Back to the future

In the latest WSC magazine there’s an article suggesting that, for most fans after they get to about 30, all the great goals have already been scored, all the great albums have already been made, and from there it’s a case of comparing things unfavourably with when you were younger.

I can see this to a point, and it was with great delight that I was reading about Howard Kendall’s mid-80s Everton side this morning. This was the first really good team I can remember, and reading about its accomplishments unlocked some wonderful memories of early football watching (isn’t the human brain great like that?).

The first XI:

Neville Southall – a great goalkeeper
Gary Stevens – a solid right back who could attack and defend
Derek Mountfield – a big man at the back who could score goals
Kevin Ratcliffe – a small man at the back who could not score goals
Pat van den Hauwe – a hard man left back
Trevor Steven – goals from midfield, Steven worked really well with Stevens up and down the pitch
Peter Reid – snappy midfielder
Paul Bracewell – like Reid, Bracewell could tackle, but also had a good range of passing
Kevin Sheedy – the man for whom the term ‘cultured left foot’ was made. Didn’t defend much but scored and made lots of goals
Graeme Sharp – big man up front, capable of scoring all sorts of goals
Gary Lineker/Andy Gray – depends which side of the Cup Winners’ Cup you go: Lineker the pacy, prolific striker who gave Everton so much fun on the break (NB they never won anything with him in the side); Gray the hard as nails centre-forward who gave Everton two big men up top.

There are some parallels with what Fulham have here. Southall and Schwarzer are of comparable quality, and the centre-back pairing is uncannily similar. In centre-midfield Peter Reid is a really nice comp for Steve Sidwell (stylistically at least) and there are some similarities between Murphy and Bracewell. At a push you can compare Sharp and Zamora, at least in the way both are capable of the spectacular. Back then a straight 4-4-2 might have been more successful than today, but the Steven/Sheedy wide pairing is quite like the Dempsey/Duff combo in output if not style. Chris Baird is not as athletic as I remember Gary Stevens being, but can play at a fair level. Finally it’s worth noting that this Everton team was considered a team without stars, a team greater than the sum of its parts. That works too.

The two differences are at left back, where I’d be quite interested in an uncompromising hard man type (the trick here was that the left back needed to be an excellent defender because Sheedy didn’t track back; on the other side Steven/Stevens worked much better as a pair). If Carlos Salcido does go back to Mexico, who might we find here to lend some steel and presence to the defence? Wigan’s Figueroa is a good player but unlikely to be available, otherwise, let’s see what Hughes might scare up.

The other one is at centre-forward, where we can cope but where an international class poacher might add another six points to the team’s total fairly easily. But who?

Here are this year’s Golden Shoe award people:

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) 40 x 2 = 80
2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) 31 x 2 = 62
3. Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich) 28 x 2 = 56
Antonio Di Natale (Udinese) 28 x 2 = 56
5. Edinson Cavani (Napoli) 26 x 2 = 52
6. Papiss Cisse (Freiburg) 22 x 2 = 44
Moussa Sow (Lille) 22 x 2 = 44
8. ‘Alex’ de Souza (Fenerbahce) 28 x 1.5 = 42
Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United) 21 x 2 = 42
Samuel Eto’o (Internazionale) 21 x 2 = 42
Kevin Gameiro (FC Lorient) 21 x 2 = 42
Carlos Tevez (Manchester City) 21 x 2 = 42
13. Sergio Agüero (Atletico Madrid) 20 x 2 = 40
Alessandro Matri (US Cagliari/Juventus) 20 x 2 = 40
Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla FC) 20 x 2 = 40
16. Alexander Frei (FC Basel) 26 x 1.5 = 39
Kenny Miller (Glasgow Rangers/Bursaspor) 26 x 1.5 = 39
18. Marco Di Vaio (AC Bologna) 19 x 2 = 38
19. Garra Dembele (Levski Sofia) 25 x 1.5 = 37.5
Dame N’Doye (FC Kobenhavn) 25 x 1.5 = 37.5
21. Fernando Llorente (Athletic de Bilbao) 18 x 2 = 36
Robin van Persie (Arsenal) 18 x 2 = 36
Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal) 18 x 2 = 36
Roberto Soldado (Valencia) 18 x 2 = 36
David Villa (Barcelona) 18 x 2 = 36
26. Hulk (Givanildo Vieira de Souza) (FC Porto) 23 x 1.5 = 34.5
Bjorn Vleminckx (NEC) 23 x 1.5 = 34.5
28. Youssef El Arabi Caen) 17 x 2 = 34
Darren Bent (Sunderland/Aston Villa) 17 x 2 = 34
Milivoje Novakovic (Cologne) 17 x 2 = 34
Giampaolo Pazzini (Sampdoria/Internazionale) 17 x 2 = 34
32. Dmitri Bulykin (Den Haag) 22 x 1.5 = 33
Djibril Cisse (Panathinaikos) 22 x 1.5 = 33
Ivan Perisic (Club Brugge) 22 x 1.5 = 33
35. Lucas Barrios (Borussia Dortmund) 16 x 2 = 32
Theofanis Gekas (Eintracht Frankfurt) 16 x 2 = 32
Srdjan Lakic (Kaiserslautern) 16 x 2 = 32
Lisandro Lopez (Lyon) 16 x 2 = 32
39. Milan Mrdakovic (Apollon Limassol) 21 x 1.5 = 31.5
40. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) 15 x 2 = 30
‘Gervinho’ Yao Kouassi Gervais (Lille) 15 x 2 = 30
Brown Ideye (Sochaux) 15 x 2 = 30
Mads Junker (Roda Kerkrade) 20 x 1.5 = 30
Peter Odemwingie (West Bromwich Albion) 15 x 2 = 30
Gregory Pujol (Valenciennes) 15 x 2 = 30
Andre Schürrle (Mainz 05) 15 x 2 = 30
Francesco Totti (Roma) 15 x 2 = 30
Jelle Vossen (Genk) 20 x 1.5 = 30

Kevin Gameiro of L’Orient in France stands out there. He scored 21 times this season in Europe’s most defensive league (I like this sort of thing as a guide). He has 49 in 107 games there, a good tally, and is described as “a fast, energetic player with good dribbling abilities”. Interesting. Otherwise your guess is as good as mine (the availability of Arsenal’s Bendtner would echo the Sharp/Gray approach perhaps!), but looking at the squad in this way does make me think “centre forward” and “left back”.

7 thoughts on “Back to the future

  1. I agree with your conclusion but the long term thinking must be a clear minded assessment of just what our young players are likely to achieve.

    Briggs disappointed me on Sunday – he seemed slow in thought and movement. Our present team is too old but that’s fine if our generation of 17 to 20 year olds are capable of stepping up in the next few years. But if not?

    1. If not, then more 29 year-olds for a few years, and then repeat. Won’t there be a continuous supply for an established team in London that plays in the top league without top league lifestyle pressures? Have to choose the right ones, mind.

      Rich’s parallels are interesting and plausible, and there lacks only a Dembele comparison in that successful Everton team. (And in most other successful teams?)

      I’m also wondering how well a Lineker who wasn’t quite so good or at career peak would adapt in the higher reaches of today’s prem league. Michael Owen comes to mind. Look at Hernandez or Suarez and they’re a nightmare to keep tabs on, but not only in and around the box — Defoe and AJ in a single package. If at Fulham we can only aspire to one half of that package is it nailed on which is the better half to go for?

  2. Interesting comparison Rich.

    I would differ slightly as I think that Sally will stay for one more season and he is a good enough left back in my books. I would go for four decent money signings:

    1) Centre Forward – we need something but I am not sure what. A backup to Bobby? A partner to Bobby? Hopefully a combination of both. With our assets in midfield, I definitely think a 4-2-3-1 is our best formation. This would be the ‘big’ signing.

    2) Right back – agree the full back positions need looking at, but I would bring in a more dynamic and younger right back. Harsh on Baird but he is a great utility man, I think we could use some more width on that side.

    3) Centre mid – As the season went on, I kept looking at Danny and thinking that we really need to find someone who does similar things to him. Sidwell is great as a box-to-box midfielder, and a player who’s forward runs I love, but he is not the regista/trequarista that we need to take over from Murphy.

    4) A pacy winger – We have lots of technical wingers who are a bit slow, it would be great to have a pace man to get balls in the box to Zamora and provide some width so Murhpy et al can do their jobs.

    If we signed those four players, we would be a pretty damn good squad I feel. A good blend of youth and experience.

    1. Thanks, Alex. the left back comment is based on the suggestions that Salcido’s leaving. I think he’s a decent player who could be excellent next year.

      I don’t know about the winger. I was reading Patrick Barclay’s book on Mourinho the other week and I’d forgotten that at the time Duff was rated as highly as Arjen Robben among the world’s best. If he can stay fit then he has to start.

      Based on fortunes so far I’d guess that Keanu Marsh-Brown is next in line among the youngsters, although had he stayed at right-back his future might have been brighter. I can’t see where he fits among our current riches in the wide roles.

      Like others I’m not sure about Briggs. With Smalling I was certain he’d make it; Briggs is different, although we must remember that he’s only played against Chelsea and Arsenal. however, in those three games he seems to have had several of those moments that jar you into thinking “we don’t usually see that in the Premier League”, moments that remind you how good everyone else is because they don’t have these moments. Harsh standards but Smalling’s errors were different I felt. Could be very wrong and hope I am, as he looks like he has a bit of something going forwards.

      1. I still really rate Duff and indeed Davies, and they will be the main starters next season.

        The problem I forsee is that more that they are both the wrong side of 30 (32 and 31 respectively)and whilst are very good players, they sometimes just lack that spark of acceleration to drive past players and create more space.

        Case in point – earlier in the season when Baird was covering at LB, he kept hitting these wonderful crossfield balls for the right winger to run on to (at the time Duff). They gave the opposition all kinds of headaches but Duff was just too slow to get hold of them. With a faster winger, we might have more of a recourse to do this. Zamora has been fetching these balls since his return, although it sometimes leaves us without a physical presence in the box.

        Davies has shown this a bit more pace this season but if we could pick up a promising player from the Championship (Zaha?) we have someone to bring on later in games and give opponents something the think about. Marsh-Brown may be the answer, he was certainly impressed at MK Dons, or maybe even just a pacy striker who likes to drift to the wings….(AJ too lightweight).

        I don’t know, I just think pace is the one ingredient missing from this team. We are well organised, physical, technical and intelligent. Some pace may just give us one more option for an attacking outlet and relieve some of the pressure on Zamora.

  3. Re. a new striker, I suppose there’s always the chance we could bring Djibril Cisse back to England for another go. He’s been the top scorer in the Greek league by a long way each of the last two seasons. He is kind of a nutbar, though.

  4. I was impressed with Gameiro last year and he’s only built on that this year. He’s essentially a younger, faster (than current) AJ with better finishing skills. Would love to see us go in for him to partner Bob. One more year, and I suspect it’ll be too late (if it isn’t already).

    If you subscribe to the rumors that Dempsey will likely move on to a “bigger” club, we’re going to need an uptick in goals from somewhere and I don’t see our current midfield options filling that void.

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