Sunday, 29 August 2010

Cup win should kick start Everton's season

Villa park , Aston Villa v Rapid Vienna, Europa League Qualifier Leg 2 26/08/2010 A dejected Ashley Young of Aston Villa looks on as the Vienna players celebrate the win 2-3 Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

After a stuttering opening two games it was a relief to see Everton finally win and score some goals in the process.

Speaking of goals and I feel it was important Jermaine Beckford got off the mark. I get the impression people are queuing up to dismiss him as out of his depth at this level if the scathing write ups after the Wolves game are anything to go by. Even the BBC singled his performance out for criticism.

Beckford is a gamble by Moyes no question, but he was a cheap one and regardless of the transfer fee (or lack thereof in this case) a player needs time to settle in his new surroundings. Opening your account for a new club is critical for a striker so hopefully with that monkey of his back we will see more encouraging performances from the former Leeds front man

The 5-1 victory over Huddersfield in the Carling Cup should also have given David Moyes some pointers as to his team selection for the Villa match on Sunday.

Jack Rodwell and Seamus Coleman – both superb in pre-season – surprisingly found themselves benched for the opening two fixtures of the season. It was perhaps Moyes seeking to protect his  young players and stick with the safe hands of experience (something he always tends to do unless injuries force his hand).

But there is also the adage ‘if you’re good enough you’re old enough’ and given their performances over the summer they deserved to be in the first team from the off. That was shown by their encouraging display in midweek, with Coleman bombing forward to set up a couple of goals while Rodwell managed to bag a strike himself.

Rodwell is developing at an alarming rate and having once being penciled in as a defender playing further forward he now looks to be turning into a goalscoring midfielder in the - dare I say it - Steven Gerrard mould.  He is certainly giving Tim Cahill something to worry about.

Turning to Everton’s opponents Aston Villa and it could be argued the Toffees are playing them at the best possible time. The Midlanders lost their manager Martin O’Neill a week before the season started, sold James Milner to Manchester City, lost 6-0 to Newcastle last weekend and completed a miserable opening fortnight by crashing out of Europe on Thursday.

I do have some sympathy for Villa, an opponent with have gone toe to toe with in recent seasons, as it seems they are suffering because of the unsettling effect Manchester City’s dogged pursuit of James Milner has had on the team and management over the summer – just like Everton did last year following Joleon Lescott’s move to the City of Manchester Stadium.

It seems that O'Neill played hardball with City and the Villa hierarchy but with City's finances winning out and Lerner cutting costs, the Irishman stuck to his principles and jumped ship.

As I said with us last season if it is a deliberate tactic by City to not only strengthen their team but unsettle one of their rivals it has worked perfectly.

That isn’t to say they won’t be a threat on Sunday. Some of my favuorite games in recent years have been against Villa - most notably a 3-3 draw at Villa Park in April 2009 and the even more dramatic 3-2 defeat the previous December, when we equalised in injury time only for Ashley Young to steal in straight from the kick off.

Even though we lost the game sticks in the memory as it reminded me why I love football - not many things in life have the ability to take you from euphoric highs to despairing lows in the space of a few seconds. Well at least not without involving chemicals anyway.

Also in Villa's stable is the lumbering presence of  John Carew who regardless of form or injury always seems to score against the Blues, like a modern day Les Ferdinand.

That said remain hopeful Everton can for once take advantage of another sides misfortune and get our league season going as it is vital the club avoid being hamstrung in the second half of the season as they were last year.

That motivation, the confidence taken from that Carling Cup win plus the uncertainty among the opponents makes me confident three points will be heading to Moyes’ men this weekend.

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