Evertonians have suffered a summer spent on the outside looking in whilst other teams have brought in new shiny signings.
And we now have to spend the first weekend of the season on the outside looking in whilst the rest of the Premier League fans watch their new shiny players start the new shiny season.
After a summer of grey clouds of discontent which seem to only threaten future storms, allow me to offer a silver lining, which may ease the unthinkable burden of having to wait an extra seven days for our season to start.
I was once told there are four stages of being an Evertonian; optimist; realist; pessimist; and cynic. There has been rather a lot of pessimism/ realism, depending on your viewpoint, this summer. Pray indulge my optimistic perspective.
We may not have bought anyone this summer, allowing us to clamber, albeit somewhat grudgingly this season back to our familiar perch atop the moral high ground, but the fact remains we havenÂ´t sold anyone. For a second season running Everton resisted Mr. WengerÂ´s overtures of Jagielka – although his persistence to open the bidding at 50p may have something to do with it. There was also plenty of talk of Baines being pried away, but we have held on to our 19-goals-a-season left back (11 assists, 7 goals in 2010/11).
Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham target Jack Rodwell will spend this season emblazoned with Nil Satis Nisi Optimum across his chest, as will Marouane Fellani who still has two years left on his current deal. This summer may have revealed EvertonÂ´s inability to compete or even partake in the transfer market but it has also shown a glimpse of the future, and without sounding too much like a particular mobile phone company, the future is bright.
Against Villarreal last week our midfield consisted of Seamus Coleman 22, Fellaini 23, Anichebe 23, Rodwell 20, and Ross Barkley 17. If that midfield survives the next five years who is to say it will not be one of the best in the Premier League, but who is to say it cannot be one of the most exciting midfields this season.
By this point some of you are probably dismissing this article as being pure optimism of the most unadulterated nature, but here is the evidence.
When fit Fellaini is already arguably the best holding midfielder in the Premier League, a fact that was brought to the forefront of peopleÂ´s attentions last season in dominating performances against Manchester City away and Chelsea at home in the FA Cup, completely overshadowing Patrick Viera and Michael Essien along the way. In the Daily MirrorÂ´s season preview of Everton Fellaini is venerated as being “just about the best midfielder in the Premier League right now.”
Next to Fellaini in that midfield was Rodwell who before the start of last season was held in the same esteem as another Jack. But whilst Wiltshire was busy being EnglandÂ´s savior, Rodwell was having his supposed Â´breakoutÂ´ season hampered by injury after injury. So supposing Rodwell stays fit and claims the centre midfield spot next to Fellaini as his own, and begins to fulfil some of the vast potential which has seen him touted as our next future Manchester United star, Everton have one of the Premier LeagueÂ´s most promising midfielders next to the best holding midfielder.
On the left against Villarreal Moyes deployed the enigma that is Victor Anichebe – please refrain from reaching to pull out your hair, at least momentarily. Anichebe has all the physical attributes of a decent Premier League player, and there was a glimpse or two of his talent at the tail end of last season, most notably against Manchester City at home. Deployed on the left Victor could be extremely useful this season, using his strength to hold the ball up and then lay it off for Baines to unleash the Premier LeagueÂ´s best left foot.
Last seasonÂ´s emergence of Seamus Coleman means Everton now have a player who is capable of going past people, presuming he doesnÂ´t suffer any second-season blues. A right-back by trade Coleman is also adept at stifling opposing left wingers, never more evident than his and Phil NevilleÂ´s tandem display of how to neutralize Gareth Bale.
Then there is Ross Barkley. Those of you who did not see the pre-season friendlies against Washington DC, Werder Bremen, and Villarreal, may be wondering what all the hype over a 17 year old is about, and are perhaps putting it down to Evertonian lust for the second coming of a great academy product (who we donÂ´t sell to Man United for ï¿½30 million). The hype appears to be justified and is certainly not simply a desire by fans to fill the void of no new signings, but if you are sceptical of a few pre-season flashes of promise then hear are just a few of the testimonies he has received.
On his return from last yearÂ´s most underwhelming World Cup performance the then England Captain, Rio Ferdinand cited Ross as one of four young players England football fans should be excited about. In an open letter regarding the prospect of hosting a World Cup on English soil he said: “WeÂ´ve got some talented youngsters, the likes of Josh McEachran (Chelsea), Ross Barkley (Everton), Ezekial Fryers (Man Utd) and John Bostock (Tottenham).”
Tim CahillÂ´s thoughts on the Wavertree native: “I have played with some great players in my career but I do not think I have ever seen a talent like Ross.”
In the last few days Reserve team boss Alan Stubbs said: “HeÂ´s the most exciting probably since Wayne that has come through.”
But it must be noted that all this praise is normally tempered by the all too sensible warning of not piling too much pressure on such a young talent – after all nobody wants another Danny Cadarmarteri.
Pre-season has also seen promising displays from Magaye Gueye, Conor Mcaleny, and Apostlos Vellios. Because there have been no new signings Moyes has no choice but to turn to youth, and that ultimately may prove to be more beneficial.
This optimistic take on EvertonÂ´s youth is heavily reliant on numerous Â´ifsÂ´. If Fellaini can stay fit, if Rodwell can fulfill his potential, if Anichebe does not fall over for five minutes, if Coleman is not just a one-season wonder, if Barkley is as good as people say he is. But there are no more Â´ifsÂ´ banded about here than there are in any articles discussing EvertonÂ´s lack of transfer signings. If we had bought NÂ´Zogbia, if we had a top class striker, if we had a bigger squad, if we had sold Yakubu and Yobo, if we sign Joey Barton etc.
Same amount of ifs, different perspective.