Everton Independent Research Data


Moyes backs Howard to claim Blues record
Mar 1 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
TIM HOWARD has 11 Premier League matches to try to claim the club record cruelly denied him last season - and boss David Moyes is backing the Everton goalkeeper to go one better. The American international kept 14 clean sheets last season, one short of the club record set by the legendary Neville Southall in 1995-96.
A 1-1 draw at Chelsea on the final day of the season denied Howard a share of the record, but Monday's shut out at Manchester City means Howard has now kept 12 this season. That puts him alongside Petr Cech and Pepe Reina as the Premier League's most consistent clean sheet keepers this season, and Moyes declared: "That's a great record for him and hopefully there's a few more to come before the end of the season.
"I think Tim's done great for us. When he went to Manchester United I think he was the best goalkeeper in the Premiership in that first season. "It didn't go quite as well for him maybe after that but he has come here and done well. We've been really plesed with him. He's kept a lot of clean sheets and while I'm sure he'd be the first person to point out that the defenders have done well in front of him, when called upon he's been very good. "I think Tim's gone about his job well. He's been quiet and efficient - and sometime's it's good if you're not talking about your goalkeeper a lot, because that means you're doing well. "He's experienced as well, in Europe and in international games, which has helped us. We trust him and expect him to make saves.
"What he needed when he came to us was a bit of love and attention. We needed him because we'd lost Nigel Martyn and we made him feel wanted. "He came in and has done really well, not only as a goalkeeper. He's a great person to have in the squad.
"It's been a good bit of business when you look at the price of some of the other keepers around. "Nigel Martyn was always going to be a tough act to follow - I still say he was my best ever signing - but Tim's done it and still has age on his side. Hopefully he'll carry on getting better, just as maturity has made David James better."
James and Howard go head to head at Goodison tomorrow, with the Portsmouth keeper holding the record for Premier League clean sheets. Howard already holds one Goodison record, though. In only allowing a header from Olivier Kapo past him against Birmingham City last year, Howard became the first keeper in Everton's history to boast an average of conceding less than a goal every game in his opening 50 starts. Howard's total of 48 comfortably surpassed the previous best of 54, held by Dai Davies, while Southall had to pick the ball from his net on 58 occasions during his first half century.

Fifteen points could be all the Blues will need
Mar 1 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES won’t make rash predictions, so let’s make one for him.
Everton could be just five wins away from clinching the fourth Champions League place, based on recent statistics. The Blues have collected 50 points from their opening 27 games. And since 2001/02, when fourth in the table was first rewarded with Champions League football, the average points needed to take the place has been a shade over 65. That could mean that wins over struggling Derby, Sunderland, Fulham, Birmingham and Middlesbrough in their remaining fixtures might be enough for Everton. The most points needed to take fourth in the past six seasons has been 71 by Newcastle in 2001/02. But even that record figure could be achieved by Everton with two further wins over the likes of Portsmouth, West Ham or Aston Villa.
This season Everton's formula has been blindingly simple. They have beaten, almost without exception, every team they have been expected to overcome. Of the nine sides that are challenging for either the Champions League or a UEFA Cup place, City are the only team Everton have beaten. But the Blues have taken 40 points from the Premier League’s 10 other clubs. Their run-in is made up of five matches against the first group of teams, against whom Everton average 0.83 points per game, and six against the also-rans, against whom they average 2.66 points. If Everton progress at their present rate, they will finish with 70. Only once since the Premier League moved to a 38-game season has this not been enough to finish fourth. Of course there are lies, damned lies – and then statistics. But statistically speaking, Everton are looking good.
POINTS tally by fourth placed teams since four Champions League places were available: 2001/02 - Newcastle United 71pts; 2002/03 - Chelsea 67pts; 2003/04 - Liverpool 60pts; 2004/05 - Everton 61pts; 2005/06 - Arsenal 67pts; 2006/07 - Arsenal 68pts.

I am just so grateful to be in the side – Cahill
Mar 1 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
TIM CAHILL is Everton's nerveless, ice-cold assassin in front of goal.
But wave a team-sheet in his face and he turns into a nervous wreck!
The Aussie midfielder is the epitome of the in your face attitude which has carried Everton into pole position for the final Champions League berth next season.
But as he prepares for another huge crunch clash against Portsmouth tomorrow, he admits the moment the players fear most is when boss David Moyes is about to name his starting line-up. “I’m not being funny, but it’s like luck of the draw sometimes,” he explained. “I am nervous when I turn up for team meetings. Everyone is nervous.
“In training we are doing so well together that the gaffer can put anyone in the team.
“The gaffer can rely on every player. Look at what happened to AJ on Monday.
“He had scored two brilliant goals against Brann and was tremendous for the team, but he found himself on the bench. “Ossie (Leon Osman) has been brilliant, but he was on the bench against Brann. “This is what we are all about and we have to keep it this way. We play for each other. When we pull the shirt on we will play anywhere for this club. “The fans have been fantastic and that builds confidence. I’m just really pleased that I am actually in the starting XI. It’s an honour to play in a team like this. I can't emphasise how proud I am.” Cahill has started in eight of Everton’s last nine matches, only suspension keeping him out of the home draw with Tottenham, but his role has shifted depending on the circumstances and the opposition.
Used as a conventional midfielder in Bergen and in the Goodison return against the Norwegians, on Monday night he was back in the auxiliary striking role where he has to support Yakubu and fill in the holes in midfield when necessary.
He doesn’t mind where he’s asked to play, however, provided he is involved.
“For me I score a lot of goals playing with Yak,” he said. “Feed the Yak and he will score! That's the truth, honestly. “The big man needs to stay in the middle and we have to fight for our lives to feed him, to make sure he is getting service and getting the ball. “He is a very skilful and a really honest player. His record has been prolific and it's vital he stays fit and we keep feeding him. “I feel a strong belief that we all believe in each other and the gaffer believes in us. You can see that on the football pitch. We all put a shift in for the Evertonians. “We have a team full of footballers who will do anything they can to get in this team. “Now we look at how we are going to get the better of Portsmouth. They will bring a hell of a lot of pace and power. They will give us a massive game, but we will be prepared for that.” Pompey may be just six points shy of the Blues, a gap which could be reduced by half with a win in tomorrow’s Goodison clash, but boss Harry Redknapp is trying to play down his side’s Euro hopes. Redknapp said: “It looks like only a fifth place finish will guarantee UEFA Cup football this time and you would have to say either Liverpool or Everton are favourites for that. “Yes, we’ve got a chance, but (Aston) Villa have got a chance, Manchester City have got a chance, Blackburn have got a chance and even West Ham have got a chance. “There are a whole group of clubs in there scrapping for it. “But not everything rests on it. If we can make a European spot it would be fantastic – but we've had a great season, whatever happens. “And if we get on a good run of wins then who knows what will happen. We've still got six home games left in the last 11 and haven't got to play the big four. So we are looking good.”
Pompey missed out UEFA Cup qualification last season by just two points – when the first seven finishers in the Premier League all went on to play in Europe. But with Tottenham – a team likely to finish outside the top seven – already snapping up one of three available English places in the UEFA Cup by winning the Carling Cup, the number who can qualify via their league position is cut. And it would take a Manchester United-Chelsea FA Cup final repeat in May to prevent another reduction – provided both also finish in the Premier League top four. Everton, however, have their sights fixed firmly on fourth place – and another three points at Goodison tomorrow would put them well on course to avoid any end of season anxiety.
l Interview by Dominic King

Home: 8/15 Draw: 5/2 Away: 5/1
Mar 1 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
THERE’S a couple of trends to check out here, before you try to wrestle with the teak tough prospect of working out who’s going to win this match. This Emirates clash pits two of the Premier League’s three highest scorers against each other – so over 2.5 goals looks a solid tip at an attractively priced 10/11. Then there’s the corners market. The Gunners have won the corner count in 11 of their 14 home clashes, while Villa have obliged by winning less corners than their opposition in 10 out of 14 trips. Not a nailed on tip, but pretty solid nonetheless. Nicklas Bendtner is in line to partner leading scorer Emmanuel Adebayor in attack following Eduardo’s season-ending injury, while Abou Diaby should return, but defender Kolo Toure (knee) is still out, Emmanuel Eboue is suspended, while Alex Song (knee), and Tomas Rosicky (hamstring) remain sidelined. Home: 11/4 Draw: 11/5 Away: 10/11
THERE are too many variables surrounding this match to punt with any confidence.
For example, how many bottles of champagne have Spurs consumed this week? How many good nights sleep have they had? And when exactly did they stop celebrating the Carling Cup Final win? Spurs’ lack of focus, coupled with Birmingham’s desperation for points, suggests a draw could be the likeliest outcome.
Birmingham may have a new centre-back pairing as Liam Ridgewell (ankle) is also doubtful and could join the suspended Martin Taylor on the sidelines.
Radhi Jaidi and Rafael Schmitz will come into contention along with Stephen Kelly.
Midfielder Olivier Kapo is definitely unavailable because of a hamstring injury and is likely to be replaced by Gary McSheffrey. Home: 2/1 Draw: 11/5 Away: 6/5
PAUL JEWELL has described reports of him instilling a boot camp mentality at the club as “a load of nonsense”. “It’s a fantastic training facility and they’ve worked a little bit harder than usual, that’s all they’ve done,” he said. “Does a boot camp style meaning getting in at 10 o’clock and leaving again at 3 o’clock? That’s boot camp is it?” He also denied extra training was responsible for Giles Barnes’ knee injury. “He was playing football when he did it and believe it or not you have to run around to play football,” he added. The negativity around Pride Park should give Sunderland all the encouragement they need to improve the worst away record in the Premier League – yes, even worse than Derby’s. Sunderland have two points out of 42, Derby have three. We expect Sunderland’s away haul to soar to five by tea-time tonight, but under 2.5 goals looks a cert (8/13). Home: 15/2 Draw: 16/5 Away: 4/11 UNITED go to Fulham just days before a big European tie. But that’s all the encouragement Roy Hodgson’s men are going to get. No matter how much Sir Alex rotates his squad, United will have too much quality. A comfortable win could even see United return to the summit of the Premier League. Even three points, however, will not be enough to see the relegation-haunted Cottagers out of the bottom three. And let’s face it, they’re not going to win. The Cottagers have conceded as many at home as United have scored on the road (23). United are still looking for a win in London this season; having drawn two and lost one so far, but that will change at five o’clock tonight.
Home: 8/11 Draw: 23/10 Away: 7/2 BORO have won just one more league match than Reading (seven to six), yet find themselves six places and seven points better off.
They also endured a gruelling extra-time on Wednesday night, but Reading’s recent run is wretched and Boro have to be the tips to edge this. As always with Reading, though, the over-11 corner market has to be looked at. Boro’s stats also support this one. Just over half of their home games (7 out of 13) have been ‘Over 11’, while 11 out of 13 Reading away games have yielded the same return. Boro have David Wheater and Jeremie Aliadiere suspended, while Reading will be without defender Michael Duberry (knee), midfielder Brynjar Gunnarsson (groin) and winger Glen Little (heel). Home: 6/4 Draw: 11/5 Away: 8/5 IT doesn’t get any easier for King Kev, but then when your side has lost four points to Derby this season there really isn’t anything like an easy game. Blackburn are anything but easy, and secured a handsome, if flattering 4-1 win over Bolton last weekend. Alan Shearer believes Keegan’s reign will get up and running this weekend now he has all of his strikers fit and available.
But when did Al get anything right? Especially turning his nose up at Old Trafford for Newcastle. “For the first time this weekend he could have a full squad to pick from with his centre-forwards Owen, Viduka, Martins, (Alan) Smith, (Shola) Ameobi and the young lad coming through Andy Carroll,” said Shearer. It’s in defence where Newcastle have the problems though. Home: 10/3 Draw: 11/5 Away: 4/5
CHELSEA will bounce back from last weekend’s unexpected upset, but don’t expect a classic. This has the makings of a solid 1-0 (11/2), 2-0 (7/1) Chelsea tip, much more attractive than the meagre 8/13 on offer for under 2.5 goals. Those odds are offered because nine of West Ham’s 13 home games have been ‘Under 2.5 Goals’, while 11 of Chelsea’s 13 aways have similarly come under. Chelsea have no fresh injury worries, but West Ham have Bobby Zamora doubtful after suffering a blow to the knee during Monday’s reserve game against Tottenham, while midfielders Lee Bowyer and Matthew Etherington (both groin) are still out after missing the 1-0 win at Fulham last weekend. Midfielder Scott Parker is back in full training after recovering from a knee injury and close to a return, though this weekend is too soon.
Home: 8/13 Draw: 5/2 Away: 4/1 UNDER 2.5 goals at 7/10 is a good call – only one City home game this year and no Wigan away trip in the Premier League yielding three goals or more. With the match on telly, the card count is also worth checking out. Nine of City’s 14 home games this season have been ‘Under 40 Booking Points’, while 10 of Wigan’s 14 aways this season have come into the same category.
Sven will have had a hard word, too, after Martin Petrov’s petulant dismissal on Monday, which sees him start a three match ban. Also missing is Micah Richards, recovering from a knee operation, but Vedran Corluka and Elano are poised to return while Michael Johnson comes into contention. Wigan boss Steve Bruce again has virtually a full-strength squad to choose from, only Ryan Taylor missing out.

Title-winning battler with a touch of style
Mar 1 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
I ALWAYS liked clothes and was interested in them.” Not a quote you would instantly associate with Everton title winner Dennis Stevens, but they were words he uttered in 1976 when the Football Echo carried a ‘Where Are They Now?’ feature on the midfield dynamo. After retiring from the game, Stevens ran an exclusive men’s outfitters in a suburb of Bolton and made a comfortable living from the venture.
But comfortable would never be the word used to describe Stevens’ all-action perpetual motion displays at the heart of Everton’s title winning side of 1963.
While Roy Vernon and Alex Young claimed the headlines, Stevens was the unsung artisan who did the donkey work so vital to a title-winning team’s prospects.
Colin Harvey later identified Stevens as the missing link which helped the Blues become more difficult to beat away from home. A cousin of the late-great Duncan Edwards, Dennis had been a prolific scorer at Bolton, succeeding Nat Lofthouse as the Trotters’ top scorer in 1959/60. He signed for Everton in March 1962 for £35,000 where he was converted into a more defensive midfielder. Aged 27 when he signed, Evertonians had already been made aware of his combative qualities. “Ironically Stevens was a member of a Bolton Central League side which came to Everton some seasons ago and took part in a match, the temperature of which became so hot the game was held up for about 10 minutes while encroaching spectators were cleared from the pitch,” reported Leslie Edwards in the Echo of March 6, 1962.
One of those spectators contacted the Echo this week to confess his trespass and ask for a feature on his hero! “There were rumours that the referee had been seen drinking in the Winslow before the match,” he recalled “Kenny Birch and Harry Potts had been sent off and the goalkeeper, Ken Greaves, was attacked by a person with an umbrella!” Stevens’ 142-match Everton career was clouded with far less controversy.
“I have great memories of Everton and Harry Catterick,” he later recalled. “He did a lot for me, brought out the best in me and made me a better player. People like Vernon, Young and Jimmy Gabriel were also great players and it helped me just playing with them. “In many ways Mr Catterick was like Bill Shankly for building confidence into a player, and this is a good quality in a manager.”
Oldham persuaded Stevens to join them in December 1965 after he had lost his place at Goodison. He endured an unhappy 12-month spell there, before a move across the water to Tranmere. “They are a smashing little club and I enjoyed my two years there,” he said. “Funnily enough my last game was for Tranmere against Everton.”

Blues showing the inner belief
Mar 1 2008 by Barry Horne, Liverpool Echo
SOME weeks ago, before Manchester City came to Goodison, I predicted their challenge for Champions League football would fade. I felt that too many of their foreign players lacked the mental and physical strength necessary to cope with the run-in – and the fantastic job that David Moyes’ side did on them on Monday night only confirmed that belief. City have not been behind in matches many times this season and didn’t have the inner belief, confidence and resolution that teams like Everton have shown time and time again. City never looked like coming back in Monday’s match, and coupled with Micah Richards’ subsequent absence for six weeks through injury I don’t think they have the players to bounce back in the Premier League. In the press room before kick-off the hot topic of conversation was which team needed to win more desperately, and which manager would be the boldest in his team selection. In the event, there were groans when the Everton team sheet landed.
A number of ‘experts’ saw the 4-5-1 formation as a defensive operation.
I have said all along, however, that the system suits Everton’s players best, men like Pienaar, Arteta, Osman and especially Tim Cahill. He enjoyed his best game for a long time and produced an outstanding performance at both ends of the pitch.
Phil Jagielka received the TV man of the match award, and there was also a fascinating match up down Everton’s left flank between Joleon Lescott and Richards. Lescott won hands down in every department. Monday’s result might well be the one that sees City tail off, and Everton have an opportunity to do the same to another of their rivals tomorrow. Harry Redknapp has invaluable experience in the Premier League and has built a talented squad. Portsmouth’s away record is very good, and the difference between Manchester City and Portsmouth is that Pompey’s disparate foreigners seem to have moulded into a tight unit. I saw them at Preston North End last weekend and while they are a good side, they should not be feared.

Everton 3, Portsmouth 1 (D,Post)
Mar 3 2008
By Nick Smith
MUM might have been the word for most of us yesterday – but there’s only one on the lips of the Goodison faithful at the moment. Yakubu. The Nigerian’s post-Africa Cup of Nations oversight is now well and truly out of sight. In fact, six goals in three games have made it a distant memory. Yesterday it was Everton’s record signing – who scored two goals and was central to the one by Tim Cahill that turned the game back in his team’s favour – that provided the Mother’s Day treats. And if anyone’s thinking of sending flowers, laying some on the grave of Portsmouth’s attempts to catch Everton in the race for the top four might be a good place to start. Yakubu put in the kind of shift that must have made everyone at his former club, wonder how they ever let him go. They couldn’t keep a hold on him back then and yesterday was a similar story, with Sol Campbell suffering more than most. David Moyes’s side are now nine points clear of yesterday’s opponents and also opened up significant daylight between themselves and the other also-rans hoping to bombard the Champions League places. But more importantly for the manager, his players ultimately proved what they wanted him to – that they can cope with the pressure of playing catch-up. Like a good roast dinner it’s something that Sunday afternoons demand. None more so than yesterday, particularly in the context of the fourth spot in the Premier League looking increasingly like a straight shoot-out reserved for the wild west of Merseyside. And Everton’s victory was the perfect response to the questions posed by Liverpool earlier in the day, when they drew level on points by beating Bolton. Now they must do the same to West Ham in their game in hand on Wednesday night to do the same. It’s an intriguing scenario for the final 10 games of the season, a stage at which Everton had the same number of points three years ago as they do now. It was ultimately enough for Champions League football then, and you wouldn’t bet against it being repeated given the adversity that they have had to overcome on so many occasions this season. Such as untimely injuries, losing players to the Africa Cup of Nations, coping with a punishing schedule on the back of a couple of cup runs – and not even a Premier League penalty decision has gone in their favour. But then Moyes insisted he would no longer rely on refereeing decisions after the Merseyside derby debacle and, more than four months on, it’s clear he hasn’t needed to. Only the top two of Arsenal and Manchester United have inflicted defeats on Everton since then, proof if any were needed that they have raised their game to the level necessary for fending off their pursuers – Portsmouth included. Their own resurgence as genuine European contenders this season has been fuelled by a tally of away wins only bettered by Chelsea, giving Moyes plenty of reason to be wary. But little fazes the Everton manager these days and he had no qualms about keeping the same 11 that started in Monday’s 2-0 win at Manchester City – despite it meaning Mikel Arteta was still missing as he tries to shake off the nuisance that is his groin injury. There was a time when the Goodison masses might have coiled in dread at what Everton would serve up without the Spaniard’s creativity at the hub of their midfield – but the squad is now good enough to cope with his absence. And it was never more apparent than in the first minute when a free-kick that would have been tailor-made for Arteta on another day led to Everton taking the lead. Yakubu, clearly keen to show he can do early after his recent reprimand, took just six seconds to win the set-piece – and only 50 had elapsed when he headed it into the net. It was Steven Pienaar who took on the Arteta role, floating it invitingly in for Joseph Yobo to help on to his fellow Nigerian, who planted in the first of the 10 goals he needs to match his manager’s challenge to reach 20 in the Premier League. But in terms of personal goals, Yakubu’s was significant simply because he kicked the month off in such remarkable fashion – as Middlesbrough supporters would be only too quick to tell you, he doesn’t usually score in March. Or April. Or May for that matter. Only one goal in those time periods during his two seasons on the Riverside. And any fears he makes a habit of taking one foot off the gas and hoist it level with his other one in a season’s climax were scarcely allayed by his plod back from Ghana. But the six goals he has plundered since then will have restored his confidence as well as his place in Moyes’s good books. And his opening goal yesterday initially did wonders for the mood of his team-mates too. The passing and movement was crisp and incisive as Everton’s five-man midfield buzzed around like furious insects determined to irritate their physically imposing opponents into submission. It produced a spell in which you got the feeling that failure to capitalise with a second goal could be calamitous. Pienaar almost teed it up for Tim Cahill, Leon Osman fired wide after a pinball passing move and when Papa Bouba Diop wrapped his arm round Lescott in the penalty area Andre Marriner – take a wild guess – refused to point to the spot. All of which should have left Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp retreating for the dressing room with a face you’d expect him to pull if someone suggested he start with David Nugent up front. But as it was, he must have been delighted, not to mention shocked, that his side somehow conjured up the most unlikely of equalisers in the 38th minute – because until that point Prince Harry would have struggled to be as anonymous on the attack. However, it’s King Harry the Portsmouth fans are bothered about and they were saluting more transfer window mastery when Jermain Defoe did exactly what he was bought from Spurs for, getting the merest touch to help Glen Johnson’s inswinging cross past Tim Howard. The south coast contingent and Fabio Capello aside, it was a moment which pleased few inside Goodison Park – because no matter how out of the blue or against the run of play goals are, they change games. And Everton struggled to regain their early superiority. Moyes chose to satisfy the growing clamour for Andrew Johnson, bringing him on for Tony Hibbert with 25 minutes left and it wasn’t long before the urgency of that stirring opening returned. And the players who were pivotal then came to the fore once again to create the second goal 17 minutes from time. Yakubu out-muscled Sylvain Distin before giving Pienaar space to pick out Cahill, who once again ensured David James was powerless to prevent a header nestling in the corner of his net. Eight minutes later it was all over when Yakubu heaped more misery on Campbell by cutting inside him and smashing in his 18th of the season. So on a day when many want to pick the perfect place to take their mothers, the Grand Old Lady of Goodison turned out to be the ideal venue – and back into the top four the perfect destination. EVERTON: Howard; Hibbert (Johnson 66), Jagielka, Yobo, Lescott; Osman, Neville, Carsley, Cahill, Pienaar (Baines 90); Yakubu (Anichebe 83). Subs: Wessels, Vaughan. BOOKING: Pienaar (65, foul). PORTSMOUTH: James; Johnson, Distin, Campbell, Hreidarsson; Diarra, Diop (Utaka 79), Muntari, Kranjcar; Kanu, Defoe. Subs: Ashdown, Lauren, Baros, Davis. BOOKING: Distin (32, foul). REFEREE: Andre Marriner. ATT: 33,938 NEXT GAME: Fiorentina v Everton, UEFA Cup last 16 first leg, Thursday 7.45pm.

Everton 3 Portsmouth 1
Mar 3 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
NOW what’s that age old saying – anything you can do, we can do better?
If those of a Red persuasion in this city thought a first away victory over Bolton Wanderers since 2002 would be enough to trigger palpitations, the response from Everton’s fired-up squad could not have been more emphatic. As the race for the final Champions League spot intensifies in the coming weeks, a good deal more than talent will needed to see the job through, namely hunger, desire and, most importantly, nerve. How many times have we see down the years teams get themselves into outstanding positions to achieve something, only to wilt and give away to the chasing pack as the pressure became unbearable? Liverpool, understandably, will have thought after a convincing 3-1 win that they had regained the initiative in this increasingly pulsating race for fourth place but, at present, there seems little they can do to halt Everton’s momentum. The Blues’ UEFA Cup commitments, allied to the demands of television companies, mean that for the next month, Liverpool will play before them and therefore have an opportunity to crank up the pressure. They did it last weekend when beating Middlesbrough 48 hours before Everton travelled to Manchester City and repeated the feat this weekend at Bolton but, once again, Everton came through their test with flying colours. Portsmouth do not owe their lofty position in the Premier League standings to good fortune and are a side who deserve to be challenging for a UEFA Cup spot yet, contrary to Harry Redknapp’s belief, only one side deserved to win here. Although they never reached the heights of last Monday’s faultless performance in Manchester, there was still plenty to like about the way Everton went about their business, exuding poise and confidence. So if their neighbours had fired a broadside by winning at the Reebok Stadium earlier in the afternoon, Everton could not have wished for a better riposte as they caught Portsmouth cold with a goal in the first 60 seconds. No surprises for guessing the identity of the scorer. Having just finished waving to the crowd as he waited for kick-off, Ayegbeni Yakubu’s name was being sung in every corner of the ground after his 17th goal of the season. A typical poacher’s effort, he was in the right place at the right time to head Joseph Yobo’s flick-on past the startled David James after Steven Pienaar’s perfectly executed free-kick caused havoc in the opposition ranks.
Yakubu’s wonderfully laid back disposition might not always give the impression that he is operating at full stretch but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find fault in his performances and there is certainly nothing wrong with his work rate.
Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin – Portsmouth’s two hulking central defenders – do not get pushed aside too easily but Yakubu, bristling with muscular aggression, needed no second invitation to pummel into them when the chance arose.
That strike made him Everton’s most prolific marksman in a season since Andrei Kanchelskis scored 16 in 1996 and, on the evidence he has provided recently, who is to say he won’t get 20 league goals? And to think some doubted his ability to shine.
Strangely, though, that effort did not provide the impetus for Everton to wrap up the contest in the first 45 minutes as some may have expected and the atmosphere inside this famous old ground -– considering what was at stake – was puzzlingly flat.
For all their neat and tidy passing, the Toffees never really threatened James’ goal but, that said, it still came as a surprise when Portsmouth conjured up an equaliser, Jermaine Defoe turning a Glenn Johnson cross past Tim Howard. Happily, however, the sluggish 10 minutes that followed either side of the interval did not prove costly and it says everything about the quality in Everton’s squad that David Moyes was able to call an ace from the bench to change the game. Andrew Johnson would prefer to be starting but he can make just as much of a devastating impact as a substitute and that proved the case yesterday, as his introduction created a new set of problems for Portsmouth to deal with. Suddenly, when it seemed as if Everton may struggle to create something, they started finding space in the channels thanks to Johnson’s searing pace and relentless running and before they knew it, the game had been won.
“I thought Andrew Johnson made the difference,” an elated Moyes agreed afterwards. “We were causing them problems but without getting behind and getting shots on goal. Andy got some runs in and started to worry them.” First, Tim Cahill provided the bullet header a superb move between Yakubu and the impressive Steven Pienaar demanded to get the goal another terrific individual performance deserved.
Then Johnson’s inch-perfect 60-yard pass sent Yakubu galloping free and, after twisting and turning Campbell, he unleashed a shot that sped past James before he even realised what had happened. “We were very good and we have been for most of the season and we are improving all the time,” said Moyes. Had Everton faced a blank week before next Sunday’s trip to Sunderland, Yakubu might have been afforded the chance to get his third hat-trick of the campaign but, with Fiorentina looming, he was allowed the luxury of sitting out the final moments. He will, of course, be in the thick of things as the race to claim the last golden ticket becomes even more absorbing and it is a contest that bookmakers still have Liverpool as odds-on favourites to win.
Yet the more you see Everton play, the more the feeling grows that they will be the side in fourth spot once the final whistle has been blown on May 11. After all, every time a question is posed, they have an answer – and, invariably, it is the right one.

'Moyes deal will be sealed soon' - Bill Kenwright
Mar 3 2008 EXCLUSIVE by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
BILL KENWRIGHT poured scorn on claims that David Moyes' future at Goodison Park is in doubt - and vowed a new deal for the manager is in the pipeline.
Everton’s chairman was left bemused yesterday by some media reports that suggested contract talks between him and his manager – whose current deal runs out in June 2009 – had broken down. Moyes insisted after yesterday’s 3-1 win over Portsmouth that he expects discussions to begin in the near future and Kenwright confirmed that it is only a matter of time before the former Preston boss, who celebrates his sixth anniversary at Goodison next week, puts pen-to-paper. The pair are in regular dialogue over a number of issues, ranging from Moyes’ new contract to future investment in the playing staff, and Kenwright has no intentions of letting unhelpful reports get in the way. “The situation is exactly as David has indicated,” Kenwright told the Echo. “He and I simply have not had a moment to sit down and finalise his contract although we have both acknowledged to each other on several occasions that we must – and we will. “Our many daily conversations right now are about the last game, the next game and the next few weeks. “This is one of the most exciting periods in our club’s recent history and any mischievous reports that get in the way of that are not welcome.” Those reports certainly had no ill-effect on Everton’s squad as two goals from Ayegbeni Yakubu and another from Tim Cahill enabled them to reclaim the advantage in the race for fourth place with a thoroughly deserved win over Pompey. Yakubu’s total for the campaign is now up to 18 and he is confident his hot streak will continue for some time, particularly if his team-mates keep providing the kind of service that has proven so profitable of late. “I feel good at the minute,” said Everton’s record signing. “We are all fighting for each other and the lads keep giving me the ball to score. “It is a good feeling when you are surrounded by quality players like we have here. You can feel a goal coming all the time when you play in this team. It was also a good feeling to see Tim scoring again.” Cahill, meanwhile, was equally thrilled to end his nine game scoring drought but he was more satisfied that the Blues were able to go into this week’s UEFA Cup clash against Fiorentina on a high.
“It was a great team performance,” said Cahill. “We felt that we needed to back up last Monday’s win at Man City but Portsmouth are a very tough, strong team and it was difficult for us. We had to work hard but we prevailed in the end. It was about time I scored.”

Yakubu feasts on Portsmouth but Moyes saves salute for Johnson
Mar 3 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
YAKUBU took his incredible goals tally to 18 in 25 starts yesterday to fire Everton back into fourth place. But Blues boss David Moyes was keen to talk up the merits of the striker who didn’t find the net. Andy Johnson came on as a 65th minute substitute with Everton toiling at 1-1 and struggling to break down a resilient Portsmouth defence. But he helped provide the impetus for an important 3-1 win. “I said to the players afterwards it might not always be the 11 who start the game that win it,” said Moyes. “You might be actually sitting in the stand and still be one of the players who make a difference by the end of the season. “I think you know who I’m referring to. Andy Johnson came on and had a big impact. He hasn’t trained since Monday because of sickness. He came in and had a fitness test at two o’clock and did terrifically.
"If he hadn't been sick I'd have been in two minds whether to start with him.
“They’re all determined to play. There’s a real desire to play. “We have a great team spirit.” After back to back victories over two of their closest rivals for a European place next season, Moyes added: “It’s been a big week for us because the two teams we’ve just beaten have been pushing us really hard and pushing everybody around us for a European spot. “You have to remember that Portsmouth don’t lose many games away from home and have been around this part of the table all season.
“We had no Arteta today, there was a bit of sickness around the place, but we were still able to get ourselves a real positive result. “Liverpool are still the favourites for fourth – they have to be – but we’re doing everything we can to make a good fight of it. “The bookies would probably look at the difference between the two clubs and where they’ve been in the past, which is why they would make that decision.
“We have to keep our play going, but I think we’re getting better and continuing to get better.” “All we can do is try and put ourselves in a position – whether it be in the Premier League or the UEFA Cup – to keep going forward.
“I hope this form stays with us.”

Neck and neck in a two-horse race
Mar 3 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
SOMEWHERE, sometime, there will be a power shift in the chase for fourth – a pivotal weekend when, after the race is run, fans will look back and say that’s when the tide turned. It wasn’t this weekend, but one thing is certain, it’s now a two team shoot-out. Everton effectively ended Portsmouth’s Champions League ambitions yesterday with another ultimately compelling performance. A couple of hours earlier Liverpool had made themselves odds-on bookies favourites to finish fourth by recording the same scoreline at Bolton. Aston Villa might still have a say, but it’s looking more and more like a Mersey showdown. Who knows where the turning point may come? The last time Everton and Liverpool were slugging it out for the loftiest prize of all, that moment came unexpectedly. Wayne Clarke’s 40-yard lob earned a hard fought 1-0 win at Arsenal, on the same afternoon Wimbledon were staging a shock smash and grab raid at Anfield. Only three years ago, when fourth place was the prize, it was a midweek turnaround. Liverpool had secured an impressive victory at Portsmouth and trooped triumphantly into the Fratton Park changing rooms confident of climbing back into the Champions League frame, only to learn Everton had beaten champions Manchester United. For a time yesterday, Red hopes were raised that the turnaround might come at Goodison. Liverpool had done their bit at Bolton, and Portsmouth had recovered from the shock of conceding a 55-second goal to draw level. But this Everton team has character as well as craft, and in Ayegbeni Yakubu they have a centre-forward at the very peak of his powers. This Everton squad is bristling with influential figures – Andy Johnson’s arrival in the 65th minute arguably turned the game – but there is nobody else at the club who does what the big Nigerian does anywhere near as well. He provides a physical focal point which balls stick to, but he has pace, power and, above all, a ruthless eye in front of goal. His early header was planted with the efficiency of a master marksman, while his match-clinching second threatened fractured fingertips for David James had he somehow managed to get his hands anywhere near the exocet which left his right boot. It’s a measure of his contribution since he arrived at Goodison that he now stands just three goals behind Andy Johnson’s goals total, and has already outscored James Beattie. Everton’s fortunes could well depend on how fit and focused they can keep the in-form forward.
The African influence was telling throughout yesterday, with Steven Pienaar, once again, providing a razor sharp cutting edge. Sporting pig-tails – in tribute to the heroic Everton Ladies perhaps? – it was his inviting cross, following yet more hold-up play from Yakubu, which gave Tim Cahill the opportunity to bury a classic header.
That came with only 17 minutes remaining, and just eight minutes after Andy Johnson’s introduction. Boss David Moyes was keen to talk up Johnson afterwards. With a squad of match winners at his disposal for the first time in his managerial career he is having to learn how to massage egos as well as manipulate formations.
But the words of praise were deservedly directed. Showing the same kind of turbo-charged burst as the England manager, who had somehow managed to make it from Bolton to Goodison in time for kick-off, he started to stretch a game which for 20 minutes had been camped in Everton’s half. He also played the defence-turning ball which led to Yakubu’s match-clinching second. After a week which they were told could be pivotal, Everton still find themselves no further ahead of Liverpool than they started. But the self-confidence wins over Manchester City and Portsmouth have provided is immeasurable. There’s a steely conviction about the Blues at present, which manifested in a series of slick and sharp passing moves during the first 30 minutes. When that confidence was punctured by Jermain Defoe’s equaliser, they adapted, went longer with the ball, and still came up with telling strikes.
It’s set up for a thrilling run-in, one which should hold no fears for the Blues, even if the UEFA Cup adventure continues, because they now have a squad to see them through suspensions and injuries. And, of course, Everton will surely get one penalty kick before the season is through – though at present they’re doing very well thank you without the aid of officials.

Newcastle Res 3, Everton Res 0
Mar 4 2008
Liverpool Daily Post
LOAN signing Anthony Gardner made his first appearance in a Blue shirt but was unable to prevent Everton from crashing to a 3-0 defeat on Tyneside. Newcastle United took the lead early on Everton defender John Irving got himself into all sorts of trouble before putting the ball past his own keeper Iain Turner, who was returning from injury. Everton had chances of their own through Kieran Agard and Aidan Downes and were still in the game before Magpies striker Andy Carroll scored twice in the last five minutes to seal victory for the home side. On 85 minutes Jonny Godsmark crossed for Carroll to fire home from the edge of the box. Deep into injury-time the big Geordie headed home a Doninger corner to give a somewhat flattering look to the scoreline. EVERTON RES: Turner, Densmore, Gardner, Irving, Dennehy, Gosling, Rodwell, Harpur, Morrison, Downes, Agard Subs: Jones, O'Kane, Sinnot, Baxter, Codling NEWCASTLE RES: Forster, Edgar, Lough, Doninger, Tozer, Kadar, Godsmark, Troisi, Carroll, Baheng, LuaLua, Subs: Zamblera, Soderberg, Donaldson, Francis, Marwood

Frustration for Everton under-18s as Crewe dig in
Mar 4 2008
Academy Football
By Chris Wright, Liverpool Daily Post
EVERTON coach Neil Dewsnip is far from concerned after an excellent display at Crewe Alexandra failed to glean the reward it deserved. Despite dominating and creating numerous chances Everton under-18s lost 1-0. They are still looking for their first win of the year and were denied by some inspired goalkeeping from a determined Crewe side, who they beat 5-0 earlier in the season. Crewe led after just seven minutes after a shot from distance fortuitously rebounded off an Everton defender to allow them to score. But after that it was all Everton. Lewis Codling went close, while Jose Baxter saw a header hit the bar. After the break Dewsnip’s side laid siege to the Crewe goal with almost every attacker having a chance to score, with Codling, Baxter and substitute Kieran Agard going close. Dewsnip said: “It is frustrating, but it was a very positive performance. We were very disappointed with our performance against Bolton last week. It was probably as poor as we have played all year. That hurt us and we talked about focusing on a better performance, which we got. “We missed a number of chances, probably in double figures over the course of the game. We haven’t scored and obviously I am not pleased with the finishing, but in terms of reacting to the week before it was very positive.” He added: “We gave Crewe a bit of a runaround earlier in the season and give them credit this time, they defended for their lives.” Everton continue to search for their first win of a frustrating 2008 and will hoping to finally get it when they travel to Blackburn this Saturday (kick-off 11am). Dewsnip said: “Despite losing against Crewe, if we play like that for the rest of the season, we will find our results turn around.” Dewsnip has a full squad to select from this week. EVERTON UNDER-18s: McEntagart; Stewart, Barnett, Sinnott, McCarten; Akpan, O’Kane (Agard 60), Redmond (Krenn 75), Powell; Baxter, Codling (Sheppard 70). Subs: Stubhaug, McCready.

Nigel Martyn: Blues have shown that staying power
Mar 4 2008 by Nigel Martyn, Liverpool Echo
THE weekend’s intriguing results underline the race for fourth place is going to go to the wire. After Aston Villa served notice of their intent with a draw against Arsenal, Everton and Liverpool both responded with wins on Sunday. But I would warn anyone against thinking that there are only two runners in this contest.
I have been impressed with Villa and still have the feeling that their lack of European commitments will greatly improve their chances of pipping Merseyside’s big two. However, events at Goodison Park could not be more encouraging.
While Yakubu and Tim Cahill attracted the headlines following their goals against Portsmouth, in reality it was a victory for the team, who got the result their efforts deserved. Some of the passing and movement was a joy to behold, quickfire one-twos slicing Portsmouth apart. It augurs well that we managed to play so stylishly without Mikel Arteta, who is normally responsible for inspiring such displays.
It looks as if the siege mentality from three years ago is back and the momentum has been building for some time. A record of six wins and two draws in the last eight Premier League matches provides overwhelming evidence of how well Everton have been playing. The players have their eyes on a prize and don’t intend to let it go.
Finishing fourth would be a fabulous achievement and exceed pre-season expectations, but could Liverpool really say the same thing? Steven Gerrard’s comments were spot on when he said he would not be happy just to pip us for fourth place. He wants to be pipping Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea for the title, so it will be interesting to see how their squad copes with the demands of having to lower their sights. They are, however, still favourites to finish fourth.But I would be astonished if we endured a run of form similar to the one we experienced when we stuttered over the line back in 2005. Back then, we only won two of our final 10 matches. We are going to need to treble that tally at least to be certain of qualifying again. Standards have improved everywhere but none more so than at Goodison.
Old boy Per won't relish English style
EUROPE is back on the agenda later this week and Fiorentina showed how tough opponents they will be with a 3-2 win at Juventus on Sunday. They are not, however, a team you would describe as invincible and though this is another test for Everton, the experience they have gleaned during the campaign so far can allow them to pass it in style again. As long as we keep things tight and, ideally, get ourselves an away goal, the Blues will have a fine chance of extending their run in the competition to the quarter-finals at least. That being the case, it will prolong the dream of “going to City twice”. Of course, a clash with Fiorentina means a reunion with Per Kroldrup, whose stay at Goodison Park three years ago was brief and, ultimately, unsuccessful. But the truth is that English football never suited him. Per was a lovely guy and it was great to have him around the dressing room. He clearly had ability, as he read the game well, could pass with accuracy and had really good pace. He just did not relish the physical side of the battle and that’s why he didn’t quite come up to the mark.
Italian football obviously suits him down to the ground, so it is up to us to try to make it as much of an ‘English’ game as possible. Who knows? It might even be an idea to pitch Victor Anichebe alongside Yakubu to really ruffle them up.

Tim Cahill apologises over goal celebration
Mar 4 2008 Liverpool Echo
EVERTON midfielder Tim Cahill apologised “wholeheartedly” for any offence caused by his goal celebration against Portsmouth on Sunday.
Cahill had dedicated the goal to his jailed brother by pretending his wrists were in handcuffs. The Everton midfielder then ran to the corner flag and punched it several times - his trademark celebration. It is the first time that Cahill, 28, had publicly acknowledged older brother Sean’s six-year sentence for an assault which left a man partially blind. The footballer said in a statement: “I am aware of the significant media coverage following my unusual goal celebration on Sunday against Portsmouth.
“It was a spontaneous and emotional reaction but was only intended to signify to my brother that I was thinking of him and missing him. “It was not intended to cause any offence to any other party and I wholeheartedly apologise if any offence was caused.”
Sean Cahill was jailed in January after punching and kicking a man during a fight outside a taxi office in Bromley, south-east London. He had been out with his brother at a nightclub in the town that night but the footballer left early. The attack took place in 2004 but he fled the country and was only brought to justice after his extradition last year. A police source said the victim, quantity surveyor Christopher Stapley, was left partially blinded in one eye and has since left the UK after his life was “wrecked” by the attack. The Australian international spoke out about his brother’s incarceration for the first time on Sunday, after scoring Everton’s second goal in a 3-1 win.
He said: “Basically, it’s for my older brother. “Everyone knows my situation and I am just proud that he is happy and I am happy and I’m thinking of him always. It’s just about time I scored. “My family means a lot to me and so does this football club. It’s been a bit emotional but it’s good.” Sean Cahill refused to answer any questions in police interviews following the attack but was charged in February 2005 and released on bail. Officers later discovered he had fled the country and he was traced to Sydney, Australia, where he was arrested in March 2007. An Everton spokesman yesterday defended Cahill from criticism that the celebration was inappropriate.
He said: “Goal celebrations are a personal matter and up to the player to decide - no one dictates what the player can do as long as he stays within the laws of the game, as long as it doesn’t result in a caution. “It clearly was a very personal thing for Tim Cahill. “Anyone who saw the pictures will see he was emotional and it meant a lot to him. “As long as he keeps getting the opportunity to score goals, that is important.
“Tim is a highly intelligent young man and makes his own decisions and saw fit to send a message to his brother, if that’s what he was doing.”

Lee Carsley: Euro battle won't hinder Blues' bid for fourth
Mar 4 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
LEE CARSLEY promised Everton's pursuit of UEFA Cup glory will not jeopardise their push for a Champions League place. The Blues jet out to Florence tomorrow to prepare for the first leg of their last 16 clash against Fiorentina looking for an eighth consecutive European win. UEFA Cup progress, however, will mean a hectic run-in to the season – but Carsley is confident the Blues can cope. “We seem to say at the start of every week that this is another massive one for the club and it is terrific to be part of it,” said Carsley. “But as soon as we came off the pitch on Sunday, our thoughts immediately turned to Fiorentina, as the UEFA Cup is a competition that is very important to us and we are all so desperate to do well in it. We have done well so far and we want to keep it going. “We’ve heard that people say it could be a distraction for us but that’s not going to be the case. We have got a big enough squad here now to cope with the demands and if anyone is feeling tired, there are players who are more than capable of coming in to do a job. “That keeps everyone on their toes. There will be no moping around from the lads who are not involved. We are all just committed and desperate for success. But there is still such a long way to go and there will be twists and turns – but we are ready for them. “If you stopped the season now, you would be able to call it a success but, as it stands, we haven’t achieved anything yet. “The signs are encouraging and we have got ourselves into a great position but let’s keep it going.” Meanwhile, Everton have defended Tim Cahill after his controversial goal celebration against Portsmouth. The Australian midfielder crossed his wrists as though he had been handcuffed and later revealed he was dedicating the goal to his older brother Sean, who was jailed for six years in January for partially blinding a man. An Everton spokesman defended Cahill from criticism that the celebration might be seen as inappropriate. “Goal celebrations are a personal matter and up to the player to decide,” he said. “No-one dictates what the player can do as long as he stays within the laws of the game, as long as it doesn’t result in a caution. “It clearly was a very personal thing for Tim Cahill. “Anyone who saw the pictures will see he was emotional and it meant a lot to him. “Tim is a highly intelligent young man and makes his own decisions and saw fit to send a message to his brother, if that’s what he was doing. “He is a very articulate young man and will have weighed up the pros and cons and decided to do it because it was a personal and emotional matter. “I am sure Tim was fully aware that some people would not be in favour of what he did before he did it.”

Joleon Lescott: We can worry Fiorentina
Mar 5 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
JOLEON LESCOTT believes Everton are primed and ready to pass their next European test with flying colours. The Blues jetted out to Italy today with no fresh injury worries for the first leg of their UEFA Cup clash with Fiorentina and it is likely the travelling party will be boosted by Mikel Arteta, who has been in Spain receiving treatment on a groin injury. Having won their last seven matches in this competition, supporters are daring to dream that this will be the next successful step on the road that will lead them to the City of Manchester Stadium in May, but Lescott says it would be “silly” for the players to think that way. However, the Englandinternational has every faith that he and his team-mates can deliver another big performance and although he recognises Fiorentina will be stubborn opponents, Lescott feels the Italians will have their own causes for concern. “Every game you play in Europe is tough,” said Lescott. “But we are going to travel with confidence. We feel good about ourselves. We know that if we are on top of our game, they will certainly have as much to worry about what we can do, as we have them.” Everton have made huge strides since they scrambled past Metalist Kharkiv in the qualifying rounds last October but Lescott - who scored in both matches against the Ukrainians - reckons that victory was the catalyst for everything they have since gone on to achieve.
“Nobody knew what to expect when Kharkiv came to Goodison,” said Lescott, likely to play as a left-back in Florence once again. “I think we were a bit naive and underestimated them. “That game was a massive turning point for our season. We have learned a lot since then and we are enjoying playing in Europe.”

Tim Cahill apologises over 'handcuff' goal celebration
Mar 5 2008 Liverpool Echo
EVERTON'S Tim Cahill has apologised "wholeheartedly" for any offence caused by his goal celebration against Portsmouth on Sunday. Cahill dedicated the goal to his jailed brother Sean, who is serving a six-year sentence for an assault which left a man partially blind, by pretending his wrists were in handcuffs. He said: “It was a spontaneous and emotional reaction but was only intended to signify to my brother that I was thinking of him and missing him. “It was not intended to cause any offence to any other party and I wholeheartedly apologise if any offence was caused.”
Meanwhile, Everton are waiting to find out whether they will face any punishment from UEFA following their UEFA Cup tie against SK Brann in Norway last month.
A number of Blues fans invaded the pitch after the final whistle and evidence has been submitted to UEFA’s control and disciplinary body. They will decide on the matter at their next meeting a fortnight tomorrow.

Phil Jagielka: I feared I wasn’t up to job
Mar 5 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
PHIL JAGIELKA has quickly become one of the success stories of Everton’s season but it is only a few months since he felt his career was derailing. Such a claim may seem strange after another colossal performance at the heart of the Blues’ defence – Jagielka was terrific in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Portsmouth – but he admits his early days on Merseyside were racked with self-doubt. The defender was unable to break into the starting line-up when the campaign was in its infancy. Jagielka, when called upon, was invariably asked to fill an alien position and, as a result, his performances suffered. That led Jagielka to question whether he had made the right decision in moving from Sheffield United to Goodison Park – or if he was good enough to hold his own in a squad that had vastly different aims compared to his former employers.
A few words of reassurance from David Moyes, however, worked and once Jagielka, who cost £4m, was given an opportunity to shine in his favoured position – central defence – things improved dramatically. The 25-year-old is now one of the first names on the team sheet and he is relishing being involved in a squad that is chasing a place in the Champions League, not to mention UEFA Cup glory. “I thought that maybe Everton was a step too far,” said Jagielka, who has now made 37 appearances and scored two goals for the Blues. “I thought that Sheffield United, at most the bottom half of the Premier League, was my level. “I was feeling fragile. I didn’t know how to get into the team and what I was going to do when I was in it. “When I did get in, I played in different positions and was very frustrated. It was like being away from home. “I’d left something that was second nature to me. I wondered if I could cut it here. Then David Moyes had a word with me. He was reassuring about things and that helped.” If Jagielka needed any confirmation that his star is in the ascendancy, it came early last month when Reading visited Goodison and Moyes had a full complement of central defenders following Joseph Yobo’s return from the African Cup of Nations.
Moyes kept faith with Jagielka in the middle, switched Joleon Lescott to left back and was rewarded when the England B international crowned a majestic display with the game’s only goal. Significantly, Moyes had no intentions of dropping him.
“When I stayed in the team after Joe came back, the gaffer didn’t say anything to me,” said Jagielka. “But it was like a big silent pat on the back. He’s clever with his mannerisms. “He keeps you guarded by not saying much and letting you decide what he’s thinking. It’s a clever way of doing things. People will understand what I mean when I say that Neil Warnock is a one-off. “He wouldn’t do the arm around the shoulder thing, but he was a father figure to me. He looked after me. He knew I’d never let him down. I hope David Moyes will come to feel the same way.”
Given the way Jagielka is playing, there’s every reason to believe Moyes is thinking that way already.

Fiorentina v Everton: David Moyes urges Blues to take Euro chance
Mar 6 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES today urged his players to savour their first major European challenge - then challenged them to make sure it is not a one-off. Having taken maximum points from their four group games, then brushed SK Brann aside with ease, Moyes has no doubts that Everton are ready to battle it out with crack Italian side Fiorentina for a place in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals. The Blues have improved with each game they have played in Europe this season and give the impression they could take their adventure even further, so Moyes is demanding they do not waste all their hard work here. Yet while he knows Fiorentina will be tough nuts to crack, Moyes – who hopes Mikel Arteta will be available for selection after he took part in last night’s training session – has confidence his squad will again rise to the occasion.
“I’m really excited by the challenge and am confident in the way we are playing,” said Moyes. “I am wary of how well Fiorentina have been playing. Like us they are an up-and-coming side. They play with a decent tempo that is demanded by their coach.
“But our defending has been very good this season and they will be put to the test by Fiorentina and hopefully they will come through fine. “This is the sort of level we want to play at, against a team in Fiorentina with a great reputation, and in Europe as well, although they have had their ups and downs in recent years. “This is a big test for us. I still think Zenit were the biggest test we have faced so far and I wouldn’t be surprised if they got to the final, but that was in the group game where there was a greater margin for error than there is now. We cannot afford any slip-ups now.”
Fiorentina will be without their leading scorer – former Chelsea striker Adrian Mutu – but Moyes has seen enough of La Viola in the past few weeks to know they will cause problems and the manager says he sees similarities in their play with his own team.
“I saw them play against Livorno and watched their (3-2) win over Juventus at the weekend, which was very impressive,” said Moyes. “The injury to Mutu doesn’t seem to have affected them at all. They are very similar to us in many ways; a good, hard working side who by all accounts should have qualified for the Champions League last season and are going very close this season.”

Fiorentina v Everton: This will be our toughest test and away goal is crucial, says Phil Neville
Mar 6 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
SERIE A may no longer lay claim to being the best league in the world but only a fool would underestimate the talent and ability of Italy's finest teams. Yet given what has happened to Milan’s footballing superpowers in Champions League combat recently, some Evertonians may have been lulled into believing Fiorentina are set to become the latest Italian side to crumble in the face of Premier League aggression.
David Moyes and his playing staff, however, are of a completely different school of thought; having breezed past lesser lights from Ukraine, Holland, Germany, Greece, Russia and Norway, the ante will be upped considerably in Florence. There has, of course, been plenty to admire about the way Everton have rattled together a club record breaking seven consecutive wins in this season’s UEFA Cup but Phil Neville is well aware that Fiorentina have the armoury to smash that to pieces. But while Everton’s skipper is respectful of the threat La Viola pose, neither he nor his team-mates are fazed about taking them on and has promised that, if necessary, the Blues will fight fire with fire. “This is our biggest test by far,” said Neville, who will make his 119th appearance for the Blues tonight. “It’s the side who are fourth in Italy and the current joint fourth best team in England, so it will be a good to see how we measure up against each other. “When you face an Italian side, they test you mentally more than anything. They are hard to break down, they know how to win games and they are used to being in this type of occasion. They aren’t bothered how long it takes them to score a goal. “They are always single-minded in their pursuit of victory. Yes, they know teams will get chances against them but it doesn’t bother them in the slightest. Experience tells them they will get a chance. “All they are interested in is nicking a goal then closing the game out. How many times down the years have we seen that happen? But we certainly aren’t intimidated about facing them. Arsenal’s victory in Milan on Tuesday has got to give us belief.” Neville has already experienced the partisan atmosphere of the Stadio Artemio Franchi – Manchester United were beaten 2-0 here in November 2000 – but doesn’t see why it should hold any fears for Everton. Unbeaten in their last seven games and scoring goals for fun, they have given themselves a fighting chance of having a memorable end to the campaign and the firepower at Moyes’ disposal increases the captain’s enthusiasm.
“Fiorentina will be favourites but the way that we are playing, we have got to go there and attack them,” Neville declared. “We have got to make sure that we get that vital away goal. Our experience in the Carling Cup semi-final showed that.
“The most dangerous score you can have in a two-legged contest is drawing nil-nil away from home in the first game. The reassuring thing is that we have definitely got goals in us. Apart from Yak, it was great to see Tim Cahill come good again at the weekend. “Maybe that’s what he needs to go on a little run again. But if it’s not him, why can’t it be someone else? We are going there to make sure we get ourselves a goal and have something to play for when we get back to Goodison.
“We are enjoying the best run of form since I have been at the club and we are playing some great stuff. We are all desperate to make this a season to remember but we know there is still such a long way to go. “Liverpool remain favourites to get fourth place but we are letting everyone outside the club do the talking. All we are bothered about is getting on with our own business. We are not going to make any bold statements. We just want to remain consistent.” Consistent is something many of Everton’s players have been this season but none more so than Leon Osman, whose input to the 3-1 victory over Portsmouth did not go unnoticed by his colleagues and Neville hopes it attracted the attention of someone else. Fabio Capello was a face in the crowd at Goodison on Sunday and Neville – who has not given up hope of adding to his tally of 59 caps – hopes Osman catches the eye of a few more Italians here.
“Ossie was absolutely fantastic against Portsmouth,” said Neville. “He was our best player. When you talk about players who deserve international recognition, he is someone who surely deserves a chance and I’m not just saying that because he’s my team-mate. “Just because he doesn’t do lots of interviews or have lots of endorsements doesn’t mean he is not a good player. It’s totally the opposite. He is so vital to the way we play and makes us tick. He’s been outstanding.
“People do not realise the workrate he puts in and he can be relied upon to chip in with important goals too. I know Mr Capello was at our game last weekend and I don’t think he could have been anything other than impressed.”
FIORENTINA (probable 4-3-3): Frey; Ujfalusi, Gamberini, Kroldrup, Pasqual; Montolivo, Donadel, Kuzmanovic; Santana, Vieri, Osvaldo.
EVERTON (probable 4-5-1): Howard; Hibbert, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Osman,
Carsley, Neville, Cahill, Pienaar; Yakubu.
Referee: Paul Allaerts (Belgium)

Fiorentina v Everton: Per Kroldrup admits he couldn't cope with the Premier League
Mar 6 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
PER KROLDRUP has admitted his ill-fated spell with Everton was doomed to failure as he could not cope with English football. The Denmark international arrived with a reputation to match his £5m price tag when he signed from Udinese in June 2005.
But he was never able to show what he could do for David Moyes after he succumbed to a hernia problem and, when fit, could never pressure Joseph Yobo and David Weir. Kroldrup’s sole appearance in the Premier League came when Everton were thrashed 4-0 at Aston Villa on Boxing Day 2005. He was sold to Fiorentina soon after.
“I was willing to stay in Everton another half year as I thought I was good enough for the team and for the Premier League. I could have been a success in Everton,” he said.
“But I got a really good offer from Fiorentina. If it had been Udinese I would have stayed in Everton. It was very difficult to settle and fit in at Everton. “I did not feel as a part of the team because I did not play. I had big problems in adapting to the playing style in England and also the hard play.” When Kroldrup played against Villa, he looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights and says he was overwhelmed by the physical approach. “The referees allow much more than I had ever tried before and that meant that the play becomes very fast. And I had big problems with that,” he added. “In Italy it is more technical and you have to play the ball to a team mate to get out of a difficult situation. In England, you just kick the ball.” In total, he only managed 147 minutes of action before Moyes hastily cut his losses and Kroldrup says he was relieved that La Viola offered him an escape route. “It was a very disappointing time,” said Kroldrup. “I wanted to be in the starting line up and play a lot of games but it did not turn out that way.” Despite Kroldrup’s swipe, Moyes has no axe to grind with him and said: “He’s shown in Italy what a good defender he is and we wish him well.”

The Jury: Would you rather finish fourth this season or win the Uefa Cup?
Mar 6 2008 Liverpool Echo
Debbie Smaje, Upholland
IT’S always nice to get one over Liverpool, but a trophy is far more important to Everton than Champions League football at this stage. As lucrative and exciting as the Champions League is, we are not ready for it yet. The UEFA Cup run this season has helped the team to develop, and learn the professionalism and experience needed to succeed in Europe. Moyes, in particular, has learned what is needed, and it is all a far cry from the helpless naivety of Bucharest. The standard of the Champions League, though, especially with our low seeding, would be a step too far and set us back. That’s not to say I wouldn’t be pleased if we qualified! More than anything, Everton need a trophy. It has been 13 years without one, and we have made so much progress since. We have earned respect and a good reputation with our league displays, but we now need to add a trophy. Seeing how much it meant to Spurs to end their barren period has only made me want it more.
Michael Drummond, Speke
AT first, I thought that finishing fourth would be greater than lifting the UEFA Cup, but then the only benefit I could think of is the financial boost it brings to the club.
There is no recognition for finishing fourth – the last time we did it is now a distant memory. With winning the UEFA Cup, we will see a 13-year wait for silver- ware over and our name engraved permanently on the trophy. Also, owning the UEFA Cup shows what David Moyes has achieved in his stay because you're only as good as your last season, and our recent 'good season, bad season' spell doesn't justify what the manager has done to the team and the club as a whole. However, I do wonder if players will walk away if we fail to finish fourth, or that they would prefer a medal that shows proof of what they have achieved? I would like to think that memories prove greater than money, but we will only know that answer come the end of the season!
Cole Fraser, Litherland
IN an ideal world we will be finishing the season as UEFA Cup winners and Champions League qualifiers. If I had to choose between the two I would opt for fourth place, as I think that the money and exposure that we will gain will prove a bigger advantage in the long run. Obviously, success in the UEFA Cup would be brilliant and bring its own advantages. But,at the moment, I think we are in great form and capable of taking both – fourth and the UEFA Cup – if we can just keep up the standard of play. Tonight's game will give us our first real idea of our capabilities in Europe. Fiorentina will pose a big threat, but if we can beat them and progress then I think that other teams will be looking to avoid us in the quarter-finals.
Regarding fourth, we just have to keep on goingand hope that the other teams slip up here and there. Tonight, I predict a tight game, but I think we can bring a 2-1 lead back to Goodison.
Lee Molton, St Helens
BOTH are certainly achievable for us this season after another fine win against Portsmouth. The Yak is certainly getting fed regularly now and Cahill is also back among the goals. The return of Steven Pienaar to the team has boosted our chances for finishing fourth with a lot of the pressure now taken off Mikel Arteta creatively.
Finishing fourth would be a terrific achievement and also show that we are once again the best team on Merseyside, but I would love us to continue our European adventure and win the UEFA Cup. The next leg of our European tour takes us to Italy tonight and a tough test against Fiorentina but the Italians won’t fancy facing the Blues and the Yak in particular. It is a sign of our progress in Europe that we travel confident of getting either a win or a score draw to bring back to Goodison to then set us up nicely for the second leg. Don’t forget boys, ‘Feed the Yak and he will score!’

Beaten Blues can still do Italian job
Mar 7 2008 by Howard Kendall, Liverpool Echo
OF the three English teams who played in last night’s UEFA Cup, Everton still have the best chance of going through. Sure it was a disappointing night, and Everton dropped well below the standards they have set in recent months, but there is one important factor which shouldn’t be overlooked. While Spurs go to Holland trailing 1-0 and Bolton go to Portugal locked at 1-1, Everton are at home next week.
Okay, 2-0 is a difficult deficit to pull back, but Everton still have a chance.
The crowd will generate a tremendous atmosphere and the objective must be to score an early goal and liven things up even more. But the Blues will have to be so aware of Fiorentina’s ability to counter. When you face better quality foreign opposition that’s always a real threat, as Tottenham discovered last night as well. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what went wrong. Self belief shouldn’t have been an issue given the run Everton have enjoyed recently but they just didn’t get going. In recent weeks we have been saying how difficult it has been to single out a man of the match because there have been so many outstanding candidates. Last night it was just as difficult, but for the wrong reasons. Only Tim Howard excelled, and you don’t want your goalkeeper to be winning man of the match awards. He’ll need to be just as assured next Wednesday, but so too will his team-mates. It will be difficult to pull back a two goal deficit, but I firmly believe they still have a better chance than Bolton or Tottenham.

Tim Howard: We can still win the tie
Mar 7 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
TIM HOWARD came out fighting as he claimed Everton can defy the odds by staging an astonishing UEFA comeback at Goodison Park. The Blues’ UEFA Cup dreams are hanging by a thread after last night’s disappointing 2-0 defeat against Fiorentina and had it not been for the efforts of Howard, they would have faced an even bigger mountain to climb. He made three superb saves to keep Everton in the tie but he knows their performance will need to be dramatically improved if they are going to retrieve the situation and secure a place in the quarter-finals. “We have got it all to do now but football is crazy,” said Howard. “When you watch enough of it, you know that anything can happen. “We are two goals down but we are certainly not out of it. But one thing is certain – we’ve got to play better than that.” Everton have only overturned a first leg deficit once in their history – against Rotherham in the League Cup in 1992 – but Howard, who celebrated his 29th birthday yesterday, believes there is enough talent in the current squad to repeat the trick and says they are determined to atone for this calamity. He added: “We have come to expect a lot more of ourselves, as we have come a long in the past 24 months, both as players and a team. You can see that. “When they come to us next week, it is not going to be a walk for them.
“We can definitely turn it around and if we play like everyone knows that we can do, there’s no question that we can do it. “But if we play like that, we won’t. There will be a reaction at Sunderland.We’ll be like hungry wolves. “We are all just so disappointed. From a personal standpoint, I’m not interested in the fact I played well. It’s gone now and we have got to pick ourselves up. Nobody is going to do that for us.
“I thought we had dodged a few bullets in the second half and we had learned a few lessons but unfortunately we didn’t heed the warning shots. They came again and scored two goals. “This is an unfamiliar feeling for us because we have played so well recently and you get used to a certain level of performance and we were well below that last night.”

Not good enough says glum Moyes
Mar 7 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES pulled no punches after Everton's surrender in Florence when he admitted: "We just weren't good enough." The shell-shocked expression Moyes sported as he left Stadio Artemio Franchi last night suggested he felt let down by his players in a game the boss had described beforehand as their biggest test.
Yet Everton failed to muster one shot on target against Fiorentina and always looked second best, the only surprise was that it La Viola until the 70th minute to take the lead through Zdravko Kuzmanovic. “Some did not play to their potential - in fact the majority did not,” Moyes said. “The best team won. It is a big job because Fiorentina are a good team. “On that performance we need to be a lot better. They were good in all departments - but that did not surprise us. “I did not think at any time we really got to the pace of the game. It was disappointing because we did not get up to the levels we have been in recent months. “We did not start particularly well and we gave the advantage to Fiorentina. But we got to the second half and then they had had a couple of shots against us. “Previously that would have given us a warning. But we gave their midfield players chances to get their shots away late in the game. Both goals could have been avoided.” Though Everton played so poorly, they do have the chance to turn things around at Goodison Park next Wednesday yet Moyes acknowledged they will have to play infinitely better to stand any chance of doing that.
“At least we have got another game - hopefully we can play much better than that,” he said. “They scored two goals in the last 20 minutes so we will think about that ourselves. “We are all disappointed but we have played very well all season and hopefully we will continue to play well. It wasn’t one of those nights.”
However, Moyes’ opposite number Cesare Prandelli is refusing to believe that Fiorentina have crossed the finishing line, despite having the luxury of travelling to Merseyside two goals to the good. “We must remember that even though we have won we have to continue to work hard in this direction,” he said. “It was a difficult match but we did not grant anything to Everton. The players were great and made tremendous sacrifices. But the next match will be even harder.”

Fiorentina 2, Everton 0 (D,Post)
Mar 7 2008
By Ian Doyle, at Artemio Franchib Stadium
A LITTLE more than 900 miles separates Florence from Manchester. But for the Evertonians trudging disconsolately out of the Stadio Artemio Franchi last night, the distance would have felt an awful lot further. Their hopes of seeing their team step out at Eastlands for the UEFA Cup final in May are hanging by the flimsiest of threads after Fiorentina secured a 2-0 win in the first leg of their round of 16 tie.Clinically-taken goals from Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Riccardo Montolivo inside the final 20 minutes mean David Moyes’s side must create history at Goodison Park next Wednesday to progress to the quarter-finals.Never before have Everton overturned a first-leg deficit in European competition.And but for the heroics of Tim Howard, the size of the mountain they must now scale would have been even greater.Everton have gained much from this fantastic UEFA Cup run and, after their early stumbles against Metalist Kharkiv, have rightfully forged a reputation as possible winners of the competition. But Fiorentina, flying high in Serie A, were expected to offer by far the toughest examination of their European credentials to date. So it proved. Of course, this tie is by no means over; a passionate Goodison crowd for the return game next Wednesday and Everton’s desire to ensure something tangible from a season of great progress will see to that. However, the gulf in experience between the sides at this level was ultimately exposed last night by a Fiorentina team that strutted with menace throughout and deserve their first-leg lead, if only for the quality of their goals alone. Victory last night would have been Everton’s eighth successive win in European competition, equalling the record for an English club. But while Moyes’s side had racked up 14 goals in winning their previous five games before travelling to Florence, they rarely looked like threatening Sebastien Frey in the home goal. This wasn’t the evening to under-perform. Unfortunate, then, that too many Everton players failed to do themselves justice, in particular a midfield that was surprisingly second-best to Fiorentina both in application and work-rate. The UEFA Cup run continues to be a learning experience for everyone at Everton.
Kuzmanovic’s opener, while a blow, was by no means terminal. Had Everton sat tight and seen out the final 20 minutes without further incident, a 1-0 reverse could have been considered a decent result in the circumstances. However, with Andrew Johnson sent on for Tony Hibbert in an attempt to salvage a draw, Fiorentina instead found more space in which to operate going forward. Montolivo’s second goal nine minutes from time may well prove decisive. The portents hadn’t been great for Everton’s followers. Having seen Liverpool reclaim fourth place in the Premier League 24 hours earlier, they turned up to a stadium that has seen better days with only one stand protected from the swirling wind, snow and rain that battered Florence shortly before the game. The 4,000-strong travelling contingent were among those exposed to the elements, packed inside an away enclosure surrounded by an enormous fence that said much about the hooligan problem that has eaten away at Italian football during the past decade. Like their opponents, Fiorentina are embroiled in a battle for the fourth and final Champions League qualification place in their domestic league, a position they currently occupy four points ahead of AC Milan. Cesare Prandelli’s team went into last night’s game buoyed by a 3-2 win at bitter rivals Juventus on Sunday in which striker Pablo Osvaldo netted a last-minute winner. And the home side were the more vibrant during a first half in which Everton were indebted to Howard for remaining level at the break. The goalkeeper, highly praised by Moyes last week, was at his best two minutes before the interval when an improvised save by his right foot denied Christian Vieri after Osvaldo had sent the veteran striker scuttling clear. It typified the opening 45 minutes. Fiorentina served note of their intent in the sixth minute when Osvaldo released Manuel Pasqual down the left flank and his dangerous cross was safely clutched by Howard. Vieiri scuffed a shot off target and then dragged a rehearsed free-kick wide from 25 yards, while Howard held an Osvaldo header from another Pasqual cross. Everton struggled to gain a foothold. The home team, with a three-pronged attack, mined the flanks with worrying regularity, and another cross, this time from the right by one-time Liverpool target Tomas Ujfalusi, forced Howard off his line to punch clear under pressure from Hibbert and Osvaldo. Hibbert negated the threat of Martin Petrov at Manchester City 10 days earlier but had more trouble tracking the runs from deep of Pasqual, the Fiorentina left-back again able to deliver into the area on 23 minutes towards Martin Jorgensen, whose flicked effort was grabbed by a busy Howard. With Mikel Arteta deemed unfit to start, Moyes kept faith in the starting line-up that had impressively despatched City and Portsmouth in their last two games. Had Arteta been fit enough to start, perhaps matters may have transpired differently. Indeed, while Everton were organised and solid in defence, they made negligible impact in attack before the break, their only moments of promise coming from undercooked back-passes that gave a malnourished Yakubu something to feed on. The Nigerian reached the first in the 10th minute before eventually being halted by a good tackle by Fiorentina skipper Dario Dainelli, but could consider himself unlucky to be adjudged by referee Paul Allaerts to have fouled goalkeeper Sebastian Frey as he sprinted after Dainelli’s slack pass. Fiorentina again caused visiting hearts to flutter soon after the interval, Howard fortunate to turn behind a speculative skimming 25-yard effort from Montolivo. The goalkeeper was far more convincing with a fine double save in the 59th minute. Howard produced a fine parry to beat out Vieri’s right-foot drive and, after Everton failed to properly clear, the American clawed away a blistering 20-yard Kuzmanovic shot. With Arteta having emerged from the bench, Everton gradually began asking questions of the Fiorentina defence.But the home team’s pressure finally told in the 70th minute when, after Montolivo’s initial shot had been blocked, Kuzmanovic powered a low shot that even Howard could not stop. And Everton’s woes increased nine minutes from time when Jorgensen flicked substitute Mario Santana’s cross into the path of Montolivo to volley brilliantly into the bottom corner. Santana should have effectively settled the tie in the 87th minute but, with only Howard to beat, flashed his angled shot wide of the goalkeeper’s right-hand post. Everton will hope to make the most of that reprieve next week. That, however, will require their finest performance of their season.FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey; Ujfalusi, Gamberini, Dainelli, Pasqual; Montolivo, Donadel, Kuzmanovic (Gobbi 76); Jorgensen, Vieri (Pazzini 68), Osvaldo (Santana 74). Subs: Avramov, Kroldrup, Potenza , Cacia. BOOKING: Ujfalusi (unsporting behaviour) and Gobbi (foul). EVERTON (4-4-1-1): Howard; Hibbert (Johnson 73), Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Neville, Osman (Arteta 56), Carsley, Pienaar; Cahill; Yakubu. Subs: Wessels, Baines, Gosling, Gravesen, Anichebe.
BOOKINGS: Yakubu (foul), Pienaar (unsporting behaviour) and Howard (timewasting). REFEREE: Paul Allaerts (Belgium). ATT: 32,934. NEXT GAME: Sunderland v Everton, Barclays Premier League, Sunday 3pm.

Fiorentina 2 Everton 0
Mar 7 2008
Everton had no answer to two pedigree second-half goals as they went down 2-0 away to Fiorentina in the first leg of their last-16 UEFA Cup tie. After a first half in which Everton were off the pace - and doubtless relieved to still be level - Zdravko Kuzmanovic and then Riccardo Montolivo each produced a memorable finish to confirm the Italians’ superiority. It was harsh on Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard, who had come to his team’s rescue with a succession of outstanding saves - but otherwise the Toffees got their just deserts. David Moyes selected the same team which beat Portsmouth 3-1 in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday - but influential midfielder Mikel Arteta was on the bench after recent problems with a groin injury.
Left-back Manuel Pasqual was a regular attacking threat, and it was from his ball in that veteran striker Christian Vieri had the first significant shot on goal which flashed just wide of Howard’s near post. Everton were seeing precious little of the ball but in the 10th minute Ayegbeni Yakubu gave the Italians a warning with a 40-yard run before losing control just as the shot looked on. Just after the 20-minute mark Howard came bravely to Everton’s rescue with a punch clear as the attackers queued up for headers, from Tomas Ujfalusi’s cross from the right. Pasqual was required at the back when Joleon Lescott put in a searching cross from the left - and the defender duly completed his day job by heading confidently behind for a corner which came to nothing. Lee Carsley’s tackle on Kuzmanovic resulted in a free-kick in the 33rd minute, but Pasqual’s left-foot shot from 25 yards hit the wall. Yakubu received a yellow card as he pounced on a misplaced back-pass to Sebastian Frey - only to foul the goalkeeper in doing so. Tempers began to fray on and off the pitch as half-time approached, Steven Pienaar and Ujfalusi booked - and Moyes voicing his general displeasure from the dugout. Howard had to produce a fine reaction save to keep his team level in the 42nd minute when a flick-on by Osvaldo gave Vieri the chance to shoot from the edge of the six-yard box. After Everton had started the second half with a little more purpose, there was a rude awakening when Montolivo’s right-foot shot from 30 yards needed Howard to be alert again low down at his near post.
Moyes decided Everton needed something extra - and despite concerns about his fitness, Arteta came on for Osman after 55 minutes. Frey twice had to punch clear under pressure in the same passage of play as Everton began to pump balls into the box from deep. But just before the hour mark, Howard had to be at his best twice in the space of a minute as first Vieri from the edge of the area and then Kuzmanovic - after Everton had failed to clear effectively - each brought out a sharp save.
Moyes’ men were getting more into the game and Fiorentina brought on young striker Giampaolo Pazzini for Vieri in the 68th minute as they tried to re-establish their attacking superiority. Barely a minute later, the hosts were finally in front.
Everton again failed to clear properly, and Kuzmanovic’s right-foot shot from 20 yards was struck and placed well enough to beat Howard at last and give Fiorentina a deserved lead. Moyes’ introduction of Arteta was a bold move - and at 1-0 down with 18 minutes to go, he gambled again by bringing Andrew Johnson on for Tony Hibbert.
Fiorentina, meanwhile, appeared happy to have finally got their noses in front - and the pragmatic response of their coach Cesare Prandelli was to replace striker Osvaldo with midfielder Mario Alberto Santana. But the hosts doubled their lead with a wonderfully-executed goal in the 82nd minute. Santana worked room on the right to push the ball into the area; Martin Jorgensen’s deft flick gave Montolivo room for a first-time volley - and he buried it past Howard’s unavailing dive from 18 yards.
It could have been much worse for Everton when, as they pushed forward, they left themselves exposed at the back. Santana pounced but perhaps tried to be a little too clever, with only Howard to beat, shooting with the outside of his right foot just beyond the far post.

Kick-starting defences
Mar 7 2008 by Howard Kendall, Liverpool Echo
THE quality of direct free-kicks in modern football is greater than it has ever been.
Owen Hargreaves and Sebastian Larsson were on target last weekend, the weekend before it was James McFadden, Cristiano Ronaldo is a regular marksman from 25 yards and most teams have a deadball specialist. Such is the accuracy of these free-kick experts now that I think defending teams need to think long and hard about different ways of combating that expertise. One possibility is to think about assigning players to mark the goalposts just before the taker is about to strike. It’s a tactic I employed when Gianfranco Zola was in his pomp. His set pieces for Chelsea were so accurate that it was almost impossible for a keeper to set up a wall. It’s also pointless detailing somebody small like Steven Pienaar to mark the goal. Instead I asked Duncan Ferguson to do the job, because if a player is clearly going to take a direct shot at goal it’s pointless detailing your big players to mark their bigger players.
I got a huge amount of satisfaction when Duncan dropped back at just the right moment and headed Zola’s effort over the bar. Most free-kicks from 25 yards today are shots at goal. Clever free-kicks that are rehearsed on the training ground seem to have died out in favour of the direct kick – and they are now so good that defenders possibly need to think again.

James Vaughan suffers knee injury
Mar 8 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
JAMES VAUGHAN could miss the rest of the season after suffering another devastating injury setback. Everton’s young striker has flown to America where he will be operated on by renowned surgeon Dr Richard Steadman to correct a problem with his left knee. Worryingly for Vaughan and David Moyes – who was named Manager of the Month for February yesterday – it is the same knee that he damaged in September 2005 and eventually led him to spending 12 months on the sidelines.
Vaughan did not travel with Everton’s squad to Italy earlier this week for the UEFA Cup tie with Fiorentina after breaking down in training on Monday. Moyes has tried to allay fears that Vaughan is set for another substantial spell out of action after revealing that Dr Steadman will clean up some damaged cartilage. But the news could not have come at a worse time for the 19-year-old, who missed the beginning of the season after dislocating his shoulder in a pre-season friendly against Preston.
“James is having an operation on Monday,” Moyes confirmed. “His knee has locked a couple of times in training and he is going to go out to Steadman to have a bit of cartilage trimmed. “It's the same knee (as a couple of years ago). I don't know how long he is going to be out for but he is a doubt for the rest of the season, I would have to say. “It's a blow to us and to him. We knew that there was something (bothering him). We had a look at the knee and we thought it was getting better but then his knee locked again. “We have decided that we need to have him operated on now. We were hoping that he could get through to the end of the season.” Since marking his debut by becoming the youngest scorer in Everton’s history back in April 2005, Vaughan has suffered a catalogue of injury misfortune. As a result, he has only made seven starts with a further 23 as a substitute – his last appearance came in a 1-0 win over Reading at Goodison Park last month. Moyes, meanwhile, hopes to celebrate the fourth Manager of the Month award he has won at Goodison Park with victory at Sunderland tomorrow. Though he and his players are smarting after a 2-0 defeat against Fiorentina leaves their UEFA Cup dreams in the balance, Moyes is confident that Everton will bounce back straight away. “It’s nice to win the award but really it is for the players, as they are the ones who have done so well,” said Moyes, who will be without the suspended Lee Carsley at the Stadium of Light. “We have been on a great run but what is important now is for us to make sure we are in a good position coming into the final furlong. We are looking for a good result.”

BARRY HORNE: Blatter’s foot in mouth
Mar 8 2008 by Barry Horne, Liverpool Echo
OUR old pal Sepp Blatter has been at it again, engaging his mouth before his brain by calling for life bans for players found guilty of ‘reckless challenges’. The problem with Mr Blatter is that he flits from one headline making topic to another, before forgetting all about it and moving onto another subject. The last sexy topic to get his name on the back pages was the minimum number of home-grown players in a squad (which we pointed out contravened entrenched employment law). This time it’s a call for something equally unenforceable. The Elliott-Saunders and Thornley-Marker cases proved that it’s virtually impossible to prove recklessness or intent. This call has obviously been inspired by the recent Eduardo incident, but perhaps Blatter should have taken note of how long it has been since the last serious incident of this kind – which was probably David Busst. Injury is inevitable in such a fast moving sport. He should be thankful that such incidents are infrequent.

Premier League Preview: Sunderland v Everton
Mar 8 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
IF David Moyes needed his spirits lifting when arriving back from Florence yesterday, he could not have received a better double tonic. First up was a gong from the Premier League, who named him Manager of the Month for February. But while that will have brought a smile to his face, the words from one of his contemporaries struck an even deeper chord. Roy Keane is known for his brutally honest outlook on life and you know when Sunderland’s manager speaks there is no hidden agenda – it is done so with sincerity. It would be understandable if the former Manchester United captain had no wish to see Everton or Moyes again after they subjected him to a 7-1 drubbing at Goodison last November. Yet Keane is looking forward to renewing acquaintances.
Keane conducted himself immaculately that evening, taking that heavy defeat with good grace as he sung Everton’s praises. But he did claim that the Blues would struggle to break into the top four. Events since have led him to change his opinion.
He has been deeply impressed by a run of form that has carried Everton into striking distance of the top four and – even though Keane wants to throw a spanner in the works at the Stadium of Light – he would not be surprised if they went all the way.
While still cutting his teeth as a manager, Keane hopes Sunderland can emulate Everton’s achievements under Moyes and says the blueprint at Goodison is one that all aspiring clubs should stick to. “It was only a couple of years ago that Everton were very much in a relegation dogfight and David would tell you that himself,” said Keane. “The way they have come on is fantastic. Obviously, the big teams are getting stronger and going further away. “But it gives us all a bit of hope if you are given time to build a squad. He has bought well and that is where I would like to be. I’ve never worked with David, but he is clearly a very good manager. “Every manager is different and it would be unfair to say he is the next Alex Ferguson – and very harsh on him. But credit to Everton. They stuck with him and now they are doing well.
“The season they struggled they had the Champions League play-off against Villarreal and were knocked out. There was a knock-on effect, but clubs like Everton stick with their manager through good and bad times. “They have had their ups and downs and disappointments. But all clubs can think if you stick at it, and stick behind good people, you can build something. “Everton are an excellent club, with a good history and good traditions. I have great respect for them. “I have been to watch them as a manager and you see different clubs in different lights. Even when they beat us 7-1, David was absolutely different class. It is not always easy for me to speak to a manager after a defeat but David had the balance right. “He wasn’t gloating. He said he had had a few setbacks as a young manager. It is a question of how you deal with it. “I always thought they could challenge the top four. They are having an excellent season and I am not surprised one bit.” If that challenge for the top four is to remain on course, though, Everton are going to have to inflict more misery on Keane, whom Moyes tried to sign in November 2005, and get Thursday night’s debacle in Florence out of their system at the first opportunity. With the exception of Tim Howard, Moyes did not need to tell his players they had let themselves down in Stadio Artemio Franchi, nor will he need to remind them that they owe him and the club’s supporters a big performance to atone. Quite simply, there is no time to be wallowing in self-pity and Phil Jagielka, for one, is desperate to make amends. He feels that a resounding victory in the north east could be the catalyst to launch a comeback against Fiorentina.
Sunderland will be difficult opponents in front of their own fans but Everton have, in the main, travelled successfully throughout the campaign and Jagielka is confident.
“It was the worst performance we have had for a long time but there is another 90 minutes and hopefully we can turn it around,” he said. “We are disappointed but fortunately we have got another game to get it out of our system. “It will be a totally different game at Goodison. If we get an early goal, we’ll see how they handle it. We chose a big night to put in a mediocre performance, so are looking forward to Sunderland. “We have set our standards high and to play the way we have is just so disappointing. “But we can go to Sunderland and get a result. “They have a good home record and will make it tough for us, but we are ready for the challenge,” Jagielka added.

BARRY HORNE: Basics missing as Blues fail to heed warnings
Mar 8 2008 by Barry Horne, Liverpool Echo
PEOPLE make a big deal about how different European football is from the domestic game. That’s undeniably true, but when it comes down to it there are some things which are not fundamentally different at all. Factors like controlling the ball, passing it accurately and marking men in and around your penalty area are no different in European football than they are domestically. But, unfortunately, Everton didn’t do any of those things well enough in Italy on Thursday night and now find themselves in a very difficult position in their UEFA Cup tie. When the draw was made most Evertonians, myself included, were unaware of Fiorentina’s progress in Italy.
They had slipped off the Champions League map in recent years following bribery and relegation issues, and even though they earned enough points last season to have qualified for the Champions League, they ended up in the UEFA Cup after being docked 15 points domestically. On Thursday, however, they exploded the myth of Italian fallibility which had grown from the two Milan teams’ likely exits from the Champions League. Fiorentina started positively, the opposite of what you usually expect from an Italian side, and put Everton on the back foot from the word go. They remained in control for the majority of the 90 minutes. After an hour Everton could have been reasonably pleased with their efforts, having restricted the Italians to long range efforts at goal. But the warning signs were always there. There was constant penetration down the left flank and a series of threatening crosses, plenty of bodies arriving in and around the penalty area – and an unusually poor level of passing from Everton. Then, just when they looked like they had weathered the storm, there was some uncharacteristically sloppy defending. I’ve played in international matches against quality teams when you constantly give the ball away and invite even more pressure, and that happens simply because the opposition is so much on top.
David Moyes tried to change things by bringing on Mikel Arteta and then Andy Johnson. On Sunday, Johnson had a dramatic impact against Portsmouth, but that was a game in which Everton were comfortable defensively and had already enjoyed good spells offensively. On Thursday the game was totally different. To beat any team 3-0 or 4-1 is a tall order, let alone a side which has just outplayed you. But the over-riding issue for Everton now is the psychological impact the defeat will have on their domestic form. The trip to Sunderland tomorrow is of crucial importance and Everton must bounce back quickly.

Sunderland 0, Everton 1 (D, Post)
Mar 10 2008
By Nick Smith, Liverpool Daily Post
THEY say good things come to those who wait. And while that’s the last thing you’d describe Andrew Johnson’s winning goal at Sunderland as, it was at least just reward for the patience he has shown throughout this campaign.
The dreaded ‘second season syndrome’ threatened to envelop it at one stage, but encouraged by the ringing endorsement manager David Moyes gave him when he came on to turn the previous week’s tide against Portsmouth, Johnson made the most of what has become an increasingly rare start to edge Everton home in the sort of tough and tight encounter that is just as satisfying to win as seven-goal spectaculars at this stage. His 55th-minute strike may have looped past Craig Gordon off the top of his left arm but they all count. And the way Johnson is making his opportunities count at the moment could be vital to Everton’s relentless pursuit of Liverpool for fourth place. They went level on points with them again following a win, if not performance, that could act as the perfect confidence boost between clashes with Fiorentina – and it was thanks to Johnson finding the one moment, however fortuitous, that was always going to be needed to break what threatened to be a crippling deadlock. When he made his comeback after an operation the last time Everton played Sunderland in November, he had one goal to his name after a sluggish start to the season. But he scored then in Everton’s 7-1 destruction of the Black Cats and has now taken his tally to the campaign for nine. Which might be half of the total boasted by Yakubu, the man who inherited both Johnson’s status as the club’s record signing and his main goalscoring burden. But he’s probably only spent about half as much time on the pitch as yesterday’s strike partner. In fact, it could be argued that the Nigerian’s emergence has actually helped Johnson rediscover his form, as the pressure of the spotlight has gradually swung away from him and allowed him time to redeem the carefree features that characterised his early incarnation as a Goodison hero. Yakubu is often favoured by Moyes in the 4-5-1 formation that often brings him so much success but he was robbed of that yesterday by the suspension of Lee Carsley and groin injury to Leon Osman. So Johnson got his chance and for the second successive Sunday left his manager beaming on an afternoon that, in the main, contained precious little to smile about. And while yesterday’s dreary affair never suggested a similar goal feast as the last time the clubs met for a second (Paul McShane wasn’t playing for starters) Moyes was thankful that at least one aspect of the scoresheet – Johnson’s name being on it – was repeated. And it continued his desire for his players to keep cranking up the pressure on Liverpool. They matched their Merseyside rivals once again, despite the fact that their own triumph over north-east opposition didn’t come anything like as easy. And it wouldn’t have come at all if it hadn’t been for more brilliance from Tim Howard. From Sunderland’s point of view the American was woefully underworked, but while in Florence on Thursday he stood strong in the face of relentless chaos, yesterday he did well to stay awake, let alone keep his concentration to palm away Andy Reid’s injury-time free-kick as it flew towards the top corner. The 90 minutes building up to that was fairly trouble-free for Howard, and his defence must take credit for that. And despite their own lack of attacking threat, Mikel Arteta must also get a mention for the part he played in the win too. The Spaniard hadn’t started a game since the 6-1 slaying of SK Brann more than a fortnight ago and revealed that he has to endure nagging stomach and groin pains just to get through a game. But it was agony for Sunderland when he delivered a pinpoint cross that was so inviting that it would probably have been turned in by Cahill if Johnson hadn’t got there first. Arteta providing artistry and invention like that is obviously a major boost to Moyes given what his side needs to bounce back against Fiorentina. But while Everton might think clawing back their two-goal on Wednesday is going to be difficult, the hard work really started at 3pm yesterday. And it was pretty tough going for everyone who had the misfortune to be watching most of it as well. The first half was about as attractive as today’s FA Cup semi-final draw. Cagey, tentative, laboured, there was even time for Phil Neville to showboat, breaking the boredom with a back-heeled pass to Steven Pienaar. It was all quite understandable though. Sunderland didn’t want to take part in another eight-goal thriller and it soon became clear they were going to be lucky to contribute even one to this encounter. Lone centre-forward Kenwyne Jones was looking decidedly sleepy – and Daryl Murphy and Anthony Stokes had no intention of drifting inside to disturb him. Everton, aware of the fact that Roy Keane’s men had won their last four at home, were happy just to feel their way and rediscover some kind of passing rhythm after the trauma of Florence. The fact that most of it was done in a backwards direction early on wasn’t doing much to warm Moyes’s heart on a bitterly cold day although he was buoyed by his side’s command of possession. He wouldn’t have been as chuffed that it took until the final minute of the first half for the first meaningful effort on goal, Tim Cahill heading a corner against the post via the knee of Stokes. But at least it suggested better to come after the break – and so it proved as, in the 10th minute of the second half, they took the lead. Yakubu’s initial good work down the right seemed to go to waste as Cahill missed his cross but Pienaar did well to retrieve the ball and bring in Arteta. He took a touch before guiding the ball towards the near post and as Johnson and Cahill converged on Gordon, the Scotsman was left completely stranded – not to mention bemused – by Johnson’s awkward finish. Sunderland stepped it up slightly and Howard had to be alert to collect Bardsley’s charge-down of Pienaar’s clearance as Jones homed in, then Kieran Richardson sliced wide when he found space in the area. Phil Jagielka had to make a brilliant block to deny Michael Chopra before Howard’s heroics from Reid seemed to make the three points safe – although there was still time for Jones to force Joleon Lescott into turning away his goalbound header from the resulting corner. Which sealed the most important aspect of the day – the result. Although with Liverpool’s goal difference spiralling out of reach, Everton will need them to slip up at some stage regardless of what they do. But however that race finishes up, Moyes has now led his side to eight points clear of sixth-placed Aston Villa. Keep them at bay and, following last year’s sixth spot, he will have leapt up at least one position in the final standings and achieved what all managers strive for year on year – improvement. But they still need a rapid one of those to ensure league position isn’t the only thing left to play for later this week. Match Facts SUNDERLAND: Gordon; Bardsley, Evans, Nosworthy, Collins; Stokes (Chopra 46), Leadbitter (Prica 75), Whitehead, Richardson, Murphy (Reid 67); Jones. Subs: Fulop, McShane. BOOKINGS: Whitehead (foul), Bardsley (foul) EVERTON: Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Yobo, Lescott; Arteta, Neville, Cahill (Anichebe 87), Pienaar (Baines 81); Yakubu (Rodwell 87), Johnson . Subs: Turner, Gravesen. BOOKING: Cahill (foul) REFEREE: Alan Wiley. ATT: 42,595 NEXT GAME: Everton v Fiorentina, UEFA Cup last 16 second leg, Wednesday 7.45pm.

Sunderland 0 Everton 1
Mar 10 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
AS a nation gears up for potentially one of the greatest horse races of all time, an enthralling head-to-head is building in the country’s football capital. Hype surrounding Kauto Star’s collision with stablemate Denman in the Cheltenham Gold Cup has been building all through the winter and on Friday, a sporting world will wait with bated breath to see how that contest unfolds. For non racing aficionados, Kauto Star, the favourite, is the class act who has been there and done it but Denman is rapidly improving and deserves his shot at the big time – no prizes for guessing where this is going. After another weekend of Premier League action, goal difference is the only thing that separates Liverpool and Everton and they are neck and neck as they head into the final furlong in this race for a Champions League place.
Evertonians will not remember yesterday’s trip to Sunderland as a classic but another three points and a clean sheet was the objective of manager David Moyes and his players. Sometimes a lack of entertainment can be exaggerated in print but the first 45 minutes here were genuinely mind-numbing as neither goalkeeper had a shot to save.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the paying customers also had their ears invaded by the camp, screeching sounds of Mika blasting out over the public address system before kick-off and during half-time. When you add into the equation that a biting wind was blowing off the River Wear and the temperature gradually dropped with each passing minute, you can appreciate that a number of better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon sprang to mind. In fairness to both sides, however, the effort was there and Everton’s huff and puff almost gained reward shortly before the interval when Tim Cahill’s header from a Mikel Arteta corner was diverted onto to the post by Anthony Stokes.
That, though, was as good as it got before the break and the only other highlight was seeing Phil Neville successfully complete a back-heeled pass – as one wag drolly put it, that was worth the admission fee alone. Fortunately for those of a Blue perspective, things improved dramatically after the break thanks to a noticeable change in the pace of their approach. Lively swapped places with lethargy and that helped yield the match deciding goal. Arteta’s cross caused uncertainty in the Sunderland defence and they succeeded in clearing only as far as Steven Pienaar, who returned the ball back into the centre, where Andrew Johnson nipped in behind Tim Cahill to glance an effort beyond Craig Gordon. Television replays showed that it came off the England international’s elbow but who cares? He has endured more than his fair share of rough justice since he has been at Goodison and it would have taken a brave man to deprive him of this. Johnson may have owed his place in the starting line-up to the fact that Leon Osman succumbed to injury and while it would be stretching it to say this was one of his better performances, he has not scored many more important goals than this in Blue. That’s nine for the campaign now and there is no reason why he can’t considerably add to that tally during the race to the wire. Not only did the goal take the wind out of Sunderland’s sails, it also finally relaxed the visitors, who were – not surprisingly – tentative following the chastening experience at the hands of Fiorentina last Thursday. While they never really looked like adding to their total, Everton’s goal never came under undue threat, either – until the last minute, that is.
First Tim Howard conjured up a terrific save to keep out Andy Reid’s exquisitely placed free-kick and then from the resultant corner, Joleon Lescott nodded Kenwyne Jones’ header off the line. How many times have we seen in the last couple of months a member of Everton’s defence launch themselves into last ditch tackles to keep their side’s Champions League ambitions on course? The mistakes Howard has made since he has been at Goodison can be counted on the fingers of one hand and Sunderland’s strikers were the latest in a long line to draw a blank against him – that’s clean sheet number 13 for the campaign in the Premier League. Lescott endured a difficult evening in Florence, as did Joseph Yobo, yet they were both outstanding yesterday, with the latter particularly dominant. Everyone – with the exception of Andy van der Meyde – will have a role to play in the quest to become the city’s top dogs and that includes young Jack Rodwell, who celebrates his 17th birthday tomorrow and made a four minute cameo appearance here. Recent efforts, coupled with a punishing schedule, mean that the vast majority of Everton’s players are carrying some sort of knock but one thing that is proving impossible to break is their spirit. Liverpool may feel they have the initiative after winning their last three games but they are about to find their neighbours will be increasingly difficult to shake off and this battle has all the hallmarks of a thriller – it’s just a shame no silverware is involved. And finally, a word on the referee. Alan Wiley was, by and large, anonymous, getting every major decision right. If only the same could have been said the last time he officiated an Everton game. All being well, those errors at Ewood Park won’t come back to haunt him.

Victor Anichebe: AJ the ultimate professional
Mar 10 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
VICTOR ANICHEBE hailed the ultra professionalism of match-winner Andrew Johnson - then allayed fears over the fitness of best friend James Vaughan.
Johnson has been used primarily as a substitute in recent weeks but an injury to Leon Osman gave him a starting opportunity at Sunderland yesterday and he took full advantage. The England international capped a typically tireless display of front running by scoring the only goal of the game, as Everton kept the pressure on Liverpool in the race for fourth place. Record signing Ayegbeni Yakubu has been the main focus of attention of late but Anichebe says the quiet life suits Johnson and expects him to have a huge input on the run -in. “Yak is on fire and nobody can take that away from him but AJ has been waiting and waiting for a chance,” said Anichebe.
“He has scored when he has come on in games or made a big difference with his pace and he got us a crucial goal again. “He’s a great professional. Even though he isn’t always starting, he’s giving absolutely everything he’s got in training, doing everything right and making sure he is ready when called upon. “You can see how that is paying off because he made the difference yesterday. I’m learning off both Yak and AJ so much and playing with them can only help me improve.” While Anichebe will also have a role to play in the coming weeks, Vaughan is facing up to another spell of rehabilitation after he underwent knee surgery in Colorado today. There have been fears for the 19-year-old’s career but Anichebe is quick to stress that the problem is not as serious as first thought. “It’s a big shame,” said Anichebe. “He isn’t as down this time as he was last summer as he knows it isn’t that serious. Maybe it’s a blessing, as he’ll come back refreshed and ready to go again.” Anichebe, meanwhile, believes the fighting spirit Everton showed at the Stadium of Light will prove invaluable as the scrap with Liverpool intensifies. “It was a great response from the team,” said Anichebe. “We went to Florence and had a really tough game but we’ve shown that we are a strong team by going to Sunderland and winning.
“Everyone is fighting for each other because we know this is the final push now. We are in a great position and hopefully we can get the last position in you know what!”

David Moyes’ praise for Blues team spirit
Mar 10 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES paid a glowing tribute to Everton’s team spirit after his players ground out three priceless points at Sunderland to keep their Champions League hopes alive. Having arrived on Wearside on the back of a disappointing 2-0 defeat against Fiorentina, Andrew Johnson’s opportunist strike was enough to get the Blues back to winning ways at Sunderland. It might have been a victory that owed more to perspiration than inspiration but that did not concern Moyes in the slightest and he hopes that doughty attitude will remain on the run-in. “Everybody was looking to see how we were going to react and we’ve shown we can stand up to that,” Moyes said.
“We didn’t play well in midweek, we know that. But I’m not going to beat them up for playing one game when we’ve done well in the other 15, 20 games, maybe more.
“So they have shown brilliant team spirit. Amongst themselves they made sure they did things right and they are a credit, they really are. A great group of boys.
“They were down because we could have gone to Fiorentina and played very well and lost 2-0. But we played very badly and lost 2-0 so it was the performance as much as anything. “So we were pleased that we won a very difficult Premier League game. You have to play 38 games and very few teams come here and get results so it wasn’t an easy task. “The players showed great character, rolled their sleeves up, got on with the job and came away with three points.” When the sides last met at Goodison Park in November, the Blues played some outstanding football and trounced Sunderland 7-1 but there was never any chance of a repeat here. Few would remember this as a classic yet, if Everton can keep pinching three points like this in their final nine games, Moyes will be more than happy. “I don’t think you always see good games at this time in the season anyway, and getting the results is more important,” the manager continued. “It was always going to be a test because of Sunderland’s record at home and they needed the points as well so from our point of view it was a good result. “We passed the ball and had good interchanges in the first half without any cutting edge. So at half-time we said we had to get some crosses in and more attacking play in the final third.” All focus now turns to trying to overhaul the deficit against Fiorentina in the UEFA Cup on Wednesday before domestic hostilities resume with a trip to Fulham next Sunday. By that time, Liverpool could have opened a three-point gap in fourth place by beating Reading on Saturday but the prospect of playing catch up does not phase Moyes. “I’m looking at Liverpool’s results because it is important,” Moyes, who gave 16-year-old Jack Rodwell his Premier League debut as a late substitute, revealed. “It’s easy to do when we play Sunday and they play Saturday. I think we’d all like to play Saturday 3pm, but whatever we do we are doing quite well and it’s not caused us any problems. “We can only do what we can do and we can’t worry too much about Liverpool – but we’ll try to stay the distance. “We have three games away this month so it’s difficult but we’re doing okay. Next month it changes round, so this is why we need to keep winning and be in a good position.”

Everton v Fiorentina: Fans can help keep Euro dream alive - David Moyes
Mar 11 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES urged Evertonians to pump up the volume and play their part in helping keep the club’s UEFA Cup dreams alive. The Blues face Fiorentina at Goodison Park tomorrow evening knowing they have a mountain to climb if they are to reach the quarter-finals, after losing the first leg in Italy last Thursday 2-0.
Moyes, however, is adamant that his side has enough firepower to retrieve the situation, and believes an early Everton goal will turn the tie on its head.
But as much as he has faith in his squad, the manager knows those in the stands can play their part as well and wants Goodison to be as noisy as it has been all season come kick-off. “I just hope we get a referee that allows us to play in a style that is fair to both sides,” said Moyes, who was frustrated by the efforts of Belgian official Paul Allaerts in Florence. “We know that there will be lots of stoppages. That’s what happens when you play in Europe. But we know that our crowd can make a really big difference. “I felt last week that the Fiorentina fans had an influence on the result, so if that’s the way it goes we would hope that our supporters can do the same for us now. “The bigger games are coming around now and we can’t let our standards drop. They scored two goals in the last 20 minutes, we need to get two in 90 to get the tie in extra time at least.” As frustrated as Moyes was efforts in Italy, he was encouraged by the way Everton bounced back against Sunderland and is confident his players are ready to make amends. So even if history is stacked against Everton - the only time they have reversed a first leg deficit was against Rotherham in 1992 - Moyes believes scoring three times is within their capabilities. “It wasn’t a good performance, we know that, but we are not going to beat ourselves up over it,” said Moyes. “The players have been doing really well and we just have to get on with it. “But defeats can actually be positives if you learn from them. We never reached the standards we have set for ourselves in Italy but we want to show we are better than that.
“Many of the games we have played in Europe, we have won late on and after 70 minutes last week, it looked as if we had weathered the storm, even though we had not played well. “I can’t deny that they deserved to win but the game is not lost by any means. It will be difficult and we respect the opposition but we are looking forward to the challenge.” Everton picked up a number of “bumps and bruises” at the Stadium of Light but, at this stage, the main doubts for tomorrow concern Leon Osman, Tim Cahill and Steven Pienaar.

Nigel Martyn: Smart approach can reap Everton reward
Mar 11 2008 by Nigel Martyn, Liverpool Echo
MANY people will rate Everton’s hopes of reaching the UEFA Cup quarter-finals somewhere between ‘slim’ and ‘none’ but nobody will be thinking that way in the dressing room. Yes, the Blues have a mountain to climb after a poor first leg in Florence but it is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility that the deficit can be retrieved; scoring twice in 90 minutes is not mission impossible. A couple of years ago, that’s exactly what we faced after a disastrous night in Bucharest and though we beat Dinamo 1-0 at Goodison Park in the return, overhauling the 5-1 scoreline was beyond us. Thankfully, the situation is nowhere near as bleak for the current team.
So long as we keep a clean sheet and don’t make any silly mistakes, all this chase boils down to is scoring one goal either side of half-time and – looking at the players who are available to David Moyes – Everton are more than capable of doing that.
Winning at Sunderland on Sunday will have put everyone in the right frame of mind for this next test and it was great to see Andrew Johnson get a goal, as everyone will be looking to he and Ayegbeni Yakubu to lead the charge. Some will expect Everton to go gung-ho from the first whistle but that certainly isn’t necessary and the only time you would expect risks to be taken is if the scoreline is 0-0 with 20 minutes to go or – perish the thought – Fiorentina pinch a goal. Make no mistake, they are a good side and their position in Serie A has nothing to do with good fortune; I was impressed with the way Fiorentina passed the ball last week and right from the start they looked as if they had the tools to create lots of problems. True, we did not do ourselves many favours but I’ve no doubts whatsoever Everton will show themselves in a proper light and I would expect us to win the game; only time will tell if we can do enough to win the tie. If the dream scenario unfolds, it would provide a huge injection of confidence for the last nine games in the Premier League but it is going to take an enormous effort to come off. Whatever happens, they will know they have been in a game come Thursday morning.
Shock results just part of Euro fairytale
IT has been the year of the underdog in the FA Cup and I think it’s been absolutely fantastic for the competition. In an ideal world, the final would see Portsmouth and Barnsley play each other after what both sides have achieved but, either way, it’s refreshing that one of the big four’s names will not be on the famous old pot.
The number of giantkillings has been fantastic to see and though it hurts when it happens to you, you can’t help but laugh when the fate befalls someone else. But that’s what the FA Cup is all about and hopefully its sheen has been restored at long last.
Sunderland win was so important
SUNDERLAND may be in the middle of a relegation dogfight but the importance of Everton’s win on Sunday should not be underestimated. There is nothing more difficult than coming back from Europe to play an away game the following weekend but the Blues have been quite adept at getting results in such circumstances and that was another feather in the cap. It keeps things ticking along nicely in the battle for the final Champions League spot with our neighbours and it was a great response after seeing Liverpool win 4-0 and 3-0 respectively to go clear for 24 hours.
Hard though it may be, Everton have got to do all they can to keep pace with Liverpool over the next few weeks, as it’s not long before Rafa Benitez faces up to a run which includes the derby and trips to the Emirates Stadium and Old Trafford in consecutive weeks. If we can keep neck and neck to that point, we might have a real chance of moving a couple of points clear but – just like the match with Fiorentina – it is going to take a huge effort just to do that. The pressure is going to be unrelenting.
But whatever happens, this season has been one of real progress yet again. We only need two points to equal last year’s tally of 58, while we remain on course to comfortably surpass the 52 goals that campaign yielded. As I’ve said before, the future is bright.

Everton Reserves 1, Wigan Reserves 2
Mar 11 2008
Liverpool Echo
A FIRST half stunner from young Blues striker Kieran Agard failed to earn Everton Reserves a share of the spoils against Wigan. Goals from Julius Aghahowa and Thomasz Cwyka cancelled out Agard’s wonder strike. Anthony Gardner got another 90 minutes under his belt following his outing against Newcastle last week, but unfortunately Iain Turner was forced to withdraw from the game after just 35 minutes. The keeper appeared to injure his leg while taking a goal kick. The game was tightand was always going to be a close encounter. Aghahowa broke the deadlock after dispossessing Gardner. The Wigan striker then forced a good save from Turner from six yards, but unfortunately the ball fell straight back to the Nigerian who, at the second attempt, fired home. Chances were few and far between for the Blues. However, Agard looked very lively in the opening period and it was his pressure on Wigan's Russel Saunders that caused the keeper to fumble and almost create a goal. Then, just after the half hour, Agard found himself in space 30 yards out. And when his team mates failed to create any movement in the box, he let fly into the top right hand corner. . Debutant right-back Lee McArdle almost gave the Blues the lead 20 minutes into the second half when a cross-come-shot had visiting keeper Saunders worried as the effort threatened to dip under the bar. However, moments later it was Wigan who were celebrating. Striker Cwyka found himself in possession on the left hand edge of the penalty area and let fly. Substitute keeper Jamie Jones made a fine effort to deflect the effort, but it found the net. Everton had a chance of equalising late on, but a 20-yard strike from Dan Gosling produced another good stop by Saunders. nEverton Reserves: Turner (Jones 36), McArdle, Densmore, Gardner, Dennehy, Gosling, Harpur, Rodwell, Agard, Downes, Morrison. Not used: Connor, Baxter, Codling, Sinnott.

Homes refusal setback for Everton stadium proposal
Mar 12 2008
By David Bartlett, Liverpool Daily Post
EVERTON FC’s plans to build 74 luxury homes on their former training ground, which would have helped pay for a new stadium, have been rejected by Liverpool’s planning committee. Yesterday the committee decided to refuse the joint application by the club and David Wilson Homes because of fears it would increase traffic and would not provide regeneration benefits. The application will not be officially refused until a future meeting - last night the club declined to comment. The club is moving ahead with plans to build a new stadium in Kirkby. The committee was told that the development of the former training ground, off Sandforth Road, West Derby, would provide 10% of the costs of the new stadium. About 220 residents objected to the plans for the homes mainly because they were concerned about increased traffic, extra pressure on local schools, doctors and dentists, and loss of open space. However, council planners had recommended the scheme be approved. Yesterday residents addressed the committee with their concerns. Eileen Woods lives next door to one of the four homes in Sandforth Road that would have to be knocked down. She said: “It seems to be the club is trying to hold the city to ransom by saying that it is crucial to the stadium.” Cllr Steve Munby, opposition spokesman on housing, said allowing the development outside the Housing Market Renewal Initiative (HMRI) areas ran contrary to the council’s policy to encourage development in deprived areas. Planning chairman Cllr Dave Irving, who did not vote on the proposal because he represents the Knotty Ash ward which includes the site, also spoke against the application. Paul Williams, representing Everton and David Wilson Homes, said the number of houses had been reduced from the 96 originally proposed in response to residents concerns. “This is a private space, it’s never provided a public facility. Therefore there would be no loss of public open space.” Davidbartlett

Everton crash out of the Uefa Cup
Mar 12 2008
David Moyes was left distraught as his battling Everton side exited the UEFA Cup following a dramatic penalty shoot-out. The Scottish boss had seen his side work their way back into the tie and peg back a two-goal deficit at Goodison Park tonight.
However it is Fiorentina who will go forward to the quarter-finals - despite being outplayed on the night. Everton dominated the game from the start and the big surprise was that they breached the Fiorentina goal only once in the first half.
They signalled their intentions as early as the second minute when Andrew Johnson headed the ball back to Leon Osman after two minutes. The midfielder cracked in a shot from the edge of the area that was deflected to safety in front of a packed crowd.
Everton made the breakthrough in the 16th minute when Steven Pienaar delivered a cross from the left, goalkeeper Sebastien Frey seemed to be distracted by the presence of Ayegbeni Yakubu and the ball broke to Johnson, who bundled in from close range.
With only a goal now separating the sides Everton stepped up the pressure and Mikel Arteta smacked a shot wide following a cross from Joleon Lescott. Then Frey did well to parry a free-kick from as the Italian side again found themselves on the back foot.
Everton maintained the momentum but Johnson made an unsuccessful penalty claim following a challenge from Manuel Pasqual. The ball broke to Osman, who cracked in a fierce shot, only to see Frey make a good parry. Phil Jagielka sent a header over the bar in the 29th minute following a free-kick from Arteta, before Martin Jorgensen tested goalkeeper Tim Howard with a fine volley at the other end in the 32nd minute.
Two minutes later Everton almost drew level on aggregate when Yakubu weaved his way into the area but Frey parried his shot and it was eventually cleared. Johnson then peeled away from his marker to get on the end of Arteta’s corner, only to head over the top. Yakubu found the net in first half stoppage-time - only for his effort to be ruled out for offside after Frey made a superb save from Johnson. Everton came within inches of drawing level in the 47th minute when Lescott headed on a corner from the influential Arteta - but Pasqual cleared off the line. The Barclays Premier League side carved out another good chance in the 63rd minute when Johnson released Yakubu in the penalty area - but the Nigerian was crowded out and the chance was lost. Fittingly it was Arteta who pulled the teams level on aggregate in the 66th minute with a stunning strike from 25 yards. Frey, who had kept out a string of shots, was powerless to prevent the ball zipping into the net and it was game on.
Frey then saved a shot from defender Joseph Yobo with his knees to prevent Everton taking the lead. Everton were almost hit by a sucker punch in the 76th minute when substitute Giampaolo Pazzini flicked in a header but Howard reacted superbly to push his effort over the bar. It was Fiorentina, though, who almost went ahead in extra-time but Pazzini saw his effort go narrowly wide of the post. Everton hit back and carved out a good chance in the 103rd minute when Johnson released Yakubu.
He got a decent touch and took the ball on, only to blast a shot wide of the target.
Johnson then tried to pick out Yakubu in the 109th minute when he could have tried his luck on goal and his pass was blocked. Moyes’ men kept pushing forward and substitute Victor Anichebe twice got into good positions but could not take advantage.
And there was only heartache for Everton as they went down 4-2 in shoot-out with Yakubu and Jagielka failing to convert their efforts, while their Italian opponents were clinical from the penalty spot.

Everton v Fiorentina: David Moyes calls for Goodison payback
Mar 12 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES wants payback at Goodison Park tonight for the Everton fans who suffered in Italy last week. The Blues boss has heard so many stories of misery and ill-treatment from supporters who travelled for last week's first leg that he wants his side to put a smile back on their faces tonight. Moyes, fresh from witnessing Joleon Lescott pen a new four-year deal, said: "Our fans have been terrific in all our games in Europe. “In the main they have been treated very well but I was disappointed at what happened in Italy. "They tend to put away supporters in a pen in the corner. It is hardly worth paying money if that is what you get. "Maybe that is why there are so many empty stadiums in Italy. "I thought our fans were treated quite shabbily and hopefully we can give them something to shout about." Moyes believes his improving side can help him pull off the biggest achievement of his managerial career tonight.
The Blues boss has taken Everton into Europe twice, disrupted the established order at the top of the Premier League by finishing fourth, has been named Manager of the Year and banished the perception of the club as perennial relegation battlers.
But he believes an aggregate victory over Fiorentina at a sell-out Goodison tonight would rank alongside those. "If we could overhaul a two-goal deficit it would rate as one of my biggest achievements. "This is the best team that I've had. We are all on a learning curve here and I think we have found we have improved in Europe and we understand it more. "We are getting closer to competing more regularly with the teams at the top. “I know we still have to beat them more often, and this is a big test.
"We've had great momentum all season and the longer we can keep that momentum going the better - hopefully all the way through to May." Moyes has a couple of injury concerns ahead of tonight's game, but is hoping that a pain-free Mikel Arteta can prove a match-winner. The Spaniard has been troubled by a niggling groin problem, but on Sunday at Sunderland he completed the 90 minutes and declared himself pain-free for the first time in months. "He is an influential player who can make a difference in games and I think we need him. "Hopefully, the 90 minutes he got at Sunderland will help him, and there's no reaction. "We need goals, but there has to be an air of patience, too. We will have to play cleverly and not go in all guns blazing.
"In all the games I've watched, and I have seen Fiorentina a lot, they don't concede many goals or many chances. "It's difficult to get sustained periods of pressure against them." The referee could be important in that after Moyes felt that over fussy Belgian official Paul Allaerts broke up last week's first leg far too frequently. "I hope we can get a bit of tempo to the game and it isn't stopped and started, which I have a fear about," added Moyes. Tonight's Dutch official, Eric Braamhaar, actually achieved notoriety in his homeland for celebrating an advantage decision which led to a goal for Ajax last season!

Joleon Lescott signs new Everton deal
Mar 12 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
JOLEON LESCOTT has handed Everton a massive boost ahead of tonight's UEFA Cup clash with Fiorentina - by signing a new four-and-a-half year contract.
The England defender has committed his future to the Blues until the end of the 2011/12 season and becomes one of the club's highest earners - a reward for his astonishingly consistent performances since arriving from Wolves 18 months ago.
Aged 25, he should now enjoy the peak years of his career at Goodison. He has featured in every match this season, weighing in with eight invaluable goals, and was a member of Fabio Capello’s first England squad. "This is really terrific news for everyone connected with the club," said manager David Moyes. "This continues our policy of securing - on long term deals - those players who not only represent Everton's present but also its future. “Since joining us Joleon has more than proved his worth and the fact he is not only happy at Goodison Park but also willing to commit his future to Everton shows that we are most definitely moving in the right direction." Chairman Bill Kenwright was similarly delighted after concluding negotiations with Lescott. He said: "We have worked really hard over the past 12 months or so to secure the futures of our brightest and most gifted young players.
"I am delighted for him and also for our supporters who have really taken him to their hearts.” Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill, Leon Osman, Andrew Johnson, Tony Hibbert and now Lescott have all been secured on long term contracts.

Everton v Fiorentina: We can do it says Victor Anichebe
Mar 12 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
LUCKY charms are often needed to help overcome major tests and, as Everton will need all the help they can get tonight, they are sure to look to their number 28.
European competition has brought the best out of Victor Anichebe this season and, more often than not, he has proved to be the man for the big occasion, invariably coming off the bench to power past tiring defenders and pilfer crucial goals.
That tactic worked a treat against Metalist Kharkiv, Larissa, FC Nurnberg and SK Brann and there is every chance David Moyes will turn to him again at some point tonight as Everton aim to overhaul Fiorentina’s 2-0 first leg advantage. Immediately after that clash in Tuscany, few observers would have given Everton much chance of clawing back that deficit, but events over the weekend - the Blues won at Sunderland while La Viola slipped up against lowly Siena - show that the task is anything but hopeless. And Anichebe, for one, has every faith he and his team-mates can do it. Though he is still a month shy of his 20th birthday, there is a maturity about the way he assesses the challenge with which Everton are confronted and points out that patience will be required. But the Nigerian is quietly confident that Everton can conjure up the result that is required to take them through and that belief stems from the fact that Moyes has countless options in the squad who are capable of scoring when it matters most. “We went over there hopeful of getting a good result but they showed they are a very good team,” said Anichebe. “So we need everyone now to help us get the situation back. “It’s not just the players. It’s the coaching staff, the lads behind the scenes and most importantly, the fans. It’s a massive game for the club and hopefully we will get the result that we need to take us through to the quarter-finals.
“Fiorentina have proved they are a really good side and we respect them, but if everyone works hard and we play the kind of football that we have shown over the course of the season, there’s no reason why we can’t get through. “There are goals everywhere you look in the team. Yak can do it, AJ can, if I get the chance I’d like to hope I could do it, too. Then we’ve got Joleon, who can pop up with goal at the back, then there are great players in the midfield like Tim and Mikel. “It hasn’t just been down to one person this season - we’ve shared the goals out between us. Now it’s just a case of waiting for the big day and hoping that we can get the result we need. We are all so desperate to do well.” He is also desperate to continue the adventure in Europe. Though there are still a number of rough edges to be polished on his game, Anichebe has made real progress this season which has been typified by the goals he has scored on the continent. ‘Super Sub’ is a role that has played to strengths and if Ayegbeni Yakubu and Andrew Johnson can soften up Fiorentina’s central defenders, Anichebe would relish the chance to run amok as the clock ticks down. “I’ve loved playing in Europe this season,” said Anichebe. “To score so many goals has been brilliant, but all I want from this game is for us to get the result that we need to go through. I’m learning a lot playing against different defenders and if I can help again, that would be great. “I am just enjoying the moment. It’s been great to see the team winning in Europe and me being able to help and play a part. I understand what the manager is doing and how he is using me in games. “I have power and strength and I get on when opponents are tired. When defenders are tired he puts me on. We capitalise on tired defenders, and I hope we can continue to do that. I’m learning so much off the likes of Yak and AJ. “I am not really happy to be sitting on the bench. I want to be playing. But I understand the situation. “Everyone is doing well and the team is benefiting.”

Everton v Fiorentina: Rejection toughened me up – Phil Jagielka
Mar 12 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
PHIL JAGIELKA is hoping to celebrate a high point in his football career tonight.
But Everton’s in-form defender believes an experience at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum helped steer him towards nights like this. Jagielka will go head to head with renowned Italian hit-man Christian Vieri at Goodison Park, with a place in the last eight of the UEFA Cup at stake. But he believes the chastening experience of being rejected by the Blues as a schoolboy helped propel him towards clashes like these. “The day I was released probably was one of my worst days in football, but I don’t regret it for one minute,” he declared. “In fact I look back now and it has probably been the best decision of my life. “If I had stayed at Everton I may not be in football now. A lot of people who were seen to be above me and better than me at the time are either playing in lower leagues now or not playing at all. “I went to Sheffield, got my chance and played lots of games in the Championship. “It helped me mature quickly. I got chucked in with the youth team there and they were used to being with each other every day; there were lots of practical jokes, the training was harder and people would be smashing you with no shinpads on. “I thought at first ‘what’s going on here?’ But it made me mature. I left home and supposedly grew up. “It was nice to eventually come back but I never really felt any remorse at leaving.
“I was just coming up to 15. I was in the same age group as Joey Barton, Paul Dempsey and a few others. We had quite a decent junior team, but these things happen. That’s the way football goes and a lot of players now have been released at some time in their careers.” Showing the strength of character to bounce back from experiences like that helped Jagielka overcome a start to his Blues career when he was wracked by self doubt. “I couldn’t have asked for a better season, although if you had asked me that three months after I came I might have given you a different answer!” he added. “But I’ve had a nice run in the side, I feel settled and hopefully I’m starting to play my best football.” Boss David Moyes says he never lost faith in the man he spent £4m to bring to Goodison last summer. “He’s had a really good first season at Everton, and can be really pleased with how he has performed this year. “I never lost confidence in him. He played every minute of every game for Sheffield United so I knew there was a player there. I could see somebody who I think was a little overawed by the move to Everton and I think a little bit surprised by the ability of some of the players. “I think he wasn’t in as a good a condition physically as he should have been as well. “But now he is looking like a good centre-back which we always thought would be his best position anyway with Alan Stubbs and Davey Weir nearing the end of their careers and Joseph Yobo away at the African Nations Cup.” After initially deputising for Yobo during his Ghanaian excursion, Jagielka’s form has been so consistently reliable he has now found himself playing alongside the Nigerian, with Joleon Lescott operating at left-back. “I feel at home, especially with Joleon and Joseph alongside me,” added Jagielka. “Joseph doesn’t talk that much but he tells you enough. I’d rather have someone who doesn’t talk that much, but is as good as Joesph is, rather than someone who can talk a lot but not really help you out. “Joleon is a bit like myself in that he’s not particularly loud, but he tells you the important information when you need it and his form has been frightening this season.
“To play in between both of them makes me look a half decent player.”
The defenders will be as important to Everton’s cause as the offensive players who must try and reduce the two-goal deficit tonight. “We can’t really go 1-0 down,” added Jagielka. “If we do it will make the night almost impossible. “We do need two goals, but we can’t run the risk of conceding one just to get an early goal. If it’s still nil-nil after 60 minutes we’re still in the game, but if we’re 1-0 down after 10 minutes then it will make things maybe too hard. “I expect most fans who come along to believe as much as we do that we can overturn this deficit.”

Moyes calls for Goodison payback
Mar 12 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES wants payback at Goodison Park tonight for the Everton fans who suffered in Italy last week. The Blues boss has heard so many stories of misery and ill-treatment from supporters who travelled for last week's first leg that he wants his side to put a smile back on their faces tonight. Moyes, fresh from witnessing Joleon Lescott pen a new four-year deal, said: "Our fans have been terrific in all our games in Europe. “In the main they have been treated very well but I was disappointed at what happened in Italy. "They tend to put away supporters in a pen in the corner. It is hardly worth paying money if that is what you get. "Maybe that is why there are so many empty stadiums in Italy. "I thought our fans were treated quite shabbily and hopefully we can give them something to shout about." Moyes believes his improving side can help him pull off the biggest achievement of his managerial career tonight.
The Blues boss has taken Everton into Europe twice, disrupted the established order at the top of the Premier League by finishing fourth, has been named Manager of the Year and banished the perception of the club as perennial relegation battlers.
But he believes an aggregate victory over Fiorentina at a sell-out Goodison tonight would rank alongside those. "If we could overhaul a two-goal deficit it would rate as one of my biggest achievements. "This is the best team that I've had. We are all on a learning curve here and I think we have found we have improved in Europe and we understand it more. "We are getting closer to competing more regularly with the teams at the top. “I know we still have to beat them more often, and this is a big test.
"We've had great momentum all season and the longer we can keep that momentum going the better - hopefully all the way through to May." Moyes has a couple of injury concerns ahead of tonight's game, but is hoping that a pain-free Mikel Arteta can prove a match-winner. The Spaniard has been troubled by a niggling groin problem, but on Sunday at Sunderland he completed the 90 minutes and declared himself pain-free for the first time in months. "He is an influential player who can make a difference in games and I think we need him. "Hopefully, the 90 minutes he got at Sunderland will help him, and there's no reaction. "We need goals, but there has to be an air of patience, too. We will have to play cleverly and not go in all guns blazing.
"In all the games I've watched, and I have seen Fiorentina a lot, they don't concede many goals or many chances. "It's difficult to get sustained periods of pressure against them." The referee could be important in that after Moyes felt that over fussy Belgian official Paul Allaerts broke up last week's first leg far too frequently. "I hope we can get a bit of tempo to the game and it isn't stopped and started, which I have a fear about," added Moyes. Tonight's Dutch official, Eric Braamhaar, actually achieved notoriety in his homeland for celebrating an advantage decision which led to a goal for Ajax last season!

The jury: What were you feeling after watching Everton fall out of Europe last night?
Mar 13 2008 Liverpool Echo
I HONESTLY thought nothing could make up for the way we were treated in Italy last week. But last night’s monumental performance from the players went a long way to proving me wrong. The fans were unbelievable and the players weren’t that bad either. I was stunned coming out of the ground last night after the final whistle and was almost lost for words. Yobo and Lescott were unbelievably good. The strikers worked their socks off and on another day could have had two or three goals each.
The midfield foursome of Arteta, Osman, Carsley and Piennar were outstanding and I really hope they follow that up until the end of the season. I'm afraid following Everton isn't as straight forward as following other clubs. When we needed Lady Luck to shine on us after a great display, she deserted us. Performances like last night’s are why I love this club. I'm proud to be an Evertonian.
LEAVING Goodison Park last night, I cannot remember feeling so proud and disappointed at the same time. Every player in a Blue shirt was simply magnificent.
Indeed, it is genuinely difficult to think of a better team performance since the great days of Reid and Gray and those of us who were lucky enough to be present at the legendary Bayern Munich game in April 1985 will have felt the same tingle go down their spine when Arteta sweetly hit home the second goal. It really was that good.
Ultimately, however, the poor display in Italy and the failure last night to take enough of the many chances that were created have cost us dearly. Even so, the players should take nothing but positives from their performances in Europe this year. We have come a long way and will surely benefit from the experience The players and manager can now focus all of their efforts on getting that fourth Premiership place.
UNFORTUNATELY our wait for silverware will have to continue for another season, but I can honestly say hand on heart I was so proud to be an Evertonian last night!
The entire team put a great shift in at Goodison, to pick a man of the match would be a very difficult decision to make. Penalties are the cruellest way to exit a tournament, especially one that has captured the imagination of the blue half of Merseyside so much. Our Italian friends must be thinking how they actually qualified, as we could and should have repeated the SK Brann home scoreline. Arteta scored a goal we all know he is capable of; he must now start to believe he is the real deal.
Osman must now be knocking on the England door, his close control and determination was a pleasure to watch. Yakubu and AJ ran their hearts out, and you could sense unrest amongst the Italian defence. A great team display all round.
GUTTED! Football is a cruel game. After that cautious, nervous, un-Everton like performance in the first leg, we knew we had a mountain to climb, but to be denied by the width of post and crossbar in a penalty shoot-out was a refined version of torture. It was the only time Fiorentina showed any poise or style. Not only that, step forward Mr Eric Braamhaar, obviously trained in the Mark Clattenburg School of Refereeing, could anyone fathom his bizarre decisions, ignoring players scythed to the ground and then blowing up for minor infringements? Unlike Alex Ferguson, David Moyes didn’t throw all the toys out of his pram, we know how to lose with dignity – we’ve been practising it for years. As the old saying goes, we can ‘concentrate on the Premier League’, but after a season of such promise, we don’t want to be like the defeated contestant on ‘The Weakest Link’ who comes away with nothing.

Phil Neville: My pride in Everton's heartbreak heroes
Mar 13 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DISTRAUGHT skipper Phil Neville spoke of his immense pride in the performance of his Everton players - then demanded: "Let's have more of these nights at Goodison next season!" Everton lost a penalty shoot-out to Italian side Fiorentina after pulling back a two-goal deficit to take the match into extra-time. But after a monumental performance, Neville said: “The word which springs to mind after that is proud – I’m proud to play with this set of players.“I thought we were fantastic. We should have won the game by four or five goals. “There’s a lot of fighting qualities in our dressing room, but more importantly there’s a lot of quality. “We took on the fourth best team in Italy tonight; I’ve watched videos of them and I’ve never seen them have that many chances created against them in four videos, never mind one. “We can be proud of the way we’ve played tonight. “We’ve got quality in this squad and we need to make sure that over the next nine games we show that quality and get our just rewards at the end of the season.” The Blues players were given standing ovations both at half-time and at the end of extra-time after a superb display left the Italian side desperately hanging on. Neville added: “I think tonight we’ve shown we’re not too far away from bringing these type of nights here regularly. “We’ve still got a lot to learn. Last Thursday maybe we could have been a bit bolder. “But in my first three or four seasons in European football I learned lessons every year and until you play in these type of competitions, you can’t learn those lessons. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons this season – and the biggest is that we want to play in European football next season.
“Because I think the whole club has warmed to it. Let’s bring more of these nights.
“Finishing fourth this season would be an absolutely astronomical achievement considering the quality of the side who want to finish in fourth place. We’re under no illusions about the size of the task, but with the spirit and the togetherness of the squad, we’re going to give it our best shot.”

UEFA Cup exit so hard to take confesses David Moyes
Mar 13 2008 by Nick Peet, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES was left as shell-shocked as everybody else inside Goodison Park last night as he struggled to come to terms with Everton's departure from the UEFA Cup. The Blues boss agreed with the analogy that his side had "battered" Fiorentina in last night's last 16 second leg, but also accepted a number of missed opportunities ultimately cost the Blues their place in the quarter-final draw. Moyes said: "We should have won inside the 90 minutes. We deserved it and we certainly produced enough opportunities. "I am really disappointed that we didn't get through and believe we could even have scored a third goal in normal time. "We battered them, I agree with that. They played better than us over in Fiorentina but we completely dominated the game here tonight. "The players played really well but they have not been rewarded for it and I have to admit that is hard to take." The Blues boss also praised the performance of the fans who packed out Goodison last night and played their part on a special night of European football. He added: "The fans were fantastic and they really made for a great atmosphere. But the players played a part in that also. The showed great endeavour. "They played so much better than in the first leg and deserve a lot of credit for that performance. "Fiorentina are a good side and we totally dominated them. "But penalty kicks are always heartbreaking. We practised them yesterday just in case and we knew who we could rely on to step up before hand, but it's a tough way to lose." Moyes admits that he won't allow his side to dwell on last night's disappointment and says that the focus now will be concentrating on bringing European football back to Goodison Park again next season. He added: "We've had a good European cup run and it's given us a taste now for exactly what we are playing for this season. We want to get back into Europe again. "You have to remember that European football is a big step up for some of our players. We've done really well in the competition this season. Of course we would have liked to progress further after tonight but we'll have dusted ourselves down by Sunday and we'll carry on.
"We have nine Premier League games to go and we are really playing well so there is a lot to look forward to. "We just have to prove again in our domestic football that we are worthy of playing in Europe again. That's the focus now."

Everton 2 Fiorentina 0 (Fiorentina win 4-2 on pens)
Mar 13 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
THE European adventure is over . . . for now. But Everton have whetted their appetite for the kind of nights which had Goodison Park rocking to its very foundations last night. And if the Blues are back next season – be it Champions League, UEFA Cup or even the booby prize of the Intertoto Cup – they will be better equipped to make an even bolder impact on the European stage, because Everton were utterly magnificent last night. They dominated Italy’s fourth best team for 120 minutes. They outplayed Fiorentina, they outpassed them, outfought them and outran them. Only goalkeeper Sebastian Frey stood between his team and a rout. But football, like life, can be unfair.
And after a 2-0 triumph levelled the aggregate scores, but paid scant service to the level of dominance exercised by Everton, a failure in the lottery of a penalty shoot-out consigned the Blues to an exit they did not deserve. What is it with Everton Football Club and penalty shoot-outs? Goodison Park was actually the stage for Europe’s first ever shoot-out, way back in 1970. Everton were successful that night – knocking out Borussia Moenchengladbach. But since then it has been a litany of shoot-out failure.
David Moyes has changed plenty since he arrived at Goodison Park six years ago last night. But the curse of the penalty shoot-out is something even he can’t affect.
He actually won one at Newcastle during his first full season, but that was the exception rather than the rule. Glasgow Rangers out in Dubai, Charlton in the Full members Cup, Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Bristol Rovers in the League Cup. . . countless pre-season friendlies – and now Fiorentina. After missing three of their four penalty kicks awarded in conventional play in this season’s competition, perhaps the crowd knew what was coming. Thomas Gravesen achieved the unusual feat of scoring with only his second touch of the ball, after he was introduced in the 119th minute for just that purpose. But Yakubu could only chip against a post and when Sebastian Frey spectacularly saved Phil Jagielka’s effort Santana only needed to keep his own nerve from 12 yards . . . which he did. But Everton can hold their heads up high.
Warmly applauded off the pitch at the end, their display suggested this team has plenty of unfinished business to attend to before the 2007/08 race is run.
And despite bowing out of a cup competition in mid-March, Everton’s season is still very much alive. The Blues started with all the drive, all the purpose and all the conviction which had been so sorely lacking in Italy. Of course they also had Mikel Arteta and Andrew Johnson. On the bench in Florence, both were outstanding as Everton ran Fiorentina ragged with a magnificent display of controlled passion.
The early goal Goodison had craved duly arrived after 15 minutes. Steven Pienaar’s cross was exceptional, the finish fortunate as the ball squirted up off goalkeeper Frey, hit Johnson in the chest and bounced into the Park End goal. It was the only slice of luck Everton would get all night. They piled forward with fire and resolution . . and the chances stacked up. Arteta sliced wide from just 12 yards, although at a prohibitive angle, then saw a free-kick beaten out unconvincingly by Frey.
In the 19th minute the crowd screamed for a penalty as Johnson tumbled, but even as the referee was in the act of waving away appeals Osman followd up to rap a rising drive which was parried. Jagielka headed over from Arteta’s free-kick, Johnson did likewise, then Yakubu twisted and turned in much the same way he opened up Brann Bergen, except this time Frey saved superbly. Still Everton continued to carve out opportunities – and this against a side notoriously tight in defence.
Johnson came off his marker to head over from a corner, and then looked to have finally escaped the shackles of the Italian defence only for Dainelli to deny him with a saving sliding tackle. Fiorentina were buckling, if not cracking, and on the stroke of half-time Goodison erupted when Yakubu looked like he had levelled the aggregate scores from close range. The noise quickly abated when a linesman’s flag ruled an offside decision against Arteta, who had crossed, but seconds later when Mr Braamhaar’s whistle sounded again for half-time the crowd rose again to deliver the kind of ovation only usually reserved for full-time victories. It was thoroughly deserved. The only question which remained was could Everton reproduce the same vigour, drive and purpose in the second 45 minutes. The answer arrived quickly when Yobo’s close-range effort was hacked frantically off the line. The second half followed the same pattern as the first – but it clearly needed something very special to break the Italians’ resistance. Mikel Arteta provided it – crashing home a laser-guided shot from 25 yards. Try as they might, Everton couldn’t add one more goal. Yakubu went close, then Tim Howard was finally called upon to make a save and did so spectacularly from Pazzini’s flying header. That was an isolated threat as Everton continued to force the pace even throughout a gruelling extra time. Fiorentina survived then ultimately edged through.
But the Blues will be back. And on last night’s evidence they will be even better for it.
EVERTON (4-4-2): Howard, Neville, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott, Arteta, Osman, Carsley, Pienaar (Anichebe 105), Yakubu, Johnson (Gravesen 119). Unused substitutes: Wessels, Hibbert, Baines, Valente, Rodwell.
FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey, Dainelli, Donadel, Gamberini, Osvaldo, Montolivio, Jorgensen (Santana 105), Ujfalusi (Gobbi 90), Kuzmanovic, Pasqual, Vieri (Pazzini 45). Unused substitutes: Avramov, Kroldrup, Potenza, Cacia.
Referee: Eric Braamhaar of Holland.
Bookings: Dainelli (28 mins) foul, Montolivio (31) foul, Pazzini (61) foul, Yobo (73) foul, Yakubu (87) simulation, Gamberini (89) time-wasting., Jorgensen (100) foul.
GOALS: Johnson (15) 1-0, Arteta (65) 2-0.
Penalty shoot-out: Gravesen – scored 1-0; Pazzini – scored 1-1; Yakubu – missed; Montolivio – scored 1-2; Arteta – scored 2-2; Osvaldo – scored 2-3; Jagielka – missed; Santana – scored 2-4.

Everton 2, Fiorentina 0 (D,Post)
Mar 13 2008
By Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
EVERTON waved goodbye to the UEFA Cup in dramatic fashion last night. The challenge now is to ensure there is no swift reunion with the competition next season. Once again, a penalty shoot-out proved the downfall after a brilliant comeback inside 90 minutes wasn’t enough for David Moyes’s side. It was a truly heartbreaking way for the European adventure to end for Everton, a journey from which they have learned much about themselves and the potential of this squad. Having hauled themselves back level on aggregate with goals from Andrew Johnson and Mikel Arteta in their round of 16 second leg tie, the Goodison outfit were the more deserving to progress. So impotent and unrecognisable when losing 2-0 in Florence last week, Everton were fantastic last night. Purposeful, creative and with the right measure of aggression, Moyes’s men pummelled the Fiorentina defence. But penalties are always a lottery. And that Yakubu and Phil Jagielka, two of Everton’s finest players in recent months and again excellent on the night, should be the ones to have failed from 12 yards was a cruel twist. Yakubu struck the post with Everton’s second effort while Jagielka was denied by a brilliant save from Fiorentina goalkeeper Sebastian Frey with the home team’s fourth penalty. Everyone else scored, which left Fiorentina substitute Mario Alberto Santana to slot home and send the Serie A side into the quarter-finals and leave the Goodison side reflecting on what might have been. Their greatest regret will be that they didn’t go on to win the tie in normal time after dominating. Time and again, chances were created only to be spurned, either by poor finishing or the heroics of Frey. Everton had never before overturned a first-leg deficit in Europe, with a League Cup win against Rotherham United in 1992 the only time they had previously achieved the feat in any competition. But unlike the Carling Cup semi-final here against Chelsea in January, there was a genuine belief from the first whistle that an unlikely comeback was possible. Johnson’s 10th goal of the season early on gave greater hope, and sparked a barrage of constant pressure on the visitors’ goal. Arteta’s persistent groin problem had restricted the midfielder to a second-half cameo from the bench last week. And the Spaniard made up for lost time in glorious fashion last night, posting an outstanding display the highlight of which was his blistering 67th-minute strike that levelled the tie. He wasn’t alone. There were excellent performances throughout the team, notably from Leon Osman, Jagielka and Joleon Lescott. Both teams deserve credit for their part in an engrossing spectacle. So to does the Everton support, superb from first minute to last and quick to acknowledge their team’s efforts after the shoot-out conclusion. Their passports, though, will have to be put away, if only until the start of next season. European qualification will surely be achieved once again, but the Goodison outfit cannot dwell on this demoralising defeat as they tussle with neighbours Liverpool in the battle for fourth and a Champions League berth. Both Moyes and Phil Jagielka had spoken before the game about the imperative being not to concede an early goal, rather than scoring one. But the Goodison side managed to succeed on both counts when, backed by an impassioned home crowd, their lively opening was rewarded with the opener on 16 minutes. Steven Pienaar’s cross from the left should have been routine for Frey, but the Fiorentina goalkeeper inexplicably failed to gather and the ball hit the surprised Johnson on the chest and flew in. Everton then posed plenty of questions with their perennial threat from set-pieces and the pace and trickery of front duo Johnson and Yakubu, but Fiorentina held firm for the remainder of the half. Frey in particular seemed intent on making amends for his earlier blunder with a string of fine saves. His first, repelling a 25-yard Arteta free-kick, was more for the benefit of the cameras than anything else. But the keeper was alert to parry Osman’s powerful drive in the 26th minute after referee Eric Braamhaar waved play on when Johnson collided with Manuel Pasqual inside the area. The Goodison Park crowd were outraged, but television replays suggested the official was right to deny the penalty claim. Frey was at it again nine minutes later when, after Yakubu had been fed by Arteta, the Nigerian bamboozled Alessandro Gamberini and struck a low shot that was blocked by the Fiorentina goalkeeper, with Tomas Ujfalusi completing the clearance before Pienaar could pounce. Arteta’s accurate set-piece delivery was a major weapon in Everton’s armoury, but both Jagielka and Johnson were wasteful when heading over. Everton were momentarily celebrating a second on the stroke of half-time when Yakubu slotted home Arteta’s cutback, only for the Spaniard to have been in an offside position as he retrieved the loose ball after Johnson’s shot from his initial cross was parried by Frey. The only time Howard was called into action was to hold on to Martin Jorgensen’s side-foot volley from a rare Pasqual sortie from the back. Fiorentina had two fortunate escapes at the start of the second half. An Arteta corner from the right deflected off Marco Donadel and then Jorgensen before being hacked clear by Pasqual off the line, and Ujfalusi was fortunate to escape conceding a penalty after the ball struck his hand inside the area. It took a special goal to break down the Italian resistance. And who else but Arteta to score it, accepting a crossfield pass from Yakubu in the 67th minute and taking advantage of the Fiorentina defence sitting back by moving forward and unleashing an angled 25-yard shot that fizzed into Frey’s bottom left-hand corner. Everton sensed the game was there for the taking. But they were twice denied in the 71st minute by the acrobatics of Frey, the keeper stopping a Joseph Yobo toe-poke from yet another Arteta corner and then alert to push out Yakubu’s header from Neville’s deep right-wing cross. Fiorentina, though, finally roused themselves in attack and caused Goodison hearts to flutter 14 minutes from time when substitute Giampaolo Pazzini’s header from a Riccardo Montolivo cross was brilliantly palmed over by Howard, and Dainelli nodded Jorgensen’s subsequent corner wide. Extra-time arrived and neither team seemed particularly keen on penalties, the action end to end. Pazzini dragged an effort wide and Fiorentina hounded out Johnson and then Yakubu after a mistake had given the former a run on goal. Pazzini was then narrowly wide with a low shot with two minutes remaining, and Everton substitute Victor Anichebe was similarly off target but the dreaded shoot-out couldn’t be avoided. EVERTON (4-4-2): Howard; Neville, Yobo, Jagielka,  Lescott; Arteta, Osman, Carsley, Pienaar (Anichebe  105); Yakubu, Johnson (Gravesen 120). Subs:  Wessels, Hibbert, Baines, Valente, Rodwell. BOOKINGS: Yobo (foul) and Yakubu (simulation). FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey; Ujfalusi, Dainelli, Gamberini (Gobbi 90), Pasqual; Montolivo, Donadel, Kuzmanovic; Jorgensen (Santana 105), Vieri (Pazzini 46),  Osvaldo. Subs: Avramov, Kroldrup, Potenza , Cacia.  BOOKINGS: Dainelli, Montolivo, Pazzini and Jorgensen (all fouls) and Gamberini (dissent). REFEREE: Eric Braamhaar (Holland). ATT: 38,026. NEXT GAME: Fulham v Everton, Barclays Premier  League, Sunday 1.30pm.

Everton v Fiorentina comment: No disguising a criminal act of stolen dreams
Mar 13 2008 by Nick Peet, Liverpool Echo
MERSEYSIDE police should be investigating reports of a cruelrobbery that took place at Goodison Park last night. Almost 40,000 witnesses were left shell shocked when Everton's European dreams were snatched away from them by a crack team of Italian opportunists. The Blues completely dominated last night's UEFA Cup last 16 second leg, only for a painful penalty shoot-out to end the Toffees’ hopes for silverware for another season. Had last night's spectacle been a boxing match even some of the Italian fans would have been calling for the referee to stop the fight.
Everton – like their ear-splitting supporters – were excellent. They hammered Fiorentina from pillar to post but just couldn't land that final knockout blow, before the cruel lottery of spot kicks handed the Italians undeserved passage to the quarter-finals. After the Blues capitulation in Italy last week, they responded in style and with the fans inside Goodison as up for it as the players, there only ever looked like one winner from the moment Andy Johnson reduced Fiorentina's advantage.
The visitors were simply no match for Everton, who were raining chances in on the Fiorentina goal for two solid hours. Mikel Arteta's wonder strike from 30 yards looked to have all but killed off the mooted Italian challenge but in the end hat much merited killer blow simply didn't materialise. Johnson, Yakubu, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman all went close, while forays forward for set pieces saw a handful of chances land at the feet and head of both Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka. But Fiorentina's luck ultimatelyheld out as they cleared chance after chance off the line.
Last night's marathon match seems almost like a bad dream today - until you check the list of names left in the draw and realise that Everton, after all their endeavours, are gratingly absent. The only positive is that you know this team will have their chance again. David Moyes has patiently put together a young squad that can be as exciting as it can be ruthless, but right now they are also lacking in European experience. In this round of games against Fiorentina they have shown both characteristics. In the first leg Everton struggled to get to grips with the concept of the two legged Scared to attack, they sat too deep and allowed Fiorentina to play their own game in Florence But last night was so very different. We got to see the same Everton side which is fighting for that lucrative Champions League spot domestically;
the team that creates plenty of chances and works tirelessly as a unit. One for all, all for one. This is a side that needs that focus to make the wheels turn. Give them a bone, like a two-goal deficit, and then let them off the leash. But it was merely a failure to put the ball in the net that worked against them as they toiled and probed relentlessly last night. After the home comforts they were allowed a week ago, Fiorentina didn't know what had hit them. They would have been praying for penalties even before the end of the original 90 minutes. That was reflected in the manner of their celebrations. When the final penalty hit the back of the net they were ecstatic. They knew they'd ridden their luck to the brink of good fortune. And it shouldn't be forgotten that if not for their points penalty at the start of last season, this Fiorentina side would have been playing in the Champions League now. They are one of the best sides in Italy but they were played off the park by the Blues. After almost four hours of football, the Italians didn't deserve to progress at Everton’s expense. And while there may not actually have been any police intervention when Fiorentina arrived at John Lennon Airport this morning at least one hardened Blue will surely have undoubtedly uttered those well rehearsed but barely consoling words...
“At least Dick Turpin wore a mask!"

Lindsay Johnson targets another final fling
Mar 14 2008 Liverpool Echo
EVERTON are on the brink of reaching their second cup final in a month if they beat Leeds in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday. It won’t be easy for Mo Marley’s side but,having successfully beaten Arsenal in the Premier League cup final, Everton defender Lindsay Johnson says it’s great to be playing for the Toffees at present. “Things are going well,” she said. “The cup final win was brilliant and everyone's in a confident mood. But we've got a big game on Sunday against Leeds. “It’s never easy against them. They're a good, strong side. “We played Leeds before Christmas and started the game half asleep. We went a goal down, but turned it round in the second half and we got two. It was a good away win in the end.” But despite the Blues being favourites, Johnson says Leeds must not be under- estimated. “We always have a good fight against them. What we’ve got to do on Sunday is play to our best. “If we play our game and play at our best there are not many teams who can touch us. So we've just got to focus on that really.” But Johnson and the rest of the squad are not thinking beyond semi-final, even though victory could result in a rematch with Arsenal in the final. “We just have to take each game as it comes. “It’s Leeds first and if we can get through that game we will see who we've got next.” And Johnson added: “But it is very exciting at the moment playing for Everton.” Everton’s showdown against their Yorkshire rivals is being staged at Haig Avenue (kick-off 3.00pm) and hopes are high that a second final is on the cards.

Kirkby residents plan poll battle over Everton stadium
Mar 14 2008 by Nick Coligan, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON FC’s planned move to Kirkby will go to the ballot box after residents formed a political party. Campaigners have officially registered the First For Kirkby group with the aim of giving voters the chance to make their thoughts on the controversial scheme known. The Blues and supermarket giant Tesco want to build a stadium and shopping district south of Cherryfield Drive. Members of the new party claim Knowsley council’s decision not to hold a referendum on the issue led to their decision to put up candidates in the local elections in May. First For Kirkby hope to put forward nominations for all six Kirkby wards - Cherryfield, Kirkby Central, Northwood, Park, Shevington and Whitefield. All are held by Labour, the council’s ruling group, and four were uncontested at last year’s elections. First For Kirkby leader Tony Barton, of Southdene, said: “The party was born out of frustration at this new approach to the town centre. “Although we have been told a lot about its strengths, nothing has been said about its weaknesses. “It is nothing against Everton. We feel this scheme would have the same impact whichever name was above the door. “We felt we had got nowhere with current politicians so we thought people might be interested in standing as independents in the council elections. “Eventually we decided it would be better to set up a party and invite those who wanted to be candidates to stand under the banner of First For Kirkby. “Our mission statement is to enhance the lives of Kirkby residents and give them a voice in the council chamber.”
Although the new party shares some of the aims of Keep Everton In Our City (Keioc) and Kirkby residents action group (Krag) it is independent.” Krag spokesman Ian Morris said: “It is an opportunity for people to have their say because our request for a referendum was turned down. “Krag will keep campaigning independently but we welcome competition at the election.” Council planners are assessing Everton and Tesco’s planning application. A decision is expected within the next few months.

Howard Kendall: Everton's character is so important
Mar 14 2008 by Howard Kendall, Liverpool Echo
Blues’ character is so important
GOODISON PARK may have just witnessed one of its most frustrating nights in years, but the end to this campaign can still be memorable. I heard a number of people wondering after the Fiorentina game that the angst of losing on penalties might be too big a blow for Everton’s players to stomach and they would be vulnerable at Fulham on Sunday. Nonsense. As hard as that defeat was to take, there is still plenty for us to play for in the final weeks of the campaign and the only reason I would be worried was if Everton were shuffling around in mid-table waiting for the last ball to be kicked. Fortunately, that is not the case. Fourth place is still up for grabs and if anyone had doubts as to whether Everton have the character for the fight, just look at the response they summoned at Sunderland after losing in Florence. David Moyes could not have asked any more of his players on Wednesday night and he is right to give them every bit of praise. It was a terrific effort and, granted a slice of luck, we would have gone through. In the end, the tie was settled by the quality of goalkeeping. Tim Howard was magnificent in Italy to keep Everton in the game but Fiorentina have Sebastien Frey to thank for their place in the quarter-finals. You also have to give Fiorentina’s defence full credit too, as they withstood a battering and still hung on, but there was plenty for Everton to take out of the game, not least Mikel Arteta’s display.
True, some of his set pieces left a bit to be desired but, in the main, he was absolutely terrific and if he is free from injury and able to maintain that kind of performance until the end of the season, Everton will have a real chance to finish in the top four. I’d have no worries about us going to Fulham and if we can keep playing that way at home, I’d fancy our chances against anyone. Nobody will relish coming to Goodison now and the Blues need to make that pay.
Investigate this foul play
WHATEVER happened to indirect free-kicks being awarded in the penalty area?
It seems as if there is no grey area any more over challenges inside the box now – penalties are either given or players are booked for diving, yet there are still tussles that could be settled by awarding a free-kick. We used to see them given for obstruction – just like what happened between Sylvain Distin and Cristiano Ronaldo last Saturday – but not any longer. Maybe that is something that needs to be addressed in the future.
Pain proves cup matters
IF the top clubs are not interested in the FA Cup, why were Sir Alex Ferguson and Avram Grant so upset last weekend? people keep saying that the big four do not place the famous old pot too high on their list anymore but you can tell by the reactions of Ferguson and Grant that they were both desperate to get to Wembley. Grant, for one, knew going into the game against Barnsley that any slip ups would see his name plastered all over the back pages, so he picked a strong team that should have been good enough to win at Oakwell. Similarly, Alex would not have got so worked up after the game against Portsmouth if he was not fazed about winning or losing. Being knocked out in the quarter-finals hurt him dearly and that’s why Keith Hackett and the Referees’ Association got both barrels.

David Prentice: Blues’ centre of excellence shows his true quality
Mar 14 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
Blues’ centre of excellence shows his true quality EITHER David Moyes is a very handy man to have on your quiz team – or we’ve all been missing something watching Everton this season. The Blues boss was told this week that one of his players had come top in a Sunday paper survey to find the Premier League’s most accurate crosser of a football this season. Moyes didn’t even need a second guess. “Who was it. Neville? I’m not surprised,” he declared. “When he’s at full-back he’s great going forward. If you look at his stats he’s on the ball far more than any other Everton player, which shows you he never hides.” Neither does Tony Hibbert, but then you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find him at the top of a crossing chart. But if Moyes wasn’t surprised by Neville’s stats, every Evertonian I’ve spoken to was – and that’s not meant as a slur on a player who is an unsung heartbeat of Everton’s so-far successful season. Phil Neville’s qualities are his leadership skills, his work-rate, and the intensity he brings to the team which rubs off on those around him. You don’t necessarily expect to see him clipping wickedly curving crosses onto Yakubu’s head. But according to the stats that’s just what he’s been doing all season. Phil Neville stands joint-top of the Premier League’s crossing table, level with Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry, with both boasting a crossing accuracy of 33.3 per cent. I’m not sure how much we should read into that. After all, Joe Cole, the darling of Stamford Bridge, is second from bottom with only 7.1 per cent of his 99 crosses finding their intended target. They’re only throwaway stats, like the one that Liverpool would be top of the Premier League if only goals scored from outside the penalty area counted, but it does suggest that Phil Neville is undervalued by even some of his own supporters. Happily that’s not the case amongst the club’s coaching staff. One thing must change, though. We really will have to pay more attention during matches.

We'll rise above euro heartache vows Phil Jagielka
Mar 14 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
JUST four days after Everton fell victim to their now predictable penalty shoot-out jinx, the Blues have another hoodoo to overcome - the curse of Craven Cottage.
Everton can count at least one penalty shoot-out success in the past 38 years. But that’s one more victory than they can count at Fulham’s charming, if ramshackle, stadium in the same timescale. The last Evertonian to fire a winning goal there was Alan Ball, on his Blues debut. In the 42 years since then the Blues have lost every single visit to the Cottage. It’s an even more bizarre statistic when compared to the fact that Everton can boast a 100% league record at Goodison Park in the same timescale against the same opposition. But with the race for fourth now reaching a decisive spell, nothing less than three points on Sunday will do. Despite the trauma of Wednesday night’s shoot-out disappointment, and despite the heavy legs following a gruelling period of extra-time, Blues defensive hero Phil Jagielka believes his team-mates will still have enough left in the tank to maintain their Premier League momentum. “We’d prefer a week to prepare, but we’re not going to get it are we?” he said. “It was always going to be a game every couple of days if we got to the latter stages in Europe which was why the gaffer made the squad a little bit bigger than it was last season. But once the game starts you forget about bumps and bruises or fatigue. “After we’d lost in Italy we went to Sunderland and if we had lost or drawn there people would have written off our season more or less. “As it was a great finish by AJ got us the 1-0 win. It was all about getting the result at Sunderland which keeps us up there in the chase for fourth and keeps our minds focused on that. “But we’ll give up the stiffness and the bumps and bruises to be where we are in the league.
“I think the boys are fit enough. I can’t say we’re going to go out and beat Fulham because it’s a football match and anything can happen, but hopefully we’ll go out and put in another good performance and maybe come away with the three points.”
Despite the disappointment of Wednesday’s exit to Fiorentina, the quality of Everton’s performance – and the enervating atmosphere inside Goodison Park, has whetted the appetite for more. Jagielka believes the players can use that memory as a motivation to finish the season on a high and ensure European football returns to Goodison next season. “Obviously there’s disappointment in the dressing room straight after a result like that, but once we get through to Friday we’ll have a sit down and talk about how we want to be playing European football next year – and we want to go at least a stage further. “We feel like we have a little bit more to give in Europe, but unfortunately it won’t be this season. “Wednesday was as good as we’ve played for a few months. Obviously there was the 6-1 against Brann but I think that was a case of taking every chance which came our way. Against Fiorentina we maybe missed a couple that could have made a difference. But while everyone’s gutted we can hold our heads up high. “We played well and we have to take confidence from that. If it had been the other way around, if we had played badly, not scored a goal and gone out we would have been downbeat, but we played really, really well and we’re confident we can bounce back. “A lot of teams previously have suffered because of Europe. Obviously Middlesbrough got to the final last year but didn’t do terribly well in the league. There are a lot more games to play, but hopefully we’ve got a big enough squad to change things and still have plenty of quality.” It’s a sentiment echoed by skipper Phil Neville. “This has got to be the start of an exciting period for this club,” he declared. “The supporters proved on Wednesday they can rise to the occasion, the team has, and now we need to consistently reach Carling Cup semi-finals and the latter rounds of the UEFA Cup because this is where we want to be.
“I want to play European football with this team.” A rare victory at Craven Cottage on Sunday would bring that dream a step closer to reality.

Evertons derby plans hit by International call-ups
Mar 14 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON fear their preparations for the most important derby match for years could be hit by a clutch of international call-ups. Tim Cahill and Victor Anichebe have both been selected for international duty on March 26 – just days before the Anfield derby – while Steven Pienaar may also be needed by South Africa for a friendly against Paraguay. The internationals are sandwiched between Everton’s home clash with West Ham on March 22 and the Anfield derby, currently scheduled for Sunday, March 30. Cahill, who has been an influential figure for Everton in derby matches with goals at Goodison and Anfield, has been named in a provisional 21-man Australian squad for a World Cup qualifier in China. Liverpool’s Harry Kewell is also in the squad, although the winger is less integral to Liverpool’s plans. The game will take place in Kunming on March 26. “We have placed a large group of players on notice that they could be called up for the match,” said coach Pim Verbeek. Cahill has been nursing hip and foot injuries this week and missed the UEFA Cup tie with Fiorentina. If Australia demand his presence in China it would be a major blow for boss David Moyes. Young striker Anichebe is still to make his debut for Nigeria, but has been called up to the under-23 squad which will represent the country in an Olympic qualifier against South Africa in Abuja on March 26. “It’s good to be invited and I want to be there for the game,” said Anichebe. “I have always said any professional has aspirations to play international football and I’m delighted to have been given that opportunity by Nigeria. “All I need to do is sort my travelling plans because we have a game five days before that. But, like I told them in Nigeria, I will arrive on the 22nd and I’m relishing this chance.” Nigeria will qualify for the Beijing Games if they beat South Africa. Pienaar will not be part of the young South African squad for this match, but could be called up to a senior squad which faces Paraguay the same day.
Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira named a 22-man squad made up entirely of home-based players for a hastily-arranged fixture against Zimbabwe this week which they won 2-1, but he intends to include several foreign-based players in the squad for the March 26 match in Pretoria. South Africa host the 2010 World Cup finals and have an intensive build-up in place for that tournament. Blues physio Mick Rathbone, meanwhile, has revealed that James Vaughan’s latest knee operation was a success.
The young striker visited knee specialist Dr Richard Steadman and underwent keyhole surgery in Colorado after suffering an injury in training last week. Rathbone explained: “It went well and it was also noted that the knee was in good condition. He will be back playing soon.” Vaughan endured an extended spell on the sidelines between 2005 and 2006 because of a knee injury that required major surgery, but this latest setback is believed to be far less serious.

Everton stars spooked out
Mar 15 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
LUMLEY CASTLE has a reputation for being one of the finest hotels in the North of England but, apart from super service, it is also known for the supernatural. Lady Lily Lumley, wife of Sir Ralph - whom the castle is named after - is said to walk the corridors of her former home where she was murdered in the late 1300s. With this story in mind, a number of budding Derek Acorahs from Everton’s squad took the opportunity to, shall we say, ensure a couple of their team-mates had a less than relaxing night’s sleep ahead of the game at Sunderland. Yakubu was particularly worried by what he had heard and decided on an early night but that backfired when one prankster jumped out from behind the curtains to frighten the life out of him.
Unfortunately, there was no solace for the Nigerian. When he got into his room and tried to unwind by watching TV, another joker had stolen the remote control so every time he tuned into one station, another mysteriously came up.

James Vaughan’s surgery was big success
Mar 15 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
THOUGH it may not seem the case now, it has not all been doom and gloom at Goodison Park this week. Joleon Lescott’s decision to sign a contract extension that will keep him on Merseyside until 2012 was obviously a highlight but that could just be overshadowed by the medical bulletin that came back from Colorado. Physio Mick Rathbone was delighted to report that the operation to correct a problem in James Vaughan’s left knee was a success and he will be returning to training sooner rather than later. “It was a straightforward procedure concerning the cartilage,” he confirmed. “It went well and it was also noted that the knee was in good condition. He will be back playing soon.” When David Moyes revealed that Vaughan needed more surgery, there were fears for the 19-year-old’s career, given the wretched misfortune he has suffered in recent seasons. Clearly, this latest setback is cause for alarm but Vaughan is a tough little cookie and there is little chance that he will spend his rehabilitation period moping around feeling sorry for himself. He may or may not have a role to play in the closing weeks of the campaign but hopefully next season will be when he finally has an opportunity to realise his vast potential.

Euro night was so memorable
Mar 15 2008 by Barry Horne, Liverpool Echo
LEAVING Goodison Park on Wednesday night after an epic UEFA Cup tie, I found myself in a very strange mood. I was absolutely gutted about not progressing into the last eight after an enormously deserved victory on the night. Yet I was also strangely elated and full of pride. There were so many reasons for this –the effort and application of the players, the positive attitude of David Moyes and, most of all, the memorable atmosphere inside the ground. A newspaper the next day gave a really emotional description of the atmosphere inside what it called "the old stadium."
That's something I had never really considered before, even though it is obviously true. Goodison is an old stadium and it has seen some wonderful afternoons and evenings, but it can rarely have generated an atmosphere like that on Wednesday when Mikel Arteta drove in Everton's second goal. Whenever I travel up and down the country and I am asked about which grounds produce the best atmospheres I always include Goodison. I'm biased, but on Wednesday I think the Everton supporters proved that I'm right to do that. It was a privilege to be there. Everyone at Everton got everything just right, and the only reasons we were not in the last eight of the UEFA Cup is because luck deserted us. Sebastian Frey was magnificent for Fiorentina, while skipper Dainedelli was awesome. Of course, that isn't luck when two key players perform. What is bad luck, though, was the number of shots, crosses and efforts at goal which didn't quite fall for Everton. Such was the quality of Everton's display that little was made afterwards of the two penalty claims for handball – but both could have been given. It is to David Moyes' credit that he didn't make a fuss about them afterwards.
Arteta back to his best
I LEARNED before the match in midweek that Mikel Arteta had been playing in pain and discomfort for some time. In fact, the match at Sunderland was described as the first occasion Mikel had been pain-free for months. That possibly explains his slight loss of form in recent times, and why he looked so much more like his old self on Wednesday night. Looking forward to the remaining nine matches, hopefully he can have as big an impact now in the run-in as he had against Fiorentina.
Signing of the times . .
A MAJOR item of Everton news slipped out almost unnoticed on Tuesday night with the announcement that Joleon Lescot had signed a three-year extension to his Everton contract. Making such a statement without fuss or fanfare was typical of the way Everton have gone about their business in recent months. No agents have been quoted, there was no discussion or argument – Everton just went ahead, conducted the negotiations and quietly let their fans know. It's a classy way of going about your business, unlike clubs who seemingly always air their business in public, and is typical of the way Everton have operated recently. Lescott isn't the first player to have his contract extended in this way. Andrew Johnson, Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill, Tony Hibbert and Leon Osman have all preceded him in tying their long-term futures to the club. The strides Everton have made in recent sesons mean that they are happy to tie their futures to the club. It gives David Moyes an excellent way of selling the club to potential new signings this summer

Cruel injustice of cup football is hard to take
Mar 15 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
IT may be one of the most peculiar competitions in world football, but Everton’s 10 game UEFA Cup experience can stand them in good stead for many years to come.
The frustration of Wednesday night’s penalty shootout defeat by Fiorentina at Goodison Park is exacerbated when you look at the records of some of the clubs that have progressed through to the quarter-finals. Take Zenit St Petersburg. They scrambled through Group A, which the Blues topped, with just one win and then lost the first leg of their last 16 tie against Marseille but still clambered through and now look dark horses to actually lift the cup. Many Evertonians will be wondering where the justice is, particularly after their side racked up eight wins and a draw and still find themselves out of the tournament. Alas, 11 mad minutes in Florence cost them dearly.
But, as David Moyes begins the seventh year of his tenure, it’s clear to see that Everton are now ready to regularly rub shoulders with the best sides that Europe has to offer. Their performance in midweek proved that point emphatically. If they were tentative and naïve for the first match of the campaign against Metalist Kharkiv last September, Everton became more street-wise and assured with each victory which is why the collapse in Florence came as such a surprise. Quite possibly, though, that defeat could be the making of this squad, just as Manchester United were able to learn from the drubbings they were given by Barcelona and IFK Gothenburg in the Champions League back in 1994. Everton, after all, are still European novices and it was down to the squad’s ability, rather than any proven pedigree, that people were talking about them being able to go all the way to the City of Manchester Stadium on May 14. One thing is for sure, however, and that is the adventure that ended so cruelly has only made the players, backroom staff and - above all - the supporters even hungrier to experience it again and again. Florence might have been a disaster in terms of the way fans were bullied by overbearing, sinister policemen and the awful conditions with which they were confronted at Stadio Artemio Franchi. Yet it would be wrong for that wretched night to cloud previous trips; for one, locals in Kharkiv were wonderfully bewildered by the sight of thousands of Blues revelling by the biggest statue of Lenin in Europe last October. Bergen and Alkmaar were similarly entertaining trips but the overriding memory has to be the afternoon in Nuremberg when Everton’s hotel became the focal point of a mass sing-song making the team’s efforts to get some sleep before kick-off impossible. Such was the atmosphere outside, Moyes felt no need to hold a pre-game team talk and simply opened a window and asked his squad: “Are you going to let those people down this evening?” In fairness - with the exception of the ill-fated final quarter of the first leg against Fiorentina - the players haven’t let anyone down all season and, in all likelihood, they will be back in Europe for more next season - hopefully in the Champions League.

Smertin available for Fulham
Mar 15 2008 by Our Correspondent, Liverpool Echo
STRUGGLING Fulham have Alexei Smertin available again for the home game against Everton tomorrow. Smertin missed last weekend’s draw at Blackburn and it was initially thought he might be out for two weeks but he has recovered from his back strain. Philippe Christanval and Jari Litmanen are still out with muscle problems, however. Kasey Keller looks certain to be preferred to Antti Niemi in goal again after starting the Blackburn clash. Fulham (from): Keller, Niemi, Stalteri, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey, Smertin, Bullard, Andreasen, Murphy, Davies, McBride, Johnson, Volz, Healy, Bocanegra, Stefanovic, Seol, Kamara, Nevland, Bouazza.

Osman can take centre stage
Mar 15 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES has predicted a big future for Leon Osman at Everton – on centre stage. The 26-year-old has played most of his football at Goodison in the wide positions. But against Fiorentina in midweek he was outstanding in a central role.
It is a position Moyes thinks he can grow into. "I think Leon is a very, very good player and is under-estimated in a lot of ways," said the Blues boss. "He does two or three roles for us. He can play off the side, he can play in the middle and he can play up front. "The biggest compliment I can pay him is that he is one of our boys. "When I came here he was playing centre-forward and scoring goals for the reserves in that position. "The biggest thing then was his size and where he was going to play. "But I think he might end up as a central midfield player. "He is still developing even now because he has played so many different roles, but he had football intelligence and that is difficult to buy nowadays." Osman has been impressive all season for the Blues, but in midweek excelled against the Italians. With Tim Cahill likely to miss tomorrow's clash at Fulham with a combination of foot and hip injuries he could continue in that central role. Lee Carsley returns from suspension, after missing the clash at Sunderland last weekend, although he did figure in Wednesday's UEFA Cup clash.

Six shooter Moyes turns his guns on the big boys
Mar 15 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES celebrates a landmark anniversary tomorrow, against the same side which got his Everton career rolling six years ago. But the identity of the opposition is all that is the same. When a younger and noticeably redder haired Moyes led his Everton side out to face Fulham in March 2002, a famous old football institution was threatened by relegation. Fast forward six years, and Everton are now daring to dream of gate-crashing the established order at the opposite end of the Premier League table.
But for an unfortunate and undeserved defeat in a penalty shoot-out on Wednesday night the progress might have been even more dramatic. Sat at Everton’s new state of the art training facility in Halewood, he said: “It would have been fitting if, after taking over and playing Fulham in the first game trying to avoid relegation, I’d be sitting here now waiting to play Fulham again but this time in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup. “It would have been a good moment, but it wasn’t to be. Nevertheless, for lots of reasons we are different now.” Dramatically different – on and off the pitch.
Moyes has undoubtedly been a catalyst for improvement at Goodison Park.
So how does he feel? “Greyer, and with more wrinkles! But I think it comes with the territory. You take it on, don’t you?” he joked. “I came here with a five-year plan, then went in and gave the next five- year plan to the chairman last September, with what I felt needed to be the next stage of the club’s development. “I’ve not been told that we’re not going to take it on, so hopefully they’ll be happy with it. “The original plan probably didn’t have Everton finishing fourth and qualifying for the Champions League. “I think it was trying to revive Everton. “I always said that Walter (Smith) did a good job in clearing the decks a little bit, but the club itself was a bit low at the time.
“We had to try and freshen the playing side up; we had to change the thinking at the club. But the main thing was we had to try and change how people thought about Everton from outside the club – what sort of football club they were looking at.
“That couldn’t be done in six months or 12 months. The only way we could have done that is if we had billions to spend. “I hope that after six years now people will look at Everton completely differently.” That goes without saying, but of course football never stands still, and the new challenge which presents itself to Moyes is perhaps even harder than the one which faced him when he arrived. He must now try and break up the order which has established itself at the top of the Premier League for several seasons. Only goal difference currently separates Everton from neighbours Liverpool in fourth place. Moyes believes his side is close to becoming a top four outfit, but accepts that the next step is the hardest. “I don’t think we are far away,” he said, “but until you attempt it, it could be massive. It might be another five years before we can draw level. “But in the first six years it’s gone well. “Did I think I’d be here this long? I did, aye. It’s just the way I am. You do the job you’re expected to do. But in the business we’re in, who knows? “This is the best I’ve felt about the team. It’s the best I’ve felt about the club because we have a new training ground. There’s definite progress and I can bring people here and show them this and say this is what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to move on. “We’re trying to be young and enthusiastic. We don’t want to be a football club that’s a home for old players.
“We want to be a young, vibrant club, and one which the supporters can be excited by.” The supporters were excited by Everton’s outstanding performance against Fiorentina in midweek, if ultimately dismayed by the penalty shoot-out exit. But Moyes knows they must bounce back against Fulham tomorrow, a side managed by an old friend. Roy Hodgson is as close to being a father figure as Moyes has had throughout his managerial career. At Craven Cottage, however, he intends to show the master that the pupil has learned his lessons well. “I know Roy Hodgson. He helped me no end with my Pro Licence when he was manager at Udinese,” he explained.
“He and his wife really looked after me, as did Udinese Football Club, and I’ll always be grateful for that. “He came in with Fulham in a difficult situation but the team has picked up a point or two in recent weeks and they will be trying to hang on in there and stay in the Premier League. “The job for us is to keep doing what we’ve been doing. “There’s a lot of pressure now to finish in those top positions and we need to be concentrating and keep playing as we have been playing. “We have never had the best record at Fulham, we’re aware of that. “Sometimes that can happen, but we’ve broken quite a few records this season, you know? “ This might be another one. . .”
Moyes will check on Tim Cahill’s fitness, but the midfielder is expected to miss out with a combination of hip and foot injuries.

Everton will hit back – Phil Neville
Mar 17 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON skipper Phil Neville has backed his team to bounce back from a disappointing setback at Fulham - and warned there will be a few more twists and turns in the battle for fourth place. The Blues failed to respond to Liverpool’s victory over Reading on Saturday and dropped three points behind their neighbours with a 1-0 defeat at Craven Cottage. But afterwards Neville rapped: “Experience tells you that other teams are going to drop points between now and the end of the season. Whether you’re going for the league or the Champions League, teams will drop points and it’s how you compose yourselves when you drop those points and how you bounce back that’s the true measure. “Yes, we’re hurting tonight, but next weekend brings a whole new batch of fixtures. “We’ve got a home game, Liverpool have an away game, Portsmouth and Villa have tough games, so it’s about what we do and how we bounce back." That Liverpool away game is at Old Trafford and Neville added: “Yes, I’ll be speaking to Gary (his brother) this week, but to be honest it’s a Liverpool Manchester United game so they don’t need any extra motivation. “All along we’ve always said that Liverpool are favourites. There’s still a lot of football to go and the good thing is that we now have a week off without a game and we can bounce back.”
Neville also sent out a message to the walking wounded at Finch Farm, after the Blues squad began to look lightweight following Andy Johnson’s departure after just 14 minutes yesterday with a groin strain. “Losing AJ was a blow,” he admitted. “The squad’s a bit thin at the moment. We’ve got to make sure those players who are injured get back as quickly as possible. “I don’t think tiredness was a problem after Wednesday. I’d hate to use that as an excuse. We lacked quality rather than effort. We’ve had virtually three days without any kind of physical training which is enough time to recover. Out there that final pass, that final ball let us down and that’s something which hasn’t let us down all season. “Hopefully we can get back onto it next week. “The conditions were difficult, but it’s the same for Fulham too. It’s always a difficult game for us here, Fulham are a bit of a bogey side for us but we knew that before the game and we just let ourselves down with that final pass in the final third.”

Fulham 1, Everton 0 (D,Post)
Mar 17 2008
By Ian Doyle, At Craven Cottage
THE ghosts of Everton past returned to threaten their European future yesterday. Just as the penalty shoot-out jinx had put paid to their UEFA Cup hopes in midweek, so the Craven Cottage hoodoo has now hampered the Premier League aspirations of David Moyes’s side. That the game’s solitary goal came from a combination between two former Goodison players will have rubbed more salt into an all-too-familiar wound for Evertonians. Since Alan Ball netted the winner at Fulham on his Everton debut in August 1966, the Goodison outfit have lost on every visit to the Cottagers’ ramshackle if picturesque stadium. Respective form and league positions have had little influence on the end result. And there was no change yesterday as Fulham bolstered their fight against relegation while landing a damaging, if hardly terminal, blow to Everton’s hopes of Champions League qualification. Simon Davies and Brian McBride have both long been rendered surplus to requirements by Moyes after playing their part in the Goodison manager’s ongoing regeneration of his team. But it was McBride who got on the end of a Davies cross midway through the second half to ensure a miserable anniversary for Moyes. The goal was the 800th Everton had conceded in the Premier League and, remarkably, the first Fulham had scored from open play in more than seven hours. Afterwards, Moyes refused to dismiss his team’s chances of a top-four finish. And why should he? This was only Everton’s first league loss since the home reverse to Arsenal over Christmas and, had they avoided defeat, they would have equalled their best-ever unbeaten start to a calendar year. But Everton simply didn’t perform. And while the visitors might point to the fact Tim Howard didn’t have a save of note to make, a vibrant Fulham posed a greater threat throughout and deserved their victory. Moyes’s side now have five home games and three away in which to determine where their European future lies next season. But the increasingly likelihood is that much will be decided when the main protagonists for the final Champions League place meet at Anfield at the end of the month. It’s debatable whether the pressure of again playing catch- up in the race for fourth place was a contributory factor to this defeat. But there was certainly a hangover from their UEFA Cup exertions on Wednesday, the huge effort poured into the heartbreaking exit to Fiorentina inevitably leading to tired legs and minds among the visitors, particularly when chasing an equaliser in the final quarter. Everton eked out a 1-0 win at Sunderland last week without reaching anywhere near their best, but another shortfall in performance was exposed by a Fulham team fighting for their top-flight lives. Yesterday was precisely six years since Moyes first took charge of a game at Everton, coincidentally also against Fulham. From that afternoon’s line-up, only Tony Hibbert and Lee Carsley have given the manager continued service, an indication of the huge change the Scot has engendered. But despite enjoying a greater strength in depth than at any point of his tenure, Moyes found his attacking resources stretched yesterday. With Manuel Fernandes and James Vaughan already sidelined, Tim Cahill was again absent with the foot and hip injuries that ruled him out of Wednesday’s UEFA Cup tie against Fiorentina. He was joined shortly before kick-off when Victor Anichebe failed a fitness test on a hip problem of his own. So when Andrew Johnson hobbled off after less than a quarter of an hour yesterday, a lack of attacking options on the bench compelled Moyes to rip up his intended gameplan, with Hibbert introduced at right-back and Leon Osman pushed up in support of lone striker Yakubu. It meant Everton were greatly subdued going forward, Moyes was even forced to employ Joleon Lescott as an auxiliary attacker during the closing stages. The injury was cruel timing for Johnson, who has rediscovered his goalscoring touch with successive strikes against Sunderland and Fiorentina. A demanding run-in means Everton will hope any absence is not lengthy. The less said about the first half yesterday the better. A swirling wind and teeming rain made conditions difficult, but that was still no excuse for far too much poor ball retention. Fulham started the game next to bottom, six points adrift of safety and having scored just 12 goals in their previous 19 games. However, they fashioned the game’s first chance on 11 minutes, McBride cracking a volley harmlessly across the face of goal from an acute angle after an astute Davies pass. Playing with the wind behind them, Fulham lumped forward plenty of long balls but found the Everton defence in typically resolute form. It took the visitors until the 25th minute to have a shot on goal, Steven Pienaar’s 25-yard drive helped on its way wide by Osman. Yakubu bludgeoned his way past Brede Hangeland moments later but shot weakly at Kasey Keller, and shrugged off the attentions of the Fulham centre- back again shortly before the break to draw a better save from the goalkeeper. Everton did exhibit signs of gaining some momentum towards half-time, and there were half-hearted claims for a penalty soon after the restart when Lescott collided with Hangeland while straining to meet a Mikel Arteta free-kick. Fulham, though, dug in and Eddie Johnson and Davies were both too high with headers from Jimmy Bullard corners. Phil Neville was presented with a shooting chance on 64 minutes by Yakubu’s clever pass, but hesitated just enough for Paul Konchesky to race over and block his eventual shot. And three minutes later Everton were behind. With Hibbert upfield after augmenting the attack, Keller spotted the chance for a quick break and Davies was sent sprinting into space down the left. Yobo’s attempt to head clear the subsequent cross only helped the ball into the path of McBride, who ghosted in between Lescott and Jagielka to power a downward header beyond Tim Howard. Yobo could have equalised minutes after but sent a free header from Arteta’s corner high and wide, and the Nigerian was then fortunate when an excited Johnson lashed a volley over after his clearance fell at the feet of the Fulham striker. Everton have made a habit of scoring late goals this season, but Fulham were the more likely to score again. Davies wasted a glorious chance by dragging his shot wide after capitalising on slack tracking back by substitute Leighton Baines to reach Bullard’s pass, and the erratic Johnson smashed a decent opportunity over. The only consolation for Everton, however, is that they don’t have to come back here again this season. FULHAM (4-4-2): Keller; Stalteri, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Andreason, Murphy (Bocanegra  75), Bullard (Volz 86), Davies; Johnson, McBride  (Dempsey 88). Subs: Batista, Healy. BOOKING: Murphy (foul). EVERTON (4-4-2): Howard; Neville, Yobo, Jagielka,  Lescott; Arteta, Osman, Carsley, Pienaar (Baines 65);  Johnson (Hibbert 14), Yakubu. Subs: Wessels,  Valente, Rodwell. REFEREE: Steve Bennett (Kent) ATT: 25,262. NEXT GAME: Everton v West Ham United, Barclays  Premier League, Saturday 5.15pm

Fulham 1 Everton 0
Mar 17 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
IT’S a measure of the strides Everton have taken in recent years that David Moyes felt Simon Davies and Brian McBride were players who couldn’t help his club progress.
And it’s a measure of the curious hold Craven Cottage has on the Blues that both should combine yesterday to deal a damaging blow in the fight for fourth.
Both released by the Blues’ boss, Davies crossed and McBride scored to add one more sorry statistic to Everton’s Craven Cottage calamities. Everton’s frail record in this quaint but ramshackle corner of West London is one of the top flight’s more curious anomalies. The Blues last celebrated success on the banks of the Thames in August 1966. True, the Cottagers did spend the best part of 30 years in a lower division since then, but since their promotion almost a decade ago they have hardly been one of the Premier League’s powerhouses, yet Everton have lost every single visit to West London. And always by a single goal. At least there was a realistic explanation for yesterday’s demise. Everton started sluggishly, a clear hangover from the unremitting efforts they produced for two and a bit hours on Wednesday. And the resilience of their manpower was tested even further when Andy Johnson limped off just 14 minutes into the match. A thigh strain was the diagnosis, but his departure left Everton sorely lacking in attacking options. With Victor Anichebe having failed a pre-match fitness test, James Vaughan recovering from knee surgery and Tim Cahill suffering from not one but two separate injuries, Yakubu was left as the club’s only fit front-line striker. David Moyes even pointed out afterwards that Andy van der Meyde couldn’t have been considered because he, too, is injured. Yes, things really are that bad. Left almost on his own, Yakubu performed admirably enough. The Premier League vowed to donate £30 to Sport Relief for every mile covered by every Premier League footballer this weekend. Six months ago Yakubu’s contribution would have cost them less than a tenner. Yesterday his work-rate was unquestioned and he constantly provided Everton’s best attacking threat. But it was often a solitary presence. Leon Osman was advanced further up the pitch to support, but with Fulham dominating possession he was largely employed in helping his overworked midfield try to wrest a measure of control from the home side. It took Everton more than half-an-hour to do that. Fulham’s position is dire – so precarious that Mohamed Al Fayed spent a fraction of his fortune on cardboard clappers bearing the club colours to be placed on every seat in the ground. It was as intimidating as a disappointing skiffle group rubbing washboards, but Everton couldn’t seem to get going. The passing lacked crispness and quality and all too often possession was squandered.
When they did finally mount something resembling an attack after 24 minutes, Steven Pienaar turned and shot weakly and without direction A minute later Yakubu’s low drive had more power, but again lacked the direction to trouble Kasey Keller, before the centre-forward ended Everton’s best passing move with an effort which was palmed away by Keller. The first half ended with no time at all added on which wasn’t because the previous 45 minutes had been a free-flowing exhibition of football artistry, but rather a wind-affected clash which had generated virtually no incident worthy of description. With the stiff breeze behind them Everton started the second half more brightly, and Brede Hangeland appeared to barge Lescott away from Arteta’s free-kick. But too often the quality passing which characterised Wednesday night’s win over Fiorentina was lacking. It only took one moment for Fulham to take advantage. Perhaps it’s a measure of the difference in quality between Everton and Fulham, or maybe Simon Davies is simply settled better in the south, but in Fulham’s colours he consistently looked a brighter, more dangerous footballer than the man who disappointed at Goodison. With 67 minutes gone, he made a penetrating burst down Everton’s right flank and crossed, left-footed. Yobo made a tentative attempt to cut out the cross, but failed to reach it, his movement distracted Jagielka and McBride darted in between to steer a firm header past his compatriot. Yobo had an almost instant opportunity to make amends, but after rising unchallenged to meet Arteta’s corner he planted a header wide. Everton pressed, but looked leggy. Simon Davies may even have rubbed salt into the wound when he raced unchallenged into the Everton box, but steered a tentative prodded volley wide of the target. Only two Everton teams have negotiated the first 10 league games of a year without defeat – Harry Catterick’s School of Science in 1964 and Howard Kendall’s all-conqueroring outfit of 1985. This team isn’t yet in either of their class, but defeat in their tenth league clash of 2008 suggests they’re closing the gap. If they close that three point margin between themselves and Liverpool by the end of the season it will be another significant stride forwards. But now they have a colossal battle on their hands.
Yesterday’s blow wasn’t fatal, it wasn’t decisive. Not yet anyway. But for a week at least Liverpool are back in the driving seat. But there will still be twists and turns yet in this particular race . . . and at least Everton don’t have to go to Craven Cottage again this season.

Andy Johnson injury blow hits Everton
Mar 17 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES refused to write off his team’s chances of clinching the fourth and final Champions League place this season following the disappointing 1-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Fulham. But the Blues boss did concede that neighbours Liverpool were now favourites for the prize. “I wouldn’t say that’s it for fourth place,” he declared. “Everybody else has been talking about it and I have had to answer the question, but we’ve just been trying to keep on winning games. We have been on a great run and we just have to keep going on. “I think Liverpool were always favourites for fourth. I’ve said that many times. “But I’m sure there will be more twists and turns, and the end of the season always throws up some funny results. You can’t mark out the results. It doesn’t work like that. “We qualified with 61 points in 2005 but that’s not going to be enough this time around.” The Blues boss couldn’t put his finger on why Everton’s performance dipped below the standards they have set – losing a Premier League match for the first time this year – but he admitted that losing striker Andy Johnson after only 14 minutes with a groin injury was a major blow.
“When I looked at the bench and saw three full-backs and a young centre-back-cum-midfielder, that’s where I felt it would be short,” he added. “I hoped it wouldn’t happen but we did talk before the game that we could be short. We knew it would be difficult, but getting an injury up front early on made it even more difficult.
“We didn’t have any alternatives to what we had. We had no other forwards. Victor Anichebe was injured, James Vaughan has had a knee operation, Tim Cahill was injured, and even people like Andy van der Meyde were injured. “I don’t know if it will be a problem for the rest of the season. It might be a concern. “It looks like a groin strain with Andy. I’m not sure how long he could be out for. We’ll know more tomorrow.” Moyes went on: “I’m disappointed with the game and I’m disappointed the players didn’t play well. Today we dropped below the high standards we have set ourselves. “The players have been excellent. It’s only our first defeat since Arsenal over Christmas, and the players know they have been really good during that time.
“I didn’t think it was a game of many chances. They shaded the half chances more than us. “The goal came from us having a cross at their by-line and them scoring from our by-line.” Moyes also refused to blame the extra half hour his side had to play on Wednesday night against Fiorentina. “We had an extra day’s rest and we’ve done well after European games in the past, so I don’t know about it being any hangover from the UEFA Cup,” he added. “If you had seen the way the players have been playing week in, week out, they’ve been terrific. I think today we just dropped below the high standards we’ve set.” Fulham boss Roy Hodgson was delighted, especially with an unusually raucous Craven Cottage atmosphere. “The fans were great,” he said. “You don’t automatically relate an atmosphere like that with Craven Cottage, but you could have closed your eyes and imagined you were at Old Trafford or Anfield. But you have to give the fans something to get excited about, and we did that. “They weren’t easy conditions out there for either side, but we did really well. I didn’t think there was a major class difference between the teams today. “When you are fighting to stay in the league your motivation is always going to be more than a team that is going for fourth place. “The goal that won the game was a worthy winner. “With both teams working hard, it needed that type of individual brilliance from Davies and McBride to get the goal.”

1,000 pink Everton shirts help battle against breast cancer
Mar 17 2008 by Ben Rossington, Liverpool Echo
1,000 pink Everton shirts help battle against breast cancer EVERTON fans can be tickled pink from today as the club does its bit to help battle breast cancer.
A limited edition run of 1,000 pink replica shirts went on sale to raise money for the fight against the disease. Available from the megastore at Goodison Park, the Pyramid Centre in Birkenhead and the club website, the shirts were the brainchild of Everton’s head of public relations, Ian Ross. He said: “We have had three or four of our ladies team hit by breast cancer, so it is something very close to our hearts. “We hope every other Premier League club will follow suit and help us raise a massive amount for this very worthy cause. “I’m sure these shirts will fly off the shelves because they will be a collector’s item and help save lives.” The Everton first team squad posed in the pink shirts last year and raised more than £10,000.

Neil Dewsnip hails six of the best
Mar 18 2008
By Chris Wright, Liverpool Daily Post
EVERTON under-18s were in stunning scoring form as they hit Derby County for six at Finch Farm on Saturday. Neil Dewsnip’s side recorded a superb 6-0 win to keep them second in the north west section of the Premier Academy League eight points behind leaders Manchester City, who were in fine form themselves winning 6-1 at home to Leeds United. Dewsnip’s side have played a game more than their rivals and with just four matches remaining will most probably have to settle for second. Hope Akpan saw a header ruled out harshly before James McCarten opened the scoring from Jose Baxter’s excellent delivery. McCarten grabbed his second before Luke Powell put the finishing touches to some excellent approach play from Baxter after the restart. Akpan was credited with the fourth after another excellent set-piece before an own goal made it 5-0 following a Tom McCready free-kick. The best was saved until last as McCready made it six with with a brilliant 25-yard strike. Dewsnip said: “It was a very good victory and I’m delighted with the way we played. It was tight for 20 minutes but once we scored we dominated and played really well and it was nice to score so many. “Some players have moved into the reserves and the players who have come in, have taken their chance. It has given us a lift and credit to them.” Everton are not in action this week as the Academy League shuts down for the Easter weekend. Their next fixture is on Saturday, March 29 when they travel to Nottingham Forest. Meanwhile Bootle-born attacker Baxter and keeper Adam Davies are both in Kenny Swain’s 18-man England under-16s squad, who are in the south of France for the prestigious Montaigu tournament. England face Japan tomorrow, then Germany on Thursday both in Le Poire Sur Vie with their final Group B match on Saturday against the USA in Les Brouzils. The final and third-fourth place play-off is on Easter Monday. France, Mexico, China and Ivory Coast are in the other group. EVERTON UNDER-18s: McEntagart; McArdle, Sinnott, Barnett, McCarten; McCready, Krenn (O’Kane 75), Baxter (Redmond 60), Akpan Powell (Codling 75) Sheppard. Subs: Agard.

Jack Rodwell signs first pro contract at Everton
Mar 18 2008
By Christopher Beesley, Liverpool Daily Post
EVERTON youngster Jack Rodwell has signed his first professional contract with the club. The Birkdale-born defender became Everton’s youngest-ever player in Europe with a substitute appearance in the 3-2 UEFA Cup victory over AZ in December and followed it up with his Premier League debut at Sunderland this month. Rodwell turned 17 on March 10 and Everton have moved swiftly to award him with a two-year contract – the maximum period allowed for a player of his age – just a week after his birthday. After penning his deal, Rodwell said: “I’m really pleased to get it signed, I have just been waiting for my 17th birthday. “It was a really good week, making my debut then signing the contract – and there was my birthday as well! “It’s been good being around the first team recently, they are all top quality players and it’s great to be involved. “I just want to stay around (the first team) as much as I can and play if I am needed. Then hopefully I’ll have a good pre-season and go from there next season.” Rodwell will head out to Israel between March 25-30 to represent England in the UEFA Under-17s Elite Round tournament. Meanwhile, Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta admitted that Andrew Johnson’s team-mates are desperate to see the striker back in a royal blue jersey as the pressure to secure fourth place intensifies. England international Johnson, whose 10th goal of the campaign secured Everton a 1-0 victory in their previous Premier League match at Sunderland a week earlier, hobbled out of Sunday’s match at Fulham after just 13 minutes with a groin injury. The former Crystal Palace man’s injury leaves Everton with just one fit striker in Ayegbeni Yakubu and with four defenders making up their outfield contingent on the bench at Craven Cottage, manager David Moyes was forced to change from a 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 formation. Everton went on to lose the game 1-0 through a goal from former Goodison Park striker Brian McBride – their first Premier League defeat of the year – and the loss leaves them trailing neighbours Liverpool by three points. The game finished with Joleon Lescott operating as a makeshift centre-forward in a far cry from earlier in the season when Moyes enjoyed an embarrassment of riches up front with Yakubu, Johnson, James Vaughan, Victor Anichebe and the now departed James McFadden, plus goalscoring midfielder Tim Cahill, all available. Everton are waiting on the results of a scan Johnson underwent yesterday afternoon and Arteta admits the sooner the £8.6million striker is available for action again, the better. He said: “We lost AJ (on Sunday) and he is very important for us to have him in the team but we need to get back now and get the next three points. “We are very short at the moment (with injuries to James Vaughan, Tim Cahill and Victor Anichebe) and the lads were tired on Sunday. But we can’t really say we didn’t put the effort in because we did everything we could but they had a chance, they scored and we didn’t.” Arteta acknowledges the pressure is on to finish fourth. Everton’s previous Premier League defeat came in the 4-1 reversal against Arsenal at Goodison Park on December 29 and since then Moyes’s side had won seven and drawn two of their games. With an inferior goal difference to Liverpool, Everton know that they cannot overhaul their neighbours until after the derby game on March 30 at the earliest and even then they would have to beat both West Ham and Liverpool and hope that Benitez’s side also slip up at Old Trafford on Sunday. Arteta is determined to get back on track as soon as possible – starting against West Ham on Saturday. He added: “It was a tough game (against Fulham). We wanted to win to make the gap bigger between us and the other teams that are after us like Portsmouth and Villa. We knew how hard it was going to be and to be honest it was a very equal game."

Everton near to Steven Pienaar deal
Mar 18 2008 EXCLUSIVE by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON are confident that a deal to make Steven Pienaar's stay on Merseyside permanent will be completed by the end of the week. Though clubs in the Premier League and in Europe have been alerted by the South African’s fine form, Goodison officials are at an advanced stage of negotiations with Pienaar’s advisors.
A fee has already been agreed with Borussia Dortmund and Pienaar has let it be known that he is settled on Merseyside, while David Moyes does not want to allow the gem he has unearthed slip away. But that has not stopped Arsenal and Valencia – who are managed by Pienaar’s old mentor from Ajax, Ronald Koeman – making tentative enquiries about whether he would be available in the summer, according to sources in Germany. The Blues, however, are becoming increasingly certain that Pienaar will follow the likes of Joleon Lescott, Andrew Johnson, Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill by putting pen to paper on a long-term deal. Pienaar has been one of Everton’s main success stories this season and following a difficult spell in Die Bundesliga with Dortmund, has shown the form that made him a smash hit in Amsterdam. In total, Pienaar has made 33 appearances, scored two goals and has created more scoring opportunities for his team-mates than anyone else at the club to become a crowd favourite. He hobbled off during Sunday’s 1-0 defeat against Fulham but should be fit for this weekend’s must-win home clash against West Ham, though Andrew Johnson is major doubt. The England international damaged his groin at Craven Cottage and will spend the next few days getting intensive treatment at Finch Farm but it is looking likely that he will not be ready until the Merseyside derby on March 30. Given Victor Anichebe has a hip problem and James Vaughan has only just had surgery to correct cartilage damage in his left knee, that could leave Ayegbeni Yakubu as Everton’s only fit striker. With Cahill, Manuel Fernandes and Thomas Gravesen also injured, Everton are down to the bare bones and Arteta is hoping the treatment room is cleared in time for visit of the Hammers. “We lost AJ and it is very important for us to have him in the team but we need to get the next three points,” said the Spaniard. “We are very short at the moment and the lads were tired on Sunday. But we can’t really say we didn’t put the effort in because we did everything we could. They had a chance, they scored and we didn’t.” Meanwhile, 17-year-old Blues defender Jack Rodwell has signed his first professional contract at Goodison – a two year deal.

Nigel Martyn: Blues’ season is not coming off the rails
Mar 18 2008 by Nigel Martyn, Liverpool Echo
OUT of Europe and beaten for the first time in the Premier League in 2008 – it’s safe to say Everton have enjoyed better weeks than the one just gone. But even though events over the last seven days have been difficult to stomach, anyone who thinks Everton’s season is about to come off the rails would be advised to think again. There is plenty left to play for. There is no escaping the fact that we were poor at Fulham, yet there were valid reasons for defeat at Craven Cottage on Sunday, the main one being the effects of fatigue, both mentally and physically, from the mammoth effort against Fiorentina. Quite simply, our attempts to retrieve the two-goal deficit from the first leg in Florence were magnificent and, with better fortune, we would be dreaming today about possibly going all the way to the UEFA Cup final. Had we got past the Italians, I would have really fancied Everton’s chances of going all the way as, other than Bayern Munich, there are not too many teams who you would have worried about facing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. The experience of playing in Europe, however, can only have whetted everyone’s appetite and there will be a real determination among the staff at Goodison Park to ensure it is repeated again next season–- and why can’t it be in the Champions League? True, Liverpool are starting to move ominously through the gears and have looked good in rattling out seven straight wins, yet they are now faced with an incredible run of fixtures that could see them slip up. We have to be ready to capitalise if that is the case. Twists and turns are commonplace when you get to this stage of the season, and rarely do things go as you would expect, so who is to say we won’t head into April with an advantage over our neighbours? A three-point gap, after all, can be bridged on one afternoon. To do that, though, we will have to bounce back from the disappointment at Craven Cottage. It is a funny little place to go and while they are not one of the Premier League’s leading lights, they have a funny hold over us down there. We were flat – there is no getting away from that – but criticism needs to be tempered when you consider how much had gone into beating Fiorentina. With a clear week to prepare for West Ham United’s visit on Saturday, expect to see Everton in a much better light.
I'd love to watch us beat the Hammers
THERE are plenty of times when, as a footballer, you wish you could be in the stands and I would love to be in the Park End this weekend. With West Ham in opposition, Richard Wright returns to Goodison for the first time since leaving last summer and you can guarantee that he will get plenty of stick during the warm up, similar to the grief myself and Chris Woods used to give him during training. Wrighty must be wondering what he has got to do to get a start for West Ham, though, particularly as they have just conceded 13 goals in the last four games but, in all likelihood, he will have to make do with a place on the bench again. But even if he did happen to start, there would be no room for sentiment as Everton need three points desperately, and a repeat of the performances that carried us to two wins in the space of four days against them last December would do nicely. The crowd will be right behind the lads and, given that West Ham don’t have that much to play for, we have got to hope our momentum and desire will be carry us to three priceless points - and put pressure back on Liverpool.
Vaughan ready for new start
IT was a great relief to hear that James Vaughan’s operation in the USA went without a hitch and hopefully he can start making up for lost time soon. There may be a ‘slight’ age difference between us but I got to know James particularly well during my last season at the club, as we both spent the vast majority of our time in the treatment room. He has been through an awful lot of fitness battles for one so young and if anyone deserves to have an uninterrupted run, James is the man. Both he and Victor Anichebe have great potential and the sooner Vaughany can get back to doing what he does best – ie scoring goals – the better it will be for everyone at Everton.

Collection is handed to Blues
Mar 18 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
THE keys to the past were handed over this week – as the Everton Collection Charitable Trust took possession of the famed David France Collection.
The Trust was established two-and-a-half years ago to acquire the unique collection of football memorabilia collected over a 27-year period by David France, who now lives in British Columbia in Canada. His collection was described by auction house Sotheby’s as the greatest collection of memorabilia they had ever seen relating to one football club, and it will be hereafter called “The Everton Collection”. The deal to acquire the collection was finally agreed in December after a campaign of fundraising by the Everton Collection Charitable Trust culminating in a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Trust, set up by Lord Grantchester, grandson of Everton’s late chairman Sir John Moores, Blues chief executive Keith Wyness and Everton supporter Tony Tighe, agreed a business plan with the Heritage Lottery Fund.
That plan outlined how the David France Collection would be housed in the Liverpool Record Office where it will be joined together with over 8,000 items of memorabilia from Everton’s own archive. Tighe said: “This is just the beginning of our work. The Everton Collection now comprises over 18,000 items of memorabilia and it’s all here in the Liverpool Record Office. “We are currently recruiting two permanent archivists through the LRO to work solely on our Collection. “Their initial task will be to ensure that the Everton Collection is properly conserved, digitised and prepared for the future. This will take a minimum of 12 months. Then we will be in a position to show off our crown jewels. “Evertonians and fans worldwide will be able to view the Everton Collection on a special website or in a controlled environment at the Liverpool Record Office.”

Hard work starts now - James Vaughan
Mar 19 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
JAMES VAUGHAN today promised to meet the challenge of regaining full fitness head-on after successfully coming through his latest operation. The Everton striker returned to Finch Farm yesterday for the first time since he underwent surgery in Colorado to correct a cartilage problem in his left knee. There were fears when manager David Moyes confirmed that Vaughan had had another fitness setback that the 19-year-old would be out for the rest of the season. However, Vaughan is bullish about his prospects of playing again before the end of the campaign but knows he must knuckle down in the next few weeks to accelerate his recovery. “I’m in very good spirits,” Vaughan reported. “I know I’ve got to work really hard and that it’s a bad time for it to happen to me but I’m ready to just get on with it.” Vaughan, who is still on crutches and must take things steadily for the next couple of weeks, was operated on by Dr Richard Steadman, the man who was responsible for performing the procedure that saved his career two years ago. “I knew I was in good hands going to see Dr Steadman because he’s seen me before,” said Vaughan, whose last appearance for the Blues came in the 1-0 win against Reading on February 9.
“I can do quad sets and I will be able to do some upper-body stuff with weights.”
Despite Vaughan’s positive outlook, manager David Moyes is still faced with a striker crisis ahead of West Ham’s visit this weekend as both Andrew Johnson and Victor Anichebe are battling to be fit, while Thomas Gravesen, Tim Cahill and Manuel Fernandes are also struggling. Scans confirmed that Johnson strained his groin during the 1-0 defeat against Fulham last Sunday, while Anichebe missed that match after damaging his hip in training and, at this stage, it is odds against them being involved.
“We’ll do everything we can to get AJ fit for the weekend,” said head physio Mick Rathbone. “Victor jarred his hip in training on Friday and it’s very much a case of ‘wait-and-see’ with him.” Meanwhile, reserve left-back Patrick Boyle looks set to see out the season at Gresty Road after Crewe Alexandra provisionally agreed to extend his loan. The 20-year-old, who is out of contract in the summer, joined the Railwaymen in January.

Destination Kirkby: Everton stadium meeting
Mar 19 2008 by Luke Traynor, Liverpool Echo
SENIOR figures from Everton FC and Tesco launched the first meeting of Destination Kirkby. The group was established to take ideas from the community and businesses about the £400m Blues stadium project. Destination Kirkby also includes council members, community network members and representatives from schools and colleges. Plans to build 50 shops and a Tesco Extra alongside the proposed new Everton stadium were lodged in January. But the scheme has been opposed by fans’ group Keep Everton In Our City and Kirkby residents’ action group (Krag), who have gathered over 1,400 objections. The next Destination Kirkby meeting will be in April.
Michael Kissman, from Tesco, said: “The first meeting went really well. It gave us the opportunity to agree how best to keep the community informed.” Everton FC chief executive Keith Wyness said: “Attending these meetings is part of our commitment to open and honest communication with all aspects of the Kirkby community.”

Joe Royle goes back to his soccer roots
Mar 19 2008 Liverpool Echo
FORMER Everton manager Joe Royle kicked off celebrations to mark the re-opening of a £1m sports ground in Norris Green yesterday. Scargreen Park has five grass pitches, a floodlit all-weather pitch and a modern changing pavilion. The opening was the culmination of over a week of activities taking place as part of Proud Norris Green. Joe Royle, who was brought up in Norris Green, said: “I’m only too pleased to be invited back here to open this fantastic facility. This is where my great career in football started.” He was joined by pupils from his former school, Ranworth Square primary, who took part in football, rugby and majorettes. The project is the result of a long campaign by the local community headed by Scargreen Park Recreation in Norris Green (SPRING). Sheila Billington, head of SPRING, said: “I can’t believe this day is finally here. I’m made up. I hope the park is going to be used and used well. This is the only field in Norris Green, we don’t want any supermarkets on this site.”
Local resident, Samantha Ryan, 39 said: “This is bringing the community together and will keep the kids off the streets. My daughter plays in her school football team and this will be great for her.”

Sunderland Res 0, Everton Res 0
Mar 20 2008
Liverpool Daily Post
EVERTON Reserves earned a hard-earned point in a goalless draw at Sunderland last night despite having defender Darren Dennehy sent off with 10 minutes left. After a disappointing recent run in the FA Premier Reserve League Northern Section, Andy Holden’s side were happy to get a point in a tough match. There weren’t many chances for either side, although Lewis Codling was denied early on by a superb save from Sunderland keeper Trevor Carson. While at the other end Sunderland winger Billy Dennehy, the brother of Everton’s Darren, went close to breaking the deadlock but was off target. Midway through the second half Everton keeper Jamie Jones made a fine save from Anthony Stokes before Dennehy was shown a straight red card. The visitors’ defender pulled back Jordan Cook as he went through on goal and was given his marching. The offence occurred just outside the box and nothing came of the resulting free-kick. Everton had to hold on for the last 20 minutes with 10 men, but they defended well and Sunderland didn’t create any real openings as they match ended goalless. SUNDERLAND RESERVES: Carson; Wright, M’voto, Higginbotham, Harte (Luscombe 61); Henderson (Cook 68), Weir, Chandler, Miller; Dennehy, Stokes. EVERTON RESERVES: Jones; Densmore, Dennehy, Molyneux, Irving; Harpur, Rodwell, McCarten, Morrison (Akpan 77); Agard, Connor (O’Kane 68). Subs: McEntagart, Sinnott.

Thomas Gravesen not staying at Everton
Mar 20 2008
By Ian Doyle Liverpool Daily Post
EVERTON are poised to pass up the opportunity to sign Thomas Gravesen on a permanent deal. The Danish midfielder arrived at Goodison Park for his second spell last August on a season-long loan from Scottish side Celtic. David Moyes made the surprise move in an attempt to bolster his midfield resources ahead of a busy campaign both domestically and in Europe. Gravesen made an instant impact on his ‘second’ debut at Bolton Wanderers, coming off the bench to set up a last-minute winner Joleon Lescott. But the 32-year-old has subsequently been hampered by an ongoing knee problem and the form of Everton’s other midfielders, restricting him to just three starts and five further appearances as a substitute. Gravesen did emerge from the substitutes’ bench last week in the final minute of the UEFA Cup tie against Fiorentina before netting Everton’s first goal in the penalty shoot-out. But the Dane was sidelined again for the Premier League defeat at Fulham on Sunday and is once more a doubt for the weekend visit of West Ham United. Gravesen was originally signed for £2.5million from Hamburg in July 2000 before departing for Real Madrid in January 2005. Celtic are keen to offload Gravesen, who is reportedly one of the highest-paid players at Parkhead and has more than 12 months remaining on his present deal at the Glasgow club. But Everton will not pursue a permanent deal, leaving a clutch of admirers that includes Blackburn Rovers and Turkish team Galatasaray to jostle for the former Denmark international’s signature. Meanwhile, striker James Vaughan is confident he can play again this season after returning to Finch Farm following surgery in Colorado to repair cartilage damage in his left knee. “I’m in very good spirits,” said the 19-year-old striker. “I know I’ve got to work really hard and that it’s a bad time for it to happen to me but I’m ready to just get on with it.” Vaughan was operated on by Dr Richard Steadman, the renowned American knee specialists who performed career-saving surgery on the youngster two years ago. “I knew I was in good hands going to see Dr Steadman because he’s seen me before,” Vaughan added. “I can do quad sets and I will be able to do some upper-body stuff with weights.” Vaughan, however, is still on crutches and has been told to gradually work up his rehabilitation over the next few weeks.

Keith Wyness in promise on Everton ticket prices
Mar 20 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
KEITH WYNESS today pledged to keep admission fees for Goodison Park as cheap as possible as he announced Everton’s 2008/09 season ticket prices. As has been the case in the last two years, the Blues will give supporters who take advantage of a four week ‘early bird’ window a 10% discount on their season ticket, based on the full prices for the current campaign. Fans have up until April 19 to take advantage of the reduction before the new prices - which have risen by £38 for adults - equating to £2 per game - kick in. But Goodison chief executive Wyness insists that the cost of entry into Goodison continues to represent ‘excellent’ value. “Once again during the planning process for this year’s campaign, we have been extremely mindful of ensuring Premier League football at Everton is as affordable as it can be,” said Wyness. “The early bird offers of the previous two years have been very successful and our remit from the outset was to reward those supporters who are ready to renew their tickets in the first four weeks of the campaign. “Ten per cent is a significant discount and we are optimistic that many supporters will take up this and some of the other additional offers and promotions we will be running throughout the campaign.”
If supporters choose to renew online, they will receive a further £10 off and the Blues have kept the price of a junior family enclosure ticket at £190 while a waiting list will be introduced to give non season ticket holders the best possible seat post renewal date. The deadline for renewing tickets comes on May 11 - the day Everton wrap up the campaign at home against Newcastle United - and the deadline to join the waiting list for a season ticket is May 28. Meanwhile, Everton are not going to take up the opportunity to sign Thomas Gravesen permanently in the summer when the Celtic midfielder’s loan deal expires. Blues boss David Moyes has told the 32-year-old former Denmark international that he will not be offering him a new contract even though Celtic have made it clear he has no future at Parkhead. Turkish side Galatasary may offer him an alternative destination.

The jury: Is Everton's squad strong enough to sustain the push for fourth place?
Mar 20 2008 Liverpool Echo
IT hasn’t been the best of weeks for the Blues, going out on penalties against Fiorentina and then losing at Fulham at the weekend. But the race for fourth is definitely not over, with two home games against West Ham and Derby to come and a small game against our rivals in between. We could go into the derby game level on points as they have a tough game at United to overcome. The Fulham result was disappointing, but losing AJ didn’t help early on especially with a bench full of defenders. We have to hope that AJ and Tim are going to be fit for the derby, then anything can happen. The possible permanent signing of Steven Pienaar will be a huge boost with rumours that Arsenal are chasing him too. He has been an excellent player for us this season and takes the creativity burden off Mikel Arteta with his many assists. We are on the last lap now. It has been a great season so far, so let’s round it off with fourth place.
COLE FRASER, Litherland
THE makeshift line-up that finished the game on Sunday simply stressed the need for more attack-minded players. I do, however, think that the situation was somewhat exaggerated by the presence of Joleon Lescott up front. Hopefully the current crop of injured players can recover quickly and contribute to the remaining eight games of the season, as we will need them if we are to remain in the fight for fourth.
The back-up players we have are good enough to come into the team and do well, but I think we need at least one striker on the bench for every game to avoid a repeat of Sunday. I think that talk of the squad being short on numbers is a little far-fetched. We just have to pick the best players available and try to carry on the good form that has got us into this fantastic position. We have to pick ourselves up after the defeat to Fulham and take our frustration out on West Ham.
The last few games have highlighted once again our greatest weakness.
Even with the strongest squad we have had in years, we still suffer from a lack of depth, and just one or two injuries cripple us. It cost us dearly in the League Cup semi final against Chelsea, and it cost us again in what could turn out to be a crucial defeat to Fulham on Sunday. We only have a couple of first teamers out injured at the moment, but it has already seen us end the Fulham game with a centre half up front, and end the win at Sunderland with two full backs and a 16-year-old centre half in our midfield. If anything costs us fourth place, it will be this lack of depth. Our first team is excellent, but we can’t afford anyone to be missing. The round of internationals next week certainly won’t help us either. Hopefully one of our missing strikers will return on Saturday. We are looking very light up front at the moment, but West Ham is a must win.
GIVEN the recent injury list, there is bound to be some concern regarding how it will affect our push for the final Champions League place. However, the biggest loss is probably Tim Cahill because he was just hitting form and his aerial ability would not go amiss right now. It is good news that Andy Johnson's injury is not as serious as first thought. Nevertheless, I think that our injuries will cause minimal distraction in the race for fourth. The defeat to Fulham was a setback and given our recent record there losing was always a possibility. But on the upside, chances are we will not be visiting them next season in the league! Our only concern now is Liverpool. We cannot afford to slip up anymore. Although Liverpool have yet to play Manchester United, Arsenal and ourselves, that’s no reason for us to have a relaxed approach going into our remaining games. We can’t assume they are going to slip up.

Tesco reveals £10m vision for Kirkby town centre in Everton stadium scheme
Mar 20 2008 by Nick Coligan, Liverpool Echo
TESCO today revealed a £10m plan to transform Kirkby town centre.
The supermarket giant, a key part of Everton FC’s proposed move to the town, already wants to build a huge store and other high street shops south of Cherryfield Drive.
Now the firm has hit back at claims from the scheme’s opponents that present traders would suffer if the £400m development takes place. In detailed plans unveiled today, Tesco said it wanted to make significant changes to land to the east, west and north of the town centre as well.
They include:
Demolishing Knowsley council’s offices at the Hall Lane/Valley Road roundabout and replacing them with a hotel. Creating bar and restaurant units near the existing bus and taxi ranks in Cherryfield Drive. Building a leisure development – possibly a bingo hall or bowling alley – north of the current shops, near McDonald’s.
Bulldozing the derelict swimming baths, in an early part of the project. Resurfacing Cherryfield Drive and landscaping in the town centre. Although Tesco has not revealed exact details of the hotel and leisure development, the ECHO understands it is holding talks with potential operators. Its proposals will be submitted to the council shortly. Ian Morris, from Kirkby residents action group, said: “It is a positive step forward that Everton and Tesco are sitting down and talking to critics like myself.
“But ideas like a hotel and leisure facility do not address our other concerns, like loss of green space, traffic problems and the dispersal of fans after games.”
Michael Kissman, Tesco’s corporate affairs manager, said: “The Destination Kirkby project is about the total regeneration of Kirkby, not just adding new shops and a football ground. We want Kirkby to prosper and this is us putting our money where our mouth is.” Tesco has also made some changes to the main part of the scheme, including reorganising a proposed housing estate for the All Saints school site.
It also wants to build a restaurant near the new leisure centre. Businessman and Kirkby resident Stephen Merrie, who runs hydraulic manufacturer Primary Fluid Power, said: “The investment from Tesco and Everton should be welcomed.”
Timetable to a new stadium
June 2006 - The ECHO reveals how Everton are in talks with Tesco and Knowsley council about building a stadium and shopping development in Kirkby town centre.
August 2007 - The club unveils images of the new 50,000-seater stadium as it holds a landmark ballot of fans about moving outside the city boundaries.
August 2007 - A majority of fans (59%) vote in favour of the move.
December 2007 - Everton and Tesco submit a planning application to the council.

Everton hero Dixie Dean a hard act to follow
Mar 20 2008 by Tina Miles, Liverpool Echo
COULD you fill the boots of one of the world’s greatest goal scorers?
Auditions for would-be Dixie Deans to play the Everton and England football legend in a new stage show got under way today. Producers of The Dixie Dean Story are spending a month trying out prospective Dixies – men who are between 30 and 35 and have good control of a football – to star in the production. The Dixie Dean Story will celebrate William Ralph “Dixie” Dean’s all-time record of 60 League goals in one season. The play, written and narrated by Dixie’s biographer, John Keith, is being produced by Gill Beattie of Aintree-based Arts2u theatre company. Gill said: “The play tells the story of Dixie’s life and career, from his Birkenhead roots to his glory days with Everton and England. We're now starting auditions to find the right actor to play Dixie through his life.” The hunt follows a similar quest last month to find an actor to play legendary football manager Bill Shankly. The Dixie Dean Story will have its premiere at Crosby Civic theatre on Bank Holiday Monday, May 5 – 80 years to the day since Dixie’s hat-trick against Arsenal in 1928 set his untouchable record.
ECHO essentials
The production will run for three performances at Crosby Civic theatre.
The curtain goes up at 7.30pm on Monday, May 5, and there will be a matinee and an evening show, on Tuesday, May 6. Tickets, priced £10 in the evening and £7.50 for the matinee, are on sale at the theatre or by logging on to www.dixiedean.org.uk
Actors should forward their CVs to gill.beattie@arts2ulimited.com or call 0151-284 7067. Auditions will be taking place from today until mid-April, with rehearsals starting on Friday, April 25.

Howard Kendall: Leon Osman perfect foil for Yakubu
Mar 21 2008 by Howard Kendall, Liverpool Echo
WHO would have thought with all the striking talent Everton have that a central defender was asked to help rescue a point at Fulham last week? Unfortunately, despite Joleon Lescott’s best efforts, there was nothing the Blues could do at Craven Cottage. But David Moyes is not the first or the last manager to ask a big man to go forward. I used to ask the same of Mick Lyons. Given Lescott has helped himself to eight goals already this season, it is understandable why the manager opted to push him alongside Ayegbeni Yakubu. But I was surprised to hear another player’s name mentioned as a possible option – James McFadden. There were some suggestions that David had erred by letting him go to Birmingham City in January, but he could not have predicted back then that James Vaughan, Andrew Johnson and Victor Anichebe would all be injured at the same time. Yes, McFadden is doing well at St Andrews, but it was absolutely the right decision to sell him when the money was offered. You can’t keep hold of a player in the hope that he might one day be able to fill a hole somewhere. Yakubu’s performance was the one bright spot last Sunday and he will hold the key again when West Ham visit Goodison. After all, he scored twice in the space of four days against them in December. Injuries are going to have a big bearing on how the manager lines up but if, as expected, Tim Cahill misses out, I would opt to play Leon Osman off Yakubu and keep Mikel Arteta and Steven Pienaar for the flanks. Not only is Osman terrific going forward, he works his socks off for the defence and you can always rely upon him to come up with an important goal.
But, even if he doesn’t, I’d still expect the Blues to have too much class for West Ham.
Scuff of the day
CRISTIANO RONALDO’S magnificent free-kick technique has got everyone talking, not least because he stubs his toe at the point of impact. But that got me thinking.
A few years ago the late, great Alan Ball came back from playing for England at Wembley in a state of bewilderment as he had seen something he didn’t think was possible. Wembley’s playing surface was like a carpet but Bally said he’d seen a player scuff his kick just as he was about to pass and it flew out of play. Soon it became apparent. Larry Lloyd was the man in question and that scuff was not deliberate!
Bolt from the blue as Megson pays the price
WE are at the stage of the season when clubs are fighting for a European place – but you have to wonder why Bolton did just that last season. Though Gary Megson will say that maintaining a place in the Premier League is the be all and end all, I can’t help but feel that his decision to play a shadow team against Sporting Lisbon last week was an insult to the club‘s supporters. Bolton had a genuine chance of progressing in the UEFA Cup and players are certainly fit enough to cope with the demands of two games in the space of three days, so why did they pass up a glorious opportunity? Given they lost in Portugal and against Wigan, many will say they got what they deserved and it is hard to argue otherwise. Why fight so hard for something for so long then decide you don’t want it?

Everton v West Ham: Alan Curbishley holds fire on star duo
Mar 21 2008
WEST HAM boss Alan Curbishley is waiting on the availability of Matthew Upson and Jonathan Spector before finalising his side to face Everton. Upson has missed the last two games after picking up a calf injury in the 4-0 defeat to Liverpool earlier this month. Spector is currently away on international duty with the American Olympic side and he is not due to return to London until late on Friday night. Curbishley will check on the fitness of the defensive pair before deciding whether or not to include them in his plans for the trip to Everton. "Matty Upson just missed out last week so he might be available this week," Curbishley said. "Jon Spector has gone off to play for the American Olympic team in a qualifying semi-final in the middle of America somewhere. "He gets back on Friday evening so we will have to see where we are on Saturday morning. "We have one or two people who could return and hopefully if they do they will be included."

Everton v West Ham: Richard Wright misses Goodison return
Mar 21 2008
RICHARD WRIGHT won’t be making a return to Goodison tomorrow on the West Ham bench. The former Blues keeper has instead joined Southampton on a one-month loan deal. Wright, 30, was second choice to Robert Green and has made just three Carling Cup outings this season. The ex-England stopper is set to make his debut in the relegation battle against Coventry tomorrow. "I am delighted to have got Richard. He is a proven goalkeeper with plenty of experience," said Southampton manager Nigel Pearson. Southampton made the move after losing three keepers in a month to injuries. First choice keeper Kelvin Davis is out after dislocating a finger when he caught it in another player's shorts. Bartosz Bialkowski was ruled out for the season with a damaged thumb and his thumb got in the way of a goal-line clearance while playing for the reserves.Michael Poke suffered an ankle ligament injury in a warm-up at Hull. - although he completed the game. Pearson added: "It is a bizarre run of injuries but there is no point being negative. "We had to address the situation and I am very pleased to have Richard on board."

David Moyes: Feed the Yak and he will score
Mar 21 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES today urged his side’s creative talents to ‘Feed the Yak’ and get Everton’s push for the Champions League back on course. The Blues slipped to their first Premier League defeat of 2008 last Sunday at Fulham and perhaps the most disappointing aspect of their display was the fact they never really tested home goalkeeper Kasey Keller. Ironically, though, Ayegbeni Yakubu’s tireless front running was the main plus point for Everton and Moyes, in particular, was pleased with the Nigerian international’s efforts. Yakubu, however, has not scored since his double against Portsmouth four games ago and Moyes wants that barren spell to end when West Ham arrive at Goodison Park tomorrow evening, to keep the pressure on fourth-placed Liverpool. “Yak did well against Fulham and has been a big part of what we have achieved here this season and, in the main, his overall play has been really good, as has his workrate. He’s been getting better and better,” said Moyes. “But what we want from him now is to see his goal tally start ticking over again, just like it was a few weeks ago. “We know he has got terrific finishing ability and we have got to give him the opportunities to show that.” Yakubu only needs two more goals in the remaining eight games to become the first Everton striker since Peter Beardsley in 1992 to score 20 in a season and it is likely that he will plough a lone furrow against the Hammers tomorrow. Andrew Johnson’s groin strain will prevent his inclusion, while James Vaughan has only just come back to Finch Farm following a knee operation in Colorado but Victor Anichebe should figure after shaking off a hip problem. Tim Cahill remains a major doubt but Manuel Fernandes – absent since he hobbled off with a groin strain 10 minutes after coming on as a substitute in the 2-0 win at Manchester City last month – is fit again and in contention for a place on the bench. Jack Rodwell, meanwhile, may also be included in the squad and Moyes has been delighted by the way the 17-year-old, who signed his first professional contract earlier this week, has developed lately. “Jack is a young player with a lot of potential,” said Moyes. “He has been in and around the squad recently partly because we have been down on numbers but mainly because he deserves to be. “We want to keep his progress moving along and the contract reflected what we think of him. “A lot depends on how some of the injured players are tomorrow but, yes, he could be in the squad for West Ham.”

Everton v West Ham: Let's keep Goodison home fires burning
Mar 21 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
ONLY three teams have breached Fortress Goodison this season and David Moyes feels home form could yet be the difference as Everton chase a place in the Promised Land. Another Premier League weekend brings about another round of intriguing fixtures and it is not lost on Moyes - nor any of his players or supporters - that, come the close of play on Sunday, Everton and Liverpool could be level again.
The Reds took a slight advantage last weekend when beating Reading as the Blues suffered a bout of travel sickness at Craven Cottage but, back on home turf, Everton are a formidable proposition. Having won nine of 14 Premier League fixtures at Goodison Park and drawn another two, visitors are finding Everton anything but hospitable hosts. That approach, however, will need maintaining in the closing weeks of the campaign if Moyes and his squad are to take that one remaining place in next season’s Champions League. A points tally in the region of the high 60s or early 70s is likely to be required to achieve that and, with five fixtures still to be played in front of their own fans, that is an achievable target. Provided they play with the same panache as they have done for much of the year, Derby County and Newcastle should be dismissed without too much fuss, Aston Villa will be a tricky but winnable game and anything could happen against Chelsea. Which brings us back to the first of that quintet. West Ham will be desperate for revenge after losing twice to Everton in the space of four days last December but, equally, Moyes wants an immediate response to that galling defeat at Fulham. Resources may be thin on the ground at present but, with the backing of a full house and the determination to get the rewards their efforts this year deserve, Moyes has faith that Everton can secure three priceless points.
“It’s always vitally important that you keep your home record going and, on the run in, five of our games are at home and three are away, so we need to make home advantage pay off if we can,” said the manager. “We have been pleased how we have done at Goodison this season. Maybe some of the games we haven’t played as well as we would have liked. “But, in the main, we have picked up a lot of points here and we hope that continues. “We want to protect our record now as we get towards the end of the campaign and we have had a week to look forward to this game against West Ham. “We know how important it is and we are looking for a good performance.”
With so many injuries and aching limbs, the fact Everton have had five days to recover from their exertions at Craven Cottage should help rekindle the spark.
After all, this is the first time since the middle of November that they have not had a midweek game. Moyes, though, will not commit to whether a run-in that consists solely of Premier League contests will help or hinder as he, for one, enjoyed the extra workload that came courtesy of their UEFA Cup adventure. “Has the break helped? I don’t know,” Moyes replied. “I honestly felt that we were benefiting from the extra games and we would much rather be in the UEFA Cup than just having to play Saturday to Saturday. “But we still have a lot to play for and we are looking forward to the challenge. “West Ham are a good side and we will need to be at our best if we want to get anything but it helps that we are at home. We need to make that advantage pay.” Victory over the Hammers would certainly be the best way to limber up for next week’s showdown at Anfield and Leighton Baines has echoed Moyes’ sentiments that Goodison needs to be Everton’s secret weapon. And though he knows Liverpool remain favourites to finish fourth, the left-back has warned any Doubting Thomases that he and his team-mates will be ready to capitalise if they are given any chances to break up the established order. “It is a big couple of weeks coming up for us,” Baines acknowledged. “If we can get six points in the next couple of games everyone will go home happy. “It is still all to play for and to go to Anfield level would be great.
“Liverpool have got some tough games coming up. “So as long as we can keep getting points on the board we are still in it.”

Mersey heroes were just so quick off mark
Mar 22 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
FERNANDO TORRES has hammered 26 goals in his first 35 Liverpool appearances, while across the park Yakubu scored on his debut – and swiftly added another 17 in 28 games. But are they Merseyside’s top flying starters? Not according to this week’s Top 10...
1 NO-ONE made a quicker impact than Everton’s £2.2m record signing in August 1988. TC scored with his first touch after 34 seconds, and went on to complete a hat-trick against Newcastle. He also scored the winner the next week, too, at Coventry, but couldn’t maintain that strike rate. Then again, who could?
2 ALDO never liked to hang around – at Anfield or Prenton Park. He scored in the opening nine6 league games of the 1987-88 season – and when he joined Tranmere in 1991 was just as quickly off the mark. Two on his debut at Brighton, a hat-trick against Halifax, goals against Bristol Rovers and Grimsby and two more against Halifax. Unstoppable.
3 WHO could possibly replace King Kevin, the youngster who scored in three of his first five Liverpool appearances? Answer: King Kenny, who scored on his League Cup debut against Chelsea, just seven minutes into his league debut at Middlesbrough and then in his first two home appearances against Newcastle and West Brom.
4 THE King of the debutants. Johnson scored for Everton on his Youth Cup, Central League, League, FA Cup, League Cup and European debuts, also scored on his derby debut and did the same for England in 1975.
5 YOU don’t have to be a goalscorer to make a flying start. Bobby Mimms conceded one goal on his debut on October 26, 1985 – stepped out of the firing line for five months then returned to keep six successive clean sheets before being beaten by Les Phillips at Oxford. It was Mimms’ only league defeat in his first 17 matches for the Blues.
6 Four goals on his debut against Accrington Stanley launched his Blues career. Then two more on his league debut against Blackburn, the day the marvellously named ref Mr Grump sent off Everton’s Charlie Parry!
7 EVANS’ start to his Liverpool career could hardly have been more sensational with a goal 10 minutes into his debut at home to Leicester and then two more the following week as he returned to Molineux and helped destroy his former club 6-0.
8 ANTONIO ROWLEY scored on his debut at home to Boro April 19, 1954, had to wait the summer to show it wasn’t a fluke. Then he kicked off the new season with a hat-trick against Doncaster.
9 WHO’S the greatest of them all? Little curly Alan Ball! Evertonians certainly thought so after he scored the winner on his debut at Fulham, then scored two more in the Merseyside derby.
THE teenager from Toxteth gave a taste of things to come when he scored on his debut at Fulham, went a whole two matches without scoring before hammering five against Fulham again, then another against Oldham.

Why Lee Carsley is worthy of top accolade
Mar 22 2008 by , Liverpool Echo
IT’S the time of year when thoughts start turning towards who will be crowned Everton’s Player of the Season. Given that everyone has their own ideas about who should win the award and why, it is a subject which invariably generates plenty of healthy debate and perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the current campaign is there are so many contenders. In recent years, there has been nobody better than Mikel Arteta and the best little Spaniard has waltzed away with the gong but, this time around, it would be a surprise if he even figured in the top three. That is not a slight, simply a measure of how much standards have improved. So, then, who are the men most likely to succeed him? Starting at the back, the ultra-reliable Tim Howard must be considered for his unflappable performances between the posts, while in front of him Joseph Yobo, Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott each have sound claims.
Ayegbeni Yakubu’s goalscoring, meanwhile, has been a revelation, as has the emergence of Steven Pienaar, who has taken the creative burden off Arteta’s shoulders, a point illustrated by the fact his assists run into double figures.
From a personal point of view, though, the two outstanding candidates have been Leon Osman and Lee Carsley, with the latter just edging the vote. Having played such an important part in Everton’s recent progress, few would begrudge their contribution being recognised. At a Hall of Fame dinner held in the Adelphi Hotel on Thursday evening, Carsley was given a rapturous ovation after one set of supporters named him their outstanding player of the campaign and the acclaim was richly deserved.
He might not be the kind of player who sets up wave after wave of attacks – Carsley has described his role as being the man who “gives the ball to the fancy Dans and let them do the rest” – but the role he fulfils for the team is priceless. It is no coincidence that Everton have become a much more robust unit since he returned to the side for the first UEFA Cup group game against Larissa six months ago and the 34-year-old will be needed every step of the way on the run in. Everton’s hopes of winning silverware may have evaporated in the lottery of a penalty shoot-out against Fiorentina but it would be fitting if Carsley had something tangible to show for his efforts at the end of the campaign – to go alongside a new deal. Wigan almost capitalised on a break in contract talks last May to lure Carsley away from the place he has called home since 2002 and surely Everton are not going to let a similar situation unfold this time around? David Moyes may be looking to bolster his midfield in the summer but there has to be a place for Carsley, who for so long has been one of his trusted foot soldiers and knows what it means to be an Everton player. “How close was I to leaving? I spoke to quite a lot of clubs, five or six including Wigan,” Carsley revealed on the club’s pre-season tour. “All of them were in the Premier League. I knew I’d played well last season but leaving Everton is not something you do lightly.
“I realised that this season coming up is one of those once in a lifetime opportunities. It’s a big chance for us all. The chance to play for Everton and be involved in all those big competitions is massive. “But there is so much more to it here than that. The passion of the fans, everything about Everton is first class. I have played for a few clubs now but Everton is really the only club I want to be at.” Carsley maybe happy playing an understated role on and off the field – his only concerns are playing well for the Blues and looking after his young family – but that should not detract from his influence. All being well, he will gain recognition in the not too distant future.

David Moyes: I want to stay at Everton
Mar 22 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES has reassured Evertonians that he has no intentions of walking away from Goodison Park. There has been speculation in some sections of the media that Moyes has been mulling over his future, amid suggestions that he is worried about the amount of money he will have to spend on squad strengthening in the summer.
Although he is still no closer to signing a new deal – his present one runs out in June 2009 – Moyes insists there is nothing to be worried about and echoed the sentiments of chairman Bill Kenwright, who confirmed recently that talks will begin properly after May 11. “We have said we will wait until the end of the season and that’s when we will look at it,” said Moyes, whose side face West Ham at Goodison this evening.
“I wouldn’t think there will be a problem. In an ideal scenario, we will sort things out and I will be here for the foreseeable future. I am interested to find out what the next stage is for Everton and I want to see what that is. That will be part of the discussions when we meet. “Whatever is said, I have still got a year to go and it’s not as if my contract is running out tomorrow. We will have a better idea of things when we see where we finish the season, as that might dictate finance. “The fans should not have any fear, as (leaving) is not in my mind. It’s certainly not something I have ever considered.” Moyes, meanwhile, believes Phil Jagielka can follow Joleon Lescott into Fabio Capello’s England squad – if Everton’s in-form central defender maintains the consistency he has shown during the winter months. The former Sheffield United man – who won an England B cap last May – has been a revelation since securing a place in the heart of Everton’s back four and Moyes thinks such consistency will eventually be rewarded. “My job is hard enough though, without picking the England team,” said Moyes. “but Phil Jagielka has played really well, he's played really well in Europe and in the league. He is doing well and if he keeps doing that he will get recognised in time.”

Everton v West Ham: Eyes wide open in final push for Euro place
Mar 22 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
AND so the final push begins. Having had a week to recharge the batteries after slipping up at Fulham, Everton head into this evening’s clash against West Ham with their eyes on a prize. Over the course of the remaining eight matches, the Blues – who are on target for a best-ever points haul under David Moyes – could achieve what many deemed impossible at the start of the season and clinch a place in the Champions League. It has taken a huge effort to get into such a strong position but whatever happens between now and May 11, whether Everton break into the top four or have to settle for being best of the rest, Joleon Lescott sees a bright future at Goodison Park. The 25-year-old was called up once again to Fabio Capello’s England squad this week and that came days after he had put pen to paper on a new deal that will keep him on Merseyside until the summer of 2012 at least. He joined Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill, Andrew Johnson, Victor Anichebe and James Vaughan in committing the next phase of his career to the Blues and is in no doubt he made the right decision. When he looks around the changing room, he can see players who are capable of turning dreams into reality but he knows there is still much to do for that to happen – starting against West Ham. One thing, however, he knows the Blues won’t lack for in the closing stages is grit and determination and that’s why Lescott has faith they will bounce back straight away from defeat at Craven Cottage. “Having so many of the other lads signing deals was never a factor in me re-signing,” said Lescott, who has more than repaid the £4m it took to sign him from Wolves. “But this is a club that rewards players who give their all for the team and help realise the ambitions here.
“We have got some great players here who have been rewarded with new deals in the last year or so, players who have a big future. “There is still such a long way to go. We know what it is going to take and we are all pushing in the right direction.
“That is why I signed, and why I am so confident about the future. I always knew my future was here. “The Club has shown faith in me and I see it as a great achievement for myself to get a new, extended deal so soon after arriving.” Lescott will continue at left-back against the Hammers and boss Moyes is hoping that he will be able to unleash a couple of his big guns – Cahill has the best chance of playing – to secure three priceless points. The last time Everton met West Ham, they secured two wins in the space of four days at Upton Park to really give their campaign some momentum.
But Moyes scoffs at suggestions that Alan Curbishely’s men – who were beaten 4-0 three times in the space of a week at the beginning of this month – will be cannon fodder. “We did well in the two games down there and we had to because they are improving,” said Moyes. “Last year they just avoided relegation and now they are in the top half of the Premier League. Alan Curbishley has made good progress.
“I am not underestimating them one little bit. The games they had were difficult games and it could have happened to anybody. You have seen Tottenham’s form and Chelsea’s form, and they had Liverpool too. We will take nothing for granted.
“This is only a chance to catch Liverpool if we win our game. We have to make sure we don't allow the teams behind us to catch us up, first and foremost we have to consolidate the position we are in. From that we have to try and build on it and keep winning games.”

Barry Horne: Everton will learn how to deal with Euro hangovers
Mar 22 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
SUNDAY’S game at Fulham was very much a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show following the exploits and efforts against Fiorentina. We travelled to Craven Cottage with expectations that we would break our hoodoo but, almost perversely, Everton have not been as vulnerable going into an away game all season after the terrific physical and mental effort that went in against the Italians. Unfortunately, the omens were not good from the start, what with Victor Anichebe failing a late fitness test and then Andrew Johnson was forced to hobble out of the action and that left the bench decidedly bereft of attacking options. That was surprising considering it was only a matter of weeks since we had James Vaughan, Anichebe and Johnson occupying the same space, three top quality strikers who are capable of changing games.
But that scenario brought into focus two things; firstly, that – if possible – a team should always invest when it is successful and we can only hope that funds will be available to David Moyes this summer. Secondly, if we are to maintain the progress that we have made in recent years and want to be successful then Everton are going to have to get used to playing in these momentous European fixtures and then performing the following weekend. The more experience you get, the more prepared you are for every eventuality and at times this season, we have just been a couple of players short, like last weekend against Fulham but there is good to be taken from the situation. If you are fighting at the top end of the league in your own country and then battling in Europe, you stand a much better chance of attracting good players. In many ways, it is the chicken and egg situation. True, it wasn’t a great performance on the banks of the Thames and the result was disappointing but I’m not too dispirited by our current position. Having said that, it is absolutely vital we pick ourselves up in another important game today. For me, the most important thing is that we do not let fifth place slip as that is very much in our hands. I never expected us to finish in the top four this year but it is fantastic that we still have a chance. Hopefully there won’t be any mistakes against West Ham.
Cole needs to do some growing up
CHELSEA have been in the news this week and it seems that, once again, they are the team that everyone loves to hate. It is no coincidence that the willingness to make them the subject of this ire has coincided with their re-entry into the title race; when they were just tottering along, nobody was bothered about them. Now the situation is completely different. Avram Grant is being pilloried at every opportunity by the press and even though Chelsea’s game against Tottenham in midweek was highly entertaining, it was Grant’s tactics that came under most scrutiny - apart from one other thing. Ashley Cole did his best to deflect interest away from his manager with a couple of minutes of spoilt, indulgent, arrogant behaviour. The merits of his tackle on Alan Hutton have been discussed elsewhere but his actions afterwards were a shocking example to children. His tantrum also gave further ammunition to all those people who want to knock professional footballers; I have argued long and hard about the FA being able to imply retrospective punishments even when the referee has taken action and this case is a perfect example. The fact Ashley Cole came out and apologised makes no difference, as his words were hollow. Did he really mean it? Draw your own conclusions. What he really needs to do is start behaving like an adult.

Have you got the skill to fill Dixie Dean’s boots . . ?
Mar 22 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
THINK you can fill the boots of the greatest goalscorer of all time?
That challenging prospect is open to one lucky actor in a unique new stage production celebrating the Everton and England legend’s incredible all-time record of 60 League goals in one season. The hunt is now on for the man to play the role of the great William Ralph in “The Dixie Dean Story” which will have its premiere at Crosby Civic Theatre on Bank Holiday Monday, May 5 - 80 years to the day since Dean’s hat trick against Arsenal in 1928 set that record. Written and narrated by Dean’s biographer John Keith, the play is being produced by Gill Beattie of Arts2u Limited and will run for three performances at the Crosby venue. “The play tells the story of Dixie's life and career, from his Birkenhead roots to his glory days with Everton and England,” said Gill. “We’re now starting auditions to find the right actor to play Dixie through his life. “The age range we're looking for is between 30 and 35 and, at the risk of stating the obvious, he must have the ability to control a football!” The curtain goes up at 7.30pm on May 5 and there will be two further performances - a matinee and an evening show - the following day, May 6. Tickets, priced £10 in the evening and £7.50 for the matinee, are already on sale at the theatre or by logging onto www.dixiedean.org.uk. Further informationis available at www.seftonarts.co.uk/viewevent or by calling 01704 640011.

Everton 1, West Ham 1 (D,Post)
Mar 24 2008
By Christopher Beesley Liverpool Daily Post
DEPENDING on what happens at Anfield next Sunday, Everton are sure to recall the ills done to them by Mark Clattenburg at Goodison Park last October if they ultimately fall three points short of their neighbours come the end of the season in the battle for a Champions League qualification place. But the way things are going, the County Durham official, who is yet to take charge of any subsequent Everton games, is going to have a few more colleagues to share the blame. Mark Halsey tried to referee this game in a sensible manner, keeping his cards in his pocket all evening, but ended up frustrating the home side immensely with his decisions, particularly the most crucial of all when he ruled out a seemingly good second goal for Ayegbeni Yakubu for offside even though the Nigerian appeared to be level with the West Ham defence when the ball was played. Hammers’ midfielder Scott Parker may have even got the last touch which would have made Yakubu’s position irrelevant but even if the pass was deemed to have come from Victor Anichebe, Everton’s top scorer was not ahead of the East Londoners’ rearguard and the effort should have stood. Also, what ever happened to giving the attacker the benefit of the doubt to encourage positive football? Had Everton gone 2-0 up then chances are they’d have sewn up the three points but instead West Ham responded strongly and were eventually well worth their share of the spoils and could easily have gone on to win the game themselves. While Clattenburg’s derby debacle display will live long in the memory because of the emotional implications of the occasion and the fact that Liverpool are currently Everton’s direct rivals when it comes to securing the final berth in European football’s elite club competition, the decision only cost Moyes’s side a potential three points. This latest denial, coupled with Alan Wiley’s controversial decision to chalk off an Andrew Johnson ‘winner’ at Blackburn last month for another perplexing offside call has cost the Goodison outfit a further four points. But now is not the time for whinging and bemoaning bad fortune. Even without Yakubu’s second goal, Everton should have had enough in their locker to go on and finish off another patchwork side in the shape of Alan Curbishley’s Hammers in this encounter. When looking at the fixtures at the business end of the season, any manager will tell you that they’d rather be facing a mid table side than one of the clubs who are chasing for Europe or attempting to avoid the drop. Quite simply, Everton had far more to play for than West Ham and this was a ‘must-win’ game that they failed to take three points from. Instead, after making the brightest of starts, Everton faded and after finding the equaliser they had threatened to score for so long in the second half, West Ham looked the likelier side to go on and win this contest. The hosts, hampered by injuries, will claim that they are not suffering a hangover from their cruel UEFA Cup exit but just one point out of six since the Viola sneaked through at Goodison a week last Thursday tells a different story. Everton’s supporters, who backed their team so vocally and positively when they needed them against the Italians, realised that this was also a game that had to be won but as they saw their blue-shirted heroes struggling to find any sort of cohesion in what ended up being one of the most disjointed home performances of the campaign then frustrations understandably rose to the surface. Everton have struggled to pick up points against the Premier League’s leading sides this season but their success has been based on winning all the games you’d expect them to. But you’d include a seemingly Championship-bound Fulham (the Craven Cottage hoodoo should have been put to bed with Everton having won 14 away games in all competitions this term) and West Ham at home on this list. Moyes was forced to make three changes to the side that started the 1-0 defeat at Fulham with Joseph Yobo (ankle injury), Steven Pienaar (gastroenteritis) and Andrew Johnson (groin strain), having to make way for Leighton Baines – who started a Premier League game at Goodison for the first time since Fulham’s visit on December 8, Tim Cahill and Victor Anichebe. Alan Curbishley also made a trio of alternations to his team that began the 2-1 win over Blackburn a week earlier with Jonathan Spector, Nolberto Solano and Bobby Zamora stepping down for debutant James Tomkins, Mark Noble and Luis Boa Morte. Tomkins, a week shy of his 19th birthday, had an eventful first Premier League outing having been drafted in for Spector, who had only arrived on Merseyside during the early hours of Saturday morning having rushed back from USA under-23 duty. The Basildon-born defender almost had a dream start to life in the top flight when his header from a right-wing corner by Noble struck Tim Howard’s crossbar in the opening exchanges. However, Tomkins was soon embarking on a steep learning curve when he was left in Yakubu’s wake for Everton’s goal just eight minutes in. Anichebe won a header from a long kick upfield by Howard and the hosts’ record signing brilliantly chested the ball down past the rookie before lashing past the impressive Robert Green from the edge of the area. Yakubu had already netted in both of Everton’s triumphs at the Boleyn Ground back in December and the goal was his 19th of the season in all competitions. Yet after such a bright start, Everton’s evening when rapidly down hill from then on. Within a couple of minutes, Cahill aggravated the foot injury that had kept him sidelined for the previous two games and had to be replaced by the largely ineffectual Manuel Fernandes, who himself is only just returning to fitness. It would be unfair to use the Portuguese midfielder as a scapegoat on a day in which so many Everton performers failed to reach their usual standards but so far Fernandes’s second coming at Goodison has failed to hit the heights of his original loan spell 12 months ago. Having come within a whisker of being Everton’s record signing last summer before going back on a verbal agreement with chairman Bill Kenwright and disappearing to join Valencia instead, Fernandes, as one fan put it, is a £12million dodged bullet, especially with Pienaar now available for a fraction of the price. With Fernandes and co struggling to find their rhythm it came as little surprise when Dean Ashton rose majestically on 68 minutes with a towering header above Phil Jagielka to nod in a cross from the right from Lucas Neill. Howard, who had done well to deny the big centre-forward just before the break by saving with his feet when Ashton’s free-kick deflected off Joleon Lescott, got a hand to this effort but couldn’t keep it out as the ball rebounded of his left-hand post. As Everton pushed forward for a win in the dying seconds West Ham could have even won the game but another of their youngsters, substitute striker Freddie Sears, who grabbed the winner against Blackburn a week earlier and looks like a new baby-faced assassin, also struck Howard’s left-hand post after robbing Jagielka of possession but the defender ran back to hack the loose ball away to safety. Sunday’s trip to Anfield was always going to be massive but with just one point taken from the last six on offer, the game has now taken on even greater proportions for Everton.

Everton 1 West Ham 1
Mar 24 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
THE rueful grimace and shake of the head was followed by a rhetorical question that everybody inside Goodison Park knew the answer to: “It was onside, wasn’t it?”
Unlike Alan Wiley, whose incredible show of pomposity and arrogance at Ewood Park in February confirmed why referees are so unpopular at present, Mark Halsey was clearly upset that he and one of his assistants had erred to deprive Everton another goal. As he left the famous old stadium on Saturday evening, deep in discussion with another colleague, frustration was clearly Halsey’s overriding emotion, just as it was for the thousands of Evertonians, who had seen West Ham United hold their side to a 1-1 draw. There is no doubt the decision to chalk off a perfectly good Ayegbeni Yakubu goal moments after Nigerian had fired Everton into an early lead was the pivotal moment of this contest, another blunder to add to this season’s catalogue of refereeing injustice. Yet while many will want to turn the ire on Halsey, would it not be worth channelling the effort of doing that in another direction? After all, as they prepare to embark on the final climb to the finishing line, the Blues need every bit of support they can get. Having worked so hard and expanded such energy to get into a position where bringing Champions League football to Goodison next season is a real possibility, suddenly it looks as though the players are running on empty.
How else do you explain the elementary mistakes that normally faultless Phil Jagielka made late in the game which nearly proved so costly? How do you explain that so many simple passes went askew or Everton spending the second half stuck in their own half? Physical fatigue is one thing and that can be combated by a couple of days’ rest but once mental tiredness creeps in, that’s when real problems start; concentration starts to slip, mistakes are made and points are lost. So the last thing they need, then, is to battle with an anxious crowd. When Everton’s players needed lifting during a second period that threatened to run away from them, the response from the stands was muted. Tense and tetchy almost from the start, it was puzzling why the atmosphere before kick-off was not bouncing, given the fate that had befallen Portsmouth and Aston Villa earlier in the afternoon and the opportunity with which the Toffees were presented. Yakubu’s goal – a thumping right-footed drive that left Robert Green grasping at thin air – should have been the spark to light everyone up but a malaise set in, something that was not helped by the sight of Tim Cahill hobbling down the tunnel shortly after. His drive and determination was certainly missed and prayers are being offered to a higher place that he has not suffered more metatarsal misery, as Everton can ill-afford to play with 10 men for the rest of the campaign like they did here. With Thomas Gravesen clearly not trusted to play 80 minutes, David Moyes had little alternative other than turning to Manuel Fernandes but, in truth, he would have been better summoning Manuel from Fawlty Towers.
Sauntering around the pitch without a care in the world, Fernandes played with the kind of attitude that suggested he knows his days on Merseyside will soon be at an end, which renders all arguments about his lavish ability pointless. Yes, he has been held up by a spate of injuries and arrived at the club out of condition, but if Fernandes is the player that his biggest supporters say he is, why has he moved four times in the space of 18 months? Does that not raises questions about attitude? This is not to blame the Portugal international for everything that was perceived to have gone wrong on Saturday. Far from it. What infuriates most is he clearly has talent but too often gives the impression he will only turn it on, if and when it suits him. When the men who have been so instrumental throughout this campaign have an off day, others need to be able to come and fill the void. This was a perfect opportunity for Fernandes to stamp his class on proceedings but, predictably, things passed him by. Happily the same could not be said of Leighton Baines, who took full advantage of the opportunity he was afforded by Joseph Yobo’s ankle injury to remind everyone that he will be part of this team for many years to come. He might have been off the pace and caught out of position on a couple of occasions early on but, once he got into a rhythm, Baines became stronger and stronger as the game progressed, galloping miles up and down the left flank. Baines, however, was powerless to do anything about the goal that brought West Ham parity in the second half, a bullet header from Dean Ashton that was too hot for Tim Howard to handle after he had out jumped Jagielka.
That said, things could have been much worse, particularly if West Ham’s baby-faced striker Freddy Sears had not hit a post in the last couple of seconds when Jagielka had got into a muddle. Fortunately, the defender recovered his poise to clear the danger.
“I was disappointed we didn’t take all three points but maybe it will be a good point in the end,” Moyes noted afterwards. “I have got to give West Ham credit as they kept going but we gained a point on the teams below us, which could be really important.”
Quite right. If the odds are starting to lengthen on them securing a place in the top four, it should not detract from the fact that Everton have had a terrific campaign and are not far from recording their best points tally under Moyes. What’s more, only a catastrophic dip in form will prevent them qualifying for Europe, which again points to significant progress. But the one thing they need now is a helping hand to complete the job. The boos at half-time and full-time were surely borne of frustration but this game will be quickly forgotten if three points are taken from their next encounter.
Here’s hoping we talk next week about the quality of football rather than another referee’s blunder.

Everton sweat on Tim Cahill injury
Mar 24 2008 Dominic King Liverpool Echo
EVERTON face an anxious wait to discover the severity of an injury that threatens to end Tim Cahill’s season. The influential Blues midfielder hobbled off during Saturday’s 1-1 draw against West Ham when aggravating the foot problem which had kept him out of recent games with Fiorentina and Fulham. He is already a major doubt for Sunday’s showdown with Liverpool at Anfield and the worst case scenario would be that Cahill has suffered a third metatarsal injury in the space of 12 months.
Cahill’s season ended prematurely last March when he broke the fifth bone in his left foot at Sheffield United and, though he fought back to fitness during the summer, he re-injured himself in a pre-season friendly and missed a further three months.
Given he has so many fitness issues to contend with already, David Moyes will be praying for an upbeat bulletin when Everton’s medical staff examine Cahill. But the way he left the pitch at the weekend has left supporters fearing the worst.
Since returning to the starting line-up last October, the Australian international has played a huge part in helping push the Blues into contention for a Champions League place, scoring 10 times in 28 appearances. Leighton Baines, meanwhile, was delighted to banish his own injury problems with an encouraging 90-minute performance against the Hammers and hopes he can make a significant contribution during the run in. With Joseph Yobo succumbing to an ankle problem in training, Baines was handed an unexpected chance which he grasped with both hands and is ready to finally get his career at Goodison Park up and running. "It has been a real test of patience," said Baines. "It’s been difficult but it’s been an experience, though that has probably made me a stronger person. I’ve had to be patient and wait. It’s been tough being injured.
"I’ve had an indifferent season really and it’s been something that at times has been quite difficult. The manager spoke to me about being out of the side and it was a case of everybody was doing well and that’s just the way it was at the time.
"I came back after the initial injury at Derby and played two games before doing my hamstring at home to Fulham. "I then came back from that, played another two games and picked up another knock. "That’s just how it’s been going for me a little bit of late but it was good to get a game against West Ham and get out there again and hopefully there will be a few more before the end of the season. "I feel I’m back to 100% now. I felt fit against West Ham. It’s been a while since I got a full game under my belt.
"We’re disappointed but we’re pleased that we got a point with a couple of the teams below us not picking up anything."

David Moyes: Bid for fourth place on course
Mar 24 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES believes Everton’s challenge for fourth place remains on course after his side ground out what could prove to be a priceless point against West Ham.
With Aston Villa and Portsmouth, the teams immediately below them in the table, losing on Saturday afternoon, the Blues had an opportunity to open up a significant gap over their European rivals and at the same time put pressure on Liverpool.
Despite Ayegbeni Yakubu’s efforts, a 1-1 draw was the best Everton could settle for and there was a feeling of despondency around Goodison Park as supporters trudged home, but Moyes feels there is still plenty to be positive about. Victory at Anfield next Sunday, for example, could turn the battle to secure the last Champions League spot on its head. But Moyes is refusing to make any predictions on how he sees the race unfolding. “We know we have a good chance of getting fourth place, but we have always try to say that we will take the games as they come,” said the manager.
“We haven’t really talked about fourth place too much. “I told the boys they had done well to get a point and that’s got us closer to securing fifth. “Anxiety will happen but that’s because we are doing well and the crowd wants us to keep doing well. We are very pleased to be in fifth place. “The margin for error means that when you get chances, you have to take them. “We had a couple of chances and if we had taken them, it would have been a different game. That’s the margin for error I’m talking about. “There is no doom and gloom from us. The players have had a great season and they are doing terrifically well. It was another good point. There are lots of big games left between now and the end of the season and you don’t know how they’ll go.”
One aspect that will be giving Moyes cause for concern, though, is the threadbare nature of his squad, as Tim Cahill hobbled out of the West Ham game after 10 minutes, while Steven Pienaar (gastro enteritis) and Joseph Yobo (ankle) were both non-starters. “We didn’t have much we could change,” said Moyes. “We were looking around to see if there were any ways we may be able to get a goal. In the end, we didn’t have much. “Manuel Fernandes hasn’t trained and we lost Tim early on.
“The only other alternative was moving Phil Neville into midfield and putting Tony Hibbert at right-back. “We are short, there’s no doubt, but we’ll talk about the fit players.” Moyes, meanwhile, has challenged Mikel Arteta – who was noticeably quiet against West Ham – to raise his game in the next few weeks and emerge from an indifferent spell to help Everton finish the campaign with a flourish. “I think Mikel’s form could be better,” Moyes agreed. “He can play better but I could say that about a few of them. He is an important player for us and we need him to play well. We need him to reach the high standards he has set for himself.”

Why belief is so vital to Everton in chase for fourth
Mar 24 2008 David Prentice Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES is a manager who wears his heart clearly on his sleeve.
So his post-match demeanour following Saturday’s scrappy draw with West Ham was a curious one. He smiled, he cracked jokes about the lateness of the hour and he carried all the body language of a manager who’d just witnessed a comfortable home win rather than a disappointing, damaging draw. The inference was obvious.
Everton were one point better off in the chase for fifth, not two points worse off in the fight for fourth. If the Blues boss was trying to ease the pressure on his players and spike gradually growing expectation levels, it was a commendable tactic.
But it was also too late. The Goodison crowd targeted fourth place long ago – and five points dropped from two winnable matches have seen the initiative handed squarely to their red rivals. The anxiety which gripped Goodison on Saturday was a palpable thing. But after an outstanding season the Blues finally appear to be running short: that’s short of options, short of energy and short of self-belief. The lack of options were painfully apparent. Tim Cahill was clearly not ready to be pressed back into first team action. But with Andy Johnson, James Vaughan, Steven Pienaar and Joseph Yobo in even worse condition, he was rushed back for 11 unconvincing minutes.
When he limped off and Manuel Fernandes – himself only just back from injury – strolled on, that left a pair of full-backs and a midfielder only considered fit enough to take a spot-kick in a penalty shoot-out on the subs bench. If the speculation about the Everton manager’s contract last week was designed to help drum up a bigger campaign kitty for next season, there was no real need. A cursory glance at the dug-out confirmed that resource-wise Everton are still light-years behind the top four they crave membership of. The lack of energy became evident when West Ham looked the sharper and more dangerous outfit after they had drawn level in a match Everton desperately needed to win. And the lack of self-belief came from the crowd.
There was no roar of defiance, no encouraging applause; in fact when the fourth official held up the board announcing three minutes of time added on the biggest roar for their side to push on and win the match came from the Hammers’ fans.
The sprinkling of boos which punctuated the final whistle were unnecessary and ill-deserved for a squad of players which has not performed well for two matches, but has been largely outstanding for the previous 45. While the enormously influential Steven Pienaar was sorely missed on Saturday, perhaps the most outstanding contributor continued his splendid season. The last Everton striker to score against the same opposition in three different matches in a season was Gary Lineker.
Yakubu repeated that feat with the best of his treble against West Ham, cleverly turning debutant James Tomkins, showing a classy turn of pace to open up the defence then despatching a comprehensive finish. There were suggestions earlier this season that the Nigerian’s work-rate would evaporate come Easter. In fact his influence is growing all the time. Only a linesman’s erroneous flag denied him a second goal – and there’s little doubt that might have changed the whole complexion of the match.
But while controversial refereeing decisions have denied Everton points they deserved against Blackburn and Liverpool earlier this season, they’d have been hard pressed to mount an argument they were unlucky only to draw on Saturday. West Ham fully merited their point. Freddie Sears might even have snatched all three, although it was difficult to feel sympathy for his last minute shot which rolled against a post after his cynical dive a full second after Phil Neville’s hand had brushed against his head.
The points dropped by the Blues put fourth tantalisingly out of reach, but that can all change in one match. Everton need to start believing in themselves again.
It was suggested on Saturday that David Moyes is wringing the last drops out of an over-achieving squad. That’s not the case. Everton are a better, more consistent side than Aston Villa and Portsmouth, and they’re closer to neighbours Liverpool than they’d care to believe. Fourth place is still an achievable option. The players and manager may say otherwise, but Everton can still climb one more place this season.
If they can start to believe . . .

David Moyes: James Vaughan won't be rushed back
Mar 25 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES has promised to give James Vaughan all the time he needs so he can return from injury in prime physical and mental condition. Having had an operation to cure a cartilage problem two weeks ago, Moyes has no intention of rushing the youngest goalscorer in Everton’s history back to play a couple of games before the end of the season. Vaughan has endured so many fitness problems in the last couple of years that Moyes is loathe to jeopardise his rehabilitation and believes the biggest challenge the 19-year-old faces is coming to terms psychologically with everything he has been through. That is why Everton’s manager will wrap Vaughan up in cotton wool for the time being and hopes that approach will reap dividends next season when he can hopefully fulfil his vast potential. “He is quite a tough boy mentally but this hasn’t been a bad knee operation,” said Moyes. “It’s just been a little procedure to cure his cartilage. “Because of his history, he’s going to have a bit longer time to recover. Let’s be fair, with only six weeks of the season to go, it would have been quite tight for him to get back anyway. “But we need to make sure that we look after him correctly. I have always known that will be the case. I said a couple of years ago when he had that first injury, we needed to watch him. “He missed a lot of his development period and that for me is the only real disappointment as he would have helped us just now. “His enthusiasm would have played a big part for us. We will miss him and we can’t just be relying on Yak. The goals have got to come from other areas, not just the forwards.” The aspect of Vaughan’s play which sets him apart is his willingness to run the extra mile and the spark he gives his team-mates. It may have contributed to some of his fitness issues but Moyes says it would be folly to try and curb that hunger. “The one thing we would never try to change is his enthusiasm,” Moyes said. “His attitude is the reason he has got a great chance of being a Premier League footballer for a long time. “We need to couple that with getting him experience in games. We did consider at times about whether he should go out on loan. “But, really, the best experience we felt was to be around the first team here. We need to look at how he plays and what he does, so we can protect him a little bit.
“I can’t alter his style because that’s the way he is and I wouldn’t want him to change it either.”

David Weir desperate for Everton to repeat the triumph of '99
Mar 25 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
ASK DAVID Weir what he remembers about Everton's last victory behind enemy lines and his response is the same as any other Blue: "It's been far too long."
Although the memory of Kevin Campbell’s Kop End winner still burns brightly, Weir can scarecly believe that nine years have elapsed since that feisty September evening in 1999 when three red and five yellow cards were brandished. Having arrived on Merseyside the previous February, Weir’s only experience of the most famous neighbourly squabble in British football had been as a second half substitute when Everton were beaten 3-2 at Anfield in a game where Robbie Fowler’s touchline antics grabbed the headlines. A couple of months later, though, not even an unseemly squabble between Francis Jeffers and Sander Westerveld was able to detract from the efforts of Walter Smith’s men, who had made the trip across Stanley Park desperate for victory. Five days before that collision, Everton had been dumped out of the League Cup at Goodison Park by League One side Oxford United but they never looked back from the moment Campbell nipped in to fire past Westerveld.
That Weir – who now plies his trade north of the border with Rangers – never got to experience the feeling again, though, was a source of some regret and he hopes that the current crop of players do not have to wait so long for an Anfield win.
“The one thing I remember most about that night was when Kevin scored, I looked into the Kop and saw groups of Evertonians jumping up and down celebrating,” said Weir, who made 269 appearances during his time at Goodison Park. “I can guarantee you something like that would never happen in Glasgow! “People might remember it most for the scuffle between Franny and Sander, which was a bit of shame. It was nothing more than a bit of pushing and shoving but it never took the shine off the result for us. “Liverpool had bought a few players that summer and went into the game with big expectations but it was an important night for us and we had a lot to play for too. “We did well and once we got ourselves in front, we grew in confidence and the result was never really in doubt. “I had come down that February and my first two derby games were at Anfield. It was a tremendous experience and I thoroughly enjoyed those games. “We had a couple of good results at Goodison, it’s just a shame we only had one on the other side of the park. “Of course that was one of my highlights. I did think it was going to be like that all the time but, obviously, it wasn’t meant to be. “We had a couple of draws that we nearly nicked – Wayne Rooney hit the bar one season – but I loved every minute. It was an honour to play for Everton.”
If Weir can call in a couple of favours, he hopes to get a ticket for Sunday’s showdown but, before then, he will have the small matter of helping Rangers take another step closer to the SPL title by beating Celtic at Ibrox Park on Saturday lunchtime. Though he called time on his Everton career with a heavy heart 12 months ago – Weir had become frustrated by a lack of playing opportunities – that decision has been vindicated as he has already won a trophy this season and another two could easily follow. Playing for Rangers was a boyhood dream and Weir wouldn’t swop his life now for anything. But there is a part of him that will be forever Blue.
No surprise to learn, then, that he is desperate for his old team-mates to repeat the class of 2005’s achievements and finish fourth. “I still speak to a lot of the lads and always keep an eye on how things are going,” said Weir. “This is the best Everton team there has been for a long time. There is so much quality in the line-up.
“We did well to finish fourth a couple of seasons ago but the current team has so much potential. “Obviously this is now the hardest part of the season and there are a few big games to play but I wouldn’t have any worries. “Everton are getting better and better; the quality of the team is there for all to see. It would have been nice if Rangers had drawn them in the UEFA Cup. “Everton will be underdogs this weekend– that’s always been the case. There’s nothing wrong with that, though, when you consider the respective resources. “But the two clubs are coming closer together and this is a big chance for Everton. “Liverpool have got a lot of big games coming up and though we have a few injuries, if some of the boys get back to fitness there’s no reason why we can’t give a good account of ourselves. It’s been too long since we won at Anfield.”

Nigel Martyn: We must not fear trip to Anfield
Mar 25 2008 by Nigel Martyn, Liverpool Echo
THERE are some games when you finish playing that have you yearning to pull your boots on one last time and we face one this weekend. Nothing beats the experience of playing in a Merseyside derby and, with the stakes so high at Anfield on Sunday, it promises to be a memorable afternoon, one that Everton should have every confidence they can get something from. Having been given a hiding at Old Trafford, this is obviously the perfect match for Liverpool to try and get that defeat out of their system yet the suspicion still remains that it might not be top of Rafa Benitez’s list of priorities. With a Champions League quarter-final looming against Arsenal, I would be very surprised if Benitez does not tinker with his starting line-up. Sure, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres will play but another couple of ‘names’ may drop down.
Of course, it will be difficult as Manchester United are the only team to have beaten Liverpool on home soil this season and Saturday’s game against West Ham showed that Everton’s players are not as fresh as they were four weeks ago.
But, that said, we have a real chance of going across Stanley Park and getting something tangible for our efforts. As long as we can weather the early storm, I have every faith in the Blues to grind another result out. My only worry for the remainder of the campaign is that tiredness grips hold and we limp over the line, as was the case in 2005. Fortunately back then, we had built up enough of a lead over Liverpool to hang on – this time around we are playing catch up. That’s why the two points that slipped by against West Ham may prove to be so crucial. Yes, it was fair enough to get a draw when we were under the cosh in the last 15 minutes but if we had gone into the derby level pegging, the race really would have been wide open. How much of an influence will the last meeting between the sides have? Hopefully the word ‘revenge’ won’t be used in the dressing room beforehand as, in my experience, when you starting thinking along those lines, chances get compromised. Nobody will forget the incidents at Goodison in October but it has gone and the best way to settle things is for the players and David Moyes to concentrate on what they do best. If that’s the case, then we’ll have a real opportunity to win at Anfield for the first time since 1999.
Selfish attitude is no way forward
FOOTBALLERS are selfish. There. Somebody needed to say it. Now let me explain.
In cricket, if a batsman shows dissent at a dismissal he is fined a percentage of his match fee. In rugby, if a player shows dissent to the referee, a penalty is either awarded to the opposition or the scrum is pushed back 10 yards. Those in the wrong then tend to be humble. Nothing of the sort happens in football and it’s all about ‘me’ before the team. If you need an example of that, just look at Ashley Cole’s performance. His reaction was designed not to get himself sent off and it was hard not to feel sorry for referee Mike Riley. Cole’s reaction was crazy and petulant but dare we say that he got away without a red card because he played for Chelsea? If it had been Birmingham’s left-back or Wigan’s left-back, I can guarantee Riley would have shown a different coloured card. Many believe anarchy is on the verge of breaking out in our national sport and while Cole’s actions simply cannot be condoned, you can slightly understand Javier Mascherano’s reaction at Old Trafford even though he was guilty of stupidity. The thing that infuriates footballers more than anything is when they are on the end of a wrong decision but are told to ‘go away’ by match officials. How can referees act that way when they are dealing with grown men at the top of their profession? I remember a game against Chelsea a couple of years ago when a referee awarded a corner against me, even though I had not touched the shot. From the set piece, he then blew up and awarded me a free-kick and said ‘that’s evened the mistake up’. Two wrongs have never made a right yet this type of thing goes on all the time. We have to improve the standards of refereeing, but footballers also need to learn some diplomacy, otherwise all we will end up talking about is bad decisions.

Everton Res 2, Bolton Res 3
Mar 26 2008
Liverpool Daily Post
TWO early goals put Everton Reserves on the back foot as Bolton took all three points in the FA Premier Reserve League Northern Section at the Halton Stadium. Portuguese international Nuno Valente was on duty for Everton and played half the game before being replaced at the break. Daniel Braaten fired the visitors into the lead after 13 minutes and just six minutes later it was 2-0. Kevin Wolze curled a terrific free-kick past Jamie Jones . Steven Morrison’s determination forced a goal just after the hal- hour mark to give Everton hope. Robert Sissons should have increased the visitors’ lead from the spot after Valente had fouled but Jones was equal to the kick. Valente was replaced by Hope Akpan in the second half and Everton got themselves level midway through the half when Lewis Codling was brought down in the box and up stepped Morrison for his and Everton’s second. But with two minutes to go Wolze’s deflected shot went in off John Irving for the winner. EVERTON RESERVES: Jones, Densmore, Valente (Akpan 45), Irving, Gardner, Morrison, Connor, Harpur, Agard, Codling, Molyneux. Subs: O’Kane, Stubhaug, Sinnott, McCarten.

Liverpool v Everton: Take it as red that Mersey derby is hottest of them all
Mar 26 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
FOR 83 years it was the fixture which had almost everything, except a sending off.
Merseyside derbies were often described as the most passionate and the most brutal in the football calendar. But between Alf Milward’s dismissal in 1896 to the out of character flare-up which saw Garry Stanley and Terry McDermott red-carded in 1979, not one player endured an early bath. Since then, however, Everton and Liverpool players have made up for lost time. It is now the fixture with the most red cards in Premiership history. In the last decade alone there have been 16 dismissals – and there could easily have been more. David Unsworth received the first red card of the Premier League era, just seconds before Robbie Fowler, and the former Everton defender believes that while the fixture hasn’t changed, the attitude of referees undoubtedly has. “It’s totally different to any other match,” he explained.
“The whole build-up is different, different even to big cup ties or games against Manchester United. “It just means more. I know it shouldn’t do. You should go into every match the same, but the derby definitely means more. “Having come up through the ranks like I did at Everton, even the A and B team games and the reserve derbies were always spicy. “It was drummed into you that you hated Liverpool and all the Scouse players felt that way, anyway. “I loved playing in them, but I hated losing.
“When you beat them they were the best highs ever, even higher than semi-finals or beating United.” Unsworth believes that the derby match is as fierce as it has ever been, but that in the pre-Premier League and pre-TV scrutiny era, referees would be prepared to let so much more go. “When I started off playing in the first team you would get away with a couple of reckless challenges before you were booked,” he explained. “Nowadays you don’t. “The referee’s intention at the start of the match is always important. “If he went out and punished the first couple of challenges with bookings players would watch their step more. “But if he let one or two go, you got the same kind of situation that we had at Goodison this season. Dirk Kuyt’s kung fu tackle was worthy of a red on its own. “The scrutiny of the games is so intense now that referees don’t let anything go. “I saw an old derby match recently and couldn’t believe some of the challenges which were going unpunished. “It was almost as if the referee was letting the players get on with it because it was a derby match. That obviously doesn’t happen any more.” It didn’t happen on April 16, 1997 either, when Yorkshireman Stephen Lodge showed Unsworth and Fowler red cards for a flare-up better suited to Madison Square Garden than Goodison Park (Unsworth won by TKO). “It was the first red card of my career and it came about purely and simply because it was a derby match,” he explained. “In a normal league match I might not have reacted in the same way but you’re so wound up for a derby it’s much easier to lose focus. “Robbie mentions the incident in his book and says that the suspension he suffered hit Liverpool’s hopes of winning the league that year, so I suppose I could say it was worth it because I indirectly helped stop them winning the league!
“Local players always used to react differently in derbies, and there used to be more local players involved. “But now you have more foreign players who tend to live in and around the city anyway so they pick up the vibes from the fans. “It’s definitely a unique occasion, and all the red and yellow cards add to it. “I’ll be watching on Sunday, hoping for an Everton win – but most of all wishing I was out there playing in it.”

Tesco stadium plans for Kirkby are ‘kiss of death’
Mar 26 2008 by Luke Traynor, Liverpool Echo
TRADERS have branded a multi-million pound plan to regenerate Kirkby town centre as the “kiss of death” for small businesses. Proposals for Everton FC’s new stadium, a huge Tesco superstore and other new shops south of Cherryfield Drive have angered many of the town’s existing shopkeepers. Kirkby Traders Association, which formed a month ago, today claimed half of Kirkby’s shops would fold if the £400m development goes ahead. Tom Norman, head of the association, said: “At least half will go out of businesses, and those left will suffer a remarkable drop in turnover.
“If you can get everything at Tesco, customers will not be bothered to cross the road. There is just one petrol station left in Kirkby – that could close. “If they were given a plot in the town centre, the traders would be happy because people would still come into their stores.” The association says assurances had been given to traders at the town’s open market, but other stores feared for their own future. Last week, Tesco unveiled a £10m proposal to regenerate existing parts of the town centre, including a hotel on the current council offices site, bars and restaurants off Cherryfield Drive, and a leisure development near McDonald’s. Michael Kissman, Tesco’s corporate affairs manager, said: “At present, very few people shop in Kirkby town centre.
“They get in their cars and leave the area. This will keep people here and boost the local economy. “Allegations that we are not doing anything for the town centre are simply not true. This is a great opportunity for every business in the town.”
Stadium will ruin our peaceful town
A KIRKBY vicar is among thousands of people who have formally objected to the Everton/Tesco development. Among his criticisms of the project, the Rev Tim Stratford, from St Chad’s church, said: “Kirkby is a vibrant town with a buzzing town centre (albeit tatty) and a village feel at community level. “One of the most significant characteristics of Kirkby today that marks it out from its past is its peacefulness.
“It is difficult to see how a football stadium will contribute to this, and easy to see how it might be a cause of increased rivalry and a spark for disorder.” Mr Stratford also argued that the stadium would impact on green spaces and that there was not enough on-street parking to cope with the influx of supporters. “The stadium will itself contribute towards a reduction in the quality of life of people across the town.
“A powerful indicator of this is the housing market’s judgement. Most people would expect houses adjacent to such a development to reduce in value. “They will be severely affected by light pollution throughout much of the night, and also noise, delivery traffic and litter.”

Sky commentator’s bluster is far from Super
Mar 26 2008 by Paddy Shennan, Liverpool Echo
Dear Vic Wakeling, MD, Sky Sports
FIRST, on behalf of all us mug punters with idiot boxes and armchairs, let me congratulate you on inventing football – and a new day of the week: Grand Slam Sunday. We are not worthy. Who would be? You are all-knowing and all-powerful and this brings me to my main reason for writing. I realise the football season is coming to an end, but don’t you think it would be for the best if you sent your leading motormouth, Andy “I’ll tell yer what!” Gray on an extended holiday? Speaking as someone who has just enjoyed a break (I don’t want to sound like one of those sad, cliche-ridden lifestyle columnists in the weekend supplements but pottering about at home really is the new going away), I think it’s what he needs. It may be what millions need. In his autobiography, Shades Of Gray, Andy, talking about the times he was sent off during his playing career, confesses: “Usually, it’s my mouth which has landed me in trouble. I know I talk too much but that’s part of my make-up and the mate who reckons they designed the instamatic camera in order to get a picture of me with my mouth shut wasn’t far wrong.” That book was first published in 1986. Some people never seem to change, do they? As you are well aware, Vic, football has been in a pretty bad way for some time now, but we can’t blame Tim Lovejoy, Alan Green and Garth Crooks for all its ills. As Aretha Franklin said, it’s all about respect, and we’ve got enough disrespectful players and managers setting a bad example to the young without pundits joining in – even if they just fancy getting a bit of attention by playing devil’s advocate. As we all know, Andy – possibly because he got the Grand Slam Sunday/Easter Sunday messages mixed up and thought he was the resurrection – lost the plot almost as badly and madly as Javier Mascherano at the weekend.
The anger, aggression and blinkered bluster he displayed while irresponsibly putting forward the case for a dissenters’ charter was a bit scary, but I suppose it did prove that Andrew Mullen Gray is some sort of miracle worker – his ranting and raving actually made Jamie Redknapp and Richard Keys sound half sensible!
Come on, though. It’s depressing enough that we have managers who defend the indefensible. We don’t now need equally-cynical, so-called expert analysts adding to the game’s woes by joining them on the moral low ground. We know he’s not all bad – he’s an Everton legend and ex-ECHO columnist for pity’s sake – so we’re assuming the stress associated with stating (or, rather, shouting) the bleedin’ obvious (when, that is, he’s not coming out with a load of dangerous nonsense) is taking its toll.
A long, relaxing holiday until, perhaps, the twelfth of never, could be just the ticket. Just put a microphone in his hand (don’t tell him it’s not connected to anything!), guide him into a darkened room and lock the door behind you. Job done!
Thanks for listening – and let us know if you’re thinking of inventing anything else.
Kind regards,

Respect a two-way street - David Moyes
Mar 26 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES is calling for reciprocal respect from the FA, as the game's governing body calls for better behaviour towards referees from players and clubs.
The Blues boss believes that referees’ refusal to admit to their own errors is frustrating players. Everton were again punished by a poor decision against West Ham on Saturday, when a second Yakubu goal was incorrectly called offside.
The Blues also felt they were unfairly treated by officials earlier this season against Liverpool and Blackburn, and Moyes said: “It is important that we do all respect referees. But I have said many times that I see many incidents when I do not feel the FA have respect for clubs and the situations that arise. “Now they seem to want us to stand up and help them. Well, it goes both ways. “Clubs have made decisions (to appeal red cards) and been confronted with being told they are frivolous. Almost being told, ‘sorry, we do not respect you, so don’t bother coming to us and asking’.
“There are many times we have asked for decisions, and me personally, for the referee to maybe turn around and say he has got something wrong and made a mistake. But they won’t do that. “So it seems it is okay to blame the players, while we have been asking as coaches and managers for things to improve. We know they want us to give them respect. They have to give us respect also.” Everton, who have had poor disciplinary records in the past, have improved their image dramatically in recent seasons. Moyes said: “Our own discipline is something we have worked to improve on. It is good that we have reduced the amount of cards and that we are being seen as a club that is trying to do things right. “We have told the players we don’t want to see diving and we want them to just get on with things. Hopefully, referees have seen that.” Belgian club Standard Liege, meanwhile, claim that the Blues have made a ‘firm enquiry’ for their international midfielder, Marouane Fellaini. Tottenham and Bayern Munich have been credited with an interest in the attacking midfielder, but Liege director Luciano D’Onofrio claimed: “Everton have made an unofficial bid but we turned it down.”

Tim Cahill ruled out for rest of season
Mar 27 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON'S derby preparations were dealt a hammer blow today when Tim Cahill was almost certainly ruled out for the rest of the season. The Blues’ influential midfielder hobbled off during Saturday’s 1-1 draw against West Ham with a recurrence of the metatarsal problem that has already sidelined him twice in the last 12 months. Cahill, whose 10 goals in 28 appearances had made him Everton’s second top scorer, missed Australia’s 0-0 draw with China in Kunming yesterday and will not be part of the Blues side that travels to Anfield on Sunday. And it is looking increasingly likely that Cahill has kicked his final ball of the campaign as – if the diagnosis is as bad as feared – he will be forced to spend anything between six and 12 weeks on the sidelines. When Cahill broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot during a 1-1 draw against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane last March, he didn’t make another appearance for the Blues until a pre-season friendly against Werder Bremen – and suffered the same injury again. He returned with all guns blazing, however, and scored in his comeback outing against Larissa before embarking on a scoring spree that has helped thrust Everton firmly into the mix for a place in next season’s Champions League. David Moyes, meanwhile, is relishing the chance to pit his wits against Rafael Benitez once again this weekend and hopes that derbies where Liverpool and Everton are at the top end of the table become the norm. Everton have closed the gap on Liverpool since Moyes took charge in March 2002 but he is still seeking a first victory on enemy territory and knows his side will once again be underdogs, even though they have only lost three times in the Premier League since last October.
“I am in a privileged position to be manager of Everton,” said Moyes. “We have always had an uphill task because Liverpool Football Club are very strong but (being involved in these games) is something I will always remember. “You tend not to look at it just now awfully clearly because you are in it but maybe in years to come by I will look back at it. I enjoy it and coming from a city like Glasgow where you have Celtic and Rangers I understand the same with Everton and Liverpool. “It plays a big part like all derbies in major cities but that is what attracts you to the real football cities where they tend to have good old fashioned derbies. “For many years Everton haven’t really been able to compete as closely as we would like but we are now on the shoulders of Liverpool and a couple of other teams and we have got to try and stay there.”

Liverpool v Everton: Ultimate Mersey derby as Peter Reid and John Aldridge fight for bragging rights
Mar 27 2008 by James Pearce, Liverpool Echo
FOR THE Scousers on both sides, Sunday’s 207th Merseyside derby is D-Day.
Victory guarantees adulation from family, friends and anyone they meet in the street. Defeat and those same people will be on their case. The Anfield showdown is given added spice by the fact that there is more than just bragging rights up for grabs.
It promises to be a pivotal battle in the race for fourth place and Champions League qualification. Reds duo Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, and the Blues’ local boys Tony Hibbert and Leon Osman, revel in the emotion of pulling on their club’s shirt and will leave their team-mates in no doubt what this fixture means to the fans.
But imagine what it would be like if both teams were packed entirely with Scouse talent? Merseyside legends Peter Reid and John Aldridge were recently given the task of selecting a team from the best local players who have ever represented the clubs for two new publications from Trinity Mirror Sport Media. The concept was that Reid’s all-time Everton FC Scouse XI would take on Aldridge’s all-time Liverpool FC Scouse XI in a fantasy derby at Wembley. The duo picked their sides before coming together for a fierce debate about how a match between the line-ups might pan out.
Reid opted for Andy Rankin in goal, behind a back four of Tommy Wright, Dave Watson, Brian Labone and John Bailey. “Waggy (Watson) would complement Labby very well,” he said. “Derek Mountfield was another candidate but given Dave’s commitment to the club over more than 10 years he has to be given the nod. I’d also look for him to be a threat at set-pieces. “Labby was a great player and a true Blue, everything you could want in a centre-half. I would trust him with my life.
“Tommy was magnificent and an underrated player, while Bails was brilliant in the 1984 Cup final. Front men would love Bails because he always hit the spot. He was a real character too.” Reid decided on a three-man midfield, placing himself alongside his former Blues team-mate Paul Bracewell and the man known as the ‘White Pele’, Colin Harvey. “Colin was a brilliant and intelligent player. He was one of those players who could run all day and it was a travesty he only got one cap,” he said.
“You could rely on Brace for everything. I would try to sit in front of the back four, break things up and allow the other lads to play a bit.” Reid’s embarrassment of riches up front meant that he could only find room for Dave Hickson on the bench, preferring a three-pronged attack of Wayne Rooney, Joe Royle and the great Dixie Dean. “People have a go at Rooney because he left but I think it was the saving of Everton because they got £27million which allowed them to rebuild the side,” Reid insisted. “I have never seen a young lad play with so little fear. “Joe was a great player and just as good, if not better, as a manager. “Dixie’s goalscoring record is ridiculous. If you ever look at a picture of the man you can understand why he scored so many. If I was a defender, I wouldn’t fancy playing against him. “He’s Everton’s greatest ever player and for that reason I’m selecting him as captain.” Aldridge, meanwhile, handed the number one shirt to Frank Lane before settling on a back four of Chris Lawler, Tommy Smith, Phil Thompson and Gerry Byrne, leaving Carragher on the bench.
“With Tommo and Smithy at the back, I think I have the perfect blend,” Aldridge said. “I’d want Smithy to attack anything in the air and Tommo to sweep and play.
“No player has ever given as much to Liverpool Football Club as Tommy. He cared so much and wouldn’t accept second best. “Sometimes I think people overlook just what a good player he was because he was so hard. He has to be captain. “On the right Chris was a match-winner for us because nobody ever picked him up. His goals per game ratio was phenomenal – there was no-one better in his day at ghosting in at the back post. “Then there’s Gerry who shrugged off breaking his collarbone to play on in the ’65 cup final. “My hardest decision was leaving Carra out. He’s been so good in every position for Liverpool but I desperately want my team to score goals.
“Both centre-backs had a partnership so I can’t break them up. I was going to play him at right-back but Chris’ 61 goals were too good to ignore.” An abundance of options in midfield saw Aldridge select record appearance holder Ian Callaghan out of position on the left. On the other flank Jimmy Case got the nod with Terry McDermott handed a central role alongside Steven Gerrard. “I couldn’t have picked a Liverpool all-time XI without including Ian Callaghan,” he said. “I would ask him to cut inside all the time and get the ball in the box because there probably hasn’t been a better crosser of the ball in Liverpool’s history. “Where would we be without Stevie? I have never known a player like him. He’s got everything and I love him. “Since I retired from playing, Stevie’s given me by best moments as a Liverpool fan and the fact that he’s the only modern player in my squad shows you how great he is. “Terry Mac is a legend and he was underrated too. If he played today, everyone would be going on about him. Jimmy was a hard man and I used to feel sorry for people coming up against him because he must have been a nightmare for full-backs. “He would always get stuck in and his shooting was unstoppable. But it was the way he allowed players like Dalglish to play that made him really special.” Up front, David Fairclough had to settle for a place among the subs as the player-boss partnered himself with Robbie Fowler. He admitted: “I think me and Robbie would make a great partnership. At his peak he had that extra bit of pace that gave him the edge over any marker.
“His record at Liverpool was phenomenal and I have no doubt that had he not got so many injuries, he would have become our all-time leading goalscorer.”
So how would the teams have fared against each other? Reid said: “You look at the Liverpool side and there’s a lot of goals in it. But if Aldo’s thinking his team can get at our defence I think the three we’ve got in the middle of the park would give us a lot of protection at the back. “I’d defend narrow and not let them play through us. Instead I’d make them go wide and get crosses in. “Aldridge and Fowler would never win anything in the air against Labby and Waggy.” Aldridge countered: “I think their defence is the weakness of the side. It would be a battle royal between Dean and Royle, and Smithy and Tommo. The respect would be immense.” * ‘Liverpool FC’s Scousers’ and ‘Everton FC’s Scousers’ are on sale now, priced £3.99. As well as the fantasy derby match, they are packed with interviews with the men who know Scouse football best. You can order copies on 0845 143 0001 or at www.merseyshop.com

Liverpool v Everton: The Jury give their predictions
Mar 27 2008 Liverpool Echo
Mike Williamson, Chester
At the start of the season most Blues would have settled for where we are now – challenging for fourth place in the league, two decent cup runs and plenty of good football from the best Everton team in years. We need to remember that but the fact is we are now in danger of seeing all that good work slip away as tiredness and injuries start to take their toll. Fate being what it is, however, we have a great chance this weekend to give ourselves the perfect platform for a really successful end to the season. David Moyes will almost certainly have no option but to go with five across midfield and a point would not be fatal with games still to come. However, much will depend on how we handle Torres and Gerrard – take them out of the game like United did and the match is there for the taking. If we can go to Anfield and get at them from the start, I believe we can come away with all three points and get the fourth place we richly deserve.
Richard Knights, West Derby
IT’S that nerve jangling, nail shredding, teeth grinding end to the season and I’m wondering will Everton ever get a penalty? About as likely as Tom Hicks junior returning to the Sandon for a quiet pint! We saw at Goodison earlier in the season that Stevie G doesn’t have a problem convincing referees – sitting on his backside, arms outstretched, that wide-eyed look of injured innocence. Defenders have taken their cue from Carragher, that the only way to stop Lescott is to wrestle him to the ground.
Even if one of our players was decapitated, ritually disembowelled, or hung drawn and quartered, within two yards of the referee, they would get booked for ‘simulation’.
Everton’s season is in danger of imploding, self-confidence draining away with every game, the squad decimated by injuries, that psychological hangover from the Fiorentina game, indecision in defence and loss of form by key players. So no problem, the derby will be a breeze.
David Wallbank, Huyton
IT’S derby time again and if Everton ever needed to prove they could handle the pressure now is the time to do so! Liverpool have probably the best player in the world in Steven Gerrard, and one of the best strikers in the world in Torres, so a win at Anfield would be a major victory for David Moyes and Everton. Yakubu will be vital for the Blues and a big performance is needed from him. I want to see him bang in the winner at the Kop end - he will certainly know what it’s like to be a hero if he can pull it off. For Liverpool, doing the double over Everton would be a major achievement for Benitez, maybe enough to keep him safe in his job.
The pressure is on Everton but if you look at it from the other side, defeat for Liverpool would put the Blues firmly in the driving seat for fourth spot.
Would fifth place and no trophies be enough for Liverpool fans? Only they can tell you that.
Tony Scott, Walton
T’S always a fantastic occasion, watched by fans all over the world, and I expect it to be a clash full of emotion. There will be tension, tears, nerves, sore throats, sendings off, headaches, own goals – and hopefully three points for Everton. There’s no reason why we can’t go there and win, especially when you see teams like Birmingham, Aston Villa, Wigan and Barnsley have all taken results away from Anfield this season.
We will be looking to Yakubu for a big game on Sunday. He has the style and the pace to ruffle the out of form Jamie Carragher.The Blues have the players to compete and make it extremely difficult for their rivals to play the type of football they want.There is so much at stake in this one and, after what happened at Goodison, there could easily be more dismissals. We have the passion and the will to win to secure a victory and help clinch that vital fourth place. Let’s go for it.

It’s time to play ... DERBY BINGO!
Mar 28 2008 by Greg O'Keeffe and Paddy Shennan, Liverpool Echo
This Sunday’s 207th Merseyside derby could be more fraught than ever, with both sides slugging it out for... fourth place (albeit an extremely lucrative Champions League position). Paddy Shennan and Greg O’Keeffe invite you to enjoy a spot of light relief – and a fun new game – with their cut out and keep guide to the big day
EYES down (if you can bear to watch) ... it’s time to play Merseyside Derby Bingo!
We may not be able to predict the result of this weekend’s eagerly-awaited – or should that be dreaded? – Liverpool v Everton clash, but certain things are bound to be said and done at Anfield this Sunday, and in homes and pubs across Merseyside.
So here’s your cut-out and keep guide for a bit of bingo fun – a new game you can all play at home or, if you are lucky or unlucky enough to have a ticket, in the ground.
It’s always a tense occasion but, in a bid to bring a bit of lightness to what has become an increasingly serious and, sadly, fractious fixture, let’s at least try to have a bit of a laugh at ourselves. And our teams. But, er, sorry, there’ll be no prizes for a full house.
1Sky Sports’ presenter Richard Keys will invite Jamie Redknapp and Andy Gray to go on and on and on and on and on and on about the difficult task facing referee Howard Webb, in the light of the current debate on player dissent – and Mark Clattenburg’s controversial performance in this season’s Goodison derby. 2At some stage, Keys will say, in his most serious Let’s-really- hype-this-one-to-the-heavens voice: “They don’t come much bigger than this!” Or: “Jamie/Andy, you’ve played in these games, tell us (looks earnestly directly into the camera because, hey, he really wants us to feel involved) what are they like?” 3Co-commentator Andy Gray – if fit to report for work after losing the plot during last weekend’s Man U-Liverpool game (do you reckon Redknapp thought he was going to punch him?) – will begin a shouted sentence with “I’ll tell yer what ...” and/or make at least one thinly-veiled dig at referees in general, perhaps even dragging Steve Bennett’s name into his dreary monologue.
4Evertonians in the Anfield Road End will be spotted waving American flags in an “ironic” and “amusing” way. 5Liverpudlians on the Kop will be spotted waving Tesco carrier bags in an “ironic” and “amusing” way. 6Liverpudlians will be heard singing about Everton being “a small club in Kirkby”. 7Evertonians will be heard singing “Spot the Scouser on the Kop”. 8Liverpudlians on the Kop will unfurl a banner at half-time, which says “One City. One Club ... One Sugar, Please!” Or something like that. 9Evertonians will unfurl a banner which says “LFC: Made in Liverpool ... and America ... and Dubai”. Or something like that. 10Something for the ladies (and hairdressers and fashion victims) ... comments will be made at the ground and in pubs and homes across Merseyside about one or all of the following: Steven Pienaar’s girlie pigtails (if sporting them), Steven Gerrard’s “Tintin”-style tuft, Mikel Arteta’s “Brylcreem-style” sheen and ŠFernando Torres’ girlie hairband. 11During the build-up, Sky cameras will constantly cut to two fans sat next to each other wearing red and blue shirts. Cue ad infinitum references to “mixed families” and the mythical “friendly derby”. At the final whistle the cameras will cut back to find one of them, head in hands, fighting back tears. 12One or more of the fired-up local lads will get a very early yellow card for a tackle that should come with a health and safety warning. He could also risk an early bath after getting carried away by the occasion (keep your eyes on Reds Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher and Blues Tony Hibbert and Leon Osman). 13Regardless of how many frustrating stoppages and furtive minutes have been gobbled up by anxious physios patching up their team’s talisman, the referee will still enrage one set of fans (and delight the others) by merely adding the standard three minutes of derby match injury time. 14Normally placid suburban streets will become seething hotbeds of tension and mistrust with atmospheres to match Beirut, as partisan neighbours goad one another by banging on the walls when their team scores. Cue thousands of overly worked-up armchair referees being told to “Calm down” and “Grow up” by nonplussed partners. 15Despite both sides flying high in the Premier League and enjoying recent good form, radio ‘phone-in lines will be jammed by sozzled, morose and melancholic misery-moos demanding the instant sacking of their losing manager: “I’ve been saying it (to myself) for years, but today was the final straw. Benitez/Moyes has got to go!” So that’s that, then. Monday morning won’t come fast enough if your team wins – but won’t bear thinking about if your team loses. How about a draw then?

Steven Pienaar set to give Everton derby boost
Mar 28 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
STEVEN PIENAAR is winning his battle to be fit for the derby - as Kim Kallstrom opened the door to a possible summer move to Everton. With Tim Cahill almost certainly ruled out for the rest of the season, Blues boss David Moyes should be able to fill that void with Pienaar, who was bed-ridden last weekend with a severe case of gastroenteritis. However, the South African international has not shown any ill effects in training after missing the 1-1 draw with West Ham and is poised to return to the starting line-up at Anfield. Moyes, who is keeping his cards close to his chest during the build-up to round 207 of this neighbourly tussle, is now waiting to see how Joseph Yobo and Andrew Johnson respond to treatment in the next 48 hours before naming his starting line-up, but one man definitely pushing for a start is Leighton Baines, who made an impressive return to action last weekend after a frustrating spell on the sidelines. “I came on as a substitute in the last derby so I’d love to start this time around,” said Baines, the most expensive defender in Everton’s history.
“It’s difficult here, nobody is guaranteed to play. Hopefully I’ll be starting and that would be fantastic but if not I’ll have to be ready if called upon like last time and try to come on and do a job.” Meanwhile, the revelation that Lyon midfielder Kallstrom would consider a move to Goodison Park left Everton officials bemused as no concrete plans have been made for this summer’s transfer policy. Strengthening midfield is top of Moyes’ list of priorities and Kallastrom’s comments are sure to have been noted but it is still too early to say whether the Blues will move for the Sweden international. Kallastrom has made 60 appearances and scored seven goals at Stade Gerland and is currently trying to help Lyon retain the French title but has admitted that he will not be making any decisions over his future until after Euro 2008.
But asked whether he would consider a move to Goodison, the 27-year-old replied: “Maybe, why not?You never know, we'll see in the summer after the Euros.”

Leon Osman - Everton are on a mission
Mar 28 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
WHAT do Evertonians fear most this Sunday? Fernando Torres? No. The referee? Perhaps. Or heavy legs and aching limbs? Definitely. Having reached the stage of the season where fatigue inevitably starts to effect everyone in the Premier League, it is understandable that some think tiredness will be as big a foe to the Blues at Anfield as anyone clad in Red. Thoughts will turn back to the last two performances against Fulham and West Ham, They are concerns that Leon Osman understands but, listening to him talk, it is clear that six days after they were held to a 1-1 draw at Goodison by the Hammers, the Blues are refreshed, reinvigorated and ready for battle. This trip to Anfield can’t come quick enough. “Maybe it takes a little bit longer now to recharge the batteries but it could be a blessing that we have now got full weeks to prepare for weekend games,” notes Osman. “We will stick together as a team, as we always do, and I’m sure we will come out the other end fine.” Certainly there will be an extra spring in the step if David Moyes can mastermind a first Everton victory at Anfield since September 27, 1999, and the Blues can seize the initiative in a race for fourth place that continues to ebb and flow. That Everton are in contention for a Champions League spot now, however, is a testament to the strides that have been made since these two tribes last went to war at Goodison in October, and to how much Moyes’ squad has improved. Since Dirk Kuyt’s injury time penalty saw Liverpool pilfer the spoils, Everton have only lost three times in the subsequent 21 Premier League fixtures – against Manchester United, Arsenal and Fulham – to give themselves a fine chance of repeating the feat of the class of 2005. “Whether we are underdogs or favourites, it doesn’t matter,” said Osman, whose first derby experience came when Lee Carsley scored the winner at Goodison in December 2004. “We just go about things as we always do. We will go into the game confident in our ability.
“If you had told any of our fans at the start of the season that we would go into this game two points behind Liverpool, they wouldd have taken it. We have just got to make sure that our hard work doesn’t fizzle out. “We don’t want to be disappointed at the end of the season. We have got to keep pushing and pushing for the last seven games and make sure we get something for our hard work. “When you get the fixtures at the start of the season, this is always the first game you look for. There is a little bit extra riding on it this time, with the two teams being so close in the league, and it should be very interesting. “If we win across the Park, the disappointment of West Ham would be quickly forgotten. That’s our aim and we’ll see what we can do.”
With better officiating, Everton would, in all likelihood, have been tackling their neighbours on the back of a win but Osman – just as the rest of his team-mates – is struggling to work out why Ayegbeni Yakubu had what appeared to be a legitimate goal ruled out. Yet given the chances West Ham created late on, the midfielder knows it could have been so different, particularly when Freddie Sears’ late toe poke hit a post and rebounded to safety. Come the final reckoning, that stalemate may turn out to be invaluable. “It was a game that we went into desperate to win, particularly given the form that we have been in of late,” said Osman. “We were very disappointed to come away with a draw but, considering they had as many chances as us, it could have gone either way. “On reflection, it could be a good point. We have the belief that we can win every game and approach each game with that mindset. It was no different against West Ham – we wanted and expected to win. “Fulham and West Ham might not have gone the way we wanted them to but we were without most of strikers and attack minded players. It has just made things that little bit harder. But these things happen in a season.” A shortage of bodies, though, will not prove to be a sticking point. Osman relished playing in Europe this season and would love a crack at the biggest competition of all but first there is business to attended to – namely getting the West Ham draw out of their system at the first attempt. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy and unfortunately it didn’t turn out the way we wanted,” he said. “We were as disappointed about that as the fans. We are all as determined as ever to finish as high up the table as possible and we’ll do all we can to make it happen.” What better place to start than at Anfield on Sunday?

The Merseyside derby - the original and the best
Mar 28 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
WE’RE obviously biased, but we reckon the Merseyside derby is the best local set-to in English football. It’s also an original. The date was October 13, 1894 when Everton and Liverpool first locked horns, just two years after Everton had quit Anfield.
Admittedly the two Manchester clubs clashed just three weeks later, but United were still known as Newton Heath until well into the next century, Newcastle and Sunderland didn’t open rivalries until 1898, and it was another 20 years before Arsenal and Spurs kicked off. So Merseyside was first. It’s also the most prolific.
There have also been more of them than any other English city, it has produced more goals, inspired more controversy – and, in recent years certainly, seen more red and yellow cards than any other. It has even spawned its own cliched language.
Bragging rights are only ever claimed from a derby match while the form book only ever seems to fly out of a window in this fixture. So why does your average Scouser hate the derby so much? That’s easy really. There’s too much tension, too little football – and the prospect of an unbearable few weeks at work should the day go badly for your team. For the rest of the nation, however, the bi-annual tribal conflict exerts a grim and compelling fascination. TV sets will be turned on all over the country at four o’clock on Sunday, to see tension, passion, a confetti of yellow cards, possibly one or two red – and hopefully several goals to savour. So who will provide them? That’s more difficult to predict than even the eventual outcome. The ‘clever’ money will clearly be lumped onto the men who don’t know how to stop scoring this season. Except the derby doesn’t do predictability. Ask Bob Latchford and Kevin Keegan. Latchford scored 138 goals in his Everton career, including strikes against every single top flight team . . . except Liverpool.Kevin Keegan was a two-time European Footballer of the Year who struck exactly a century of goals in his Liverpool career, but singularly failed to trouble Dai Davies or David Lawson in an age when everybody else in a red shirt seemed to. So what does that mean for Fernando Torres and Ayegbeni Yakubu on Sunday? Very little probably, although the performances of both could hold the key to their teams’ performances at Anfield.
Torres is a stunningly gifted striker currently enjoying the kind of goalscoring run last seen on the pages of Tiger. But Everton will defend deep and attempt to deny the Spaniard room to run into, in much the same way Walter Smith’s sides were regularly sent out to spike Michael Owen. Yakubu has hammered seven in his last nine games, but more importantly possesses the physical strength to make life uncomfortable for whichever centre-back pairing Rafa Benitez plumps for. Everton will be without the injured Tim Cahill, while Liverpool fans will bemoan the absence through suspension of Javier Mascherano. But with almost robotic self control required for such a high-octane occasion, perhaps it’s a good thing that he, too, will be looking on.
The hero, as so often happens, could be an unlikely one – a Lee Carsley or a Markus Babbel, a Gary Stevens or an Alan Waddle, a Kevin Ratcliffe or a David Burrows, a Nicky Tanner or a Danny Cadamarteri. Perhaps it’s time for Tony Hibbert or Alvaro Arbeloa to start practising their goal celebrations! But if anybody tries to tell you it doesn’t mean as much as it used to, laugh in their faces. The reactions of seasoned pros like Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia at Goodison Park on the final whistle last October, plus Everton’s pile-on after the Lee Carsley matchwinner a couple of years ago, says otherwise. The Mersey derby is the first and the best – and whoever wins on Sunday will be bouncing . . . at least until the next one. l THE Everton FC Shareholders Association has opened the doors to its annual dinner this year to the general public, in order to raise funds for the club’s Former Players Foundation.
A singer, a poet, the sculptor Tom Murphy, former players Dave Hickson, Fred Pickering, Jimmy Harris and Brett Angell plus members of Dixie Dean’s family will all be present at Goodison Park a week tomorrow, Saturday, April 5.
Tickets for the three-course meal are £40. To book, contact Anne Asquith by email at asqanne@blueyonder.co.uk or by telephone at 0151-427-1215.

Howard Kendall : David Moyes’ men can earn derby reward
Mar 28 2008 by Howard Kendall, Liverpool Echo
ANXIETY seemed to compromise Everton’s chances last weekend but I’ve no doubt the intensity of a Merseyside derby can prove inspirational this Sunday.
It was noticeable at Goodison Park against West Ham how edgy supporters were in the dying minutes and those nerves seemed to transmit to the players – that’s the only reason to explain Phil Jagielka’s late mistakes when he had been otherwise outstanding. Maybe there was a fear about going to Anfield five points behind Liverpool when we had worked so hard to close the gap on them but, thankfully, that draw does not look so costly now and hopefully we can take advantage.
Tim Cahill’s absence is obviously a huge blow but we can’t go over the park thinking we are on a hiding to nothing because of it. Far from it. Liverpool have areas of weakness that can be exploited and the Blues just have to have faith.
Of course, keeping Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres quiet will be crucial, but I don’t think David Moyes will try and combat them with just his defenders.
It wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if he plays two holding midfielders, so one can pick up Gerrard’s runs. You are reluctant to single out opposition players for special attention but, in Gerrard’s case, you have to. When he drifts off Torres, he can cause all sorts of problems and the shackles need to be put on him early. Liverpool, though, have their own selection problems and I believe they will sorely miss Javier Mascherano, who has enjoyed an outstanding season performing the ‘Claude Makelele’ role with aplomb. Martin Skrtel could also be vulnerable. So it is important for Everton to be positive and show the right attitude from the first whistle. Liverpool are susceptible at set pieces – as they showed at Old Trafford – and Joleon Lescott could be the man to capitalise. But providing Everton are positive, they are more than capable of coming away with a good result – and three points would just be magical.
Perfect sleeping pill IF some matches bore you to tears, England’s meeting with France on Wednesday sent me to sleep - literally. I was so unimpressed with what I had seen during the first 45 minutes in Paris that I ended up going to bed – I can’t understand why such meaningless friendlies are played at this stage of the season. Unfortunately, though, they are here to stay.
Wrights and wrongs . . .
MANY words have been spoken and written about Javier Mascherano’s sending off against Manchester United, some of them constructive, some of them nonsense.
The article I read which left me most perplexed came from Ian Wright, who had a double page spread in one publication explaining a four-point plan as to how discipline can be restored to the English game. Ian Wright? How can anyone take him seriously when his on-field crime sheet was particularly lengthy and whose misdemeanours included earning a suspension for kicking down a referee’s door.
I haven’t got anything against Wright – I tried to sign him when he was at Crystal Palace – but you couldn’t possibly begin to take him seriously. If someone like Sir Bobby Robson makes the same points, then you listen. But how do you begin to turn the tide? Personally, I think it is too late. Too many footballers believe they are ‘big time’ and beyond reproach off the pitch and carry that attitude onto the field – Ashley Cole, anyone? Therefore, they can’t switch it off when they go into a game and that’s why you see so much petulance and bad manners. And things must be bad if the shrinking violet Ian Wright feels the need to pontificate about it.

David Moyes urges Yakubu to break 20-goal barrier at Anfield
Mar 29 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES has challenged Ayegbeni Yakubu to score at Anfield and become Everton’s first 20-goal marksman since 1992. The Blues’ record signing moved onto 19 last weekend with an expertly taken finish against West Ham and now has Peter Beardsley’s tally in his sights. Yakubu is expected to lead the line for Everton in the 207th Merseyside derby and could be joined up front by Andrew Johnson, who is fit again after missing the 1-1 draw with West Ham because of a groin strain.
But given the way he has progressed since arriving in an £11.25m deal from Middlesbrough, Yakubu’s place is assured and Moyes has been thrilled with the way the Nigerian has risen to every challenge that he has been set. “It would be great if he could do it (get his 20th) at Anfield,” said Moyes. “He has been doing great with his goalscoring and we have been pleased with him this season. He has answered all the questions that were asked when he first arrived. “Could he score the goals that he did for Portsmouth and Middlesbrough? He has certainly done it. “He is working hard for the team. I think he is doing well and we hope that can continue.” With Steven Pienaar and Joseph Yobo also both available again, James Vaughan and Tim Cahill are Everton’s only absentees after Moyes confirmed the Australian’s season is over after breaking the fifth metatarsal in his left for the third time in 12 months.
Cahill is set to undergo surgery in the near future to correct the problem but his manager does not think it is as serious as the last time and expects a lengthy summer break to do him the world of good. “It’s the same one he has done twice before,” Moyes confirmed. “But I don’t think it is a real big problem for his future. Maybe (his schedule) has been part of it. Maybe it has taken a toll. But he will have an operation and will then have a summer to recover.” Moyes, meanwhile, is eagerly awaiting a game that could potential define Everton’s campaign and he knows a first Everton win across Stanley Park since September 1999 could give his players a huge lift on the run-in. “It would be a tremendous boost,” said Moyes, who is pleased that Howard Webb will be officiating. “Whoever wins, whether it is Liverpool or Everton, will benefit. “We know that we have got to go there and do well. It is a Premier League game, an important one against the team that is nearest to us and if we can go there and get a positive result, maybe it will help us on the run in.”

Merseyside derby our chance to show how far we have come - David Moyes
Mar 29 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES might not remember much about his first visit to Anfield as Everton manager but there is one aspect from back then about which he is crystal clear.
Sunday, December 22, 2002 was Moyes’ debut in a Merseyside derby and he made the short trip across Stanley Park back then hoping that grit and determination would be enough to pinch a share of the spoils. It is not surprising that Moyes is vague about the details of what was ultimately a scruffy affair, ruined by petulant fouls, niggling confrontations and the constant whistle blowing of Graham Poll, who brandished seven yellow cards during that 0-0 draw. “They just come and go, don’t they?” Moyes said. “Maybe I will look back in time at them but I’ve never really thought about it.”
The one moment of genuine quality was provided when Wayne Rooney – on as a late substitute – saw an effort deflected onto the bar by Chris Kirkland and Stephane Henchoz but, other than that, it was all about the artisans rather than artists.
Fast forward to the present day and Moyes can make the same trip knowing that brute force is no longer Everton’s only hope of winning the local bragging rights – Mikel Arteta, Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar, among others, have seen to that.
Certainly, Everton are viewed with more respect than was the case back in 2002 but Moyes, who is still seeking a first win behind enemy lines, believes this journey still has a long way to go. Everton may have bridged the gap on their fiercest rivals but Moyes is unlikely to settle until it is completely closed and he hopes his footballers can take a step nearer tomorrow in a game that could go a long way to deciding the race for fourth place. “I think it is a sign of progress,” said Moyes. “We are in that mix again and have been in and around it a few times now. We want to keep fighting to get to fourth place. “The squad is quite light at the minute. We are a different football club (from his first derby in charge) and we are looked at in a different light. There are signs that Everton are moving in the right direction. “But we need to keep getting as close to the top teams as we possibly can. We have been edging closer and closer year in, year out. I think it is a compliment to say that the quality of our football has increased. “I still believe we always want to give teams good games. I want us to play good football. But you have to be competitive and we had to bridge the gap from what we had to what Liverpool had. “Now the gap is much closer and it’s allowing us to play better football. We know we have got to go there and do well. It’s an important one against the team that is nearest to us and if we can go there and get a positive result, maybe it will help us on the run in.” The most recent meeting of these two tribes ended in rancour after referee Mark Clattenburg made a catalogue of errors, leaving Moyes enraged and his players feeling cheated. Going to Anfield, though, is not about exacting revenge. “You can’t think like that,” said Moyes, who has demanded cool heads in the heat of battle. “It’s gone. You move on. I think what happened gave us a lot of strength after it because we were united in thinking that we wrongly done to that day. “It would be a tremendous boost. Whoever gets it, whether it would be Liverpool or Everton, will benefit. But we have got closer to them every year. “We have been in fourth for a while this season and we have been there before as well, so we shouldn’t be too surprised about our position. The first priority is, at the minute, to make sure we finish no worse than fifth. That gets us back into Europe.”
Fourth place, however, would be in their hands if Everton could record their first win at Anfield since 1999 and skipper Phil Neville hopes the lure of what could possibly lie in wait for them will enable the Blues to meet this next challenge head on.
“When you play consistently well as we have done all season, you automatically raise the bar of expectation,” said Neville. “Just doing enough now is no longer acceptable at Everton, and we must start to achieve now. “For us to finish fourth in the best league in Europe would represent a wonderful achievement. Certain clubs set out at the start of each season with the aim of winning the Premier League, so for them to finish third or fourth would be a disappointment. “It will mean they have under-achieved. But not us. We know we are unlikely to be crowned champions, but for us to qualify for the Champions League would be great. I feel there will be a few thrills and spills along the way between now and May. “There are too many big games for all the clubs involved for the position not to keep changing. We have just got to make sure we capitalise on any slip-ups that other teams make. We are not favourites for fourth place, but we are going to give it our best shot.”

Barry Horne: Everton may bid to take leaf out of Manchester United book
Mar 29 2008 by Barry Horne, Liverpool Echo
LIKE most Evertonians, it is with mixed feelings that I will be approaching tomorrow’s derby. There will be excitement, obviously, anticipation and no little trepidation, especially with this being the most significant derby match for years.
It’s not just local bragging rights at stake this time; but the bigger prize of finishing above one another and with it, a likely Champions League place next season.
In some ways this is the ideal fixture for Everton at the moment. Against Fulham the players were clearly suffering a reaction from their Fiorentina efforts, and losing that match seemed to dent confidence going into the West Ham game. The team looked uncharacteristically hesitant and nervous in front of another huge and expectant crowd. Because of the unique nature of the derby this might be the ideal opportunity to get that out of their system. The mindset will be completely different than it would be against, say a mid-table outfit, and there will be no time for hesitancy or a lack of urgency. It could be an excellent opportunity to lift ourselves out of a little trough which is developing, although on the other hand you could say the derby has come at the worst possible time. The worry for David Moyes will be the lack of striking options available to him. Just weeks after having three top class strikers on the bench, the Blues boss now has James Vaughan unavailable, Andy Johnson struggling for fitness and Victor Anichebe returning from Africa which resulted in him turning his back on any possible England international career and effectively ruling himself out of a chunk of the season when the African Cup of Nations comes round again.
The situation is also compounded by Tim Cahill’s absence. The 4-5-1 formation would have been a very easy selection for Moyes to make had Cahill been available.
That might still be his preferred system, with the versatile Leon Osman the obvious candidate for Cahill’s role, but the little Australian is one of the best in the business in that position and he will clearly be missed. David Moyes was at Old Trafford last weekend to see the way Manchester United exploited uncertainties at the heart of the Liverpool defence, and while United obviously have fantastic players the system also caused the Reds problems. Everton will hope to replicate that example, but we know it will be very difficult.
Beckham circus way over the top
FABIO CAPELLO’s attempts to prevent the award of David Beckham’s 100th cap turning into a circus should be applauded. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the majority of the English media. I think Beckham has been lucky in some respects to get to the century milestone. I don’t see how Capello can justify his selection on recent form. If the new England coach is trying to treat everybody the same it is difficult to see how you can call up a man who has played hardly any competitive football for almost 12 months. Whilst not wishing to decry Beckham’s achievement – because 100 caps is an incredible milestone – to win 100 caps in the era of Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton and Billy Wright required a much greater combination of longevity and ability. Quite simply they played a lot less international football then.
The furore surrounding Beckham reaching that mark owed more to showbiz than football and personally I found it sickening and unwarranted. From the golden boots to the specially monikered shirt it was all over the top. I’m just waiting for the tattoo to follow . . .

Merseyside derbies in a world of their own
Mar 29 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
THERE have been 206 Merseyside derbies – some sensational, some significant, some deadly dull. This is our own top 10...
1 ELEVEN goals, a hat-trick for Harold Barton, two from Dixie Dean and 41,469 fans left utterly breathless.
The Anfield derby of February 11, 1933 is our number one. Neither side enjoyed a distinguished league season, but while Everton won the FA Cup, Liverpool carried off the local bragging rights.
2 WHO needs a winner when you have an evening as dramatic as this one in 1991?
Four times Liverpool led, four times Everton came back to level . . . including Graeme Sharp’s last goal for Everton and Kenny Dalglish’s last match as Reds boss.
3 NO goals, but memories to cherish of the day the long awaited all-Mersey Cup Final finally became a reality on a wet March afternoon in 1984.
Both sets of fans became impeccable ambassadors for the city on an emotional afternoon of immense civic pride in the capital.
4 JUST as they had done eight months earlier, Joe Royle and Alan Whittle scored at Anfield in November 1970.
But this time the Reds had Steve Heighway, who scored the first, set up an equaliser then watched Chris Lawler crash in an unlikely come from behind winner.
5 RUSH scored one, Rush scored two. etc.
But the first player to hit
four in a Merseyside
derby was the original Alex ‘Sandy’ Young, who put Liverpool to the sword on April Fools’ Day 1904.
6 REDS fans called it the 44-yard derby, after Gary McAllister struck from just that distance – but the previous 93 minutes had seen enough thrills, spills and controversy to fill 44 derbies.
Liverpool led twice, Everton equalised each time, there was a missed penalty, a red card, an astonishing 11 yellows.
7 THE 1977 FA Cup semi-final is most remembered for the ‘goal’ that wasn’t given.
But even Clive Thomas couldn’t spoil a thrilling tie which featured a stunning Terry McDermott chip and Duncan McKenzie nutmegging the Anfield Iron.
8 THE 1979 Anfield derby was described as the match which had everything.
Four goals (one a Mick Lyons own goal from 25 yards!), the first derby dismissals for 83 years and even a streaker.
9 FANS had waited seven years for a ‘proper’ derby - they’d had to make do with Liverpool Senior Cup ties - and 11 years for a league derby as both teams endured spells outside the top flight.
And 72,488 fans watched a 1962 thriller.
10 THE Blues trailed after 20 seconds, conceded two more and looked down and out - before Howard Kendall reshuffled and went hell for leather in September 1985.
Graeme Sharp pulled one back, Gary Lineker another – and though Kenny Dalglish proceeded to fluff chance after chance to make the game safe, he said: “Two committed teams and sets of supporters as well as the referee made it one of the greatest games I’ve ever been involved in.”

It's the sooner the better for unlucky Tim Cahill
Mar 29 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
HOW frustrating that innocuous substitutions always turn out to have the most catastrophic consequences. When Tim Cahill’s evening ended after 11 minutes last Saturday, there was a sense of foreboding as he walked tentatively away that something dire might be wrong and so it has proved. Given that, once again, he has been such an influential figure for Everton this year, he scarcely deserves to have his campaign book ended in such galling fashion – as was the case against Werder Bremen last July, the curse of the metatarsal has struck again. As the pursuit of a Champions League place intensifies, how Cahill’s dynamic presence in midfield will be sorely missed and, perhaps, only his absence with a broken foot bone will prove his true worth to this team. Some supporters have speculated recently that, if a sufficient offer came the club’s way for Cahill this summer, then it may be best to accept it. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but surely cashing in on him would be tantamount to flogging the crown jewels? True, the Australian might not be the most technically gifted member of Everton’s squad but there is more to being a footballer than close control and passing; what Cahill gives is something far more important. The next time he is fit and available for duty and involved in a game that is in a lull, Cahill, invariably, will be the man who gets the crowd going with something, either a tackle, a late dart into the penalty area or a show of aggression. He would have been perfect to have on board during the game against West Ham United last weekend and, as was the case against Portsmouth earlier this month, could have been the man who turned one point into three. Unfortunately, though, it seems his only role in the final few weeks will be that of a frustrated spectator, as Everton’s medical team try to get to the route of a problem that has dogged him for the past 12 months. It was well documented on these pages all he went through to get himself fit first for Australia’s Asia Cup campaign then, after re-injuring himself, for the start of Everton’s assault on the UEFA Cup. Of course, he will go through the pain barrier again to make sure he is fighting fit for the start of the new campaign in August and – if you can take a silver lining from this particularly dark cloud – perhaps the break will ultimately benefit him. In the past four summers, Cahill has played at the Olympic Games, the Confederations Cup, the World Cup and the Asia Cup on the back of rigorous club campaigns. No matter how well conditioned an athlete is or how well he looks after himself, it has to take a toll. “You look for different things,” Cahill said during his rehabilitation last September. “How can I make my body stronger? I have to find ways all the time of keeping myself fit, whether it is doing weights or eating healthily. You could easily let yourself go. “I’ve got to make myself as fit as possible. People asked me would I go to a bigger club after the World Cup when I had had a couple of good seasons with Everton. Then they asked me why did I sign the new contract? For me it is easy. I love it here. “My family is comfortable in Liverpool. I’m happy with the way everything is going. The Gaffer is not just the Gaffer. He’s a mentor to the lads. He has helped me on and off the pitch. My priority now is Everton Football Club.”
Given he has averaged a goal every three games since arriving from Millwall for a bargain basement £1.7m, it is clear Cahill will do all he can to ensure he is better than ever when the first ball is kicked next August. Whether he returns to a side that has Champions League football to look forward to, only time will tell but the sooner Cahill is back, the better. And, all being well, his name will never be mentioned with the word ‘metatarsal’ again.

There’s one more derby yet to come!
Mar 29 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DERBY fever is gripping the city this weekend but tomorrow’s clash at Anfield is not going to be the last meeting between Blue and Red of the season. On Saturday May 10, teams from websites NSNO.co.uk and ThisIsAnfield.com will meet at Drummond Road in Crosby (kick-off 1pm) and both will have the assistance of celebrity goalkeepers. Neville Southall, of course, will be between the posts for the Blues with Bruce Grobbelaar down at the other end of the pitch and both men will be hoping to get their hands on a replica of the FA Cup - the prize for the winners - at the final whistle. The game is being staged for two worthy causes - Everyman Cancer Research and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign - and spectators are encouraged to attend and give their support.

We’re not out of race for fourth– Lee Carsley
Mar 31 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
LEE CARSLEY today shrugged off Everton’s derby disappointment and warned Liverpool: “We can still catch you.” Though the Reds are now hot favourites to claim the fourth Champions League place after their 1-0 victory at Anfield, Carsley has made it quite clear that Everton will not hoist the white flag. Liverpool may have a five-point buffer but, with a couple of tricky assignments on the horizon plus their European commitments, Carsley thinks they could be vulnerable. And, in a message that should stoke the fires of all Evertonians, midfield general Carsley believes if yesterday was the best Liverpool could offer, David Moyes’ side still have a chance.
“It’s never nice to lose but when you lose a game that came from one of our mistakes then it is even more disappointing. It was hard to swallow,” said Carsley.
“We started slowly. The gaffer told us at half-time that we were reacting to things rather than anticipating them and that was a big thing. Liverpool started off on the front foot. “I don’t think this was ever going to be the game that settled fourth place. They’ve got a difficult run-in and we have got games that we think we can win.
“We have always said that if we could hang on to their coat tails, there will come a point where they will lose a couple of games and we can capitalise on it.
“We aren’t going to let things slip. Having played them now, I’m not scared of them one bit. I fancy our chances, really. “In the second half, we outplayed them at times. The only problem was we didn’t create that many chances, which is something that we have got to address.” But, for all his defiance, Carsley knows Everton will have to recapture the sparkle they showed through January and February if they are going to overhaul the Reds. It will be difficult, given the lengthy injury list Moyes has to contend with but Carsley feels it is a measure of Everton’s progress that they made the trip across Stanley Park expecting to get something from the game. “Realistically going to Anfield is always difficult. They are a good team and have spent a lot of money. They have got some outstanding players,” said Carsley, who was involved in an ugly confrontation with goalscorer Fernando Torres in the second half.
“If we had come away with a draw, we would have been buzzing. It just goes to show how far we went with the attitude of not wanting to contain them, we wanted to attack them. “That’s what we tried to do. The squad is stretched at the minute but we have got to worry about the lads who are fit rather than the ones who are injured.”

Liverpool 1, Everton 0 (D, Post)
March 31 2008
By Ian Doyle, Liverpool Echo
OF all the labels that have been attached to Fernando Torres, there’s one that has stuck more than most. Ever since marking his Anfield debut with a clinically-despatched strike against Chelsea in August, the Spanish striker has found himself increasingly compared to the most devastating marksman in Liverpool’s history. So it was perhaps inevitable when Torres further followed in the footsteps of Ian Rush by proving a derby matchwinner yesterday. Rush, appropriately in attendance at Anfield by handing out the player of the month awards at half-time to Liverpool’s youth players, was the scourge of Everton with a remarkable 25 goals in 36 games between the great city rivals. Torres is unlikely to ever match that figure. But the 28th strike of a hugely impressive debut season was enough for Rafael Benitez’s side to strike a potentially decisive blow in the Mersey scrap for fourth place and the final Champions League qualification berth. It was Liverpool’s 100th goal of the season to seal their 3,000th league point at Anfield, and meant Torres equalled a club record of scoring in six successive home top-flight matches. Such landmarks are becoming commonplace for the Spaniard. The greatest surprise yesterday, however, was the ease at which Liverpool were allowed to claim a derby double for the season. This was about as comprehensive a single-goal victory as is possible. And, but for some profligate finishing and the width of a post, Benitez’s side would have been out of sight by half-time before comfortably holding off a belated Everton revival. With history suggesting that results in potentially pivotal league clashes between the Mersey rivals are rarely indicative of the final standings, Everton have no reason to throw in the towel on hopes for fourth place. But, having picked up a solitary point from their last three games, the efforts of another encouraging campaign, in which claims for a top-four finish have been maintained alongside significant progress in both the Carling Cup and Uefa Cup, are evidently beginning to catch up with David Moyes’ side. Shorn of the offensive threat of absent quartet Tim Cahill, Victor Anichebe, James Vaughan and Andrew Johnson, Moyes was left with Ayegbeni Yakubu as the sole striker in Everton’s 16-man squad. Torres’ early opener ruined any intention of digging in and escaping with a goalless draw. And, given the paucity of attacking options on the substitutes’ bench, implementing an alternative gameplan was almost impossible. After the furore surrounding the Goodison derby in October, there was no controversy for Evertonians to grasp yesterday; about the only mistake referee Howard Webb made all afternoon was to harshly book Phil Jagielka for a high challenge on Steven Gerrard. Instead, what the visiting supporters will find difficult to comprehend was the meek surrender of their team. A jaded Everton, who have now won only two of the last 17 derbies and only twice at Anfield in their last 22 visits, lacked the spark, fire and creativity that has been the bedrock of their challenge for Champions League qualification. Derby matches are often determined in midfield and, despite missing the suspended Javier Mascherano, Liverpool were more than equal to the tame physical threat of their neighbours. The petulant reaction of Phil Neville on being substituted with 18 minutes remaining of his 100th league appearance for Everton smacked more of frustration at an impotent team display than yet more personal misery in this fixture. Moyes’ side simply didn’t get going. Indeed, so out of sorts were they during the first half, it begged the question of whether anyone had told them the clocks went forward overnight. Joseph Yobo was the only visiting player to emerge with any semblance of credit, as Mikel Arteta struggled to stamp his authority on the game despite some tactical tweaks and a well-shackled Yakubu hugely disappointing. At the back, their defence confidently coped with the Everton danger from set-pieces, with Martin Skrtel excellent and Sami Hyypia’s imperious display emphasising why the experienced Finn should have been in the starting line-up last Sunday. Pepe Reina was criminally underemployed on his way to keeping a 54th clean sheet on his 100th league game for the club, breaking Ray Clemence’s record of 53 shut-outs during a similar timescale. The only time the Liverpool goalkeeper was forced into a save of note came in the fifth minute when safely guarding a low Arteta shot from 25 yards. But the most heartening aspect of the first half for Everton was that they went in at the break only one goal behind. The game’s decisive moment came in the seventh minute with a goal that should give Yakubu nightmares. After a Gerrard corner had dropped to Xabi Alonso on the edge of the area, the Nigerian appeared to have done the hard work by tackling the Liverpool man. However, a moment’s hesitation was enough for Alonso to win back possession with the ball landing at the feet of the onside Dirk Kuyt to immediately feed Torres, who slotted the ball beyond Tim Howard before Jagielka could challenge. With Everton having only once come from behind to secure a derby triumph since the war, the omens weren’t good for Moyes’ men. And if some of Torres’ team-mates had shown similar clinical finishing, Liverpool would have been out of sight by half-time. Gerrard curled a free-kick wide and Kuyt had a shot blocked by Tony Hibbert and saw the rebound parried wide by Howard after good hold-up play by Torres. Kuyt, though, should have done much better on 25 minutes when he reached Gerrard’s left-wing corner ahead of Neville but didn’t gain enough purchase on his header with Howard out of position, the ball floating harmlessly wide. And Ryan Babel was similarly indecisive moments later when not connecting with an attempted right-foot volley from barely six yards after a fine John Arne Riise cross had dropped over Joseph Yobo. Desperate defending from Lee Carsley prevented Lucas converting Gerrard’s free-kick from the right, while the Liverpool skipper was denied by the width of Howard’s left-hand post after Yobo’s headed clearance from a long Reina kick had fallen invitingly for a 25-yard first-time volley. Liverpool always appeared the more likely to score again and only Yobo’s body prevented Alonso and Lucas adding to the Reds’ advantage, in the closing moments. However, one goal was enough to win the game – and perhaps fourth place with it.

Liverpool 1 Everton 0
Mar 31 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
HOW frustrating that on a weekend when the clocks went forward, Everton were forced to take a step backwards. Though many had dared to dream that the 207th meeting between these old foes would result in the Blues leapfrogging their neighbours and seizing the initiative in the race for the Champions League, unfortunately the opposite was true. Defeat at a predictably subdued Anfield leaves Everton five points adrift of fourth-placed Liverpool and certain observers will feel that a lack of bodies, allied to the fact that fixtures are running out, will ultimately cost them. Certainly there could not be any complaints about the outcome yesterday afternoon as, for all their huff and puff, not once did Everton come close to blowing the Red house down and, perhaps, were fortunate to escape without being on the end of a hiding. But having got themselves into a position where a ticket for football’s promised land is still within their reach, anyone who thinks the Toffees are about to hoist the white flag and settle for finishing ‘best of the rest’ would be advised to think again. As disappointed as the players were as they trudged off to board the team bus, there was also a noticeable defiance, especially from the older members of the squad, who are wise enough to know that run-ins never go as expected. Still, while that attitude is admirable, it would be impossible for the Toffees to escape criticism here as their downfall was just as much to do with their own failings as it was terrific play from Liverpool. It is a long time since they played so badly in a derby.
The first 45 minutes were, from a Blue perspective, utterly wretched.
Second best in every tackle, unable to retain possession for any length of time and devoid of an attacking threat, at times Liverpool threatened to run amok.
Unsettled and unsure, it was so alarming to watch. To have any chance of success in these squabbles, the minimum requirement for a team is to remain composed, focused and solid yet, bafflingly, Everton were clumsy, flustered and slipshod.
Just look at the goal to which they fell behind and were never able to claw back. Ayegbeni Yakubu fatally dithered on the edge of the box, Xabi Alonso fed the unmarked Dirk Kuyt and he sent Fernando Torres skipping through to do the rest.
For a team that had hitherto only conceded 26 times in Premier League combat, it was a woeful piece of defending – completely out of character – and seemed to send those clad in Blue into their shells. Some went missing, paralysed by fear.
Certainly the game could have been over as a contest by the time referee Howard Webb blew for the whistle as Kuyt, Ryan Babel and Steven Gerrard all came within a whisker of giving Liverpool the kind of a scoreline that usually only occurs in a nightmare. That they didn’t was down to some terrific interventions on behalf of Joseph Yobo, who returned from injury to give a towering display at the heart of Everton’s defence and did his best to keep the omnipresent danger of Torres in check.
It says everything, though, when you are focusing on a defender’s tackling ability as being the main plus point; there is no other way to say it – Everton were poor and only forced one routine save from Pepe Reina all afternoon. To say things improved after the break would be true but it would also be clutching at straws. Other than a Leon Osman header that flashed wide, Everton never looked like getting a foothold in the game. Yes, they had plenty of possession but the absence of Andrew Johnson, Tim Cahill, James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe was hugely significant, particularly as the out-of-sorts Yakubu endured his worst performance since moving to Goodison.
With no cutting edge and no options on the bench to cause Liverpool’s defence any trouble, it was galling to see the Toffees limp over the line but the challenge facing Moyes and his players now is to ensure this campaign does not fizzle out.
Everton are not renowned for being the strongest finishers – the 2003-04 and 2004-05 campaigns were particularly barren in April and May – and there will be fears in certain quarters that three games without a win means they are on a slippery slope again. Heaven knows, the pain of this disappointment will take time to heal but it cannot be a fatal wound to ambitions because too much hard work has been put in during the winter months for things to start going wrong now. After the last derby defeat in October, Moyes saw his players string together a 13-game unbeaten run and if they can take something from each of their last six matches, qualification for Europe will be comfortable. Mark Clattenburg may have been the catalyst for that sequence but now the Blues need to find the strength from within and ensure this lamentable experience is put behind them at the first opportunity against Derby County next week. Finally, it would be remiss not to mention the abhorrent, spiteful chanting from both ends of the ground. There was a time when the banter from the terraces was genuinely funny, now it is nothing short of revolting. Both sets of supporters were as bad as each other, with chants about Gerrard, Yakubu, Joleon Lescott and Michael Shields making the skin crawl. What kind of example do the men who participate in senseless taunting set to the children they stand alongside? It’s incidents such as those – not to mention Phil Neville being punched in the back when he took a throw in over on the Centenary Stand touchline – which now make this the least relished fixture on the list. Friendly derby? Try not to laugh.
Man of the match: JOSEPH YOBO - Head and shoulders above the rest of his team-mates, made a number of crucial interventions. Lee Carsley was reliable but other contenders were conspicuous by their absence

Fight for fourth goes on roars David Moyes
Mar 31 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES has refused to give up the fight for fourth place, despite yesterday’s 1-0 derby defeat leaving them five points adrift of their closest rivals.
“The fight goes on. Definitely,” rapped Moyes. “I’ve just said to the players there it’s great that Everton are involved in matches which give us a chance of making the Champions League. They’ve had a wonderful season and I’ve no doubt they’ll hold it together. “They’re a really good group of players. They could have given it up today but they didn’t. They don’t lose very often. They’re tight. Don’t concede many goals and the disappointment today is that we didn’t create any chances.” Fernando Torres’ sixth minute strike has created clear daylight now between the Mersey rivals.
“A five point advantage at this stage of the season is a great advantage to have,” added Moyes. “But I’ve got teams five points behind me and I’m looking over my shoulder saying I hope we do well enough to stay away from them. “So if I feel like that I’m sure teams five points ahead of us will be feeling the same.” The Blues were left short of striking options with Victor Anichebe joining Andrew Johnson, James Vaughan and Tim Cahill on the treatment table. That left Yakubu as Everton’s only available striker and the Blues boss added: “In January we had five strikers, but we sold James McFadden, we had James Vaughan, Andy Johnson and Victor Anichebe down today and even a player who can play up there quite comfortably, Tim Cahill, is injured as well. “But I wouldn’t make that an excuse. I’m not looking to use that in any way as an excuse for the result, but obviously it would have helped. “You can see why Liverpool can get away with playing one man up there like that, because Torres does the job of two men at times. “But we lacked penetration. We needed better movement up front. I think Yak’s part in the goal might have affected him. “But in the second half we had a couple of moments.” Yakubu was dispossessed for the Reds goal and Moyes went on: “It was a disappointing goal to give away, not just Yak getting caught on the ball. We could have cleared it but we were maybe a wee bit naïve in trying to run out so quickly and counter attack from the corner before we had got secure possession. “It left Torres with acres really to score. “I think the goal gave them the impetus and we had to hang in. But I was pleased that we did hang in, we got through to half-time and didn’t concede again. “That gave us a chance to try and build on it a little bit more than we did in the first half.”

A mean time for David Moyes as Liverpool turn back clock
Mar 31 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
THE clocks went forward in the small hours of Sunday morning. But in the extra hour of daylight it produced, Liverpool turned them back again. For most of this season Everton have threatened to overturn the established order at the top of the Premier League. But on an afternoon far more one-sided than the single goal scoreline suggests, Liverpool looked like a team for which fourth place is the minimum possible requirement this season. Even though a gap of five points is significant, if not insurmountable, the Premier League momentum now is undeniably with the Red half of the city. And there’s still the small matter of a Champions League campaign to consider. Liverpool look well equipped to handle both at present. The margin of victory might have been narrow, Fernando Torres’ sixth minute strike the solitary goal. But the Reds should have blown their rivals away during a dominant first half display; Torres scored, Gerrard hit the post, Babel played an air shot in front of goal from Riise’s cross and Dirk Kuyt slashed well wide from an inviting position.
Everton offered next to nothing in reply, and even though they improved after the break, Pepe Reina was still not called upon to make a serious save, while Tim Howard performed heroics to keep out Steven Gerrard. This is the time of the season when big hearts – and even bigger squads – is necessary. While Liverpool have both, Everton are struggling desperately with the latter. They went into yesterday’s match well short of firepower. The absences of Tim Cahill and James Vaughan were already known and catered for, but the withdrawals of Andrew Johnson with a groin strain and Victor Anichebe with an illness picked up in Nigeria in midweek must have come as a crushing blow. Johnson’s pace in particular was a commodity sorely lacking in the Blues front line as Sami Hyypia and Martin Skrtel locked the isolated Yakubu up with all the effectiveness of Kremlin jailers. The only changes David Moyes could make were tactical shifts inside the same framework. His substitutes’ bench was made up of full-backs and a couple of on-loan midfielders who, in all likelihood, won’t be around at the club in six weeks’ time. Liverpool, on the other hand, enjoyed a mix of international defenders, midfielders and strikers all nagging away at the manager for the chance of a run-out. It was a tribute to the way Liverpool played that Rafa Benitez only felt compelled to introduce them in the dying minutes as a time-wasting tactic.
Right from the off Liverpool looked the more penetrating, purposeful and precise outfit. Everton used Pienaar, Arteta and Lescott as a kind of left wing triangle to try and exploit the out of position Jamie Carragher. It didn’t work as Carragher enjoyed an impressive afternoon. Yakubu was reported to have struggled the night before the match with a stomach upset. That was nothing compared to the sickening feeling he must have experienced in the pit of his stomach when he tried to casually turn and dribble on the edge of his own penalty area. It was a risky manoeuvre, and the danger was manifested when Alonso poked the ball through to Kuyt, who swept it onto Torres and Anfield’s lion rampant did what he has done in each of his previous five home matches, clipping the ball confidently past Howard. That was effectively that.
All too often after derby matches the performance of the match officials is the major talking point. Happily this time it wasn’t. Howard Webb didn’t call everything right – notably a couple of corner decisions which went against Everton – but he got all the big decisions correct and allowed everyone to enjoy the performances of the players on show. It was Liverpool’s who enjoyed the limelight most. Everton’s season is still very much alive – the sight of Portsmouth lurking just five points behind them should be all the motivation they need to kick on again against newly relegated Derby next weekend. But for this season, at least, it’s the same as it ever was in the top four of the English Premier League.

Everton in refund promise
Mar 31 2008 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON have promised to refund all supporters who have purchased tickets for next month’s controversially re-arranged home game against Chelsea but can now not attend. The fixture was scheduled to take place on Saturday, April 19, with a 3.00pm kick-off but, despite angry protests from both clubs, the Premier League have ordered that it must take place now on Thursday, April 17 (8.00pm). The switch has been made solely so it can be broadcast live on Sky television and that has enraged both clubs, not least Chelsea, who also have a game against Wigan on the Monday night of that week. But the Blues, who had started selling tickets for the original date, are upset about the disruption it has caused their fans and appreciate that some may not be able to attend the new date. An Everton spokesman said: “We are disappointed that this fixture has been moved to accommodate live television coverage. Both ourselves and Chelsea were initially approached by the Premier League and asked to make representations outlining any concerns. “Everton specifically asked the Premier League to consider the impact on our supporters travelling to Goodison Park, their work schedules and other commitments people may have. “However, we were informed of the decision, despite our representations, that the fixture will be moved. We feel this decision sets an uncomfortable precedent of moving fixtures from a weekend to midweek. While we fully support and back our broadcast partners, we do hope that common sense prevails in the future and sensible alternatives can be reached.” A Premier League spokesman said: “The compilation of the fixture list is complex. It faces enormous pressure from international matches and European competition dates, as well as the need to balance the important requirements of the police and our broadcasters.”

March 2008