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Junior Starts in Lively Pre-Season Opener

By Paul Traill   ::  15/07/2012 Two months since we said goodnight to the 2011-12 season and one month until we welcome the 2012-13 campaign, the away trip to Morecambe represented an ideal opportunity to discover Morecambe as it’s a place I’d never visited before. A quick nip down the M6 straight from work on Friday, and a B&B for the weekend with the better half…Ste and Janine meeting us there also.

After a pleasant evening on the Friday, Ste and I left the girls to it Saturday, making a pleasant stroll to the Globe Arena… a few Blues milling around. As we got closer to the ground we worried slightly over where we could find a pub for a few pre-match jars as the place seemed to be surrounded by caravan parks. We tried getting into Morecambe FC’s ‘Bar & Grill’, though were directed to another one slightly down the road, the ‘Hollywood Bar’ which was nice and pleasant.

You know Sky Sports are clutching at straws a little bit when you see they have somebody covering the pre-season friendly that is Morecambe vs Everton, as we could see from the screen in the pub. At about 1:45pm we moved on to the ground only to find kick-off had been delayed by 15 minutes. We stood in the terraced stand behind the goal of the smart little stadium that is the Globe Arena.

Proceedings finally got under way with the nice surprise of ‘Z-Cars’ booming out of the tannoy. It took a little while to understand exactly what was going on until we realized it was presumably at the request of player-manager Jim Bentley, a lifelong Evertonian, with the game being organized as his testimonial. I’d read earlier in the week that Moyes had promised to field a strong team. With who we had available, I was wondering how this was possible so was surprised by the decent side which started the game:

  • Mateusz Taudal, a young Polish keeper in goal who joined us as a 16-year-old,
  • Jake Bidwell, a tenacious young defender who spent much of last season on loan with Brentford,
  • Francisco Junior, a highly talented young Portuguese player whom we signed once he departed the Manchester City academy, and
  • Sam Kelly, a young player who moved from Norwich City last season were the only perhaps unfamiliar names.
Coleman, Duffy, Distin, Osman, Rodwell, Anichebe and Vellios made up the rest of the starting XI.

Jim Bentley fittingly kicked off the game, smashing the ball straight down the wing and into touch before being substituted straight away… he turns his attentions solely to management after this game. We attacked the opposite end of the ground in the first half and, after one or two shaky moments from Duffy and Coleman, we were in full control of the game pretty much. Junior was particularly impressive from the off, sharp into tackles and tidy with his passing. He got us ahead in the game, picking up a clearance 25 yards from home and thumping the ball into the corner of the net to put us one-nil up.

I don’t recall how or why it all began but the right back for Morecambe (who looked quite decent I thought) was at the receiving end of some merciless stick throughout from the 2000 Evertonians who made the short trip. Every pass of his was cheered and the chant of “the right back is a virgin” was sung repeatedly. It was all quite amusing.

Roughly 10 minutes until half-time I thought it seemed a good time to make a quick dart to the toilet and, as I walked, I saw Osman do some tidy work, laying on a great chance for Vellios who tucked the ball away neatly. I didn’t get a clean view of the goal but Ste was able to inform me that Junior also played his part in this one, making a good interception before Osman did the rest.

Just back from the toilet and Everton were out of sight really, with Jack Rodwell scoring in his first game back following injury… played through again from Osman, he lobbed gently over Barry Roche to seal the game. That was pretty much it until half-time and at the break we made the most of the sun before getting back into the shade for the restart.

The second half wasn’t quite as entertaining as the first as both teams made changes. Tony Hibbert and Conor McAleny replaced Leon Osman and Sam Kelly as Everton re-shuffled a bit. There were some reasonable chances for McAleny and Vellios though neither could convert. SilvaJunior also came very close to adding a second with a clever header from a corner which was well saved. Off the ball, Duffy chuckled to himself whilst two Everton fans jumped into each other trying to head the ball back into play. Anichebe, who was impressive throughout, had a free kick tipped around the post before he got in on the act with a good strike from the edge of the box. 4-0 as the game now became something of a stroll.

Ordinarily that would have been about it, though Everton generously allowed Jim Bentley to mark his big day in style bang on full time. Tony Hibbert teed him up for a free run on goal though Taudal, the young goalkeeper clearly wasn’t aware of the situation and made a great save. ‘Fortunately’ the ball was played back into the box and with the rest of the defence stopped, Bentley was able to tuck home despite the best efforts of the young Pole.

At full time we shuffled away and back into the town centre to the comfort of our B&B… following it up with a good night out. As far as friendly games go this one weren’t too bad at all.

Football is back… let’s hope this excellent start to pre-season is a sign of things to come.

Player Ratings:

Taubul: Seemed quite good. A little lost with a few crosses but made a few alright saves and seemed quite quick off his line. Was funny when he didn’t quite read the script at the end. 6

Bidwell: He looks a tough, busy player. I remember when he played in the 2009-10 season against BATE Borisov and he didn’t look too out of place then. As to whether he’ll make it all the way with us, I couldn’t possibly judge but I’d say he could have a good future in the game at some level for sure. 6

Distin: Good and solid as always really. It must be great for the younger players to have an opportunity to play alongside a pro like him. 7

Duffy: Had a good game I thought. Looking fit. Big season for him really. I imagine this will be the key one to decide if he makes it with Everton or not. 7

Coleman: I like his work rate but I think he can be a little one-dimensional at times. At one stage of the second half, he made a great run into the box and if he had any sort of left foot would have had a clean strike at goal but eventually got tackled as he just wouldn’t switch to his left. Also a big season for him I feel. Will he get back to how he was the season before last or are we beginning to see something of a downward spiral with the likeable Irishman? 5

Osman: Captained the team first half and lead by example with two excellent assists. Always kept the ball well. A great example to the younger players of what can be done if you get your head down and work hard. Substituted at the break. 8

Junior: I know it can be difficult to tell in pre-season but I think he looks an exceptional talent. Very good in the tackle and gets about the pitch well. He hasn’t got quite as much flair as him, but he reminds me a little of Manuel Fernandes. Keep your eye on him. We could have quite a player there. 8

Rodwell: Good to see him back (again). He took his goal well. I think he puts himself under quite a lot of pressure with his first touch sometimes as it’s often quite a negative one. He’s got it in him, just needs the confidence to get it out of him and display what he can do. Big season for him also with the alternative midfield options Moyes now has at his disposal. 6

Kelly: Looked lost quite frankly. He must be capable of better than that otherwise he surely wouldn’t have been included. I hope there’s room for vast improvement. 4

Anichebe: OK, don’t shoot me but I thought he was Man of the Match! Lead the line well in the first half, but really excelled in the second, I thought, playing some excellent passes and putting in some fantastic set-piece deliveries from corners; he also scored a very good goal. Typical Vic near the end though… miss-places a pass then feels the back of his calf as if to say “wasn’t my fault, got a kick in the calf” when it didn’t look that way to me. Quite a big season for him also. If he can maintain this form all pre-season and hit the ground running we might just have a good player there. More likely, sadly, given his injury record to date, he’ll pull up injured at some point, be sidelined for months and be restricted to cameo roles. Like last season. Make or break for Vic this year I feel. 8

Vellios: Scored his goal well but didn’t offer an awful lot otherwise really. I get the feeling he won’t be around at Everton for long. 5

Hibbert (for Osman): Typical Hibbert really. Came on and got on with his job with no fuss…filling in at centre back also when Distin was substituted. 7

McAleny (for Kelly): A bit busier and livelier than Vellios though missed some reasonable chances. I would like to see him involved a bit more this pre-season though to get a good look at him. 6

Browning (for Distin): Played at right back and seemed OK. Got involved and tried to push forward when he could. 6

Forrester (for Vellios): Similarly to Browning...got involved and did OK. 6

Reader Comments

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James Flynn
136 Posted 15/07/2012 at 17:07:49
Paul - Always enjoy reading these. You look in mid-season form yourself.

Appreciate the way you rated players strictly in a pre-season manner. Good stuff.

Looking forward to your articles this season.

Sam Platt
142 Posted 15/07/2012 at 18:22:45
Great article, Paul! What makes you feel Vellios won't be around for too much longer?
David Chait
164 Posted 15/07/2012 at 19:27:00
With Baxter not getting a run he must surely have no role in the future Everton. Would love to see more of him to be able to base an educated opinion.
Sam Hoare
171 Posted 15/07/2012 at 20:13:29
Thanks for this Paul, I've been hoping someone would give us a run-down of the match and player ratings.

I have to say that what I've seen of Vellios in reserve games leads me to the same conclusion that you reached. I think his flurry of goals for the first team last season got everyone excited but, despite still being young, I have not seen a lot to suggest he's capable of holding down a first-team place.

I think a lot this season may depend on whether the likes of Coleman, Rodwell and Anichebe can push on and add something to the team or just fade into obscurity.

Eddie McBride
181 Posted 15/07/2012 at 21:18:14
Thanks for the report, Paul, I hope you enjoyed your weekend in Morecambe (recently twinned with Las Vegas as they are the only two places on earth where you can buy sex with chips).
Mick Davies
205 Posted 16/07/2012 at 04:21:40
Where did Silva play? Thought we'd got rid.
Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
211 Posted 16/07/2012 at 05:49:27
Good catch, Mick. Silva is gone.

I think Paul musta meant Junior (also Portuguese).

Howard Don
239 Posted 16/07/2012 at 10:06:44
Informative as ever, Paul, thanks for the report. I'm another who doesn't really get it with Vellios, he has an eye for goal undoubtedly, but I don't see him as PL standard. Sincerely hope I'm wrong as you can't help liking the lad.
Paul Traill
269 Posted 16/07/2012 at 13:38:38
Sam #142 - Generally same sentiments as Sam Hoare #171...I'm just not sure he's quite good enough really, and I get the impression nor does Moyes. Whilst he's scored a few goals his all round play in his opportunities last season weren't great, and his opportunities will be limited this season I think with Jelavic, Naismith, Cahill, Fellaini and Anichebe all probably ahead of him...would love to be wrong though of course.

Mick Davies #205 - Yes Michael called it right, I meant Junior, not Silva. My bad.

Tom Bowers
273 Posted 16/07/2012 at 14:08:58
Without getting too optimistic we may have a few pleasant surprises this coming season. Whilst admittedly not having a squad with depth experience-wise,some of the fringe/younger players could be making breakthroughs in a big way. The opportunities may be there (Moyes permitting) as some of the present squad get past their peak.

We shall see which of the Morecambe squad are in the next few warm up games which may be an indicator. Certainly Francisco may be one bearing in mind however what the Morecambe game was all about. Everton are crying out for younger, quicker, stronger players to take them to the higher echelons of the Premier League.
Mike Oates
331 Posted 16/07/2012 at 19:37:27
Good report, Paul. I'm like the rest re Vellios, unsure but something in me says he could be good if given a long run (which he won't unfortunately).

Where is Fellaini? I noticed he wasn't included in pre-season in Austria even though he wasn't in the Euros. Likewise, what's happened to Baxter who again didn't go to Austria?
Peter Warren
353 Posted 16/07/2012 at 22:00:38
I think we're crying out for someone quick and athletic and a good footballer in the middle .... I believe Rodwell will be our player of the season this year

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