Barkley insists that his working class background makes him fundamentally appalled by the mere suggestion of him cheating. He said: “All the talk about what happened against West Ham, which I didn’t even intend on doing, is having an effect. “I was expecting contact. You could see that from my reaction in that game – I got straight back up and tried to get on the ball but the ref gave the free kick.
“I like driving forward with the ball so every now and then I expect a bit of contact because I’m committing players. Against City I was expecting the contact from Frank Lampard and there was contact. I thought it was a free-kick to us. I was disappointed the referee gave that as a foul and I got a yellow card. “I was 100% certain it should have been a free-kick. The ref made his decision and said I dived but I don’t think that’s right. “I don’t ever intend to dive. I’m a scouser – we don’t do things like that. It’s frustrating.” Barkley was a 56th minute substitute on Saturday, a day after celebrating his 21st birthday, and produced an impressive performance despite Roberto Martinez’s men being unable to find a breakthrough against the reigning Champions.
Afterwards he told the ECHO that he is approaching top form again, after a mixed few months following his return to fitness in October from the knee injury which caused him to miss the start of the campaign. “I feel much fitter now I’ve got some games under my belt,” he said. “I feel like from now on I’m going to be playing much better for the rest of the season. I’m more confident than I have been in the last few games. “I believe goals will come for me too. I believe in my own ability; I scored goals last season and I believe I will for the rest of my career as well.
“I’ve got to focus on doing things right in training and taking that onto the pitch.”
Everton remain in mid-table after their third Premier league game without a win on Saturday, but Barkley insists nobody should write-off the Blues just yet. He added: “I thought we created some chances to either get the draw or even win but we didn’t get anything so it’s just really disappointing. “Having said that we’ve still got a lot to play for. After a few wins we can be back near the top four and we’re in the last 32 of the Europa League. “This can still be a big season for us and we’ve got to stay positive. “There are loads more big games coming and I’m looking forward to them.”