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McFadden: Early Promise Unfulfilled

By Jon  Livesey :  18/01/2008 :  Comments (25) :

Flashback to transfer deadline day in August 2003. I had just finished my final shift in a dark and dingy medical records library for the summer and my mind was becoming increasingly possessed by thoughts about returning to university the following week. I clambered up the stairs and into the light of day, took my mobile phone from my jacket pocket and waited eagerly as the signal bars appeared to show full strength. Inevitably, a flurry of texts ensued and before I looked at them I remember thinking that I needed something to cheer me up.

I was slightly concerned by the amount of texts that had come through from the overpriced Everton alerts I had signed up to a month earlier (the brightly coloured advert lured me in when I was trying to alleviate some summer boredom by passing an hour on Teletext). Nevertheless, I put my monetary worries briefly to one side as I my anxiety to know who we had signed and sold after a pre-season that had featured little in the way of transfer activity grew.

The first text I opened informed me that we had sold Mark Pembridge to Fulham for £500,000. I was never Pembridge?s biggest fan, but always appreciated his Trojan-like displays and professional attitude in a pretty poor Everton midfield. However, there was no denying that half a million quid for a player approaching his 35th year on Earth represented excellent business. At the time, I felt like the information was worth the 25p the text had cost me.

Next up was the news that Francis Jeffers had returned to Everton on a season-long loan from Arsenal. The big-eared ?fox in the box? had been prolific for Everton in his partnership with ?super? Kevin Campbell, but he deserted us for the bright lights of London where his career had failed to flourish. Part of me was glad that we were signing a promising player, but his departure had left a bitter taste in my mouth, one that lingered longer than I would have liked and while I may have been willing to suspend my hatred towards him on a temporary basis, I could not forget the circumstances in which he had left, no matter how hard I tried. Let?s just say I was glad no money had changed hands when re-acquiring his services.

I was glad to read in the following text that Moyes had identified the left side of midfield as an area in which we were lacking, even more so since Pembridge?s departure. However, I was not so happy to read that the void would be filled by Kevin Kilbane for the sum of £1million. Whether or not I grew to accept and appreciate Kilbane?s role in the team is irrelevant because for the purposes of this article, I simply wish to illustrate how uninspired I was by this particular piece of business.

Similarly, I was won over by the consistency of Nigel Martyn?s goalkeeping displays for Everton, but when I read that we had signed him on deadline day, I think it is safe to say I was not fighting back urges to punch the air. I realised it was a shrewd signing and had no worries about whether or not he would perform well for us. It?s just difficult for a young man to get excited about a 36 year-old goalkeeper that had been ousted from the Leeds first team by a keeper (Paul Robinson) that had failed to fully convince me with his displays.

I needed something to lift my mood. On review, we had completed some pretty good deals without much money changing hands, but I wanted to hear about something we could consider to be a major coup. This came in the form of a final text stating that we had signed 20 year-old striker, James McFadden from Motherwell for £1.25million- a player touted as ?The Scottish Rooney.? I had watched some of his games for Scotland in which he had impressed. He played with no fear, appeared to have a lot of technical ability, an eye for goal and well as a winning mentality. The rats tail attached to the back of his head was a slight concern, but one I was willing to overlook. I simply put it down to that well-known Scottish flair.

McFadden began the 2003/04 season on the bench and in the reserves for Everton, but in his first few outings, he impressed and it soon became apparent that the fans demanded more sightings of the Scot. He came off the bench away at Middlesbrough when we were losing and immediately attempted to go past players, taking the game to the opposition. This was a sure fire way to get the Everton fans onside. In his reserve displays in which he partnered Nick Chadwick, I remember Andy Holden commenting on how there was an anticipation that something would happen whenever he got the ball.

I witnessed McFadden?s first start for the Everton first team against Stockport in the League Cup and he turned in a winning performance. He played on the left wing and showed quick feet and great trickery to beat the full-back almost every time he was in possession of the ball. Moreover, it was clear that he also possessed a sweet left foot and an ability to cross accurately or shoot from long range. I thought he was an exciting player and was eager to see more.

It is worth mentioning that even in these early days when McFadden was generating a lot of anticipation amongst the Goodison faithful, the cracks and flaws were evident. When faced with McFadden, the opposition?s player had no idea what he was going to do and was often beaten by the Scot?s ability to drop a shoulder or mesmerise with quick feet. However, it was also clear that McFadden did not have the raw pace to get away from his marker and when combined with the his tendency to hold on to the ball for too long, this meant that the defender was often presented with a second opportunity to tackle him. Unfortunately for McFadden when most Premier League defenders are given a second opportunity, they duly oblige.

McFadden?s hot streak continued into September 2003, mainly because he was handed his first Premier League start against Peter Reid?s Leeds side. Incidentally, that Leeds side turned in the worst performance I have seen at Goodison this century, save for Sunderland this season perhaps. Roque Junior?s performance for Leeds was equally as diabolical as Paul McShane?s for Sunderland the other week. I don?t know whether it was because his marker that day was a comically bad Gary Kelly or because he was brimming with confidence, but McFadden was brilliant again. I left Goodison that day and phoned a fellow Evertonian in Australia just to eulogise about our new dynamic forward. I remember telling him how McFadden reminded me of Damien Duff in his prime as he went for the full back?s throat at every opportunity and delivered a series of dangerous crosses.

Did McFadden peak too soon or were we lulled into thinking he was a world beater because he faced such poor opposition in his first few games? The fact is that he was never able to turn in these types of performances on a regular basis. He will be remembered fondly for spectacular goals against Fulham, Charlton and Manchester United, but I think a lot of Evertonians have become apathetic towards the player because they accept him as someone who was ultimately ?nearly man? for the club. I fall into this category of apathetic Evertonian- I?m not overjoyed that we sold him, but I was certainly not praying that we would go out of our way to keep him.

He certainly did not warrant the amount of abuse he got from the Everton home crowd, especially the gay jibes that were rife for a brief period thanks to an internet rumour and I am sure his return with Birmingham will be greeted with a round of applause. Credit again must go to Moyes for selling at the right time for a massively inflated fee of £6million for a forward who scored 18 goals in 137 appearances for Everton- great business!

Reader Comments

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Jack McKenna
1   Posted 18/01/2008 at 22:49:29

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This article pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject too. My Dad is a Celtic Fan and when we signed him, he was overjoyed for me, as McFadden had alot of promise about him.

But after taking him until 1st January 2005 to get his first goal for us, and in the 3 years after that, managed just 17, there was no way he would make it into our first team and stay there.
Steve Ferns
2   Posted 18/01/2008 at 23:11:10

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James McFadden is an Enigma in the truest sense of the word. He is someone who Moyes has just struggled to work out what to do with. He has played on the wings, upfront, in midfield and off a front man. There is no doubt that the final verdict on his Everton career was promised much but delivered little. That is the bottom line. No matter whether you believe like me there was mitigating circumstances or not.

What has upset me most is that we have just let a proven international, his countries hero, leave for a paltry sum. Some who contribute on here would drive him to the airport to get shut of him for this fee. Yes £5.75m is a lot of money to you and me, and maybe we do need the money but lets put it into context shall we. If you can get £5m for King or £6m for Nugent then McFadden must be worth at least £10m. Surely, we do not need to stress I need not stress how he almost single-handedly beat France. The boy is a great player; I have no doubts about it.

I accept that at Everton he really struggled to make the impact he was capable of and perhaps now was the time to cash in, but come on lads he?s not rubbish. McFadden?s problems are surely the lack of a real first team run, especially in his desired position, usually he has been cast to the wing where he can do less damage (a usual Moyes trait for treating those talented players who he sees as a risk in their favoured position in the middle - Arteta, Pienaar, Fernandes, Osman to name but a few that Moyes has cast to the wings). McFadden is not a winger. He wanted to be involved in the game and was always coming inside. To me he frequently looked like he was trying to make an impact to do something in one moment that immediately catapult him into being the main man, spectacular shots and blistering runs were the main way he tried to achieve this. If he had been given a guaranteed run in the team and had players around him to get the best out of him and he was reassured that if he played poorly he would still be in the team, I have no doubt he could have turned the corner and gone on to have a good career. To often for me he looks like he tries to hard to make an impression instead of just keeping it simple. How many times has he looked disgusted when he gets substituted, I really believe that he is disappointed with himself that he has not been able to do what he wanted or expected to do.

What does McFadden have that sets him apart? For me he has exceptional touch, technique and vision. There is no player at the club with a better touch or technique. Just remember the goal against Charlton, only McFadden at Everton could score a goal like that. He has a streak of genius in him that is just waiting to break out. I believe that a manger who really believes in him and gets players to get the best out of him will see a special player. And this is what McLeish believes, it is what he has seen when managing him at Scotland.

For me their was always one problem with McFadden and that was his lack of pace. He is by no means slow but for a player of his type, a player who likes to dribble often, he really lacks that extra yard of pace like Ronaldo to beat people. Often he can gain half a yard with a trick or a turn but because of his pace he couldn?t often use it to leave a player for dead. McFadden is at his best when he can use his touch or a trick to get that half a yard and then get a shot off immediately.

The other problem with McFadden is that he does not really know how to pick a pass, not for the type of player that he aspires to be and not if he really believed he could play behind a front two or off the front man. Personally that is why I have always believed that he his a forward, rather than someone who plays in the hole, or on the wing.

McFadden has always been at his best in Europe or on the International stage. Why is that? Well it is quite obvious to most people, you get more time on the ball most people say. What do we mean by this exactly? When James plays in the Premier League, defenders know he is dangerous and that is why they often pay him close attention. How often does McFadden get the ball and find two players in close proximity? The high tempo closing down defending style is employed by virtually every team in the Premiership (modelled on Everton 2003/4?) is something that Mcfadden has struggled to cope with. He can get a touch or a trick to beat one but the second will often be able to pick the ball from him or block off his run. McFadden infuriated many by his desire to beat players with every touch of the ball, but was it not often because he either desired to make an impact or because he needed to win himself space and because he lacked the pace to run away from players?

I am very sad to see James go, I will miss those moments of genius. But at least I see it as a good move for him. Perhaps, he is the type of player who is best as the big fish in the small pond. No doubt McFadden will be given number one star status by McLeish and they will build the team around him to get the best out of him. Perhaps, then the pond was just to big for McFadden, as the team has progressed we have not been able give him the run he needs as there are other players who can and do deliver on a more frequent basis.

However, for me, it is a sad day to see such an extraordinary player leave, particularly with much more promise left unfulfilled than delivered. Thanks for the memories James and all the best at Birmingham. I?m sure whenever you return to Goodison you will get the applause you deserve.
Paul McCann
3   Posted 18/01/2008 at 22:58:11

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David Moyes: A modern day Dick Turpin.

That said, all the best to Mc Fadden. He just turned out to not quite be up to it at the top level, but I hope it works out for him at Brum.
Martin Anderson
4   Posted 18/01/2008 at 23:17:22

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I liked Faddy - I think he was a talisman and I think we are losing a huge talent - ok he missed some sitters and was never a regualr goal scorer, but what a talent.... Remember his goal last season vs. Charlton to secure European footie - and his goal vs. the Metalist hordes... this yr. To see him go and a Russian coming in doesnt make sense to me. I will always give him a warm welcome back
Cheers Marrtin
Paul McCann
5   Posted 18/01/2008 at 23:17:57

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I actually agree with a lot of what you say, and McFadden has talent, quite a lot of talent actually. The problem is that he has played 37 times for Scotland, scoring 13 times. On the face of it, this lookes pretty good, however, only 8 of those goals were in competative internationals, and of those 8 goals 5 were scored against the Faroe Islands [2], Moldova, Slovenia, and Lithuania. This, and his poor goalscoring record for us, which is, played 137, scored 18, illustrate why he will never be the player that so many of us hoped he would be. I agree that there are mitigating circumstances, namely that he has played a substantial number of games out of position.

His number of games for us equates to approximately 3.5 full league seasons, which is plenty of time for the other managers to size up a player, yet there was no bidding war [as far as we know]. In my opinion, Eck is letting his emotional attachment to the player and his [short] successful past association cloud his judgement. I may be proved wrong, but I thing that this is an excellent piece of business for the club. I just hope that Moyes is given some [all!] of the money to reinvest in the squad.
Paul McCann
6   Posted 18/01/2008 at 23:33:52

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I don’t know whether the Andrey Arshavin rumors are true, but he looks a decent talent from these youtube clips.
Stuart Downey
7   Posted 19/01/2008 at 00:03:22

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Says a lot that so many Evertonians are not sure whether it's a good thing that Faddy has left, and that they are wishing him the best of luck; there are very, very few naysayers posting about him, so it does not seem for a lack of talent. He?s had time, but maybe not game-time, which is what matters.

I think, personally this is a shrewd business decision for Everton with AJ, Vaughan and Anichebe (and the Yak) and Cahill. we are not short of attacking options. and the money is good. He was a risk that was not paying off, Moyes has to buy well again to make this sale worthwhile though
Donka Doran
8   Posted 18/01/2008 at 23:53:57

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I feel a bit ill about losing Faddy. On Saturday against City, after about 15 minutes, he picked the ball up midway in our half, done a trick, beat one but then got the ball nicked off him. Some in the crowd started ribbing him but if the last nutmeg had come off he was clean through. Unfortunately, that was Faddy?s problem: he tried to hard and lacked the pace. He?s a top lad and good luck to him. He could be another old boy to do the damage on the shite. NSNO
John Andrews
9   Posted 19/01/2008 at 00:14:18

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Spectacular shots, blistering runs? How can he perform blistering runs if he has no pace?
I am certain that it is a good thing that McFadden has left as every time his name appeared on the team sheet my heart sank.
Birmingham have been well and truly mugged!
Pekka Harvilahti
10   Posted 19/01/2008 at 00:43:49

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Faddy wasn’t good enough. A good player, nice guy, but never up to the standards required at Everton. I was ashamed for him so many times because he lost the ball so easily. Great goal against Charlton but great players do that more frequently. Makes me sad though, he could have been more in a different situation...
Jimmy Changa
11   Posted 19/01/2008 at 01:22:34

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McFadden was a brilliant player "on his day" - the day being when he was playing against a bottom-ten side with the freedom to do what he wanted.

He was a mercurial talent, very much in the mould of Le Tissier (a scorer of great goals if every I’ve seen one) but the problem is we are not Southampton and McFadden was never given the games, the right position nor the patience and confidence of the fans to make his stay here worthwhile.

Say what you want about him, but we saw the best of him when he had a couple of games under his belt and was played in the right place (just because someone is left-footed does NOT make them a left winger, especially someone with no pace). He suffered because we as fans think he is lazy, disinterested or "tries tricks too much". Not everyone can be in the mould of a early-year Marcus Bent (would run all day) or an Arteta (blessed with superb technique, skill and now work-rate).

I am sad to see him go and I believe he will flourish at Birmingham. Good luck to the lad.
Liam Loftus
12   Posted 19/01/2008 at 01:53:46

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James will always be a player who I have time for. I really believe that when he finds the right club he will flourish but he gives the impression that he loves to be loved liked for Scotland. Even last Tuesday when we played Chelsea a few of me mates were really laying in to him yet he was the only player who, all through the game, looked like creating anything. Yes, he?d fuck up a lot but you always knew he could do something and I wonder if some people's opinions would have changed if that run and shot against Chelsea that night would have gone in as opposed to hitting the post.

For what it's worth, I think we did well to get what we did for him and it was the right time to sell him as he could never be the player he could be just being a bit-part player but it wouldn't suprise me if he did become an excellent player. Maybe he went too big too early but time will tell.

I'll certainly applaud him when he returns and wish him well
Michael Hunt
13   Posted 19/01/2008 at 03:38:15

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Very good reflections above I believe, but with a key factor overlooked: Faddy was not prepared to sign his new contract that was offered to him MONTHS ago. Given that we have better strikers ahead of him in the side, with only 18 months left on existing contract, it was a case of sell him now or watch his value tumble. Given the financial realities, it really was a ’no brainer’ to sell him now.
Still, given his desire to play, you can’t blame faddy for doing what was best for his career i.e. moving to get more game time.
Jay Campbell
14   Posted 19/01/2008 at 09:23:24

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It?s a sign of how bad thing?s have become at Everton over the last 15 year?s or so that some fan?s are gutted over McFadden?s departure. Have the standard of footballers been that bad at Everton lately???

He is one of the most over-rated and inept footballers I have seen. Utter shite. Hats off to Moyes for a great bit of business on behalf of the club coz I would have took 6 quid for him.
Brian Waring
15   Posted 19/01/2008 at 09:43:00

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Jay, spot on mate. I’m certain I have been watching a different McFadden to other people. The McFadden I had watched, was a lazy bastard. Never carring out his defensive duties, always whinging to the ref, after being robbed by a defender, once again. Also, for some people to say the reason why he turned in bad performances was down to the boo - boys getting on his back is pathetic. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he was just a crap player, who made the odd mazy run here and there, and scored a few good goals.
Greg Murphy
16   Posted 19/01/2008 at 11:11:51

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No-one above, even in the main article, has mentioned the "Kharkiv" word.

Don’t mistake me, I am (was) far from a McFadden fan (as indeed I showed on this forum earlier this season, in a piece called "The McFadd-end" when, the day after the Blackburn home game, I finally lost it with the lad, after four years, despite the fact that he’d scored a sublime equaliser the day before, by which he showed the type of technical prowess that is beyond the reach of most footballers).

But any farewell to McFadden, in fairness, has to include the Kharkiv goal which has been sidelined in some memory banks because of the swashbuckling nature of Victor’s clincher.

But make no mistake, the pivotal goal that night in Kharkiv was McFadden’s. And make no mistake, that night in Kharkiv - or more pointedly the last 20 minutes - was also the pivotal point of our season (and is already drawing parallels with the Kevin Brock, Oxford game of January 1984).

Moyes has virtually said that he dreads to think what would have happened to our season - and probably his grip on employment - had we stiffed it in Kharkhiv.

So he knows that he owes McFadden to a great degree, as we all do (and in fact you could go back to last season and say that if it wasn’t for the lad’s last minute stunner v Charlton, one of the five best goals I’ve ever seen by an Everton player, we wouldn’t even have made Europe).

Having said all that, though, McFadden had to go. He flattered to deceive all to often.

He’s probably gutted that it didn’t work out for us, as are we.

Those who are saying he deserves a warm one when he comes back to GP are right.

Here’s a prediction, though: he’ll never embarrass us.
Greg Murphy
17   Posted 19/01/2008 at 11:37:35

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Martin Anderson - apologies mate. Teach me to read everything thoroughly in future!
Jon Livesey
18   Posted 19/01/2008 at 11:52:25

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He was very talismanic against Kharkiv. He shone in that European game and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck like he has done for Scotland more than once. Maybe he is better suited to International and European games in which he is given more time on the ball and the defenders are generally more cultured than uncomprimising? His three best spells for Everton were his first three months in 2003, the spell he had in which he partnered and played off Beattie and scored against Villa and Fulham etc and the time around the Kharkiv game for a spell of about 4 or 5 games.
Martin Anderson
19   Posted 19/01/2008 at 17:46:08

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Paul (McCann) - thanks for the Utube ?Arseshavin? video link ? he does look pretty amazing ? a touch of Kanchelskis: great pace & good finishing ? I hope we get him, but I feel Faddy never got enough games from Moyes and naturally didn't want to be a squad player at the end of the day. It is good money for him I agree.
Blake Welton
20   Posted 19/01/2008 at 19:31:10

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Jon, this is probably the best piece you have written on here - the content is balanced and articulate and delivered sophisticatedly. You lead into the topic in an imaginative way through the use of text alerts...

McFadden has undoubtably become Scotland’s equivalent to David Healy. I love David to bits - a top lad who sparkles for Northern Ireland but he quite often fails to deliver for his club and I think the same can be said of Faddy.

Maybe its the way their domestic sides play with less onus on them to deliver and therefore they can ’disappear’ and let other quality players shine whereas internationally they are seen as the leading lights.

As the star player the team tends to play around them as opposed to playing for the team.

If you consider this, the fee of £5 million and, as you pointed out in your piece, the lack of goals Faddy scored in his Everton days Moyes has done an excellent piece of business.

Also, there’s no denying McFadden is a good player but I think Everton have outgrown him and pushed on.

All good things come to an end and McFadden has not progressed at the same rate as the team. As such he is dropping down a level with Birmingham where I’m sure his rapport with Alex McLeish will enhance his game...
Callum Greenall
21   Posted 19/01/2008 at 23:46:52

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Moyes has let go of a player with passion, heart and soul for Everton and football. He was a great player for Everton and I personally think that Moyes has let him down. James should have played more of first team football.

That's a load of rubbish that he isn't good enough for Everton's standards and top flight football. James McFadden skinned the Italian And French players for fun, anyone can see that. Italy and france have some of the world's greatest players and still couldn't handle him.

McFadden is good enough.. He just wasn?t given the opportunity properly. He?s a great loss for everton.
Paul O'Neill
22   Posted 20/01/2008 at 05:50:32

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I?m glad the boy was an Everton player. He was always useful coming off the bench, and his goal of the season contender against Charlton last season will live long in the memory. A great player against the lesser sides and played the beautiful game beautifully to the best of his ability. Good luck at Brum Jimmy Mac.
Ray Robinson
23   Posted 20/01/2008 at 20:09:19

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I think that Paul O’Neill hit the nail on the head with his "off the bench" comment. I would have kept McFadden for his unpredicatbility but only if he’d been prepared to warm the bench regularly. Clearly at the stage of his career, we can’t blame him if he chooses not to do this, so he goes with my best wishes.
Huw Owen
24   Posted 20/01/2008 at 20:31:49

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To say that he was "shit" and that "hearts sank" because he has the temerity to appear on the teamsheet is as wrong as it is stupid. So was the treatment given out to him by so called supporters. He was a gifted and inventive player. Who else in our team would have had the cheek, skill and belief to score THAT goal against Charlton? How many of our current internationals have had their image immortalised by their respective national football associations? How many would have carried on trying to do their best despite the fact that they were played in the wrong position for the majority of occasions?

Neither was James McFadden "lazy". If he was, he would have accepted his contract extension and would have been quite prepared to warm the bench until Moyes threw him on for the last ten minutes as a last gasp winger after things had gone awry. Sure he could be infuriating and got things wrong but that’s the case with every other player you’ve ever seen from time to time. And when I see him take the pitch with his new club I’ll cheer his name, because he was a Blue, a student (and occasionally a grand master) at the school of science. I owe him that. And so do you.
Tom Davies
25   Posted 20/01/2008 at 23:10:29

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I personally think Faddy is an amazing player. Strong, skillfull and fast, he should have been kept at Goodison instead of Johnson who is small and falls down like a sack of shite (simply because I think he will leave in the summer).

I don’t think he will be brilliant at Birmangham, but he will be 1 to watch when we next play them. If he was to play in Scotland I think he would be world class, he probarbly made a big mistake going to the midlands rather than a chance at Rangers under Walter Smith.

Though for me if he would have left on good faith and because we had too good a strike force to keep him in, I would have not been worried, but the fact is he left because he did not get along with Moyes and for a manager I think that is very unprofessional.

I wish him good luck for the rest of his career and would like to say I was a big fan, I do believe if he had been given a chance he could have been world class!

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