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Fans Comment
Chris Marks

Little & Large
23 January 2006

Apart from the reasons already discussed at length on this website (injuries, poor tactics, poor morale?), why have Everton scored just 16 goals in 23 league games?  Even when playing 4-4-2, the favoured formation for both our manger and record signing striker, weve looked weak.

What sort of partner should Beattie have?  Another tall guy, capable of dominating in the air, but helping to produce the kind of aerial bombardment we all want to see the back of?  In any case, how many goals have we scored when pairing any two from Rideout, Ferguson, Campbell, Bent and Beattie?  Not that many, or Everton wouldnt have struggled so much in recent seasons.  Only the Dogs of War team of 1994-95 produced any tangible success with this format, and I think we all agree it wasnt the prettiest of football.

Those of us old enough to remember the glory days between 1984 and 1987 will recall that a lot (though not all of) that success was based on the little and large combinations of Sharp with Heath or Lineker.  Since those players have left us for pastures new, our success has tailed off dramatically.  Indeed, the Little and Littler combinations of Beardsley, Cottee and Johnston were often seen in the early nineties.  In the 11 years since we won the FA Cup in 1995, in my opinion we have only had three decent strike duos.  The partnerships below resulted in our only top-half finishes in that time (excepting last season). Is there something in this phenomenon? Lets see:

All stats are for LEAGUE only, in the format Starts(Sub) Goals.

1995-96: Finished 6th

Graham STUART               27(2)   9
Daniel AMOKACHI          17(8)   6
                       Total           44(10) 15

Paul RIDEOUT                   19(6)   6
Duncan FERGUSON          16(2)   5
                        Total           35(8)  11

1999-2k: Finished 13th*

Francis JEFFERS       16(5) 6
Joe-Max MOORE 11(4) 6 27(9) 12

Kevin CAMPBELL 26 12 26 12

* Neither total for this year approaches 38 league games; anyone who remembers the season in question will recall how Campbell & Jeffers were both injured around January/February, and missed most of the rest of the season.  The team stopped scoring and fell away to 13th place in May.  Before this happened, we were well on course for (at least) a top-ten finish.

2002-03: Finished 7th

Wayne ROONEY          14(19) 6
Tomasz RADZINSKI     27(3) 11
                     Totals        41(22) 17

Kevin CAMPBELL         31(5) 10
Brian MCBRIDE               7(1) 4
                     Totals          38(6) 14

Indeed, even this season, the same effect can be observed, albeit very briefly.  Our three-match unbeaten run from late November (starting with a win v Newcastle) was in part aided by the burly James Beattie and the nimble James McFadden, a combination repeated again for the victory away at Sunderland.  During these four games, although Beattie did not score, McFadden found the net twice, and looked a much more confident player than he has previously.  From the evidence above, it is clear that the variation offered by having strikers with differing styles is the way forward. 

So who could we realistically sign to partner Beattie?

Last summer and earlier this season, the prime candidates were Andy Johnson and Robbie Keane, from Crystal Palace and Spurs respectively.  With Johnson seemingly priced at 7M+ and Keane now regularly featuring from the start (and scoring goals), both of these acquisitions may be beyond our reach.  Other names we have been linked with often come from the large category Dean Ashton (Norwich), Mark Viduka (Middlesbrough) players of a type we already have, and who may be too similar to Beattie to be a success.

Looking for a small, fast striker, capable of finding the net with alarming regularity, with a budget probably less than 5M is not easy.  Moyes could always take a punt on a striker from the lower leagues, an unknown quantity like David Nugent (Preston) or Cameron Jerome (Cardiff), or of course take the foreign option with all the potential drawbacks that entails.  In the English Premiership there are few of these players, and even fewer clubs willing to sell them.  But what if I could offer you a sort, fast striker, with

  • A career record like this:                   264(66) 125
  • A Premiership record like this:             43(21)   12
  • And an international record like this:       24(0)     9

What would you say?  What if I added that this striker was British, 25 years old and available for transfer from his current club for around 3M?  Makes Rob Earnshaw an attractive proposition doesnt it? 

To my mind, he is most reminiscent of Radzinski, with more of an eye for goal. Both are fast, and fond of frequently making pointless runs that dont seem to go anywhere.  Now look back at the statistics for 2002-03, when both the Rat and Kevin Campbell reached double figures for the season.  Of the three seasons Ive highlighted, it is the one in which our strikers scored the most goals combined.  Campbell (and to a lesser extent McBride) was able to hold the ball up, bring others into play and still pose a threat in the air, while Radzinski (or Rooney) had more space to explore the flanks, using pace and guile to draw defenders out of position.  The little man may not get you 20 goals a season, but he will create opportunities for others by winning free kicks and corners as well.

This sounds a role made for little Rob Earnshaw.  I know this suggestion wont make me popular, but I really believe hes the best we could hope to get.  Hes not playing for West Brom because Bryan Robson doesnt like him, not because he isnt good enough.  His pace should pull defenders out wide or out of position, sometimes occupying both a central defender and a full-back, allowing Beattie to stand in the middle and do what he does best: put the ball in the net.  All thats needed to support these two is a wide man to cross (step forward the hopefully soon-to-be-returning Andy van der Meyde), a decent passer to supply the through balls (Mikel Arteta), and a goalscoring midfielder to support the front man (Timothy Cahill).  That sounds pretty potent to me. 

The balls in your court now, Mr Moyes, who are you going to bring us to provide this sort of varied attack?

Chris  Marks


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