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My Goodison Greats: Players (part I)

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It’s no surprise that I’ve become hooked to Sporcle in my hours spent alone, given that it provides quizzes to fill my brain with yet more useless trivia. It was upon this site that I stumbled across Everton players who played under David Moyes. It took me a couple of attempts to get all 106 (who remembers Mark Hughes making a single appearance in the 2006 league cup?) however it did remind me of many a player I had once loved seeing live. It gave me the idea to write an article based around my favourite XI players I saw under David Moyes but then I thought, why stop there? Why not include the Smith and Martinez era to produce my favourite XI from across my years of going to Goodison Park?

I’ve been going to Goodison Park on a fairly regular basis since my first taste of live football on Saturday 12th December 1998. That match was a 1-0 triumph over Southampton with Bakayoko netting after 31 minutes. I remember the score line and opposition, but little else (I looked up the date and scorer) about the match yet it captivated me enough to go time and time again. I’ve been fortunate enough to have season tickets in two stands and have family willing to take me / sit with me at matches. It is hard being a football fan, especially an Everton fan, at times however there are more positive memories than negative ones from my times spent sat at the Grand Old Lady.

The only criterion for my team was that they have to have been players I have seen while sitting at Goodison Park. That being said, I won’t adhere to that strictly as let’s be honest, who can remember everyone we’ve seen live compared to those we just saw on TV? For example, I can’t recall ever seeing Wayne Rooney on the Goodison pitch wearing an Everton shirt however I’m fairly sure I would have done at some point. This will be an article most will disagree with and I’d like to hear your views on exactly the same topic, maybe with players included from generations prior to the ones I have seen. Rather than tell you the side straight away, I shall go through position-by-position all the players I considered so as not to leave anyone out. All deserve at least a mention.

Manager:

There are only 3 to choose from here and I can tell you, it certainly won’t be Walter Smith! David Moyes did a lot for Everton football club, he came in when were battling relegation every year and turned us into a club worthy of a place in Europe. There were plenty of blips when he initially took charge, in his second season we finished 17th and we yo-yoed between top 6 and bottom 6 most seasons. However, once he had got consistency in players we started to finish in the top half more often than not. He would be a worthy manager of this side. Moving onto Roberto Martinez, after the best first season anyone at Goodison could hope for, the second has been tough. The growing number of calls for his head is a tad unfair, after all Moyes struggled in his second season. I think Martinez will turn this around, and his mentality towards football can help us become a forward thinking modern football club while retaining the old Everton values. For that, Martinez gets my nod as manager and the side will play his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.

Manager: Roberto Martinez
Assistant: David Moyes
Far, far, far away: Walter Smith

Martinez will be just as happy I've selected him as manager

Martinez will be just as happy I’ve selected him as manager

Goalkeepers:

This was the easiest category to reduce to two candidates yet one of the hardest to select. Despite enduring goalkeepers who fall out of lofts, slip on baths and bet on matches illegally (ok, Simonsen wasn’t at Everton when he did that) these 17 years have seen two great goalkeepers grace Goodison Park, Nigel Martyn and Tim Howard. These two eclipse anyone else, although it’s worth mentioning Jan Mucha and Joel Robles who have both made heroic performances as second choice keepers.

On his day, Tim Howard is basically unstoppable (as Belgium found out at the World Cup). TH is a world-class shot-stopper; he keeps most things out even though he has a tendency to push into the danger zone. Unfortunately, he has a crazy side and has cost Everton a lot of goals during his 9 years here. Nevertheless, his time has been more positive than not. He battles OCD and Tourette’s every day and the twitches must make it hard to be a professional goalkeeper yet he’s been consistently one of the world’s best for a while now.

Nigel Martyn wasn’t perfect either, but put in multiple heroic performances for Everton. It’s no surprise that Moyes heralded him as his greatest ever signing. During the season in which we qualified for the Champions League, it was Martyn who kept us in the upper reaches of the table as we lost the attacking impetus provided by the outgoing Thomas Gravesen. With Martyn at the back, we had a goalkeeper we could rely on and he made a huge impact in just 3 seasons. One match I remember was a 0-0 draw at Anfield, except it would have been 6 or 7 if it weren’t for Big Nige. It’s tough to call between the two of them.

I’ve decided to give the Englishman the nod. My reasoning is based around the fact Martyn had to play with a worse defence and still managed to take us into the Champions League. Howard has been at Goodison longer yet I don’t think I will remember him as fondly as I remember Martyn. It was a short but very sweet stay at Goodison.

In Goal: Nigel Martyn
Warming the bench: Tim Howard
Useful back-ups: Joel Robles, Jan Mucha
Released: Steve Simonsen, Paul Gerrard, Richard Wright, Thomas Myhre
Others I didn’t see live: Iain Turner, John Ruddy, Carlo Nash, Stefan Wessels, Sander Westerveld

My goalkeeper

My goalkeeper

Right Back:

If we’ve seen many goalkeepers in my time at Goodison, then right-backs have been in short supply. In fact, I can only think of 3 worth considering: Steve Watson, Tony Hibbert and Seamus Coleman. Phil Neville played at right back but was more effective in CM so I shall leave him until then.

Let’s start with Steve Watson, probably best remembered at Everton for his performances in right midfield. After all, it was from there that he scored a hat trick in the 4-1 victory over Leeds when I sat in the Gwladys Street end. He was a versatile player, playing mainly at right back but also in midfield, at centre back and even upfront. Always giving his all for the team, I recall him not possessing the most quality but being someone to rely on.

Tony Hibbert or Vladmir Putin? The jury's out

Tony Hibbert, the average legend

Tony Hibbert will be very fondly remembered when he decides to hang up his boots. He is a true English defender, rugged without much skill but incredibly effective, with his best asset being his perfect slide tackling. However, none of that is what Hibbert will go down in Everton history for. Instead, his dreadful scoring record – over 300 competitive appearances, not a single goal. Occasionally he pops up in the box and we all get ready to riot, only for him to let us down. I will miss going to Goodison and screaming “shoooooottt” every time he gets the ball when he decides to depart. I honestly don’t have a bad word to say about this wonderful servant.

He would get my nod in the side if not for his replacement, Seamus Coleman. Coleman had a strange start to his Everton career, dealing with a hole in his foot, making his debut at left back in Europe and being at fault for 5 goals and then making his premier league debut and being the catalyst for a 2-goal recovery against Tottenham. Early on, he couldn’t remove Hibbert at right back and so played in right midfield, with his crazy runs and great crossing becoming a regular highlight and he quickly became my favourite player. When Moyes moved him to defence, he went up another gear and then under Martinez he’s found his best form. He’s a goal threat going forward, a pivotal part of our team and his defending has improved ten fold from what it was. By far the classiest right back to grace Goodison Park in my time, and quite possibly of all time.

Attacking the right flank: Seamus Coleman
In reserve: Tony Hibbert, Steve Watson
On standby: Phil Neville

An easy choice for the right back berth

An easy choice for the right back berth

Centre-Backs:

When I started thinking about Everton centre backs, my thoughts jumped to the dream team of David Weir and Alan Stubbs, the first combination I remember and responsible for cementing David Moyes’ reputation as a defensive manager. Both are unassuming figures but stalwarts at the back, stopping more attacks than not. Both were Everton captain at one point or another and both have since coached at Finch Farm, including being interviewed for the managerial post. Despite all this, neither made my team.

Partners before and after retirement, but not in my team

Partners before and after retirement, but not in my team

My first pick is someone who I first watched during the televised cup match Sheffield United v Arsenal. Playing in midfield and with floppy blonde hair, Phil Jagielka caught my eye almost immediately. When we signed him a few years later I was ecstatic but I had no idea just how good he actually was. Since then he’s become the first name on our team sheet, the most reliable player we have and the finest leader in the squad. Our captain, England regular and the best defender I have ever seen live. During our 1-0 win over Manchester United a couple of seasons ago he was at his absolute best, stopping everything he could with every part of his body. He reads the game incredibly well and is very rarely out-thought. In fact, the only player he has consistently struggled against is Luis Suarez, which is no bad thing! I stand by my assertion that without his horrific injury we would have won the 2009 FA Cup.

The second was a lot harder. Even ignoring the inconsistent Heitinga and promising Duffy (who still wasn’t given enough of an opportunity by Moyes/Martinez for my liking), I was left with Sylvain Distin, John Stones, Joseph Yobo and Joleon Lescott. Distin has been a wonderful servant for Everton however his recent performances have left a lot to be desired and is now straining the squad rather than helping it. Distin main attribute, his pace, meant he could always keep up with the fastest strikers allowing him to be the perfect foil and partner for Jagielka. But then, Yobo, Lescott and Stones have all struck up wonderful partnerships with Phil leading to the assumption that Jagielka is the better defender. Both Lescott and Yobo left Goodison in murky circumstances following very successful stints here. Unable to ship Yobo off, we loaned him to Turkey for two years before they (Fenerbahçe) eventually signed him. Lescott refused to play and wrote a transfer request in order to move to Manchester City, where he won the league. For me, Lescott was the better defender of the two and, for both Everton and England, was part of an incredibly successful partnership with Phil Jagielka. On top of that, he once scored 10 goals in a season. For those reasons, I forgive the manner of his exit and Lescott gets the nod ahead of Yobo, Distin and Stones.

I’ll place John Stones on the bench because of the sheer potential he possesses. He still makes a lot of mistakes but is very good on the ball, excellent at crossing and has pace. He could quite easily become an Everton and England great in the future.

Potential

Potential

Defensive rocks: Phil Jagielka ©, Joleon Lescott
Sitting on the bench: John Stones
Coaching staff: Sylvain Distin, Joseph Yobo, David Weir, Alan Stubbs

Rocks at the back

Rocks at the back

Left Back:

With a respectful nod in the direction of Valente, Pistone, Naysmith, Oviedo and the very promising Garbutt there was only ever 2 possible players for this role. Leighton Baines, the 5th member of the Beatles, or the Rhino himself, David Unsworth. Both were great at taking penalties and both gave everything to Everton but were very different players.

If Baines is the flair, then Unsworth is the pragmatic. A very apt defender, he got the Rhino nickname due to his no compromise style of play. He played at Everton in 2 stints, winning the FA Cup in his first and the hearts of the fans in both. I remember his second much more vividly, especially his penalty taking ability. He was another member of the hard grafting David Moyes early units; indeed he was one of the leaders of an experienced defence containing Stubbs and Weir. He got Moyes’ reign off to the perfect start by scoring after 16 seconds of the new mans first game and was one of the most consistent players in the early days. He’s remained an Everton fan, and has been spotted at multiple derby matches.

One of many Unsworth penalty goals

One of many Unsworth penalty goals

All perfect except he’s been bettered ten fold by the emergence, development and growth of Leighton Baines. Take all of Unsworth’s better attributes, minus the strength, and add to them skill, attacking prowess as well as the best left foot you could hope for and you have Leighton Baines. He has the x-factor quality you want from a star performer, he brings the crowds back time and time again. Electric going forward, solid at the back – him and Coleman work wonders together and shouldn’t be separated. Unsworth threatened but in the end, it was an easy choice.

Tearing up the left flank: Leighton Baines
On the bench: David Unsworth
For the future: Bryan Oviedo, Luke Garbutt
More than adequate reserves: Gary Naysmith, Alessandro Pistone, Nuno Valente

The best left back I've ever seen

The best left back I’ve ever seen

So, so far we have a team of Martyn, Coleman, Jagielka, Lescott and Baines managed by Roberto Martinez. Check back next week for the completion of my team!

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Author: GHardman42

Mancunian. Main passions are Sport and Mus(e)ic. Huge Everton, AM, Lancashire, JB and England fan! I play tennis like Dolgopolov (except nowhere near as good). Josh has said "You just don't know what will come next"

One thought on “My Goodison Greats: Players (part I)

  1. Pingback: My Goodison Greats: Players (part II) | Hardman's Thoughts

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