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Scouting report: Everton fans like what they see after waiting for Yobo
Electronic Telegraph
Monday September 30, 2002

Already eliminated by the time England came around, Nigeria had little to crow about during this summer's World Cup. None of the big names, Kanu and Jay Jay Okocha included, had lived up to expectations during a tournament marred by wrangles over money. Having transferred to an airport hotel before that last game in Group F, the Super Eagles were clearly ready for a very quick getaway.

Positive player profiles were proving thin on the ground until a clutch of Nigerian journalists, tucked disconsolately into the corner of Osaka's media centre, provided the answer. Joseph Yobo, 21, the utility player from Marseilles, had been best by a mile they said, impressing against Argentina and Sweden from both central midfield and right wing-back.

The next day, against England, Yobo was at it again, dropping into central defence where, in the sweltering midday heat, he did a neat shackling job on Michael Owen. By this time Europe's superpowers were beginning to take notice, with Juventus, in particular, reportedly to the fore.

Too late. David Moyes, recently installed as manager of Everton, was already on the case having earlier watched Yobo in a pre-tournament friendly against the Republic of Ireland. An initial 12-month deal was agreed with an option to keep Yobo for a further four years if the transfer worked out for everyone concerned.

A frustrating run of injuries, however, meant that Goodison Park had to wait until Saturday to form some sort of opinion. For the game against Fulham, Moyes, finally satisfied that his man was fully fit, selected Yobo at centre-half instead of Alan Stubbs.

And it was a high level of fitness and athleticism that first drew the eye. Blessed with a natural spring from a standing start, he was able to leap above Fulham strikers Steve Marlet and Barry Hayles whenever high balls soared in. The Premiership's physical demands differ significantly from those in France and Belgium, where Yobo has played most of his football, but none of it seemed a problem.

On a chase towards the corner flag with Marlet, Yobo also showed great pace and tenacity, muscling his opponent aside to eventually come away with the ball. The crowd were impressed, breaking out into applause after every good deed.

This was all rather encouraging considering defensive resilience has not been a feature of Everton's play thus far. Eleven goals conceded before Saturday's clean sheet was an obvious pointer of where things could improve.

What's more, Yobo's partnership with David Weir gave out some promising vibes. Weir has not had an easy time of it himself of late, being unfairly picked out for criticism by Scotland manager Berti Vogts, but alongside Yobo he looked nicely assured.

Moyes, understandably, was reluctant to single out Yobo afterwards. Still early days, he said, for a young professional with so much more to learn. On that subject, improving positional sense is towards the top of the list for someone who started as a striker in Nigeria's youth team. Very capable on the front foot, Yobo had to make one or two last-ditch lunges against Fulham when caught the wrong side.

Even so, the manager must have privately felt delighted with the way his signing, the first of his reign, had taken to the task. Yobo had looked completely at home. Top man for his country in Japan, the early signs are that this was no fluke.



� Electronic Telegraph 2002