The list of prospective candidates for this Mystery Men series has been somewhat pre-empted in comments on #2: Rodrigol. But no compilation of this ilk could proceed without a salute to one of the greatest wastes of space in Everton history, a man whose name continues to pop up more than 10 years after he finally left the club.
Andy van der Meyde came to Everton as a very highly rated winger with a pedigree that included Ajax, Inter Milan, and of course the Dutch national side. And he was 'only' 25. Which made many wonder how on earth the club managed to snap him up for under £2M, especially when you consider that, when David Moyes first tried to sign him, his price tag read £4.5M.
The answers would come soon enough and revolved around lingering concerns about his fitness and off-the-field attitude.
Van der Meyde (pronounced "Fun-dur-my-da") was a product of the Ajax youth academy and made his debut for the famous Dutch club in 1997 at the age of 18. He spent a season on loan with FC Twente in 1999-2000 and on his return became a regular in the Ajax side. From there, his form earned him regular call-ups to the Dutch national side, finally making his debut in May 2002 against the USA.
Although known primarily as right-winger, Van der Meyde was equally at home on the left flank, having been moved there while at Ajax by then coach Ronald Koeman to curb what he saw as the player's individualistic tendencies.
"When Van der Meyde plays on the left he keeps the ball better and doesn't look to make big plays all the time," said Koeman at the time. That should have been a warning...
Inter Milan paid £4M for the winger in 2003 but he made only 15 appearances in the 2003-04 season. Despite that, he went to Euro 2004 with Holland and helped them reach the semi-finals. Van der Meyde was again a fringe player at the San Siro in 2004-05 and was told he could find a new club.
His signing for Everton finally went ahead only after a second blood test gave him the all-clear — "I trained too hard for the medical and it appeared my liver was not right," the Dutchman was quoted as saying... surely another warning sign?
"The sudden intense activity seems to have been too much for my body to cope with, but everything is fine," — but he still arrived at Goodison complete with a groin injury that would keep him sidelined for what was supposed to be two weeks... It was to be substantially longer before Evertonians were to see him grace the Goodison Park turf.
On his day, which turned out to be exceedingly rare, he could be an exciting, touch-line hugging winger, not dissimilar to Dave Thomas, who used to bomb up the left wing before supplying Bob Latchford with cross after cross. As with most Dutch players, he possessed excellent technique, and was skillful enough to give full backs a bit of a chasing. He was fast and he could score his share of goals too.
On the down side, he would fade out of games quite dramatically, and there were serious doubts about his willingness to battle for the team when they were up against it — something that probably didn't happen a lot when he played for Ajax or Inter Milan. But for £1.8M, his transfer to Everton on Deadline Day in 2005 was viewed at the time as a fine piece of business by David Moyes, as it appeared to strengthen Everton's midfield options.
But that was all before he kicked a ball for Everton. Which he did... eventually... after a lot of fuss about his groin injury, which needed time to heal... plenty of time... Meanwhile, through the dreadful first half of the 2005-06 season, many fans pinned their hopes on Van der Meyde becoming a saviour for a team desperately lacking flair on the flanks.
His debut finally came in October 2005 against Middlesbrough; he set up Simon Davies for only Everton's second win of the season but, before long, he was injured again. He had managed just 5 starts at this point.
A reappearance from the depths of the treatment room in March 2006 was cruelly cut short by a very unfair red card for flapping his elbows in the Anfield derby, resulting in another 3 games missed. Meanwhile, rightly or wrongly, rumours spread of his penchant for enjoying a night out on the town and, as the season 2005-06 season ended, Len Capeling revealed in the Daily Post that the Dutchman appeared to have upset David Moyes in record time.
With worries over the player's poor attitude, Everton let it be known they were open to offers for a forward who spent more time on the Bellefield treatment table than he did on the Goodison pitch. His first season at Goodison Park had been punctuated by injuries, those rumours of off-the-field shenanigans, and two burglaries at his home when first his dog and then his Ferrari were stolen.
Press reports and quotes attributed to the player and his agent that Van der Meyde first wanted to return to Italy and then try his luck at FC Porto were swiftly denied and the winger eventually pledged his future to Everton, vowing to fight for his place at Goodison in the 2006-07 season. But that place was a long time coming. It was December before he made his first start of the season, and put in a decent half-shift against West Ham, but the strikers failed to respond to his new supply routes.
Getting a run of games — or even a full game — seemed to be a challenge, for whatever reason. If it was not lingering injury, then it was lack of match fitness... but, if he did get a game, he always seemed to be the first to be subbed by Moyes. He would give tantalizing glimpses of the new dimension a fully fit attack-minded winger would bring to Everton's game, but it became increasingly clear he was never going to fit the bill.
In February 2007, he blabbed to the News of the World about not being given enough playing time by Moyes, and threatening to leave, citing his unhappiness that his wife and family had returned to Italy because they were "unable to settle" on Merseyside.
Either because there were no takers for a player who had played so little football in recent seasons, or because he genuinely felt he could recapture his form, Van der Meyde stayed with the Blues in the summer of 2007 but found himself on the wrong side of the manager once more when he failed to show for pre-season training and was (somewhat counter-productively) handed a month-long suspension.
It emerged, however, that his infant daughter had developed post-natal problems and had spent much of the first six months of her life in an incubator. Daily hospital visits no doubt proved problematic when trying to stick to a training routine and Andy clearly made a choice in priorities and put his focus on family.
Although he stayed behind on Merseyside due to his fear of flying while the rest of the Everton squad went on their Summer 2007 tour of the USA, Van der Meyde once again told EvertonTV of his determination to finally succeed at Goodison. Unfortunately for him, he didn't get the chance; even under Moyes's limited squad rotation policy and injury adjustments, there was to be no room for such an unreliable player.
The Dutchman started 2008 on the treatment table after suffering a nasty gash to his leg, which required 16 stitches, while playing for the Reserves and never saw any first-team action. Stories had claimed that David Moyes had had enough of him, and that he would not play for Everton again. He made a handful of teamsheets during the season but never got off the subs bench. That at least might explain why he remained completely unused despite Everton struggling through the worst injury crises, when the midfield were crying out for some spark of creativity.
As the summer transfer window opened in June 2008, AvdM was expected to be one of the first out the door... but, as it closed in September, he was still and Everton player, injured yet again, and still with another year to run on his contract. We should mention a brief renaissance in the first handful of 2008 pre-season games, when he came roaring out of the traps... and tore his hamstring early in the third game, rendering himself unfit yet again for any meaningful action.
Plenty more time in the treatment room followed, plus the usual off-field stories and promises of yet another renaissance. But all he got was 3 sub appearances... strangely, one would turn out to be pivotal in Everton's run to the glory of a Wembley FA Cup Final. The occasion was a tense FA Cup 4th Round Replay under the Goodison lights, against the old enemy from across the park.
Barely minutes to go in extra time before penalties and it was none other than Andy van der Meyde who put in a peach of a cross that Dan Gosling controlled brilliantly before pitching it neatly into the Liverpool goal. Surely, with such proof of his latent ability, Shandy Andy would be back in from the cold?
Nope; just one more sub appearance and, instead of finally making the grade, there was a telling outburst indicting the manager for his failures and, from that point on, his destiny was sealed. Just 3 sub appearances in his final season says it all. Finally, the blessed release came with the expiration of his 4-year contract at the end of June 2009.
He spent 6 months without a club before agreeing a six-month deal with PSV Eindhoven in January 2010. He appeared in a friendly in April 2010 but made no senior appearances for PSV. In May 2010, PSV decided not to exercise their option to extend his contract: “PSV think Andy should be able to play regular football but we cannot offer him that opportunity”, explained General Manager Jan Reker at the Philips Stadium.
He does not appear to have secured any subsequent playing engagements and announced his retirement from professional football in February 2011, at the age of 31, saying "I quit; I do not need to give an interview." Asked about his time in England, he would say bluntly "Shit, all shit.
"There were only two players who could play football, the rest were just running and kicking the ball. It's unbelievable."
Reader Comments (24)
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1 Posted 29/03/2020 at 16:36:50
Van Der Meyde goes down on the ever-growing list of players who have robbed a living off the Everton payroll. I have seen several of his post-career interviews and he always slags of Everton. Absolute prick!!
2 Posted 29/03/2020 at 16:37:20
3 Posted 29/03/2020 at 17:10:54
After all these years I now know what my problem has been. I've simply been training too hard!
I'm enjoying this little series you've got going, Michael. Keep 'em coming!
4 Posted 29/03/2020 at 17:26:50
5 Posted 29/03/2020 at 17:28:52
We've had plenty of them, haven't we?
Enjoying this series though, Michael. It's a bit like the end of Bullseye for the losing contestants. "Come and have a look at what you could have won."
6 Posted 29/03/2020 at 17:32:57
How are you keeping, by the way?
7 Posted 29/03/2020 at 17:38:41
8 Posted 29/03/2020 at 17:59:17
As for Andy, Graeme Sharp knew the score on him after just a few months, he told me he was a playboy. Graeme was working for Everton at the time, so it must have been common knowledge around the club.
Give me an honest player who works for the team anyway rather than selfish people like the Dutchman who are only interested in their own well-being.
9 Posted 29/03/2020 at 19:04:36
Great series, Michael.
10 Posted 29/03/2020 at 19:12:42
Completely with you on Andy. Nothing more frustrating than a talented person with a poor attitude.
11 Posted 29/03/2020 at 19:26:49
AvdM was no Arjen Robben but he had good talent and squandered it. It's a shame for him and unforgivable for any Evertonian who would always fantasise about having such a glorious opportunity.
12 Posted 29/03/2020 at 20:00:44
13 Posted 29/03/2020 at 21:21:43
14 Posted 29/03/2020 at 21:29:43
It was good riddance to this waster and sadly we never seem to learn any lessons about these chancers to this day.
15 Posted 30/03/2020 at 05:01:15
I could be a player I needn't ever worry
I could be a legend in a team full of brothers
I could be the lynchpin in a squad besting others
What a waste
What a waste
What a waste
What a waste
Thanks To Ian Drury
16 Posted 30/03/2020 at 09:25:38
17 Posted 30/03/2020 at 12:12:37
I've been meaning to ask Lyndon about formating of the pages on the iPhone – it seems to be the same whether you are using Safari or Chrome. The cool dropdown menu of website sections Lyndon designed is somehow disconnected from the banner strip at the top of the page, and appears instead like a floating ghost part-way down the page, with white-on-white lettering making all but the current section (highlighted by a blue box) difficult to read.
One of the most daunting behind-the-scenes challenges of running a website like this includes trying to accommodate the foibles of each browser on each platform – a challenge way beyond my paygrade! Thankfully, Lyndon is an industry expert on such things.
18 Posted 30/03/2020 at 20:54:25
Im sure I can speak for everyone on here by saying how much we appreciate all your work.
19 Posted 30/03/2020 at 21:11:50
I would like to echo Simon's views. You and Lyndon are providing a wonderful facility. Well done and thank you.
20 Posted 30/03/2020 at 21:44:40
I did a lot of work for him a few years ago and, far from slagging EFC off, he was complimentary about the club and did not seek to blame anyone but himself for the way things turned out. I speak as I find and, over a period of two years, I found him to be a nice bloke who had made some bad decisions in his life (haven't most of us!!) but basically a decent person at least by the time I met him.
Could have been very good for us.
21 Posted 30/03/2020 at 21:46:12
22 Posted 30/03/2020 at 22:15:18
23 Posted 31/03/2020 at 01:18:20
But without the both of you and all the posters on here, I think I would have to suffer the other halfs fix of come dine with me and four in a bed.
So glad I have ToffeeWeb I can turn to.
24 Posted 31/03/2020 at 23:58:11
Some suggestions I would put forward are:
VAR – Yes or No?
Premier League Refs – Good, Bad or Biased?
Best Everton Goalkeeper / Defender / Midfielder / Striker of the 21st Century?
Everton Team of the 21st Century so far.
I'm sure there are a million and one topics we could discuss whilst downing a pint or two in isolation and conversation. What say you?
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