ToffeeWeb Viewpoint

The Rub of the Blue
by Lyndon Lloyd

Everton's seemingly season-long injury crisis has reached such depressing proportions that one could conceivably coin the antithesis to the well-worn "rub of the green" cliché: the "rub of the blue".

Every club (except, perhaps, Manchester United - now just why is that I wonder?!) goes through a rough spell as far as injuries and the unavailability of players is concerned, but Everton have been unable to field anything remotely approaching their best side all season. Such is the luck plagueing Goodison Park this season.

Walter Smith has faced a selection problem almost every week; having to figure out how best to use his more versatile squad members in uncharacteristic roles or select which youth player was the most ready for the rigours of first team Premiership action.

Everton's new training kit
  Kevin Campbell sports Everton's new training kit aimed at reducing injuries at Bellefield  
Some of those absences have been key. Francis Jeffers was scoring a goal every game when he suffered a recurrence of the ankle injury that kept him out for so long last season; Kevin Campbell missed the first 2 months of the season, only to be injured again soon after returning without enough training behind him; Paul Gascoigne has had surgery twice and can't seem to get through a training session or reserve outing without damaging something else; and, of course, you can count the number of times Duncan Ferguson has played this term on one hand. No surprises there, then!

Quite why Everton have been singled out in this way by the footballing gods is mystifying, but one can't help but wonder why so many training-ground injuries have occurred in recent months. Not only that, but Jeffers, Gascoigne and Ferguson all suffered from problems that weren't initially diagnosed by the Goodison medical staff and faced longer than expected layoffs.

Then, just when some of the big names looked set to return to action this month, all three of Jeffers, Gascoigne and Campbell pick up injuries in training and even 18-year old triallist Alessandro Zamperini had to be stretchered off in a reserve team fixture. It brings new meaning to the expression "hospital ball"!

Whether pure bad luck or Archie Knox's training regimes are to blame, there can be no doubt that Everton's season - and consequently their parlous league position - has been dramatically affected by the number of players out injured at any one time. The fact that the team has performed at its best when reduced to the absolute bare bones is a perplexing irony, but for the most part Smith has had to send out a patched-up outfit that is low on confidence and, naturally, incoherent and disjointed. The manager's strange tactical decisions haven't helped but this is obviously a recipe for bad results.

We are now at the point where we just want the Blues to secure safety and for the season to end. With no money available for transfers, we have a frustrating summer in store but there is always hope that we can start afresh next season and try to make the most of the players we have. This injury jinx has to end somewhere - let's hope it doesn't drag us into the First Division.

©2001 ToffeeWeb            Also, Sympathy for Smith waning, an article at by Simn Hart