Copyrighted by James Smith © 2010





Mr Everton Tony Hibbert remains in Roberto Martinez's plans
1 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Veteran full-back has been plagued by injuries over past three seasons
He could be considered Everton’s forgotten man - but Tony Hibbert remains very much part of Roberto Martinez’s plans. The veteran full-back has been plagued by injury in the past three seasons and has made just 19 appearances in that time. But even though the man labelled ‘Mr Everton’ by Martinez has not been on the pitch much, the Blues boss has revealed how he played a key part in lifting the side out of their slump earlier in the season. “It is a good job that he has that experience and that he is part of the furniture at Finch Farm in the way that he is Mr Everton, so that helps,” Martinez said, when asked if Hibbert has found it tough being out for so long.
“But it has been a frustrating period for him. “He has had some of his most impressive performances in the last two years and I will always remember his performance against Wolfsburg away from him - that was Tony Hibbert at his very, very best. “So it is a shame that he has not been fit but he always effects the others even when injured, he doesn’t let anyone know that he is down and he has had a very positive influence on the squad when we were in very tough periods. He is always someone you can rely on and seeing him around the place is always good.”
Hibbert, whose last appearance for the Blues came in December, will not be fit for this weekend’s trip to Aston Villa but Martinez is refusing to rule out the 34-year-old making his return from a knee injury before the end of the campaign. “It would be great if Tony could be involved before the end of the season but it is still in the air,” Martinez added. Manchester City's Samir Nasri (centre) battles for the ball with Everton's Gareth Barry (left) and Tony Hibbert (right) during the Barclays Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium “He wants to get himself fit before the Spurs game, if it happens great but if not then I want him to have a great pre-season and be ready for next season.”
“He has a very strong influence in the dressing room, especially when you have a clear strategy of bringing young players through, you need the brains of Tony Hibbert at the club.”
Hibbert signed a new two-year contract with Everton last summer.

Why Aston Villa v Everton will make history
1 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
League's most traditional fixture reaches a unique milestone
Villa v Everton Stats and Figures by Gavin Buckland
History will be made at Villa Park on Saturday as Everton and Aston Villa meet for the 200th time in league matches – the first English fixture to reach that landmark. All have been in the top-flight.
Everton’s record is P199 W74 D53 L72 F312 A 306
It will be the 100th away league meeting between the two sides in the Midlands.
In the Premier League there have been 45 meetings – Everton winning 11 and losing 17
The two sides’ record in all games is virtually identical, Everton’s record is P217 W80 D58 L79 F339 A332
The Toffees have won their last two visits to Villa Park – 3-1 in August 2012 and 2-0 in October 2013, having one only once in 24 games on the ground beforehand, back to 1987.
Everton have not won three times in succession at Aston Villa in the league since 1964.
If Everton win on Saturday it will complete a home and away league double over Aston Villa in successive seasons, something the Blues have not achieved since 1963/64 & 1964/65.
Everton are unbeaten in their last eight league matches against Villa – having won four times with four draws. If they avoid defeat on Saturday it will equal their longest unbeaten sequence of nine league games against the Midlands’ club, set in 1947.
Roberto Martinez is unbeaten in his last six games against Villa as a manager, winning four and drawing two.
Leon Osman has scored more goals against Aston Villa than any other team – six in total.

There has not been a hat-trick by an Everton player in the fixture since Dixie Dean in December 1927.
Everton are one of the three form teams in the Premier League, with Arsenal and Chelsea, all taking 16 points from the last 18 available.
Everton's current run in the last six games has only been bettered once in the past 12 years in the Premier League – their seven successive victories in March-April 2014.
With Phil Jagielka and John Stones in the centre of defence, Everton have conceded 14 goals in 17 Premier League games this season, against 29 goals in 17 PL games when there have been other partnerships.

Leighton Baines is the best left-back in the country - but not good enough for the PFA Team of the Year?
1 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
David Prentice is baffled by PFA's snub for Leighton Baines
ROBERTO MARTINEZ was surprised that Phil Jagielka wasn’t named in the PFA’s team of the season.
Roberto does mock horror very well.
But I was genuinely staggered that another of Roberto’s defenders missed out - again.
Leighton Baines was overlooked in favour of Ryan Bertrand at left-back this season.
Just as he was bizarrely ignored last season too, ludicrously left out for Luke Shaw.
The last of Baines’ two appearances was in 2013. A national Sunday newspaper recently ran a series of stats - bigging up another Scouser who has enjoyed an excellent season, West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell. But all it did was underline how far in advance of his peers Baines is.
At the time of the feature Baines had scored two goals, provided eight assists, made seven blocks and won 88% of his tackles.
No other English left back could offer more.
Ryan Bertrand has managed two goals, two assists, three blocks and has won 77% of his tackles.
Media darling Danny Rose has two goals, four assists, seven blocks and 86% of tackles won.
Luke Shaw? 0 goals, 0 assists, two blocks and 85%. Kieran Gibbs 0, three, two and 72%.
Cresswell, who has enjoyed an excellent campaign, still trails his fellow Scouser with two goals, four assists, a superb 18 blocks and 69% of tackles won. And since the feature was written Baines has added another assist and played his part in two more clean sheets.
But Ryan Bertrand was in the PFA Team of the Year on Sunday night.
Go figure.
* Incidentally. Which former Everton left back has been named in a PFA team of the year on the most occasions?
Clue. His brief spell at Everton came AFTER his record-breaking 11 nominations.
Answer: Kenny Sansom.

Aston Villa v Everton: Three ECHO writers pick their line-up - now choose yours!
1 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Ian Doyle
Have a crack at what Roberto Martinez will do for the trip to Villa Park. Same again? Or give Mirallas a start?
DAVID PRENTICE: They say if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And the only thing Everton broke last weekend was Manchester United's hearts.
But I'd still tinker with the line up ever so slightly.
Kevin Mirallas offers more attacking threat than Leon Osman, and even against an in form team fighting the drop the Blues can afford to be positive.
I'd bring in the Belgian for Ossie as the only switch from last weekend.
My pick (4-4-1-1): Howard; Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines; Lennon, Barry, McCarthy, Mirallas; Barkley; Lukaku.
IAN DOYLE: Stick or twist. That’s the only real question Roberto Martinez must ponder as Everton aim to continue their strong finish to the season.
Kevin Mirallas may have staked a claim with his goal against Manchester United last week, but Leon Osman did more than enough to retain his place.
For as long as there is a chance the Blues can finish eighth, they must pursue it.
And that means any experimentation could well be kept until the final weekend of the season.
My pick (4-2-3-1): Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Stones, Baines; Barry, McCarthy; Osman, Barkley, Lennon; Lukaku.
NEIL JONES: Same again, surely?
Certainly I’m not able to make a case for leaving anyone out after last weekend’s performance.
The only bone of contention, perhaps, is whether Kevin Mirallas starts instead of Leon Osman on the left.
But Osman has been a calming influence in recent weeks, keeping possession and taking up good positions.
Mirallas, for me, is to be used in the same role as he was against United – off the bench, late in the game, to run at a tiring defence.
My pick (4-2-3-1): Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Stones, Baines; Barry, McCarthy; Osman, Barkley, Lennon; Lukaku.

View from the Gwladys Street with James Corbett
1 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Evertonian author looks at all things Royal Blue
Will the confidence generated by Sunday's win over United be enough to help Everton peg back Stoke and Swansea and finish eighth?
I hope so, although I think that a lot depends on Swansea and Stoke and how they get on in their games. There’s no reason Everton can’t get at least 10 points from their remaining games.
It's the battle of the Big Belgian strikers at Villa Park on Saturday but who is better - Lukaku or Benteke? Benteke has come back from serious injury and is starting to again show signs of just what a good player he is. One of Tim Sherwood’s qualities as manager is playing to a centre forward’s strengths and getting the best out of them - it was a similar situation with Emmanuel Adebayor at Tottenham. Perhaps that’s something that Roberto Martinez could take from the Villa manager because on his day there’s no better centre forward in the Premier League than Lukaku.
John Stones has been compared to such greats as Bobby Moore and Franz Beckenbauer after last Sunday - should Everton be concerned about big bids for one of their best young stars in the summer? I think Everton should be concerned that such talk goes to John Stones’s head. Moore and Beckenbauer both captained their countries to World Cups and their clubs to European trophies; John has played his 50th Everton game, so there’s a long way to go.
But he’s a lovely player, an outstanding defender and reader of the game and a very good ball playing defender; he has all the qualities of a great player, it’s up to him to realise that.
As for other clubs? I pay no attention to newspaper talk and I don’t think Martinez should either. He should just be focused on building the best team he can.
Adrian Heath said recently that it's unthinkable to imagine Everton not winning any more silverware but with 20 years since our last trophy is he right?
I think the era of financial doping makes it very very difficult for Everton (and Liverpool) to compete with clubs whose owners pour petrodollars into their bank accounts.
It’s killing the sporting integrity not just of English football, but in places like France, where PSG have the highest wage bill in global sport thanks to their Qatari owners.
On the other hand, you look at Spain, where there’s also massive disparities in wealth and see what has been done at Atletico Madrid, who won last season’s title and almost won the Champions League with a turnover only 15% higher than Everton’s; so it can be done. It only becomes unthinkable if you stop thinking about it.
We're approaching the anniversary of the club's famous 1984/85 title success (Wednesday May 6, 2-0 win over QPR). What do you recall of that era?
I saw my first game in November that year and became hooked straight away. Winning was a way of life: at the end of the season either Everton or Liverpool were champions.
That’s the way it was until I went to secondary school. If you’d have told me in 1990 that a Merseyside club wouldn’t win the title in the next 25 years I wouldn’t have believed it.
You also look back at the players of that era, and as well as being great players they were all men of stature and character: Big Nev, Kevin Ratcliffe, Psycho Pat, Sheeds, Sharpy, Peter Reid. How many players in the current squad could you the same about? James McCarthy and Lukaku, perhaps?
They were great times, and it was tremendous that football brought such pride to the city when it was at its lowest ebb.
Finally, is there anything else you'd like to get off your chest?
It has been a difficult season for Everton and Roberto Martinez. I can excuse the decline in form because it happens to most managers, but I think at times he could have helped himself.
His communication of what he’s done and what he’s trying to do has generally been poor. Sometimes comment is superfluous - there was no more eloquent statement for his merits than last Sunday’s performance - but what I’d like is a better idea of his big plan, his big idea for Everton.
With David Moyes I inherently understood what he was trying to build at Everton: a younger, fitter, hungrier team; but I don’t get the same sense of the big picture with Roberto.

Aston Villa v Everton: Meet the referee - and it's an old Blues favourite
1 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Mark Clattenburg will be the whistleblower at Villa Park. You may remember him from incidents such as "red card for Tony Hibbert" and "that was a legitimate challenge by Dirk Kuyt"
Mark Clattenburg returns to the ground where he ended his Everton exile this weekend.
The controversial ref did not take charge of a Blues match for five years following a hugely controversial display in a Goodison derby match in 2007.
He was finally put back in charge at Villa Park in January 2012, when he has since been seen more regularly at Blues matches.
His first appearance back at Goodison Park was in December 2013, when Everton beat Southampton 2-1. He also officiated the Blues 1-0 defeat at Tottenham last season, their 4-1 FA Cup exit at Arsenal and the match which ended David Moyes’ tenure as Manchester United manager, Everton’s 2-0 victory at Goodison Park in April.
Clattenburg has taken charge of two Blues matches this season - the 2-1 victory over West Ham in November and the 2-0 defeat at Stoke in March.
The County Durham official has shown more yellow cards - 155 - than any other referee this season, although he has also taken charge of more matches than any other Premier League official, 42.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter pays tribute to former Everton chairman Sir Philip Carter
1 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Ian Doyle
Head of world governing body sends letter of condolence after passing of influential Goodison figure
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has paid tribute to Everton’s former chairman and life president Sir Philip Carter.
Sir Philip, who died last week at the age of 87, was chairman of the Blues during their most successful period in the mid-1980s, when they lifted two league titles, the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup. He was also instrumental in helping set up the Premier League, which started in 1992, and served as president of the Football League and a vice-president of the Football Association. And in a letter addressed to FA chairman Greg Dyke, FIFA president Blatter has paid tribute to Sir Philip. “He will be remembered for his lifetime contribution to football, in particular to his service to the Everton Football Club,” wrote the FIFA President.
“On behalf of the international football community, I should be extremely grateful if you could extend our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. “We would hope that in some way, our words of support may help bring a little bit of peace and solace in this time of sadness.”

Insurance man James McCarthy lets me experiment says Everton boss Roberto Martinez
1 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Blues manager hails midfielder's versatility as the foundation for tactical tinkering ahead of Villa Park journey
Roberto Martinez says he has been allowed to “experiment” with Everton’s formation because of the strength of his midfield axis.
The Blues boss says the great rapport that exists between Gareth Barry and James McCarthy meant he felt confident about tweaking the side’s approach for recent games.
McCarthy has found himself pushed further forward and scored goals in wins over Newcastle United and Manchester United. Martinez believes Barry’s experience and unflappable nature is pivotal to any formation he uses at Goodison and has allowed McCarthy to rampage further upfield with confidence. “Partnerships develop over playing time and James and Gareth don’t even need to look at each other now to know what the other one is going to do next,” said Martinez.
“You can experiment with it and we have used that flexibility to good affect in the last six games.
“Obviously, Aaron Lennon coming in has given us a different dimension as well and overall the team is very confident and we have many options and ways of approaching games which is a big strength.” Barry, who will line up at former club Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon, was named man-of-the-match against United on Sunday and Martinez added: “What Gareth brings you is an incredible, calm understanding. “As a team we are very flexible but sometimes it is hard to see that flexibility because they are very small tweaks and there are aspects difficult to see from the outside.
“But when you have an experienced head like him he knows those small margins matter so much and he can affect those players around him. “James McCarthy feels so at ease when Gareth is around him. The understanding of the whole team goes down to Gareth having a clear understanding of what we are trying to do. “The answer is clear, the characters that can go through a game without being emotional are the ones who have a clean way of approaching the next game and that is important.”

Aston Villa v Everton: Three key questions including who will win the battle of the Belge?
1 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
There's plenty to play for at Villa Park... mostly between all the famous Belgians that are going to be involved. Note: does not include Poirot. Or Tintin. Neither of which are real
Can momentum overcome actually having something to play for?
Aston Villa are fighting for their lives - Everton playing for the chance of overhauling Stoke to finish... ninth. In terms of having something to play for, everything points to Villa.
But Everton are the team in form. Since exiting Europe in Kiev Everton have won four and drawn one - and prior to that trip to Ukraine walloped Newcastle 3-0. Everton are joint top of the Premier League form table with Arsenal. Villa are mid-table, but also have a fine FA Cup semi-final success in their last six matches. The 200th league meeting between the clubs - the first English clubs to reach that milestone - should tell us whether momentum means more than incentive.
Who will win the Battle of the Belge?
Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke are a rarity - famous Belgians.
And they are well known for scoring goals.
Benteke has scored 12 goals this season - nine of them in his last eight appearances.
Lukaku has scored 18 - eight of them in European competition.
But don’t be surprised if both are upstaged by a slightly lesser known Belgian.
Kevin Mirallas is the man bang in form with goals in his last two appearances - and Roberto Martinez may turn to him at Villa Park.
Will Wembley be on Villa minds?
Villa have four games to save their season. But they also have four games before a first FA Cup final for 15 years (when Gareth Barry played at the heart of a Villa defence which lost to to Chelsea).
A Cup final appearance can do strange things to a footballer’s mind.
Managers can use a Cup final place as an incentive for fringe players not assured of a start. But more established players may have the fear of injury ruling them out of the biggest match of their careers in the back of their minds. Wembley can have a positive - and a negative impact on a football team.

Big summer ahead for Everton says Barry Horne
1 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Barry Horne
Everton chairman, chief executive and manager all have a part to play
Under David Moyes Everton had a reputation for starting seasons slowly and finishing strongly.
And very often those strong finishes meant excitement.
Would we be finishing seventh or sixth and qualifying for Europe? Or even finishing fourth and all that that entails? People have recently latched onto this season’s strong finish – but unfortunately those recent wins have been achieved in what are effectively a series of dead rubbers.
‘All’ we are playing for is the extra prize money per league place that is on offer - because once those three consecutive games were won against Newcastle, QPR and Southampton, securing safety from relegation, our season was over.
Having said that, it is always great to finish strongly.
Many fans go away for the summer with optimism and their faith restored.
But it will still be a big summer for the club. Roberto Martinez has said that no big hitters are leaving. That is all well and good, but the squad is still in need of freshening and strengthening.
Last summer the Romelu Lukaku signing was a no-brainer, price excepted
Likewise Gareth Barry.
The previous summer the transfer record was mixed.
James McCarthy proved an outstanding acquisition, but other deals were less successful.
I am sure most Evertonians would agree signings are needed this summer.
A late run is great, but not season defining, A late run under David Moyes might have ended up in a top four or top six finish. This late run won’t. It is a big summer ahead for all concerned at Everton, the chairman, chief executive and manager.
Under-estimated Unsy deserves more recognition
When John Terry sliced his team’s crucial goal against Leicester in midweek, he grabbed a share of Premier League history. He equalled the goalscoring record for defenders of 38 goals.
The man he drew level with was an old team-mate of mine, and doing great work at the club now – David Unsworth. I know he scored a lot of penalties, but he also popped up with the odd screamer and the odd scuffed shot. I was there the day he scored the first goal of David Moyes’ reign as Everton manager – definitely a screamer. Unsy also held the club’s Premier League outfield appearance record until recently and was an integral part of the FA Cup win of 1995.
There are many players who have contributed much less to the Everton cause who have a far greater profile and are appreciated more. David Unsworth is a man who is back at Everton now and still doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Mourinho the magnificent
IT’S been an eventful week in football, as ever. And we have seen some highs and lows in the lives of a couple of managers. Eddie Howe has quite rightly been applauded for his magnificent achievements at Bournemouth. It’s fair to say Nigel Pearson has had less praise following his spat with a journalist. Pearson, by the way is a decent, intelligent, hard working bloke who has done a terrific job at Leicester. I genuinely think he will keep them up.
But it’s ironic that his meltdown came in a week when he had Jose Mourinho in opposition - someone who remains a master of his craft. I know that not everyone will agree with me. It’s an understatement to say that Mourinho is not everyone’s cup of tea.
But anyone at the age of 53 who has won titles in the major countries that he has, won Champions League trophies with two different clubs – and collected 21 major trophies in total, obviously has something about him. His role in Chelsea’s ascendancy cannot be underestimated.
With the exception of what has to be veiwed as a bizarre and un-Mourinho like exit from the Champions League, domestically Chelsea have been dominant.
Mourinho took a season to get back into the swing of things but still put a trophy in the cabinet.
More importantly he assessed a squad and worked out exactly what was needed for this season.
He enjoyed an unbelievable summer transfer window, not just in revitalising a tiring squad but all but balancing the books in doing so. His man-management skills are legendary and evidenced by the resurgence of John Terry back to the player he was four or five years ago.
His coaching skills are also outstanding and he has shown that he can win games in a variety of ways.
I was at the Liberty Stadium where I witnessed one of the most complete demolitions of a Premier League team I have seen this season, a Premier League teams by the way which was having a very good season, but was dismantled in a display of immense attacking prowess.
Since then he has to contend with a slight loss of form of some players and has seen them still churn out victories which has kept them on a relentless march to the title. I don’t think anyone else would be expected to justify performances in such a position, but Chelsea have still had to defend the way they play. That has given Mourinho the opportunity to demonstrate another of his skills, which is dealing with the media. His press confernces have been at times farcical, confrontational, provocative and comical, but always pre-meditated and with a purpose.
He thrives on the pressure he puts himself under and in return the reporters do their best to trip him up – invariably failing to do so. But in trying to goad him, they appreciate that he is pure gold.
To put yourself out there every week, as Jose Mourinho does, requires a certain skill, wit and charm - and not everybody can do it – as Nigel Pearson found to his cost this week.

Why Everton's odd couple are the perfect match for Roberto Martinez
2 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Ian Doyle
Blues boss hails defensive partnership of Stones and Jagielka... but warns of difficult Aston Villa test
They are Everton’s version of the odd couple, one approaching the twilight of his career while the other is only just starting. But, according to Roberto Martinez, the pairing of Phil Jagielka and John Stones is the perfect match. The master and apprentice. The mentor and protege. The teacher and student. Whatever their tag, the centre-back partnership of the England internationals has proven the bedrock of the Blues’ strong finish to the campaign.
Indeed, with Jagielka and Stones at the heart of defence, Everton have conceded 14 goals in 17 Premier League games this season, compared to 29 in 17 top-flight matches when there have been other partnerships. And for Martinez, it’s all about the chemistry.
“They complement each other really well and the most important reason is that they are phenomenal footballers,” says the Blues boss.
“In Phil Jagielka, you have got a captain, a leader and someone who is probably enjoying the best football of his career. “He has had a very interesting season where he has needed to lead the group and find a way to perform well in difficult circumstances, combined with European football.

“He has that chemistry and understanding with someone so young but so talented like John Stones.
“It is a joy to see John developing and growing as a footballer.
“To see him doing it alongside Phil, it is a very natural partnership and it has been really effective for us. “You look at the whole back four and Tim Howard, and we are starting to get a real strong consistency in 2015. “It’s a big part of any team, if you want to perform and win games the back four has to build a platform. “We have been delighted with that partnership and all the levels in their defensive duties.”
All about the balance
It’s remarkable to consider Stones was only five years old when Jagielka made his professional debut for Sheffield United almost exactly 15 years ago. Indeed, with Stones approaching his 21st birthday at the end of the month and Jagielka 33 in August, almost 12 years separate the two players.
And Martinez believes their success is more than a mere combination of youth and experience, pointing to the tussle for places in defence as key to keeping the pair on their toes.
“The balance needs to be right,” says the Catalan. “But rather than the age, it’s the mentality, talent and focus of the individuals. “The competition for places has been very strong from the beginning of the season and that helps. “You need to always be at your very best. We have developed a strong competition that has led to a very strong level of performance.”
As well as keeping the opposition at bay, both Stones and Jagielka have chipped in with important goals in recent weeks, the former netting his debut strike for Everton in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Manchester United after the latter had notched the winner in the home triumph over Southampton.
Cup won't be a distraction for Villa Both can expect to be fully tested by the in-form Christian Benteke when relegation-threatened Aston Villa host the Blues. Although Tim Sherwood’s side have progressed to the FA Cup final, they remain mired in a dogfight standing just two points clear of the drop zone. And Martinez says: “It will be a really difficult game. What Aston Villa have done in the FA Cup and the last few games, they have found renewed confidence and a renewed belief in what they are doing. “The new manager coming in with different ideas has given everyone a new opportunity and they are playing with that manner. “They aren’t playing with any fear and are very dynamic and flexible in terms of tactics. They have really good players in different positions.”
Martinez dismisses suggestions the imminent Wembley date with Arsenal at the end of the month will take Villa’s eye off the ball in the Premier League. “They did really well to win against Spurs at White Hart Lane and were unlucky to lose against Manchester City and were the better side at the Etihad last week,” he says.
“We are going to be heavily tested at Villa Park.
“The FA Cup final is not a distraction. The run-in in the league is now their focus, and at the end of that there’s an immense incentive to win silverware. That gets everybody ready to perform.
“That’ll give them an extra incentive. They have had a real strong support at home and I do feel we will have to be at our very best and reproduce the level we shown in the last six games.”
And much could depend on Everton’s odd couple continuing their mean streak.

Aston Villa: Reasons to be confident as Villa welcome Everton to B6
2 May 2015 Birmingham Daily Post
Writer Tom Davis outlines the points as to why Aston Villa supporters can be optimistic heading to Villa Park this weekend
Aston Villa will be searching for a vital victory against Everton on Saturday to boost their chances of survival with just four games remaining. Three of those are played at Villa Park and home support could be pivotal if the claret and blues are to avoid the drop ahead of the FA Cup final on May 30.
While recent wins for Hull and Leicester have been cause for concern, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful ahead of Saturday's clash.
Toffees have a fragile defence
Everton may have turned their season around with a six-game unbeaten run since the start of March, but, prior to that they had a dodgy record at the back. Roberto Martinez's side had made 13 defensive errors leading to goals at that stage, which was more than any team in Europe's top five leagues.The fact that they have also dropped a league-high of 19 points from winning positions also suggests that, even if they score first, Villa will not be out of the game.
Villa are scoring goals
In contrast to a shaky Everton defence, this Villa side are now heading into games with the prospect of scoring goals – and winning games.
According to Opta, they average more shots per game under Sherwood (9.4) than Paul Lambert (7.4) and, unsurprisingly, more goals (14) than the old regime (12) too.
They have also scored in every home game under Sherwood bar one.
And it’s not just Christian Benteke who is chipping in with goals now too.
Tom Cleverley and Carlos Sanchez – who barely ventured past the half-way line under Lambert – registered their first for the club against Manchester City last week.
If Sherwood can get them firing, who knows who might score next.
Benteke is back to his best
Of course, at the heart of Villa’s goals is Christian Benteke. He’s a man in form and that gives Villa a reason to be optimistic in every game.
With three times as many goals in his last eight games (9) than the rest of the season combined, he’s playing with confidence in front of goal.
Records don’t favour visitors
Granted, the Toffees have an impressive recent record over Villa, having not lost in eight games, but the record books are against them for Saturday.
While they will aim for their third straight win at Villa Park, they have not done this since 1964.
Victory could also complete a league double but, again, they have not done this since 1964.
And Villa currently sit on 32 points – which is exactly half of 64. If that’s not a good omen for tomorrow, I don’t know what is.

Everton youngsters closing in on title
2 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Chris Beesley
Sheedy's lads record big win at Villa
Aston Villa Under-18s 1 Everton Under-18s 4
Everton Under-18s recorded a sparkling 4-1 win away at Aston Villa, moving a step closer to the national title in the process.
Kevin Sheedy’s young Blues remain unbeaten in the eight-team end of season league, and with close rivals Manchester United losing to Chelsea, their fate is now in their own hands.
Sheedy said: “It’s in our hands now and that is the important thing. The lads played well today and controlled the game throughout. We have a tough game next weekend against West Brom and we’ll take it from there.” This win was achieved in commanding fashion with the Blues dominant throughout. They opened the scoring after 20 minutes when Nathan Broadhead and Danny Brammall exchanged passes before the latter calmly netted.
Broadhead then claimed his own goal before the break, slotting home clinically after another good move. It was more of the same in the second half with Everton in complete control. Under-16 player Antony Evans set up Delial Brewster to make it three with another smart finish before getting on the scoresheet himself after Brammall had pulled the ball back from the byline.
Villa’s late goal from a corner was a mere consolation and attention now turns to next week’s clash with West Brom.
Everton: O’Loughlin, Birch, Graham, Thorniley, Myers, Bainbridge, Evans, Broadhead (Morris), Brammall (Mellen), Donohue, Brewster.

Christian Benteke double eases Aston Villa’s fears in win over Everton
Aston Villa 3 - 2 Everton
Stuart James at Villa Park
Saturday 2 May 2015 The Guardian
“Relegation, you’re having a laugh” was Tim Sherwood’s response to Aston Villa’s predicament last weekend and it was easy to see why the manager feels that way after an afternoon when his team’s performance did a much better job of warming the home supporters’ hearts than the bitterly cold weather. Two goals from the revitalised Christian Benteke, taking the striker’s tally to 11 in his last nine club matches, and another from the outstanding Tom Cleverley brought Everton’s six-match unbeaten league run to an end and lifted Villa up to 14th place in the table, above Newcastle United on goal difference. It was no more than Villa deserved on the balance of play, with Fabian Delph catching the eye alongside Cleverley in front of the watching Roy Hodgson, although there was nearly a sting in the tail when Phil Jagielka pulled a goal back for Everton in injury time.
Villa, however, held on for a victory that appeared even more important in the context of results elsewhere. With only three matches remaining, two of them at home against West Ham United and Burnley, Villa are still only two points clear of the bottom three. Not that Sherwood is paying much attention. “It was a huge win today but you know what, I’ve drove myself mad ever since I’ve been here looking at the fixtures of other teams and the league table. I’ve got no interest now,” the Villa manager said. “If we don’t do our job we deserve to go down. Everyone is going to win, it’s a freak season, isn’t it? “Leicester can go and win four in 29 or whatever it was and then they win five in six. It’s enough pressure trying to look after your own team, never mind worrying about everyone else’s results. If we win the games that are available to us … and I think we might need to win them all to stay in the league.” On and off the pitch, there is no shortage of entertainment value with Sherwood in charge. Villa have now scored 17 goals in 10 league games since he replaced Paul Lambert and it is hard to reconcile the vibrant, dynamic, attacking football the players are producing now with the toothless, prosaic style of play under his predecessor.
Benteke is a man transformed, Cleverley is playing with a smile on his face again, Jack Grealish is a joy to watch and Delph is running the show. Sherwood cannot get enough of the Villa captain. “I thought Fabian Delph showed why he’s probably, in my opinion, the best midfield player in the country at the moment. I wouldn’t swap him for anyone in the mess we’re in,” he said. “It’s not only about energy and desire, it’s about flair and imagination. He’s got the whole package. I see Roy Hodgson was up there, I think he would have been very impressed with the two midfield players, Cleverley as well.” As for Everton, this display felt like something of an anticlimax on the back of their superb victory over Manchester United last Sunday. While the visitors improved in the second half, Roberto Martínez admitted that the damage was done in the opening 45 minutes, when the Everton manager conceded that his team were “second best in everything we did”.
Benteke gave Villa the lead in the 11th minute when he met a splendid Delph centre with a towering header and the Belgian scored his second on the stroke of half-time after some suspect Everton defending. Ron Vlaar flicked on Grealish’s corner – one of several excellent set-pieces from the 19-year-old – and Benteke, totally unmarked, had the simple task of turning the ball home.
West Ham’s Mark Noble scores from spot to heap misery on Burnley
The complexion of the game changed when Vlaar brought down Steven Naismith in the area just before the hour mark. Romelu Lukaku made no mistake from the spot, hesitating in his run-up before coolly rolling the ball into the corner for his 19th goal of the season. The anxiety among home fans was tangible but Villa gave themselves some breathing space when Cleverley, running on to Leandro Bacuna’s measured pass, beat Tim Howard with a rising shot from 12 yards.
That should have been that but Villa endured a nervous finale after James McCarthy’s header came back off the bar and Jagielka nodded in. Shay Given, who was making his first Premier League appearance since August 2012 after Sherwood decided to drop Brad Guzan, earned a booking for protesting that Séamus Coleman fouled him prior to Jagielka scoring. “Fortunately that [decision] hasn’t cost us today but it can on other occasions,” Sherwood said.

Aston Villa 3-2 Everton: Toffees' unbeaten run ends at Villa Park
2 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Joe Rimmer
Two goals from Christian Benteke and one from Tom Cleverly gives Villa the points
EVERTON'S unbeaten run in the Premier League came to an abrupt halt at relegation threatened Aston Villa today. The Blues slumped to a 3-2 defeat with Romelu Lukaku's penalty coming in between a brace from Christian Benteke and one from Tom Cleverley before Phil Jagielka’s late header. Everton were desperately poor throughout today's game at Villa Park and can have no complaints as about a first league defeat in seven matches. Villa showed an intent, purpose and desire that Roberto Martinez's side could not and were fully deserving of a victory that eases their fears of the drop. Everton drop back into the bottom half of the table and failed to seize the initiative after Lukaku's early second-half penalty had given them hope.
Six minutes after cutting Villa's advantage in half, the Blues conceded a third as Cleverley raced onto Leandro Bacuna's through-ball and fired past Tim Howard. Martinez will lament the ease with which Cleverley lost Gareth Barry and made a run through the heart of the Everton defence - but then both of Benteke's goals were avoidable as well.
The Belgian striker rose unmarked to head home in the 10th minute before connecting with Ron Vlaar's glancing header from a corner as half-time approached.
Cleverley's goal put the seal on Villa's win although Phil Jagielka's injury-time header made for a nervous last few minutes for the home fans.
Unfortunately for Everton, it was too little, too late.
EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Howard, Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines, McCarthy, Barry, Lennon, Naismith (Osman, 74), Mirallas (Barkley, 74), Lukaku. Subs: Robles, McGeady, Kone, Besic, Alcaraz.
Goals: Lukaku (59) Jagielka (90)
Yellow Cards: Coleman

Aston Villa 3-2 Everton player ratings: Which three Blues scored only a 4?
2 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
How they fared at Villa Park plus the chance to give your verdict on the Blues' performance. One Belgian may want to look away now...
Everton's Romelu Lukaku (left) and Aston Villa's Ron Vlaar battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match at Villa Park, Birmingham. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 2, 2015. See PA story SOCCER Villa. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. Maximum 45 images during a match. No video emulation or promotion as 'live'. No use in games, competitions, merchandise, betting or single club/player services. No use with unofficial audio, video, data, fixtures or club/league logos.
TIM HOWARD: Out of step with his improved levels of late. Worryingly indecisive on crosses and weak kicking. Score 5
LEIGHTON BAINES: Toiled endlessly but was way off his best. Partly culpable for Villa’s opener and failed to add much going forward. Score 5
PHIL JAGIELKA: Not the way Everton’s Player of April will have wanted to start May. Shaky for Villa’s first two goals, and struggled to contain Christian Benteke. Still, provided some vital blocks and intelligent distribution, plus the late goal that provided a shaft of hope. Score 6
JOHN STONES: No glaring errors and made every attempt to build on his colossal United display but had a steep learning curve with Benteke’s powerful display in the first half. Score 6
SEAMUS COLEMAN: Didn’t get forward enough and failed to make much of an impact on the game. Score 5
JAMES McCARTHY: Another who found it impossible to recapture his best from last weekend. Out worked by Delph and out thought by Grealish. Score 5
GARETH BARRY: Sluggish, ineffective and his lack of pace was cruelly exposed by Thomas Cleverley for Villa’s third goal. Score 4
AARON LENNON: Provided the usual workrate and improved in the second half but overall didn’t create any chances and won’t include this in the DVD showreel to persuade Martinez to make his stay permanent. Score 5
STEVEN NAISMITH: Restored to the starting line-up for the first time in almost two months but looked rusty and subdued. The Scot has gone backwards since signing his new contract in December. Score 4
KEVIN MIRALLAS: Poor. Little of his usual cut and thrust and criminally lacked commitment – not least when hurdling 50/50 challenges. Score 4
ROMELU LUKAKU: Lost the battle of the Belgians conclusively but still dispatched his penalty with aplomb and was responsible for some of the more positive moments after the break. Score 5
LEON OSMAN (for Naismith 75): Brought his usual calm and composure to period of revival which almost threatened to pinch a point. Probably should have started. Score 7
ROSS BARKLEY (for Mirallas 75): More dynamic than those he replaced and tried to make Everton more direct. Score 7

Aston Villa 3-2 Everton match verdict: Below-par Blues are left battered, bloodied and beaten
2 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Phil Kirkbride sifts through the wreckage as visitors fail to heed Martinez warning and six-game unbeaten run comes to a crashing halt
Roberto Martinez had warned his players that they would have to be at their best if they were to take anything away from Villa Park. Painfully, they were not.
In fact, they were absolutely nowhere near as the same side that had breathed new life into a flagging league season with a six game unbeaten run were swatted away with worrying ease.
A rampant Aston Villa bossed, battered and bloodied a Blues team that were hopelessly second best in all departments.
This was a humbling defeat and a fully deserved one to boot.
Martinez and his players can have no complaints here and even when they found a foothold in the game through Romelu Lukaku’s early second-half penalty, Everton failed to seize the initiative and conceded a third goal just six minutes later. Phil Jagielka’s injury-time header, as well as the full-time stats, gave this match a misleading slant because Villa were miles the better team.
And don’t be fooled by the Blues’ late rally as this cannot be dressed up as some valiant show of character and spirit. The truth is, it was a performance that was devoid of such qualities and by the time the skipper had scored, the game had long gone away from Everton.
But it’s not as if they hadn’t been warned either.
Martinez’s pre-match comments were heavily laced with warnings to his players about Villa’s renewed quality and confidence. “If we are not at our best, we will find it hard to cope with their enthusiasm,” he said. So why didn’t his players listen?
Pulled this way and that by Christian Benteke and given the run around by Fabien Delph, Everton were second best by a long distance, for pretty much all of this match.
Emerging from the break with intent gave the travelling Evertonians hope but Lukaku’s 19th of the season proved a false dawn as Tom Cleverley exposed some gaping holes in their defence to make it 3-1 soon after. The impressive Cleverley was part of a Villa midfield that was streets ahead of Everton’s. Gareth Barry had a return to his former club he will want to forget while James McCarthy also struggled to deal with the surge of energy coming his way.
But, make no mistake, they were not the only two who failed to live up the standards of recent weeks or the standards required in this game. Martinez’s team selection, that saw recalls for Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas, will inevitably come under close scrutiny and criticism.
Naismith, it appeared, was brought into the starting line for the first time since March for his work-rate as much his guile in the final third. Tim Sherwood has transformed Villa’s fortunes by playing a brand of dynamic and direct football that often sees the midfield by-passed in favour of playing straight to Benteke. But even with Naismith mucking in with Barry, McCarthy and the back four, Everton still failed to cope and the Scot was largely ineffective.
Delph, Cleverley, Jack Grealish and Charles N’Zogbia befuddled the Blues, twisted, turned and tormented them.
You could even say they toyed with Everton.
It was certainly torturous for the away fans who arrived in the West Midlands on a wave of optimism but left utterly deflated and, no doubt, angry. Trying to understand how their side could fall from the highs of last Sunday to the lows of today, so quickly, was proving difficult and won’t be any easier in the hours after. Mirallas wasted his chance to impress and in a week where he dropped the biggest hint yet that he wants to stay at the club next season it will come as a massive surprise if he is not on the bench for the visit of Sunderland on Saturday. The Belgian was part of a team-wide malaise and Martinez, often a manager to focus on the positives in trying circumstances, had to admit that Everton’s “first-half display was in no way good enough.”
Villa were all-action, direct and played with tempo. Everton, for far too long, did not and paid the price. Two-nil down at the break after a Benteke brace, the Blues had the look of a team that had no hope of getting back into the game. Lukaku’s penalty, after Naismith was hauled down in the area, should have been the spark to light a comeback but their day was summed up when Cleverley burst past Barry and raced onto Leandro Bacuna’s through-ball to re-establish their two goal lead.
Belatedly, Ross Barkley and Leon Osman were introduced for Naismith and Mirallas and at least gave Everton direction and a threat but, by this stage, hopes of a point were long gone.
Relegation-threatened Sunderland are the visitors on Saturday and will see Villa’s performance as a blueprint to defeat Everton. But let’s hope Martinez’s players heed his warning this time.

Aston Villa 3-2 Everton: Benteke wins battle of the Belgians and four other things we learned
2 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Plus why this was a missed opportunity for Naismith, Tom's a clever boy and eighth wonder is fading fast
They saw it coming...
It’s one thing to sense a fatal lack of desire coming, quite another to let it happen. Last weekend it was a crestfallen Louis Van Gaal admitting that he predicted United’s paltry display on Merseyside. This time it was his tormentor Roberto Martinez who said he had feared his side would not be at their best before the game. “I was worried about exactly what happened: coming here and not having the engagement or stimulation after having such a fantastic performance and result and atmosphere at Goodison,” he said. “It happens in football, the intensity and tempo we had in our last game maybe made it a bit difficult to start the game in the same level. I did feel in the first half we were second best in everything we did.” It begs the obvious questions. If he felt such a contrasting display was on the cards, why not be more pro-active in averting it?
Martinez will claim that re-shuffling his pack, in came Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas, was his attempt at doing just that but it was patently unsuccessful.
The big challenge for a successful team is consistency. Everton have lacked it all season. Chelsea can play well and win, perform patchily and win, outright stink and win. Everton can’t.
Outstanding against United six days ago, they just couldn’t keep the winning feeling alive in the Midlands. They have their work cut out if they want to challenge for the top four next season.
A missed opportunity for Steven Naismith
Before Villa Park Steven Naismith’s last two starts in a blue shirt came in the lowest points of a pretty low season. The Scot was in the team on that miserable March night at Stoke’s Britannia stadium and again when Everton’s Europa League campaign came to an abrupt and brutal end in Kiev. In the Midlands he played like a man with the burden of those experiences still weighing heavily upon him. Given a chance to remind everyone of his best qualities in his favoured position, Naismith struggled to ever really get going. Even the defensive edge he brings when his side don’t have the ball was impotent as the rampant hosts took the game by the scruff of the neck.
He is better than this display suggested but with Leon Osman and Ross Barkley’s introduction instantly giving the Toffees more impetus, Naismith might not get the chance to show it next weekend.
Stalemate in the Battle of the Belgians but Benteke has spring in his step
So with one swish of his left boot, Romelu Lukaku’s confident spot kick ensured that compatriot Christian Benteke didn’t stay ahead of him as the top scoring Belgian in Premier League’ history for long. Honours are even at 41 goals each. But even spec wearers of the most royal blue tint couldn’t claim that the Everton man had the better overall of his rival for their country’s number nine shirt.
Where Benteke showed intensity and hunger from the first whistle, Lukaku didn’t manage to get going until the second half when his side were facing a steep uphill task. The caveat comes in the disparity of service. Benteke had three dynamic midfielders behind him tearing forward to support him with pace and panache. Lukaku was largely isolated and disconnected.
Who’s a clever boy then?
Jack Grealish, with his low slung socks and samba skills, naturally catches the eye most. Then there’s Fabian Delph’s all-action style and box to box desire. But what of Tom Cleverley?
The man Roberto Martinez would dearly like to add to his Everton squad remains damned by faint praise, or often none at all from sceptical fans. Just check social media when he’s linked to the Blues to see that there are many Twittering Toffees aghast at the prospect.
But those in the away end at Villa Park on Saturday might just tell them to think twice.
Cleverly’s coolly-taken goal wasn’t even the best part of his quietly intelligent display. He helped Villa’s midfield maintain an almost complete stranglehold over their opponents.
Statistically the on-loan Red Devil was head and shoulders above any of his opposing numbers.
Afterwards Villa boss Tim Sherwood was at pains to stress he wants him to stay. “I play him in his best position,” he insisted. Martinez prefers the diminutive former England international in a more advanced role and you can see why.
Whether he’ll end up at Goodison or not remains to be seen. But as Everton try and build a squad with more strength in depth, they could do much worse.
Even dubious comforts of eighth are fading
It underlines how low Everton’s ambitions have sunk this term that an unlikely late surge into eighth place became their final aim.
Yet after the glorious unpicking of United last Sunday, sneaking above Stoke City, West Ham and Swansea suddenly felt like it might represent a genuinely cheerful fillip to a rotten campaign.
Now even that seems worthy of the longest of odds.
The Blues are not only hoping they must finish with a three-game winning flourish by beating Sunderland, West Ham and Spurs; they must also pray that Swansea (on 53 points) lose all their remaining fixtures to Arsenal, Manchester City and Crystal Palace.
Possible? Of course – Garry Monk’s men face the harder run in but, then the Hammers and Stoke can also spoil the party by finishing strongly.
Eighth, ninth,’s all fairly cold comfort. But that’s the target nonetheless. Everton must at least finish in the top half of the table to salvage lingering pride from a forgettable campaign.

Is iconic Everton number 9 jersey losing its lustre?
3 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Chris Beesley
From Dixie to Kone: Blues are getting shirty
Everton proudly boast the original and best number nine in English football but has the iconic shirt gone from being a boon to a burden at Goodison Park?
This week marked the anniversary of the 1933 FA Cup final when Everton and Manchester City became the first teams to both wear numbered shirts in a senior match.
The Blues, who were wearing white jerseys on that day sported what came to be the game’s traditional 1 to 11 and their opponents donned scarlet shirts labelled 12-22.
But while the first number nine Dean went on to net 383 goals for Everton – the highest total any player has scored for a single English club – the current incumbent Arouna Kone remains stuck on one solitary strike after 22 outings for the Blues. At least the Ivory Coast-born striker, who oddly wore number two at previous club Wigan Athletic, took up the challenge of donning the coveted shirt which in recent years has been passed over by Aiyegbeni Yakubu while Louis Saha started wearing the number nine but asked to be switched to eight.
However, if Kone’s barren spell continues the only goal record he seems destined to hold at the Blues is the historical footnote of being their 500th scorer. Everton already enjoyed a rich heritage of centre-forwards in the pre-numbering era with the likes of Jack Southworth (1894), Jimmy Settle (1902), Alex ‘Sandy’ Young (1907), Bertie Freeman (1909), Bobby Parker (1915) and Wilf Chadwick (1924) all top scorers in the First Division before Dean set the all-time record for a season by plundering 60 in 1927/28.
The first and the greatest
Dean’s goalscoring exploits over a sensational 13-year spell at Goodison went a long way to forging the mystique around the number nine jersey at Everton.
Some modern observers ignorantly scoff at Dean’s 60-goal total remarking how much easier it supposedly was to score back then when teams routinely played with five forwards and defensive tactics were rudimentary. It seems obvious that Dean would not score 60 league goals in a season if playing in 2015 but the real question should be which contemporary Premier League stars would have matched his total if they’d been around 87 years ago? Certainly Dean was head and shoulders above his peers in this respect. The 59-goal record that he overhauled set the previous season by Middlesbrough’s George Camsell was in the Second Division. Nobody in any era has got within 11 goals of Dean’s total in the English top flight. Intriguingly his nearest rival was fellow Birkonian Tom ‘Pongo’ Waring who struck 49 goals for Aston Villa in 1931. If you’re looking for the next best total other than someone born in Birkenhead then Blackburn’s Ted Harper (1926) and Sunderland’s Dave Halliday (1929) both hit 43 goals in a season but they’re further down the pecking order after Dean’s second best haul of 44 in the 1932 title-winning campaign.
He was awarded a special medal for reaching 200 League goals in just 199 games and also holds the record for the most career hat-tricks (37).
So following in the footsteps of a one-off of such ilk, surely the only way was down for future generations of Everton number nines? For many though they used Dean’s legacy as a source of inspiration. Indeed two of Goodison’s most talented centre-forwards actually played alongside each other on several occasions in the Blues side before Dean’s Goodison career ended.
With numerous operations on his ankles prompted by a lifetime of rough treatment from opposition centre-halves taking their toll on Dean, he made his final first team appearance for Everton in a 1-1 draw at home to Birmingham on December 11 1937 – still just a month shy of his 31st birthday.
The heir to the throne
But ahead of eventually signing off Dean had turned out in the same Everton forward line as successor Tommy Lawton 10 times.
Snapped up from Burnley as a 17-year-old, Lawton had to deal with comparisons with the legend he’d been bought to replace from the start.
On taking the tram to Goodison Park for the first time the conductor recognised Lawton and warned him: “You’ll never be as good as Dixie.”
While nobody would ever match Dean’s prolific numbers, many contemporaries felt that Lawton actually developed into a better all-round player.
The First Division’s leading scorer in consecutive seasons in 1938 and 1939, Lawton steered the Blues to their fifth League Championship in the latter.
Surrounded by a superbly-gifted supporting cast that included the likes of TG Jones, Joe Mercer, Alex Stevenson, Torry Gillick and Ted Sagar, Lawton, still a teenager, was denied the best years of his career and the prospect of further Goodison glory by the outbreak of the Second World War.
The conflict also cost Lawton the chance of wearing the Everton number nine jersey for a prolonged period. Six years after Dean and company had worn numbered shirts in the 1933 FA Cup final the Football League’s management committee, driven by fabled Everton chairman Will Cuff, at last introduced the statutory 1-11 numbering system in the summer of 1939.
Finally getting the chance to pull on the same number nine that Dean had sported, Lawton got the campaign off to a flier by scoring in all of Everton’s opening three fixtures (one in a first day 1-1 draw at home to Brentford, one in a 2-1 win at Aston Villa and both in the 2-2 draw at Blackburn).
However, unlike the 1914/15 season that controversially continued during the First World War and climaxed with the Blues being crowned champions, the outbreak of hostilities meant that the official League programme came to an abrupt halt and the games already played were expunged from the record books. By the time competitive football resumed Lawton had departed Goodison for Chelsea, a move that he made for non-football reasons and one which he would come to regret.
Years later, Lawton explained that he demanded the transfer in order to escape an unhappy marriage to a local girl on Merseyside. “The marriage just wasn’t working out. In fact it was purgatory,” he said. “Home was hell, something had to be done. On reflection I should have stayed and transferred the wife.”
A proud heritage
All of which meant that ‘officially’ the first Everton centre-forward to wear the number nine jersey in a League match was Harry Catterick against Brentford – the abandoned 1939/40 fixture list was revived – on August 31 1946.
While Catterick would prove to be far more effective as a manager than a player for the Blues, the post-War era brought many iconic number nines at the club such as Dave Hickson, Fred Pickering, Joe Royle, Bob Latchford, Graeme Sharp, Duncan Ferguson and Kevin Campbell but these days they seem to be an endangered species.
But rather than a burden of expectation placed on the wearer, the issue might come down to a demise of the traditional ‘British’ centre-forward in the 21st century game.
Many of that esteemed aforementioned list possessed the aerial prowess associated with that classic role; an ability to head the ball into the net from crosses and set-pieces.
Football, certainly at the elite level, has evolved somewhat since then and the skill-set required of those asked to lead the line has changed with it.
Although he possesses a game based on physical strength and cool finishing like many of his predecessors at the fulcrum of Everton’s attack, Romelu Lukaku is not a traditional ‘target man’ in that he doesn’t tend to hold the ball up much with his back to goal or try to win flick-ons from long punts upfield. Given that Roberto Martinez is highly unlikely to adopt such tactics, Evertonians might be kept left waiting a long time for the next great number nine to come along.
From Premier prize to poisoned chalice
Arouna Kone is the seventh player to wear the number nine jersey at Everton since squad numbering began. The Ivorian follows Landon Donovan who chose the vacated number in both his loan spells, Louis Saha who gave the shirt up to swap to eight, James Beattie, Kevin Campbell, Duncan Ferguson, who also wore 24 and 10 in his second spell before reverted to his favoured shirt and Tony Cottee. David Unsworth remains the Premier League's top-scoring defender but made an unlikely number nine in the pre-squad number era Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Michael Regan Livepic Other players to have worn the number nine for the Blues in the Premier League era are Paul Rideout, Mo Johnston, Stuart Barlow and bizarrely David Unsworth who was given it for the 2-0 defeat at Leeds United on September 26 1992 when lone striker Cottee wore 10 and Matt Jackson sported number seven.

Aston Villa 3 Everton FC 2: Below-par Blues left battered, bloodied and beaten
3 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Phil Kirkbride sifts through the wreckage as visitors fail to heed Martinez warning and six-game unbeaten run comes to a crashing halt
Roberto Martinez had warned his players that they would have to be at their best if they were to take anything away from Villa Park.
Painfully, they were not. In fact, they were absolutely nowhere near as the same side that had breathed new life into a flagging league season with a six game unbeaten run were swatted away with worrying ease. A rampant Aston Villa bossed, battered and bloodied a Blues team that were hopelessly second best in all departments. This was a humbling defeat and a fully deserved one to boot. Martinez and his players can have no complaints here and even when they found a foothold in the game through Romelu Lukaku’s early second-half penalty, Everton failed to seize the initiative and conceded a third goal just six minutes later. Phil Jagielka’s injury-time header, as well as the full- time stats, gave this match a misleading slant because Villa were miles the better team.
And don’t be fooled by the Blues’ late rally as this cannot be dressed up as some valiant show of character and spirit. The truth is, it was a performance that was devoid of such qualities and by the time the skipper had scored, the game had long gone away from Everton.
But it’s not as if they hadn’t been warned either. Martinez’s pre-match comments were heavily laced with warnings to his players about Villa’s renewed quality and confidence.
“If we are not at our best, we will find it hard to cope with their enthusiasm,” he said.
So why didn’t his players listen? Pulled this way and that by Christian Benteke and given the run around by Fabien Delph, Everton were second best by a long distance, for pretty much all of this match. Emerging from the break with intent gave the travelling Evertonians hope but Lukaku’s 19th of the season proved a false dawn as Tom Cleverley exposed some gaping holes in their defence to make it 3-1 soon after. The impressive Cleverley was part of a Villa midfield that was streets ahead of Everton’s. Gareth Barry had a return to his former club he will want to forget while James McCarthy also struggled to deal with the surge of energy coming his way.
But, make no mistake, they were not the only two who failed to live up the standards of recent weeks or the standards required in this game. Martinez’s team selection, that saw recalls for Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas, will inevitably come under close scrutiny and criticism.
Naismith, it appeared, was brought into the starting line for the first time since March for his work-rate as much his guile in the final third. Tim Sherwood has transformed Villa’s fortunes by playing a brand of dynamic and direct football that often sees the midfield by-passed in favour of playing straight to Benteke. But even with Naismith mucking in with Barry, McCarthy and the back four, Everton still failed to cope and the Scot was largely ineffective.
Delph, Cleverley, Jack Grealish and Charles N’Zogbia befuddled the Blues, twisted, turned and tormented them.
You could even say they toyed with Everton.
It was certainly torturous for the away fans who arrived in the West Midlands on a wave of optimism but left utterly deflated and, no doubt, angry. Trying to understand how their side could fall from the highs of last Sunday to the lows of today, so quickly, was proving difficult and won’t be any easier in the hours after.
Mirallas wasted his chance to impress and in a week where he dropped the biggest hint yet that he wants to stay at the club next season it will come as a massive surprise if he is not on the bench for the visit of Sunderland on Saturday.
The Belgian was part of a team-wide malaise and Martinez, often a manager to focus on the positives in trying circumstances, had to admit that Everton’s “first-half display was in no way good enough.” Villa were all-action, direct and played with tempo. Everton, for far too long, did not and paid the price.
Two-nil down at the break after a Benteke brace, the Blues had the look of a team that had no hope of getting back into the game.
Lukaku’s penalty, after Naismith was hauled down in the area, should have been the spark to light a comeback but their day was summed up when Cleverley burst past Barry and raced onto Leandro Bacuna’s through-ball to re-establish their two goal lead.
Belatedly, Ross Barkley and Leon Osman were introduced for Naismith and Mirallas and at least gave Everton direction and a threat but, by this stage, hopes of a point were long gone.
Relegation-threatened Sunderland are the visitors on Saturday and will see Villa’s performance as a blueprint to defeat Everton.
But let’s hope Martinez’s players heed his warning this time.

Everton FC Transfer Rumours: Blues to miss out on 'keeper as Moyes set to take over at West Ham
3 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
Your daily round-up of all the latest gossip from around the web
Bad weekend, bad weekend.
After the disappointment of Aston Villa, Evertonians hoping to find some crumbs of comfort in their Sunday papers this morning will have been left feeling underwhelmed and undergossiped.
(Can we get that into the footballing dictionary? I hope not)
The Sunday People has some Everton transfer news, but it’s hardly the dynamite Blues fans will be keen for. In fact, the story relates to a player they look like they WON’T be signing.
His name is Orjan Nyland, and he’s a goalkeeper with Norwegian champions Molde.
You may remember him being linked with a move to Goodison around Christmas time, when neither Tim Howard nor Joel Robles were looking especially convincing.
Well now, it seems, he could be off to Southampton instead.
The People are reporting that Saints have agreed to meet the £2.2m buy-out clause in the 24-year-old’s contract, and that the 6ft 4in stopper will be moving to St Mary’s in time for next season. The article suggests Roberto Martinez’s “dithering” cost Everton their chance. Elsewhere, it’s pretty quiet, rumour-wise, though there is significant news of former Goodison favourite (come on, he was) David Moyes. The Sunday Mirror claims that the Real Sociedad boss is set for a return to England this summer, and will replace Sam Allardyce as manager of West Ham United.
Andy Dunn’s article says Moyes, who has been in La Liga for barely six months, is keen for the swiftest possible return to the Premier League, and that the Basque club will not stand in his way. It also points out that Tony Henry, an old pal from Everton, is now in charge of the Hammers’ scouting and recrtuitment, perhaps paving the way for a Moyes takeover. What a difference a year or so makes, eh? From one United to another, from the top of the world to the middle of it.

Phil Jagielka: Villa defeat was a reality check for Everton FC
3 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
"We have got to make sure we put in a better performance next Saturday,” says Blues captain
Phil Jagielka admitted Everton had been given “a reality check” as they were beaten at Aston Villa on Saturday. The Blues’ six-game unbeaten run came to an abrupt end at Villa Park, as Tim Sherwood’s relegation-threatened side ran out 3-2 winners. And despite a significant improvement in form in recent weeks, Jagielka believes Roberto Martinez’s men were shown exactly where their shortcomings lie – particularly during a substandard first-half performance.
The captain said: “It’s a reality check for us. We loved the little run we had been on but it probably shows us that we are not over some of the aspects that put us in this position.
“We will have a look at this game video analysis-wise next week, put it to bed and look forward to another tough game against Sunderland who will obviously be fighting for their lives. We have got to make sure we put in a better performance next Saturday.”

Jagielka himself endured a testing afternoon against the in-form Christian Benteke, who scored twice in the first half to set up Villa’s victory. “The first half wasn’t good enough,” he said. “We knew what game to expect – Aston Villa are fighting at the wrong end of the table and are on a pretty decent run of form at the moment. But we started the game the way we did, with sloppy passing and a couple of sloppy goals given away. “We got in at 2-0 and had to make sure we came out fighting. We did that at the start of the second half and got a penalty but then gave away another poor goal. We carried on to the end and although we lost, we showed we still had a bit of character in there. “Sometimes you have got to take your hat off to your opponents – they came at us, pressed us high and they got their rewards for that. But when we had chances to punish them or create opportunities, we were far too sloppy. “When we did get them back to 2-1, that was the time to put them under pressure and make them feel a bit nervous. But unfortunately a couple of passes opened us up and we were chasing the game again.”

Everton FC Ladies beaten by Notts County in FA Cup semi final
3 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
Blues miss out on Wembley trip after 3-0 defeat at Goodison Park
Everton Ladies missed out on the chance of a Wembley appearance as they were beaten 3-0 by Notts County in the FA Women’s Cup semi-final.
Former Blue Alex Greenwood set up two goals as England internationals Jess Clarke, Ellen White and Danielle Buet ran riot at Goodison Park. The Lady Pies avenged last season’s semi-final defeat to Everton with a comprehensive second-half performance to book their place in the final for the first time. Lucy Whipp was inches away from giving Everton the lead within the first minute, clattering the bar with a viciously dipping strike from distance. But Notts County soon got a foothold and should have scored when White won the ball in a dangerous position on 14 minutes, only for Rachel Williams to shoot tamely at Megan Walsh. Clarke went close on the half-hour, curling over when White’s cross was cleared only as far as the edge of the area by Lindsay Johnson.
Just 42 seconds into the second-half, the Lady Pies were in front though – Clarke heading Greenwood’s inch-perfect left-wing cross into the bottom corner.
Greenwood was the provider again on 56 minutes, White meeting her right-wing free-kick with a diving header which gave Walsh no chance. And Buet sealed victory on 81 minutes, when her free-kick out on the left beat everybody and nestled into the corner.
Watch an FA Women’s Super League match near you, tickets available:
Everton Ladies (4-2-3-1): Megan Walsh; Vicky Jones, Gabby George, Lindsay Johnson, Dan Turner; Paige Williams, Millie Turner (Kelly Jones 58); Emily Hollinshead (Claudia Walker 61), Michelle Hinnigan, Lucy Whipp; Simone Magill.
Subs not used: Kirstie Levell, Ellie Stewart, Lauren Davies.
Bookings: Gabby George (76), Dan Turner (80)
Red cards: none
Notts County (4-2-3-1): Carly Telford; Sophie Walton, Laura Bassett, Fern Whelan, Alex Greenwood; Danielle Buet, Leanne Crichton; Jess Clarke (Dunia Susi 69), Ellen White (Amy Turner 85), Rachel Williams (Fiona O’Sullivan 81); Aileen Whelan,.
Subs not used: Laura-Jayne O’Neill, Ash Plumptre.
Bookings: none
Red cards: none
Referee: Anthony Tankard

Roberto Martinez: Everton FC cannot afford to lack intensity like we did at Aston Villa
3 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
"It was a total below par performance. It wasn't just the defenders, it was an approach."
Roberto Martinez admits Everton cannot afford to perform without intensity after their six-game unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt at Aston Villa.
The Blues paid the price for a sub-par first-half performance as they slumped to a 3-2 defeat in the Midlands, a result which leaves them marooned in 11th place in the Premier League table.
Martinez’s side had entered the game as the form side in the division, but delivered only a flat performance, lacking tempo, energy and conviction.
And the Catalan says they can ill afford another afternoon like this when Sunderland visit Goodison Park next weekend. He said: “The ambitions for us are to perform like we did in the second half, We just can’t afford to perform with the lack of intensity we did in the first half again.
“We were in the middle of a good run, to get 16 out of 18 points was great but now we want to make sure we pout this result to bed and focus on an important game against Sunderland.
“Not fighting relegation and not fighting to get into the Champions League doesn’t mean that every point doesn’t matter. Our final points tally has a lot of meaning towards what we want to achieve.”
"It wasn't just the defenders" Martinez added: “It was a total below-par performance. It wasn’t just the defenders, it was an approach. We didn’t have the intensity, we didn’t keep the ball well enough, and we didn’t create enough threat or get into the final third enough. The whole performance wasn’t up to the level we expect.” Everton were punished twice by Christian Benteke in the opening 45 minutes, and though they improved significantly after the break, they were unable to drag something out of the game, against a side haunted by fears of relegation.
Martinez said: “It’s fair to say Villa were really strong in the first half and that two-nil lead gave them the advantage even if after the second half overall the game was pretty level.
“You’re not always going to play well in a game for 90 minutes but you need to get through those periods. It’s important that when you’re not at your best you don’t concede goals. You can’t always be perfect. But the two-goal lead we gave them was excessive and we need to learn from it.
“In the first half we were really slow to react. We didnt have the strong intensity to our normal play and in the second half we realised we had to step up our tempo and everything we did off the ball.
“The first half cost us too much. The performance against Manchester United was so impressive, the intensity and the occasion, that I did fear that maybe it would be difficult to start the game with the same excitement. That’s why we made changes to try and spark things.
“But even when you’re not at your best you shouldn’t concede two goals like we did. You need to be very aware of crosses to Benteke when you’re playing Villa and the first time it happened it ends up in the back of the net. Then the dead-ball situation before the end of the half is too painful.”

Everton FC analysis: Blues lose the aerial battle at Villa Park
4 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
Benteke dominated a strangely subdued Everton backline as Villa triumphed
It was billed as the battle of the Belgians, and so it proved. Sort of.
And while Romelu Lukaku continued his own rich vein of scoring form – nine goals in his last 11 Everton appearances in all competitions – it was his international colleague who proved decisive at Villa Park. Christian Benteke is the Premier League’s hottest striker at present, and proved as much on Saturday. His two first-half goals did the bulk of the damage for Tim Sherwood’s side, as Everton’s recent upturn in form came to an abrupt halt in the Midlands. Roberto Martinez was left to rue a lacklustre opening 45 minutes from his side, bemoaning a lack of “intensity and engagement” - qualities that had been present in abundance against Manchester United a week earlier.
Villa, a side playing with energy and endeavour under Sherwood, were able to outwork Everton from the word go. The home side’s midfield, set up in a diamond, performed with graft and craft, keeping the Blues on the back foot throughout the first half. Sherwood would later hail Fabian Delph, who set up Benteke’s first goal, as “the best midfielder in England”, while Everton target Tom Cleverley turned in an eye-catching display, capped by Villa’s third goal of the afternoon.
Benteke, though, was the difference.
“He was vital for us,” Sherwood said. “Give him the chances and he will score.”
Tone was set early on
When Martinez and his staff analyse the game at Finch Farm on Monday morning, they will surely focus on the Belgian’s dominance in the air. Benteke’s threat is an obvious one, but Everton simply didn’t deal with it. The tone was set in the opening 10 seconds. From kick-off, Villa lined up with Benteke hugging the left touchline, and worked the ball back for a long diagonal. The striker, of course, won it, with no Everton defender offering a challenge worthy of the name.
That would be a common theme throughout the opening period. Villa are by no means a long-ball team, but they knew that their centre forward had the beating of his markers, and used it to their advantage. Everton, rattled, proceeded to stand off, at substantial cost.
Of the 10 aerial duels contested in the first half, Villa won nine. Only Aaron Lennon, the smallest player on the pitch, won a header for the Blues in that time.
Over the course of the 90 minutes, Villa would win 14 aerial challenges, to Everton’s five.
Sherwood’s side would especially target the right side of Everton’s defence, where Seamus Coleman endured a difficult afternoon, and it was little surprise that the opening goal came from that side, and via the head of Benteke, in the 10th minute.
Delph’s tendency to drift wide and link with Benteke and the always-willing full-back Kieran Richardson, paid dividends. Everton’s inability to shut down the space quickly enough allowed the midfielder to measure his cross, and Benteke was astute enough to peel away from Phil Jagielka and onto Leighton Baines, who didn’t stand a chance. One-nil.
No tackles, no headers
“You need to be aware of crosses to Benteke when you’re playing Villa,” said Martinez ruefully. “The first time it happened, it was in the net.”
Both Jagielka and John Stones have earned deserved plaudits for their performances of late, but neither covered themselves in glory in the first half. Between them, they failed to win a tackle or a (contested) header. Incredibly, Stones continued that trend for the full 90 minutes.
Their reticence had almost been punished on the half-hour mark, as Ron Vlaar beat a slow-reacting Jagielka to a Jack Grealish corner, but directed his header wide from close range.
Everton, though, did not heed the warning signs.
On the stroke of half time, Vlaar again got the run on Jagielka at a corner, and when the flick on came, a ball-watching Stones had left Benteke in oceans of space to convert at the far post. Two-nil, and game over.
Everton improved after the break – they had no option, to be fair – but it is rarely advisable to give up a two-goal deficit in the Premier League, particularly away from home.
For all that Martinez’s side were excellent against United, they were exposed here. Particularly in the air. Food for thought, then, for the Catalan.

Romelu Lukaku admits Everton FC "gave" Aston Villa victory on Saturday
3 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Blues striker admits side "started too slow" but calls for reaction against Sunderland
Romelu Lukaku says Everton must come out firing against Sunderland next weekend after losing their unbeaten run at Aston Villa.
The striker bagged his 19th goal of the season at Villa Park on Saturday but it wasn’t enough to stop a poor Blues slumping to a 3-2 loss. Everton headed into the game on the back of five wins and a draw in the league, that included a resounding victory over Manchester United last week.
But Roberto Martinez’s side were second best throughout and Lukaku says “we gave them the game.” Lukaku’s spot-kick early in the second-half reduced the deficit to 2-1 but five minutes later Tom Cleverley made it 3-1 to Villa. Phil Jagielka headed home in injury-time to create a nervy finish but the home side held on for a win to ease their relegation fears.
“We started off too slowly,” Lukaku told the ECHO.
“We gave them the game, especially in the first-half.
“But in the second-half we reacted very well but then conceded the third goal.
“We kept fighting to the end but they didn’t win the game, we gave them the game and we need to work harder next week and get a result back at home.” Lukaku added: “When we scored to make it 2-1, I felt we even had the chance to go and win the game because we had momentum and had good possession. I was really into the game but they scored the third goal.
“We need to play like we did in the second-half here against Sunderland.
“We have to have a go at them.
“They are in a relegation battle and have pressures on themselves so we need to play like we did in the second-half here and as we did against United and take the initiative.” Lukaku is one goal away from becoming the first Everton striker to hit 20 in a season since Yakubu, in 2007-08.
The Belgium international has been hampered by injury this campaign and believes he could have as many as 25 to his name if he had been fully fit. But the 21-year-old took no satisfaction from his latest strike because it did not help towards an Everton win.
“I would have five or six more (if I hadn’t been injured) but that’s football,” Lukaku said.
“I want to keep on scoring but I also want to win games.
“I am a team player and though I’m happy to keep scoring but I’m in football to win games.
“I’m happy with the penalty but we didn’t win. On to the next now, hopefully I score and we win.”

Three games to save Everton Under-21s season
4 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
David Unsworth hopes to have David Henen fit for Sunderland trip
EVERTON Under-21 boss David Unsworth hopes to have young Belgian striker David Henen fit for tonight's trip to the evocatively named Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground.
The young Blues take on Sunderland on Wearside in the first of the three games they have remaining to ensure top flight football next season.
Everton Under-21s currently lie 11th in the 12-team table but have a game in hand over Fulham, who have recorded one point more. After the trip to Wearside the Blues face another long distance away journey on Friday to West Ham, which is then followed by a meeting with Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on Monday 18 May. “It’s a three-game season now,” Unsworth said. “We’ve got to go again, starting with a trip up to Sunderland. They are a good team and that’s followed with a game at West Ham. “It’s two big games (this week) and we have to get a couple of good results.”
Kick-off against the Black Cats on Monday evening is 7pm.

Steven Naismith targets maximum points haul
4 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Everton striker wants 53 points from disappointing campaign
STEVEN NAISMITH wants maximum points from Everton’s three remaining Premier League fixtures of 2014/15 - which would give the Toffees a haul of 53 points from a disappointing campaign.
The Blues host struggling Sunderland this weekend, followed by a trip to Upton Park against West Ham in the penultimate game of the season.
Currently the Blues are sitting in 11th place, three points behind the Hammers in ninth.
Roberto Martinez’ side will then take on Tottenham at Goodison Park on the final day of the season hoping to finish a disappointing season on a high. Everton’s six-game unbeaten run came to an end on Saturday after the defeat to Aston Villa, but the Scot believes that three wins in the remaining fixtures is a realistic target. He said: “They are three games that we should be able to win and that would boost our points tally. “Hopefully we can creep up the league a few places and finish the season on a high. “We should definitely be going into them believing we can win. That’s what we have got to aim for. “Apart from this game, the boys have been doing well of late and we want to get back to winning ways.” Naismith was making his first start since the Europa League second leg in Kiev on 19 March. He was fouled for the penalty that Romelu Lukaku scored on the hour.
“It’s been a while since I started a game so it’s always nice to get back in the team,” added the forward. “I was disappointed with the result but glad that I could have an impact in terms of getting the penalty. “There’s a few boys who hadn’t played as much and they have been doing well when they have come in the team. “They have been doing fantastically well so I just had to sit on the sidelines and cheer the boys on until I got my opportunity.”

Everton FC transfer rumours: Sulley Muntari linked, Blues to miss out on Hamouma, Aberdeen star on radar
4 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Kristian Walsh
A round-up of the Everton FC transfer gossip from around the web
Everton FC is a likely destination for AC Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari, according to Gazzetta dello Sport (via Forza Italian Football).
The Italian newspaper claims the Blues are in for the former Portsmouth man, with West Ham also interested. The Ghanaian is almost certain to be leaving Milan at the end of the season, and has been seeking out options for his next move despite having a year left on his deal.
But Roberto Martinez will be disappointed in his supposed pursuit of St Etienne winger Romain Hamouma, according to France Football.
The Toffees are supposedly interested in the 28-year-old Ligue 1 man, along with Marseille and Lokomotiv Moscow. Turkish club Galatasaray lead the chance, however, for the wide man who has 13 assists and five goals in 36 appearances this season.
And finally, Aberdeen star Ryan Jack could make his way to Goodison Park, so say the Daily Star.
A Scotland Under-21s international, Jack is highly regarded by former Scotland performance director Mark Wotte and has attracted interest from Napoli and Roma too.
Aberdeen would be hoping for around £2million for Jack, 23.

Everton boss Roberto Martinez says playing with two strikers can "leave you exposed"
4 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Romelu Lukaku said playing alongside Arouna Kone was "heaven" - but Martinez favours lone frontman
ROBERTO MARTINEZ says he will only set up Everton with two strikers against certain opposition - admitting such a formation can “leave you exposed”.
Romelu Lukaku was paired alongside Arouna Kone in games with Newcastle United and Queens Park Rangers recently and told the ECHO it was “heaven” having a strike partner.
But Martinez does not plan on making it a permanent fixture at Goodison and will continue to favour playing with a lead frontman in most matches. “Some games need that sort of platform to play around a player like Arouna, who can hold up the ball and so we’ve played him and Rom in a front three and a front two,” Martinez said.
“The flexibility of the players allows you to do that.
“But it depends on the opposition and the moment of form of the players and fitting them into a system because of the moment of form they are in. “It is great to have Arouna fully fit now because we’ve not seen him make those right decisions or that final pass because he has been out for so long. “Now, he is medically fully fit and he has been really strong for a few months.
“I do look forward to seeing him fully match fit because his understanding with Rom is quite natural and that makes football very enjoyable for both players.” Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has come in for criticism this season for playing a 4-4-2 formation and Martinez explains that many managers fear it can leave their side too open. “The modern game has gone into a different trend,” he said. “Two strikers can leave you a bit exposed at times but when we used it was in moments we could allow that to happen. “I thought they (Lukaku and Kone) were magnificent against Newcastle and that was the best moment they had together.
“In the first-half at Queens Park Rangers they had a real impact and the more playing time they get together we will get the benefit.
“But in the modern game, it is true, you need to be careful.
“It is something you need to use at the right time because it can leave you exposed in other areas of the pitch.” Martinez added: “If you have got two strikers you are going to be a bit more open in other areas in the pitch. “The way the game has gone now, teams know how to use the ball well. It is a trend in the game and those trends change from season to season. We have seen more teams playing with two strikers this season.”

Roberto Martinez hoping Everton winger Aiden McGeady fit and ready to give career shot in arm
4 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Republic of Ireland international not played for the Blues since January
AIDEN MCGEADY has returned to fitness and is ready to give his Everton career a shot in the arm, believes manager Roberto Martinez.
The 29-year-old winger last featured for the Blues at the end of January with a knee injury keeping him out and then a back problem prolonging his absence. Martinez has been left frustrated at McGeady’s lack of fortune after the Republic of Ireland international produced a promising performance in the win at Crystal Palace. The Everton boss says that afternoon at Selhurst Park was McGeady “at his peak” and Martinez was hoping it would mark the beginning of a consistent run of form for the former Celtic wideman. McGeady has not played since but has been involved in matchday squads for recent games with Burnley and Aston Villa and Martinez is hoping he can finish the season injury-free and build up a head of steam for next term.
“The injury after the Crystal Palace game was a really frustrating moment because that day I felt was Aiden at his peak,” Martinez said. “It takes a long time, coming from abroad to get the rhythm of the British game, remember Aiden had never played in the Premier League before, only in the Scottish League, and he had been a long time in Russia. “So he had to adapt into the league and the way we play and I felt at Crystal Palace, those 90 minutes were Aiden.”
McGeady signed a four-and-a-half-year deal in January 2014 after joining from Spartak Moscow for a nominal fee and has played just 40 times for the Blues. “The injury was a real setback and so he is going to take time to get that intensity and match-fitness back,” Martinez added.
“But Aiden, at Everton, is ready to be himself and I am looking forward to seeing that.”

Snodin: Fascinating summer ahead for Everton
5 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Ian Snodin
Martinez's transfer dealings will keep us guessing
EVERTON’S summer is going to be an intriguing one.
I may work for the club in an ambassadorial role but I’m also a fan and as a supporter I can’t wait to see what the manager does in the transfer market. It will be fascinating to see who comes in and who goes out. Speculation has been fairly quiet so far but Roberto and his scouts will already have identified a clutch of players. There are constant rumours about Kevin Mirallas’ future and as well as there being three or four arrivals, there is likely to be the same number leaving Goodison.
It is going to be fascinating to see what happens. I am more than happy with our options at full-back but could see Martinez looking to add a new centre-half to his squad.
I definitely want to see another striker brought to the club as well as a positive wide player.
I imagine Roberto will also be looking to bolster his strength in depth in midfield as well.
One player that fits into that category - and a player that Everton have heavily been linked with - is Tom Cleverley. Tom played really well against the Blues on Saturday but I have to admit I have my reservations about him. Even in a Manchester United side in transition, he couldn’t get in the side and so has spent this season on loan at Aston Villa where he’s not had a brilliant season.
But Martinez has worked with Tom before and knows him a lot better than I do.
As I say, he and Fabien Delph played really well at the weekend but my question is this: would Everton be vastly improved with Tom Cleverley in the side?
I have to admit that I don’t know a great deal about him, much in the same way I didn’t know much about James McCarthy when he came to the club. I had my reservations about James but, boy, has he proved me wrong! McCarthy has proven himself a truly fantastic player and a real diamond in the ranks at Everton. So, maybe my reservations about Cleverley would prove wrong if he signed for the club this summer. But I know I’m not alone in being undecided on Tom. And I know I won’t be the only Evertonian querying whether he is the player who can transform us into a top four team.
I just don’t know but whatever happens with Tom and other players coming in and out this summer, it is going to be interesting.
I expected something from Villa game
I expected Everton to go down to Aston Villa on Saturday and return home with, at the very least, a point. The hosts had been playing well but I was so confident about our chances given the run we’d been on and the way we’d unpicked Manchester United the previous weekend.
But we were all left disappointed on Saturday evening.
And the quotes from the manager, skipper and other players showed you how disappointed they were as well. Simply, Everton didn’t do the business down at Villa Park.
Inevitably, Roberto’s team selection came in for criticism and I have to admit that I was surprised that he made changes from the win over United.
If I was Ross Barkley or Leon Osman then I would’ve been disappointed not to have kept my place in the side. But, hey, I’m not going to start criticising Martinez’s choice because he knows more about football management than me and, crucially, Everton have a good squad with good players to bring in to freshen up the side. The team that lined up against Villa wasn’t weakened from the one that faced United but the lads started too slowly in the first-half.
Everton let Villa have the ball and allowed them to dictate and the best side deserved to win the game.
IT has been put to me that Everton will face another tough game this weekend as they face a second relegation threatened side in the space of a week.
But put it this way: Sunderland are down there for a reason.
I don’t mean that disrespectfully, because I spent a loan period there and have huge admiration for their fans, but Everton should win this game because they are the better side.
It’s as simple as that. The Blues have better players, they’re a better side and they should beat Sunderland. Some people are saying that Everton have nothing to play for but that’s rubbish. Of course they have. They are playing for Everton Football Club and they are playing for the fans.
Stick 'n' Step the winners on charity golf day
THERE was a great turnout for the annual golf day for the Stick ‘n’ Step charity.
It’s an organisation set up by Rob Palmer, Sky Sports’ Spanish football commentator, and helps children who have cerebral palsy. I was part of the Everton team that played but there were also former pros and officials representing Man United, Sky Sports and Liverpool, just to name a few.
It was a fantastic day and I played really well but as for my team-mates.....
I felt immensely let down and they know who they are!
But in all seriousness, it was a great day for a great cause and I can’t wait for next year’s event.
Stepping up to the oche
I STEPPED up to the oche for a special Everton fan event last weekend - and it was fantastic.
Myself and Graham Stuart were joined at the Camp and Furness by Phil Jagielka, Steven Naismith and Gareth Barry. We were up against professional darts players Stephen Bunting, Terry Jenkins and Wayne Mardle. It was a terrific night and we received plenty of encouragement from the Evertonians in the room. Bunting is a terrific lad but I couldn’t waste the opportunity to let all the Blues in the room know about him supporting Liverpool. I took the mic off the MC and let everyone know - boy, did they give him some stick. And never one to be outdone, Graham Stuart later in the night took the chance to grab hold of the mic and let Stephen know that Hull City had scored.
Bunting took it well.

Gary Rowell column - Lightning must strike twice for Sunderland at Everton
Gary Rowell
05 May 2015 Sunderland Echo
WHEN LOOKING back at last season’s Great Escape, most of the attention is given to the wins at the end of the campaign, but one every bit as important – if not more so – was the Boxing Day victory at Everton.
Sunderland were in a desperate position, but those three points at Goodison Park gave a bit of belief to our players and fans that things could get better.
For so long, Goodison was a graveyard for Sunderland and Everton a real bogey team
We travel to Everton again this weekend, and nothing much has changed since our last visit – still in serious trouble, but with far fewer games left to put things right this time.
Despite their defeat at Aston Villa on Saturday, Everton have had a late season revival and their 3-0 demolition of Manchester United in the last home game showed what they are capable of when they hit form. Everton’s record signing, Romelu Lukaku, has scored 19 goals in all competitions all season and he along with Ross Barkley will be the danger for Sunderland on Saturday.
How Sunderland deal with those two could well decide the outcome.
For so long, Goodison was a graveyard for Sunderland and Everton a real bogey team.
I’ve been relegated there and left the place so many times having witnessed a Sunderland defeat which almost became routine. However, Sunderland’s spirited victory against Southampton has given everyone a lift and going into any game on the back of a win is always good for confidence and morale. Sunderland must go to Goodison with belief that they can cause an upset and repeat the shock win from last season there.

Everton u-21s edged closer to drop after harsh Southampton defeat
5 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
David Unsworth's young Blues now have two games to avoid relegation
Everton Under-21s' fight to stave off relegation was dealt a blow after they sank to a 1-0 defeat in Sunderland. Duncan Watmore’s 63rd-minute goal proved the difference as David Unsworth ’s side remained 11th in the league table, one point behind Fulham who also lost earlier on Monday 3-1 at Chelsea. The Young Blues have two fixtures left to play – one more than the Cottagers – as they look to get the points that will see them move above the Londoners in the standings and secure top division football in the Under-21s Premier League next season. Everton travelled to the North-East without David Henen, whose ankle injury suffered in the mini-derby against Liverpool has brought a premature end to his season. Calum Dyson replaced the Belgian forward in the starting line-up.
Sunderland, who had former England defender Wes Brown in their team, started the brightest and George Honeyman was particularly sharp for the home side in the early stages. The midfielder had two decent opportunities before the break. He dragged an effort fractionally wide of the post with 15 minutes played and he was again off-target with a drive from distance later in the half.
Targetman Mikael Mandron also fired into the side-netting as Blues goalkeeper Russell Griffiths was kept on his toes without having to make a save of note prior to the interval.
Everton grew into the game as the first half progressed. Harry Charsley was unlucky to see a powerful shot from 14 yards out charged down and strong penalty appeals for handball against Sunderland left-back Tom Robson were waved away by the referee. No breakthrough despite continued efforts The Toffees carried that momentum into the second half. George Green – back following his loan spell at Tranmere Rovers – had replaced Sam Byrne on 40 minutes and he drilled a 25-yard free-kick over the bar shortly after the restart. It was Sunderland, however, who broke the deadlock on 63 minutes. After blazing over from close-range, Watmore made the most of his next opportunity by finding the net with a low finish that beat Griffiths’ dive. Everton’s response to the setback was encouraging and the lively Green almost replied instantly with an arrowing left-footed drive which skidded narrowly wide of the post. But they couldn't find a way through and must now pick themselves up for a trip to West Ham. Everton Under-21s have two matches remaining in the season – away at the Hammers on Friday night and at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Monday May 18. Everton : Griffiths, Kenny, Robinson, Ledson, Browning, Galloway, Jones, Williams, Dyson, Charsley, Byrne (Green 40). (Subs not used: Hunt, Connolly, Langton, Bainbridge).
Sunderland : Pickford, J Robson, T Robson, Agnew (Greenwood 9), Brown (Casey 46), Beadling, Gooch, Smith, Honeyman, Watmore (Blinco 90), Mandron (Subs not used: Burke, Nelson).

Everton will take no risks with Steven Pienaar's fitness, says Roberto Martinez
5 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
South African has made just 11 appearances this season due to injury
Everton will take no risks with the fitness of Steven Pienaar between now and the end of the season, according to Roberto Martinez.
The South African has endured a torrid time with injuries over the past 12 months, with a series of problems limiting him to just 11 appearances this season. He hasn’t featured since making his latest comeback in the draw at Swansea last month due to muscle fatigue, and Martinez says the 33-year-old is “50-50” for this weekend’s home game with Sunderland. But the Catalan insists Everton will be careful with the midfielder. He said: “Stevie is working really hard now to be involved before the season ends but it will be difficult to find out one way or the other. “We’ll monitor his situation and if he’s 100 per cent over the next three weeks it will be great to see him on a football pitch. If not, we’ll make sure he has a good fresh start in pre-season and make sure he’s in the best possible shape to have a good campaign. “It’s a period now where we want Stevie to be fit before the end of the season but, in one way or another, he has to be starting pre-season 100 per cent.”
Everton have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the Sunderland game, with only Tony Hibbert (muscle), Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson (both foot) sidelined.

Martinez: Now is not time for Everton experimenting
5 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
Everton boss insists players are desperate to end disappointing season on a high note
Roberto Martinez insists he will not use Everton’s final games of the season for “experimenting” - and says a top 10 finish would be “an achievement” given the Blues’ poor start.
Everton head into their last three Premier League fixtures with little tangible to play for, unable to qualify for Europe and well clear of the threat of relegation.
Martinez, though, has always maintained that his players would remain motivated until the end of the campaign. And he has rejected the idea that he might be tempted to try out different formations or systems over the next few weeks, insisting that the focus will be firmly on securing as high a league position as possible. He said: “In terms of experimenting, I think that we are in a moment where there is not much room for it. “The reality is that the game against Sunderland is a vital game for us to bounce back after what happened against Aston Villa. We know that Sunderland will be fighting for their season and to achieve their aim too. “After that we face West Ham, who are fighting to achieve the same place in the table as ourselves so it is a direct confrontation, and to face a team like Spurs in the last game of the season, I think you can understand the meaning of these three games. “We want to get as high as we can in the table. We were disappointed with the result against Aston Villa, but you saw a real desire to get a positive reaction in the second half, and we have to carry that into the Sunderland game.”
Everton could, mathematically at least, finish as high as eighth in the table if they were to win their last three games.
Top 10 place would give difficult season silver lining
And Martinez believes a top-half finish would represent a successful end to a troubled campaign, in which the Toffees have spent the majority at the wrong end of the table.
Asked if there was a danger of Everton’s season petering out, he said: “We don’t see it that way. Our standards would not allow us to think that way. “We are looking at the points tally as a target, to increase that as much as we can. “We have internal competition as well; the players realise that you can easily lose your position, as other players are working hard on a daily basis.
“And you want to finish strong, so you can start the next season in a good frame of mind and a strong position. So I wouldn’t say we have nothing to play for.
“We feel that finishing top 10 would be an achievement considering what happened in the first two-thirds of the league season.”
Martinez also revealed that decisions on the futures of certain players would be left until after the season is finished. The likes of Antolin Alcaraz, Sylvain Distin and Luke Garbutt are all out of contract this summer, while a decision is still to be taken on Aaron Lennon, who is on loan from Tottenham.
“As you can imagine, the priority has been the league season and working towards getting as many points as possible,” he said. “We’re going to make sure that we discuss individual situations at the end of the season. As soon as the last game is gone, that is the moment to look into those.”

Everton players got "carried away" after six-game unbeaten run, says Martinez
5 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
Everton's upturn in form was halted by weekend defeat at Aston Villa
Everton’s players allowed themselves to get “carried away” with their six-game unbeaten run, according to manager Roberto Martinez.
The Blues’ recent upturn in form came to an abrupt halt at Aston Villa on Saturday, as they went down 3-2 to Tim Sherwood’s relegation-threatened side. Martinez was left to bemoan a disappointing first-half display in particular, and later said he had feared a dip in performance levels, after the previous week’s exceptional victory over Manchester United.
Phil Jagielka, the captain, said defeat at Villa Park was a “reality check” for Everton, and Martinez has backed those claims. Asked if his players had let themselves get carried away by their recent run, the Catalan said: “You do, you do. I think it’s only human that you start to feel like you’re on top of the world, you feel that you’re performing well and that you just need to carry on turning up and getting the results. “Clearly, in this league, you need to be perfect from game to game. I wouldn’t say that we dropped our standards at the beginning of the (Villa) game, it was more that we thought we could just turn up and be our normal selves, and that would be enough to get a positive result.
“Clearly that was a reality check. A team like us, we need to be perfect in every game that we go into. It’s a shame, because we all know if we’d have had the same level in the first half as we had in the second half, then we would have got the result. We are a club that has high standards, every time we are on the football pitch. Now the ball is in our court against Sunderland, to make sure we have a good start and keep it going until the end.” Everton’s performance at Villa, particularly in the first half, was a far cry from their showing against United the previous Sunday.
Then, they were intense, focused and aggressive in their play, but against Christian Benteke and co, they were passive and disorganised, finding themselves two goals down before half time as the Villa striker ran riot. Martinez’s comments afterwards about how he had feared a drop-off in performance after the United game had raised some eyebrows, but the manager says it is natural to follow a strong showing with an indifferent one. He said: “Experience told me that. I’ve had it many times, that when you reach an outstanding moment in your season, whether it is a performance, a result or both, you can get that downturn. “The performance against Manchester United was perfect; the way we kept a clean sheet, scored three goals and were always in control, the way that the crowd helped us to enjoy it. “But I always felt that we needed to be careful in the next game, because sometimes you can take certain aspects for granted, and feel that you just need to turn up to perform and everything will click.
Downturn after a high is nothing new
“I felt that the two new faces in the team would help us avoid being stale, or to expect an easy game, but it just never happened. “We didn’t match Aston Villa in the first 45 minutes. They were dynamic, playing at home in a very important game for their season, and we didn’t respond.
“We were all very disappointed. It wasn’t just myself and the staff, the players were disappointed too. “We’ve set real strong standards, and we cannot accept that sort of performance. There was a reaction from everyone, naturally, and I think we saw that the second half performance was different in just about every aspect. “In this league, if you give the opposition a two-goal lead, especially away from home, it’s very difficult. But I thought we were very close to getting a positive result with our second half performance, which is something to take into consideration and use for the future.”

Everton's Eighth league title anniversary - Your memories
6 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Everton fans share their personal recollections of Howard Kendall's magnificent 84/85 team
The best year of my life has got to be 1985.
To see the Blues win the league and see them in every game. In the European Cup Winners Cup we actually struggled against University College Dublin but then we beat Fortuna Sittard, Inter Bratislava and the mighty Bayern Munich. To make things unique, every player was British! Even Pat van den Hauwe, even though he was born in Belgium, qualified to play for Wales because of his grandparents.
Michael Blackburn, Fazakerley. L9 6DH.
MY favourite game watching the Blues was beating Southampton at Highbury in 1984 because I knew then we would win the FA Cup. After the 1977 cup defeats it was great to see the Blues win at Wembley. The following pre-season was the first of many to Switzerland and then onto the best season of all. Great days. I just hope my lad will see us win something. Don’t you just love the Blues?
Jimmy Smith, Southport.
I remember being 12 years old in 84/85 and not being able to go to hardly any games because we couldn’t afford to, but for some odd reason I was at the cup winners cup games v UCD and Inter Bratislava which were both small crowds on cold nights. They were my only two trips to Goodison that season. I got my first season ticket the following season .
Billy Nicholls
As a member of the near fifty thousand the evening of the Bayern semi final at Goodison remains the outstanding game from the couple of thousand witnessed before and since.
I was sat in the Main Stand, not my usual season ticket seat, but immediately behind the radio commentary positon where in attendance that night was the great Peter Jones with Bryon Butler. I was close enough to hear their voices even above the noise of the fans.
The fourth offical was Colin Trussell, a local top class referee who was also a work colleague and also a big Evertonian.
Colin later told me the German team were taken aback by the physical nature of the Everton team and the atmosphere inside the stadium. The Bayern team were, along with Juventus, the top team in Europe with world class players like Matthaeus and Hoeness, but were unable to cope that evening with goalkeeper Pfaff in particular put off by the aerial prowess of Sharp and Gray.
There was no live TV of this game so unless you were at the game or listening to Peter Jones you had to wait for the ITV highlights later that night. Unfortunately because of the events at Heysel shortly after there would be no more nights for this fine team to experience, however the memories will remain of this unique occasion.
Mike Woods

Everton's eighth league title - 30 years ago today
6 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Everton's glorious 1984/85 title win remembered on anniversary
Everton's average league gate throughout the sparkling, splendid, spectacular 1984/85 season was 31,984.
A few hundred more had watched a home victory over Norwich on April 27, a few hundred less had turned up for a midweek stroll over West Bromwich Albion a week and a half earlier.
Which is why I was still at home at quarter-past 12 on Bank Holiday Monday, May 6 1985 - watching Football Focus - frozen with horror as John Motson declared: “And the gates are already locked at Goodison Park where 50,000 fans are waiting to see Everton crowned champions.”
Football was different back then. Everton’s first title coronation for 14 years wasn’t all ticket.
The standing areas of the ground were first come first served. And after racing to the Northern Line, running from Bank Hall and arriving breathless at Goodison Park, I discovered Motty hadn’t been kidding. Goodison was a lock out. Well before 1pm.
I hadn’t missed many matches that season - but was in real danger of missing the most significant - until I heard someone mention that the away section on the Park End wasn’t full.
Of course the other Boys in Blue were aware of this ruse and were carefully quizzing eager Evertonians with the worst cockney accents since Dick van Dyke trying to blag their way onto the Park End. My pal John Coyle, who had bizarrely decided to take his girlfriend to her first match that afternoon, was turned away. Somehow, with a flurry of “Cor Blimey geezer, up the apple and pears, have a heart me old China” and offering up an imaginary address in Hounslow, I was allowed in.
Of course I then found myself surrounded by several hundred real cockneys - in the days when crowd violence was still prevalent - so I pushed my way to the front and told a bobby in my broadest Scouse that I was in the wrong section. He let me through the gate into the Everton section next door - which is how I ended up almost directly behind the Park End goal for the first time.
The Gwladys Street ledge was my favoured viewing spot, but that afternoon my stars were aligned.
Derek Mountfield volleyed in off the crossbar into the Park End goal, Graeme Sharp looped a header into the same net - and I witnessed a moment that, as a child living through Liverpool win trophy after trophy after trophy, I never believed would happen.
The 1984/85 season really was remarkable.
Everton ended the calendar year of 1984 in 16th – but had a better squad of players than that league position suggested. They just didn’t believe in themselves. And crucially they were still in both domestic cup competitions. Reaching the final of the Milk Cup and the FA Cup gave a talented but underachieving group of players confidence. Then winning the FA Cup at Wembley against Watford convinced them they could be winners. With the addition of just two modestly priced players – Pat van den Hauwe from Birmingham and Paul Bracewell from Sunderland that summer – Everton took off. A Charity Shield victory over European Cup winning neighbours Liverpool was reinforcement that Howard Kendall’s men really could compete with the best.
The 1984/85 season was a campaign when so many factors fell gloriously into place at just the right time – to create the most dominant, dazzling and destructive Everton side I have ever seen.
Neville Southall was at the peak of his powers as a world class goalkeeper.
Andy Gray was an infectious, charismatic catalyst whose force of personality was so important in allowing talented but hitherto retiring players like Trevor Steven and Graeme Sharp to grow their personalities and express themselves. And he was one hell of a centre-forward, too.
But at the start of that sensational season he couldn’t get into Howard Kendall’s starting line up because of the form of Adrian Heath, a whirling dervish of a forward who was enjoying the most sparkling spell of his career - 13 goals in 26 appearances - before Brian Marwood’s reckless challenge cruelly ended his season on December 1st - and pitched the original Bruise Brothers together.
Gray and Sharp were just as effective. Even serious injury worked in Everton’s favour that campaign.
Steven, Reid, Bracewell and Sheedy formed the best balanced midfield since Ball-Harvey-Kendall were weaving mesmerising patterns around the Goodison playing surface.
Kevin Ratcliffe and Derek Mountfield were a defensive partnership which had pace, power and authority, Gary Stevens was the very epitomy of a modern raiding full-back, while Pat van den Hauwe oozed steely, ruthlessness.
After taking a couple of months to find their feet, Everton exploded.
They were swashbuckling, stylish, fiercely competitive and enormously entertaining.
In September they won an away match at Watford 5-4.
They lost 1-0 at Arsenal a week later, then really started to believe.
For eight months they were magnificent.
Ten successive victories in autumn included the 5-0 demolition of Manchester United – the match later described by Joe Mercer as the most complete Everton performance he had ever seen. And Gentleman Joe was a contemporary of Dixie Dean and had seen Catterick’s great title winning teams. Another nine successive wins from Boxing Day included a 4-0 rout of Newcastle – a result that actually delighted Magpies boss Jackie Charlton! “You must be disappointed,” one unimaginative interviewer ventured. “No, I’m not. I’m delighted,” he replied. “I’m delighted that it was only 4-0, because it could have been eight. Everton are the best balanced team in the country.”
They were also the most free-scoring after four goals that day took their tally to 53 - the highest in all four divisions.
Those nine wins in succession were interrupted by a draw at Old Trafford.
Then Everton racked up another 13 wins from 14 matches – a supreme sequence interrupted only by a superbly disciplined goalless draw in the Olympic Stadium, Munich.
Those 13 dominant, swashbuckling, we-shall-not-be-moved victories saw Everton clinch the league title, reach the final of their first European competition and get to a second successive FA Cup final.
There was a real sense of invincibility about that team. They had the will and the mentality of champions, to go with their obvious quality.
Almost the same squad of players were champions again two years later.
But the 1987 title was a pragmatic triumph, a Howard Kendall masterclass of squad management during a campaign wracked by injuries.
In 1985 Everton were often glorious.
Witness Paul Bracewell’s volleyed pass from one side of the Goodison pitch to the other, for Trevor Steven to rifle a shot into the roof of the Sunderland net.
Witness Graeme Sharp’s glorious volley at Anfield – a strike voted the BBC’s Goal of the Season and for many Evertonians the greatest goal they have ever seen.
Witness Andy Gray’s two diving headers against Sunderland, witness the same player running into a goalpost in his eagerness to celebrate a winner at Leicester – and witness the incredible evening against Bayern Munich which took Everton to their first European final.
The Toffees won the title by 13 points – despite fielding reserve teams for the final two matches of a season which ended on May 28 with a host of players called up for international duty.
In truth it was a season many hoped would never end.
The Exception which proved the rule
It is an 84/85 anomaly. It’s an incongruous oddity. It’s the exception which proved the rule.
On Tuesday November 17, three days after demolishing Stoke City 4-0, Everton’s chances of winning every trophy they entered that season were ended.
By Grimsby Town.
The Mariners were a decent second tier team in 1984. But only that.
And they sent Everton crashing out of their bogey competition, the League Cup – despite a superb performance from Howard Kendall’s side.
Everton forced 18 corners to Grimsby’s one. They had four shots cleared off the line. They had another shot handled off the line, but no penalty was given.
The Liverpool Daily Post reported: “After surviving a non-stop barrage for 89 minutes, the promotion chasers stole a dramatic winner to cruelly dump Howard Kendall’s men out of the competition and burst the bubble of invincibility that their run of 10 straight victories had created.
“But Grimsby took a hell of a pounding.”
Afterwards a bemused Howard Kendall shrugged: “I thought we were superb. I have nothing but praise for my team. Their goalkeeper played out of this world, although he did have some luck.
“Injuries apart, I have told them it will be the same side at Norwich on Saturday – and that is the highest compliment I can pay them.”

Everton transfer gossip: Aaron Lennon too expensive, Toffees scout Spanish wonderkid, goalkeeper deal mooted, Blues want Bordeaux winger
6 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Joe Rimmer
A round-up of transfer rumours and gossip from around the web
Transfer gossip gives with one hand, but with the other it takes away.
Today it threatens to take away on-loan winger Aaron Lennon, who is reportedly being priced out of a move to Everton by Spurs, but it gives the gift of a Spanish "wonderkid", a new goalkeeper AND another winger. But let's get the bad news out of the way first, and today The Guardian report that Lennon could now prove too expensive for Everton, with Spurs putting a whopping £9m price-tag on the winger. The winger has had an impressive impact at Goodison Park, and a fee of around £6m had been previously mooted but if Spurs do choose to put that price tag up by around £3m, that is said to be putting Everton off of a deal. The Toffees are said to consider that price too high for a 28-year-old with just 12 months left on his contract. Lennon is said to have no future at White Hart Lane after being frozen out by Mauricio Pochettino earlier this season.
They say every cloud has a silver lining and this week's comes in the form of Spanish "wonderkid" (admit it, you're excited already) Jorge Mere. The 18-year-old Sporting Gijon defender is said to have been watched by Everton's scouts a number of times since February. He's made four appearances for Gijon's first team, and is a regular with their B side.
Newcastle are also linked with a move but Everton are said to be frontrunners.
And the two clubs could go head to head again for another Spaniard, this time Deportivo goalkeeper Fabricio Agosto, that's according to the Daily Express.
Agosto is said to cost around £3.6m and could be the man to put pressure on current Everton number one Tim Howard. Deportivo are reportedly looking to sell after Agosto failed to agree a new deal at the club and at just under £4m both clubs are said to think of the deal as a bargain.
And finally today, reports yesterday indicated the Blues could make a move for Bordeaux winger Henri Saivet. The pacey winger is reportedly available for around £4m and is attracting interest from clubs such as Southampton, Swansea and Premier League new boys Bournemouth.
Saivet was hailed as the next Thierry Henry when he made the breakthrough to Bordeaux's first team as a teenager. Now aged 24, he hasn't quite lived up to that billing but has established himself as a regular at the French side, making 149 appearances and scoring 19 goals.
A knee injury has kept him sidelined for much of this campaign, but he could be an attractive proposition for Premier League clubs willing to take a risk on a promising player.

Martinez: Everton will benefit from summer without international football
6 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Neil Jones
Everton boss believes World Cup hampered his side's form this season
Roberto Martinez expects a summer without international football to benefit Everton’s preparations for next season.
And the Blues boss is in no doubt that last year’s World Cup impacted on his side’s performances during the first half of this season.
Everton had six players at last summer’s tournament in Brazil – they later signed a seventh, Mo Besic - and Martinez believes the “mental fatigue” of such a big event took its toll on those players during the opening months of this campaign. He told the ECHO: “It impacted not just on us. I think any team that has had big representation at a World Cup will be impacted.
“You need to allow the players a period where they can switch off and regenerate. And sometimes the intensity of a World Cup, and that mental fatigue that you carry, you can’t shake it off until maybe three or four months into the next season. “It’s a really important thing this season, that for the international players in our squad, their last game is in June, and they can have a proper break and come back ready to fight and have a good, strong pre-season.
“It will be a little shorter, but we hope that we will have all the numbers ready to have a strong start to next season.” Everton, of course, endured a torrid start to this season, with the likes of Tim Howard, Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku all struggling for form after spending their summers at the World Cup. All of those players, though, have improved notably as the season has progressed, and Martinez says such dips are inevitable in a World Cup year.
“It’s not so much the (lack of a) pre-season that is the problem,” he said. “It is that playing in a World Cup affects where you are going to be physically and mentally, and some of our players, clearly, were affected by that. “It’s something that we accept, because we want to have players representing Everton in World Cups. We had a long list of players that did that, and we wouldn’t change that for anything. But it’s the reality that in seasons after a World Cup, players will take a little bit longer to hit top form.” “You have to accept it. There are many ways you can try to approach it. One is to allow the player no time off, and expect him to just kick on into the new season. Then at some point during the season the player will break down, and cannot maintain the intensity. “The way that we approached it, we wanted to finish the season strongly, and I think you can see that every player that was in the World Cup, from January onwards they have been fresh players who have played a big part in the team. “The whole team is finishing strong. It was a slow start, but there was nothing we could do about that.”

Everton boss Roberto Martinez to pull on boots for charity friendly
6 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Everton boss Martinez and Jones to play in game for Joseph's Goal charity
Roberto Martinez and assistant Graeme Jones will dust off their boots and pull on their shin-pads in a special charity match on Friday. The Everton pair will play for a team of Wigan Athletic legends to take on the club’s Development Squad in aid of the Joseph's Goal initiative.
Martinez, Jones, Emmerson Boyce, Gary Caldwell and Nathan Ellington are among those confirmed to play at Ashton Town FC (kick-off 7.30pm), with Ray Mathias managing the side.
Former Blues Joe Parkinson and Matt Jackson will also feature along with ex Liverpool keeper Chris Kirkland, Mike Pollitt, Graham Kavanagh, and Neill Rimmer. The Latics Development Squad will feature the likes of Jordan Flores and Louis Robles, who both appeared off the first-team bench at Brentford last weekend and will challenge for places next season. Joseph’s Goal was set up by the Wigan Evening Post's Latics correspondent Paul Kendrick, to raise funds for research into NKH, the incurable genetic disorder his son Joseph was diagnosed with at birth.
Joe was also Latics’ lucky mascot during the famous FA Cup final win over Manchester City in 2013.Tickets for the match, sponsored by Hardwick Financial Solutions, are available from the ticket office at the DW Stadium, or by ringing 0871 6633552, and also via .
It’s also pay on the night, priced £5 adults, £2 concessions and under-5s free, with plenty of entertainment for kids and families as well as a raffle.To find out more about Joseph's Goal go here .

Everton hero David Unsworth's Golden goals
6 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Everton defender congratulates John Terry on equalling his Premier League scoring record
The goal John Terry sliced into the Leicester City net last week was a record-maker.
It was the 38th Premier League goal of his career – and means that he now shares the record as the Premier League’s top scoring defender with Everton’s David Unsworth.
Unsworth congratulated the Chelsea skipper – and has backed Terry to go on and claim the record outright. But until that moment he is proud to have a share of the record.
“I was aware of the record and have been for a few years now,” said Unsworth, now Everton’s Under-21 coach. “It’s a nice accolade to have and I am very proud of it.
“But John Terry has been a tremendous player in some tremendous teams. He has at least another year at Chelsea so I am sure he will go on to beat the record and congratulations to him.”
Unsworth’s last Premier League goal was a huge one. It was a penalty kick at Bramall Lane which kept Wigan Athletic in the Premier League, and ensured that Sheffield United – who Unsworth had joined Wigan from – were relegated. “It was very important at the time,” said Unsworth. “But I am biased. “For me every goal I scored for Everton was more important!”
And there were plenty of them...
But which were Unsy’s favourite Everton strikes?
“My favourites are probably the penalties in the derby matches – both were important at the time,” he said. “Both drew us level, one very late on in the 3-2 match which we unfortunately gave away in added time. “The finish at the end of a great team move against Fulham in David Moyes’ first match also stands out. There was a tremendous atmosphere. I have never known Goodison to be as loud as it was when that one went in after however many seconds it was.
“For personal reasons the bicycle kick at Villa Park was also pleasing, and of course I have to mention the goal at Tottenham on my debut which brought us back from 3-0 down to claim a draw.
“That was special!”
Of course the record is just for Premier League strikes.
But Unsworth has saved some of his most spectacular goals for FA Cup ties – a howitzer at St James’ Park and a wickedly curving free-kick against Preston.
So what makes a goalscoring defender? “It’s difficult to say,” admits Unsworth. “But having played in midfield, on the left and in the centre, I always had it in my mind to play on the front foot.
“I always wanted to impose myself first and as a result you score a few goals because of that.
“When David Moyes came in as manager he changed my game. Before he arrived I had been unsure whether I was a centre-half or a full-back – I’d been spending time in the gym trying to make myself as powerful as possible to be a centre-half – then David saw me more as a full-back, with the intensity and the running that role entails. “He encouraged me to get forward more than previous regimes and that helped me score a few more. “As a coach I try and encourage the younger players now to do the same. We’re always trying to create a situation where we have an overload in different areas of the pitch, whether that’s a centre-half moving forward into midfield like John Stones or a full-back bombing on. Hopefully it will mean an opportunity for them to score a few goals too.”
Rhino - how to be lethal from the spot
A significanr number of David Unsworth’s Everton goals came from 12 yards - converted with unerring accuracy from the penalty spot.
No player in Everton’s history has scored more than Unsy’s 23 successful penalties.
And he believes that to be a reliable penalty-taker mentality plays as much a part as technique.
“To score goals and take penalties successfully you have to have two qualities,” he explained.
“One is technique obviously. You have to strike the ball well. “But the other is mentality. You have to have that inner confidence to do the hardest thing in football, which is to score goals, and I think the best penalty takers are technically sound, but also have great inner confidence. And how can you measure that? “You have to be supremely positive, you have to confident you are going to score - and if you don’t score you have to be able to go again without it playing on your mind.
“The mental side of the game is no different now to how it has ever been, but with the scrutiny of modern football being more intense than it has ever been you have to have the mentality right.”
Unsworth missed just three times from the spot for Everton - and none were costly.
He rapped the crossbar against Sheffield Wednesday in 1996, in a match Everton still went on to win 2-0, scored from the rebound in a 4-0 defeat of Wimbledon when his initial effort was parried - then saw a spot-kick saved in the last match of the 2000/01 season against Sunderland with nothing at stake.
But he continued to take penalties - and as his last top flight spot-kick for Wigan against Sheffield United proved, always had the mental strength to go again.
The top five Premier League goal-scoring defenders:
1. John Terry, 38 David Unsworth, 38
3. Ian Harte, 28
4. Leighton Baines, 26
5. William Gallas, 25.
Everton’s Goalscoring Defenders
Derek Mountfield
Only three players scored more than centre-half Derek Mountfield in Everton’s double-winning 1984/85 season. The centre-back scored a staggering 14 goals that season - and popped up with valuable strikes throughout his Everton career.
Mick Lyons
A player who started his career as a centre-forward, Lyons retained his eye for goal despite being pushed back into central defence. He was often thrown up front to mount a last gasp cavalry charge if Everton were trailing - and often succeeded - like in the closing stages of the 1977 League Cup Final second replay. That was one of 59 goals Lyons scored in his Blues career.
Seamus Coleman
The young Irishman’s classic finish at QPR in March was the 19th goal of his Everton career - every single one scored from open play.
Leighton Baines
One of the most accomplished dead-ball experts in the club’s history, Baines has scored 31 goals for the Blues. Most have been penalties or free-kicks, but Baines has also weighed in with some stunning strikes from open play.
Joleon Lescott
The Blues centre-half reached double figures in the 2007–08 season and this shot-to-goal ratio in the Premier League of 42.1% was the highest of any player that season.

Everton, West Ham and the Fair Play route into Europe
7 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By David Prentice
Everton's season would begin on July 1 if they took Fair Play Euro place
Everton and West Ham face the prospect of a fairplay shoot-out next weekend, which could decide who gets a place in next season’s Europa League!
But in a bizarre twist it won’t be the winner of the match who benefits, but the team which behaves in the most sporting manner! After a long and convoluted process the Premier League could gain an extra place in next season’s Europa League via UEFA’s Fair Play table. Europe’s three leagues with the highest combined points total at the end of the campaign gain an extra qualification spot - and the Premier League currently sits third behind the Republic of Ireland and Netherlands.
The highest placed team in the Premier League’s own fair play table is then offered a Europa League slot. Liverpool, who are currently likely to qualify for the Europa League through league placing, are top. In second and third are West Ham United and Everton - who clash at Upton Park next Saturday!
That’s the good news. The bad news is that clubs offered a Fair Play route into Europe have to start in the first qualifying round on July 1! Will The Hammers and Everton be stepping aside, Mo Besic saying “After you?” and Kevin Nolan replying: “Why no, I insist, after YOU!” in order to claim the Fair Play spot? Or will they be scything lumps out of each other in a bid to avoid what could be seen as a poisoned chalice? Fulham were handed just such a route into Europe in 2011 and kicked off their campaign on June 30 in the Faroe Islands.
A quick summary of UEFA’s Fair Play League.
Barclays Premier League Fair Play Table
How do clubs amass Fair Play points?
Simple answer. In very complicated fashion.
The Barclays Premier League’s own website states: “Teams are assessed in five categories, with a further category relating to the behaviour of the public.”
Those five categories include red and yellow cards, positive play, respect towards opponents, respect towards the referee and behaviour of team officials.
Independent delegates assess the final four categories - which include indefinables like a team’s tactics, efforts to gain time (e.g. bringing the ball back into play quickly even if the team is in a winning position), slowing down the game, time wasting and simulation.
How is behaviour of the public measured?
All teams begin with a score of five points, but a maximum of a further five points can be added for “acceptable” verbal support and recognition of outstanding play by the opposition.
A maximum of five points can be deducted for persistent foul and abusive language, persistent abuse of the officials’ decisions and aggressive and threatening conduct towards opposing fans.
Stoke boss Mark Hughes believes his side suffers because Potters’ fans use the Tom Jones anthem ‘Delilah’ as an anthem. The lyrics appear to promote domestic violence and Hughes believes his side are being marked down in the UEFA Fair Play League as a result.
“Apparently we get knocked down because the fans have a Tom Jones song,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. “I don’t think there’s a problem with them singing it. It’s crazy from my point of view.
“The Fair Play table is a waste of time. “Whether Fair Play merits a European place is open to discussion. But it’s a good prize.”
Which clubs are currently top of the Premier League Fair Play Table?
It’s a tense, tight fight at the top of the Premier League table.
Liverpool lead the way on 8.3 points, jointly with West Ham.
But locked in joint second place on 8.2 are Everton, Manchester City, Southampton and Burnley.
Stoke, with their: “She felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more” lyrics, are way down in 17th.
Have any Premier League teams qualified through these means before?
Yes, Fulham’s good behaviour in 2010/11 paid off as they qualified for the following season’s Europa League via the Fair Play route. The Cottagers finished ahead of Blackpool by just 0.01 points - and ended up finishing a respectable ninth in the Premier League the season that they also competed in Europe - a campaign which kicked off on June 30!
What’s the future for the Fair Play League?
Norway, Sweden and Finland all benefited from an extra place in the Europa League last season.
But as from 2016/17 there will no longer be a Europa League prize for the top three nations. Instead, a financial bonus will be paid to the best Fair Play association, the most improved and the nation with the best behaved spectators.

Everton hero Duncan Ferguson: "I'm addicted to coaching."
7 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Duncan Ferguson loving life in Everton dug-out and dreams of Barcelona's tactics
DUNCAN Ferguson has revealed how he is loving life as a first team coach at Everton.
The Blues hero is one of Roberto Martinez’s senior assistants at Goodison, and has immersed himself in his passion for tactics since passing the Uefa A licence coaching badge.
He said: “This is my addiction. I love it, can’t get enough of it. I’m a great admirer of Barcelona and Marcelo Bielsa, that Chile team, the way they played that intense press, 3-3-3-1.
“Developing from within is my big passion. I like to test myself on academy players, see where they end up. I started doing that four years ago, predicting their progression, seeing if I get it right.
“We’ve got a great set-up with the academy, education programmes that are second to none. There was nothing like that when I was coming through.” Ferguson also admitted to regrets over his playing career which was occasionally marred by problems off the pitch. “When I played the game I had the reputation. You can’t get away from that,” he tole the Times in an interview today. “I was sent off, played hard, made mistakes in my career, in my life. “So maybe some people do say, ‘Duncan Ferguson? God almighty.’ But they don’t know me.
“I’m serious now. “I want people to remember me as a coach.”
Ferguson is still in top shape, and gets in extra early to use the Finch Farm gym before embarking on regular 12-hour days. But most of all he is enjoying learning from Martinez - “The most tactically detailed manager I’ve met,” he said. The former Scotland international explained how he developed his tough-guy image, in part a result of his roots in Stirling.
“I made a lot of mistakes, but I wouldnae hammer myself for them,” he said.
“You are 16, 17, coming from an estate, what are you going to do? I had to go out and meet girls. And people start to look at you in a different way, you become the focal point. Back then I never had the strength to walk away, you know? But hand on heart, I never started anything, never once. That’s the truth. I finished a few. “You are standing with your girlfriend and she’s getting slaughtered and there’s three or four fellas, “Maybe I should have run in the opposite direction and left her, but on the estates I grew up, look, you’re talking fat lips, black eyes. That’s nothing. But because you’re a player it’s all over the media.” Ferguson originally came to Merseyside to escape the frenzy in Scotland that followed his criminal conviction for headbutting — and joined the Blues on loan initially from Glasgow Rangers in 1994. But he quickly became a cult hero and his name is still chanted on the Gwladys Street now. “It’s a bit embarrassing,” he said. “But I’m an Everton fan with a ringside seat.” His long-term ambition is to become a manager, and he believes his forthright nature will serve him well. “Ask me an opinion, I’ll give it,” he said. “I’m not afraid of sticking my neck on the line. But that’s easy to say now. I might go into management and sign ten diddies.”
And where would he eventually like to take charge? “I think everyone dreams of being Everton manager, don’t they,” he said. “Don’t you? Everyone has dreams, but it’s not something I’m anywhere near. "We’ve got a top-drawer manager, outstanding, and I’m learning from him every day. I just want to be the best coach I can be. I’m working hard at it.”

Martinez wary of Sunderland’s ‘huge work-rate’ ahead of Goodison clash
07 May 2015 Sunderland Echo
EVERTON boss Roberto Martinez has warned his men to prepare to deal with Sunderland’s “huge work-rate” in Saturday’s crunch Premier League clash.
The Wearsiders head to Goodison Park looking for points to climb out of the drop zone, with games fast running out. But Everton are also keen on securing a victory to maintain their good run of home form, with a potential rise to ninth place their target for the final three games of their campaign.
Martinez is aware of Sunderland’s strengths, having studied the Black Cats’ impressive 2-1 home victory over Southampton last weekend. The Spaniard, looking for a repeat of the Toffees’ last Goodison outing against Manchester United, said: “It is very similar in that this is the peak time of Sunderland’s season. Their performance against Southampton was one of full concentration and full intensity. “They play with a lot of attacking players on the pitch and their work-rate is huge.
“We will have to be at our very best from the beginning to match that enthusiasm and attacking play. “On top of that, we have to put things right after a disappointing result at the weekend (Everton’s 3-2 defeat at Aston Villa), so we have our own issues.”
Everton are 11th in the table going into their final three matches – but are targeting overtaking West Ham and Stoke, who are both only three points better off. “We have two games left at Goodison and we need to match the level we showed against Manchester United (in their stunning 3-0 success),” added Martinez, on “Playing at Goodison Park is always a real important focus for us. Playing West Ham (away, next weekend) is a direct rival in the league and we have faced them twice in the cup as well as at home in the league. It will be an interesting encounter.
“The next three games are games we need to enjoy our football and give the fans something to be pleased about.”

Duncan Ferguson: Nine best Everton quotes
7 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
Everton coach Duncan Ferguson's nine best quotes
His passion for Everton has never been in doubt.
Duncan Ferguson is currently guiding his beloved club from the dug-out, as one of Roberto Martinez's trusted lieutenants. His rousing celebrations during the televised 3-0 win over Manchester United reminded everyone how much he still lives and breathes the Blues.
Today Big Dunc revealed how much he is loving life in his role as a Premier League coach.
So we thought we'd share our favourite quotes over the years from and about the Big Man; who many hope could one day manage the Blues.
1. “The fans here have always been great towards me. They are unbelievable. They took me in and they are the best fans in the country, if not the world.” Ferguson
2. “Duncan had immense ability. And here he was, at a club where the striker has been revered since Dixie Dean, and before. They love their No9s. Alternatively, they can be incredibly hard if you don’t fit the bill. Unlike a lot of gangly boys, Duncan could jump. He could jump, all right.” Joe Royle on Ferguson
3. “It was the best 10 years of my career, in fact they are the only team I ever actually played for. That’s what happens when you play for Everton, you forget the rest, the rest means nothing.” – Ferguson
4. “I began to appreciate how he earned his reputation as a hard man. It was a nice punch, I have to say.” – Paul Scharner after being punched by Ferguson.
5. "This club has been a big part of my life and this city has been a big part of my life. I met my wife here and my three kids were born here." Ferguson
6. On retirement: "I miss the place, I miss the football and I miss the derbies. You are a long time retired, I have been retired for five years and it feels like 25. So to the players that are here now, stay in football as long as you can and stay at this club as long as you can because there is only one way after leaving this club, and that is down." Ferguson
7. On Blues legend Dave Hickson: “Dave was a lovely man and it’s very, very sad that he’s no longer with us. I used to see him all the time at Goodison and he was one of those people who always had a smile on his face. He just loved Everton and he loved coming to the game.” Ferguson
8. On his infamous scrapes: "Hand on heart, I never started anything, never once. That’s the truth. I finished a few.” Ferguson
9. On one day managing his beloved Everton: "I think everyone dreams of being Everton manager, don’t they. Don’t you? Everyone has dreams, but it’s not something I’m anywhere near.
"We’ve got a top-drawer manager, outstanding, and I’m learning from him every day. I just want to be the best coach I can be. I’m working hard at it.” Ferguson

Everton should make Petr Cech their summer transfer priority
7 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Greg O’Keeffe
View from the Gwladys St: Chelsea keeper would be perfect for Everton
This week we spoke to Ed McCosh, football writer and contributor for
Roberto Martinez said his players got carried away by the United win and lost focus at Villa. What do you make of that?
It is interesting to note that Roberto Martinez claims his players got carried away, for he certainly didn’t. How many managers, after comfortably dispatching a team of Manchester United’s repute, then tinker with the side that achieved it? Martinez has been punished a few times this season for unnecessary tweaking – and by that, I don’t mean in the Vinnie Jones/Paul Gascoigne sense. There was no obvious need to replace Barkley and Osman with Naismith and Mirallas.
Perhaps Mirallas for Osman made sense, but 75 minutes into the game, with Everton slipping to a defeat, Martinez reversed his pre-match changes. Constantly messing with the starting line-up does not do much for continuity. Ask Messrs Benitez and Moyes, who were widely derided for it at Liverpool and Man Utd respectively. But Martinez is absolutely correct to claim that the players lost focus. Benteke’s two goals, as well-taken as they were, would have made Alan Hansen cry had the Scot not given up his seat in the Match of the Day studio.
More’s the pity.
It was a far cry from the steel backbone of the side that kept United at bay with consummate ease. The fact, also, that Romelu Lukaku’s scuffed penalty was Everton’s first attempt on target, is a travesty when it is considered that it took less than five minutes for James McCarthy to power through the United defence and slot in the first of Everton’s three goals that fine Sunday afternoon.
Villa needed the points more, they had more focus, and absolutely deserved all three points.
Sunderland are in dire need of points as well, so Martinez better have kept the squad in check this time around. Wednesday was the anniversary of Everton's glorious 84/85 title win. Do you think the Blues can recapture those heights in the modern age?
As someone too young to have been present during that great era, I certainly hope so.
It is an all-too-regular complaint that it is all about the money these days. If we’re being fair, money had a significant impact back then as well.
£750,000 for Adrian Heath, £300,000 for Trevor Steven, £250,000 each for Paul Bracewell, Andy Gray and the sometimes forgotten Paul Wilkinson…the fees seem minute now, but at the time Everton were consistently paying to improve every facet of the squad.
Such consistency is not present now – even the purchase of Romelu Lukaku was nigh-on impossible without the sale of Marouane Fellaini a year earlier.
Bill Kenwright is a truly great Evertonian, as he helped the club in a moment of need and has kept it stable. There is no doubting that he’s a credit to the club for his steadfast support.
But as an owner he is over a decade off the pace. Fees rise, and investment doesn’t.
While we don’t need the mind-boggling sums of money that are being pumped into certain clubs, we do need someone who can keep the club improving on and off the pitch. I’m loathe to say it due to my intense love of Goodison Park but a move away from the Grand Old Lady is long overdue.
We have a team that can break into the top four, but not a squad, and it is much more of a squad game than in 1985. Never rule out Everton returning to the very top, but never forget that we’re not entitled to success simply because of our past and stature.
Ask any Newcastle United fan. We may well reach the summit once more, but it will take time and money. For now, we retain hope.
Everton are in the mix for a Europa League fair play spot next season - would you want it?
Personally, I would, even if it means going through the back door that is fair play.
Many wouldn’t – the effects of the Europa League on this campaign have been well documented. But this season worked perfectly as a stark reminder to the board that serious investment is necessary for Everton to succeed on multiple fronts.

For the crushing low that was Kiev away, there were many highlights, such as both legs against Young Boys as well as the home and away ties against Wolfsburg and the Goodison dismantling of Lille.
Evertonians live off European away days, and we should still take any chance we get. However, based on the Premier League’s fair play table, Gareth Barry has single-handedly cost Everton that spot.
Aaron Lennon's loan spell is almost over - would you want him to sign permanently in the summer?
If it was any club other than Spurs we were dealing with, the answer would be a swift and resounding ‘yes’.
Lennon has reinvigorated Everton’s attack, giving the side the width it craved for so long and adding his own impressive commitment to win and retain possession. His work-rate exceeds the vast majority of his peers, and the on-loan Spurs man has pace in abundance, which lends an unpredictability that keeps defenders constantly on their toes.
As impressive as his attacking verve against Manchester United was the constant support he gave to Seamus Coleman, who was clearly grateful for the cover.
That relationship between full back and winger, which we have lacked this season, is incredibly beneficial for both.
Signing Lennon on a permanent deal seems a no-brainer, which few would have predicted when he joined the club on loan on Deadline Day.
Yet Tottenham, and Daniel Levy in particular, are tough negotiators. Everton are still reeling from the talks that brought Steven Pienaar back to Goodison Park for what turned out to be an extortionate fee. If we are going to use funds sparingly this summer, we have to ensure we do not dance to Daniel Levy’s tune once more.
Yet with every appearance, with every gut-busting run, with every turn of blistering pace, Aaron Lennon convinces us that he will be worth it.
If the Blues could make one signing for next term - who, realistically, would you want?
The squad needs boosting in many departments – at centre back if Distin and Alcaraz are both released, at right back to cover for Coleman, on the wing and up front. Wingers, if negotiations for Aaron Lennon break down or Aiden McGeady is shown the door, will be needed in bulk.
And when Roberto Martinez said this morning that Everton would not need another goalkeeper, he was met with an air of disbelief.
It’s true that, quantity-wise, we’re set for men between the sticks. But Tim Howard, for so long a club stalwart, is 36 and his peak years are but a distant memory. It is widely agreed that he needs to leave before his already faltering reputation slumps beyond repair.
Joel Robles is hardly inspiring as the deputy to the struggling American. And it all seems strangely familiar. The idea of the Martinez-Moyes mirror experiences have been the port of call in many desperate times this season – the idea of a first campaign that exceeds expectations, a second that falls well short, and a third that defies odds and even belief.
So much went right for us in that glorious 2004/05 campaign, but the main catalyst for success came from the back, and the man David Moyes still name-checks as his greatest ever signing.
Nigel Martyn, who turned 38 four days before that season began, was imperious throughout, as adept at making stunning reflex saves as commanding the penalty area even in the twilight of his career.
It is fair to assume, or even assert, that Everton would not have finished anywhere near fourth place without the influence of the England international. In fact, for the final two games, Martyn was rested while Richard Wright deputised.
In those games, Everton conceded ten goals. With confidence in keepers at its lowest since the time Wright was first choice, Martinez may need a Martyn moment. And with Thibaut Courtois’ meteoric rise seemingly forcing Petr Cech out of the Chelsea exit door, that moment may well have arrived.
Cech, five years younger than Martyn was when he signed for Everton in September 2003, is still very much at the peak of his powers. His imposing frame and expert shot-stopping commands respect from all corners.
Corners! There’s another one. He can deal with those. Therefore, if he can be tempted to Goodison Park, Everton must do all they can to make it happen. It would provide a solid base upon which great things could be built.
Finally, is there anything else you'd like to get off your chest?
Today, as it is literally impossible not to notice, is General Election day. The nation is fraught with debate, often utter vitriol, as ideologies clash on the election battleground.
We are persuaded, ordered even, to swarm to polling stations and make a difference.
Every issue, every character flaw, every bacon sandwich is flaunted before the nation by a headline-hungry media. And yet, beneath all that, we are still missing what matters.
The pure crescendo of noise has drowned out the topic that should never leave our minds. And I’m bringing it back into the public consciousness.

Roberto Martinez says Goodison Park cannot lose fear factor again
7 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Everton boss admits away sides didn't worry about facing them on Merseyside
Roberto Martinez says it is vital that Goodison Park never loses its fear factor again – labelling it as Everton's ‘greatest threat’.
The Blues boss admits earlier that earlier in the season away sides were not worried about coming to Merseyside. But after an unbeaten run of 11 games at home since the turn of the year, Martinez believes Goodison has regained much of its presence.
The Catalan points to the victory over Manchester United last month - and the atmosphere inside the ground - as proof that Everton are a force to be reckoned with when the Old Lady is fully behind the players. Martinez says self-doubt crept in during the Blues dreadful run of results in the lead up to Christmas as Goodison became edgy and nervous.
But with six consecutive home wins behind them - and a desire to make amends of last Saturday’s defeat at Aston Villa - Martinez is confident a “hostile” atmosphere will await relegation threatened Sunderland this weekend. Asked if Goodison lost some of its fear factor earlier this season, Martinez told the ECHO: “Yes, it is fair to say that and as a football club we need to understand what we are very powerful with and the atmosphere at Goodison is one of the biggest threats we have.
“Going through November and December we were so, so disappointed with our results that we started creating doubts as a football club and we weren’t as hostile for the opposition as we should have been, but in 2015 we have changed that.
“First, we got in a position where we all felt together and we all felt we were helping each other and now that fear factor has come back. “We should never lose that because having that is the backbone of any successful team and to that type of home performance we have shown since the turn of the year.” Everton have lost to Crystal Palace and dropped points at home to Swansea, West Brom and Hull this term whilst also suffering a heavy defeat to Chelsea and letting a two-goal lead slip against Arsenal. Even during a 3-1 win over Queens Park Rangers in December, the Goodison faithful were restless with Martinez’s decision to substitute Mo Besic greeted by boos from the stands. “Everything we do is to make our fans proud and sometimes you can understand the frustration,” Martinez added. “The players and the staff are the first ones to be frustrated when the results are not coming through but the attitude and the character and the pride of representing Everton is in our dressing room. “I do feel there is something special building but we need to be patient and we need to help each other build that winning team.
Team learning to cope with expectations
“But it is understanding that, at times, it has been frustrating because we were so excited and positive about the signs we saw last season and everyone on the board made sure we could have that consistency. “Then Europe is something that brings bigger demands in your season but it is a great way of developing and it brought some tough lessons that are going to be valuable.
“But now, you look at our form at home since the turn of the year and we are the only team unbeaten at home in all competitions so you can see that the team is starting to develop a confidence of playing at home and in front of those expectations and I do feel that there is a mental step you need to learn before you become a winning team.” Martinez went onto say: “You are playing with your talent and you achieve great results with that, then you develop huge expectations and, as a team, you need to learn to cope. “It has been very difficult at times this season but I have always said that we have the best fans in world football and we all need to understand that we are working hard to achieve the same things. “We will never have £300m to spend on our squad but I believe we can compete with those squads as long as we stay together and work hard and in a creative way, but that is going to take time.”

Everton fans whinging makes me laugh - try being Sunderland
7 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
Behind Enemy Lines with Sunderland supporter Michael Potts
By Paul Philbin
This week we spoke to Sunderland season ticket holder and writer for, Michael Potts
1. You got a huge result against Southampton, how confident are you going into the game?
It was absolutely massive to get all three points from that game. Anything less, and we'd be looking dead in the water, but thankfully the team showed up and sealed a very professional win. Suddenly there's a buzz among the fans, despite being in the bottom three with relegation still a very real possibility. The Everton game all depends on which Sunderland turns up. If the one that beat Newcastle and Southampton appears at Goodison, anything could happen, but if we slide back to performances like the 4-0 and 4-1 home defeats to Villa and Palace, it's going to be a long, uncomfortable day.
2. Honestly, do you think Sunderland will stay up?
I'm usually optimistic about everything, but before the Southampton game I was already scanning the Championship table looking for potential away days and accepted that we would be dropping out of the Premier League. I even started to get excited about the idea of winning games again. We've lingered for too long at the bottom of the table and our 40,000+ fans deserve to be entertained. But now that we've given ourselves a chance, that all went straight out of the window. We can stay up, we can catch the teams above us, but a lot hinges on the game this weekend.
3. The reverse fixture ended 1-1, what did you think of that game?
I'd just landed back in England from a bit of travelling earlier that morning. It was a total whirlwind 24 hours zipping from New York to Paris to Newcastle to Sunderland to the North East corner in the Stadium of Light, but I was determined to make it back in time.
It was a solid performance and a well-earned point against an Everton side who many thought would kick on into the top half, but looking back on our ridiculous amount of draws, it could prove to be one of those games that we seriously regret not winning, especially after going in front.
4. One Everton player you would like to see at Sunderland and why?
Romelu Lukaku. Everton's dip in form hides the fact that Lukaku is still a fantastic player. Even in a turbulent season he's racked up nearly 20 goals in all competitions.
A plain and simple goalscorer is something that we desperately need. Defoe has scored a few big goals, but he's been wasteful, and while Connor Wickham has been one of our best players under Advocaat, he's not prolific.
The less we say about Steven Fletcher, the better... Woeful. We're also crying out for someone like Aaron Lennon who could outpace the roadrunner. We're short of lightning speed in our team, and we could desperately use some.

5. Who should the Blues be wary of?
I can't even believe I'm about to say this, but... Danny Graham... He hasn't scored a single goal for Sunderland in his two years up here, and was even sent out on loan to Wolves while we endured big Dozy Antiscore up front, but now he's back and is becoming a weird cult-hero among the fans.
He was our man of the match against Southampton for sheer effort, determination and some great play. He's from the Dark Side (Newcastle) but you'd have thought he was born and raised in red and white the way he acts on the pitch.
He's desperate, absolutely desperate to score, and the fans are willing the ball across the line for him. It 'could' be his day. FINALLY.
6. What have you made of Everton's recent form?
Everton are a topsy-turvy team. I've been amused all season listening and reading to some of their fans whinging, complaining and crying out about a crisis at the club.
I'm sorry, but if one below-average season in a decade, with a £28 million striker up front is a crisis, then I invite any Everton fan to visit the North East for a tour of the Stadium Of Light and St. James' Park. Everton's win over United was fantastic, and I was pleased to see them put Burnley further down the table, but their inconsistency showed up again when they lost at Villa (thanks for that). Everton are a good side, there's no doubt, but they certainly have some off-days.
7. Finally, what is your prediction for the game?
Again, it's so hard to predict how either side will perform. We could definitely go to Goodison and bring back three points, but it'll take another huge performance.
All things considered, it'll be a close, tight game and become Sunderland's 16th draw of the season. 1-1.

Leighton Baines: why I handed penalty duties to Lukaku
7 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Everton defender reveals reason he stepped down as Blues penalty taker
Leighton Baines has revealed why he handed over Everton’s penalty taking duties to Romelu Lukaku.
The Blues full-back says it is vital the £28m striker scores as many goals as possible so offered Lukaku the chance to become the regular man from the spot.
Lukaku did not start taking penalties until after the New Year but has converted all four of the penalties he has taken since. Baines insists he remains ready to take spot-kicks when required but wants to see Lukaku use penalties to boost his scoring record and his confidence.
When asked who he considered Everton’s first-choice penalty taker, Baines replied: “Rom.
“When Rom signed permanently I said then, if he wanted them, ‘no problem’.
“It was just about getting him scoring when we re-signed him.
“So I said ‘whenever you’re ready, just tell me’ because, again, I’m thinking of him as a player.
“Strikers live off goals and look at their records and if he’s scoring penalties, and his record is looking good, then his confidence is good and you’ll probably get other goals on the back of that.
“It can work the other way if they don’t go in, but if he gets the goals through that and the confidence... “If he scores a penalty after 20 minutes, then he’s up and you might get other goals from that.” Baines added: “So it’s partly that and, from the club’s point of view, he’s an asset.
“We’ve paid a lot of money for him, he’s a young striker who is going to be judged on his goals, not your left-back. “If he finishes the season on 10, 11 or 12 or can slot five or six pens on top of that, it’s a different ball game when people look at his record.
“Now, you’ve got to score them and so far he has been. Unless he tells me otherwise, it will stay that way.” Baines has scored three times from the spot this season but saw his effort at Old Trafford in October saved. Evertonians have begun to wonder whether the 30-year-old had lost his confidence from 12 yards but insists he’s as happy to take them as he ever was.
“I’m relaxed about it either way,” Baines said.
“I’m not someone who is going to throw his toys out of the pram because he’s not on them.
“But on the other side it’s not like I don’t want to hit them, I’ve taken them for long enough in many a different situation and scenario - it’s not a confidence issue.
“I’m always available to take them.
“But I’m not egotistical and think ‘I’ve got to score these goals’.”
Lukaku was on the bench when Everton were awarded a penalty against Burnley last month and so Baines was expected to return to spot-kick duties. But Ross Barkley stepped up to take it and saw his effort excellently saved by Tom Heaton.
“When we got it I was going up to take it but straight away Ross asked ‘Can I have it? Can I have it?’” explained Baines, who was attending a meet and greet with Poppy Comer, a Barclays spirit of the game hero earlier today. “I thought ‘if you are that confident then, yeah’. I probably should have spoke about it before because Rom had been taking them but I’d just assumed I’d be taking them.
“So that was pretty much my call on the pitch because everyone would’ve assumed I’d have taken it.
“Ross turned around and asked ‘Can I have it? Can I have it?’
“I said yes because he’s really good at them and can strike them powerfully and I really fancied him to score.
“If it goes in, nobody’s bothered are they.”
It was not the first time Baines had allowed a team-mate to try his luck. He was still considered first-choice penalty taker in January when the Blues welcomed West Brom to Goodison.
Former Everton defender Joleon Lescott was penalised for handball but instead of Baines or Lukaku taking the penalty, Kevin Mirallas put the ball down - and sent his effort wide.
Then after Barkley's saved effort against Burnley, Roberto Martinez moved to clarify the situation.
'If Romelu Lukaku had been on the pitch, he would have taken it. Otherwise, I am happy to have three or four players who can take penalties and let it depend on how they feel at that moment,' he said.
*Leighton Baines was speaking at a Barclays event to inspire the next generation of fans to fall in love with football. To win Barclays Premier League tickets and other football experiences search: Barclays Spirit of the Game.

Everton FC title winning team of 1985 to be paraded at Goodison Park on Saturday
7 May 2015 Liverpool Echo
By Phil Kirkbride
Howard Kendall and his players will be on the pitch at half-time
Howard Kendall and members of his 1985 title-winning side will be at Goodison on Saturday to mark the 30th anniversary of their historic season.
Kendall will be joined on the pitch at half-time of the weekend’s game with Sunderland by Graeme Sharp, Peter Reid, Colin Harvey, Derek Mountfield, John Bailey, Pat van den Hauwe and Neville Southall to commemorate the campaign the Blues secured a First Division and European Cup Winners’ Cup double. Evertonians getting to the ground early can pick up a souvenir pin badge commemorating that special season.
The free pin badges will be handed out before kick-off in the Fan Zone and around Goodison.
Also, Derek Mountfield and Pat van den Hauwe will visit the Fan Zone before kick-off to relive the season while highlights will play out on the big screens in the stadium.
Tickets for the visit of the Black Cats are still available.
To buy, visit or call 0871 663 1878. Alternatively, visit the Park End Box Office, Everton Two in Liverpool One or TicketQuarter in Queen Square.




























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

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