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Daring to dream a little

As anyone with any experience following Premier League football knows, a team's pre-season form is by no means a reliable indicator of how it might perform when the curtain is raised on the season proper and the real business on the pitch begins.

Players who weren't involved in the World Cup are edging their way back to fitness and working off any rustiness that has developed over the summer break, managers are experimenting with line-ups and tactics, and myriad substitutions keep the team fluid during friendlies as everyone gets playing time to build their match sharpness.

Nevertheless, there is something to be said for establishing a winning mentality right from the word "go" and that is what Everton have done with five consecutive pre-season victories for the senior squad. Engendering that feeling that the team can get goals from any one of the attacking or midfield players ? from Rodwell to Bilyaletdinov and Cahill to Beckford, the goals are being shared around the side so far ? and win matches can only be a good thing no matter how meaningless the match or inferior the opposition.

And if being back in a team for which winning became something of a habit at times after Christmas last season can help persuade Steven Pienaar ? and, (hopefully) to a lesser extent, Mikel Arteta ? that the Blues could be on the cusp of something womderful here and that Goodison Park is therefore the best place to be right now, then so much the better.

That is certainly uppermost in my mind right now ? as long as the team keeps winning and can carry this pre-season momentum into the new Premier League campaign, the more our best players will want to stick around.

Certainly, in the absence of big-money signings so far this summer, the acquisitions of Jermaine Beckford and Magaye Gueye look, on the evidence so far to have been astute, but there is perhaps one last piece that could be added to the puzzle this coming month that could seal the deal for Everton as far as Pienaar and Arteta are concerned.

That, of course, would be the coup of bringing Landon Donovan back to Goodison. The buzz that has been generated by mere rumours that he could be returning to wear the famous no. 9 jersey, coupled with him reiterating his love for the Blues, has been palpable among supporters and has raised hopes that the Board might somehow be able to swing what would be a huge morale boost going into the new season.

The fact that Donovan is a known quantity at Everton and has proved he can have a big impact in England would be reason enough to be excited about the possibility of his return, but here is a player who went to South Africa with a nation's hopes on his shoulders and, despite not having a consistently briliant tournament, delivered in spades. A career-defining moment in injury time against Algeria in the USA's final group game in the World Cup Finals rescued the Americans from elimination and propelled them to the top of Group C and though his second-half penalty against Ghana couldn't prevent the United States' elimination, Donovan had answered his country's call and surely catapulted himself into the minds of some of Europe's top managers.

There can be no doubt that he has had some tempting offers but the refrain from Landon continues to be his desire to play for Everton and that in itself is great to hear at a time when there is so much uncertainty surrounding the team's two most influential players.

Of course, despite the speculation and the player's own comments, Donovan running out in an Everton jersey this season remains a dream rather than a reality at this point. Either way, if the Blues perform this season they way they did for the second half of last, they will be right up there challenging for a place in next season's Champions League.

But there's no question in my mind that in the absence of any further funds for marquee signings, if Bill Kenwright can dig a few pennies out from under the cushions of the couch in his Goodison Park office ? Moyes may have publicly acknowledged that he has no more money for signings this summer, but if he was conveniently talking about then as opposed to the last month of the transfer window during which time the next trache of Sky TV money is due to arrive....? ? then America's best player really could be the final brick on the Blues' road back to the top four this coming season.

Well, hey, a man can dream, right?

Lyndon Lloyd     Posted 31/07/2010 at

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Reader Comments

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Andy Crooks
1   Posted 31/07/2010 at 19:12:10

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It would be great if Donovan joined. However, even if he doesn't, his comments confirm just how good the atmosphere and spirit at the club are. City for all their money or maybe because of all their money, will never have it
David Hallwood
2   Posted 31/07/2010 at 19:15:23

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I dream the same dream Lyndon, my only reservations are that we haven't got a consistant goal scoring midfielder (or we didn't have last season) and with only playing one up front we will struggle to score goals. We've lost the knack of holding onto leads and winning ugly and that will cost us. But it's a long time since I've looked forward so much to a new season. COYB
Antony Matthews
3   Posted 31/07/2010 at 19:18:43

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If we are discussing a new deal with Chang ,why not use that money to get Landon? We would soon recover it back anyway through marketing in the USA. Hurry up Eccy and get the dough off the Thai's and get him signed up as soon as poss. You know it makes sense.
Richard Reeves
4   Posted 31/07/2010 at 19:37:19

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David, forget about the consistent goal scoring midfielder. The goals will come from more players this season, from different areas and different variations of play. The goals will be spread out amongst the team and everyone will be trying to chip in. I know you will think I'm crazy for saying this but we might be rioting this season.
Jay Harris
5   Posted 31/07/2010 at 20:51:13

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agree with everything you've said.

Would just like to add that having lived through the 60's,70's and 80's achievements I do sense a feeling of something about to happen again.

I hope it's not just wishful thinking or a false sense of security but our results throughout 2010 no matter who was playing have given us this new found confidence.

I do wish however that we would get a new CB who can also score goals from set pieces because I dont think we keep enough clean sheets and we are too reliant on Tim from set pieces.

Thereagain the previous successful teams had weak links and injuries to contend with so maybe it is just the "spirit" after all.
Brian Garside
6   Posted 31/07/2010 at 20:53:18

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With you all the way Anthony. A no brainer for Chang.
I see an America plastered with billboards of LD with Chang in hand. Can Chang afford to let this GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY pass them by?
I think not!!!
Can somebody with connections pick up the `phone please.
Phil Bellis
7   Posted 31/07/2010 at 21:04:22

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Good point, Antony
You'd like to think somebody bright in the Everton executive would propose something like that - hmm
I doubt we could contact anyone at Chang about this but imagine if they could be asked to consider the value of "sponsoring" the purchase of the highest-profile American footballer and getting Chang's brand known in the States (I still get asked about Hafnia when sporting my one-and-only `85 replica top!)
Seems a decent business proposition, to me anyway

Bren Connor
8   Posted 31/07/2010 at 21:26:53

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All the major bookies have reduced the odds on us from 200-1 to 150-1 this week so get your each ways on before it's too late.
Seriously, the winning run is a good sign. A winning mentality is one thing we lacked at times last year losing those daft goals to Villa and West Ham and that won't have been lost on DM. With a month to go before transfer deadline I'm pleasantly surprised by the cautious optimism which seems to be coming from fans ... compared to the usual suicidal stuff this time of year.
Julian Wait
9   Posted 31/07/2010 at 23:33:31

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Living in the US, which has a much different public attitude to alcohol than the UK, I think a beer sponsor would be counter productive to growth of our "brand".

Rather than Chang, I think we would be better off leveraging any signing of Donovan - or even just our connection to Donovan - into a sponsorship deal with a company with a major focus in the US and a global presence to boot.

I am not a marketing person, but we should think in terms of companies like Toyota (soccer-mom minivans, and they have an image issue to rectify right now especially in the US), Gatorade, Nike (future of course, once LCS is finished) and other more maintstream ($$) and / or wholesome products that can be put on kids' shirts instead of them being left blank.
Roberto Birquet
10   Posted 01/08/2010 at 00:56:45

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If we are discussing a new deal with Chang ,why not use that money to get Landon?
I think we'd need Chang to double our sponsorship money for that, as the present level just covers ongoing costs.

Apart from that, how about offering MLS/Galaxy a percentage of US Everton No 9 shirt sales? I hope we have people coming up with ideas. Or maybe we should send some into Everton ourselves?
Roberto Birquet
11   Posted 01/08/2010 at 01:10:59

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re: Apart from that, how about offering MLS/Galaxy a percentage of US Everton No 9 shirt sales
in lieu of course of part of the transfer money they are after.
Brendan O'Doherty
12   Posted 01/08/2010 at 01:56:55

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Probably clutching at straws here but I'm hoping Moyes' comments today are just a smokescreen, and that negotiations are going on behind the scenes for LD.

It will be an absolute crying shame if we miss out purely because there are no finances, especially after the player's comments.

Don't think I could forgive the Everton board if they can't find a way of making this happen.
Art Jones
13   Posted 01/08/2010 at 09:22:47

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Not wanting to pour a bit of cold water on all our hopes but just a bit of a caveat ... in 2009 pre season Spurs played 7 pre season games , scoring 33 goals conceding only 5 with Darren Bent scoring 13 goals .. they then went on to lose to boro' Sunderland , Villa and draw with Chelsea in their 1st 4 league games , they went on to finish 8th that season .
As I said , lets not count our chickens ... yet !
Dan Brierley
14   Posted 01/08/2010 at 13:03:21

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Skysports are indicating a price tag of around 11million for Donovan. I think 6 million would be generous to be honest. At 28, he is certainly not an investment for the future. Gueye is showing some promise, and we have big Vic or Arteta who can both do a decent job on the right. Landon certainly made an impact, but is nowhere near with the MLS valuation.
Chris James
15   Posted 01/08/2010 at 13:38:10

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Lovely to hear the positivity pre-season (so different from last couple of years of abject frustration - although there's still time I suppose), and I completely agree with Lyndon.

To be honest I think there's clearly a deal to be done with Galaxy and around £8M would probably be enough to prize Landon away, provided there was some other upside (see below).

An ongoing relationship that saw some of our youth players/reserves loaned out there (Vaughan, Baxter, Wallace, etc), some of their prospects given experience of our academy (which has a pretty impressive record for bringing talent through) and maybe some sort of commercial agreement that saw reciprocal support with club promotions and offers to fan-base and a friendly pre-season could be of massive benefit to both clubs. We could even offer them first say on signing Donovan back in 4-5 years for a Beckham-style swansong. Perhaps this is complicating things a bit and clearly there's no evidence that Everton's commercial teams can even handle the basics of getting their own merchandise out to their own fans, but it's an idea.

The more obvious idea would be to give Pienaar an ultimatum now and if he's not going to sign (don't get me wrong I'd love him to) then we should get him out in the next week to Spurs/Inter/whoever with Landon coming the other way.

Or finally, I'd be prepared to see The Yak and Yobo go this summer (collectively they should be more than enough to generate) with Donovan plus a loaner or free (Bellamy/Roque Santa Cruz/etc) coming in up front and/or at centre-back.
Neither looked too hot at the back end of last season and it's unlikely the shambolic World Cup will have helped their mentality which isn't exactly the most hardworking and dedicated at the best of times.

With Saha, Beckford, Vaughan and Anichebe all capable as lone strikers plus Cahill, Felli, Billy (and Donovan) as cover/second striker and then Silva/Agard/Baxter as youthful options I do think we've enough up front for the way we play.

We're a big tighter at the back, but with Jags, Heitinga and Distin as first choice centre-backs with cover from Hibbert, Duffy, Bidwell and Mustafi I think we could manage.
Matt Traynor
16   Posted 01/08/2010 at 17:09:43

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Julian (#10), Chang brand their kids shirts with "Chang Soda" in markets where restrictions are in place, so there's a work-around. I do take your point about US negativity towards alcohol. I mean, they gave us Budweiser FFS.
Julian Wait
17   Posted 08/08/2010 at 19:40:58

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Matt (#17) - that's good to know re. the Chang Soda. I still think we should be looking for more of a marquee brand as short sponsor with Change as a stadium sponsor.

Ford is another brand that springs to mind for a number of reasons, not least because their logo is blue and white and they are a global brand with strong US/UK core. Really it hits the soccer mom crowd pretty well and one of the few that does AND is global AND both US and UK?

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