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COLM'S CORNER, #65


Colm Kavanagh looks at Everton's goalkeeping situation

 

 WHO WANTS TO BE NUMBER ONE?

 

Ideally it is the sort of problem any manager relishes the luxury of choice when selecting a team; a fully fit squad from which to plunder eleven good men to take to the field and add another chapter to our history!  Or somethin to that effect anyway

The decision to dump Paul Gerrard in favour of an ever patient Steve Simonsen now confirms a case of full circle for our three so-called first-team keepers.  Simonsen, Gerrard, and the almost forgotten Thomas Myhre have all found themselves to be first, second or third in the pecking order with Walter Smith at various times since Walter packed his bags and ventured south of Hadrians Wall.

Believe it or believe it not but I actually have a degree of sympathy for Paul Gerrard at present.  Of our three would-be Numero Unos he has (almost!) been the most consistent when given the chance to shine between the sticks.  Yeah, I know the more sarcastic amongst you will interpret that differently (and theres times when I couldnt disagree) but, without coming out of the closet as an ardent admirer of the Paul Gerrard Goalkeeping School of Excellence, I would like to think that he is the best of the three we have at present.  Hes performed relatively well this term despite his natural fear of incoming crosses. 

Some would argue that Jesus was more at ease with the sight of crosses but, as odd as it may appear to some, Paul Gerrard is one of the better shot stoppers in the Premiership and though he now pays a heavy price for felling the Judder Man (Abel Xavier) in our home defeat against Newcastle United it is so often forgotten the number of decent saves he makes in any given game.  Forgotten already are two top-drawer saves made against the Toon.  Such is the life when youre not one of the crowds favoured players, eh?

So, at long last, (after how many years in waiting?) we see Steve Simonsen finally pick up the baton (again) and become the latest in a long line of victims all trying in vain to placate those of us who yearn for a keeper of the quality seen during a generation of Southall-inspired artistry.  Aye, the Big Man, will we live to witness his like ever again?  

As time ticks on and the legend of Neville grows, it makes me wonder: Do we expect superhuman efforts from our goalkeepers?  I mean, when we concede a goal, its normally the keeper who finds himself on the receiving end of an earful of industrial language.  Yet could there not ever be an argument that a keeper is only as good as the defence put before him? 

Weve not exactly been blessed with the best of defences in recent years and as has been oft suggested replacing a legend like Neville Southall is easier said than done.  Confidence has always been one ingredient I found to be missing from Gerrards game.  He has always looked to be short on confidence, whether playing well or not.  Even before Walter arrived, he had his moments of indecision that would prove to be costly on the day.  I still remember clearly one such day against Manchester United, the game finishing 0-2 to United one or two assists from our keeper doing his utmost to evoke memories of Paddy Roche for the travelling fans.

In fairness to Paul Gerrard, hes taken the blows and always bounced back. When Walter Smith brought in the then highly rated (please stop laughing down at the back) Steve Simonsen from Tranmere Rovers he was set for pastures new, starting with a loan spell at Oxford United who hadnt two shillings to rub together when trying to buy the player. From being Joe Royles number one he now found himself demoted to third choice and obviously playing for another club meant the sands of time were expiring rapidly on his Everton career.  Funny though how fate so often intervenes with keepers that when Norways number one, Thomas Myhre, had one of those domestic injuries it opened a door for Paul Gerrard to return.  With Steve Simonsen failing to grab the opportunity before him (with either hand!) it allowed Walter to grant Gerrard a stay of execution.  It was a chance taken by the ex-Oldham keeper and when the time finally arrived when Walter was forced to choose between his first two (Gerrard and Myhre) it was the Norwegian who was left to sulk on the sideline.  What!  A public vote of confidence for the much maligned Gerrard?  Well, I never

Hes been our number one ever since and though hes made enough howlers in his time to have been rewarded with a video compilation of his own a la Kevin Campbells relegation preventing goals I still reckon hes by far the best option we have.  What exactly that tells us about our goalkeepers is open to another debate but going on the three we have at present I would still be most comfortable (huh) with Gerrard as net minder. His current plight well, its a hard one to call.  Have we seen the last of Paul Gerrard as Evertons number one?  Was his demotion an attempt by Walter Smith to give him the kick up the arse needed, hopefully inspiring Gerrard to respond with a thousand lines in his best hand writing, all repeating the same old same old Tonight Matthew, Im gonna be Lev Yashin - or was it the last straw, one gaffe too many for the manager? 

If Walters had enough of Gerrards gaffes and decided to bin the player then its a dangerous game ahead.  Tell me have YOU got faith in Simonsens ability to become our number one? I havent.  Hes been here at Everton long enough now to have at least shown the management exactly what he is capable of doing yet when given the chance to grab that jersey (whatever colour it is these days God be with the days when keepers wore green) he is guilty of one cock up after another.  Who remembers the Hell at the Dell a few seasons back? Oh look, its a football Nuff said

Lost somewhere on the payroll at Everton also is a player once much loved by all at Goodison. Norways number one and the man to replace the greatest keeper Wales has ever produced.  Or so we thought. Where did it all go wrong for Thomas Myhre, eh?  Its hard to fathom that he is now a distant third choice at Everton (considering his opposition) and to read reports of other clubs bidding in the region of 150,000 - 500,000 all seems such a world away from the rumours a few seasons back of Manchester United seeing Myhre as the ideal replacement for Peter Schmeichel.  I find it hard to believe that he is still on Evertons payroll considering the number of clubs whove taken him out on loan in recent seasons.  Whats the point in keeping this guy when it is patently obvious he does not figure in future plans? Its come to the stage now that were going to be left with egg on our chin and a player walking away once his contract expires.  Besiktas, I believe, are the latest club rumoured to express an interest.  Sod the squabbling over fee and get a deal done. Its more than likely going to be on the drip anyway! Perhaps Thomas will lean on Kevin Campbell for tales of Turkish delight

So the merry-go-round that is our goalkeeping saga continues. Its Steve Simonsens turn for a ride. How long that will last is anyones guess but suffice to say no Blue would willingly wish Simonsen to fail as our keeper. I hope he actually proves his doubters wrong (of which I am one). A quality keeper is an essential ingredient for any spine of a team if it wishes to become successful.  Walter has been here long enough now to have this position sorted out once and for all.  For a man of his experience and knowledge he is probably as confused as the rest of us as to who exactly is our best keeper.  Im just thankful he hasnt fallen back on his beloved Andy Goram (don't laugh, we've Chris Woods as our goalkeeping coach!).  For small measures we should be thankful

Confidence must be wafer thin with both Simonsen and Gerrard both knowing they are one cock up away from another barracking.  That surely does not auger well.  With neer a pound in the bank account we can ill afford to splash out on a replacement.  Of course we could try to emulate both Aston Villa and Chelsea whove secured the services of Peter Schmeichel and Mark Bosnich without dipping into the war chest.  Sounding like a worn out record Ill continue to peddle the name of Alan Kelly (lost at Blackburn Rovers) as an ideal candidate on the cheap.  We could do worse. In the meantime, sit back, try to relax and lets see what Steve Simonsens made of

Evertons number one?  Time will tell.