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NEVILLE SOUTHALL: How Eto’o can help put Everton on the map and why Petr Cech should leave Chelsea

by Neville Southall | August 28, 2014

Going two up and not winning – it’s not ideal. But that’s what you get with Roberto Martinez. We are his philosophy. He’s not a ‘shut up shop’ kind of manager. He won’t park the bus. He’s more likely to go for the third goal and kill the game off than he is to sit back and invite pressure. It’s the ‘we’ll score one more than you’ approach. And I like it.

I’d have liked two wins, but you only need to see the increase in season ticket sales to see what playing an attractive brand of football can do for the fans and the enthusiasm they have for going to games. The buzz about the club on matchdays hasn’t been like this for about 30 years.

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There probably was an element of tiredness. The team are still a bit underdone in terms of fitness and they’ll take a few weeks to knock the rust off. We gave the ball away too much in the second half against Arsenal and with the quality they’ve got, they will make something out of the possession.

Fit Takes Time

It’s funny, even when we were winning leagues under Howard Kendall, we weren’t the best starters. We might lose a few games early on, but Howard always used to tell us there were no medals handed out in August. We knew that we were a good team and once we got into our groove, we were as good as anyone. It was more important to be stronger in the second half of the season than the first few weeks and if we were around the top four at Christmas, we knew we’d move up in the new year. Howard never made us overdo it on the fitness. His training was mainly ball work and technique. These days it’s being hailed as revolutionary, but Howard was doing it years ago. It’s plain to see that Roberto has a similar philosophy to Howard, so I’m certain we’ll continue to improve as the season goes on.

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Made For Teach Other

It’s great to have Samuel Eto’o at Everton. He won’t play every week, but he’ll chip in with a few goals throughout the season, but more importantly, he’ll be there to teach the young strikers at the club. Romelu Lukaku should be rubbing his hands together with joy to have him at the club, but Eto’o’s strengths are precisely what he needs to develop. He’s got a striker’s brain – with his movement and knowing where to be at what time – when to drop deep and when to run in behind.

He’s got so much top quality experience to pass on – Romelu should be hanging on his every word in training. And he still has a big role to play on the pitch. You could see at Chelsea he’s still hungry to play and that’s important because it will force the other strikers to work hard for their place in the team. There’s also a benefit in getting the club on the radar of some top players in Europe. He’s not in his prime, but if other players around Europe see him coming to the club, they’re more likely to see it as a potential destination.

Keeping The Peace

Chelsea’s goalkeeping situation is tricky. They’ve two top class goalkeepers and one of them is always going to be upset. I would always go for the goalkeeper with more Premier League experience, but there’s a point when the manager needs to give the young player a chance or he’ll be off. Jose Mourinho has reached the point when he’s thinking ‘right, I can’t afford not to give Thibuat Courtois a run in the side because I’ll lose him otherwise.’ On the other side, Petr Cech is probably a bit miffed he’s sitting on the bench. It’s a difficult balancing act to get right.

If I was Cech, I would leave immediately. He’s still young for a goalkeeper and he has a lot of football left in him. Part of the reason is that Courtois is the real deal. Now that he’s got his chance, he’s going to fly and could be first choice until Christmas at least. There’s not many players who go out on loan and pick up a La Liga winners’ medal, a Europa League winners’ medal and play in a Champions League Final before they make their debut for their parent club. There are a few things to work on, but he’s ready. Sometimes you just need to throw him in there and see how he goes. Jose won’t let Petr leave though. Not this season at least. He would want to keep him as an insurance policy if Courtois struggles to adapt to life in the Premier League.

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I remember when Joe Royle dropped me for Paul Gerrard. He told me ‘you’ll understand one day’. I’m still not sure I understand, but obviously he looked at me and he looked at Paul in training and decided he was the better option. I wasn’t happy about, but it wasn’t Paul’s fault he was getting picked and as a senior pro, it was my job to give him whatever support I could to benefit the team. That’s your job in that situation. It’s a huge blow personally, but if it’s the right decision for the club, your job is to serve the club by supporting the lad who has taken your place. You might be down, but you’ve no right to be upset with the player who takes your place. It’s not as if he’s picking himself.

Showing Some Glove

I was very lucky when I was starting out because I had fantastic support when I was coming through at Bury. John Forrest had been the Bury goalie for about 15 years, but when I got into the team, he did nothing but help me. Then at Everton, I was up against Jim Arnold who got a few games but then I took his place and he was just superb towards me. They could have thrown the toys out of the pram and started with the ‘this is bollocks, I’m off’ tantrums, but instead they said ‘well done’, sat me down and gave me whatever advice they had.

I always remembered the kindness they showed to me so when I went through the experience of being dropped later in my career, I wanted to do the same for whoever the young lad was coming through. I’d guess there are places where it’s more cut-throat than that, but I had good role models and that influenced my attitude later in my career. Petr strikes me as a really genuine bloke and I’m sure he’ll help whatever way he can for Thibaut.

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Don’t Sit On Defence

Everton can get a result against Chelsea this weekend. We’ve got a good record against them, especially at Goodison Park. We know what Jose will do – he’ll play defensively and try to pick us off on the break. But we can create chances against them because he hasn’t yet made them as defensively solid as he’d like. We’ll create chances.

Branislav Ivanovic is one of the best defenders in the world and he’s still very under-rated. He can play anywhere across the back four, rarely makes a mistake and pops up with important goals. But the others can be got at. I don’t see Chelsea being in the same bracket as Manchester City yet. They’re a good team, but they don’t have that ‘two quality players for each position’ depth that City do.

It will be close, but I can see us nicking it by a goal. 1-0 or 2-1. Lukaku and Eto’o might get a lot of the attention, but I could see Saturday being a big day for Steven Naismith. He’s been brilliant for us since the last few weeks of last season and he could get some joy with his movement against a Chelsea defence that isn’t the most mobile.

We’ve played some good football so far this season and we’re due a win. Saturday would be a nice time to get it.

Nev’s bets:
Everton to win by one goal – 9/2
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Everton to win and Steven Naismith to score – 15/2
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