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Robert Martinez set to work on Everton FC defence
Jan 01, 2015 Liverpool Echo
Blues have gone from one of the tightest at the back in the Premier League to having the third worst record in the division
Roberto Martinez admits that Everton must tighten up defensively when they face Hull City today in order to halt a run of poor away form stretching back over two months.
The Toffees have not won a Premier League match away from home since beating Burnley on October 26 and have picked up just a single point on the road since then, at Sunderland.
Martinez, however, is refusing to compromise on the club’s tradition of entertaining possession football. “Knowing what your philosophy is as a club is important and ours is one that I think fits very well,” Martinez said at his press conference ahead of the Hull clash.
“It represents Everton from the thirties to the great years in the sixties, to winning titles in the eighties, and as a team we want to control the ball and as a team we are great in possession but in any team you need to be able to defend. “At the moment we are suffering, sometimes through individual errors, sometimes you get three or four major decisions that don’t go in your favour and they go against you and you have to cope with that. “I think it’s going to make us a stronger unit and there’ll be a real fight to show who’s ready to cope with our expectations.
“It’s a bit of a negative run of results at the moment and we need to stop it but there’s never a question mark over the style and how we want to play.” The Spaniard added: “What’s a question mark is whether we’ve been good in the way we want to play, and at the moment we’ve conceded too many goals for one reason or another and that’s quite easy to rectify.”

Hallam Hope set to join League Two Bury on a permanent deal
Jan 01, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Joe Rimmer
Everton agree deal to allow the 20-year-old to move to the Shakers, where he has spent time on loan
Hallam Hope is set to complete a permanent move to League Two outfit Bury after Everton FC agreed a deal to let the youngster leave Goodison Park. The 20-year-old has been on-loan at Bury since November but will sign a three-year deal with the club on January 4.
The striker also spent time on-loan at David Flitcroft’s side last season, scoring five goals in eight appearances for the Shakers. Hope has also had a spell on-loan at Sheffield Wednesday.
The Manchester-born player joined the Blues as an 11-year-old and progressed through the levels at Goodison Park. Hope helped the Blues Under-18s win the title in 2011 and he has represented England at youth level.

Hull 2 Everton 0 - final whistle report as Blues' bad run continues
Jan 1 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
Everton just four points above relegation zone after fourth straight win
Everton slid to a fourth straight Premier League defeat, going down 2-0 to Hull City at the KC Stadium. First half goals from Ahmed Elmohamady and former Blue Nikica Jelavic condemned Roberto Martinez's side, and leaves them 13 in the table, just four points above the relegation zone and in desperate need of a change in fortunes. Their misery was added to here by a red card for Antolin Alcaraz, while Blues fans made the long trek home both disappointed and baffled by their team's display, and by their manager's numerous tactical calls. Unsurprisingly, Martinez chose to shuffle his pack once more, making five changes from the side which had started the defeat at Newcastle last weekend. In came returning skipper Phil Jagielka, with Sylvain Distin dropping to the bench. There were also recalls for Kevin Mirallas, Steven Naismith, Ross Barkley and Mo Besic, with Martinez opting to start with Gareth Barry at centre back in a 3-4-1-2 formation.
Everton, criticised of late for their slow-paced approach, began with intent, and only a wasteful pass from Arouna Kone prevented them laying on a chance fro Naismith in the second minute.
They were, however, fortunate that referee Kevin Friend awarded a free-kick, and not a penalty, when Gareth Barry clipped Abel Hernandez on the edge of the box. Jelavic lashed the set-piece over the crossbar. Joel Robles then punched away Hernandez's cleanly-struck 25-yarder, and Ahmed Elmohamady drove off target, as the home side, themselves out of sorts of late, looked to assert some kind of authority. Everton, on the other hand, were playing in fits and starts during the opening half hour, creating little of note. Robles denied Hernandez again at his near post after the Uruguayan, playing on Barry, worked a shooting angle too easily on 30 minutes.
Everton were offering up too much space, and it was no great surprise when they fell behind in the 33 minute. Liam Rosenior, who had replaced the limping Andrew Robertson, was allowed to get an inswinging cross in from the left, and Elmohamady outmuscled a hesitant Baines at the far post to direct his header into Robles' bottom left-hand corner. It got worse 10 minutes later, as Everton's defence, and Barry in particular, were caught flat-footed by Hernandez's hooked pass over the top, allowing Jelavic the freedom of Humberside to run through and lift the ball over Robles for 2-0.
Martinez, unsurprisingly, responded at half time with changes. On came Romelu Lukaku and Bryan Oviedo, with Besic and Mirallas withdrawn. Baines moved into central midfield, alongside Naismith, with Barkley tasked with supporting the front two. But if he hoped for an immediate turnaround, he was to be disappointed. Hull started the second half the better, with Hernandez missing a chance for 3-0 after Everton failed to clear their lines from a corner. Everton, did, though, call McGregor into action at the other end as Barkley collected Baines' pass in the box, twisted himself space for a shot, but saw the Hull keeper push away his powerful left-footed effort. Lukaku at least added some presence in an attacking sense, but Everton were unable to mount any sustained pressure, and continued to look worried by Hull's front two of Jelavic and Hernandez.
Jelavic curled a free kick over the bar, then had a goalbound effort blocked by Jagielka, while the excellent Hernandez wasted a chance on the counter with a careless pass to Jake Livermore.
Everton's misery was compounded four minutes from time when Alcaraz, already booked, blocked off Jelavic as he attempted a one-two, and was sent off. Seconds later, Hernandez missed a glorious chance to add a third goal, lifting his shot over the bar. The damage, though, had long been done.
HULL CITY (3-4-1-2): McGregor, Bruce, Chester, Davies, Elmohamady, Meyler, Livermore, Robertson (Rosenior 22, Maguire 54), Ramirez (Brady 46), Hernandez, Jelavic
Not used: Harper, Sagbo, Ince, Aluko
Cards: Meyler
Goals: Elmohamady (33), Jelavic (43)
EVERTON (3-4-1-2): Robles, Jagielka, Alcaraz, Barry, Coleman, Besic (Oviedo 46), Barkley, Baines, Naismith, Mirallas (Lukaku 46), Kone
Not used: Griffiths, Distin, Atsu, McGeady, Eto'o
Cards: Besic, Kone, Barry, Alcaraz
Sent off: Alcaraz
Referee: Kevin Friend

Hull City 2 Everton 0: Happy new year! Ahmed Elmohamady and old boy Nikica Jelavic shoot down Toffees at KC
By Hull Daily Mail January 01, 2015
Hull City got the new year off to a great start as first-half goals from Ahmed Elmohamady and Nikica Jelavic earned a 2-0 win over Everton at the KC Stadium.
City made the perfect start to 2015 and put in a performance that was thoroughly deserving of the three points, finishing the day 15th in the Premier League table and two points clear of the relegation zone. Elmohamady’s header put the Tigers ahead, having connected perfectly with a cross from sub Liam Rosenior, who was later stretchered off injured. Jelavic, a £7.5m signing from Goodison Park last January, returned to haunt his old side and ensure it was game over just before half-time when lifting the ball over Toffees keeper Joel. Manager Steve Bruce made four changes to the side that lost to Leicester on Sunday, with James Chester, Andy Robertson, Jelavic and Abel Hernandez all restored to the starting XI. The game started in a frantic fashion and City felt they should have had a penalty in just the third minute. Gareth Barry’s foul on Hernandez appeared to be inside the area, but referee Kevin Friend only awarded a free-kick which Jelavic blasted over.
Long-range efforts from Hernandez and Elmohamady came to nothing as City looked to capitalise on Everton’s nervousness at the back. The Blues did have a half-chance of their own, but Kevin Mirallas blazed over when well placed. City’s rhythm was somewhat interrupted when they were forced into an early change. Andy Robertson limped off after 23 minutes, with Rosenior taking the Scot’s place on the left hand side of the defence. After a rocky opening, the Toffees regained a bit of a foothold in the game, with Mirallas and Barkley proving tricky. Hernandez, who was lively from the word go, did brilliantly to work a yard of space in the box before stinging the palms of Joel with a right-footed shot from an acute angle. Just a few minutes later, City got the goal that on the balance of play they probably deserved. Rosenior was allowed far too much space to pick a cross from the left and his delivery landed perfectly onto the head of Elmohamady. The Egyptian made no mistake, planting his finish past the stranded Joel in the Everton goal. The Toffees looked shell-shocked and on 43 minutes, Joel was picking the ball out of his net once more. Hernandez was again involved as his hooked through-ball to Jelavic completely baffled the Everton defence, leaving the Croatian through on goal and in acres of space. Jelavic took his time, before delicately lifting the ball over the despairing Joel to put City 2-0 up and cruising. Everton were all at sea and the boos that rung out from the away end were almost as audible as City supporters’ cheers. The second half began in a similar vein. Robbie Brady, on as a half-time substitute for Gaston Ramirez, drew a foul from Steven Naismith on City’s left and from the resulting free-kick, the Tigers really should have added a third.
The set-piece caused all sorts of problems for the Everton backline and, following a goal-mouth scramble, Hernandez screwed an effort wide from six yards. A couple of minutes later, Allan McGregor was forced into his first meaningful save of the match. Barkley, who was Everton’s biggest threat throughout, sold a dummy in the City box before firing a left-footed effort goalwards, but McGregor was equal to it and palmed it wide of his post. City were forced into their third and final substitution shortly after. Rosenior, himself on as a substitute, pulled up and was replaced by Harry Maguire on 56 minutes. An Everton onslaught may have been expected, but it never materialised. Instead, it was City who continued to dominate. Jelavic and Hernandez were a constant threat up front and were it not for a touch more coolness in the final third, City could have added to their two goals. Barry was lucky not to see a torrid afternoon brought to a premature end with a quarter of an hour remaining. The 33-year-old, already on a yellow card, felled Hernandez 30 yards out, but referee Friend lived up to his name by letting the midfielder off. After 86 minutes, Everton were reduced to ten men. Antolin Alcaraz was shown a second yellow card for blocking off Jelavic as City looked to break. Shortly after, City went desperately close to sealing the win with a third goal. Brady’s superb, raking pass was perfect for Hernandez to latch on to, but the Uruguayan couldn’t apply the same touch of class that Jelavic had before him and lifted his effort just wide of the post.
His miss did not prove costly and when the referee called time on the game a few minutes later, the cheers that reverberated around the KC were richly deserved.
Hull City: McGregor, Chester, Bruce, Davies, Robertson (Rosenior 23) (Maguire 56) , Elmohamady, Meyler, Livermore, Ramirez (Brady 46), Jelavic, Hernandez
Everton: Joel, Baines, Jagielka, Alcaraz, Coleman, Barry, Besic (Oviedo 46), Barkley, Naismith, Mirallas (Lukaku 46), Kone

Hull City 2 Everton FC 0: Defeat at Hull could turn out to be Roberto Martinez's lowest ebb
Jan 01, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
Manager will need every ounce of his self-belief now after his reign potentially hits rock bottom, writes Neil Jones
Roberto Martinez has already called this the biggest challenge of his Everton FC career.
Well, this could be the day his Goodison reign hit rock bottom. Having already stated that a run of three straight Premier League defeats was unacceptable for his side, here he watched them slide to a fourth, and with a performance that surely ranks among the worst seen since his arrival on Merseyside. Happy New Year? Not here, not for this Everton team. Where does Martinez even begin sifting through the rubble? He could start, perhaps, with a look in the mirror. Because if Everton’s players are struggling, so is their manager. There are few in the game with a more positive outlook than the Catalan, and he will need to call upon every ounce of that self-belief right now.
These are dark times. Where last season Martinez’s hunches were paying off, and his boldness was being rewarded, this time around it is a different story. Everton look a shell of the side which sealed a fifth-placed finish with a win here back in May, and Martinez looks like a manager searching for solutions. He’s trying. He’s making changes, tweaking his formation and looking for the right combinations all over the park. He made five changes to his starting line-up here, and made two substitutions at half time after his side had failed to respond. Maybe, though, this is part of Everton’s problem. A lack of continuity, a lack of organisation and a lack of shape is all responsible for what has been an alarming recent slump. It is easy to criticise managerial decisions, of course. And Martinez would be justified in pointing at a debilitating injury list when discussing his side’s troubles. But this was a big game, a huge one given what had gone before and what lies ahead. And after shuffling his pack at Newcastle, Martinez did so again here, with the same consequences. Worse, even. Finding positives from this performance is not easy. To be fair, even Martinez didn’t try here. He spoke of spirit and character, but admitted confidence was low, even speculating that next week’s FA Cup third round tie with West Ham may offer a much-needed distraction from their league woes. Little wonder. It is hard to recall too many occasions over the last 18 months when Everton have been as bad as they were here. Defensively, they were awful. Martinez’s decision to shift to a back three, with Gareth Barry and Antolin Alcaraz operating either side of skipper Phil Jagielka, was a risk that backfired. Everton were exposed time and again by the speed and strength of Abel Hernandez, and made Nikica Jelavic look like the player they once hoped he would be at Goodison. Alcaraz was eventually sent off but Barry, in particular, had a nightmare.
Having struggled for form in a midfield role of late, he was thrown under a bus here.
His lack of pace, and confidence, was exploited by the lively Hernandez.
Twice in the opening 25 minutes the Uruguayan dumped Barry on his backside and worked dangerous positions in the Everton half. On both occasions, the Everton man’s errors went unpunished. His third aberration, though, would cost his side; Barry’s poor decision to play offside allowed Jelavic, hardly the quickest around, the freedom of Humberside to take his time and beat the slow-advancing Joel Robles.
Two-nil, two minutes before half time. Game over.
His fortunes barely improved after the break as Everton chased a way back into the game. Hernandez continued to trouble him, Jelavic beat him in the air, and repeatedly he was drawn into wide areas and exposed for pace. He was booked, and could easily have been sent off had referee Kevin Friend viewed a trip on Hernandez more harshly. Alcaraz, moments later, was not so lucky.
By that time, Everton had long given up the ghost. They finished the game with two strikers on the field, with Ross Barkley in behind them, and with Leighton Baines and Steven Naismith in central midfield. It looks an attacking side on paper, certainly one which should have been capable of taking the game to a Hull side that was struggling prior to kick off, but in reality to was ragged, disjointed and second best in just about every area. Once Hull took the lead in the 33rd minute, rarely did Everton look like getting back into the game. Of their three shots on target all afternoon, only one could be said to have troubled Allan McGregor. If their defence was bad – and it was – their attack was not much better. At the final whistle, the travelling fans trudged away in silence. Too disappointed to speak, too angry to shout; the journey back down the M62 will have felt a long one.
For Martinez, too, it will have been a long night. He has known bad times before, of course, but this will be hurting. What he does next, time will tell. There are sure to be changes for the West Ham game, but he insisted here that his recent rotation and formation switches were out of necessity, and should not be labelled as “managerial experiments”. Good job, because if they were, then they certainly didn’t work. Martinez needs to rediscover his magic touch soon; the biggest challenge of his Everton career suddenly got a whole lot tougher.

Hull 2 Everton FC 0: Change in system doesn't bring change in fortunes and four other things we learned
Jan 01, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Kristian Walsh
The five major talking points from the Blues' disappointing defeat at the KC Stadium
Ross Barkley of Everton looks dejected after Hull City's first goal
Change of system doesn’t bring change of fortunes
Roberto Martinez is known for his tactical innovation since taking over at Goodison Park.
When Arsenal came to Goodison Park last season, Romelu Lukaku was utilised on the right of the front three; Everton won 3-0. Even this season, and just one month ago, the Spaniard placed faith in a brand-new central midfield pairing of Ross Barkley and Muhamed Besic in a 4-2-3-1 against Queens Park Rangers; the Blues won 3-1, their only league win since November 22.
But the boss’ attempts to do something different have failed, recently. A 4-1-4-1 was ultimately futile against Newcastle, while this most recent defeat at Hull came with the side lining up in a 3-4-1-2 wing-back formation. It is a similar set-up to the one he favoured at Wigan, but it didn’t work for the away side. With just three at the back, Hull’s wing-backs had space to create – as evidenced by the opening goal, when left-sided Liam Rosenior set up right-sided Ahmed Elmohamady. Leighton Baines was caught wrong side as he tried to clear. Baines and Seamus Coleman are used to covering ground, but not as much as this. Kevin Mirallas looked unsure of his role, as did Arouna Kone; Barkley and Besic, so good against QPR, were crowded out in midfield.
Hull have adopted a 5-3-2 for large parts of the season and looked more comfortable for it. It’s back to the drawing board for the Blues, and back to the tactics board for the manager.
Gareth Barry at centre back didn’t work It’s been a tough week for Gareth Barry. Placed in a midfield role all of his own against Newcastle, he was used as a centre back at the KC Stadium.
The theory made sense, especially given he started his career in that position. His presence would give extra stability to the back line, and his use of the ball would help bring control to the side. With Antolin Alcaraz and Phil Jagielka, the Blues would possess a back three good on the ball and able to spring attacks from the back. But it was a difficult 90 minutes for the 33-year-old. Recognising Barry was largely alien to the role, Hull set Abel Hernandez upon him – a pacey, strong striker with bags of energy. The Uruguay man drifted to the right and isolated Barry, completing two successful dribbles past him. And although Barry battled well with him in the air – winning two of the three balls they competed for – Hernandez’s force on the ground gave Barry difficulty. His accuracy with the ball also faltered with just an 82% success rate – his average this season, before the Hull defeat, was 87%. Barry also made an error for the Tigers’ second goal, stepping up too late and keeping Nikica Jelavic onside to score. Barry is an important part of this Everton side – but not in the centre of defence, it seems. Midfield trio makes this defeat graver than others In a way, this defeat was the most worrying for Everton. In other games, there have been plenty of excuses – personnel missing, misfortune and missed chances. In other games, there has been an insistence that returning to the team that beat QPR would bring a return of form. In that QPR win, their only one in December, the midfield trio of Barkley, Besic and Steven Naismith starred. It was well-balanced and complimented each other, bringing out the best of all three. But on Humberside, with all three well-rested having not started against Newcastle, the three didn’t gel. Ball retention was a dirty concept. Barkley, with 82.6% pass accuracy, was the best of the three with Besic and Naismith both below 78%. A midfield three shouldn’t give away the ball so much. They were not helped by the general set-up of the team, of course. This was not the traditional two behind the one, but a three that conflicted with Mirallas and Kone up front. The midfield that has given the Blues their only cheer in recent weeks was disbanded after half-an-hour. Martinez will hope this was a bad day at the office and QPR was not simply an uncharacteristically good one. Martinez must rediscover last season’s defensive steel
Another two goals conceded for the Blues means only QPR have shipped more goals than them in the league this season. This was the eighth time in 20 games they have managed that particular feat. Last season, they did that just 10 times in 38 games. Last season. Stability, solidity, defending. The Blues’ 2013/14 was characterised by their discipline at the back; with 15 clean sheets and the third-best defence in the Premier League, Everton didn’t lose many games simply because nobody loses when the opposition’s score reads ‘nil’. This year couldn’t be any more different, and Martinez must hope last season wasn’t simply an anomaly. During his time at Wigan, Martinez’s side conceded plenty; over his four seasons there, they averaged – in terms of goals conceded per game - 2.08, 1.61, 1.63 and 1.92. In his maiden season at Goodison Park, that went down to 1.03 - but now it’s back to 1.63 per game. The Blues boss simply must figure out how to make last year’s efforts the norm, rather than the exception. Approach play needs to improve
Aside from a brief glimpse at goal from Naismith and Barkley, the Blues offered very little up front. Mirallas, Naismith, Barkley, Kone and Lukaku all tried their hand in advanced positions, but ultimately didn’t offer enough. The Blues just aren’t creating enough clear-cut chances in the penalty area – and it’s a trend that spans a number of games. Against Southampton, Newcastle and now Hull, Everton have not managed a single shot inside the six-yard box. Against Hull, a staggering 66% of their efforts came from outside the area. In the four games over the festive period, just 11 shots have found the target, with two goals scored. Both came against Newcastle; both came with incisive passing, pace off the ball and good movement. That has been sadly lacking in all other games.

Roberto Martinez: We must accept criticism, it will make us stronger
Jan 01, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
I need to bring thenjoyment back, says Everton boss
Roberto Martinez admits Everton FC must take criticism of their recent form on the chin, and admits he is under pressure to inject some confidence into his side’s performances.
The Blues slid to a fourth successive Premier League loss as they went down 2-0 at Hull City. Everton are now 13th in the table, just four points above the relegation places, having won one of their last nine matches. The manner of this defeat, in particular, will have hurt Martinez.
He stated afterwards that his side had failed to respond once they fell behind to Ahmed Elmohamady’s 33rd-minute opener. Nikica Jelavic, against his former club, killed the game before half time, and left the travelling Blues disappointed once again. “We have to accept the criticism that will come from the outside,” Martinez told his post-match press conference.
“It will make us stronger, and more together as a football club.” Asked if he was concerned about his future at Goodison Park, he replied:”If I had time to think about all those things, I wouldn’t be able to do my job properly! “Now is the time to find solutions internally. I need to bring the enjoyment back to my players on the pitch, and that is the only concern that I have. I will do that with all my energy.” “The only positive was the way we started,” he added.
“What was disappointing is that conceding a very simple opening goal, a simple cross into the box, that affected us too much. It affected the confidence, and it became a difficult game after that.
“Whether it is lack of belief, lack of confidence, lack of luck, there is a real feeling that we are not getting the little breaks that we need, and that is costing us dearly. We are in a moment where everything that could go against us, is.”

Everton FC captain Phil Jagielka says players are 'massively behind' Roberto Martinez
Jan 1 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Jagielka insists Goodison dressing room is united despite worsening losing streak
Phil Jagielka insists Everton’s players are “massively behind” the methods of Roberto Martinez as he called on the Blues to stand up and be counted. The skipper scotched suggestions it is time for a heated dressing-room inquiry led by the Catalan, and believes Martinez’s success in his debut season is fuelling heightened scrutiny of the manager. A 2-0 New Year’s Day loss at Hull City became Everton’s fourth consecutive Premier League defeat, but Jagielka reckons the players must take responsibility for the ongoing slump. Everton are now 13th in the table and only four points off the drop-zone, a startling predicament for a club that finished fifth last term. Asked whether it had reached the point when Martinez was under pressure at Goodison, the defender said: “We’re massively behind him. I don’t think it’s come to that point. “You see pundits, newspapers or social media but things haven’t gone from hero to zero in the space of nine games. “At the end of the day we go out there to play and if we don’t pick up results, the manager will take a bit of the blame but the players have to go out there and perform. We’ve got a lot to answer for and the only way we can make it up to the fans is by winning games.” Jagielka does not feel a clear-the-air session is required between the first-team squad, and is adamant they remain a united front. “I don’t think that’s the style of the management team,” he said. “I think there are enough experienced lads in there, we’re not a bunch of kids. We’ve been in similar situations before. “The way we performed last season was so far removed from this that people have started to look upon it a little bit harder.
“We know we’re not where we want or need to be and it’s only us who can sort it out.”
The England international said he empathised with the disillusioned supporters who made the trip to the KC stadium on a cold New Year’s day. “It’s not a good place to be as an Evertonian when you’re not that confident in us keeping clean sheets and you wouldn’t be too confident in us scoring too many goals,” he said. “It’s not a good combination at the moment but we’ve got some good players and some good characters in this squad and we need to come to the fore.
“We need to start keeping some clean sheets and giving the strikers a chance to get the match-winning moments, rather than chase something down trying to nick a draw. We’ve all got our parts to play. “It’s not been the greatest new year’s day but there are still plenty of games to go.”
Everton were the only Premier League side to lose all their festive fixtures, but the 32-year-old refused to blame a congested schedule for the current malaise. He said: “It’s not the first time in the Premier League we’ve played so many games in such a short period of time. We enjoyed having three or four games in quick succession in the past to build momentum. “The way things have been going we’d have liked a little bit more time in between with injuries and things like that but that’s football these days. “As much as we keep saying we’ve been unlucky at times, that’s now four losses on the spin and it’s plainly not good enough.” Reflecting on another woeful defensive display, the captain added: “We lacked confidence going into it and then conceding twice, the second just before half time, sort of took the wind out of our sails. “We tried to change things around second half, possibly improved our performance, but got nothing out of it. There’s a lot of things to sort out but hopefully we can get a result in the FA Cup next week and that can give us a bit of confidence and in turn we can start getting some points in the league.”

Hull 2 Everton FC 0: Greg O'Keeffe's verdict as EFC offer no signs of hope on wretched New Year's Day
Jan 02, 2015 10:00
By Greg O’Keeffe
Roberto Martinez's Everton FC prove to be real festive flops with another defeat at Hull
For those seeking a hangover cure this was akin to spending New Year’s Day trapped in a lift with a shrieking baby. To those searching for signs of an Everton revival it was little better.
Another calamitous away day offered no balm for frazzled minds, and only left Evertonian heads spinning further. Whether it was the jeers of the jubilant Hull fans as Antolin Alcaraz was sent off, the boos from the travelling Blues at the final whistle, or the deafening clunk at the end which represented Everton hitting rock bottom, this was painful. Light-relief? You could watch some of Everton’s defending and try to keep a straight face. Only, it’s not a laughing matter – far from it. The Toffees have been clinging on by their finger tips, now they’ve let go and are plunging head first into crisis. The lofty aims of the 2014/15 campaign are being re-assessed quicker than new year resolutions to go for a daily run and swerve the pub. During Roberto Martinez’s first season Everton were easy on the eye. Now they’re just easy – easy to score against, easy to stifle tactically, easy to beat. The halcyon days of last term feel like a life-time ago. Gone is the footballing arrogance Martinez spoke of so often, replaced with a soft-centre and an inability to change.
Across the Premier League yesterday other sides were throwing away two nil leads with abandon.
Everton could only dream of such a luxury. At the KC stadium it was just like at Saint Mary’s and Saint James’ Park; little or no spark in the final third and wretched defending which proved costly for the umpteenth time. It’s a potent combination. The Toffees started with three at the back, a system Martinez favoured at Wigan, and for the second game running a new formation that took some figuring out from the stands. But like everything he tries at the moment, as the Catalan desperately attempts to get to the root of his team’s predicament – it didn’t work.
After appearing so leaden in his usual holding midfield role lately, Gareth Barry was redeployed on the left of the new-look back line. But instead of stiffening Everton’s defensive resolve, he just became a target for the live-wire Abel Hernandez who smelled blood from the off-set.
The pacy Uruguay international, up against a midfielder who has never been blessed with pace, was a crude mis-match. It put immediate pressure on a rearguard which is already perilously low on confidence, so when the seemingly inevitable happened and they conceded, it just compounded matters. Analysis: Defeat at Hull could turn out to be Roberto Martinez's lowest ebb
As usual it didn’t take any scintillating skill or thrilling passing combination to take the Blues apart.
Merely a cross to the back post from Liam Rosenior, which allowed Ahmed Elmohamady to brush past Leighton Baines and head home. Until then the much-maligned Joel Robles had performed competently enough, but keeping a clean sheet for the Blues is a task which would daunt Manuel Neuer at the moment. The response to that set-back was far from compelling. Against a Hull side which before kick off had conceded shots on goal at the rate of relegation candidates, home goalkeeper Allan McGregor had precious little to do. Then just before the half time whistle it got worse. The way Everton are going it seemed nailed on that Nikica Jelavic would score against his old club. But the Croatian could not have imagined they’d make it so easy for him.
Hernandez hooked a ball on and Barry tried to play off-side fatally without looking.
Jelavic raced onto the ball and despite a loose first touch managed to lob Robles.
After the break Martinez changed things. Baines was pushed into midfield again alongside Steven Naismith, with Ross Barkley ahead of them and Romelu Lukaku partnering Arouna Kone.
It was a bold move, but fortune hasn’t favoured the brave, or in fact anything Toffees related whatsoever lately. And as the half wore on the re-shuffled formation began to look like what it was; square pegs in round holes. A left-back and a number 10 in holding midfield, with a three-man defence which was getting frequently exposed as wing-backs Bryan Oviedo and Seamus Coleman pushed on. The idea of turning Baines into a Philipp Lahm-style midfielder is actually plausible; he can pick a pass and actually brings something to the engine room with his pressing and energy.
But such changes work best in a winning side when things are going well.
That’s a distant memory for the Blues. They continued, disjointed and lacklustre. There were flickers of fight in the players as they tried to mount a come-back, but not enough.
Barry should have had a second yellow but escaped, and eventually Alcaraz did get his marching orders for a second bookable offence. Not for the first time a lack of width was glaring, and despite the efforts of Barkley and Baines chances were in short supply. At one point Kone drifted aimlessly across the 18-yard box searching in vain for a pass. In the end he gave up and meekly back-heeled it to Baines, who promptly ran into a huddle of Hull players. The move, like Everton’s confidence, was powder-puff and evaporated in an instant. Thus the Toffees became the only Premier League club to lose all their festive fixtures. It’s proving to be a fully-fledged winter of discontent for the blundering Blues. They need to find the right response and fast, or by the time the Spring sun comes out again it may have already set on this season’s dreams.

Everton FC and the four letter word: Work!
January 2 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Blues must learn to mix the rough with the smooth - and fast - for everyone's sake
The parallels are uncannily similar. It is to be hoped that the outcome is not. Otherwise Roberto Martinez is three months from the end of his Everton tenure. In the winter of 1996 an FA Cup winning manager who had steered Everton to a sixth placed finish the previous season saw his side talked of as “dark horses for the title.” Sky TV’s Richard Keys asked that question after Joe Royle’s upwardly mobile outfit won 1-0 at Derby in mid-December. And no-one laughed.
The very next game the Blues were held 0-0 at home by Leeds, in a match which saw key man Andy Hinchcliffe tear his cruciate. The similarly influential Joe Parkinson limped out five days later at Middlesbrough, Everton lost six league games in a row – and Royle lost his job in March.
The FA Cup brought temporary respite, a third-round victory over Swindon followed up by a horror show at home to Bradford, as negative momentum accelerated like a rock falling off a cliff.
This season’s fall has been just as dramatic. Everton finished fifth last season, have suffered injuries to key personnel since – and have just lost four in a row. But that is merely the latest act in a longer term malaise. Everton have lost six out of eight in the Premier League, they have been held at home by Hull City and lost a Europa League dead rubber to Krasnodar. The only ray of sunshine in a dark, dark December was a home win against Queens Park Rangers, which ended with the home fans booing their skipper. It’s a stunning turnaround from the record breaking 72-point haul of May, achieved by a return to the club’s cherished School of Science principles. And maybe that’s where part of the problem lies. Everton are playing too much football . They are starting to believe their own publicity. According to the excellent analytical Everton website The Executioner’s Bong, Everton have made the second fewest tackles in the Premier League this season, they have made the second fewest interceptions and they have made the fourth fewest blocks.
But perhaps most tellingly of all, they press less than any side in the Premier League.
In summary, they are easy to play against. Look back at clips of the most successful side in Everton’s history. Trevor Steven, Paul Bracewell, Kevin Sheedy, Adrian Heath and Peter Reid shuttled the ball around as attractively as any Everton side in history. But they were also in your face relentlessly. They never gave you a second’s peace in any area of the pitch. They were horrible to play against.
Mike Walker is widely, and correctly, described as the worst Everton manager of modern times.
He had a romantic image of silky ball-players like Vinny Samways and Anders Limpar sliding through sparkling passes for international stars like Daniel Amokachi and Muller to race onto.
Except his side never had the ball long enough to make that dream come true, and when they weren’t in possession they weren’t set up to win it back quickly enough.
No-one feared a trip to Mike Walker’s Goodison. When Joe Royle took over he immediately unleashed his Dogs of War. They played football, too, more than they were ever given credit for. Just ask Spurs in a one-sided Elland Road semi-final. But they were never soft touches.
Roberto needs rottweilers now as much as he needs pedigree performers.
It’s unfortunate that his snappiest terrier, the outstanding James McCarthy, has been hindered by injury for much of this season. But it has to be a collective state of mind.
This current Everton side is easy on the eye in possession, but they’re not pressing hard enough to get it back. They’re defending dreadfully, they’re making it easy to defend against – and even Hull City, a side with even more negative momentum than Everton prior to new Year’s Day, fancy their chances. Steve Bruce’s side had won one match in 12 prior to January 1 and had scored one in five at home since early October. Against Everton they scored two, were denied a stonewall penalty and caused numerous scares in the Everton six yard box. They were allowed to play football.
Everton’s players still believe in their boss. “We’re massively behind him,” said skipper Phil Jagielka. “Things haven’t gone from hero to zero in the space of nine games.” Jagielka is an honest pro and we have no reason to doubt him, so something else must be wrong. Even when Everton have won matches this season they haven’t been as resolute, as rigid and as relentless as they were last term.
Nine games ago Everton were back to back victors against Wolfsburg and West Ham. Yet even those victories carried the whiff of good fortune. Everton’s opening goal against the Hammers was clearly offside, while in Wolfsburg the Germans suffered a similar experience. Everton rode their luck on those occasions, but their luck has subsequently run out. Now they simply have to start making their own good fortune. It was Gary Player who quipped “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Everton have to work their way through this worrying slide. In-form West Ham and champions Manchester City are not fixtures a team low on confidence would choose to face next.
Then again, neither are games against sides likely to have the spring-in-their-step benefit of new managers – Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion. And after that quartet of fixtures it’s the Goodison derby and then a trip to Chelsea. Make no mistake, Everton could be embroiled in a relegation fight come mid-February unless results improve quickly. That’s how it ended back in ‘96.
It’s up to Everton’s players to ensure there’s no repeat. By working their way back up the Premier League table.

Everton FC's Matthew Pennington says it makes 'perfect sense' to extend loan at Coventry City
Jan 2 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
20-year-old was on loan to the League One outfit until January 4 but the Blues have allowed him to stay at the Ricoh Arena
Everton FC youngster Matthew Pennington said it made “perfect sense” to extend his stay at Coventry City. The 20-year-old was on loan to the League One outfit until January 4 but the Blues have allowed him to stay at the Ricoh Arena until February 7. “It made perfect sense to me to extend my stay here, I’ve been playing consistent games at a big club so it only made sense to keep playing games and hopefully keep improving,” said Pennington. “I get a say in the final decision ultimately as well, but it goes down to the two clubs, what they want to do but it comes to me and I can make a decision. “Playing first-team football is how I’m going to get better and keep improving so it was vital to stay here to keep improving and learning. “I think we’re playing well at the moment but we’re not quite getting results, we should have beaten Chesterfield but I think in a few games if we continue in the same vein the results will come.” Pennington, from Warrington, has made six appearances for City and could play a further five times after extending his stay.
And the young Blue says he will give his all for the club. “I completely disagree with the fact that a loan player wouldn’t want to give their all,” Pennington added. “A loan player is there to help the team, improve himself and show everyone what they’re about. I’ve got every reason to throw my head in and get my foot in for a tackle so I’m really committed to the team here.
“I’m 100% committed, maybe there are exceptions for loan players I’m not sure, but I’m more than happy to give my all, that should be the standard. “It’s a big stage for me to perform at, it’s a great opportunity. “We’re all together, it doesn’t matter if you’re a loan player, academy player or senior player there are no divides everyone works well together.”

Former Everton FC captain Kevin Ratcliffe says Blues need a settled defence
Jan 02, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Everton have shipped 35 goals this season - just four less than in the whole of the previous campaign
Everton FC must find a settled back four quickly or face more defensive misery, says former captain Kevin Ratcliffe.
But the title-winning skipper says Blues boss Roberto Martinez must target a new centre-half signing this month to help shore up the Premier League’s joint second worst back four.
Everton have shipped 35 goals this season just four less than in the whole of the previous campaign when they challenged for a top four finish. But a torrid run of form, which has seen them concede nine goals in the last four games, has Martinez’s side just four points outside of the relegation zone.
Ratcliffe understands that the Everton manager has been hampered by injuries to his centre-halves this season but insists a regular pairing in the heart of the defence is essential if they are going to arrest their alarming slump. “The problem is that the defence is never the same,” said Ratcliffe.
“There inconsistency with the selection and though sometimes that is down to who is available, there is no continuity. “You are trying to get an understanding between your centre-halves but Everton are playing a different partnership every week. “The lads don’t get to know each other’s game and although you can do so much in training, it is never the same.” Ratcliffe says the profile of Everton’s defence is wrong with players at either end of their careers.
“There was always going to be a problem when you look at the ages of the defenders in the squad,” added the European Cup Winners’ Cup-winning captain.
“How many games are you going to get out of them?
“This issue hasn’t just come about, you could see it last season and you had to question whether Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin would be able to play together for 90% of the season.
“The teams in the Premier League who have good defences have a regular centre-back pairing right through the season. “The reason why Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool have had problems is because they’ve not had a settled back four. “Antolin Alcaraz, Distin and Jagielka are not getting any younger and how many games are you going to get out of them? “Everton need a defender with experience but one who is younger than those lads.” Critics of Martinez use the Catalan’s poor defensive record at Wigan Athletic – where they shipped 275 league goals in his four seasons in charge – as a stick to beat him with. The Catalan oversaw Everton being the third meanest defence in the Premier League last season and in his two full seasons at Swansea City his side an average of 0.91 and 1.09 goals per game. Ratcliffe says he now needs to prove he can organise a back four once again. “Martinez conceded loads of goals when at Wigan and it is something he has got to improve on,” he added. “He has better players here at Everton but one of the other problems this season is they aren’t scoring as many goals, especially in this run they are on.
“Scoring goals takes the pressure off the defence. “We are not taking games to the opposition like we did last year, we are looking a little laboured on the ball and that type of football is easy to defend against. “Teams just get bodies behind the ball and it great having all the possession but we are not turning teams and hurting them. “It is a lot easier to defend when you are in a run of winning games.” Ratcliffe added: “They need to buy a centre-half in January but what is out there?
“And you have to be very, very choosey because it has to be better than what they’ve already got.
“Everton are pinning their hopes of John Stones but how many lads at the age of 20 are playing Premier League football at centre-half? “You don’t get that. He is still learning the game and he has got to improve as a defender. “We all know what he can do on the ball and he is a good prospect but as a defender he can improve.”

Barry Horne: Roberto Martinez hasn't lost the Everton dressing room
Jan 3 2014 Liverpool Echo
Former Blues midfielder is confident the manager still has the faith of his players but admits he has many big problems to solve
“Losing the dressing room” is a phrase bandied about quite freely these days and is usually used in relation to a manager whose team is struggling. I believe it is a misleading statement and what it basically means is the players on the pitch don’t know exactly what their roles are.
That is how it seems at Everton at the moment. However, I am confident there is absolutely no way that manager Roberto Martinez has “lost the dressing room”, like some are claiming.
I am sure the players retain their faith in Martinez and his coaching staff.
In the 2-0 New Year’s Day defeat at Hull, it appeared at times that some Blues players were not comfortable in their designated positions and mistakes came about through this.
Players did not look fully proficient in what they did, but I am sure Martinez will address this ahead of an FA Cup tie which now takes on added importance against West Ham next Tuesday.
Regular readers of this column will know I do my best at all times to be positive about Everton.
I’ve got realistic expectations based on where we are at in the general scheme of things.
I’ve been relatively satisfied by the fact that in most seasons the club has been involved in the race for Europe. I do feel Everton have had too many disappointments in cup competitions, either going out too early – and badly – and failing when we’ve reached the latter stages.
However, in the last few weeks there has been an elephant in the room.
The result on New Year’s Day highlighted more than ever that Everton’s form is becoming an issue.
In every report I’ve read on the Hull game, the media has mentioned that Martinez’s men have lost four on the bounce, but the problem goes further back with just one league win achieved in the last eight games. Four points from a possible 24 cannot be explained alone by citing bad luck or poor refereeing decisions. This is a bad run of form. Even the solitary victory in these eight games – a 3-1 home win over QPR – was achieved on something of a strange night.
I was at Goodison Park on a night that left me, and I am sure many other Everton fans, feeling unfulfilled. QPR were downright poor, but Everton were lethargic, predictable and, I have to say, dull. If Ross Barkley’s wonder goal hadn’t come when it did and lifted the gloom, I got the impression the fans were about to turn. There was an anxious feel inside the stadium and although we could be satisfied with the three points the same could not be said of the performance.
At the time I likened it to having a Chinese meal in reverse – you enjoy it while you eat it, but then 10 minutes later you can regret it. Watching Everton that night was quite difficult – like eating that Chinese meal but in reverse. So what’s happening with the Blues? Roberto Martinez does not make excuses. He doesn’t complain about decisions or blame injuries or suspensions.
I’m sure there have been some poor decisions in this barren run and key players have most definitely been missed – (James) McCarthy for one. However, those factors alone cannot explain a return of just four points out of 24. A team performance results from a combination of many things – selection and tactics, confidence and a bit of luck. It’s a manager’s job to weave all these and other aspects together for a team to produce a coherent display. It’s as much art as it is science.
Against QPR and Hull (home), the Everton team was sent out to play in a certain way, but those two poor performances were a possible turning point for the fans. One could sense that the frustration of the supporters affected the players. When results aren’t going very well, managers will often revert to the tried and tested, pick the players that they trust and keep things simple.
The Everton team that played at Hull looked a little bit like it was designed by committee. As opposed to tried and tested, it appeared to be experimental. There is no doubt that Roberto Martinez is a manager facing problems, but I have faith that he can turn things around.

Justin Bieber pictured wearing Everton FC kit in football tournament
Jan 03, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Bieber snapped in Everton's 2014/15 season white and purple third strip on island in Turks and Caicos
Justin Bieber may just have become Everton FC's newest fan.
The global mega-star was pictured wearing the Toffees third strip while he played in a football tournament on an island in Turks and Caicos on Friday. Bieber, 20, who has been named as one of the top 10 most powerful celebrities in the world and has more than 58 million Twitter followers, is believed to have been staying on the island which is owned by Everton director Robert Earl.
Planet Hollywood founder Earl is an influential figure in stateside show business, and staged the tournament on his private Parrot Cay resort island, where Bieber and pals wore Everton's 2014/15 season white and purple third kit. As photographs of the Goodison outfit's remarkable new supporter emerged on Twitter, they quickly went viral with Evertonians posting a series of photshopped pictures incorporating their unlikely fan. But while Bluenoses saw the funny side, Roberto Martinez may not be too impressed. US sports-fans were quick to warn their Scouse counterparts that whenever Bieber supports an American team, their fortunes swiftly plummet.

Royal Blue: Gareth Barry's struggles echoing Everton decline
Jan 03, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Once the lynchpin in midfield veteran does not answer to current plight
He has been Everton FC’s lynchpin.
He has been the Blues heartbeat, metronome and what has made them tick.
And it was only a couple of months ago that his manager said that no other Premier League player in his position was as good. But now Gareth Barry is becoming a nagging problem.
An issue for the Everton fans who have watched his influence wane at a rate of knots and now one for his manager who continues to keep faith with him despite evidence telling him to do otherwise.
But as Roberto Martinez looks to find a way of stopping the rot of just one win in the last eight league matches he may, reluctantly, have to seriously consider taking Barry out of the side.
Perhaps for Barry’s own good. But more importantly, for the good of Everton.
It won’t be the only big decision Martinez has to make ahead of Tuesday’s FA Cup tie with West Ham but it may be the toughest. But last month’s win over QPR, in which Barry was suspended, has shown the manager that even with James McCarthy sidelined he has options in midfield by partnering Ross Barkley and Muhamed Besic. Suggesting that Barry should be dropped would have provoked searing outrage last season but now it is something that will no doubt find support from the stands. The crisis of confidence and form that has engulfed Everton in recent weeks has hit Barry as hard as anyone. Defeat at Hull City on New Year’s Day not only saw the Blues season plunge to a sorry new low but also did something similar for Barry who looks shattered and a shell of the man who had such a telling impact at Goodison Park last season. If the fortunes of one player summed up the alarming rate of decline at Everton, then it is his. Barry has not looked the same since returning from ankle ligament damage at the end of November and it does not take a leap of imagination to believe the two are linked. Perhaps still feeling the effects of the injury and, with a mounting casualty list, Barry has not been afforded the chance to be eased back into action and has looked like a man running on empty. Martinez insists he was not rushed back into the side for the trip to Spurs as a matter of urgency despite an injury to McCarthy, but the manager admits returning players always need time to settle back in. And it has been in that very period the troubled Blues required every ounce of his know-how and experience. Unfortunately he has not been able to offer it as he would have liked. Last season he became the focal point of Everton’s top four challenge and the reason why Martinez pursued his permanent signing with such vigour in the summer.
But his struggles this season have prompted supporters to ask why he chased so hard.
It is hard to entertain the idea that Barry is ‘finished’, so soon after a fine season.
But with Everton crying out for energy, bite and dogged work-rate at this moment in time the tired looking 33-year-old does not look the answer to their problems.
FA Cup tickets still available Tickets for Everton’s crunch FA Cup tie with West Ham United are still available. And season ticket holders are able to secure their seat at a discounted price.
Tickets for season ticket holders are priced at £20 for adults, £10 for over-65s and under-21s and £5 for under-16s. Season Ticket holders have until 6pm on Monday, January 5 to claim their discount and after this time, all tickets will be sold at the general sale price.
General sale tickets are priced at £25 for adults, £12.50 for over-65s and under-21s, and a fiver for all under-16s. You can buy from the Goodison Park box office, online at or call 0871 663 1878. Tickets can also be purchased from the city centre ticket outlets in Everton Two, Liverpool One, or TicketQuarter, located in Queen Square.
Atsu's African Nations call On-loan winger Christian Atsu has been called up for the African Cup of Nations. The 22-year-old, who returned to the Everton squad on New Year’s Day following a hamstring problem, will represent Ghana later this month at the tournament in Equatorial Guinea.
Atsu was injured during Everton’s UEFA Europa League dead-rubber on December 11 against Krasnodar. The African Cup of Nations takes place between January 17-February 8.

A light at the end of Everton's dark tunnel
Jan 03, 2015Liverpool Echo
By Chris Beesley
The last time Everton lost four Premier League games in a row they embarked on a nine-game unbeaten run
As the old saying goes: “The darkest hour is just before the dawn”.
Roberto Martinez will certainly hope so because in footballing terms it was pitch black for Everton at Hull City. Comprehensively beaten by a team who started the day just outside the relegation zone on goal difference who had won only one of their previous 12 matches themselves felt like a nadir.
Given the quality the Blues possess in their squad with all the main players who achieved last season’s club record Premier League points haul of 72 remaining, Evertonians will hope so too.
But of late those same players have failed to reach anywhere near the heights of last term.
Sometimes the fixture computer can hand you a tough run of games against the Premier League powerhouses in a short space of time but the four teams that have beaten the Blues on their current losing streak; Southampton, Newcastle, Stoke and Hull would not fall into that category.
Last season, Everton won three of those corresponding fixtures. 3-0 at Newcastle, 2-0 at Hull and 4-0 at home to Stoke. Nine times already in the current campaign the Blues have recorded a worse result than they did in the same match-up in 2013/14 and at this time last year they were 17 points better off. If Martinez’s men were to have a second half of the season akin to the first then they’re on course to pick up just 40 points. For all the pain and suffering over one of the least festive Christmas periods at Goodison Park there remains a shaft of light at the end of the tunnel.
The last time Everton lost four Premier League games in a row was in 2005/06 and it came at a very similar stage of the season. Similarly to this season, the Blues had returned to Europe after a prolonged absence – a full decade as opposed to the five-year gap ahead of the current campaign – but unlike in 2014/15 with Europa League progress assured in style with a game to go in the group stages some chastening early season setbacks in continental competition had seriously derailed their progress. Pierluigi Collina’s baffling decision to rule out a perfectly good Duncan Ferguson goal in Villarreal that would have taken Everton’s Champions League qualifier into extra time was followed up by a 5-1 thrashing in Romania against Dinamo Bucharest. The European heartbreak hit David Moyes’ side hard as they started the season losing 10 of their opening 12 matches. A home win in the Premier League was not achieved until November 6 – 1-0 against Middlesbrough – part of a sequence when the Blues won four out of five games although the 4-0 reversal at West Bromwich Albion that punctuated this run was a forbearer of more tough times ahead. Immediately before Everton slumped to their bleak midwinter there had been an encouraging 1-1 draw at Manchester United, a game they had taken an early lead in through James McFadden’s seventh-minute effort.
What was to come the following fortnight though ensured it was a thoroughly Blue Christmas at Goodison Park. First up was the visit of West Ham which is often a home banker for Everton.
Things appeared to be going to form when James Beattie pounced nine minutes in but a David Weir own goal (19) and Bobby Zamora tap-in (67) and Hammers boss Alan Pardew was typically humble in victory declaring: “With no disrespect to Everton, we’ve come to Goodison Park and given them a footballing lesson.” If Evertonians thought that was bad, three days later Bolton Wanderers came to town and emerged with a 4-0 victory with three goals in five minutes near the end.
Moyes said: “We had a mad 10 or 15 minutes. I will take responsibility because I work and coach the players, but it is very difficult to take responsibility for those goals.” Unfortunately there was a repeat performance heading Everton’s way on Boxing Day as they lost 4-0 again, this time at Aston Villa, with Per Kroldrup making his only Premier League appearance in a royal blue jersey.
Moyes pinned that defeat on a handball by Milan Baros in the lead up to him lobbing Nigel Martyn for the opening goal, declaring: “It was a terrible decision that turned the game. There’s no excuse for it to be given – he [referee Mike Riley] looked straight at it.” While the fourth defeat was not as emphatic as the previous two it was undoubtedly the most painful for the Goodison faithful as on December 28 Liverpool crossed Stanley Park to secure a 3-1 derby triumph.
Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard put the visitors 2-0 up within 18 minutes and although Beattie pulled one back on 42 minutes, Djibril Cisse sealed the away victory two minutes after the restart with the Blues finishing the match with nine men after Phil Neville and Mikel Arteta were both dismissed for two bookable offences. While it was a fourth straight defeat for the Blues it was a ninth consecutive Premier League victory on the trot for the Reds and Moyes said: “It’s a big job and we are not doing so well, but I can’t keep whipping the players. I will be there on the touchline shouting them on. We will keep doing the things we think are right.”
And so it was to Sunderland on New Year’s Eve.
The Blues went into the game in 17th position with just 17 points from their first half of the Premier League season but the hosts – without a home win in 20 matches – were in an even more dire situation, rooted rock bottom of the table with just six points. Everton had to be grateful for Martyn’s heroics between the sticks in the second half and after riding their luck for long periods, they snatched victory in stoppage time as talisman Tim Cahill swooped to head in a Kevin Kilbane corner-kick. Moyes men had stopped the rot and would now embark on a nine-game unbeaten run, finishing 11th in the final table. If a team of more limited talents can achieve that then, Martinez’s stars should be well capable of producing a flourish in the weeks ahead.

'Romelu Lukaku should focus on scoring' - ex-Everton striker Tony Cottee
Jan 03, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Chris Beesley
Cottee thinks Lukaku looks like he's trying to hard to impress at times
Romelu Lukaku should just focus on his goal tally according to former Everton striker Tony Cottee.
The Belgian striker remains the Blues top scorer with seven goals so far this season but hasn’t netted for a month and has been left on the bench for the last two games against Newcastle United and Hull City. Everton host West Ham in the FA Cup third round on Tuesday night and Lukaku, who has netted in their last three games against the Hammers including the winner on his club debut last season, should only be concerned with scoring according to Cottee. Like £28million Lukaku the Londoner was the Blues record signing and he hit double figures in all six of his full seasons at Goodison, finishing top scorer on five occasions. Cottee said: “The big price tag puts pressure on you and everyone expects big things from you but you also put pressure on yourself.
“Having watched Rom a few times this season it’s almost like he’s trying too hard at times to impress. “Maybe he’s trying to help out the team but the bottom line is that as a striker you’re judged on your goals and I’d like to see him playing straight down the middle more often.”

Tony Cottee: Everton have to defend if they are to make it through the FA Cup
Jan 03, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Chris Beesley
Lack of defensive stability is the key to Blues woes warns the former Everton striker
Tony Cottee has got plenty of magical memories in the FA Cup but ultimately football’s oldest competition was cruel to him. Two of the Londoner’s 99 goals for Everton came in the famous 4-4 draw with Liverpool in a fifth-round replay in 1991 after coming on as a late substitute.
The game proved to be the last of Kenny Dalglish’s first spell as Reds manager as he quit before the Blues won the second replay 1-0. But after booking a quarter-final spot against Cottee’s former club West Ham United, Howard Kendall’s side were beaten 2-1 by the Second Division outfit.
Cottee did reach Wembley that season in the Zenith Data Systems Cup, having netted in every round of the competition en route to the Twin Towers – eight goals in all including four in one match against Sunderland – but the Blues suffered a painful 4-1 defeat after extra time to Crystal Palace in the final. It was the third of a hat-trick of Wembley heartbreaks Cottee suffered at Everton having lost in the final of the same competition when it was the Simod Cup and the FA Cup final both in 1989. Despite spending over six years at Goodison Park between 1988-1994, Cottee didn’t win any silverware with the Blues and returned to the Hammers early in 1994/95 – the season Everton last won the FA Cup – their most recent major honour to date. Cottee’s Wembley woes continued as he lost the 1999 League Cup final with Leicester to Tottenham before he finally tasted success in the final of the same competition in 2000, defeating Tranmere 2-1 with the Foxes in the year the old stadium was demolished. Cottee will be back at Goodison on Tuesday night to watch two of his former clubs lock horns and as someone who preyed on defensive frailties, he believes that continued problems at the back have been Everton’s downfall so far this season.
The all-Premier League third-round FA Cup clash has taken on even more significance for the hosts with Roberto Martinez’s men going into the match on the back of four consecutive defeats.
Cottee said: “Defensively there have been problems all season long.
“I think John Stones being injured for long periods has been a big blow.
“Sylvain Distin and Antolin Alcaraz have both been in and out so it’s all been a bit disjointed.
“Having an unsettled back four is always problematic and it’s also probably attributed to Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines not having the kind of influential seasons like they had last year.
“We all know that the best part of their games is going forward but when the team are finding themselves exposed at the back, they’re getting caught and teams are choosing to double up on them. “Losing Tim Howard to injury on Boxing Day was also a massive setback. You don’t really want to be going into a period like this without your number one goalkeeper.”
Tuesday’s tie offers the Blues a distraction from a faltering Premier League campaign that over halfway through the season currently sees them just four points above the relegation zone after their dramatic decline in fortunes over the festive period. Martinez’s experiment of trying a three-man defence system at Hull City on New Year’s Day went horribly wrong with auxiliary centre-back Gareth Barry cruelly exposed for pace and Cottee admits the ongoing rearguard problems remain a major headache for the Catalan. He said: “There’s no getting away from it, results have been disappointing so far this season. “As a manager, when you’re struggling you often try altering stuff and trying different systems. The three at the back was something Roberto used at Wigan but I’m not sure how well-suited it is for Everton. “They’re conceding too many goals and that side of the game is a problem that they need to solve. “Unfortunately it might just be that this ends up being a season where it just doesn’t happen for Everton in the league so that makes the cups even more important.” Cottee added: “The big plus point this season has been how well Everton have done in the Europa League and with qualifying early it gave them a chance to use the youngsters, which is great for the future. “The FA Cup has always been special for the club and I expect both Everton and West Ham to take the game seriously and name strong teams. “While Everton have had a few defensive problems, ultimately they’ve got enough good players up front – they’ll be fine.”
One such frontman is Romelu Lukaku who made his switch to the Blues a permanent one in the summer for £28million from Chelsea. As a former club record signing himself, Cottee knows just what kind of scrutiny the big Belgian is under to perform. He said: “The big price tag puts pressure on you and everyone expects big things from you but you also put pressure on yourself.
“Having watched Rom a few times this season it’s almost like he’s trying too hard at times to impress. “Maybe he’s trying to help out the team but the bottom line is that as a striker you’re judged on your goals and I’d like to see him playing straight down the middle more often.”

Lee Carsley: Everton need a change in substance not style
Jan 04, 2015 Liverpool Echo
by LeeCarsley
From tough tackling to tough talking - Lee tells it straight
Everton's current run of defeats has been the biggest test of Roberto Martinez’s football philosophy, but while things aren’t going great I’d hate to see the manager change his style.
His teams are exciting to watch but I feel we’ve become too easy to play against.
It seems that a lot of the team’s work on the training pitch is based around what they do on the ball whereas it’s what the team do when they’re not in possession that needs to improve.
We have to become hard to play against again and I don’t think teams are intimidated against us now. They let us have all the possession and then try and counter-attack us.
Confidence can play a massive part in these situations but going back to the old manager David Moyes, he would fill the team with the solid guaranteed six-or-seven-out-of-10 lads he could depend upon to grind out results in a sticky patch. We’ve got to become a team that outworks the opposition again, winning the key personal battles. You’ve got to start with the ugly things. The 50-50 headers and those second balls on the edge of the box. We’ve still got that quality on the ball but we’re conceding too many soft goals. It’s time for the players to stand up and be counted.
Some of the lads are going to have to be taken out of the side while others will have to grin and bear it. It’s not like we’ve become a bad team overnight and I still believe qualifying for a European place remains a realistic target. I’ve said it several times before but this is probably the strongest squad we’ve had in a generation and a lot of our players would walk into most other Premier League teams out there. We shouldn’t be hitting panic stations or player bashing and what I like about Evertonians is that on the whole we do back our managers and players and get behind them rather than being fickle. Martinez has got a lot in the bank from the way we performed last season and now is the time for getting behind him and the team. It’s not even like we should be saying that we need a Plan B because that’s lazy. Plan A actually works. It’s been proven to on many occasions and as much as it hurts at the moment we don’t want to go ripping things up and starting again.
Three proves a crowd at the back for Everton
When you’re a manager and your team is struggling it can often be tempting to try and turn things around by tinkering with formations. Doing stuff like that can be quite ‘sink or swim.’
If it comes off then you’re regarded as a tactical genius but if it doesn’t then it can look like the players have never used that system before. Unfortunately it was the latter for Everton at the KC Stadium as Martinez opted to go with his three centre-backs formation with Gareth Barry joining Phil Jagielka and Antolin Alcaraz in defence. It was a system that Martinez used at Wigan – I can’t say with great success because ultimately they got relegated in his last year – but his players were comfortable with it and it looked alright.
We’ve struggled to get a regular centre-back pairing so far this season and we need to be more solid in the full-back areas as we’re conceding far too many goals from crosses.
It seems clear that we’ve missed the injured James McCarthy in midfield because of the way he imposes his game on the opposition and protects the defence.
Cup can be a distraction at these times
Believe it or not, I had the odd bad game myself sometimes.
I think there was one when I was about 15 years old.
But when I was in a similar position to the one Everton’s current players find themselves, I’d always want my next game to be in the league. The cups can be a distraction from the main task at hand and if you put in a good performance in the cup you were left thinking ‘if only that had been three points, it would all be looking a bit rosier now.’ Given all that, I wouldn’t say that the timing of the FA Cup third round tie with West Ham United is ideal. What the game does do is present the players with an opportunity to try and find a bit of form after their recent woes.
It’s another chance to try and get a clean sheet and for Joel Robles to try and build up his confidence, because we’re going to need him for the next few weeks while Tim Howard is injured.
It’s not just the goalkeeper who would benefit from a shut out though, it’s something that the whole team should be working towards as a unit.
New Year is time to pull together
It’s fair to say that it has been far from the best festive period on the pitch for Everton players and Evertonians watching in the stand, but I’d like to wish all Sunday Echo readers a Happy New Year.
2014 didn’t end well for us but it was still a year of great progress for the Blues and despite our recent struggles there’s no reason why 2015 can’t be a good one at Goodison either. Let’s pull together and help the team out of their sticky patch. It’s tough to take but that’s always been the Everton way.

Everton FC transfer gossip: Blues enter race for Xherdan Shaqiri; David Moyes to raid former club; Besiktas midfielder on radar
Jan 04, 2015 Liverpool Echo
A round-up of transfer news from around the web
Everton FC have reportedly entered the race to sign Xherdan Shaqiri, who is rumoured to be available for around £11m in January.
The Bayern Munich midfielder has been linked with moves to Inter Milan and Everton's rivals Liverpool in recent weeks, but today leading Italian journalist Tancredi Palmer tweeted to say that the Blues were also in the race to sign the Swiss star.
Shaqiri is currently out of favour at the German giants, but he is very highly-rated and starred for Switzerland at last summer's World Cup in Brazil. The 23-year-old, who can play on either wing, has scored 23 goals in 130 appearances for Bayern Munich since moving to the club in 2012.
Would Xherdan Shaqiri be a dream signing for Everton?
Bottom of Form
Ex-Everton boss David Moyes has been tipped to return to his former club to attempt to sign Arouna Kone, according to reports today. Moyes is now manager of Real Sociedad in Spain and is reportedly looking to approach the Toffees with a proposal to sign the Ivory Coast forward on a loan deal.
Kone played in Spain for Sevilla and Levante, before moving to Wigan Athletic in 2012. Kone scored 17 goals in his single season for Levante, but failed to make an impact at Sevilla.
The 31-year-old has scored just one goal for the Blues since joining on a free transfer 18 months ago, but has started the last two games for Roberto Martinez's men. The Blues have offered Besiktas midfielder Veli Kavlak a contract, according to reports today. The Austrian midfielder is stalling on a new deal at the Turkish giants and Everton are said to have swooped in to take advantage.
The tough-tackling midfielder has played over 100 games for Besiktas since a £600,000 move from Rapid Vienna in 2011. He's scored seven goals for the club and has also been linked with a move to Lazio.

Roberto Martinez: FA Cup third round win at Goodison can help us stop the rot
Jan 04, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Everton FC boss hopes cup competition can become platform for better second half of season
The FA Cup third round was strangely muted over the weekend.
No upsets of note, not even a live game on the traditional Saturday afternoon - it was more cause for concern that the famous competition’s prestige is further undermined each passing season.
But for Roberto Martinez the cup is perhaps more important than ever.
As his crisis-hit Blues spent the weekend stewing over their latest defeat on New Year’s Day, the Catalan was plotting how to put things right. And the Toffees boss is desperately hoping the FA Cup can provide his side with a strong platform going into the second half of the season.
Everton face West Ham United in the third round on Tuesday night, and Martinez has welcomed the chance to get the cup campaign underway at Goodison Park. “I think the FA Cup comes at a good time for us,” he explained. “We are playing at home against a very good West Ham side. They will come with a really good, open approach and I think it’ll be a fantastic game of football.
“Playing in a different competition can sometimes lift the pressure and, from our point of view, it can be the start of something that can give us a really good platform for the second half of the season. “We all know the FA Cup is the best cup competition in world football in terms of a domestic tournament, so we’re really looking forward to it.” And, after a New Year’s Day defeat to Hull City at the KC Stadium which became Everton’s fourth straight loss, Martinez believes the extra time to prepare will benefit his men. “We’ll be ready for the game,” he insisted. “I do feel as though it is a game where we have to perform well and one we have to win. “Having a couple of days extra will help us. I think it is important we use the time to make sure we get back to our standards.
“We want to react, as a football club, in the manner that we do at Everton. We will accept the criticism and comments that come from outside because they’ll make us stronger and ready for the rest of the campaign.” Martinez has already made history twice in the cup, and ever the optimist, will hope to make it three by achieving something special with Everton during his second campaign in charge. “In 1995 I became the first Spanish player to score in the FA Cup and that’s something I’ll make sure I remind my grandchildren,” he said. “And then it gets really good; to be able to win the trophy at Wembley is always a very special moment.” *Tickets for Tuesday's game are still available and Season Ticket holders are able to secure their seat at a discounted price.
Tickets for Season Ticket holders are priced at £20 for adults, £10 for over-65s and under-21s and a fiver for under-16s. Season Ticket holders have until 6pm on Monday January 5 to claim their discount and after this time, all tickets will be sold at the general sale price. General sale tickets cost £25 for adults, £12.50 for over-65s and under-21s, and a fiver for all under-16s.

Steven Naismith hopes Everton FC's recent win over West Ham could give them FA Cup edge
Jan 05, 2015 Liverpool Echo
Everton FC attacker insists Blues know what to expect in third round of cup
Steven Naismith believes Everton FC’s recent win over West Ham could give them an edge as they look to repeat the feat tomorrow in the FA Cup.
The Blues have only triumphed in three Goodison fixtures this season, the last coming via a 2-1 league victory over an injury-hit Hammers on November 22. But Naismith, 28, hopes the fresh memory of how Sam Allardyce’s men operate, might help the under-fire Toffees get back to winning ways in the third round of the cup tomorrow night. He said: “You have to beat everybody to win the competition – that’s the way we look at it. “It’s a home draw and we had a tough game against West Ham not so long ago. It’s fresh in our memories and we know what we will need to do to get a win again, this time in the cup. “They have signed very well and Stewart Downing changing his position slightly has given them a boost too. They are a quality team and deserve to be where they are in the league because they have played some very good football.” Naismith insists he is still feeling confident on a personal note this season, even if the team’s overall form has been disappointing lately. And the Scot, an ardent believer in the value of hard work, believes that ethic is shared in a dressing room which, he insists, is still full of quality despite the recent slump.
“My wife is a dentist and she’s had a fantastic education and worked really hard,” he said. “These are the people I look at and see them working so hard. “I just want to be part of a team which has that work ethic and that’s probably led me to where I am now. “I’ve said many times before since I’ve been here, the biggest thing I underestimated was the quality that we have, the quality of the core from Jags, Sylvain, Ossie and Bainesy. “I was in awe for six months at how good these guys were and seeing them from afar you don’t appreciate how consistent and how hard-working they are. “Personally I have felt very confident this season. I think I have shown that in my performances and I have capped that off with some goals.”

Andy Gray says its time for Everton FC to get Romelu Lukaku more involved
Jan 5 2014 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Is more direct play the answer for Lukaku? Our EFC reporter Phil Kirkbride sees it differently
Former Everton striker Andy Gray says the Blues must stop leaving Romelu Lukaku as a bystander in games. Gray, who played at Goodison between 1983-85, says the club’s record signing is too isolated in matches because of the team’s patient passing style.
Lukaku has struck seven times this season in all competitions but is without a goal since the beginning of December and has been on the bench for the past two games with Arouna Kone preferred upfront. But Gray says it is time manager Roberto Martinez instructed his players to get the ball to the £28m summer signing from Chelsea quicker to avoid him doing ‘shuttle runs’ all game.
“If I was Romelu Lukaku I would seriously be knocking on the gaffer’s door and saying ‘Seriously, is any chance of me getting in the game more often because I never see the football’?” Gray said on Radio City. “I feel a little bit sorry for him.” The Everton great Gray added: “What’s the point in paying £28m for a centre forward, who did ever so well last year because we got him more involved in the game than we are doing this year, and he was a threat and he was a handful?”.
“But there is no point in having him up there if we are going to pass it along the back, into midfield, back again, into left-back, across to right-back, back again and he’s doing little shuttles at the top end of the pitch wondering ‘when is the ball going to arrive at me?’” Phil Kirkbride's verdict: Many Evertonians will know where Andy Gray is coming from. And it was only recently that his former manager Howard Kendall called for Everton to start “mixing it up”. But the growing debate over how to best serve Romelu Lukaku runs deeper than simply getting the ball up to him quicker - and more directly - than they have done. Sure, Gray could use goals against Newcastle last season or his strike against Hull City last month as evidence to state his case. But Lukaku told the ECHO earlier this season that they aren’t the type of deliveries he relishes. Sure, the towering Belgian is working on his hold up play - an area he has to improve - but insists he is no targetman.
Lukaku wants the ball in front of him where he can use his pace and power to take on defenders.
That is surely only going to come from more measured build-up play? Gray also says he “feels sorry” for the 21-year-old but a growing feeling of late from the stands has been that he, simply, has not been making enough of an impact. Arouna Kone’s place in the starting line-up for the past two games is perhaps a sign of that. The idea that Everton need to play a sharper and longer game to get the best out of their record signing has merit but it is not the only answer.

Everton FC will try to sign long-term goalkeeper in January, says Roberto Martinez
Jan 5 2014 Liverpool Echo
Tim Howard injury will prompt Everton FC boss into action but Roberto Martinez won't target quick fix solution
Everton FC will try to sign a “long-term” goalkeeper in January, says Roberto Martinez.
The current injury to Tim Howard, who is out for up to six weeks with a thigh problem, and lack of experienced cover has prompted Martinez to scour the transfer window.
But the Blues boss, who only has 24-year-old Joel Robles to deputise in a senior capacity at the moment, insists he won’t target a quick-fix stand-in, with Howard, 35, having previously hinted he will retire in the next few years, “We need to rely on experienced hands and that’s why I’m going to look at that situation,” said the Catalan. “But we won’t bring anyone in for the sake of it. Unless we can bring a goalkeeper who fits well into the way we want to play and the way we are as a team I won’t bring him in. “But I would rather make a long term signing rather than throw a youngster into first team action. “I don’t think short-term would be a good solution for us right now.”
Everton have used teenager Russell Griffiths on the bench in recent weeks, with Robles starting consecutive Premier League games for the first time since he joined from Wigan in summer 2013.
The only alternative is another teenager, Poland U-19 shot-stopper Jindrich Stanek, and Martinez is understood to want a keeper who can come straight in and add further competition to Howard for his number one spot - then one day succeed him. Everton may look to do an initial loan deal with a permanent transfer lined-up for the summer, and Martinez is looking across Europe for the right man.

Winter of content: how active are Everton FC in January transfer window?
Jan 05, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Kristian Walsh
Blues fans will want their team doing business this month, but are Everton historically a team who do their deals in January?
Everton FC sign a larger share of their players in January than most other Premier League clubs.
Over the past five seasons, the Blues have signed 28% of their players in the winter window – eighth in the overall list. A total of 32 have been signed between the opening of the summer window in 2009 and the closing of the winter window in 2014 – with eight players coming to Goodison Park in January, including Aiden McGeady, John Stones and Steven Pienaar. Only players signed inside each window are included. Loans and unattached players signed between the windows have not been counted. It means the Blues turn to new players in January more than any other team in last season's top seven. Newcastle United sign a larger share of their players in January than any other current Premier League side with 44%, while QPR are the most prolific club in terms of sheer number of winter transfers with 26 over the past five seasons. West Brom sign the smallest percentage of their players in the winter window with just 12%. Manchester City are just behind the Baggies having signed just 15% of their players in January over the last five seasons.

Everton FC youngster Matthew Kennedy returns to club after Hibs loan
Jan 5 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
20-year-old spent six months with Scottish club under Alan Stubbs
Everton FC youngster Matthew Kennedy has returned to the club after a loan spell with Hibs.
The 20-year-old winger spent six months with the Easter Road club, scoring once in 16 appearances.
Kennedy was managed at the Scottish club by former Blues defender Alan Stubbs.
Stubbs said: “We would like to wish Matthew all the best for the rest of the season.”
Kennedy, a Scottish under-21 international, has been praised by Stubbs.
“He has been great throughout his time here at Hibernian and we would like to thank Everton for letting us take one of their promising young players on loan,” he said.

Luke Garbutt ready to return to Everton FC squad for FA Cup tie with West Ham United
Jan 05, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Young left-back missed out against Hull City on New Year's Day
Luke Garbutt is ready to return to the Everton FC squad for the crunch FA Cup tie with West Ham United.
The 21-year-old defender was left out of the travelling party that went to Hull City on New Year’s Day despite an impressive full debut for the Blues four days earlier. Garbutt played the full 90 minutes against Newcastle United as Roberto Martinez’s side lost 3-2 at St James’ Park.
Evertonians expected to see the Harrogate-born defender - who joined the Blues Academy in 2011 from Leeds United - in the squad for the game at the KC Stadium but Garbutt was not included.
Speculation circled that Garbutt had been dropped by the Everton manager but the ECHO understands that was not the case and the youngster was, instead, rested as Leighton Baines returned to the defence. Martinez was thrilled with Garbutt’s performance in the North East as he ably deputised for Baines, who played in an unfamiliar midfield role, but the Blues boss decided the England under-21 international needed to be rested. But Garbutt is now expected to return to the matchday squad for Tuesday night’s third round clash with the Hammers. Garbutt is out of contract in the summer but the ECHO understands both the player and the club are keen to agree a new deal.

Everton FC to face Donaster or Bristol City if they progress in FA Cup
Jan 5 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Kristian Walsh
Hammers tie on Tuesday to be followed by away tie in Fourth Round
Everton FC will face an FA Cup fourth round trip to either Doncaster Rovers or Bristol City if they navigate their way past West Ham United in the Third Round. The Blues face the Hammers on Tuesday at Goodison Park and are guaranteed a visit to a League One side it they manage to progress. Doncaster and Bristol City drew 1-1 in their third round tie on Saturday, with the replay to be played at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate on January 13. Bristol City, managed by Steve Cotterill, currently sit second in the third-tier, while Doncaster are lodged in 15th and have struggled to adapt to the league since being relegated from the Championship last season. The Blues have met Bristol City four times in the FA Cup, winning them all, and they also hold a perfect record against Doncaster – winning 8-0 in 1939 and 2-0 in 1985.

How did former Everton FC manager David Moyes mastermind victory over Barcelona?
Jan 05, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Real Sociedad stopped the Catalan club from topping La Liga thanks to a 1-0 victory
Meanwhile in La Liga...
It’s fair to say most Evertonians didn’t afford David Moyes’ appointment as Real Sociedad boss in November much more than a cursory moment of interest. But it’s hard not to sit up and take notice when he master-minds a win over Barcelona at the first time of asking.
Just how did Moyes manage to stun the Catalan giants at the Anoeta stadium on Sunday night?
Well, to ardent Blues who watched his style of play develop between 2002 and 2013 it will have come as no surprise. Relentlessly well-drilled, defensively focused and resolute, and at their best when backs were up against the wall. Ring any bells? Of course most teams will lose the possession battle against the pinnacle of pass-masters Barca, and Sociedad duly had just 27% of the ball during a terse encounter. Terse is the right word too, for what was a more physical clash by La Liga standards, with five of Moyes’ men picking up bookings and four Barca players being shown yellow.
The stats continue to seem eerily familiar. The hosts scored early, a second minute own goal from Jordi Alba who headed Sergio Canales’ cross past his own keeper, and from there on it was classic Moyes - ‘What we have, we hold’. Sociedad mustered just six shots, and only one on target against Luis Enrique’s side, who in contrast peppered home keeper Geronimo Rulli’s goal with 17 efforts.
Yet the Basques might have increased their lead when Canales went close later in the first half, prompting Enrique to call for the significant reinforcement of Lionel Messi and Neymar after the break. Barcelona were restricted, though, by two banks of blue and white shirts (again, sound familiar?) which pressed unflinchingly and provided a water-tight barrier. Even Luis Suarez, who first ‘endeared’ himself to Moyes by scoring past his Toffees and then making a pointed diving celebration in front of him back in October 2012, couldn’t find a way through.
Sociedad did the dirty work, and it definitely worked. They made 21 fouls overall (compared to 14 by their illustrious opponents) and earned themselves an extra five points away from the drop zone.
Sociedad are stabilising and Moyes’ reactive, containment approach won’t upset the fans if they continue to climb the table. The final words went to the Ginger One, who appears to be going right back to what he knows in order to kick-start his new reign in Spain. With results like that - who could blame him? “We worked very hard. The players showed courage and defended incredibly..,” he said. “I always hope that we have the ball in all our matches but against Barcelona you know that this is difficult.” Now where have we heard that before?
Won: 3 Drawn: 4 Lost: 1
Goals scored: 8
Goals conceded: 6
Nov 22: Deportivo (A), La Liga, D 0-0
Nov 28: Elche (H), La Liga, W 3-0
Dec 4: Real Oviedo (A), Copa del Rey, D 0-0
Dec 7: Villarreal (A), La Liga, L 0-4
Dec 14: Athletic Bilbao (H), La Liga, D 1-1
Dec 17: Real Oviedo (H), Copa del Rey, W 2-0
Dec 20: Levante (A), La Liga, D 1-1
Jan 4: Barcelona (H), La Liga, W 1-0

Roberto Martínez shrugs off pressure and hopes FA Cup can provide relief
Manager believes Everton’s tie against West Ham could be ‘a pivotal moment’ after four successive defeats raise questions about his methods
• Hull’s Jelavic deepens blues of his old side Everton
Andy Hunter
Monday 5 January 2015 22.30 Guardian
The first press conference of 2015 at Everton’s Finch Farm training ground and questions to Roberto Martínez range from whether he feels increased pressure (answer: no) to does he retain the support of the chairman, Bill Kenwright (answer: yes). This was no media hysteria; it really has reached this point for the man lauded for removing the glass ceiling from Everton’s ambitions merely seven months ago. In June Martínez was rewarded with a new five-year contract for an outstanding debut season as Everton manager, one that yielded the club’s record points total in the Premier League era and had supporters singing about the reopening of the ‘School of Science’ given the polished performances on display. The contract was one example of Everton’s trust in their intelligent, driven young manager. Backing his plans to spend a club-record £28m on Romelu Lukaku and to construct overnight accommodation at Finch Farm were others. On Tuesday he faces a delicate, daunting FA Cup third-round tie against West Ham United in charge of a team who have rapidly lost their way and stand four points above the relegation zone after four successive defeats over the festive period. Martínez had described the new year’s day trip to Hull City as vital. A 2-0 defeat produced more abject defending, further evidence of senior players abdicating responsibility and more supporters questioning Martínez’s methods and decision-making. A win over West Ham “could be a pivotal moment in our season”, said the Everton manager on Monday. It would also register as a shock on current form. “The truth is I feel under the same pressure when we win and when we lose because I always look forward,” Martínez said. “My vision is to create a team that can become a winning team. Losing games forces you to try and find solutions and to look inside in a different way than when you win. “The chairman here is a proper, proper Evertonian and he is an incredible support. He never stops wanting to help and trying to be supportive and he is the perfect chairman in that respect. In the same way, he is hurting like we all are because he is not a businessman or someone who is there just for the financial aspect. It is the complete opposite, he is an Evertonian that really cares about the football club and the results are paramount. But the support I have got from day one has been incredible and that really helps in moments like the one we are experiencing now. I know I’ve got his support if anything needs to be done to help the squad. I’ve said many times to our fans that we are in fantastic hands and we should never lose that, ever.”
Evertonians, Kenwright included, must be wondering where the next win is coming from and how the exuberance of last season has turned to exasperation so rapidly. Lamentable defending littered with individual errors has plagued Everton all season, only Queens Park Rangers have conceded more goals in the Premier League. Injuries have been a constant disruption, especially in terms of having a settled defence, and Martínez wants a new, long-term goalkeeper from the January window after Tim Howard was ruled out until mid-February with a calf problem. “There are certain positions where you need continuity and consistency because of the players’ understanding,” said Martínez, who may consider a move for Ali al-Habsi at Wigan Athletic. “The centre-halves and goalkeeper is one such unit and we have had too many changes in there.”
All true, but that does not explain his faith in his former Wigan charges Joel Robles and Antolín Alcaraz, whose suspension against West Ham will not be a cause of despair on the Gwladys Street. Other charges levelled against Everton should be more concerning for Martínez, however.
One is that opponents have easily nullified his team’s attacking threat by denying space to Leighton Baines and Séamus Coleman, arguably the most effective full-back pairing in the Premier League last season but struggling now. His frequent deployment of Ross Barkley out wide has bemused for the simple reason that it has rarely worked. So too his reliance on Gareth Barry when James McCarthy’s on-going hamstring injury has removed energy and insurance from central midfield. The most serious accusation, one recent performances have done little to dispel, is that Everton players are not comfortable with their manager’s instructions and have gone into hiding.
“I wouldn’t say hiding, no,” Martínez countered. “I do think during a period when we have had four defeats in the league, we all need to do more. “That’s the manager, the staff and the players. We all need to do more. And if it’s 5%, it’s 5%. We all need to do more. The way I see it is that I have seen a lot of character, a lot of responsibility and I think some of the players have been too affected by the bad results and the confidence has gone low for the right reasons. “That’s something we need to get rid of and start enjoying our football again. The FA Cup could give us that; it’s a completely different game, a different situation where you don’t carry any luggage from what happened in the past. It’s a fresh competition that we need to enjoy.” The situation could get worse for Martínez with Manchester City due at Goodison Park on Saturday but, intriguingly, he insists the long-term repercussions could be widespread. “I trust the chairman, I trust the board and everyone at the football club to make sure we get through this period together,” Martínez said. “It’s a real challenge, a real test, but sometimes you need those sort of tests to find who is ready to take the football club forward and that’s important.”

Exclusive: Everton FC are not in the market for Ali Al-Habsi
Jan 5 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Blues mulling over move for a new goalkeeper but Roberto Martinez looking for a "long-term" recruit
Everton FC are scouring the market for a new goalkeeper but the Blues won’t swoop for Wigan Athletic’s Ali Al-Habsi this month.
First-choice shot-stopper Tim Howard is likely to be sidelined for another five weeks, with a calf injury meaning Roberto Martinez has just one senior keeper in his squad. Joel Robles will start in goal against West Ham United on Tuesday night in Everton’s crunch FA Cup third round tie, although Martinez is looking to bolster his options in that position. But the ECHO understands that Al Habsi, 33, is not under consideration despite reports linking the Blues with a loan move for the Oman international. Martinez will instead target a “long-term” recruit but insists that if the right goalkeeper is not available in the January transfer window then he will not make a signing.
The Catalan sees little point in signing a keeper just to provide cover until Howard is fit again, and will be happy to keep faith with Robles - as well as Academy understudies Russell Griffiths and Jindrich Stanek - until the American is back. That policy would also seem to rule the Toffees out of a mooted approach for ex Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who has been linked with Liverpool and trained with Manchester United last month. Martinez has been pleased with Robles’ performances in games against Stoke City, Newcastle United and Hull City but insists there is more to come from the 24-year-old Spaniard. “He is coping with a lot of professionalism and we haven’t seen his full potential yet,” Martinez told the ECHO. “I know Joel really well. He had a spell with Rayo Vallecano where he was very consistent and outstanding and I don’t think we have seen the level that he showed. “But in the same way, it is very, very difficult for a keeper to come in and get his match fitness and the rhythm you need. “Joel is slowly getting stronger and I hope he can enjoy his game on Tuesday because it is very important that he shows what he can do.”
Martinez says he understands that many Everton fans are yet to be convinced by Robles but believes a run in the team will allow him to show his true worth. And the Blues boss hopes Robles can recapture the form he showed in helping Wigan win the FA Cup in 2013. “Every player playing for Everton knows it is an honour but you then need to have a confident feel about you - and that only comes with playing,” he added. “I’ve seen Joel perform with a lot of arrogance and quality. You only have to look at the FA Cup final in 2013, he performed at an incredible, incredible level and I know he can reproduce that for Everton. “It is just making sure that he can find that bit of enjoyment of taking over such a difficult job that is taking over from Tim Howard. “The experiences he’s had in the FA Cup saw him play against non-league teams and then going all the way to playing at Wembley. “He has played in the full spectrum and he performed in an incredible manner in all those scenarios.” Martinez went onto say: “Joel has been working hard behind the scenes to get his opportunity and he is getting his opportunity now. “But having been out for such a long period there is a bit of a risk and I don’t want to leave the squad too exposed. “We have two young goalkeepers who have a terrific future but I do need to see if there is an opportunity to make us a bit stronger in that area. “But in the same way he has to be the right character and have the right profile to do that. “If he is not available and if January is not the right time to find a perfect replacement then I would be quite happy to allow the youngsters to show what they can do.
“At the moment it is a situation we are monitoring.”

Roberto Martinez wants Everton to get their smile back
Jan 6 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Nick Hilton
Everton manager eager for good performance against West Ham
Roberto Martinez is looking for a way to put a smile back into Everton's football as they prepare to play host to West Ham United in the FA Cup tonight. Everton go into the third round tie at Goodison Park on the back of a sequence of six defeats in seven games. Martinez admits some of his players are not enjoying their football and that is translating into inhibited performances and some loss of confidence. "It is about trying to enjoy your football," Martinez said. "The players have been so responsible and so aware of the desire to do well in the league that we have been affected by moments when we have played well but dropped points. "I feel that there are certain players who can't enjoy themselves and that is a big footballing crime so we need to make sure that the competition places is there and they need to relax a bit more. "That is where the support of the fans the understanding of everyone around Goodison is so vital at this point. "There have been times when we have been cagey and not as fluent as we normally are and we need to get that back into our play." As the Spaniard grapples with the worst sequence of form since he took charge of Everton at the beginning of last season, he is facing pressure on his own position for the first time.
Martinez said: "I always say the most important thing is to play well and win games. "I have the same pressure win, lose or draw because my pressure is to build something long-term and bring glory times to the football club. "So the pressure for me is always the same. "But I understand that we are a big club and we expect to win football games on a consistent basis. I wouldn't want it any other way."

Ian Snodin: Winning FA Cup tie against West Ham United can reignite Everton FC's season
Jan 06, 2015 Liverpool Echo
by IanSnodin
Former Blues midfielder believes the cup clash could just be the tonic Everton FC need to rejuvenate a so far poor season
The FA Cup tie with West Ham United has all the ingredients of a game that could spark Everton’s season into life. A night match under the lights, at the Old Lady and in the world’s most famous club competition could just be what the Blues need. Let’s hope so anyway. Everton saw off West Ham a few weeks ago at Goodison and there is absolutely no reason why we can’t do it again. That’s not to say it is not a tough draw because it is, but the Blues have no fear in facing the Hammers.
Evertonians love this competition. Roberto Martinez loves this competition as well and he will be desperate to replicate the success he had at Wigan with the Blues. And I’m sure he will be telling the lads that they have got to set their stall out early doors tonight. Everton have to give the fans something to shout about – that is vital. They need to get the crowd excited from the off and whether that be a buccaneering run down the wing from either Leighton Baines or Seamus Coleman, or firing a few early shots on the West Ham goal, Everton need to give the supporters something to cheer. Evertonians haven’t had much to cheer in this competition in recent years and going without silverware since 1995 is far, far too long for a club of Everton’s stature. And so everyone at the club – the players included – realise the massive importance of the game with West Ham. Roberto has shown he knows how to win the FA Cup. He loves the Cup and always speaks about it in glowing terms, saying he relishes the one-off games. But I don’t expect Roberto to change things too drastically against West Ham. I don’t expect him to be overly flamboyant in his tactics just because it’s a one-off game. Indeed, with hopes of a top-four finish gone, our season now really hinges on the cup competitions. We’re through to the last 32 of the Europa League and now we hope to progress in the FA Cup. Doing so will help keep this season going. The players realise that and understand the magnitude of this game. It is huge.

Everton goalkeeping legend Rachel Brown-Finnis retires
Jan 06, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Rachel Brown-Finnis hangs up her gloves
Everton Ladies goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis has announced her retirement from football.
The England international, 34, has made the decision to hang up her gloves with immediate effect but will remain with the Blues as the club’s first ever Ladies ambassador.
Brown-Finnis said: “It was a tough decision. To be honest, it is something that I have been considering over the past 18 months or so and it is simply down to the amount of pain I suffer with my knee and back over the course of a season. "It’s down to whether I can continue to withstand that pain after every training session. “It is emotional for me but I think now is the right time.”
Since joining Everton in 2003, Brown-Finnis has helped the Blues to lift the FA Women’s Cup and finish runners-up in the women’s top-flight five times. She was named Everton Ladies’ Player of the Year in 2012 and also worked for the club’s official charity Everton in the Community for seven years as a coach and to raise the profile of the ladies’ game. On the international stage, Brown-Finnis made her senior debut for England at the age of 16 and went on to proudly represent her country in two World Cups and the 2012 Olympic Games. She also became one of the first female England internationals to be awarded a central contract by the FA. Now, Brown-Finnis is looking forward to using her achievements on the pitch to raise the profile of the women’s game as the first ever Everton Ladies ambassador. She said: “We are in new territory. A former player staying on at the Club as an ambassador has never been done before. “I am really proud to say that role has been offered to me by Andy Spence and Everton Football Club. I’ve played for the Club for over 12 years and I also spent seven years with Everton in the Community, so I do have a massive affinity with this Club. “Anything I can do, with my experience on and off the pitch, I would just love to give that back to a club that has given me so much.”

Everton Football Club must get Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman firing to emerge from recent slump
Jan 06, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
Everton FC's Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman hold the key to revival, says Pat Nevin
Pat Nevin believes Roberto Martinez must find a way to get the best out of his full backs if Everton FC are to emerge stronger from their recent slump in form.
The Blues head into tonight’s FA Cup third round tie with West Ham United on a run of four straight league defeats, and with just one win in nine games in all competitions. It is a sequence that has led to increased pressure on the manager, and a defeat at Goodison against the Hammers would crank that up further. Nevin, though, reckons Martinez has to get Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman, two of his most influential players, firing again. The former Blues winger said:“I don’t think the team looks as balanced as it did last season. “There’s a variety of reasons for that, but one of them is that I don’t think he’s getting the best out of his full backs. “Those full backs are fantastic, and it is not their fault. The problem is, the players in front of them don’t link up with them.
“Most teams are based through the middle, so you need those main players to be doing well. But Everton were so good from those wide areas with Baines and Coleman, and those two are not getting forward as much as they were, and it is because the players that are in front of them, the wide players and the forwards, don’t link. “Another reason why those full backs are not getting forward as much is because the centre backs have either been injured, or lacking in form compared with last season. “Roberto has to sort that, 100%, because it’s a knock on effect.
“From there, you look at other issues like why is your striker, (Romelu) Lukaku, not scoring? Is it because he’s not working hard enough? Is it because he’s lost some confidence?
“Or is it because those balls from his full backs are not coming any more?
“It is a structural problem for Roberto to figure out, and of course every time he tries, an important player seems to get injured. Nevin added: “One of the things that is in Martinez’s favour is that he has got a really good team, and a really good squad. And if he can build that confidence, it can come back, and it can come back very quickly.” Soccer - Rumbelows League Cup - Third Round - Sheffield United v Everton - Bramall Lane PAT NEVIN, EVERTON
Nevin hopes Everton’s revival will begin with a win at Goodison this evening. And he rejected the notion that the FA Cup is a distraction his former club could do without.
“Knowing Roberto, he’s going for it!” he said. “It’s the same with the Europa League. Do they need it? Some people would say no, but he’s going for that as well. “At the start of the season, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Everton chasing for the top four, but that is not happening now.
“It may be that there are too many games for them, but that is what Roberto is like. He is very pure of heart, he will chase things and he will try and bring glory to the club.
“It might be his downfall in the end, but I hope it isn’t, because I love that kind of attitude."

West Ham denied by late Everton equaliser
21:48 06 January 2015
Dave Evans
Defender James Collins looked like he had booked West Ham’s place in the FA Cup fourth round
Everton 1 West Ham United 1
West Ham were denied an FA Cup victory at Goodison Park when Everton grabbed an injury-time equaliser to force a replay at Upton Park.
The Hammers looked to have booked their place in round four thanks to James Collins’ goal on 56 minutes, but in the closing moments, Everton finally found a way through as Romelu Lukaku hooked in from close range to level matters in a game which West Ham controlled for much of this tie.
After last season’s disaster at Nottingham Forest when a young and inexperienced West Ham side were humiliated 5-0 at the City Ground, there were certainly signs that manager Sam Allardyce was taking this year’s competition a lot more seriously. Although birthday boy Andy Carroll was rested and they were missing all three of their African players in Alex Song, Cheikhou Kouyate and Diafra Sakho, their was still plenty of experience in this Hammers team. It was the Hammers who took early charge, forcing four corners, but all they had to show for their pressure was Morgan Amalfitano’s blocked shot and Winston Reid’s tame header which slipped wide.
At the other end, Lukaku’s powerful drilled shot was grabbed at the second attempt by Adrian as Kevin Mirallas looked to pounce on the loose ball and though the Hammers had been in control of the opening 20 minutes, it was the home side who began to show what they could do in the next 20 as they carved out three good chances. First, Kevin Nolan lost possession in midfield and Gareth Barry fed Mirallas who saw his shot superbly blocked by Reid. Then Ross Barkley released Lukaku who shot wide, before the big man put in fellow striker Steven Naismith on the left side of the area, only for him to shoot across the face of goal. West Ham passed the ball around well enough and the lively Stewart Downing forced a tip over from Joel Robles, but too often Enner Valencia was left to plough a lone furrow up front, surrounded by Everton defenders and though he caused them problems, he lacked the support. Two minutes before the break, Aaron Cresswell’s low cross was blocked by Phil Jagielka right into the path of Amalfitano, only for the midfield man to shoot over the top and it was Everton who had the last word of the first half. That man Lukaku ran from half way to let fly and when Adrian could only block again, the imperious Reid was there again to clear the danger. The Hammers started the second half as they had the first, taking charge and they almost grabbed the lead on 50 minutes from the unlikeliest of sources. Carl Jenkinson ghosted past two defenders to get into the box, but his low shot was pushed wide by the keeper for the corner.
But just five minutes later the Hammers took the lead. Downing won a corner with a shot that was deflected over and when the ball was swung in by Amalfitano, Collins got in front of his marker at the near post to power in a header. Two minutes later it could have been 2-0 when Noble’s cross was met by the head of Valencia, only for the keeper to make a fine save.
Lukaku had the ball in the net on the hour, only to be penalised for a push on Collins, who had earlier made a superb goal-line clearance to keep the Hammers in front.
Carlton Cole replaced Valencia up front, while Everton threw on another striker in Samuel Eto’o, but West Ham seemed to be in charge still with Downing going close with another long-ranger and Reid heading Downing’s free kick wide. Diego Poyet replaced Jarvis to give West Ham some more stability in midfield and Everton struggled to stop the Hammers from controlling the game with their sharp passing game. But as West Ham dropped deeper though, Lukaku might have equalised with seven minutes to go as he just failed to get on the end of a long ball, while Barkley forced a save from Adrian with six minutes left. Seamus Coleman headed wide as Everton threw caution to the wind and a minute into injury time they finally got their reward when a cross from the left fell to Lukaku who hooked the ball into the net from close range to earn that replay.
West Ham: Adrian, Jenkinson, Reid, Collins, Cresswell, Downing, Noble, Nolan, Amalfitano (O’Brien 78), Valencia (Cole 60), Jarvis (Poyet 68)
Subs: Jaaskelainen, Tomkins, Vaz Te, Demel.
Booked: Cole.
Referee Anthony Taylor.

Everton 1 West Ham 1: Hammers denied spot in FA Cup fourth round by last-gasp Romelu Lukaku strike
Standard Evening Standard
Published: 06 January 2015
Everton striker Romelu Lukaku's added-time equaliser in the FA Cup tie against West Ham eased some of the mounting pressure on his manager Roberto Martinez.
The Belgium striker's smart turn and finish - his fourth goal in as many matches for the Toffees against the Hammers - earned a 1-1 draw and at the very least postponed another inquest into what is going wrong at Goodison Park. Lukaku's first in seven matches ended a four-game losing streak and ensured they live to fight another day in the competition after James Collins' 56th-minute header had exposed the Toffees' defensive Achilles heel - only QPR have conceded more in the Premier League this season. West Ham were on the verge of their first victory in 15 attempts since 2007 against their perennial bogey side. Everton's current figures do not make for much better reading. They have won just once in the last 10 matches and their last clean sheet came against Europa League opponents Wolfsburg in late November immediately prior to their current slump.
The goal was the least Lukaku, in his first start in three matches, deserved.
It looked like the rest had done him some good as he twice forced Adrian to fumble shots, the West Ham goalkeeper recovering once to deny Kevin Mirallas on the rebound and then being bailed out by Winston Reid. The Belgium striker also rolled an effort wide of the far post after he was picked out in the inside-left channel by an eye-of-the-needle pass from Ross Barkley, who appeared to lurch from brilliant to dreadful and back again in the first half. Lukaku has been criticised for not playing like a £28million striker but he was offering plenty to the team, with his brilliant ball over the top picking out Steven Naismith, who shot from such a narrow angle it beat Adrian but eventually rolled out for a throw. Seamus Coleman, who just failed to connect at the far post, and Mirallas both had efforts before Barkley showed the best and worst bits of his game as a 60-yard drive at the West Ham defence ended with him passing tamely into the path of Reid as he tried to pick out Lukaku.
The visitors were not without their chances with Stewart Downing, who drifted effectively across the pitch, forcing Joel Robles to tip over and Morgan Amalfitano firing wide.
Everton's opportunities began to dry up in the second half as, for all Lukaku's good early play, the side were lacking runners to get beyond him. The visitors sensed their chance and after defender Carl Jenkinson had driven through the left of Everton's defence, only to be denied by a good, low near-post save by Robles, they took the lead. Sylvain Distin, whose scalp did just enough to divert wide Downing's drive, was partly to blame after losing Collins at the resulting corner but the Wales defender was still allowed to get between Naismith and Muhamed Besic to head in at the near post.
Robles, deputising for the injured Tim Howard with his own position under threat, reacted well to tip over Enner Valencia's header while Lukaku's own header was ruled out at the other end as he had climbed all over Aaron Cresswell to get to the ball. Martinez had labelled the match as the most important of their season so the significance of Lukaku pouncing on Bryan Oviedo's cross late on could not be underestimated.

Everton FC 1 West Ham 1: FA Cup gave Martinez defining moment and may now give him breathing space
Jan 06, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Success in the FA Cup helped seal Martinez's move to Everton and now a draw in the same competition has given him relief, writes Phil Kirkbride
When Roberto Martinez was searching for respite he will have looked longingly to the FA Cup
And the competition that gave him his defining moment as a manager may well have just offered the Catalan the breathing space he craved. This wasn't the win to stop Everton's rot he would have wished for but at least it was something. It came late, mind, right at the death when it looked as though all hope was lost. But maybe it was always going to get worse before it got better.
Big games call for big players and make no mistake that this was huge.
Martinez insists he has felt no extra pressure despite a four game losing run but as Everton stared down the barrel of a fifth straight loss, the scrutiny was being turned up an extra notch.
The 41-year-old loves the FA Cup but in his hour of need it appeared to have turned its back on him.
But in the final minutes the player Martinez has staked his reputation on came up with the goods.
Romelu Lukaku, restored to the starting line-up, pounced to fire in from close range and keep Everton in the FA Cup. As the game went into added on time and the Blues charged in search of a winning goal, Goodison roared like it hasn't done for weeks but nobody left the Old Lady believing the Blues have turned the corner. The road to redemption is going to be long and gruelling and a draw in the Cup cannot hide real fears attached to Everton's position in the league - but this has to be the start of better times. It has to be a platform from which Martinez's men have to rebuild shattered confidence and regain the trust of the supporters. When Martinez pours over the tapes and reflects on a dramatic night of Cup football, he will not have to delve too deep to see why his side came incredibly close to sliding out of the competition. They are the same maddening issues that have oiled the wheels of a sorry run nobody saw coming. The manner in which they were nearly sent crashing out at third round stage for the first time in seven years summed up a lot of their current troubles. To borrow the manager's well worn phrase, the goal they gave away was cheap. Sylvain Distin, back in the side because Antolin Alcaraz's suspension, lost James Collins at a corner and watched haplessly as the defender powered a header past Joel Robles.
But the equaliser, when Lukaku struck at the back post, was reward for the spirit and fight Everton showed - those same characteristics sorely lacking at too may points during their recent malaise.
Success in the FA Cup helped seal Martinez's move to Everton. Now a draw in the same competition has given him relief.

Everton FC 1 West Ham 1: Romelu Lukaku loves nailing the Hammers
Jan 06, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Ian Doyle
Talking point: "The fired-up Belgian had a point to prove, restored to the starting line-up having been benched for the previous two games," writes Ian Doyle
“That man scored against us again,” lamented Sam Allardyce. “That damn man.”
Make no mistake, Romelu Lukaku just loves playing against West Ham United.
The Belgian announced himself to Everton FC supporters on his debut by scoring the winner at Upton Park back in September 2013. Later that season he netted the only goal in a victory at Goodison over the Hammers, and in November opened the scoring in a 2-1 home win.
None of those strikes, however, will have prompted the mixture of delight and relief that greeted his latest notch against the Londoners. And none can have had such instant resonance.
Lukaku's injury-time equaliser didn't just maintain Everton's interest in the FA Cup by setting up a replay at Upton Park next Tuedsay. It eased the pressure on beleaguered Blues boss Roberto Martinez. The Blues were facing up to a fifth straight defeat, an eighth loss in 10 and a first reverse in 15 meetings with the Hammers. Lukaku, though, was always the most likely to produce a salvage job. The fired-up Belgian had a point to prove, restored to the starting line-up having been benched for the previous two games. This was more like the Lukaku of last season. The bit firmly clenched between his teeth, the striker bounded into challenges, was lively in possession and took the fight to the Hammers. Having come close in the first half, he was unfortunate to see a header chalked off after the interval for a push. But Lukaku wasn't to be denied, turning in Bryan Oviedo's cross for his eighth goal of the season and reaffirm his position as the club's leading striker.
Seasons have turned on less. Martinez, though, will know this can only be considered a defining moment if Everton, visibly short on confidence, can finally build some momentum after a torrid festive period. They also need to rediscover their scoring touch. Curiously for a side helmed by Martinez, the Blues were facing up to a sixth blank in eight games before Lukaku's timely intervention. While the time of year when television is packed with repeats, there no comfort in the familiarity of what was beamed into the nation's homes from Goodison for much of the 90 minutes.
Thank goodness, then, for the happy ending. Everton won't mind the same again from Lukaku next time.

Everton FC 1 West Ham United 1: Ref Justice once again and four other things we learned
Jan 06, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
The five major talking points from Everton FC's FA Cup draw at Goodison
Ref Justice for the Blues...again
For Anthony Taylor read Lee Mason or Andre Marriner. Everton’s current predicament is largely of their own making, but they certainly haven’t been helped by blundering officials. Whether it was Mason failing to send off Jonathan Walters on Boxing Day, or Marriner’s soft-penalty decision and Kung-Fu attack leniency at the Etihad in December, big decisions continue to prove costly.
This time it was Taylor disallowing Romelu Lukaku’s second-half header for a nonexistent foul on Aaron Creswell, and curbing Steven Naismith’s earlier burst into the area for another invisible foul on Winston Reid. He even booked Samuel Eto’o within seconds of him coming on for an innocuous clash with drama-queen Mark Noble (standing in for fellow luvvy James Tomkins this time). Frustrating. Encouraging evening for Joel Robles It’s safe to say he has not inspired confidence in the fans yet. At times he has looked like someone begrudgingly forced to go in goal at five-a-side; witness that shambles of a reaction for Krasnodar’s strike at Goodison in December. But this, finally, was more reassuring. The former Wigan shot-stopper came for crosses with conviction, commanded his six yard box with more authority and made a string of crucial saves. He made a superb save to deny Enner Valencia at full-stretch as West Ham threatened to smash Everton’s fragile confidence in the wake of their lead, and could hardly be faulted for the James Collins header that did the damage moments before. Roberto Martinez may be targeting a new goalkeeper this month, but he still needs the man he brought with him from Lancashire in 2013 to do a job. On this evidence Joel may yet do it. Is that swagger on the horizon?
“Enjoy our football” - it’s the most well-worn of all Martinez’s stock phrases, and the thing he believes most of all will help his Blues stage a revival. Last term Everton played with smiles on their faces. Lately there have been frowns all around. It’s all to do with confidence, or swagger - another of Martinez’s oft-repeated tropes. It was hardly champagne football throughout against the Hammers, and the Toffees weren’t quite all beaming as they flamboyantly took Sam Allardyce’s men apart. But there were flashes of revived self-belief; whether it was Muhamed Besic’s slinky foot-work or Ross Barkley’s surge and pass to Lukaku in the first half. Statistically it was the Blues most creative display of the season with 15 chances created. The pressure will remain on, but this late rally will have bought some leverage which in turn could prompt a little more swagger in time for Manchester City at the weekend.
Clean sheets - remember them?
It’s now 10 games without a clean sheet for the Blues. Whatever rearguard Martinez selects, there just always seems to be a mistake in them. In Antolin Alcaraz’s suspension absence, Sylvain Distin returned to the side and was found wanting at a crucial moment. The debate on whether zonal marking works rumbles on, but it certainly didn’t when the Frenchman fatally lost James Collins before his near-post headed goal. Distin later limped off with a suspected groin problem and it would be harsh to suggest he’d done more wrong than that leaden-footed moment, although it could well have been so costly. Martinez insists he has enough defensive cover in his squad, but the argument for further reinforcements in that department this month persists. Tuesday night - you’re having a laugh? With just 22,236 at Goodison this was Everton’s lowest FA Cup home crowd since 1999. But with competitive ticket prices and an more season ticket holders this term, the paltry turn-out can’t be pinned solely on the Toffees current slump.
Instead the blame goes to the FA, who pay lip service to the magic of the famous competition and then designate Everton against West Ham for a Tuesday night with the fixture screened live on BT sports. Will they listen at Soho Square? Probably not.

"Relief all around - but nobody left believing Everton FC turned a corner," says Phil Kirkbride
Jan 6 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
"The same problems haunt them," says the Blues correspondent after Everton's 1-1 FA Cup draw with West Ham
Everton FC correspondent Phil Kirkbride says nobody left Goodison Park believing the Blues have turned a corner following their 1-1 FA Cup draw with West Ham United.
James Collins put the Hammers in the lead early in the second half after Sylvain Distin lost him at a corner - but Romelu Lukaku's stoppage time equaliser kept the Blues in the cup.
They will go to Upton Park on Tuesday for the replay. Kirkbride said: "Relief all around the ground at the end. Pure relief. Everton stared down the barrel of a fifth consecutive defeat, going out of the cup – it was just horrible to think that was going to happen. "But big games, big players. That's not necessarily something we've talked about Lukaku before but he came big for the manager when he needed him. Massive goal in stoppage time and Goodison roared more than it has in weeks.
"Nobody left here tonight believing Everton have turned a corner. The same problems haunt them. Schoolboy defending and a lot of the same problems which have dragged them into this run – but plenty of fight. "Mo Besic was terrific. He did a hell of a job tonight."

Romelu Lukaku can be man for big moment at Everton FC, says Steven Naismith
Jan 07, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Lukaku got his reward with crucial goal for Everton FC in FA Cup tie, says Steven Naismith
Steven Naismith believes Romelu Lukaku has shown he can be the man for the big occasion after salvaging a draw for Everton FC against West Ham. The Blues record signing struck in the final minute at Goodison Park to cancel out James Collins’ header and send the third round tie into a replay next week. Lukaku returned to the starting line-up for the first time in three matches and Naismith says the 21-year-old showed renewed hunger throughout the game.
The £28m striker’s goal - his fourth in as many games against the Hammers - prevented Everton from falling to a fifth straight defeat. And despite trailing as the game entered the final stages, Naismith insists the Everton players never lost faith that they would find an equaliser.
“He showed a bit more enthusiasm and a bit more confidence in his performance and he gets his reward with the goal,” said Naismith. “Obviously he is a big player for us and is somebody that contributed well last season. “He hasn’t hit those standards yet and he is the first person to say that he wants to hit those standards again. This is where you do need to be a big player and have the character to come up with the goods at the tough times “For the likes of Rom, Stonesy and Ross this is a great experience, although a tough one, for the future.” Even though Naismith admits the squad’s confidence has taken a knock in recent weeks the Scotland international insists they have never given up hope that their luck would turn. And he says Tuesday night’s clash with the Hammers was the time for the Blues players to “stand up and be counted.” “You can’t think like that (giving up hope) and the result shows that,” he said. “We kept going.
“We know in this squad that what we did last season was great and we know we are capable of that so you have always got to have that in the back of your mind rather than giving up.
“And a draw was the least we deserved from the game. We have been on a bad run but in those games we have had some good spells and probably have been unlucky, especially in the first-half tonight. “We had a few good chances and they haven’t gone in. They haven’t had too many chances but one goes in. “So we have drawn confidence from the chances we have created and it did pay off. “I don’t think I have been on a run as long as this in my career but this is where you have got to stand up and be counted rather than just when confidence is high and everything is going well.”
Naismith went onto say: “We have been consistent in our preparations because what we did last season worked. “There has been a loss of confidence but a lot of things haven’t gone our way in games. “But we believe in what we are doing and we know it works for us and can get us results.
“We will continue to do that. Tonight the least we deserved was a draw.”

Everton FC Transfer Gossip: Martinez eyes keepers Marshall and McCarthy, Celtic's van Dijk link and Palermo defender Munoz linked, Moyes loan raid
Jan 07, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Peter Guy
Roberto Martinez is on the hunt for January transfers with a defender and goalkeeper top of his list
Everton FC transfer news today sees Roberto Martinez target goalkeeper's David Marshall and Alex McCarthy as potential replacements for the injured Tim Howard.
The American faces at least a month on the sidelines with a calf problem, but is also attracting interest from the MLS. Cardiff's David Marshall and Alex McCarthy of QPR are among the names on Everton's list of potential replacements. Joel Robles, 24, continued to deputise between the sticks for last night's FA Cup 1-1 draw against West Ham at Goodison Park.
Another target reportedly on Martinez's radar is Wigan's Omani goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi.
Everton have also made enquiries about Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk who is the subject of interest from Sunderland. Palermo centre-back Ezequiel Munoz has been linked with a move to Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United in recent weeks. Former Palermo sporting director Giorgio Perinetti has revealed to reporters that star centre-back Ezequiel Munoz will walk away from the club for free at the end of the season. The 24-year-old defender’s contract expires this summer and his recent performances have attracted the interest of a number of top European clubs.

Everton are all said to be monitoring the situation and have been linked with a January transfer. Finally, former Manchester United and Everton manager David Moyes has suggested he will scour the British leagues for loan signings for his new club Real Sociedad.
Moyes had been linked with Everton’s Arouna Kone and Chelsea’s Mohamed Salah, but dismissed those links.

Everton FC 1 West Ham United 1: Romelu Lukaku's last-gasp leveller keeps Blues in FA Cup
Jan 72015 Liverpool Echo
By Carl Markham
Striker's equaliser in added time averts inquest into Toffees' worrying form and failings this season
Everton striker Romelu Lukaku’s added-time equaliser in the FA Cup tie against West Ham eased some of the mounting pressure on his manager Roberto Martinez.
The Belgium striker’s smart turn and finish – his fourth goal in as many matches for the Toffees against the Hammers – earned a 1-1 draw and at the very least postponed another inquest into what is going wrong at Goodison Park. Lukaku’s first goal in seven matches ended a four-game losing streak and ensured they live to fight another day in the competition after James Collins’ 56th-minute header had exposed the Toffees’ defensive Achilles heel.Only QPR have conceded more than Everton in the Premier League this season. West Ham were on the verge of their first victory in 15 attempts since 2007 against their perennial bogey side. Everton’s current figures do not make for much better reading. They have won just once in the last 10 matches and their last clean sheet came against Europa League opponents Wolfsburg in late November immediately prior to their current slump. The goal was the least Lukaku, in his first start in three matches, deserved.
It looked like the rest had done him some good as he twice forced Adrian to fumble shots, the West Ham goalkeeper recovering once to deny Kevin Mirallas on the rebound and then being bailed out by Winston Reid. The Belgium striker also rolled an effort wide of the far post after he was picked out in the inside-left channel by an eye-of-the-needle pass from Ross Barkley, who appeared to lurch from brilliant to dreadful and back again in the first half. Lukaku has been criticised for not playing like a £28million striker but he was offering plenty to the team, with his brilliant ball over the top picking out Steven Naismith, who shot from such a narrow angle it beat Adrian but eventually rolled out for a throw. Seamus Coleman, who just failed to connect at the far post, and Mirallas both had efforts before Barkley showed the best and worst bits of his game as a 60-yard drive at the West Ham defence ended with him passing tamely into the path of Reid as he tried to pick out Lukaku.
The visitors were not without their chances with Stewart Downing, who drifted effectively across the pitch, forcing Joel Robles to tip over and Morgan Amalfitano firing wide.
Everton’s opportunities began to dry up in the second half as, for all Lukaku’s good early play, the side were lacking runners to get beyond him. The visitors sensed their chance and after defender Carl Jenkinson had driven through the left of Everton’s defence, only to be denied by a good, low near-post save by Robles, they took the lead. Sylvain Distin, whose scalp did just enough to divert wide Downing’s drive, was partly to blame after losing Collins at the resulting corner but the Wales defender was still allowed to get between Naismith and Muhamed Besic to head in at the near post.
Robles, deputising for the injured Tim Howard with his own position under threat, reacted well to tip over Enner Valencia’s header while Lukaku’s own header was ruled out at the other end as he had climbed all over Aaron Cresswell to get to the ball. Martinez had labelled the match as the most important of their season so the significance of Lukaku pouncing on Bryan Oviedo’s cross late on could not be underestimated.

Everton FC v Liverpool FC: Tickets sold out for Goodison derby in February
Jan 07, 2015 10:35
By Phil Kirkbride
Everton FC confirm all tickets have been snapped up for Liverpool FC game
Tickets for the Goodison Park derby have sold out, Everton FC have confirmed.
Liverpool FC make the short trip across Stanley Park on Saturday, February 7 and there will be a full house. After 30,000 season tickets were accounted for and a further 6,000 sold to FOREVERTON members the remaining tickets went on sale this morning. And the tickets were snapped up in just 20 minutes. Derby tickets, however, can still be purchased via StubHub, if any season ticket holders can no longer attend the game. The game, scheduled to kick off at 5.30pm, will be shown live on Sky Sports - although there were calls from Merseyside Police to move it to an earlier kick off time.
The Blues secured a 1-1 draw at Anfield in September thanks to Phil Jagielka's magnificent late equaliser.

Bryan Oviedo: Everton FC need to "start again" after FA Cup equaliser
Jan 07, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Costa Rican set up Romelu Lukaku for late leveller against West Ham
Bryan Oviedo has urged Everton to “start again” after the Blues stopped the rot with a last gasp equaliser against West Ham United. The Costa Rican fired in the cross that allowed Romelu Lukaku to fire past Adrian in the final minute at Goodison Park on Tuesday night.
Oviedo says it was vital the Blues refused to give up despite looking set for an early exit from the FA Cup after James Collins had headed the hosts ahead early in the second-half. “I think that moment was very good for us,” Oviedo said of the equaliser. “We need to continue to fight in the Premier League and the Europa League. “We need to start again. Sometimes you see that we play well and we are trying all the time. Sometimes we don’t have the luck that we want. We missed some chances against West Ham but the most important thing is that we continued to try to score and we did. “Of course we wanted to win, but it wasn’t easy. West Ham played really well. Now we need to be ready for the next game.” Oviedo started at left-back against West Ham in place of the injured Leighton Baines on Tuesday. “I enjoyed the game because it was my first game playing in my favourite position,” said the 24-year-old. “But more importantly it was a chance to play and continue to progress. In the next game, I think I can be better. “It is different when you have other roles in the team but against West Ham I played in my position and I really enjoyed it. I tried to do the right things. “But, as I say, the most important thing was the team scoring a goal and continuing in the FA Cup.”

Everton FC has lowest home FA Cup attendance since 1999 - why did 18,000 Blues turn their backs on the Cup?
Jan 07, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
David Prentice on the rows of empty seats at Goodison Park
We go the game.
Except on Tuesday night almost 18,000 Evertonians didn’t.
The official attendance for Everton’s third round FA Cup tie with West Ham was 22,236 - the club’s lowest home FA Cup attendance since 1999, which was the year the FA experimented with a pre-Christmas third round and Everton’s replay with Exeter City was staged just four days before Christmas. More significantly it was the sixth lowest home FA Cup gate since the war, despite a generous pricing structure by the Blues. The rows of empty seats were conspicuous.
Last season’s visit of Queens Park Rangers, then a Championship side, attracted 10,000 more.
So why did so many Evertonians turn their back on the match? Some elements are obvious. It was live on television. Everton’s next two Premier League fixtures are at Goodison - the next against champions Manchester City on Saturday - and it’s the most cash strapped time of year. And Everton had just lost four in a row. But is it also a reflection that some fans are not enjoying the style of football they’ve seen this season? Last season the fans eulogised the return of the School of Science. But against QPR last month - Everton’s only win in 10 - some fans booed a backpass with Everton leading 3-1. There were similar murmurings last season after goalless draws with West Brom and Cardiff in August and a very shaky Capital One Cup victory over Stevenage.
The turning point, coincidentally but hopefully prophetically, was a 1-0 win over high flying Chelsea at Goodison Park followed by a Romelu Lukaku-inspired come behind victory at West Ham United.
How Everton could do with a repeat of those two results.The bottom line is that football fans - and Evertonians - want to see winning football. If the football which produces victories is easy on the eye, so much the better.
But fans want to see their side winning football matches, or they quickly turn their backs.
15,293 3rd round replay v Wimbledon, Tuesday, January 12 1993.
16,869 3rd round replay v Exeter City, Tuesday, December 21 1999.
18,565 3rd round replay v Newport County, Tuesday, January 11, 1983.
20,411 3rd round v Swindon Town, Sunday, January 5, 1997.
20,885 3rd round v Newcastle United, Sunday January 4, 1998.
22,236, 3rd round v West Ham United, Tuesday January 6, 2015.

The 22 players available on a free transfer to Everton FC this summer - or on a cut-price deal this January
Jan 07, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Kristian Walsh
There is plenty of top European talent available on Bosman deals this summer
The January transfer window and all its silliness is in full swing - but it can actually be an important time for clubs. With just six months remaining on the contracts of several top players, the Blues would be free to negotiate a deal for those who play abroad. Antolin Alcaraz and Sylvain Distin, who both see their contracts expire this summer, 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 this summer on a free – or even a cut-price deal this month if contracts remain unsigned.
If players are under 24, compensation will have to be paid.
In pics: Potential free Everton FC transfers
Fabian Delph (Aston Villa)
Age: 25
Energetic midfielder who has steadily improved for the Midlands side. Would add another option to Everton's midfield.
Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus)
Age: 30
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)
Age: 28
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.
Nigel De Jong (AC Milan)
Age: 30
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)
Age: 29
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)
Age: 28
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)
Age: 22
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)
Age: 28
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)
Age: 26
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. His future at Upton Park remains uncertain.
Stephane Mbia (Sevilla)
Age: 28
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)
Age: 27
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.
Christopher Samba (Dynamo Moscow)
Age: 30
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)
Age: 30
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)
Age: 28
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.
Neto (Fiorentina)
Age: 25
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)
Age: 28
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)
Age: 27
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)
Age: 22
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.
Goran Pandev (Galatasaray)
Age: 31
There are conflicting reports regarding how long the forward has left on his contract, but it appears likely to expire this summer. Experienced, versatile player who made his name in Serie A.
Rio Mavuba (Lille)
Age: 30
Defensive midfielder who faced the Blues in the Europa League this season. Lille have been struggling in Ligue 1 and the Frenchman may suit the Premier League.
Vieirinha (Wolfsburg)
Age: 28
Quick, tricky winger who has featured 16 times this season. The Portuguese wide man, who plays on the right, was a part of the Wolfsburg side who lost 2-0 to the Blues in November.
Juraj Kucka (Genoa)
Age: 27
Slovakian wide man who possesses pace and ability out wide. He has featured throughout the current Serie A campaign which sees Genoa fifth.

Everton FC must NOT get sucked into a relegation fight says Goodison Park legend Pat Nevin
Jan 07, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Blues just four points above drop zone after one win in eight Premier League games
FORMER Everton favourite Pat Nevin fears his old club being dragged into a relegation battle - and the former Scottish international believes that the Blues must avoid that outcome at all costs.
A torrid run of one win in eight Premier League matches has left the Blues just four points above the drop zone, with two of the clubs below them having just changed managers in a bid to spark an upturn in fortunes. Nevin does not advocate that course of action. He forged a friendship with Martinez from their time together at Motherwell in 2000, but he fears the repercussions of Everton being sucked into their first relegation fight for 13 years. He said: “My big worry is, and I think it’s what every single Evertonian feels just now, you know that black hole of relegation which can sometimes suck you in? Well if you get caught in that all normal rules don’t apply any more. All the usual things you do, playing with confidence and the ability of players coming to the fore, disappears. “It falls apart. “They can’t let that happen. We can’t let that happen.
“I don’t want to be biased. Roberto Martinez is a good mate of mine. He’s someone that I like a lot and I’m good friends with. “But if he is making a mistake I’m afraid in my business now you need to tell him and I need to say he’s making mistakes. “I suspect that the team is good enough and we just need confidence to grow a wee bit.” Nevin admitted that it was difficult for the side’s usual leaders to show that quality during a run as torrid as the one the Blues have endured.
Skipper Phil Jagielka endured an uncomfortable night against West Ham on Tuesday and Sylvain Distin lost James Collins at a corner for the Hammers’ goal. “Sometimes a lack of leadership comes from a lack of belief,” he added. “The guys who do that, be it Barry or be it McCarthy, they have to be playing well or be on the pitch to behave that way. “We know that at various times Phil jagielka and Sylvain Distin have not had as comfortable a season so far as they have had last season and seasons gone by - and it’s just that little bit harder for most footballers - not all - but most people to be able to do that.” On the subdued atmosphere at Goodison Nevin said: “99.9 per cent of the time you can’t hear individual shouts but you can hear the general feeling and the groans.
“The thing is, it’s the same at most grounds and it certainly is at Goodison, This hasn’t changed. Yes, you will have the moans and the groans, but you know the second that you do something good ... there’s an absolute wave of positivity.” Nevin also earmarked the moment when he felt Tuesday night’s tie turned - and it boasted echoes of the night Neil Ruddock kicked Duncan Ferguson in a Goodison derby and awakened the kraken! “Oddly enough I thought the turning point last night wasn’t their goal, it was the moment when Lukaku was kicked,” he said. “He was furious about that fact. He was dragged over and given a yellow card and he felt really upset about it.”

The night Everton FC saviour Romelu Lukaku turned into the Incredible Hulk...just like Duncan Ferguson
Jan 07, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Pat Nevin believes injustice of receiving a yellow card which transformed the 21-year-old into an unplayable force of nature
Former Everton FC favourite Pat Nevin hopes that Romelu Lukaku’s late FA Cup equaliser against West Ham can be a turning point in the Toffees’ season. But the Scottish international believes the 91st minute strike which forced the Hammers into a third round replay was a self inflicted wound.
Lukaku had produced his brightest Everton performance for weeks, but Nevin believes it was the injustice of receiving a yellow card for being fouled which transformed the 21-year-old into an unplayable force of nature. “Oddly enough I thought the turning point last night wasn’t their goal, it was the moment when Lukaku was kicked,” said Nevin. “He was furious about that fact.
“He was dragged over and given a yellow card and he felt really upset about it.”
Manager Roberto Martinez agreed. “I love the attitude he showed,” said the Blues boss. “He was penetrating and he worked extremely hard to get that physicality and power back in his body and when he is in that sort of mood he is the best.” Evertonians have seen that sort of reaction before from their centre-forwards. Duncan Ferguson famously scored his first goal for Everton in a Goodison derby match - a game which was the undoubted turning point of the 1994/95 season.
Manager Joe Royle, in his autobiography, explained: “When the moment came it was sparked, unintentionally, by Liverpool’s steamroller of a centre-back, Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock, whose tackle from behind transformed Duncan from gentle giant into the Incredible Hulk,” wrote Royle.
“When Razor hit you, it was with the force of a charging rhino and he hammered into Duncan 10 minutes into the second period, an offence for which he was booked. As Razor ran back into position he probably thought he had done his job well and that he wouldn’t get another peep out of Duncan who, to be honest, hadn’t done much to suggest he would be a threat anyway.
“How wrong can you be? The foul tackle had an amazing effect on Duncan. You could almost see the lad turning green. From the moment he picked himself up off the floor and shook his head clear, he became unplayable, causing chaos in Liverpool’s defence.” Ferguson, now first team coach at Goodison, has been working with Lukaku on the training field and Martinez believes the young Belgian is getting back to his best. “To get that reward at the end will give him the world of confidence,” he said. “When he shows that attitude it is a big strength of ours.
“I look at his reaction (to being left on the bench). He never accepted he didn’t want to improve or get refreshed. “I think he has taken that really well, shown a good attitude and I thought his game looked back to his very best. “Now, at the start of the second half of the season, that is massive for us. If we want to be successful we need him at his very best.”

Everton FC's Muhamed Besic deserved wider recognition after stat-spinning display against West Ham
Jan 07, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Bosnian produces arguably his best performance of the season - but still handed poor rating by some
Judging by some assessments of his latest performance Muhamed Besic is struggling for recognition outside Merseyside.
But within the four walls of Goodison Park, the Bosnian is increasingly appreciated.
Slowly but surely, Besic is fulfilling his promise to become a Blue cult hero.
Yet following Everton FC's dramatic FA Cup tie with West Ham on Tuesday night, Besic was handed a miserly five out of 10 by one popular national website. To suggest he was, at best, rank average is insulting. The truth is that the combative midfielder produced arguably his best performance since joining the club in the summer - the fans who were there will vouch for that.
But it isn’t just the anecdotal evidence of the supporters that will pour scorn on Besic’s lowly score but also the cold, hard facts. Everton, on the back of four woeful defeats, were crying out for energy, tenacity and bite in the tackle. Roberto Martinez will have called for passion, commitment and a roll-your-sleeves up mentality as he issued the pre-match team talk. Besic gave them all of that. The 22-year-old won nine tackles - four more than any other Everton player and only three less than the entire Hammers team - made six clearances and won two aerial duels.
His defensive steel - which included two interceptions (more than any other Blue) - was allied with quality use of the ball. Sure, Besic’s decision making still requires some fine-tuning and he is working for consistency, but from his 52 passes he finished the game with an impressive 90.4% passing accuracy. It placed the £4m signing as second only to Bryan Oviedo and was better than his Premier League average of 87.5%. After taking his time to get used to the rigours of English football, the former Ferencvaros player has started to settle in - and it shows. Indeed, many of Besic’s key stats on Tuesday night were up from his averages. The man charged with shackling Lionel Messi during the World Cup last summer had averaged 2.4 tackles a game in the league and just 1.3 in the Europa League but dwarfed those figures with his one-man wrecking ball performance in midweek.
Besic averages 1.2 interceptions, 1.5 clearances and 1.6 dribbles per Premier League match went beyond those levels in his 85 minutes on the pitch. Of course, those stats are skewed given the fact Besic has only started eight times in the league and twice in Europe. But Tuesday night’s performance still largely outshone stand-out displays against Liverpool and Queens Park Rangers when he played from the first whistle. At Anfield, Besic made more interceptions and had more touches but his passing accuracy wasn’t as good and he made just one tackle.
And even when he impressed at the heart of Everton’s midfield alongside Ross Barkley against QPR last month, he still made more tackles, interception and clearances in the game with West Ham.
Stats can be manipulated to tell any story you like but it is indisputable that Besic deserved much more recognition that he was afforded by some.

Everton FC boss Roberto Martinez: 'We've been suffering a hangover from August'
Jan 07, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Blues manager says dropped points early on have haunted his side
Roberto Martinez believes Everton FC have been suffering a ‘hangover’ from the opening two games of the season. The Blues dropped points from winning positions against Leicester City and Arsenal in August and the Catalan says the effects are still being felt in the squad. Everton stopped the rot of four consecutive defeats with Tuesday night’s FA Cup draw at home to West Ham United when Romelu Lukaku struck in the final minute. But Martinez says the Blues problems - that have seen them win just one of their last 10 matches - have stemmed from the draws in the opening two games of the campaign. Everton have been a different animal in the Europa League and qualified for the knockout stages as Group H winners. But Martinez says expectations were so high in the Premier League - after a record points haul last term - that those early setbacks dealt a major blow to Everton’s confidence. “In Europe it has been completely different,” said Martinez.
“We always look fresh and the team we can be. “In the league, expectations internally have been so high that dropping four points in those two games set us back a little bit and you need a real good momentum to get rid of that feeling. “I don’t think we’ve managed to do that and it keeps creeping in.” But Martinez is determined not to dwell on the poor run that has seen Everton drop to 13th in the table and just four points outside the relegation zone. And the 41-year-old says the Blues are now free of a congested run of fixtures over the festive period that compounded their misery.
“But now we are in a position where our season is not about looking back,” the Everton boss insisted. “It is a new year and a new target and the second-half of the season gives us an opportunity in the round of 32 in Europe and in the Premier League we are not going to be carrying any luggage because we need to win the next game and develop a momentum in our season.
“And probably that sets things a lot easier than in this Christmas period where we went form game to game wanting to win so much that the disappointment became bigger and bigger and bigger and now we have got to a point where it is good to start from fresh.”

Everton FC boss Roberto Martinez says Romelu Lukaku needed a spell on the substitutes' bench
Jan 07, 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Record signing returned to starting line-up against West Ham and scored equaliser
Roberto Martinez insists Romelu Lukaku needed to be benched during Everton FC’s congested festive schedule. But the towering Belgium international returned to the starting line-up on Tuesday night and bagged the late equaliser to keep the Blues in the FA Cup.
Martinez says Lukaku did not want to be a substitute in games at Newcastle United and Hull City - with Arouna Kone selected instead - but the rest did him wonders as he turned in a best performance of the season against the Hammers. Lukaku has now struck eight times this season but his 90th minute finish from Bryan Oviedo’s expert cross was the most important as it saved Everton from being dumped out of the Cup - and prevented a fifth successive defeat for Martinez’s side.
Martinez says the £28m summer signing is “ready to perform” after being left out of the side and says his desire has never been in question. “We had played three times in six days and so someone like Rom, with his body and pace and power, sometimes it is impossible to play 90 minutes in every game,” Martinez told the ECHO. “Every player wants to play every minute and no player will ever tell you they are not available. “Rom has that attitude, even at the start of the season when he wasn’t 100% fit, and that is what I admire from Rom. “He is ready to perform now and give everything he’s got on the pitch. “But it has been that type of season, as a team, where we haven’t got any momentum in the league going and clearly the individuals show that as well.”
Not only did Lukaku’s goal stop the rot for Everton but it also ended his own goal drought which had stretched back to the beginning of December.




























January 2015 - Week 1 (1st - 7th)

All News Articles throughout each month.....

Everton Independent Research!