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Injuries a good thing?

By Mike Gaynes :  03/06/2009 :  Comments (26) :
By now, the whole football world knows the inspiring Everton story ? overcoming a remarkable siege of injuries to finish fifth and reach the Cup finals. The Setanta commentators couldn?t stop talking about it on Saturday.

Now that we?ve all dried our tears, I?m going to propound an unusual theory ? that all those devasting injuries not only didn?t hurt the club, but were in fact helpful, a relentlessly positive influence.

Am I crazy? Maybe. Or maybe it?s just that I picked up a concussion playing with my team last weekend. I say some strange things when that happens.

But I think a case can certainly be made that no harm was done, that Top 5 and Wembley were at the very apex of our expectations and that we could hardly have done any better even with a full and healthy side. And I would argue that the adversity has tempered and matured David Moyes as a manager. His extraordinary motivational skills have been on full display, and the occasional dodgy substitutions and other strategic errors we?ve sometimes seen in the past have pretty much disappeared. He?s in full and confident command of the most united, committed team in England.

But I?ll go even farther than that. I think those injuries actually made Everton better on the field, especially in the long run. Here?s why:


The early-season absence of both recognized right backs was ably covered by Captain Phil, and the vacancy he left in midfield presented an earlier-than-expected opportunity to unveil the dazzling potential of Jack Rodwell. All that unexpected playing time helped him grow from a precocious teenager into a budding star. I can?t wait to watch him next year.


We watched Yak?s career-threatening injury with distress, and the subsequent disasters for Vaughan, Vic and Saha with disbelief. But it was a transformational moment for the team when Talisman Tim stepped in up top and began tucking away one big goal after another. And Fellaini was able to transform himself from an awkward holding midfielder into an oddly effective offensive force, a development that would have been unlikely otherwise. Now he?s viewed as a genuine threat. As for Cahill... well, the word legend is overused, but...


Lescott back into the center from left back. Baines off the far end of the bench and into an England shirt. Enough said.


No question, the team lost its direction for a few weeks when our midfield maestro parked himself on the grass and grabbed that knee. But then, slowly, a star was born. A few months ago, Steven Pienaar was all about work rate and hustle ? win the ball, lose it, win it back again, give it off. He had value, but he neither created goals nor scored them.

With Arteta gone, however, Pienaar gradually began demanding the ball, time after time. And getting it. And beating defenders, first to set up his teammates and finally to begin scoring himself. The Pocket Rocket we saw in May was twice the player he was in February, and the prospect of the brilliant new Pienaar beside the brilliant old Arteta and Cahill, plus Rodwell and Fellaini and Gosling and our new speedy winger (whoever he may be), gives us good reason to look forward to next year?s midfield.


Sorry, here?s where the reasoning runs dry. Except for giving good soldier Joe a place at Wembley ? where he was outstanding ? there was absolutely no upside to Jags going down.

Hey, no theory is 100% perfect!

Overall, however, I think I?ve successfully defended my sanity here. The injuries unquestionably brought the team together and gave Baines, Pienaar, Fellaini and Rodwell ? none considered prime beef when the season began ? the chance to blossom into players capable of helping us into the top four and the Champions League. And with the return of the injured and the addition of enough talent to add about a dozen goals to our season total, I think that?s exactly where we will be headed.

Reader Comments

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David Chait
1   Posted 03/06/2009 at 15:24:58

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Very good article. Proves that Moyes really had his hands tied in terms of the team and in many ways forced the decisions we all have been crying for. The test was about his motivational skills to lift this team, not the intuition behind selecting it.

Now that we have Baines where he belongs and hopefully Rodders in the middle full time next year with Neville at RB, we can have Arteta and Pienaar operating in prime form at the same time ? then God help all comers!

Still leaves that pesky right wing area.....

Julian Wait
2   Posted 03/06/2009 at 15:31:19

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Certainly our eyes have been opened to more possibilities and every cloud has a silver lining, and I think the exposure we felt on the right at Wembley has dictated some clear player priorities for the close season that may have hidden for another year.

But I still would rather none of those injuries had happened and wonder what might have been - 4th/CL (we could and should have beaten both Chelsea (A) and Arsenal (H) for example, as well as other games we lost or drew such as Newcastle (A) etc)?

Play a fit Jagielka or Neville at RB at Wembley and be FAC Winners now instead?

What if what if, but I never want to see one of our best players get injured, never mind the three best players (at the time, each time, they were the in form player) in a single season.
3   Posted 03/06/2009 at 16:45:00

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The other positive from the injuries is no one is going to come in for the boys out with the log term injuries. I’m sure if Arteta had stayed healthy all year and played up to his level, some one would have come in for him. Same for Jags. And maybe even for one of the younger players.

Villa is already a weakened side and the silly season has barely started.
Micky Norman
4   Posted 03/06/2009 at 16:57:28

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Just can’t agree that losing Arteta was anything other than a disaster. Wins against Pompey, Blackburn, Newcastle. City would have put real pressure on Arsenal for 4th place. Just hope the lad can get back to the form he was showing before the injury whenever he gets back.We’ll miss him badly till then.
Mike Gaynes
5   Posted 03/06/2009 at 17:26:13

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Micky, of course losing Arteta was a terrible blow, but do you really think that one single player would have brought us four more away wins? That we would have gone through the last four months of the season undefeated if Arteta hadn’t been hurt? Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy, but there isn’t a player in the world this side of Leo Messi who has that much impact.

But you’re right, he is keenly missed.
Stewart Littler
6   Posted 03/06/2009 at 21:36:05

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I will go further and say that I think we may actually have done worse had it not been for the injuries. That’s not to say I would have wanted it to happen again given a second chance, just my opinion, and I think the author has got it pretty much spot on. I think we were galvanised by them.

Just one nag - Julian, correct for 2 of 3, but the Yak was having a shit season until his injury, save for the first 5 games, when he scored 4 goals. In fact, following the game where the Yak got injured, I was called by Radio Merseyside to go on their phone in. Alan Jackson broke the news to me that he was out for the season, and asked my opinion. I told him that I thought he had been poor so far, and that I thought we could cope without him. He actually laughed at me, told me to not be so pathetic, and proceeded to tell me that what I had said was an insult to the Yak, who had been the first in god knows how long to score 20+ the previous season. Well, Alan, if you’re reading, I think an apology might be in order???

Having said all that, Moyes needs to make it clear to our injured quartet (if Vic stays) that they will have to force their way back into the side, else all that hard work will have been for nothing.
mick wrende
7   Posted 03/06/2009 at 21:44:49

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Yes you have lost your sanity - what a load of bollocks. Anyone who says we can lose our 3 best players Yak, Mikel and Jags needs their head examined. Who is to say we wouldnt have won last Saturday with those 3 playing? And to say 5th and cup final runners is the pinnacle - maybe for you but for the rest of us that would be top 4 and cup winners.
Sam Higgins
8   Posted 03/06/2009 at 22:03:22

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So the Yak looks like he is going to make the start of the new season.

But does anyone know when Arteta will be ready?
Mike Gaynes
9   Posted 03/06/2009 at 22:45:04

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Sam... nobody knows. With his injury, it’s usually six to nine months, but there’s no way to know until he starts running again this summer. I doubt we’ll hear anything until August.
Sean Condon
10   Posted 04/06/2009 at 01:22:18

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Convincing argument, but Mikel at Wembley might not have made the slightest difference. Pienaar was outstanding this season, but he played an awful lot of football and exerted about six times more effort than Osman. Come last Saturday I think he was gassed.
Michael Dawson
11   Posted 04/06/2009 at 01:19:02

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Stewart, I think you’re wrong. I believe Yakubu’s injury was by far the most damaging the team suffered this season.

Yes, we coped admirably without him - Tim and Felliani stepped up when it mattered. However, imagine what could have been if we had got 40 games out of the man who is, to be brutally honest, the only decent striker at the club.

If there’s one thing the Yak can do, it’s bang the goals in, and I can’t believe you’re belittling the fact he scored 20+ last season when not a single player reached double figures this year.

Every top team needs at least one reliable, top class finisher. We’ve got through this season without one, but I’m willing to bet we won’t get away with it again. The incredible, against-the-odds performance from the lads this year shouldn’t disguise how important it is to have a fully-fit Yakubu raring to go come August.
Mike Gaynes
12   Posted 04/06/2009 at 01:57:14

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Michael, I see your point, but I don’t think I buy your argument. Yak WAS having a poor season... at the time he went down he had only one in eleven, and that was an accident that bounced in off his hip. I’ve mentioned before that an Achilles tendon rupture is usually preceded by an extended period of tendinitis (unfortunate personal experience), and I think Yak was operating on one leg from mid-September on. Also, we scored about the same number of league goals this season (55) as we did last year with Yak (53).

I’m not downgrading Yak at all -- I hope like hell he comes back at something close to his old performance level, because it will make us much better, and you’re right that a pure striker is a necessity. But there was an obvious dropoff in our performance when Arteta was hurt and an obvious heartbreak when Jags went down, and we just didn’t see any of that with Yak’s injury.
Derek Thomas
13   Posted 04/06/2009 at 06:19:08

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Your are drawing a bit of a long bow with all those points, why not just say that every cloud has a silver lining.

You are also damning Moyes with faint praise, sort of, but we will never know if He was going to go with the 4-6 formation if he wasn’t forced to and would he have brought in Baines anyway.

For me the joint best silver lining is that lo and behold there is some one to take free kicks and corners other than Arteta and most times not hitting the 1st defender as well, take note Arteta, super nanny says you must learn to share.

Maybe this will encourage Moyes to be more flexable. True Champions can Box and fight AND know when to do either.

Again top teams can afford to carry an out and out striker, or, in old money a gaol hanger and the Yak is that sort, horses for courses, no running the channels, tracking back to defend, (how many goals are given away by forwards trying to defend and basically having no idea) just give it to his feet in the last fifth of the pitch and let him do what he does best, shoot and score. Thats his job, he does his, the Goalie at the back and everybody else in between does theirs. Sorted
Peter Corcoran
14   Posted 04/06/2009 at 06:37:16

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Interesting debate about the Yak.

If you cast your mind back to the season before when he scored 20+ he was in many fans minds crap then too with many sub-standard and lazy performances.

I think I could cope with that if he scores 20+ each season. Come back Bob Latchford.
David Chait
15   Posted 04/06/2009 at 07:40:04

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Ya there are folks saying a fit Yak and you could have added another 15 goals... I don’t buy it either... Yak would have cannibilised goals from other players... so no.. maybe another 3 or 4....

The point of the article to me is that the good is it gave people opportunity to develop they otherwise would not have had.. not that we did better than we could of. Arteta was a killer blow that yes - did affect results. I remember a handful of games thinkin we wouldn’t have drawn those if Arteta was on the pitch. He was injured some time before Pienaar rocked up for the party.
Alan Clarke
16   Posted 04/06/2009 at 09:58:03

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I’d visit the doctor’s with that concussion. You say Talisman Tim stepped up but he scored a total of 9 goals this season compared with Yak’s 20 goals the season before and before Yak got injured he’d still scored 4 in 5 games this season.

The loss of Arteta was massive. Why did losing Arteta mean Pienaar’s form improved? Perhaps he’d have been even better had Arteta been fit. The loss of Arteta also meant Cahill was pushed deeper into midfield where we all know he is a lot less effective.

The loss of our best cntre hallf, our most creative midfielder and our 20+ goal a season striker was in no way a good thing and has cost us silverwear. Mike you’ve obviously been taking the same pills as our old friend Richard Dodd.
Shaun Brennan
17   Posted 04/06/2009 at 10:39:43

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Mike, i fell thats a pretty good assessment and interesting read.
Stewart Littler
18   Posted 04/06/2009 at 10:54:18

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Michael, I don’t understand the argument behind Yak’s injury being the most damaging. He had scored just 5 goals in 17 games and was playing shit. The problem with the Yak, and echoing what Derek said, is that he is paid to score goals -if he’s not doing that, then he doesn’t bring much else to the team.

Having said that, like Mike, I think he may have been suffering with the injury before it went, and I desperately want him fit again and banging in the goals. I was not belittling the fact he scored 20+ the season before - simply stating that he wouldn’t have scored that many this season for my money.

Alan - whilst having all 3 in the final WOULD undoubtedly have had an impact, I think I’m right in saying that the point of the article was that we might not have got there in the first place had the injuries not happened - and whilst I still wish they hadn’t, I have to agree.
Alan Clarke
19   Posted 04/06/2009 at 12:58:07

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I just don’t see your logic Stewart, we wouldn’t have reached the final if we’d have had our better players fit? That’s a nonsense argument.

The fact is Yak’s form was improving when his achilles went. Ok he’d scored 5 in 17 but it was also 4 in 5. That’s not bad form and he would have easily equalled his 20 goals again.
Trevor Lynes
20   Posted 04/06/2009 at 13:16:09

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Your article has merit and I believe like yourself, that we would not have seen Rodwell or Gosling except for those injuries....we also now play better football as we dont have so called single strikers so much..Johnson completely burnt himself out with our old fashioned hoof ball tactics which to my mind always gave the opposition far too much possesion and this had been used far too often ever since the Duncan Ferguson days...Beattie was out of his depth and none of them ever looked happy playing without any creativity from midfield..we hardly ever scored from open play and we tended to ’spoil’ other teams rather than compete with them. However, I miss Arteta and he would have ensured that we kept the ball better against Chelsea and took weight off Pienar who was our only outlet..Im afraid that Cahill has still not fully recovered since his return and it was a bit like Arnhem...A bridge too far at Wembley where we looked exhausted long before the end.
We definitely need at least one ’big name’ player (BUT NOT OWEN) and a few premier class squad members to give us a realistic chance of progress next season.
We must get rid of our aging and injury prone players and introduce youth and new enthusiasm to boost our team.
I cannot believe that we are not attracting investment and even Stan Collymore has mentioned that mystery in his column.
We badly need an influx of realistic ambition and a sizeable chunk of investment....then EFC will emerge from the pack and really challenge the leaders.
Stewart Littler
21   Posted 05/06/2009 at 10:51:24

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Alan, the Yak scored 4 in 5 at the START of the season - when he got injured, he had 1 in 12. My contention is that those injuries which happened in November and led to us having no fit strikers forced Moyes to change the line up and the style of play. This led to our upturn in form. Now perhaps the out of form players would have rediscovered their form. But our season truly changed when these injuries happened - who knows what might have happened with a fully fit squad. All I know is that our worst performance of the season was at Wigan - and we had a fully fit (or near enough) squad at the time. One of our best came in the reverse fixture at Goodison, when about 5 or 6 first team squad members were out injured.

I accept that the argument sounds strange, and I am in no way saying that I’m glad we got the injuries... but I agree with the author that they had a galvanising effect on the whole club (including the fans) and we might not have had as good a season had they not happened. Then again, we might have won all our remaining games and took a league and cup double - who knows. Hope this has given you an insight into my head!!
Mike Green
22   Posted 05/06/2009 at 16:31:49

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Don’t know if anyone’s mentioned it but did anyone else see Arteta running up and down on the spot on the Wembley turf on Saturday, giving it a try out. Made my ears prick right up.....! Looks like he’s ready to go now!!!!
Keith Glazzard
23   Posted 05/06/2009 at 16:29:08

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The injuries gave the beautiful game an amazing tactical line-up: 4-6. And it worked!

Although necessity was the mother of invention, let’s hope that the lessons of this extraordinary period won’t be forgotten.
garry martin
24   Posted 06/06/2009 at 08:37:18

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It demonstrates to me that It’s not just about ability, it’s also about a state of mind, making players believe. Moyes also has the ability to motivate players, a great assett.

Peter Hall
25   Posted 06/06/2009 at 12:44:16

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For those who say the injury to the Yak was the worst thing, just have a look at what was being said at that time - there was loads of shouting for him to be left out - not scoring goals after the start and not putting a shift in, plus casual giving the ball away. Remember just before half time 2-0 up against Newcastle and the Yak tries a bachheel on the halfway line - oops, 2-1 and we draw against one of the worst teams to vist Goodison in years, and still no home win. You have to remember the dark days of the season .

When I put a column on here after Moyes re-signed saying we would finish sixth I got abuse from some of you who said avoiding relegation would be an achievement with this bunch of shitl OK I was wrong - we didn’t finish sixth . . .

I haven’t looked forward to a season for decades as much as the coming one. Hopefully with the injured guys back and the way the others have grown we will hit the ground running and earn a top-four place now and for the coming years.

One deep regret is not having Mikky and Jags for the Cup Final when they had done so much to get us there, and could have made such a difference.
Joe Johnson
26   Posted 07/06/2009 at 10:49:38

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I think statistically Everton performed worst when Cahill was injured earlier in the season, .

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