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The armband. A changing of the guard?

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Player Valuation: £8m
If a game of two halves is the biggest of footballing cliches then surely expect the unexpected is the biggest cliche attached to Everton Football club. You'd almost be forgiven to expect it scrawled in that invisible ink you had as a kid playing at spies under the beloved Nil Satis of our scared crest.

Oh remember the summer, all that optimism before the latest noveau riche of the Premiership came calling for our goal scoring centre half. The sense of loss tempered by the huge fee and exciting multiple replacements that all of a sudden gave this club a depth of quality those of us in our early thirties have never known in our adult lives. Championship manager buffs struggling to fit all our quality into a formation without 6 midfielders and two up top, bench bristling with experienced pros and talented kids alike. Our injury woes surely behind us and then that invisible motto struck once more.

If 2008/09 was the season of no strikers then the start of 09/10 became the curse of the centre back. Our unsettled backline has persisted to now, less than 10 games left of the season and still for a variety of reasons we are fielding half fit defenders in vital fixtures and wondering why the goals still flow against us.

This is not a post mortum. The season is far from over and a small matter of half a million per placing shouldn't be sniffed at...oh and pride too. We've held unwanted "best of the rest" tag for 2 seasons and while the belt is now surely lost, giving a few lumps out so the eventual victors don't look so pretty in their victory photos wouldn't go amiss.

Despite this thoughts are inevitably drawn to next season now. I doubt I'm alone at hoping we are the quietest club in the forthcoming summer sales. In fact despite being enamoured with a certain Californian I'd be quite happy if nothing happened. No in's, no outs. Yes we've a new keeper and maybe a lower league journeyman striker to pique our interest in a charity shop kind of way but we know any major signings will probably be funded by the loss of the little Saffa or the Birkdale Boy Wonder. No thanks mate, I'll stick with what we've got, but that doesn't mean changes do not need to happen.

But what I would like to see is one statement of intent and one that might seem harsh. The handing of the captains armband from Captain Phil to...erm Captain Phil. Moyes has been accused of having his favourites, players deemed untouchable regardless of form and maybe even the ravages of injury and Father Time but like Weir, Stubbs and Carsley before him maybe it is Phil's moment to step from central figure to valued squad member.

I certain Kopite journo lurker who used to cover our beloved Blues once quoted me saying an injury to Phil was a blessing in disguise. Out of context it seemed unduely harsh on such a seasoned pro and undoubted gentleman. A man who won us sceptics over with his professionalism and genuine understanding of what this club stands for, surely deserved better than vilification by "faceless hacks" such as myself.

However I see now a shadow of his effectiveness of old. His inability to move into forward positions and risk being caught behind the play reminds me of the older fellas all of us amateur cloggers play with. The heart is willing, the brain and passion there as ever but the legs just can't be brought into line.

The modern game asks for modern fullbacks like Leighton Baines, attacking and progressive. Our 451 wingless wonders need the overlap from the full backs even more than the average team. Phil can no longer perform this role on current evidence. Even in slowly built up attacks the stifling of our attacking play from the right can no longer be ignored.

Moyes had made tough calls before, Neville is a fantastic professional and an asset to the club still but he must look around at the squad of Fellaini's, Rodwell's and Coleman's and know his time as a regular is coming to a close just as Cahill's will after him. Let's just hope it's that Ronaldo tackle that's the lasting memory and not the old Champ (and he's got the medals to back up that analogy) getting jeered for his fading skills.

Harvey Dent got it spot on "Either You Die A Hero Or You Live Long Enough To See Yourself Become The Villain."


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