Everton ending season on a high
May 1 2007
Academy Football by Chris Wright, Liverpool Daily Post
EVERTON under-18s will bid to continue their fine end-of-season when they travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers today (kick-off 12pm). Neil Dewsnip’s side recorded an excellent 2-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday at Netherton on Friday. That was their fourth win in the last six matches and with just two FA Premier Academy League matches plus a Liverpool Senior Cup final against Tranmere left they will hope to carry on that form. On Friday Everton won thanks to goals from Kieren Agard and Jose Baxter in each half. The side featured a number of schoolboy players but they did very well and Dewsnip’s side could easily have won more handsomely had they converted more of the many chances they created. Agard was put through one-on-one with the Wednesday keeper following good work from Ryan Harpur and Shaun Densmore, with the latter sending the London-born forward in to open the scoring in the 35th minute. Agard almost had a second, but headed Densmore’s cross just wide. Then Baxter had a couple of chances before capping a good performance when taking Ryan Harpur’s pass in his stride and chipping the keeper from 30 yards. Schoolboy Moses Barnett, from London, who recently joined from Arsenal was also handed his first start. Coach Dewsnip said: “They were big, strong and powerful and for 20 minutes we had a really competitive game. But we earned the right to play, particularly Ryan Harpur and Shaun Densmore who were outstanding in the middle of midfield.” And on today’s match with Wolves, Dewsnip added: “We are doing okay at the moment. We could be top of the league by July! “Really the season is going to end too soon the way we are playing and the kind of form they are in.” Following today’s match Everton entertain Newcastle United at Netherton (kick-off 1pm) on Saturday for their final league match of the season. EVERTON UNDER-18s: Stubhaug; Elder (Barnett 45), Irving, McCarten, Molyneux; Morrison, Harpur, Densmore, Ilmudia (Hall 80); Baxter (Kissock 75), Agard. Subs: McEntagart.
Liverpool Res 3, Everton Res 1
May 1 2007
Liverpool Daily Post
HARRY KEWELL made an impressive return from injury to help Liverpool reserves to a comfortable 3-1 victory against Everton in the mini-derby at the Racecourse Ground last night. Liverpool settled quickest, and Lindfield squandered a good chance after nine minutes when he failed to direct his header after a good cross by Darby. El Zhar was denied by a fine save from Ruddy shortly after, but a minute later Anderson capitalised on hesitation in the Everton midfield to run through and open the scoring with a cool finish. Spencer almost hit back immediately after en error by Insua, but he couldn’t keep his shot down. He paid the price for his wayward finish less than a minute later when Lindfield released El Zhar, and although the Morroccan was beaten to the ball by Dennehy he appeared to deflect the defender’s clearance past Ruddy into the top corner. Lindfield, Anderson and El Zhar both went close to increasing a rampant Liverpool’s lead, and the half-time whistle couldn’t come quickly enough for Everton, who made two changes at the break. Liverpool waited 10 minutes to make their first change, and it would pay almost immediate dividends when Kewell skipped past two defenders and cut the back for Lindfield to sidefoot in from close range. Agard pulled a goal back for Everton with 10 minutes remaining, blasting a shot past Roberts as the Liverpool defence appealed in vain for offside. LIVERPOOL: Roberts, Darby, Insua, Hobbs, Huth (Kewell 55), Barnett (Ryan 79), Anderson, Spearing, Lindfield (Brouwer 67), El Zhar, Threlfall.
EVERTON: Ruddy, Densmore, Molyneux, Irving, Dennehy, Harpur (Morrison 46), Phelan, Vidarsson, Spencer (Downes 46), Agard, Kissock
Johnson struggles to shake off injury
May 1 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
ANDREW JOHNSON’S hopes of returning to action this weekend are hanging in the balance after David Moyes reported there to be “no change” in his condition.
Everton’s record signing missed last Saturday’s 4-2 defeat against Manchester United after spraining an ankle during the previous week’s 1-0 loss at West Ham.
With the Blues’ European hopes hinging on the outcome of their tussle with Portsmouth, Moyes had hoped to have as close to a full strength line up as possible.
But, while he will be given every chance to prove his fitness, it is looking likely that Johnson – Everton’s leading scorer with 12 goals – will miss out. “There are a few bumps and bruises knocking around the squad but there is no change regarding Andy from before the Manchester United game,” Moyes said today. “We will give him every chance to prove that he can face Portsmouth and we will just have to see how the week goes.” Johnson’s injury could not have come at a worse time, yet Moyes has been delighted with the way James Vaughan has proven to be an able deputy.
“We are really pleased with James,” the manager added. “He had been running with a limp in training last week and we were a bit concerned. “But he is that tough a boy, you never know when he is injured or not because he always tells you that he is fine. I thought his contribution against United was excellent.” Moyes, meanwhile, has not had any contact from his Celtic counterpart Gordon Strachan over a move for James Beattie. After Celtic were presented with the SPL title on Sunday, Strachan suggested that Beattie, a player he knows well from his time as Southampton boss, was a potential summer target. “I know James well but if I was going to do something with him, I would talk to his manager, Davie Moyes, first,” said Strachan. “There’s a lot of names, a comprehensive list and, for all I know, James Beattie's name might be there somewhere.” Beattie has struggled for this season and has only scored two penalties, the last of which came during a 2-0 win over Sheffield United on October 21.
If the offer is right, it is likely he will be allowed to move in the summer – Blackburn Rovers continue to monitor his situation – but, as yet, Everton have not been approached.
AJ may still play Euro role
May 2 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON are still hopeful that Andrew Johnson will play a part in their push for Europe even though he must undergo surgery to rectify a long standing ankle problem.
The Blues’ record signing hobbled out of the 1-0 defeat at West Ham ten days ago after spraining his right ankle, but it is the opposite joint which is causing concern.
Johnson has a bone growth that is causing huge discomfort and surgery is required to deal with it, meaning he will miss England’s Euro 2008 qualifier with Estonia in June as well as the friendly against Brazil at Wembley later this month. Once he undergoes surgery, Johnson will face a race against time to be ready for pre-season training on July 1 yet, ironically, he could still be involved in Everton’s two remaining matches against Portsmouth and Chelsea. Meanwhile, reports from East Anglia continue to gather pace that Ipswich boss Jim Magilton will move to bring Richard Wright back to Portman Road at the end of the season. Wright’s contract will not be renewed once it expires in June and he has been given the all clear to start looking for a new club.
One man, however, who will not be leaving Goodison Park this summer is Phil Neville. Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock is keen on signing Everton’s captain and could make an approach if the Blades stay up. Everton, though, have no intentions of parting company with Neville. “What you need in your squad if you want to be successful is a number of players who can be consistent,” David Moyes said today. “Phil Neville has done that this year and we have been really pleased with him.
“Along with the likes of Lee Carsley and Joseph Yobo, he has been really steady and while they may not be the type of players who do really flashy things, they never let you down.”
May 3 2007
Has Manuel Fernandes done enough to earn a contract?
HEARD the one about the lad who has played fantastic for us since he arrived, scored a cracker on Saturday but got slated by the local press for having a ‘bad game’? You have now and it’s highly amusing to say the least. Of course Fernandes is worth a contract, his performances have easily warranted one but you do wonder with this sudden question if there’s any hidden motives here? Okay, he didn’t have a fantastic game on Saturday, but who did stand out? He did what he had to do, he passed well, kept the ball when needed and scored a fine goal, what else could he have done? To stand out in such a game against Man United you have to be truly special and, usually, at your peak. He’s only 21 and in his first year in a foreign country. So, the motives? Maybe, we can’t afford him and things have been whispered to those special ones called the media to tell us he’s not worthy of a contract.
KEN STEWART, St Helens
UNLUCKILY, Manuel scored a memorable goal in a match that most of us would like to wipe from our collective memory. But ask yourself, how many players have we got who could score a goal of that quality? (mind you, did you see the goal Simon Davies scored on Sunday? Perhaps we should sign him up!)
It’s an absolute no-brainer that we should try and keep Fernandes. He has class, which is a commodity in short supply in the majority of Premiership squads. It’s suggested that the price tag is likely to be prohibitive, but the fact is we would struggle to find someone else of similar ability, who would sign on the dotted line.
My only concern is that if we haggle and procrastinate over the purchase, someone else will snatch him from under our noses and treat their fans to many more memorable goals. Finally, a sad farewell to my boyhood hero. I had red hair, but I didn’t care, because Alan Ball did too. GEOFF HARRISON, West Derby THERE’S no doubt that Fernandes is an exciting player to watch. His skill on the ball is fantastic, not to mention the goal he scored against Man United. However, the way he faded in and out of the game on Saturday made some fans ask if he was committed enough.
Having said that, he’s still only 21 and at his age he still has a lot to learn. There was no problem with his contribution against Arsenal and so perhaps on Saturday he just had an off day. The key to whether or not he’s worth signing is the transfer fee and how big a hole it will make in Moyes’ summer budget. If we get into Europe we desperately need to increase the size of our squad and even if we don’t qualify, we still need players in key positions so we can turn draws in games we have dominated this season into wins next season. Portsmouth is a crucial game if we’re going to qualify for Europe and we need every player to give their all on Saturday. HANNAH BARGERY, Widnes
FERNANDES has been another excellent addition to the squad since he arrived in January. He’s one of the few players in our squad who is truly comfortable on the ball and he showed on Saturday he has a cracking shot. Similarly, we need that extra flair player as there is so much reliance on Arteta to be the creative one. He has improved as the second half of the season has progressed but by no means is he the finished article and at times has proven a bit lightweight in the middle. The £8m to £10m price tag being banded about is too high given that he has yet to achieve anything prior to his arrival. However, for a more realistic price I would urge Moyes to sign him. I think Fernandes could play anywhere in the midfield, just like Arteta can. Together with the return of Cahill from injury, our midfield would look very strong indeed for next season. STEVE SHONE, Wallasey
Turner latest to sign new deal
May 3 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON today wrapped up their third ‘signing’ in the past 24 hours – as Iain Turner put pen-to-paper on an improved new deal. With young striker James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe agreeing terms on contracts that will keep them at Goodison Park until 2011 last night, the Blues wasted no time in ensuring that Turner followed suit. The 23-year-old might have had an unfortunate experience during last weekend’s 4-2 defeat against Manchester United but he is held in the highest regard by David Moyes and his staff and they were anxious to secure his future. Turner has recently returned from a successful loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday and with Richard Wright set to leave Everton in the summer, the Scotland under-21 international will start next season as Tim Howard’s understudy. “It has been a not bad couple of weeks it has to be said,” said Turner. “Luckily I was given a chance to go over and play at Wednesday. It is a big club and we had some big games and I thought I did well.
“I did enjoy my spell there and first team football is great but Everton is a very big club, they have offered me this contract and it is my ambition to become the number one here.” Howard, who has enjoyed a successful first year on Merseyside, will make an immediate return to the first team on Saturday against Portsmouth and has two games to equal Neville Southall’s Everton record of 15 clean sheets in a Premiership season. Given the form he has shown since his move from Manchester United, it would appear the United States international will be Everton’s first choice keeper for the foreseeable future, but Turner intends to put as much pressure on his team-mate as possible. “Tim (Howard) has been phenomenal this year and he deserves the number one spot but I intend to be fighting for it,” said Turner. “I have signed a two year extension to the two years I had left on my contract and I would like to think that in four years time I will be playing week in, week out. “I had a good experience with Wednesday but it is here that I want to make my mark and I am looking forward to doing that.” Blues boss David Moyes, who is monitoring Joey Barton’s situation at Manchester City, is delighted that the business has been wrapped up swiftly with three players he has no doubt will play a key role for Everton in the next few years.
“They are important signings,” said Moyes. “They have all done well.”
Everton 3, Portsmouth 0 (Echo)
May 7 2007
by David Prentice
AFTER weeks of looking nervously over their shoulders, everyone was looking forward at Goodison Park on Saturday. New kit, new young strike-force, new European campaign to plan for . . . surely now is the time for fans to consider a bright Blue future. Evertonians are an understandably wary bunch. They’re too practised in the art of false dawns to be anything other. But while all too often final home games of the season have been times for reflection, times to look back and analyse where it all went wrong, this season is different. Everton have kicked on admirably since the briefest of blips in January – and on Saturday they all but ensured European football at Goodison Park next season. Watford did their bit with an unlikely win at Reading, but Everton helped themselves with a riotous second half display which totally exposed Portsmouth’s own European credentials. “We were without several key players,” the South Coast club complained afterwards. True. So perhaps it was as well that Andrew Johnson and Tim Cahill were sat in the Main Stand watching in wonder as Mikel Arteta and Manuel Fernandes produced the kind of creative, carefree football Evertonians once considered to be their birthright. On occasions it was just a little overdone. But no-one minded, because this was how finishing lines are supposed to be crossed – arms in the air with a triumphant salute, not stumbling, exhausted, gasping for air. A 3-0 second-half demolition was just reward for an Everton performance which got better and better as the afternoon wore on. But then, this Everton are learning lessons all the time. The reaction to clinching fourth place two years ago was to go on an almighty bender. No-one doubted it was deserved, but the hangover was a 7-0 hiding at Highbury which tempered the summer’s celebrations. On Saturday, with UEFA Cup football all but assured, the focus immediately switched to Stamford Bridge and the chase for fifth place. Portsmouth were swept aside by a combination of wise old-heads like Stubbs, Carsley and the redoubtable Phil Neville, and talented young teenagers like James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe. “You’ll never win anything with kids.” Perhaps not, but the future tends to look a whole lot brighter when you’ve got the vibrancy of youth to call on. Everton Football Club were just about to embark upon one of their rare European excursions when Alan Hansen deliberated famously on Manchester United’s title prospects. Ironically Phil Neville, now a mature, worldly wise old pro, was one of those kids beaten 3-1 at Villa Park – and he understands the benefit of youth more than most. “When you’re young and you come into the team there’s no pressure on you, you play without fear,” he explained. “James and Victor are so hungry to do well. What a future they’ve got at this club if they keep progressing and keep listening to the manager and the senior players.” There’s that word again, future. Many of Everton’s heroes this season are all the right side of 30. From the calm and reassuring presence of Tim Howard in goal – to the man of the season, Joleon Lescott, the creative heartbeat Mikel Arteta and the omni-present goal threat of Johnson and Cahill. The last two were unavailable on Saturday, but ultimately it didn’t matter. The tension was palpable in a first half when Portsmouth looked the more considered, thoughtful side. Anxious Everton lofted long balls towards the always eager Anichebe and Vaughan far too frequently. Ironically that approach did produce one glorious chance. Anichebe headed on Howard’s punt, Vaughan read it perfectly and sprinted clear of the covering defence, but with David James horribly exposed he sliced a left-foot shot a foot wide of the target. Vaughan continued to chase, harry and probe - despite yet another harsh booking – and he was rewarded in the 57th minute. The youngster lobbed the ball confidently over Linvoy Primus’ head, then used his pace to spark panic stations in the Pompey defence. Glen Johnson panicked most and mistimed a tackle which yielded a penalty. Mikel Arteta did the rest. Three minutes later the celebrations really began. Ultimately the goal came from another set-piece, Joseph Yobo escaping Djimi Traore’s attentions to head in Manuel Fernandes’ corner, but that set-piece had been forced by thrilling, thoughtful approach play. Mikel Arteta sidestepped and slalomed away from his marker, before piercing a devastating through ball into the heart of the Pompey defence. Vaughan clipped the ball under James, but the goalkeeper’s touch just took the ball away from the inrushing Anichebe. No mind, the resulting corner effectively settled the match and it was time for the party pieces to start. Fernandes and Arteta both show-boated the ball into James McFadden’s possession and he turned sweetly before curling in a left-footed shot just wide of the far post.. The match ended perfectly. Mikel Arteta thought about a time-wasting short corner to Lescott, then shrugged and pinged one in to James Beattie. He headed on, Gary Naysmith lunged in and an unlikely diving header found itself nestling in the Pompey net. It was time for the celebrations to start,celebrations which will hopefully continue for years to come . . .
Everton 3, Portsmouth 0 (D,Post)
May 7 2007
by Ian Doyle at Goodison Park
THE jubilant Everton players hadn’t even finished their lap of honour at a sun-drenched Goodison on Saturday when thoughts already began turning to what lies ahead. But while celebrating the prospect of another European adventure, the question at the back of many minds was who would now be joining David Moyes for the journey on to the continent. It’s a cliché often rolled out at times like this, but a genuinely pivotal summer now looms for the Goodison manager and his squad. When Everton clinched European qualification two years, Moyes was captured on camera for posterity with a flute of champagne in hand while commemorating the achievement of a top-four finish. We all know what happened next. With the new season still in its infancy, Everton had been dumped out of both the Champions League and UEFA Cup and languished at the bottom of the Premiership table. Few would argue that fourth-placed finish was unexpected, and as such the Goodison outfit were, in retrospect, unprepared for the demands that would be asked of them. And even when the squad was strengthened, money was not always spent wisely – Per Kroldrup, anyone? There can be no such excuses this time. During pre-season, the mantra from each player on their target was loud and clear: ‘qualify for the UEFA Cup.’ Comprehensive victory over fellow European aspirants Portsmouth at the weekend means, notwithstanding a collection of freak scorelines on Sunday’s final day of the campaign, Everton have deservedly achieved their aim. The task now will be to ensure this foundation is not wasted, and such success becomes the accepted norm over the coming years. It’s going to be a big summer for the club,” said Alan Stubbs, among those Everton players whose futures will be decided in the coming weeks. “There are players who will be leaving, players who are out of contract, there will be rebuilding, and it’ll all depend on how much the club can spend. “The players that are here now have set a platform for us to build on. It will be hard to say one summer will determine whether we qualify for Europe regularly in the next few years. “But we are going in the right direction and we need to keep going in that direction. “There has to be investment on a few players and the squad. “We are going into a European campaign and it would be impossible to accommodate that with the squad we have at the moment.” How true. Even with the lack of European commitments and a lengthy run in either domestic cup competition, Moyes concedes there have been times when Everton’s threadbare squad has been stretched to breaking point. The arrivals last summer of Andrew Johnson, Joleon Lescott and Tim Howard were a significant step in building a team that can become firmly ensconced in the top third of the Premiership. Provided sufficient financial backing is again forthcoming from the board, European qualification will make attracting players of similar calibre much easier for Moyes. But there will no doubt also be some scrabbling around the bargain bin for purchases and loan deals to guar-antee Everton have at least the numbers to compete on four fronts. “I would say we have stronger foundations for Europe than two years ago,” added Stubbs. “We brought in some really good players last year who have done well for the team. “The way they have played has been a big bonus, and we’ll need the same again next season. “We have players who we need to tie down with new contracts, the likes of Mikel for example. “That’s why I think there are a lot of crucial decisions to be made this summer.” Some have already been made, with long-term contracts last week agreed with teenage strikers James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe – both of whom started on Saturday with Johnson having failed to overcome an ankle problem – and highly-rated goalkeeper Iain Turner. Stubbs will almost certainly also be kept on for another season, while Everton will make a new deal for the talismanic Mikel Arteta a matter of urgency. However, Saturday was perhaps a last Goodison hurrah for several squad members. Midfield reinforcements are a priority given Everton won’t be taking up the option of buying the on-loan Manuel Fernandes, while few would be surprised if James Beattie begins next season elsewhere, Moyes again keeping tabs on Preston North End striker David Nugent yesterday. Richard Wright and Alessandro Pistone will depart, although a lack of defensive options may mean left-back Gary Naysmith stays on despite interest from Rangers. The Scotland international came off the bench to score his first goal in more than three years on Saturday to underscore an excellent performance after the break from Moyes’s men. Mind you, the less said about the first half the better. With nerves clearly affecting both teams, Portsmouth shaded the opening period with Everton belting too many long balls forward, although the home side did create the best opportunity from one when Vaughan screwed horribly wide with just David James to beat after Anichebe flicked on a long Howard punt. Everton’s supporters had been as tense and twitchy as their players, but the raucous backing Moyes had called for arrived in the second half as Harry Redknapp’s side were swept aside by an Arteta-inspired display. “I said this was a must-win game, so I couldn’t ask for much more from the players,” said Moyes afterwards. “And I’ve got to say the supporters made a big difference. “It felt like a real proper football club. The fans reacted magnificently during the game and after it.” Arteta had already created a gilt-edged chance thrashed wide by Carsley when he tucked away a 59th-minute penalty after the livewire Vaughan had slipped his way beyond Linvoy Primus and was felled by Glen Johnson. Three minutes later, Joseph Yobo leapt above Djimi Traore to head in a right-wing Fernandes corner between James and Johnson on the line. As the Nigerian celebrated his second goal of the season, the Portsmouth players jabbed fingers at each other. Having surrendered a two-goal lead the previous week against Manchester United, Everton were determined there would be no repeat and they sealed the win in injury time when Beattie flicked on an Arteta corner for fellow substitute Naysmith to dive in and head home from inside the six-yard area. “I’ve got my own personal ambition, and that’s to manage in Europe,” added Moyes. “We didn’t do so well last time, but you have to take into account who we drew in the qualifying round (Villarreal) and where they got to that year (to the semi-finals of the Champions League). The game in Bucharest was a one-off and hopefully it won’t happen again “That disappointment lingered, but the biggest disappointment was (Pierluigi) Collina not giving the goal (for the foul by Ferguson in the second leg against Villarreal). “You know how football changes.” Now Everton and Moyes have the opportunity to change their European fortunes for the better next season.
Everton eyeing Senior Cup win
May 8 2007
Academy Football by Chris Wright, Liverpool Daily Post
FOLLOWING an entertaining end to the FA Premier Academy League season Everton under-18s look for a silver lining to their campaign in the Liverpool Senior Cup final. Everton completed their league season with a 3-3 draw despite leading 2-0 and 3-1 against Newcastle United at Netherton on Saturday. Neil Dewsnip’s side are on a five-match unbeaten run as they go to Prenton Park to face Tranmere Rovers this evening in the Liverpool Senior Cup final (kick-off 7.45pm). In a season of several positives including the progression to first team and reserves level of former and current Academy players, Everton will be all out to land a trophy this evening to cap that. Dewsnip said: “It would be a nice way to finish the season, by winning a trophy. It is also nice to play on a proper stadium like Prenton Park. You hope the lads perform well, and I have to say if we perform like we did against Newcastle they will have a big chance of winning and I’ll be delighted.” In that final league game on Saturday Everton appeared to be finishing with a superb performance and victory, but two late goals from the Magpies meant they had to settle for a point in a 3-3 draw. Steven Morrison scored his second goal in as many games when he gave Everton the lead from the penalty spot on 20 minutes after Kieran Agard was brought down. Then 10 minutes later John Paul Kissock scored a superb individual goal to double the lead. Magpies forward Glenn Reay scored a close-range effort to reduce the arrears against the run of play just before the break. The visitors hopes of a comeback looked to be dashed 10 minutes into the second half as Kissock scored a second after Agard forced the Newcastle keeper into an error and his team-mate pounced on the loose ball to finish it off.
But with four minutes left Jonny Godsmark gave Newcastle hope to bring the score to 3-2 and deep into injury time Reay scored his second to claim an unlikely point. Everton ended the season in sixth place in the North West Group C table 35 points behind runaway winners Manchester City. Dewsnip said: “We played well for 86 minutes and then had four minutes of madness. It is incredibly frustrating but kind of sums up the season in a way. “It could have been 10, that wouldn’t have flattered us, but then they got a goal after 86 minutes from our own free-kick around the edge of their area and broke away to score. “Then for some reason it was panic stations in the last few minutes and they scored from a long throw.” Last Tuesday Everton fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Wolves. With several players having played the previous night in the reserve derby defeat to Liverpool, Wolves took the lead and then doubled their advantage soon after. Everton also had to readjust after Jose Baxter was forced off with an injury to be replaced by Kissock. The substitute combined with John Irving to set up Irish forward Aidan Downes, who reduced the arrears with five minutes before the break. Everton equalised with 15 minutes to go through a superb 25-yard free-kick from Morrison. Substitute Agard almost snatched a winner with two efforts late on but in the end they had to settle for a well-earned point.
EVERTON UNDER-18s (v Newcastle): McEntagart; Irving, Rodwell, Elder, Molyneux; Morrison, Connor (Hall 85), Harpur, Densmore; Kissock, Agard (Spencer 75).
EVERTON UNDER-18s (v Wolves): Jones; Irving, Stewart, Dennehy, Molyneux; Ilmudia (Densmore 45), Harpur, Morrison; Baxter (Kissock 35), Downes; Agard (Hall 45). Subs: McEntagart.
This time Everton will get it right in Europe
May 8 2007
by Mark Lawrenson, Liverpool Daily Post
A FEW reasons why Everton fans shouldn’t have to worry about next year’s journey into Europe turning into the holiday from hell that the last one was. Firstly, I can’t believe they will get such a bum draw that they had last time in trying to qualify for the Champions League. Villarreal – how tough was that? The team that ended up being one penalty away from getting to the final that season. That defeat, and having to put so much effort into facing top Spanish opponents, really set the tone for a poor start to the Premiership and that shot their confidence by the time they were relegated to the UEFA Cup and were thrashed by Dinamo Bucharest. They just couldn’t put the right amount of focus into that tie but I still think that failure can be traced back to their original lousy draw. I just can’t see them being unlucky enough to go through a similar set of unfortunate circumstances this time. Secondly, there are the players. I know a lot of Evertonians are anxious that they won’t have a big enough squad to cope with Europe but David Moyes has made a nonsense of having a small squad of players to pick from ever since he took charge. The key is that he has so many individuals who can adapt to different positions. Joleon Lescott, Mikel Arteta and Phil Neville are just three examples of players who can switch about and cover in various roles when injuries do hit. It’s a measure of how much Moyes’s team have moved on with things like this that even Tim Cahill’s recent injury hasn’t bothered anyone.
When he was first ruled out earlier in the season there seemed to be mass panic circling Goodison that his goals from midfield were irreplaceable. But they managed without him the same way they are doing now and that indicates that the squad is strong enough for a European run. A third reason Evertonians shouldn’t worry is because of the chairman. Seeing first hand Bill Kenwright’s sheer enthusiasm to qualify for Europe, I can’t believe he won’t finance any squad strengthening that does need doing. I really don’t know how the chairman ever sits through a game of football. He watched the game with us in the Match Of The Day offices on Saturday and we had to tell him to quieten down he was shouting and screaming that much – and he only stayed for the first half! But the desperation he was showing for Everton to secure that European place suggests he won’t want to throw it away lightly and he now needs to have faith in his manager’s eye for a signing. I think it’s quality Everton need more than actual quantity and a delve into the Championship again – like he’s done with Cahill, Johnson and Lescott – could be the route he takes again as it has proved so successful in the past. So I don’t think the changes need to be radical. Indeed, keeping Lee Carsley and Alan Stubbs on for next year is a real no-brainer. Players like these have proved invaluable with their experience this season and they will do in Europe, which both missed for various reasons last time. All in all, the outlook towards the continent is looking far more promising this time. THE rights, wrongs or otherwise of the Tim Howard issue prove one thing to me – that the current loan system needs to stopped. Maybe not by the start of next season, but the season after I think there will be major changes – especially as the Premier League is under so much scrutiny over the Carlos Tevez affair.
This loan system has been asking for trouble for while – and now it’s got it.
Spaniard wants a Goodison high five
May 8 2007
by Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
MIKEL ARTETA wants Europe-bound Everton to end the season with a high five.
The Goodison outfit’s 3-0 thumping of near rivals Portsmouth on Saturday effectively assured UEFA Cup qualification. Only an 11-goal turnaround in goal difference with Reading on the final day can prevent David Moyes’s side from securing the required top-seven berth. Everton end the season on Sunday with a visit to FA Cup finalists Chelsea. And Spanish schemer Arteta is eager for a final flourish by earning a result at Stamford Bridge that could ensure fifth place – a position they have bettered only once in the last 19 years, when they finished fourth in 2005. “Even with nothing to play for Chelsea are a great team but we want to finish fifth in the table so let’s see what happens,” he said. “That’s our target now.” Arteta set Everton on their way to victory at the weekend with a 59th-minute penalty after James Vaughan had been felled in the area. But the midfielder admits his nerves were jangling before he stepped up to tuck the spot-kick beyond David James. “Of course you know how important it is for the club and when I saw the ball in the back of the net I took a really deep breath!” added Arteta. “I knew that David James is a big keeper and that it may be difficult for me if he picked up the flight of the ball. “We knew how big a game it was and we knew that we had to be patient. It’s what we’ve done all season and I think we’ve been terrific.
“It was an amazing day for all Evertonians and we all enjoyed it. Reading lost, Bolton lost and only something amazing would stop us now!”
Barton a steal
May 9 2007
Post Soapbox, icLiverpool & Liverpool Daily Post
Barton a steal I FEEL Barton for £5.5million would be a steal. He may have had his ups and downs but there is no denying his quality on the pitch. The lad needs a new start and that could be to play for his boyhood idols. If Moyes can deal with Duncan Ferguson he can deal with Barton. It would be good to see him line up alongside Fernandes but can any one realistically say he is worth £12million. Here's hoping we sign them all up along with Nugent (for the right price) and get Carsley to sign new deal. John Fryer (West Derby) Passionate plea I AM totally for Barton (well about 95%). I really think he is a great player and if the rumours are right that City would let him go for less than £5.5million than it would be an unbelievable steal. Yes he needs to learn to shut his mouth sometimes but I think he will calm down on that front. I also think that if he was happier with his team he would naturally be better behaved. The lad has real passion though and we need a bit more of that raw passion in our team right now. Peter Galloway (Kirkby)
WHY oh why didn't Howard play against United?
There is something not quite right here, unless Moyes and Ferguson agreed to the original loan agreement of honouring a possible handshake or verbal agreement he wouldn't play.
Surely we needed to have won that game?
Fred Patterson (Tuebrook)
I SEE that Iain Turner has also signed a contract extension until 2011.
I know he dropped a clanger against Manchester United that led to a goal, but all keepers, even the greatest of them, drop clangers and make total mess-ups now and again. It probably won't either.
I think Turner has the potential to become a top class keeper and I am glad to have him for on board for the future, even though it will probably be as understudy to Howard.
It is good to see the youngsters committing themselves to the club.
Chris Mahon (Maghull)
Did ex-council boss do nothing to stop Blues leaving city?
May 9 2007
by Catherine Jones, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON fans today accused Sir David Henshaw of doing nothing to stop the club leaving the city. A pressure group formed to stop a move from Goodison Park obtained notes from an apparent meeting at which the then chief executive of the city council and Walton MP Peter Kilfoyle were both said to be present. Representatives from Keep Everton in Our City told a public meeting the document supported their claim Sir David did nothing to stop the club considering a move to Kirkby. But the former council chief executive said he could not remember being at any such meeting and that the notes did not represent his views on the subject. Mr Kilfoyle admitted making the notes as an aid to memory, but also said he could not remember the meeting and could not explain why he wrote Sir David’s name down. The document was given out to 100 guests after one of the MP’s aides accidentally emailed it to KEIOC. It reads: “David Henshaw raised no objection to the possibility of EFC moving to Knowsley. “He indicated that the Central Docks was no longer a potential site, nor was he aware of any other suitable site within the city limits. “Indeed, he believed that only a rebuild on a reconfigurated Goodison Park was a possibility.
“However, he did not believe it to be a commercially viable proposition given the nature of the site.” At the KEIOC meeting in Croft’s social club, Walton, group leader Dave Kelly said: “It beggars belief that the chief executive of Liverpool council was, in 2006, saying we are not bothered if you go. “It is unbelievable that discussions of that nature were taking place in January 2006. “The club only announced themselves in November 2006 that they were in discussions.” “Peter Kilfoyle’s silence is deafening. “You have got a business with a £65m-plus turnover and he has not deemed fit to make any comment. ” Sir David said he could not remember the alleged meeting. He said: “I regularly saw Peter Kilfoyle and other MPs and the problem of Everton was raised. “My stance was that we wanted them to stay and had been working hard on a number of options – including Kings Dock, where I was one of the key advocates. “The city council policy was absolutely keeping Everton and looking at every way we could. “We did the same thing with the training ground and offered the club a site in Belle Vale. “It is nonsense to say I would not object to Everton leaving.” Mr Kilfoyle said: “There was never any big secret about it. It was a relatively bland meeting, which I asked for to find out what was going on. “There was a lot of conversation, but very little substance. “At the end of the day, the club will make a judgement about what is best for the club and I will make a judgement on what is best for my constituency.”
Young Everton side clinch Liverpool Senior Cup
May 9 2007
Tranmere 1, Everton 2
by Andrew Stratton, Liverpool Daily Post Correspondent
EVERTON maintained their hold on the Liverpool Senior Cup last night but not before they were given a tough battle by Tranmere Rovers before a crowd of nearly 700 at Prenton Park. Everton last lifted the Trophy in 2004/05 and the competition was not completed last season. Both clubs effectively fielded their youth side although Tranmere included Steve Davies in addition to Coca-Cola League One weekend hat-trick hero Craig Curran. Everton took a firm grip on the proceedings with two goals in as many minutes before the quarter stage had been completed. John Irving headed wide before Steven Morrison’s corner allowed Jack Rodwell to head in at the near post. Then, 60 seconds on, Morrison raced clear from John Paul Kissock’s through ball to put a low shot past Shane McWeeney for the second. It could easily have been 3-0 on 25 minutes when McWeeney did well to block out an angled effort by Kieran Agurd. Tranmere refused to throw in the towel but Curran was well held for the most part and lacked a good service. Everton were forced into a change shortly after half-time with Darren Dennehy forced off through injury and replaced by Michael Stewart and their re-arranged rearguard thereafter did not look quite so secure. Gornell and Michael Johnston went close for Tranmere before on 57 minutes a 25-yard shot by Olly James deceived Jones to find the left corner. Rovers produced a strong finish. Curran headed onto the top netting and Davies was inches wide on 88 minutes. Then Tom Beahon saw a shot somehow blocked out in injury time as the home side searched in vain to force extra time.
TRANMERE ROVERS: McWeeney; James, Holmes, Johnston, Cresswell; Holden (Blundell, 74), Henry (Denson, 10), Beahon, Davies; Gornell, Curran. Sub: Kennedy.
EVERTON: Jones; Irving, Rodwell, Dennehy (Stewart, 51), Molineux; Connor, Densmore, Phelan, Morrison; Agurd (Downes, 78), Kissock. Subs: Spencer, Harper, Entagart. REFEREE: B Tattan.
Award winner Arteta eager for progress on Blues deal
May 9 2007
by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
MIKEL ARTETA today urged Everton to wrap up his future when he declared that he wants the uncertainty surrounding his new contract to end. The Spanish midfielder was named the Blues Player of the Year for the second season in succession at a glittering awards ceremony at the St George’s Hall last night. And Arteta – who has been consistently linked with a move to Real Zaragoza despite making clear intentions to stay on Merseyside – has admitted he would love to spend the best years of his career wearing Royal Blue. “I’ve already said I’d like to stay, but it’s up to the club now to decide what they want to do with me,” said Arteta. Joleon Lescott was named Players’ Player of the Year while James Vaughan took the Young Player of the Year Award.
May 10 2007
Who is your Everton player of the season?
IN STARK contrast to last year when Mikel Arteta was a clear winner, there are a number of player of the year candidates. Arteta is one; his performance against Portsmouth when he was again our most creative outlet typified his season. Extending his contract should be the board’s main priority this summer such is his importance to the team.
Despite niggling injury problems, Andy Johnson’s pace and movement have been a major factor in our improved goal tally, while Tim Howard’s athleticism and agility have enabled him to display a level of consistency bettered nowhere in the league. My vote, however, would go to Joleon Lescott. Composed and defensively faultless alongside Joseph Yobo before Christmas, he switched seamlessly to left back without the sulking of more high profile ‘stars’ when asked to play out of position. The contribution of these last three indicate the success of David Moyes’ transfer dealings last summer. Dave Spowart, Wavertree
EVERTON’S player of the season is Andy Johnson. It’s tough to pick as Joleon Lescott and Mikel Arteta have both been fantastic this season, but Johnson has made a huge difference. He has changed the way we play and established us as a top 10 side. He made Everton look more of a threat when attacking. We’ve been desperate for a striker of Johnson’s ability to take us onto a new level. He has unbelievable pace, is a clinical finisher and whenever he has the ball something magic happens. He never hides on the pitch and has scored when it mattered, like against Liverpool, Reading and Arsenal. He has fully justified his price tag and there is much more to come from him. Hopefully he will cement himself into Everton legend in years to come but the credit has to go to Moyes. Bringing in Johnson as well as Lescott and Howard was the most intelligent piece of business seen by any manager this season. Ben McGrae, Hunts Cross
THE player of the season award this year has been the hardest to choose yet. We have had fantastic players in all positions, but my choice is someone straight from the School of Science: Mikel Arteta. It is always great to have players performing to a top level but to have a player who has the ambition and desire to perform at the top level, the class to beat any opponents and scores great goals is fantastic for Everton.
There have been times when he has not always been in the game and maybe others have been more reliable, but when he is at the top of his game I don’t think there is anyone better. He has been an absolute revelation this season and without him we would not have got a European place. When Tim Cahill got injured, we needed someone to step up to the plate and be more attacking, Mikel has done that. I don’t think there is anyone who can touch him at the moment. He is a pleasure to watch. Gareth Scott, West Derby
WITH European football virtually assured at Goodison next season, there are a lot of contenders for the player of the season award. Howard has been steady in goal, while defenders Yobo, Lescott, Neville and Stubbs have all had very good seasons. In midfield, Arteta has been involved in everything and deserves every accolade he gets. He is one of the best players I’ve ever seen put on a blue shirt. Youngsters Vaughan and Anichebe have progressed well and next season will be a big test for them.Johnson has proved to all the doubters what a top all-round striker he is and has scored some vital goals for us. But my vote for player of the year goes to someone who has played in every game and given everything to the cause. Lee Carsley has been terrific for us and deserves a lot of credit. It really showed last season when we didn’t have him in the side.
His experience will be crucial and he deserves a crack at European football. Tony Scott, Walton
Spurs draw maintains Everton in fifth
May 11 2007
by Mike McGrath, Liverpool Daily Post Correspondent
EVERTON need to match Tottenham's result on Sunday to finish stay in fifth place in the Premiership. Spurs drew 1-1 with Blackburn Rovers last night to move level on points with Everton, but the Londoners have a far inferior goal difference. However, they will expect to win their final game of the season at home to Manchester City while Everton play across the capital at Chelsea. For Blackburn, their UEFA Cup hopes were ended by failing to win at White Hart Lane last night as Tottenham overturn a one-goal lead with Jermain Defoe's equaliser. Benni McCarthy's 17th Barclays Premiership goal of the season had given Mark Hughes's men a much-needed advantage but the introduction of Robbie Keane from the Spurs' bench turned the tide in the hosts' favour. Keane could have won it for Martin Jol's men when he struck the post in the last minute, but for Rovers winger Morten Gamst Pedersen the result was almost as bad as a defeat. He said: "We worked hard in the first half but we let Tottenham in the game in the second half. "We let ourselves down in the second half. "We didn't keep the ball and gave it away too many times, myself included. "It's frustrating but we're going to work as hard as we can and get ready for the last game at home to Reading and give our fans a good end to the season." Jason Roberts was sent off for two yellow cards late on in the game.
Everton close to Arteta deal - Wyness
May 11 2007
by Paul Walker, Liverpool Daily Post Correspondent
EVERTON chief executive Keith Wyness believes the club are on the brink of securing Mikel Arteta on a new long-term contract. The midfielder, named the club’s player of the year for the second consecutive season this week, has been the target of La Liga clubs Atletico Madrid and Real Zaragoza in his homeland. And although he has two years left on his current contract, Wyness has confirmed that talks about an extension are at an advanced stage. The fact that Everton have qualified for the UEFA Cup has given the club even greater hope of satisfying Arteta’s ambitions. And Wyness said: “We have been in discussions already, in fact we are in constant discussions with Mikel. I know Mikel well and I am sure we will get the right outcome, I have no doubt about that. “And us getting into European football certainly helps. Every player wants to play at the very top, and Mikel especially deserves to be on the European stage.” Arteta has continually said that he is happy at Everton and wants to stay, but he warned after winning the club’s top award that Everton must make the right decisions this summer to move to a higher level. Arteta said: “Now we have European football next season, we must continue to build. “That is massive for the club and for me, we need to take this opportunity now to take the club forward. “We need to make the right decisions in the summer. “We must sign the right people and keep the ones we have got here already. “Then we will see where it takes us. “We must, though, make sure we keep improving. Really we haven’t done anything yet.” Wyness also confirmed that the club are looking to add to the squad. He said: “We will make use of the transfer window, we know what we need to do.” Arteta has said: “I have already said I would like to stay, but it is up to the club now to decide what they want to do with me. “The relationship I have with the crowd is something really special. “They have been really nice with me, I appreciate that and it is something I value because it is not easy to have that kind of thing in football. “I have said many times what I want to do, but now it is up to the club to decide what they want to do. I am happy to stay.” Wyness discussed the Spanish midfielder’s position after officially launching the Everton Way at Goodison Park today, an online coaching service aimed at youth players.
Chelsea 1, Everton 1 (Echo)
May 14 2007
by Dominic King at Stamford Bridge
NOTHING keeps minds occupied like an end of season quiz, so here’s a question to get you going: Does eight points represent the improvement Everton have made this year? Cast your mind backs 12 months and remember the emotions that raced around the hearts and minds of supporters after a wretched 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion on a dank and dismal afternoon at Goodison Park. Anger and frustration were certainly present and it would not be wrong to suggest there were sceptics who thought David Moyes had taken things as far as he could; certainly there were thoughts that the previous year’s fourth-place finish was a flash in the pan. Leaving the pitch knowing they had suffered the ignominy of recording the lowest-ever goals tally in the history of this distinguished club - a pitiful 34 - a number of individuals headed into the summer break with question marks hanging over them. Fast forward to the present day, however, and you will find the situation is completely different. At Stamford Bridge yesterday, Everton’s players left the pitch to great acclaim after a performance that epitomised their efforts since last August. Playing with verve and vivacity, working tirelessly for one another and refusing to give up lost causes, they came within a whisker of shattering Chelsea’s unbeaten Premiership home record that has spanned three seasons. A place in Europe is guaranteed and the squad is in excellent shape but when you compare this season’s table to the one from May 2006, Everton only accrued eight points more than they did after flirting with relegation. Clearly, this is an instance where simple statistics do not tell the full story. Start to look at the goals for and against columns, cast a glance at the players Moyes will go to war with later this summer and decide if eights points represents fair improvement. Happily, fortunes have changed for the better since that meeting with West Brom. Use last summer’s signings as a starting point. Joleon Lescott, Andrew Johnson and Tim Howard have exceeded expectations and will get better and better in Royal Blue. Take Johnson as an example. Having opened up with six goals in his first seven games, it would not have been wide of the mark to expect the England international to break Andrei Kanchelskis’ Premiership scoring record for the club. Unfortunately, though, a series of niggling injuries seemed to stymie his relentless early progress and resulted in him having surgery on his damaged ankle. Granted a clean bill of health next year, there is no reason why he can’t score 20-plus. Certainly his presence in the squad has helped Everton break through the 50 barrier for the first time during Moyes’ tenure but it is not just down to him; it is a prerequisite for any side wishing to be successful to share goals around and that has happened. From back to front, Everton have had 14 other players chipping in with goals at crucial moments and one of those individuals - Joleon Lescott - has got every attribute needed to become a top defender for a long, long time. With Steve McClaren recognising Lescott’s talents - a place in England’s B team against Albania on May 25 beckons - few would dispute that Moyes plucked a sparkling gem out of the Black Country 12 months ago. In many ways, nevertheless, the task facing Lescott is now similar to the one facing his team; being outstanding for a season is one thing - reproducing that quality again and again and again is the hard part. Can that happen? There’s no reason why not. Lescott is not the type of individual who would allow success to go to his head, which augurs well for his development, while it is a long time since Everton have been in as prosperous a position on and off the pitch. Lescott and Johnson aside, the Toffees have the nucleus of a squad that will get better and better the longer it stays together and with the right investment between now and August, they will push on again. The board of directors may have its detractors but they have never let Moyes down when he has wanted cash for a player and that will continue to be the case for as long as he is at the helm. They know, as do many others, that Everton are on the verge of big things. How many other teams have been to Stamford Bridge and tried to grab matters by the scruff of the neck since Mourinho arrived from FC Porto? Bold and brave from the start, Everton were certainly not daunted by reputation. Some will say that having secured a UEFA Cup spot, it was obvious they could express themselves more freely than they might have done had there been something riding on the game. Rubbish. Everton made the trip south seeking the result to guarantee fifth place. It was an approach that could and should have paid off. Where their hosts were pragmatic and lacking imagination, Everton were the exact opposite as little zephyrs Leon Osman, James Vaughan and Mikel Arteta breezed around Chelsea’s defence at will. The only surprise was that it took until after half-time for Everton to take the lead but when the goal did arrive it was worth the wait; Osman and Arteta skipped past despairing tackles before ushering Vaughan towards goal with a delightful ball. He made no mistake. But should we be surprised? Since Moyes took the decision to pitch him against Arsenal on March 18, Vaughan has not looked back. Expect big, big things from this young man in the coming years. Had fortune been on his side, he would have had a second goal to shout about but Petr Cech reacted superbly to paw an acrobatic volley out from under the bar. That proved to be the game’s turning point. If Chelsea had fallen two goals behind, it would have been difficult to see them clawing the deficit back but they were given a helping hand as referee Mark Halsey missed a blatant foul on Arteta in the run-in to Didier Drogba’s equaliser. Moyes was so enraged that he raced on to the pitch to remonstrate and, not surprisingly, he was banished to the stands. No wonder he was so upset - the decision ultimately deprived Everton of the chance to win the league within the league. So another end of season game sees some Evertonians feeling angry and frustrated again but, thankfully, for much different reasons. And it’s safe to say those emotions won’t last too long.
Why? Come September, everyone’s going on a European tour.
Chelsea 1, Everton 1 (D,Post)
May 14 2007
Nick Smith at Stamford Bridge
THE embarrassing travesty that took up virtually all of Saturday night’s BBC1 schedule might make you think going into Europe isn’t such a good idea after all. But then with the dawn of Sunday, and the slow sobering up from that dreadful hangover, came a day that made you long to see more of the world beyond these shores.
And that’s not just because the initial weather was so terrible that Bill Kenwright would have had to rush back across town to the ‘Joseph’ auditions to see this many drips. It’s to do with the fact that when one Everton season ends with an over-riding feeling of optimism and a fist-clenching desire to get cracking with the next one, you know things have gone pretty much to plan. Fitting then that by the end the clouds had long lifted and the summer was welcomed in with open arms by the customary May sunshine. So now, unlike a British song contest entry, getting a chance to strut your stuff on the continent can only be a good thing. Particularly on yesterday’s evidence. Everton all but secured their UEFA Cup place a week early but Stamford Bridge was the stage for a rousing encore before the final curtain came down. David Moyes’s side caused Chelsea the kind of problems few can on their own ground and gloriously avoided the kind of post-European qualification lapse that proved so humiliating at Highbury two years ago. A much stronger and steadier finish to this campaign than that one suggests European waters shouldn’t be as treacherous. You can’t see them blowing it as badly as they did last time. The squad will be bigger, should be stronger and the experience of last season’s all-too- brief excursion will stand the survivors in better stead. Having most of this current crop – who finished sixth after failing to match Tottenham’s three points yesterday – in the luggage can only help that journey go more smoothly too. But it doesn’t even matter if the European campaign falls as flat as the last one. It’s cup-tie football and anything can happen, so there’s precious little point in worrying about it now. Everton might get a run going and storm their way to the final. They might crash out catastrophically in the first round again. Either way it will be an adventure and should be enjoyed whatever happens. The point is, at this stage it’s irrelevant. That’s all for the future.
Here and now is what is important and by merely qualifying Everton have re- established themselves as a top- flight force, a fact that should be celebrated and enjoyed. Nobody needed to tell the joyous travelling supporters, the ones who – unlike the bizarre booing Goodison masses of Tottenham, February 28 – give a true representation of the on- field progress of the side. And Moyes? Even being sent off couldn’t disrupt his day. He merely clambered over the fence to sit with the Chelsea fans but was no further away from his bench than he was before Mark Halsey dismissed him for over- zealous, yet totally justified, protests to Dider Drogba’s equaliser. The Everton manager’s mood following an apparent foul by Paulo Ferreira on Mikel Arteta went from angry to apoplectic when, seconds later, Drogba steered in Shaun Wright- Phillips’ cross and Moyes started the final-day pitch parade more than half an hour early. But one thing he won’t be complaining about is how much his team has improved considerably from this time last year and a continued failure to win at Stamford Bridge – now 12 seasons – isn’t going to change that. The statistics say that they are eight points better off than 12 months ago, the goal difference has gone from minus 15 to a remarkable plus 16, all adding up to a healthy leap of five places. Only being denied the honour of inflicting Jose Mourinho’s first defeat in the Premiership at Stamford Bridge by a couple of questionable decisions – the second seeing James McFadden wrongly flagged for offside when following up Cech’s late save from Carsley – nicely sums up the season’s work. From the start, Everton’s tackling and organisation was as sharp and well-drilled as ever, although things could have been different if Drogba had at times shown more composure in his race to be the first player to 20 Premiership goals this season. Aside from the odd threat from him before he finally secured the Golden Boot, Everton kept Chelsea pretty well contained thanks to the dogged determination of Lee Carsley and Phil Neville to break up, and Mikel Arteta and Leon Osman to open up, the play. In short, the elements that underpinned most of what was good about 2006-07 turned up to say their goodbyes. Manuel Fernandes, possibly waving his last one, was composed in possession while James Vaughan’s relentless routing of John Terry shows he has the attitude and aptitude for the lone striker role. In fact, if anyone does want to dwell on the future, Vaughan is the ideal place to start. His 50th-minute opening goal was gloriously conceived and executed, Arteta skipping through the middle to release Osman, whose ball was expertly slotted home by the teenager. He could have had a second minutes later when more Arteta wing wizardry conjured up a volleying chance which Vaughan met sweetly but Petr Cech read to perfection. But even after the controversial leveller, the fact that Everton didn’t let Chelsea exert enough pressure to give their supporters a winning send- off speaks volumes for way this squad has intertwined this season. When they group together there are few smaller huddles in the Premiership, but similarly few with as much team spirit and togetherness contained inside. Recent injury lay-offs for Tim Cahill and Andrew Johnson, the driving force of the two-month unbeaten run that kicked off the campaign have had little effect as the campaign has neared its climax. The squad has maximised itself to the full, Carsley by playing every game, Alan Stubbs by stretching every 35-year-old sinew and Vaughan by maturing way ahead of schedule. And if this is not a convincing enough measure of Everton’s progress, compare it to Chelsea and what they’re celebrating this morning. Their supporters can sing ‘we’re going to Wembley’ as loudly as they like but nobody would be fooled into thinking that this in any way compensates for Mourinho losing his grip on the title for the first time. But the straws the fans were clutching at were emphatically wrestled away by the manager in his programme notes when, with typical modesty, he pointed out that he was on the verge of three consecutive unbeaten home campaigns since taking over at Stamford Bridge. “The last, the only time, I have suffered a home league defeat was on February 22, 2002,” he boasted. But holding out for the result that equalled Liverpool’s record of 63 home games without a loss yields no silverware – and the absence of that in the shape of the Premiership trophy is clearly galling for all concerned. In terms of expectation and achievement against the odds, Everton have had a better nine months. And crucially, for the extra challenges that lie ahead, you sense that optimism and feelgood factor will permeate throughout the next three. CHELSEA: Cech, Ferreira, Boulahrouz, Terry, Bridge (Hutchinson 89), Lampard, Mikel (Morais 74), Joe Cole (Sahar 70), Wright-Phillips, Drogba, Kalou. Subs: Hilario, Lee Sawyer. BOOKINGS: Bridge, Joe Cole. EVERTON: Howard, Hibbert, Yobo, Stubbs, Lescott, Osman, Fernandes (McFadden 77), Neville, Carsley, Arteta, Vaughan (Beattie 72). Subs: Turner, Naysmith, Nuno Valente. BOOKING: Carsley.
REF: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).
Rangers chase Wright signing
May 15 2007
by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
GLASGOW RANGERS have joined the chase to sign Richard Wright after his five-year stay at Goodison Park was officially ended yesterday. The former England international and Alessandro Pistone are on the lookout for new clubs after they were informed by David Moyes that their contracts would not be renewed. And it would appear that Wright, one of Blues boss Moyes’ first signings in the summer of 2002, will not be short of offers, as Ipswich and Southampton are also monitoring his situation. If the 29-year-old happens to find himself without a club when pre-season training starts in July, Moyes would be prepared to offer Wright a 12-month deal to remain Tim Howard’s deputy. Yet, with Rangers in need of an experienced keeper, the chances of him returning to Merseyside are remote. That, though, has not stopped Moyes giving him a ringing endorsement. “We have released Sandro and we have released Richard,” Moyes confirmed today. “The door is still slightly ajar for Wrighty in that we might need another goalkeeper. “But to all extents and purposes, he has been released. We just thought it was the right thing to do. He wants to be playing football regularly and we understand that. “He goes with our best wishes. He’s had five years with us and while there might have been difficult times, he is a fantastic professional and he goes with our best wishes.” Wright added: “We had a chat but the one thing I want to be doing is playing regular football. I’ve had five good years at Everton and it has been a honour and privilege to play here. “Things might not have worked out quite how I wanted them to, what with picking an injury up and one thing or another, but it was still a terrific experience. I have some fond memories.” Meanwhile, a return to Italy is on the cards for veteran defender Pistone, who has been tormented by injuries for the past two years.
Two signings which Blues need to make
May 15 2007
by Tony Cottee, Liverpool Echo
I HAVE two wishes now that Everton have achieved the main priority of UEFA Cup football next season. One is that they buy David Nugent from Preston. The other is that they bring in Joey Barton from Manchester City. Both are Evertonians, both are fine footballers and both would improve Everton’s squad significantly. Now that they have European football on their agenda next season, the Blues will need greater quality and greater quantity in their squad. James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe have both made huge contributions this season, but both are young lads still learning the game and it would be both wrong – and risky – to rely on them throughout an entire season. Nugent is an experienced, accomplished player who would slot in well alongside Andy Johnson. I’ve seen a lot of Nugent this season and I’m convinced he could make the step up to the Premiership. He’s such a big Evertonian as well, that he would crawl to the club. I’m sure most Blues fans would love to see him at Goodison. The signing of Joey Barton would, apparently, be less universally popular. But it’s not often you get the opportunity to sign a quality footballer for £5.5m and I think it’s a chance worth taking. There are some managers out there who don’t like taking chances on so-called ‘problem’ players, and there are others who relish trying to get the best out of controversial figures. I played for one at Leicester. Martin O’Neill took a chance on Stan Collymore when nobody else in the game would touch him with a bargepole. He scored a hat-trick on his debut! Joey’s at an age now where he needs to settle down and I think a move to Everton would do him good. David Moyes wouldn’t have any problems taking on a player with his reputation and I think Joey would get his head down and do well. Remember all the baggage which came with Duncan Ferguson when he joined Everton? That didn’t prevent him becoming a Gwladys Street hero. People at Goodison tell me the dressing room atmosphere is good, and one player isn’t going to disrupt that. If anything, older, more respected pros like Lee Carsley, Phil Neville and Alan Stubbs would soon jump in if a newcomer tried to step out of line. Everton need new players, and I think Nugent and Barton should be priority signings this summer.
Future looking bright for Blues - and why Nugent must join up
May 16 2007
Letters, icLiverpool & Liverpool Echo
I THINK it is worth us taking a chance on Joey Barton for £5.5million or less. He has shown proven Premiership quality and just needs sensible lads around him. Hopefully Nugent will sign up for less than the £10million Preston are talking about at the moment. Add in a young centre back and a couple of squad players on loan hopefully Fernandes for another year as we are not going to afford his £12million asking price. Beattie looks certain to move on and good luck to the lad. I always thought he'd be an Everton forward but wish him well if he goes. Obviously taking Wrighty and Pistone off the wage bill will release some cash, and with plans to move to new ground things are finally looking bright for future. David Brownlow, South Liverpool I WOULD bite Preston's hand off if we could get David Nugent for £3.5m. Interest from Pompey, Sunderland and Boro could drive the price right up, so we can't really afford to go into double figures, though. We need to get around six new players in, and make sure we get the balance right we don't want to end up like Newcastle and Boro are every year. Catherine Wight, Wirral DAVID NUGENT needs to be signed now. If we don't pay the asking price, which must be less now that Preston are still in the Championship, we will never afford him once he becomes an England regular. I think we can get him for £3.5million but if he costs more remember what we paid for James Beattie and Per Kroldup. Brian Smith, Huyton KEITH Wyness has stated that Moyes has got the full backing from the board to take the club to the next level. I am presuming, therefore, that we can go in for the likes of Barton and Nugent, agree new deals for Arteta and Fernandes, and bring in any other player that can become available for the positions we need to fill. Dare I say it, I could get quite excited about the season to come. Finally the club could be going in the right direction to challenge the top four on a regular basis.
New-contract Stubbs happy to hold back years
May 16 2007
by Nick Smith, Liverpool Daily Post
ALAN STUBBS has revealed the desire to keep proving people wrong has helped him clinch a new contract with Everton. The 35-year-old defender has earned another one-year extension after his consistent run in the side during the second half of the season. Stubbs was initially given a 12-month deal last summer but his influence in David Moyes’s side securing sixth place in the Premiership and a UEFA Cup qualifying spot has convinced the manager to reward him further. And Stubbs admits that he is proud of the way he is fighting back the advancing years to keep his game up to Premiership standard – and wants to end his career at Goodison. “I’ve enjoyed it but it is difficult and it doesn’t get any easier the older you get, but I know for a fact that I’m not ready to hang my boots up yet,” said the centre-back. “Signing was pretty straight-forward, to be honest. I dreamed of playing for Everton when I was a five-year-old lad and now, hopefully, this is the club where I will end my career. “When that time comes I don’t know and I won’t need anybody to tell me, but at this moment I don’t feel that time is here. “I don’t think I’ve got anything to prove to people but I like to prove people wrong. “People have approached me and said how well I’ve been doing because of my age and that makes me proud. “It’s never easy to play in the Premier League whatever age you are, so the fact that I’m still going at 35 I’m really proud of. It’s been a challenge. A few players have come in, I knew my place was under threat but throughout my career. I’ve always thrived when faced with a challenge and it’s been the same this year.” Stubbs’ fine form at the heart of defence alongside Joseph Yobo persuaded Moyes to utilise centre-back Joleon Lescott at left-back for much of the campaign. And Stubbs added: “I’ve obviously been doing something right and the fact that Joleon’s been playing at left-back means I’ve been doing the right things to keep him there. “It would have been easy for the manager to bring Joleon back in at centre-half after the job he’s done there so it’s been really pleasing. "But I always say if the team is playing well it makes your job 100 times easier and it’s made it easy for me to come in and do my job." Everton are hopeful Lee Carsley will follow suit while Moyes hinted Anderson de Silva could also remain at Goodison.
Arteta has a brighter view of Euro vision
May 21 2007
by Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
MIKEL ARTETA believes Everton have the experience to avoid more European embarrassment next season. The Spaniard was an influential figure as David Moyes’s side clinched a top-six place and qualification for the UEFA Cup. Everton’s last sortie into Europe ended in dismal failure, with the Goodison outfit falling at the first hurdle in both the Champions League and UEFA Cup last season. But Arteta is confident that the present squad, combined with the anticipated clutch of arrivals during the summer, will leave a greater impression this time around. “Hopefully we can do much better,” said the 25-year-old. “We went out in the first round in both competitions and it was a strange way to leave Europe. We don’t want that again. I think we’ve got more experience now and will be more prepared. “We need to find some more players. With 13, 14, 15 players it is not enough to compete in European competitions. I think the club know that and they will improve the numbers in the squad.” Meanwhile, Everton are expecting to discover today whether they have been successful in persuading Lee Carsley to stay on. The 33-year-old midfielder, who is a free agent in the summer, held talks with Wigan Athletic last week and spent the weekend assessing his options having been offered an improved one-year deal by Everton on Friday. Alan Stubbs, who signed his own one-year extension last week, reckons Everton have the potential to end their trophy drought next season.
The Goodison outfit haven’t lifted silverware since the FA Cup final win over Manchester United in 1995. But Stubbs said: “If we were to do that with the squad we have got, it would be a fantastic achievement and one that would be fully deserved. “You need a bit of luck, you need a good squad, you need quality and I feel as if we have got that. I don’t see a reason why we can’t win some silverware.”
Scotland duty will boost McFadden – Moyes
May 21 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES believes James McFadden will reap the benefits of his international commitments this summer and return to Everton in prime condition. Hopes were high last year that the Scotland forward would play a significant part in the Blues’ push for Europe but a catalogue of incidents prevented McFadden making the impact many desired. He missed a month early in the campaign after tearing his hamstring playing for Scotland in Lithuania, was then stupidly sent off in a Carling Cup defeat against Arsenal and then broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot in a freak training ground incident. However, McFadden finished the season with a flourish - he scored a sublime goal in the crucial win over Charlton on April 15 - and heads off to join Scotland’s squad later this week for games against Austria and the Faroe Islands.
And Moyes feels that getting some match practice in will boost McFadden going into his summer break and expects the 24-year-old to come back revitalised when Everton start pre-season in July. “It was a difficult season for Faddy but he has got a couple of games now, so hopefully that will do him some good,” said Moyes. “He was in a similar situation to Tony Hibbert in that he missed a lot of games but he is a good player and will have a part to play for us next year. “I was pleased by the way he looked last summer. He was bright, he looked fit and sharp and it looked as if he had taken on board a couple of things that we have talked to him about over the last couple of years, like his decision making.” McFadden was frustrated that he did not make more starts but admitted that stunning strike against Charlton lifted his spirits.
“Everyone thought it was going to be a draw but we pressed on and I managed to come up with the best goal I have ever scored,” said McFadden. “The whole season has been a success in terms of the way we have played nice football and the way we have won certain games.” Everton are waiting to hear what decision Lee Carsley has reached about where he will play his football next season. The Blues have offered him an improved deal after it emerged Wigan have made a play for his services. Carsley had a medical at the JJB Stadium last Thursday and is thought to have agreed a contract in principle with new manager Chris Hutchings.
Carsley pens new one-year deal at Everton
May 22 2007
by Chris Beesley, Liverpool Daily Post
EE CARSLEY has snubbed a move to Premiership rivals Wigan Athletic by signing a new one-year contract with Everton. The 33-year-old midfielder spent the weekend mulling over a move to the Latics and even had a medical at the JJB Stadium but has now decided to stay at Goodison Park. One major factor for the Republic of Ireland international remaining with the club was the prospect of European football next season. Carsley was ruled out of Everton’s previous European campaign in 2005/06 through injury, only returning to the side in February, making six appearances. However, after regaining full fitness Carsley went on to figure in 42 matches for Everton throughout the 2006/07 season and is pleased that his future has now been sorted. He said: “I am absolutely delighted. I have had a fantastic time here and hopefully that can continue now. “Myself and the gaffer (David Moyes) sat down two or three months ago and he said he wanted me to stay and I said I wanted to stay as well. I am just glad we have come to an agreement. “We have got the UEFA Cup to look forward to next season. The manager has the right blend at the minute and that is important.” Carsley follows fellow free agent Alan Stubbs and youngsters James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe in signing a new contract at Everton in recent weeks. The club have released goalkeeper Richard Wright and full-back Alessandro Pistone after their deals expired but hope to get Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta to put pen to paper on a new contract soon. Arteta, 25, a £2million signing from Real Sociedad in 2005 still has two years to run on his present deal but has been attracting attention from several clubs in his homeland.
Jagielka next as Carsley signs up
May 22 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
LEE CARSLEY was celebrating today as he pledged his future to Everton - as the Blues stepped up their efforts to sign Phil Jagielka. The Republic of Ireland international came close to joining Wigan Athletic over the weekend, but the lure of playing in Europe and helping Everton take a step in the right direction proved impossible to resist. Carsley, who was Everton’s sole ever present last season, has signed an improved 12-month deal and could soon be joined at Goodison Park by Jagielka, who has shot to the top of David Moyes’ wanted list. The Sheffield United midfielder has a £4m buyout clause in his contract and is desperate to be a part of Everton’s European challenge next season - and Carsley is adamant he would be joining a club that us moving in the right direction. “Some people were talking but there was never any problem,” said Carsley, a £1.9m signing from Coventry in February 2002. “I wanted to stay here and the club wanted me to stay too. I was never bothered about anything like image rights! “I love it here and that has always been the case. It is a fantastic place to play football and it is a fantastic place to come into work every day. I couldn’t be more happy, to be honest. “But this is where we have taken a step back in recent years. We have tended to have a great season and then followed it by a not so good one. If anything, we have got to learn from what has happened in the past. “We have got to push on from here. I’m not saying that we are going to win the league or that we are going to finish in the top four. “A lot of things have to go your way for that to happen. But there is no reason why we can’t finish in the top six again.” Injury robbed Carsley of the chance to be involved in Everton’s last European sortie two years ago but is keeping his fingers crossed he will have better fortune this time around. Few would begrudge the understated Irishman the opportunity to play in the UEFA Cup and he is hoping another successful pre-season campaign will tee him up to replicate his efforts over the past 12 months. “It has been a fantastic season,” said Carsley. “We sat down 10 months ago in a hotel in Dallas and set out our hopes and targets for the year. This is where we wanted to be at the end of the season.
“If someone had said to me that I would have played every game back then, I would have snapped their hand off. The one thing I wanted more than anything was to get a good pre-season under my belt and that is what happened. “I played every minute of every game I was involved in and the gaffer obviously thought that was important. That helped get the best out of me and hopefully that will be the case again next season.”
Robson aims to fend off advances for Jagielka
May 23 2007
Christopher Beesley, Liverpool Daily Post
NEW Sheffield United manager Bryan Robson will make trying to hold on to Everton target Phil Jagielka his first task at the club. Robson, who has formerly been in charge of Middlesbrough, Bradford City and West Bromwich Albion was formally unveiled at Bramall Lane yesterday, having replaced Neil Warnock who resigned following the Blades’ relegation from the Premiership. With the club unable to offer their star players top flight football, the likes of Jagielka have been attracting interest and Everton have made the 24- year-old one of their main summer targets. Manchester-born Jagielka was released by Everton as a youngster before starting his senior career across the Pennines, but a move back to Goodison Park would cost around £4million. Having missed out on Lee Carsley, who opted to stay at Everton despite having a medical at the JJB Stadium, Wigan Athletic are also in the hunt for the versatile performer who can play in midfield, defence or even in goal in emergencies. However, Jagielka’s new manager Robson remains determined to hold on to his prize asset as he bids to plot a swift return to the Premiership and he has already telephoned the player, along with several other high-profile names at Bramall Lane, to try and persuade him to stay. United plc chairman Kevin McCabe revealed that he hopes the arrival of Robson will help the Blades to hang on to their better players. He said: “I have not spoken to Phil myself but he has been with us since he was a little boy and I really believe that Bryan joining us will be an inspiration for players like Phil to stay. “Our first ambition is to get promotion back to the Premiership and it is hard to find anyone who has a better CV than Bryan. “He is the guy who has the most knowledge on how to get us out of this division.” Jagielka could be lining up alongside Joleon Lescott and Phil Neville for England’s B team against Albania at Burnley’s Turf Moor on Friday but one player who will no longer be involved on international duty this summer is Everton’s James McFadden, who has withdrawn from Scotland’s squad to face Austria on May 30 and the Faroe Islands on June 6. McFadden’s club-mates Gary Naysmith and Iain Turner will still travel but Everton physio Matt Connery said: “James has been experiencing discomfort in his left foot in the area that he fractured last season. “Tests have proved inconclusive and further tests will be required in two to three weeks’ time. As such, we have taken the decision to withdraw the player from the Scotland squad.” Meanwhile, Carsley has declared that he chose to extend his stay at Goodison Park by signing a new one-year contract because the club have progressed a great deal under David Moyes. The Republic of Ireland midfielder is also looking forward to the challenge of European football having missed out on Everton’s previous campaign on the continent through injury. He said: “There is no reason why we can't have a right good go at the UEFA Cup – and what an achievement that would be. “It is a great club that is moving in the right direction. It is virtually unrecognisable to when I signed here five years ago. The ambition and what we are trying to do now means the goal posts have moved. Instead of being a side in mid-table and sometimes in the bottom half we are now looking at the top six every season and that is how it should be.” Carsley added: “I think the tradition and history associated with Everton is something special. All the dinners we go to we are constantly reminded of the players of the past and the achievements they had here. “Now it is a chance for ourselves to make a bit of history at the club because this is a club that prides itself on its past and we deserve a bit of success now in our future.”
McFadden foot injury forces Scot withdrawal
May 23 2007
EVERTON’S James McFadden has been hit by an injury setback which has forced his withdrawal from the Scotland squad. The Blues striker has suffered a reoccurrence of the metatarsal injury which kept him out of action for more than two months last season. As a result he will not be joining the Scottish party for the friendly with Austria next Wednesday or the Euro 2008 qualifier in the Faroe Islands on June 6. It has come as a big blow to McFadden who endured a stop start season last term – and who manager David Moyes believed would be boosted by international duty during the close season. Everton physiotherapist Matt Connery said: "James has been experiencing discomfort in his left foot in the area that he fractured last season. "Current tests have proved inconclusive and further tests will be required in two to three weeks time. “As such, we have taken the decision to withdraw the player from the Scotland squad." McFadden has won 31 caps for his country, scoring an impressive 10 goals in the process and will be disappointed not to get the opportunity to add to those tallies. Everton will still be represented in Alex McLeish's squad by Iain Turner and Gary Naysmith.
Moyes facing a crucial season
May 24 2007
Blue Watch by Mark O'Brien
by Mark O'Brien, Liverpool Daily Post
LEE CARSLEY’S signing of a new one-year deal at Everton will hardly be the most eye-catching bit of transfer news this summer, but David Moyes will nonetheless be pleased to have the Irishman around for what in some ways could be the manager’s most crucial campaign yet. Obviously, every season is important, and Moyes has overseen a serious relegation fight as well as a Champions League qualifier and just about everything else in between. However, we are now more or less an established top half of the table side – well, as much as you can ever be given the way fortunes change so quickly in the modern game – and we are in the UEFA Cup. So the question now is: where can we go from here? Given that a fair chunk of money was spent last summer, with some more to come this time, the not unreasonable expectation is that we should be finishing at least sixth again next time out. It certainly won’t be viewed as any sort of great achievement in its own right if we do it again in twelve months time. Breaking into the top four is one aim, and we’ve shown in the recent past that it’s not impossible, but as Carsley said himself this week, an awful lot of things have to run right for a club with Everton’s resources to do that again. The fact that it came as such a shock to the footballing world when we briefly broke the monopoly on the top four spots the year before last tells a tale in itself.
In truth, the fans, those who fully appreciate the impact that Moyes has had on this club and those who are perpetually sceptical about his credentials, will be pinning their hopes on the UEFA Cup itself. Unlike the Champions League, which is all about the participation in many respects, and the money that generates, the Continent’s second competition is about the glory and nothing else. It’s not a moneymaker by any stretch, and the playing of games on a Thursday night often has a major impact on domestic form the following weekend. For this season’s highly respectable league finish to ultimately mean anything then, Everton really have to look to make an impact on the competition. Moyes will know this more than anyone. The sense of injustice from Villarreal and the feelings of embarrassment from Bucharest will have affected him as badly as anyone. He will also be aware that his critics are quick to point out that while his teams have made great progress with regards to the bread and butter of the league, when it comes to the ephemeral magic of the cup competitions they have never really delivered. They have had some shocking draws, admittedly, with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea coming out of the bag with almost mocking regularity, but there have been the Shrewsburys too. A good run in one of the domestic cups would obviously be most welcome too then, but it is in Europe, where Everton have no real great tradition for a club of their standing, where the opportunity exists for him to try and cement his legacy, Tony Blair style. To do that, and to preserve the standard that his side have set in the league, he is going to need more talented individuals to add to the core of genuine class presently at the club, but he is also going to require steady old hands like Carsley and Alan Stubbs, two players who, for different reasons, never featured in that last ill-fated European adventure.
Anichebe set for first Nigerian appearance
May 24 2007
by Chris Beesley, Liverpool Daily Post
EVERTON striker Victor Anichebe is in line to make his international debut for Nigeria this weekend. The 19-year-old, who scored four goals for his club during the 2006/07 season has been called up to the Super Eagles senior squad for the first time by their former Scotland coach Berti Vogts. Nigeria play a friendly match away to Kenya in Nairobi on Sunday ahead of their African Cup of Nations qualifying group three visit to Kampala to face Uganda on Saturday, June 2. With three wins from as many matches, Nigeria currently top their four-team group which also includes Lesotho and Niger, while Uganda are second with one win, draw and loss from their three matches. If Nigeria qualify for the finals in Ghana, Anichebe could miss part of Everton’s 2007/08 campaign alongside club-mate Joseph Yobo who is captain of the Super Eagles as the tournament takes place between January 20-February 10 next year. Anichebe, who was born in Lagos but moved to Merseyside when he was just a year old, was invited the meet up with the Nigerian Under-23s earlier this year but was not part of the squad. On the day that neighbours Liverpool played in their second Champions League final, Everton’s Australian midfielder Tim Cahill revealed that his ambition is to play in club football’s biggest game before eventually returning to his homeland to finish his career. At just 27, he is hoping to have several more seasons at the top but having played for Millwall in the 2004 FA Cup final before moving to Goodison Park, Cahill admitted that he’d love to have a crack at silverware with Everton. He said: “I want to win things and I’d love to play in a Champions League final but at the moment I’m very happy at Everton and my football's going well and I just want to be fit. “The (long-term) aspiration is definitely to come home and play in the A-League. I’m Australian through and through. I’ve lived in England for 10 years now but I’ve got kids and I want them to play outside but it rains every day in England.” Meanwhile, Everton’s chances of getting a favourable draw in the UEFA Cup have been boosted after they were ranked ninth among the 20 clubs already guaranteed a place in the first round of next season’s tournament. In total, there will be 80 clubs in the first round, and Everton are expected to be among 40 of those teams who are seeded. Everton, who qualified for the competition courtesy of their sixth-place finish in the Premiership, will be joined by fellow English sides Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers. First round first leg matches take place on September 20 with the return matches on October 4. The 20 clubs who have already qualified for the UEFA Cup first round (by ranking order 1-20) are: Bayern Munich (Germany), Panathinaikos (Greece), Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), Palermo (Italy), Tottenham Hotspur (England), Heerenveen (Holland), Bolton Wanderers (England), Sporting Braga (Portugal), EVERTON (England), Fiorentina (Italy), Empoli (Italy), Panionios (Greece), Groningen (Holland), Nurnberg (Germany), Beleneses (Portugal), Pacos de Ferreira (Portugal), Aris Thessaloniki (Greece), Twente (Holland), Larisa (Greece).
Blues striker set for Nigeria debut
May 24 2007 by Chris Beesley, Liverpool Echo
EVERTON striker Victor Anichebe is in line to make his international debut for Nigeria this weekend. The 19-year-old, who scored four goals for his club during the 2006/07 season, has been called up to the Super Eagles senior squad for the first time by their former Scotland coach Berti Vogts. Nigeria play a friendly match away to Kenya in Nairobi on Sunday ahead of their African Cup of Nations qualifying group three visit to Kampala to face Uganda on Saturday, June 2. With three wins from as many matches, Nigeria currently top their four-team group which also includes Lesotho and Niger, while Uganda are second with one win, draw and loss from their three matches. If Nigeria qualify for the finals in Ghana, Anichebe could miss part of Everton’s 2007/08 campaign alongside club-mate Joseph Yobo, who is captain of the Super Eagles, as the tournament takes place between January 20 and February 10 next year. Anichebe, who was born in Lagos but moved to Merseyside when he was just a year old, was invited to meet up with the Nigerian Under-23s earlier this year but was not part of the squad. Meanwhile, on the day that neighbours Liverpool played in their second Champions League final, Everton’s Australian midfielder Tim Cahill revealed that his ambition is to play in club football’s biggest game before eventually returning to his homeland to finish his career. He said: “I want to win things and I’d love to play in a Champions League final but at the moment I’m very happy at Everton and my football's going well and I just want to be fit. “The (long-term) aspiration is definitely to come home and play in the A-League. I’m Australian through and through. I’ve lived in England for 10 years now but I’ve got kids and I want them to play outside but it rains every day in England.” Meanwhile, Everton’s chances of getting a favourable draw in the UEFA Cup have been boosted after they were ranked ninth among the 20 clubs already guaranteed a place in the first round of next season’s tournament. In total, there will be 80 clubs in the first round, and Everton are expected to be among 40 of those teams who are seeded. Everton, who qualified for the competition courtesy of their sixth-place finish in the Premiership, will be joined by fellow English sides Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers. First round first leg matches take place on September 20 with the return matches on October 4.
The 20 clubs who have already qualified for the UEFA Cup first round (by ranking order 1-20) are: Bayern Munich (Germany), Panathinaikos (Greece), Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), Palermo (Italy), Tottenham Hotspur (England), Heerenveen (Holland), Bolton Wanderers (England), Sporting Braga (Portugal), EVERTON (England), Fiorentina (Italy), Empoli (Italy), Panionios (Greece), Groningen (Holland), Nurnberg (Germany), Beleneses (Portugal), Pacos de Ferreira (Portugal), Aris Thessaloniki (Greece), Twente (Holland), Larisa (Greece).
Lescott aims for England call-up
May 25 2007
by Chris Beesley, Liverpool Daily Post
EFENDER Joleon Lescott is hoping to continue his rapid progress with Everton in order to carve out an international career. The 24-year-old finally arrived a Goodison Park on June 14 last year after his transfer had been delayed due to concerns over previous injuries to both his knees which led to him missing out entirely on Wolverhampton Wanderers’ 2003/04 Premiership campaign. But after being given his opportunity to perform in the top flight, Lescott made up for lost time, earning many plaudits as he took part in all 42 of Everton’s league and cup games during the 2006/07 season. Having helped Everton secure a UEFA Cup spot, Lescott earned a call-up to tonight’s England B squad when he will start on the bench at Turf Moor against Albania and he is thankful for the chance David Moyes has given him, hoping that it will eventually lead to full international honours. He said: “When you’re playing for a top team that is regularly doing well then obviously you have a better chance of being recognised at international level. “It’s long been a dream of mine to represent England but I know that it wouldn’t be possible without having such quality around me, week-in, week-out.” Lescott added: “Every player wants to represent his country and I’m no different. I’m a big England fan and of course I had read some reports linking me with a call-up, which was nice. “But it’s not something I’ve dwelled on. I have been happy to do my best for Everton and then whatever else happens is a bonus. I was thrilled when the gaffer (David Moyes) told me about the ‘B’ call-up and I just hope that I can justify my selection if I get the opportunity.” Lescott will be joined on the bench for England by Everton target Phil Jagielka, who also showed his versatility during his first Premiership season with Sheffield United. Despite the former Everton junior being linked with a move back to Goodison Park, Blades’ plc chairman Kevin McCabe does not believe that Jagielka’s departure is a formality. He said: “Phil is under contract and it wasn’t so long ago that he signed an extension here. “It’s hardly surprising that other clubs are interested in a player of his quality and potential but of course we’d rather keep a hold of him.
“Hopefully we can convince Phil that he can achieve what he wants by staying with us. “That’s certainly what we will be trying to do.” Meanwhile, Preston North End have confirmed that David Moyes will again be taking a side back to Deepdale as Everton visit them for a friendly on Wednesday July 18 (7.45pm).
Lescott won’t let his country down
May 25 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
DAVID MOYES today backed Joleon Lescott to make a seamless transition to international football as he prepares to make his England B debut. The Everton defender enjoyed a terrific first season in the Premiership, winning his side’s Players’ Player of the Year award and earning countless rave reviews following his £3.5m move from Wolves last June. So high were the standard of his performances that Steve McClaren will play him tonight in a friendly against Albania at Turf Moor and if all goes well, Lescott could yet be involved in the Euro 2008 qualifier against Estonia next month. Though he spent much of the campaign as a left-back, Moyes believes the 24-year-old will blossom into a top class central defender and he expects him to fit in as effortlessly with England as he has done at Goodison Park.
“The big thing for this year has been how the players have performed and one of those is Joleon Lescott - look at how good he has become,” said Moyes. “He has adapted superbly to the Premiership. He got broken in quite easy - he came off the bench a couple of times - and played for a spell at left-back. “We have had to play him out of position at times but he has looked as if he can play there all day long. But he is a left centre-back and that’s where we see him playing. “I have not spoken to Steve McClaren since he called me to tell us that Joleon was in the squad, when we just had a general chat. I have no idea where he will play.” Lescott has continually played down his achievements of the past 12 months but he is delighted that his performances have attracted McClaren’s attention. Having already been capped at Under-18, Under-20 and Under-21 level, this call up proves Lescott is moving in the right direction and is ready to grasp his chance to shine. “Every player wants to represent his country and I’m no different,” he said. “I’m a big England fan and I had read some reports linking me with a call-up, which was nice. “But it’s not something I’ve dwelled on. I have been happy to do my best for Everton and then whatever else happens is a bonus. “I was thrilled when the gaffer told me about the B call-up and I just hope that I can justify my selection if I get the opportunity.” Everton skipper Phil Neville will also be involved this evening and Lescott has been quick to pay tribute to the role his team-mates have played in his development. “When you’re playing for a top team that is regularly doing well then obviously you have a better chance of being recognised at international level,” he added. “It’s long been a dream of mine to represent England but I know that it wouldn’t be possible without having such quality around me.” The Blues, meanwhile, have still to confirm details of their pre-season itinerary but it is likely they will face friendlies against Bury and Preston in mid-July.
Everton face more bidding for Beattie
May 28 2007
by Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
BLACKBURN ROVERS are ready to challenge Celtic for the signature of James Beattie – as Phil Jagielka moved a step nearer to becoming an Everton player. Beattie endured a miserable season in which he made just 16 starts and scored only two goals, both of which came from the penalty spot. Having started the campaign as the first-choice partner to club record signing Andrew Johnson, the 29-year-old has fallen behind youngsters James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe in the pecking order. Although David Moyes has shown no indication of wanting to sell Beattie and has consistently backed the forward, a parting of the ways seems inevitable during the close season. Beattie’s position would become even more precarious if the Goodison manager chooses to follow up his interest in Preston North End’s David Nugent. Now Blackburn are poised to launch a bid to take the striker back to where he began his career with Mark Hughes keen to bolster his forward options given Benni McCarthy’s likely departure. They would face opposition from Celtic, with Hoops manager Gordon Strachan – whom Beattie played under while at Southampton – having refused to rule out a summer move for the forward. Meanwhile, Jagielka will this week tell new Sheffield United manager Bryan Robson he wants a transfer to Goodison. Robson took over at Bramall Lane last week and immediately made attempting to hold on to the midfielder a priority. But Jagielka, who was released by Everton as a youngster before starting his senior career across the Pennines, is keen to remain in the Premiership having appeared for England B against Albania on Friday. While Wigan Athletic, Bolton Wanderers, Aston Villa and Newcastle United are among several clubs tracking the versatile 24-year-old, Jagielka has set his heart on a move to Everton. Sheffield United are holding out for a fee of £6million but Everton are confident a bid of around £4.5m should persuade them to part with the player, who can play in midfield, centre-back and right-back. Meanwhile, Lee Carsley has urged Everton to break from recent tradition and secure another top-six finish next year. In five seasons under Moyes, the Goodison outfit have failed to secure successive finishes in the top half of the Premiership table despite clinching seventh and fifth place in previous campaigns. And Irish international Carsley, who signed a one-year contract extension last week, said: “This is where we have taken a step back in recent years. We have tended to have a great season and then followed it by a not so good one. “If anything, we have got to learn from what has happened in the past. “We have got to push on from here. I’m not saying that we are going to win the league or that we are going to finish in the top four. “A lot of things have to go your way for that to happen. But there is no reason why we can’t finish in the top six again.”
Player of the season: Mikel Arteta
May 29 2007
Liverpool Daily Post
MIKEL ARTETA is the Daily Post’s player of the season for Everton.
The Spaniard accrued 11 man of the match awards from our reporters, more than a quarter of the accolades over the 42-game season. But the news comes as no surprise to anyone who watched Everton on a regular basis during the campaign. Once again, Arteta was the creative heartbeat of the side with his deliveries from corners and free-kicks, appearing in all but three matches and providing forward thrust from midfield. The 25-year-old also added goalscoring to his armoury by netting nine times, a total second only to Andrew Johnson in the club’s scoring charts. Arteta also scooped the official Player of the Year gong for the second successive season at the Everton annual awards earlier this month. Johnson recorded the next most man of the match awards with six, while fellow newcomer Joleon Lescott and veteran Alan Stubbs underlined the important role Everton’s defence played in their top-six finish with five awards each. ARTETA’S AWARDS: Aug 19 v Watford (H), Oct 21 v Sheff Utd (H), Oct 24 v Luton (H), Nov 8 v Arsenal (H), Nov 18 v Bolton (H), Dec 26 v M’boro (H), Dec 30 v Newcastle (H), Apr 2 v Aston Villa (A), Apr 6 v Fulham (H), Apr 15 v Charlton (H), May 5 v Portsmouth (H). MAN OF THE MATCH TOTALS: Arteta 11, Johnson 6, Lescott 5, Stubbs 5, Osman 4, Howard 3, Vaughan 2, Neville 2, McFadden 1, Anichebe 1, Beattie 1, Fernandes 1.
Cahill aims to be back within a month
May 29 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
TIM CAHILL is confident he will be back in action within a month as his recovery from a broken metatarsal continues at pace. The Everton midfielder has been sidelined since March 3 when he sustained the injury during a 1-1 draw at Sheffield United and needed an operation to pin the bone back together. A number of x-rays have shown that Cahill is making the right progress yet he will have to wait until June 11 - the date of his last check up - before he is given the green light to step things up.
Provided that date passes without a hitch, Cahill will return to training a fortnight later and he hopes that will put him spot on for Australia’s opening Asia Cup game against Oman on July 8. “Oman is a realistic option,” said Cahill, who also had a separate 11 week spell on the sidelines last season with medial ligament damage. “I don’t want to be setting definitive dates but I want to be fit for the Asia Cup and that’s what I’m aiming for. I want to be ready to go to Singapore on June 20 for the camp to acclimatise. “The bone looks like it has healed brilliantly. In two weeks, I’ll be ready to twist and turn but I’ll be joining up with the boys this week and running around the pitch. I’m looking forward to it.” Everton boss David Moyes has urged Australia head coach Graham Arnold to exercise caution before pitching Cahill back into battle and the 27-year-old believes that will be the case. “I had a meeting with David Moyes and they had a long talk about me and using commonsense when to play me,” said Cahill. “The gaffer (Arnold) told me it went really well.” Meanwhile, Leon Osman is already looking forward to next season and believes Everton must set themselves the target of winning the league within the league. Having missed out on fifth place on the final day of the season, Osman feels that with the right additions over the summer Everton will be able to go one better next time around. “The top four are a little bit above everybody else at the minute with the money they have got and everything else,” said Osman. “So to finish fifth or sixth you are finishing first or second in what they call our table. “It's the highest realistic achievable place at the minute,” the Blues midfielder added.
Beattie bid on back-burner as Rovers chase ex-star
May 30 2007
by Nick Smith, Liverpool Daily Post
BLACKBURN ROVERS are set to put their pursuit of James Beattie on hold - to try to lure Craig Bellamy away from Liverpool. Rovers were preparing a move for Beattie earlier in the week but will concentrate on landing other top targets before pressing ahead with a bid to bring him back to the club where he began his career. And Bellamy is top of the list drawn up by Ewood manager Mark Hughes, who has overseen the Welshman’s best form of his career at both club and country level. The price could be a stumbling block as Liverpool look to make a significant gain on the £6million that triggered Bellamy’s exit clause last summer. But Hughes is believed to be willing to enter negotiations for a player whose 17 goals in his one season at the club played a major part in their UEFA Cup qualification. Bellamy, however, is also set to be the subject of a bid from Aston Villa, who are in a significantly better bargaining position than Blackburn as American owner Randy Lerner continues to pledge his commitment to investing in the team during the close season. This could also involve making a move for Harry Kewell, but the Australian is determined to see out the remaining year of his Anfield contract to prove to manager Rafael Benitez that he is worthy of a place in his rebuilding programme. But whatever happens Benitez, currently on holiday, is close to completing the £8m signing of Lyon midfielder Florent Malouda, a deal he hopes to seal by the end of the week. Blackburn will now wait to see how the Bellamy situation fits around their monitoring of other targets, including Beattie. But in terms of interest in the Everton striker, Hughes has also been forced into a re-think by the late-season form of Jason Roberts, who hadn’t scored for the club until the middle of April but ended the season with five goals in six games. That has convinced Hughes, for the time being, that Rovers have an in-form striker who can play a similar role to Beattie, who only scored two penalties during last season. The implications for Everton hardly alter, however, as Celtic manager Gordon Strachan is still considering lining up a bid for the forward. Everton manager David Moyes has not publicly declared he has no intention of selling the 29-year-old – which he did ahead of the January transfer window – and is set to seriously consider any offers this time. He will need funds to assist his own squad building, which is set to start with the £4.5m capture of Phil Jagielka from Sheffield United next week. Relegated United are, however, insistent that they can persuade the midfielder to stay and help them get back into the Premiership. And yesterday they released a statement that said: “The Blades would like to confirm that no agreements are in place with any club with regards to Jagielka. “Media speculation is rife regarding Jagielka’s future in light of United's relegation and his recent inclusion in the England B team. “However, he remains a contracted Blades player and new boss Bryan Robson watched him in action for England B against Albania.” Across the city, reports that Everton have made a £3m bid for American international Frankie Simek have been dismissed as “a load of bull.” The 22-year-old defender, who began his career at Arsenal, has been a mainstay of Sheffield Wednesday’s sustained progress in the Championship over the past two seasons. But Wednesday manager Brian Laws said: “I’ve heard nothing, as far as I’m concerned it’s a load of bull. “I have had no contact from Everton or any other such club regarding Frankie Simek and in the end Frankie Simek is not for sale.” One piece of business between Everton and a Championship club that is set to go ahead is Richard Wright’s return to Ipswich Town. But according to Town’s manager Jim Magilton, their attempts to bring back the former Arsenal goalkeeper, who is out of contract at Goodison, are still at the negotiating table. Magilton said: “I have not sat down with Richard or his agent to discuss terms. “Richard has expressed a desire to return to Ipswich, but nothing concrete has been decided.”
Cahill aims to be back within a month
May 29 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
TIM CAHILL is confident he will be back in action within a month as his recovery from a broken metatarsal continues at pace. The Everton midfielder has been sidelined since March 3 when he sustained the injury during a 1-1 draw at Sheffield United and needed an operation to pin the bone back together. A number of x-rays have shown that Cahill is making the right progress yet he will have to wait until June 11 - the date of his last check up - before he is given the green light to step things up.
Provided that date passes without a hitch, Cahill will return to training a fortnight later and he hopes that will put him spot on for Australia’s opening Asia Cup game against Oman on July 8. “Oman is a realistic option,” said Cahill, who also had a separate 11 week spell on the sidelines last season with medial ligament damage.
“I don’t want to be setting definitive dates but I want to be fit for the Asia Cup and that’s what I’m aiming for. I want to be ready to go to Singapore on June 20 for the camp to acclimatise. “The bone looks like it has healed brilliantly. In two weeks, I’ll be ready to twist and turn but I’ll be joining up with the boys this week and running around the pitch. I’m looking forward to it.” Everton boss David Moyes has urged Australia head coach Graham Arnold to exercise caution before pitching Cahill back into battle and the 27-year-old believes that will be the case. “I had a meeting with David Moyes and they had a long talk about me and using commonsense when to play me,” said Cahill. “The gaffer (Arnold) told me it went really well.” Meanwhile, Leon Osman is already looking forward to next season and believes Everton must set themselves the target of winning the league within the league. Having missed out on fifth place on the final day of the season, Osman feels that with the right additions over the summer Everton will be able to go one better next time around.
“The top four are a little bit above everybody else at the minute with the money they have got and everything else,” said Osman. “So to finish fifth or sixth you are finishing first or second in what they call our table. “It's the highest realistic achievable place at the minute,” the Blues midfielder added.
Young gun’s Euro delight
May 30 2007 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
JAMES VAUGHAN was celebrating today after he was named in England’s Under-21 squad for next month’s European Championships. Having battled back from serious injury to finish the Premiership season with a flourish, the 18-year-old will be among a 23-man party that travels to Holland next month after catching the eye of head coach Stuart Pearce. It is quite an achievement for Vaughan, who scored four times in his last six appearances to help Everton clinch a place in Europe, as he was up against stiff competition and was expected to be culled from the initial 30-man squad Pearce took on a training camp to Spain. However, he rose to the challenge and will now be aiming to win his first cap in next Tuesday’s friendly against Slovakia at Carrow Road – the youngest scorer in Everton’s history has already represented England at Under-18, Under-19 and Under-20 level. England kick-off their bid for European Championship glory on June 11 against the Czech Republic in Arnhem before facing games against Italy and Serbia. The final is in Groningen on June 23.
Only time will tell how much Vaughan will figure in Holland, but he can feel rightly satisfied about his inclusion, as it is final proof that he is well and truly over the knee problem that cast a dark cloud over his career. Vaughan was sidelined for the majority of the 2005-2006 season and took time to find his feet after returning to training. But he made relentless progress from the turn of the year, eventually making 16 appearances for the Blues and scoring five goals. Meanwhile, Blues boss David Moyes is confident that Tony Hibbert will report back for pre-season training in better shape than ever after enduring the most frustrating campaign of his career.
Hibbert missed Everton’s opening fixtures last August with a tropical illness, picked up a suspension in September, ruptured his groin in October and was then sidelined with a knee problem in February. But he finished the season on a positive note and stayed behind to do some extra training after the final match against Chelsea, which Moyes believes will be beneficial for the right-back when the squad reconvenes in July. “I don’t like to go on about injuries during the season but, when you look back on it, we missed four important players for large parts,” said Moyes. “We had to play through important periods without our key players and that would hurt any team.
“For a long period, we weren’t able to use Phil Neville in midfield because we needed him at right-back, so we have had to work around and muddle through. The players won’t be allowed to go away until they are totally fit. “Hibbo missed three-quarters of the season with injury and it is important that he gets a good pre-season under his belt, so that he can get himself up to full speed again. He did well when he came back in at the end of the season.”
What do you think about Everton coming to town?
May 31 2007
by Larry Neild, Liverpool Daily Post
THE biggest-ever consultation exercise in Kirkby is to be launched this month to test the reaction of residents to a scheme to move Everton FC and a Tesco superstore in to the town. Last night, the council’s political spokesman on the Everton project, Cllr Eddie Connor, said it was the only realistic prospect of a massive regeneration programme for Kirkby. Although the council’s cabinet had drawn up a “Plan B”, he said: “We have to be realistic and accept that major supermarket companies and big stores are not exactly queuing to come here.” But he said the scheme would rely on public support and approval from Everton fans. The councillors have agreed to an extensive community consultation. Cabinet members made their decision after considering a report yesterday, which outlined the next steps in investigating the area’s regeneration. The consultation will set out two approaches. The first would be to continue with the current Unitary Development Plan which was developed in 1997. This could see a gradual improvement of the town centre, possibly including a new bus interchange in Cherryfield Drive. Several sites could be identified for development, such as the former swimming pool site, but funding has not been easy to obtain in the past. The second approach would be a more comprehensive re-development of the current town centre as well as additional shops space, the Everton football stadium and new housing to the south of Cherryfield Drive. The stadium plan could attract significant funding to secure other town centre improvements. Knowsley council’s view is that it could turn Kirkby into a destination for leisure and hotel operators and create potential for a cinema or theatre. This approach could attract other big retailers as well as Tesco. The consultation is likely to include an exhibition in the town centre, and a mobile display. . Feedback from these sessions will be used to help the council compile an Interim Planning Statement which would set out the criteria for any development of the town centre to be considered for approval. Before this is finalised, the people of Kirkby will be consulted once again to ensure the document reflects the changes they would most like to see in their town centre. A Knowsley spokesman said last night: “The council is committed to listening to the views of residents and local businesses in order to ensure that whatever option is chosen for the town is one that will offer maximum benefits for those who live and work there.” Cllr Connor added: “We are hoping that Everton FC will announce its preference in the autumn. The stadium plan will attract major investment and will halve our unemployment rate.” The club has promised a ballot among its fans if it opts for the Kirkby move.
A united team which will no doubt divide the city
May 31 2007
by Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
WITH both Liverpool and Everton claiming top-six finishes for only the third time since the Premiership’s conception in 1992, Merseyside football can claim to have enjoyed a decent season. There were some fine individual performances as David Moyes’s side secured a well-deserved UEFA Cup qualification and Rafael Benitez’s men progressed to within an Italian arm of winning a second European Cup in three years. So here’s my attempt to select a team from the city capable of taking on all-comers, based on displays over the past nine months. No doubt eyebrows will be raised at some names in the line-up, and there are a number of players who can consider themselves a tad unlucky to miss out.
Only one thing’s for certain – hardly anyone will agree with it! GOALKEEPER: Pepe Reina overcame a wobbly start to keep a Premiership-best 19 clean sheets and send Jose Mourinho into a grump with his penalty saves in the Champions League semi-final with Chelsea. Tim Howard, meanwhile, brought calm to the Everton defence and came close to breaking Neville Southall’s record number of league shut-outs in a season, and for that just shades his inclusion.
RIGHT-BACK: Tony Hibbert’s injury and illness problems meant Everton suffered in this position throughout, having to chop and change with Joseph Yobo, Phil Neville and Alan Stubbs filling the gap. However, Liverpool could rely on the consistency of Steve Finnan as the Premiership’s finest full-back. CENTRE-BACKS: Both teams were well served in this area. Joseph Yobo managed to play every minute of the Premiership season for Everton and was ably assisted during the second half of the campaign by the evergreen Alan Stubbs. But even they were outshone by Liverpool pairing Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger, the former his usual reliable self while Agger helped keep a remarkable 15 clean sheets in the 23 league games he started during his first full season in England.
LEFT-BACK: Stephen Warnock, Alvaro Arbeloa, Fabio Aurelio and John Arne Riise all appeared on the left of defence for Liverpool during the campaign. But none could match the level of performance continually produced by Everton’s Joleon Lescott, all the more remarkable given the 24-year-old was playing in his debut Premiership season AND was out of position. RIGHT MIDFIELD: An easy call, given the integral part Mikel Arteta played in Everton’s qualification for Europe with his creativity, set-piece delivery and new-found goalscoring exploits. The Spanish schemer was not only the club’s player of the season but also one of the best in the whole Premiership. CENTRE MIDFIELD: Plenty of options here, but a mixture of steel and skill is needed in the team’s engine room. Momo Sissoko and Xabi Alonso failed to reach the heights of last season while Javier Mascherano, despite his impact, didn’t play enough games for Liverpool. At Everton, the same can be said for Manuel Fernandes while Phil Neville and Tim Cahill were often employed elsewhere or, in the Australian’s case, simply in the treatment room. It means the ever-present Lee Carsley and talismanic Steven Gerrard will line up in the centre of midfield. LEFT MIDFIELD: Now this was a tricky one. In truth, no player from either side truly excelled on the left flank on a regular basis. Mikel Arteta often flitted on to the left but was needed elsewhere in this team, while Leon Osman was just a bit too inconsistent and no-one from Liverpool overly impressed. It means the nod goes to Jermaine Pennant despite the fact he played almost the campaign on the right – an indicator of how both Liverpool and Everton need to improve their left-wing options next season.
STRIKERS: Andrew Johnson has brought the goals that Everton needed following his arrival from Crystal Palace last summer, and was the most potent forward threat from Goodison. Across the park, Dirk Kuyt has also proven a popular purchase but loses out on a place up front to team-mate Peter Crouch, who scored more goals in less starts.
SUBSTITUTES: Pepe Reina narrowly missed out on the first team, as did Joseph Yobo in central defence. Javier Mascherano would have been a cert had he joined earlier in the season, while Dirk Kuyt and James Vaughan would provide more than ample cover up front. NICK SMITH’S MERSEY XI: Pepe Reina; Steve Finnan, Jamie Carragher, Joseph Yobo, Joleon Lescott; Mikel Arteta, Javier Mascherano, Tim Cahill, Steven Gerrard; Andrew Johnson, Peter Crouch. CHRISTOPHER BEESLEY’S MERSEY XI: Tim Howard; Steve Finnan, Jamie Carragher, Joseph Yobo, Joleon Lescott; Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano, Lee Carsley, Mikel Arteta; Andrew Johnson, Peter Crouch.
CHRIS WRIGHT’S MERSEY XI: Pepe Reina; Steve Finnan, Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger, Joleon Lescott; Leon Osman, Javier Mascherano, Steven Gerrard, Mikel Arteta; Andrew Johnson, Dirk Kuyt.
Improved deal with Chang for Everton
May 31 2007
by Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
EVERTON are close to securing an improved shirt sponsorship deal with Chang beer as a result of their UEFA Cup qualification. Thai Beverage, which produces Chang beer, are in negotiations with Goodison officials over extending the current contract, which expires at the end of next season. And the new deal will outstrip the present £2million-a-year package and represent the most lucrative shirt sponsorship deal in Everton’s history. “We are happy that Everton finished sixth in the past season and sealed a UEFA Cup spot,” said Somchai Sutthikulpanich, a senior official of Thai Beverage. “A contract extension is being discussed and a new deal will be more lucrative than the current one.” Chang have been Everton’s shirt sponsors since June 2004 and agreed an improved three-year deal 12 months later following the club’s qualification for the Champions League. Meanwhile, James Vaughan has been rewarded for his fine season by being called up to England’s under-21 squad for next month’s European Championships. The 18-year-old Birmingham-born player, who is the youngest member of the 23-man squad that travels to Holland next month, has made an impressive impact since fighting back from 12 months on the sidelines with a career-threatening injury, netting four goals in his last six appearances to help Everton seal a place in the UEFA Cup. Stuart Pearce’s side take on Slovakia at Carrow Road next Tuesday in their final warm-up game, where Vaughan will hope to win his first U21 cap after having previously represented his country at U18, U19 and U20 level. West Ham United midfielder Mark Noble is the only other uncapped outfield player in the squad. England begin the tournament against the Czech Republic on June 11 in Arnhem, before further group games against Italy and Serbia. Everton are still waiting on word from Sheffield United after lodging a £4m bid for Phil Jagielka that triggers a release clause in the player’s contract. Jagielka is keen to move to Goodison but the Blades are still attempting to persuade the 24-year-old to stay at Bramall Lane. Tim Howard has been named in the United States’ 19-man squad for Saturday’s friendly match against China in San Jose, California.
Vaughan’s Three Lions pride
May 31 2007
by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
JUBILANT James Vaughan is determined to help boost England’s chances of European glory as the glee of winning an Under-21 call-up begins to sink in. Everton’s exciting young striker was yesterday included in Stuart Pearce’s 23-man squad for next month’s European Championships in Holland after impressing during a training camp in Spain. Although Preston’s David Nugent, Ashley Young of Aston Villa and Reading forward Leroy Lita all boast more experience than Vaughan, his performances for the Blues towards the end of last season means he is firmly in contention for a starting place. Vaughan, understandably, is not getting carried away but having already been capped at Under-18, Under-19 and Under-20 level, there is no disguising his determination to make the next step up, and he hopes to figure in next Tuesday’s friendly against Slovakia at Carrow Road. “I’m delighted to be in the squad and I just hope I can take it further now and make the starting eleven,” said Vaughan, whose 16 appearances for Everton last season yielded five goals. “Obviously that won’t be easy because there is a lot of quality within the squad. But all I can do is my best in training and if I get a chance in the team then it’s up to me to make the most of it. “I didn’t want the season to end. “I just felt that I was approaching full stride and this is a way for me to continue playing. I was really enjoying myself and the end of the season came a bit too early for me.” Only Nugent and Cardiff’s Peter Whittingham in Pearce’s squad currently ply their trade outside the Premiership and Vaughan, who is determined to make the most of the opportunity he has been afforded, expects England’s challenge for the trophy to be strong. “I am still only 18 and I am the youngest player in the squad so I still have an awful lot to learn,” said Vaughan. “Playing and training alongside the best young footballers in the country can only benefit me and I’m really looking forward to it.” Meanwhile, Everton - who are close to securing an improved shirt sponsorship deal with Chang - remain favourites to sign Sheffield United’s Phil Jagielka, despite suggestions Wigan are preparing to gazump them. Jagielka has made it clear that he favours a move to Goodison Park and is expected to tell new Sheffield United boss Bryan Robson so when he meets him.