Oct 042014

Congratulations to Tony Hibbert on his achievement of playing 15 consecutive seasons – in an era where a lot of players don’t seem particularly bothered whether they play or not.

You rarely see Tony in the papers for anything other than football related matters.

Likewise the likes of Leon Osman, Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin.

They are players who never complain about being in or out of the first team, and always set fantastic examples to any aspiring young player.

This week was another fine example of that. Leighton Baines played his eighth 90-minute match in nine fixtures.

Leon Osman started only his second match of the season in Russia.

While Tony Hibbert returned to the senior set up after a long absence, with three games in nine days in very different environments.

It was no surprise that he didn’t let anyone down.

I have always said that Leon and Hibbo are massively under-rated players. There’s something old school about the pair of them.

In an era when all things modern are all too quickly embraced without even thinking, I prefer to be steadfastly old school. People may accuse me of being a dinosaur, but I am pretty certain that if you asked managers or coaches whether they would like their players to have old school values of discipline, determination and respect for club, fans and themselves in everything they do on the pitch and off it, they say ‘yes’ every single time.

Everton have been blessed with many great examples of that in their current squad and it seems like they always have been. You could go through the present squad and count on the fingers of one hand examples of players who have let themselves and club down.

I know for a fact Everton have some fantastic talent within the Under-21s and the age group below that – and hopefully those youngsters will look to the likes of Hibbo, Leon, Jags and Leighton and aspire to be like them – rather than a host of other stars elsewhere that you could mention.

Puzzling over Everton’s defence

Everton’s defensive record is puzzling. For a team which for so long built its progress on a secure defence this season has been something of a curiosity.

And it’s not just Everton. Average goals per game appears to be up and proper defending would seem to be fast becoming a dying art.

Where are the new Terrys and Adams, Boulds and Keowns, Hansens and Lawrensons, Bruces and Pallisters?

Teams which dominated English football for long periods could always point at a dominant central defensive partnership and a great goalkeeper.

But look how tough Arsene Wenger has found it to replace his invincibles.

Or how difficult Louis Van Gaal, with his vast resources, has found it to find quality defenders.

Or look at Liverpool with their massive outlay over the last 10 12 years. Those defenders just don’t seem to be about any more.

At Everton Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and Tim Howard are still top class players.

But in sport people talk about the accumulation of small margins – and while Howard, Jagielka and Distin are not finished, they are all coming to the twilight of their careers.

They might not necessarily be committing howlers.

But if you have a drop off of one or two per cent, in three or four players, then the net affect can be something more substantial.

Hoping for Old Trafford success

If you speak to most Evertonians there seems to be a subconscious belief that we always seem do well at Old Trafford.

Well I was part of a winning team there in 1992, when we actually topped the league after winning 3-0. But since then i think we’ve only won once since – and that was last season. So even when United haven’t been at their best it’s a difficult place to go.

But this weekend is a great opportunity because United are so poor defensively.

I hope that Roberto Martinez won’t worry too much about the opposition and that attack will be the best form of defence.

Travelling to Russia on Thursday and then Old Trafford for an early kick off is tough – but Roberto Martinez hasn’t complained. And I hope he gets his reward. Early Sunday afternoon (Free £25 bet offer) Kick-offs tend to put a dampener on most events. But I hope this one is highly entertaining and – successful.

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 Posted by at 11:09 am

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