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More Villans than Heroes

17 October, 2001

David Unsworth
Rhino: Only Everton player to score against Villa under Walter Smith
When it comes to hoodoos, Manchester United hold the title of Everton's most frustrating opposition since the inception of the Premier League 9 seasons ago, but following close on the Red Devils' heels are Arsenal, Tottenham and Saturday's opponents, Aston Villa.

Everton have only recorded two victories against each of these four teams in the Premiership and they haven't beaten Villa since Joe Parkinson's piledriver on the last day of the 1995-96 season that brought the Blues within a hair's breadth of UEFA Cup qualification.

Everton simply don't like playing Aston Villa, whether it's because of the rash of dismissals at Villa Park in recent years, flukey last-minute defeats in front of the Sky cameras or even the depressing 6-2 drubbing we suffered against the Villans a decade ago in the old First Division again in front of a national TV audience.  No wonder John Gregory is rumoured to be partial to Everton Football Club!

Walter Smith's personal record against Villa as Everton manager is four defeats and two 0-0 draws, the latter both heralded at the time as classic examples of games the Blues should have comfortably won but didn't.  Indeed, had debutant John Collins not meekly placed a penalty into the goalkeeper's arms in Smith's first game in the Goodison hotseat in August 1998, he [Smith] might have recorded a win against the claret and blues.

Unfortunately, Villa have made a good start to the season after an iffy campaign in 2000-01 so Everton's chances of breaking the run of bad results against them would be slimmer than usual were it not for the Blues' own improved performances this season.

Of course, much rests on whether Smith can field at least two of his natural central midfielders with Gemmill doubtful, that looks likely to be Gravesen and Pembridge and whether he has the cajones to relegate Duncan Ferguson to the bench and build on the attacking partnership of Radzinski and Campbell, which did so well against West Ham last month.

Another interesting part of the side is defence, where only David Weir and former Villan Steve Watson can be fairly confident of a starting berth each week.  Alan Stubbs hasn't started the last two matches and David Unsworth the only player to have scored for Everton against Villa under Smith's tenure has had talks with the manager over his future after being dropped from the squad against West Ham.

In their stead, Allessandro Pistone and Abel Xavier have been challenging their critics with some sterling displays of late.

After disappointing results at Blackburn and Ipswich both games Everton should have won, by all accounts and the surprise pummelling of West Ham, this weekend's coming match-up with Villa will be an interesting indicator of where the Blues may be heading this season.

Can they consistently uphold the standards set in that 5-0 win over the Hammers or will Smith's side remain a frustrating and erratic enigma hovering between complaints about injury crises and financial paralysis?

Last Season: Everton 0-1 Aston Villa; Aston Villa 2-1 Everton
Check out Everton's record against Villa and the rest of the Premiership since 1992 here.

Lyndon Lloyd

©2001 ToffeeWeb, 17 October 2001


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