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The Nick Armitage Column
Columnist: Nick Armitage

Gone, but not forgotten
15 July 2005

Even the most optimistic of blues surely must admit that our defence is now looking very dodgy.  The hardy perennial gap filler that is Steve Watson has just left us so now who will slot in along the back line when needed?  Theres nobody, and I mean nobody.

I dont rate Naysmith, whatever he did to earn an extension to his contract went unseen by most of Goodison.  Add the fact that he is crap to the fact that he is as bad a crock as Pistone used to be and youll see that we have a gaping hole down our left flank.  Ryan Taylor was targeted to fill it, but the club decided not to pay the extra few quid that Tranmere were holding out for and as a result he completed the move of a lifetime to... Wigan Athletic.

This may or may not be a good thing.  David Moyes could well be the one of the best managers in Europe but even he cannot see into the future.  Ryan Taylor may not come good, and Moyes must have thought this or he would now be an Everton player.  Instead of trying to look to the future I think David Moyes should look to the past and sign a left back from the clubs recent history.  The man I am thinking about is Michael Ball.

Michael Ball: can he return?

Michael Ball was a cracking player for us, even when the Walter and Archie double act were playing him with one knee and out of position he still looked a very good player.  I remember one performance in particular against Chelsea when Ball partnered Weir in the centre of defence.  This was when Chelsea had a narky Dutchman by the name of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink who was at the top of his game and one of the most feared strikers in world football.  That day Hasselbaink did not get a sniff, Michael Ball stuck to him like glue and marked him out of the game.  It was one of the best individual defensive performances I have seen from an Everton player and it wasnt the only time Ball played at that level.

Walter Smith and Archie Knox have a lot to answer for in their time at the helm at Goodison Park.  As well as lowering our expectation and pissing on our dreams they ostracised and sold our future and replaced it with shite.  The hardest one to watch walking out of the door in that time was Ball and I will never forgive Smith for forcing that lad out.  It also broke Balls heart.

The Scottish Premier League is a right tin-pot league, there are only four games a season of any importance and if I was a talented player like Ball I certainly wouldnt be wasting my time north of the border. 

I dont know about most blues but personally Id love to see Michael Ball in an Everton shirt again and Im sure hed love to play in Europe for the club he grew up supporting.  Has something happened to prevent him coming home?  To me its as plain as the nose on Sarah Jessica Parkers face, even with one leg Ball is a better left back than Naysmith.  Its about time he came home.

Nick Armitage

Reader Responses:

I completely agree with the sentiment that our back line is a cause for deep concern at the moment and while I'm mindful that the new season is still a month away, the rhetoric from Moyes and the club doesn't fill me with confidence that the left back situation in particular is going to be addressed in time. I would say a couple of things, though: Firstly, Michael Ball's best position has always been central defence... but he's still a better left back than Gary Naysmith! Secondly, when Ball was sold by Smith he was literally a game away from his career being ended by the knee ligament injury he sustained at Everton and which was exacerbated horrifically by the then management team's alleged policy of administering cortizone injections to kill pain and get players out on the pitch.

Ball's ligaments and cartilege had eroded so far that Rangers' medical staff estimated that one more game would probably have destroyed the joint and that would have been that. While Everton clearly weren't going to address the situation, Rangers had to protect their £6.5m acquisition and thanks to them he is still playing, but given those circumastances, selling him was the best thing Smith could have done for all concerned. — Lyndon (Webmaster)

I'd just like to say I totally agree with the Nick Armitage article. Ball would fill the left back slot better than Naysmith and you could guarantee he'd play with his whole heart. He gave his all and more for this club and what was done to him under Smith's reign is the only thing which ever made me truly ashamed of the club. For a player of his calbre to get sat out at Rangers (for the want of a pathetic amount by todays standards) is a fotball travesty and one of the greatest indictments of the modern game. He may be seen as a stop gap for a few seasons (like Nigel Martyn), but he deserves the chance to play for the club again and, dare I say it, we owe it to him. Actually, no question, Everton owes it to him. — Graham


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