|Paul Gerrard - Goalkeeper|
During his time at Oldham Athletic under Joe Royle, Paul Gerrard had often been tipped for great things and he made the step up to the Premiership when Royle, by then occupying the Everton hotseat, transferred him from Boundary Park to Goodison in £1M deal in July 1996.
Groomed as a long-term successor to Goodison legend Neville Southall, Paul was kept waiting for his opportunity by the seemingly ageless Everton No 1. In the spring of 1997, though, Gerrard appeared to have made the breakthrough as Southall's Blues career began to wind down.
However, his performances were nervy and lacked confidence, duly noted by Royle's successor Howard Kendall, who signed Norwegian shot-stopper Thomas Myhre in November 1997 to bolster the squad. Myhre went on to make the first-choice spot his own with a string of impressive performances that had Everton fans believing that Kendall had unearthed the next Peter Schmeichel.
When Walter Smith arrived as successor to Kendall in July 1998, he too retained Myhre in the starting line-up but also signed rising young goalkpeeing star Steve Simonsen from Tranmere Rovers. Despite being only 19 at the time, Simonsen was an England U-21 regular and already a season's worth of senior appearances for Tranmere, so there were now three supposedly top-class 'keepers at Everton. Gerrard, with his future at Goodison in doubt, spent a portion of the following season on loan at Oxford United in preparation for earning a move to another club.
Myhre's hegemony was halted abruptly, however, in the summer of 1999 when he broke an ankle and missed the start of the 1999-2000 season. Gerrard stepped into the breach and was finally able to bring some confidence and consistency to his game. When Myhre returned from injury, manager Walter Smith kept faith in Gerrard and the Norwegian was relegated to the bench until an injury to Gerrard gave him an opportunity to win the first-team position back.
Myhre failed to seize the opportunity, putting in some unreliable displays of his own and Gerrard was quickly reinstated. The same happened the following season, signalling the beginning of the end of Myhre's spell with the Blues.
Paul had seemingly cemented his status as Everton's first choice goalkeeper, but he was still drawing criticism from some quarters for his failure to command his area and his vulnerability at set pieces. In the autumn of 2001 it was all change again between the sticks at Everton after Gerrard made one grave error too many. Defending a clean sheet at home to Newcastle, he made a rare dash off his line, only to poleaxe his own defender in the form of Abel Xavier. The incident gifted a goal to the Magpies, Everton lost 3-1 and Smith dropped Paul for the next game.
Steve Simonsen was the beneficiary of this decision and went on to stake a permanent claim to the "No 1" jersey, leaving Gerrard to ponder life in the reserves once more. He did make it back for three games at the end of the season, as David Moyes rang the changes to see just what options he had between the sticks.
And in the close season, he went out and bought Richard Wright. Gerrard saw little action after that, playing a couple of games only when Wright was injured. He did go out to Ipswich on loan under his favourite manager — Joe Royle, and there was talk of a permanent move, but he soon picked up an injury and that was the end of that...
Repeated rumblings about a move away during the summer 2003 close season led to nothing, until he was finally farmed out to Sheffield United for a three-month loan at the end of August. He quickly become accepted by the Blades but that spell terminated without the move Gerrard was seeking. He returned to become fifth keeper at Everton after excellent progress from Iain Turner, with the Club hoping to get some money for him in the January transfer window.
That never happened and Gerrard became the forgotten man at Goodison until Notts Forest finally came in with a loan request that would take Gerrard away until the end of the season... and the end of his Everton contract, at which point, he was released, subsequently to rejoin Forest.
Updated by Michael Kenrick, September 2004