Everton FC legend Andrei Kanchelskis reckons that the Blues need to gain more European experience before they can challenge both at home and abroad.
The man who produced arguably the most spectacular season’s performance of any individual in a royal blue jersey during the Premier League era, believes that their rookie status on the continental stage puts them at a disadvantage against teams like his first club Dynamo Kiev who they host in the Europa League last 16 on Thursday.
Kanchelskis’ stunning displays down the right wing during the 1995/96 campaign brought him 16 goals in 32 outings, and steered Joe Royle’s men into sixth place for what proved to be their only top half finish in the first decade of the Premier League.
However, technical hitches at the start of the campaign with his protracted then-club record £5m move from Manchester United, held up by wrangles over the amount that his previous team Shakhtar Donetsk were entitled to, denied Kanchelskis the chance to play for Everton in Europe as Goodison chiefs were unable to register him before the UEFA deadline.
Andrei Kanchelskis and Joe Royle celebrate the Russian signing for Everton in July 1995 22/7/95: Soccer – Everton FC, Goodison Park Andrei Kanchelskis celebrates signing for Everton by cooling – off during the heat-wave Football
The 46-year-old believes that getting used to operating on two fronts remains the key for the Blues, who despite their successes in the Europa League have endured a torrid campaign domestically.
Everton have collected a paltry 28 points from as many Premier League matches and have been knocked out of both domestic cup competitions at the first hurdle for the first time in the club’s history and Kanchelskis said: “They’re really struggling when they play in the Premier League.
“In Europe they’ve played very well and have got a great record. I’ve watched their games in the Europa League and they’ve been impressive.
“I don’t know why they can’t play the same in the Premier League.”
He added: “If you look at Everton they don’t have the big money to spend like some of their Premier League rivals.
“I don’t think their squad is the deepest in respect to having options on the bench who can change things after the first 11.
“If they were to play in Europe every year like Arsenal or Chelsea they would get the experience.
“It’s difficult to combine the European football with the Premier League and two domestic cups as they’ve not got a big bench to choose from.
“After three or four years in Europe it’s not problem but now it’s hard for them.
“These are problems for every team not just Everton. When I started at Manchester United it was similar but then once we got used to playing every season in Europe it was ok and every player understood. We all had the right mentality and were ready to play.
A Soviet Superpower
Born in Kirovohrad, 187 miles to the south of Kiev, Kanchelskis grew up in the era when Dynamo Kiev were often the de facto club side of the Soviet Union national team and he started his career there in 1988, making 22 appearances over a two-year spell.
He said: “It will be a tough game for Everton because Dynamo Kiev is a big club. They have some big names in Europe and big names in Ukraine.
“They’re by far the biggest club in Ukraine and have a lot of fans there. When Dynamo Kiev played in the USSR they were one of the big, big teams.
Dynamo Kiev’s Andriy Yarmolenko in action for Ukraine
“They’ve got a great team at the moment and they’re top of the league playing good football.
“When I was growing up the two massive teams with the biggest rivalry in the USSR were Dynamo Kiev and Spartak Moscow.
“Dynamo Kiev were a major force in Europe when they were coached by Valeriy Lobanovskyi and won the Cup-Winners’ Cup two times and the UEFA Super Cup (they beat European Cup winners Bayern Munich in 1975, winning 1-0 away and then 2-0 at home in front of 110,000 fans in Kiev). I remember these times.
“It will be very difficult game to call but an interesting one.”
Strength going forward
Kanchelskis’ success with the Blues was based on a combination of blistering pace and powerful shooting. He endeared himself to Evertonians by netting his first goals for the club coming courtesy of a Merseyside Derby brace in front of the Kop at Anfield and he picks out Romelu Lukaku as his particular favourite among the current Everton side.
He said: “When looking at the current Everton team I like Romelu Lukaku. He’s a big guy and a brilliant forward. His strength reminds me of when I played we had Duncan Ferguson and Daniel Amokachi. Amokachi was a very, very big, strong man.
Romelu Lukaku scores the first goal for Everton from the penalty spot Daniel Amokachi celebrates with Graham Stuart as Everton beat Spurs in the 1995 FA Cup semi-final
“Romelu is still only 21 years old. I think if he works hard then he has the potential to become a really big player in European football. I really hope so because he’s a good talent.
“My favourite memories are scoring in both the derby matches in my first season. I scored both our goals in a 2-1 win at Anfield and then I got another in the 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.
“They were good times. There is lots of love there and it’s a great club. The atmosphere there is beautiful. It’s really nice.”
Kanchelskis was given a tumultuous reception from the home fans when he returned to Goodison Park as a guest of the club for the game against Manchester City on January.
Everton v Manchester City at Goodison Park in the FA Premier League. Andrei Kanchelskis on his return to Goodison.
Despite only playing for the Blues for a season-and-a-half before making an £8million switch to Fiorentina, his son Andrei junior is a fervent Evertonian and accompanied his dad on the trip to Merseyside.
Kanchelskis said: “My son is a big fan of Everton but my daughter is a big fan of Manchester United. This is life, it’s ok. It is a normal, you get families where in one house one son supports Everton and the other supports Liverpool. It’s not a problem.
“The reception I got back at Everton was amazing, really nice and I was very pleased. It made me happy to be there again, I remember some very good times at Goodison Park. I can’t thank the fans enough and the people at the club and throughout Liverpool were so welcoming.
“It was fantastic that the fans remember me after a long time.
“They’re nice people – there are 40,000 people giving everything for the team.”