Mason Holgate: What will his ultimate position be?

by   |   03/02/2020  149 Comments  [Jump to last]

If there was an award for most improved player, Mason Holgate would certainly be a contender. Long derided as too error-prone, as having poor positioning, and simply being 'Championship Standard' (the much-used criticism labelled at our youngsters).

Personally, I always thought there was a good player there, but he has even surpassed my expectations in the last few months after dislodging Michael Keane from the starting 11. His loan at West Brom has certainly improved him, and now a big future awaits the young man. The question I have, though, is: What will his ultimate position be?

Having been too much of a risk for central defence when he broke into the team, his athleticism meant that the bulk of his games so far have been at right-back. Certainly not his best position, but this has given him experience of playing further up the field.

Against Watford, he stepped into midfield, as he had done with Duncan Ferguson in charge, and looked the part. He's got a good touch, reads the game well, and knows how to pass a ball.

So, in the long term, could Mason step up and make the defensive midfield position his own?

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Reader Comments (149)

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Russell Smith
1 Posted 03/02/2020 at 17:56:59
He could well be the answer to the defensive midfielder role as he wins most of his headed duals which none of our current defensive midfielders do: he can tackle, he has the speed to recover when out of position (which he would have more time to do starting higher up the pitch) and he can find a decent out ball when needed.

However this could only happen if we sign Zouma who, now that Rudiger is fit, will spend the rest of his time on the Chelsea bench, or another athletic central defender as neither Mina or Keane offer the pace needed in today's game

Simon Smith
2 Posted 03/02/2020 at 18:01:14
I think Holgate can play both positions very well. As Russell states, it would all depend on summer recruitment.

Do you think Zouma is still a target after a change of management? Or will Carlo have his own ideas for an additional centre-back?

Andy Crooks
3 Posted 03/02/2020 at 21:38:45
I think, and have for quite a while thought, that Mason Holgate could be a modern Bobby Moore. He is, in my view, that good. He is the epitome of what a modern centre-back should be, and he will get better. With he and Dominic, we have players who will be more valuable than any we have ever had.

Nor am I forgetting Tom Davies. The character he has shown, the determination not to hide (playing, by the way, beside the world Hide-and-do-not-Seek champion, Scneiderlin) has been remarkable.

I judge a young player on their best form and their ability to battle through temporary loss of form. Tom's best is excellent and will return. Three top young players.

Carl Manning
4 Posted 03/02/2020 at 22:02:04
We have a cracking young player on our hands. He’s becoming the defensive leader with us. What impresses me the most is how vocal he is. When he’s in midfield he always seems to zip the ball into players quicker and sharper than any of the others we have.

If he keeps going the way he is this season. with his positional flexibility, he’ll be heading to the euros, and I think DCL will be there with him too

Ajay Gopal
5 Posted 04/02/2020 at 03:14:45
I always believed he would come good, and happy that he has been given the opportunities by Duncan and Carlo. I hope he is tied down to a good, long contract. I remember his performance in a derby, where he got into a huge fight with Firmino over a perceived racial slur. For some reason, after that game, he was pushed into the sidelines by - was it Allardyce or Marco?

In my opinion, he should stay in the CB position and we need to acquire a very good central midfielder – I still have high hopes for Beni Baningime coming good for us. Hope he gets the opportunity to show us what he's got.

Darren Hind
6 Posted 04/02/2020 at 04:50:36
Get paid, Andy!
John Pierce
7 Posted 04/02/2020 at 05:06:31
This one is fun to speculate. He has good qualities which have been pushed to the fore, in part because he simply has been better but also because we are short there and you simply cannot pair Keane and Mina.

Paired with a more aerially dominant partner he should do well as his strengths are exacerbated and his weaknesses mitigated.

He deffo needs more work on his heading, and moving the ball left, so I wonder might he make a defensive midfielder? Maybe. Perhaps I'm projecting, because we are utterly deficient there atm. He's physically durable and very calm.

Find him a superior left sided dominant centre half partner to that of Mina and we could have a decent defense...

Improving rapidly.

Darren Hind
8 Posted 04/02/2020 at 05:22:36

You keep persisting with this "Can't pass to the left" lark. It's just plain wrong.

Digne has been poor this season, He simply hasn't shown, except for when he comes level with the man in possession, or drops even deeper. Holgate looks for the progressive pass and CHOOSES not to play that pass.

Holgate has been deployed mainly on the left in a central partnership. That means most of the pitch (and his options) are to his right. That doesn't stop him looking for Digne on the occasions he shows the same attacking devilment as last season.

If a footballer can pass, he can pass in any direction simply by manipulating the ball or adjusting his body. Your repeated claim is one of the most bizarre campaigns I have ever heard.

Saegaran Kana
9 Posted 04/02/2020 at 06:54:38
A young Gana, as I see Mason. He has the calmness, eye on the ball, great tackles, always moving forward with the ball. We should promote or buy another CB and move Mason to the DMF.
Dave Williams
10 Posted 04/02/2020 at 16:51:38
A nice problem to have! I agree with you, Andy, and hopefully Tom is next to suddenly kick on. This season could become notable for us finding top class young players ready for action and make the critics stand up and apologise for the abuse they've dished out.
John Pierce
11 Posted 04/02/2020 at 17:03:59
Darren, that maybe true. I absolutely could be wrong and bizarre too, well within my wheelhouse. It's an observation on what I see. However, I will go with the fact he doesn't pass it left versus your ability to read his mind and say he chooses not to! 😉

Let's focus on what happens in a game rather than supposition. I'd go further and ask you to look at his body position when a midfielder, Pickford, or his partner gets the ball. His body position is closed off and rarely does he let the ball run across him to allow all the options. Surely that would be better?

If, as you say, Digne is not showing for the ball, then he can pivot back to right. If that were the case I think you'd be right, but he doesn't give himself the chance. So I remain unconvinced by your ‘clairvoyancy'.

Add in that it becomes hugely predictable and too many passes inside from his area of the field will encourage an opponent on to you, and we have no balance to our attacking play. Granted this feature is not solely down to Holgate. You would want Holgate and the team to have better variety, surely?

I was indicating it's an improvement to be made (whatever the actual reason); after all, he's a right-footed player on the left of the field and it's very hard to get a left-footer of quality in there.

Digne has been poorer this season but has five assists, I reckon; I'd rather give the ball to him or Bernard than Coleman, Delph or Schneiderlin. One to ponder but you need to more than that to convince me!

David Thomas
12 Posted 04/02/2020 at 17:30:01
The lad is playing well at the moment and long may it continue.

However, I think some people might be going ever so slightly over the top with praise... ie, comparisons to one of the world's greatest ever defenders.

Trevor Peers
13 Posted 04/02/2020 at 17:55:48
Holgate has had a reasonable season compared to some of our other donkeys, let's no kid ourselves we are blossoming into a top team just yet though. It's great to pick up points and get into the winning habit, that's what appointing a good manager will do, but we will need some astute signing in the summer to carry on the good work.

The rest of this season should be spent seriously assessing just what we urgently require especially in the midfield area, hopes will be high at the start of next season if we sign the right type of players, it will be a familiar feeling for us blues supporters, one of these seasons I'm praying we may just get it right.

Paul Tran
14 Posted 04/02/2020 at 18:29:08
There was an early season game against Man Utd, when Mason was asked to man-mark one of their players. He did such a good job that I think that was when Koeman decided it was safe to take the money for Stones.

Not as physically imposing as any of our other CBs, yet Morgan is stronger, more tenacious, more skilful and more of a leader than all of them.

Repeatedly dropped for every lapse in concentration, he really benefited from his loan spell where he was played regularly and appreciated.

Great to see him grab his chance so well. Who better to further learn from than Carlo? I expect our younger players, who are already the main leaders of the team, to come on a ton under Carlo.

Mike Gaynes
15 Posted 04/02/2020 at 18:40:23
John #11, no, you're not wrong. Holgate plays a massive percentage of his passes to his right. And no, it has nothing to do with him not wanting to pass to Digne -- Darren is orbiting another planet today."Holgate looks for the progressive pass and CHOOSES not to play that pass."??? Oy vey. This isn't U-12 where you pass only to the best player.

As to the premise of the piece, I think Holgate is best at CB. To me his ball-carrying and man-marking skills are more valuable there, and you want your best ballwinners playing DM. Mason is not a Gana and never will be. (Nor will he ever be Bobby Moore, Andy. Sorry.)

Jay Harris
16 Posted 04/02/2020 at 19:02:25
For me, Mason has improved his alertness 100% this season (something Michael Keane needs to do) but is still reactive rather than proactive, so I would think he is better at centre-back and have a "Gana" type in as the defensive midfielder.
Brent Stephens
17 Posted 04/02/2020 at 19:20:13
I wish I could say what's in Holgate's mind re the tendency to pass to the right. Maybe somebody could tell us whether this is all Holgate's decision or whether he is playing to Ancelotti's orders.

It does seem a bit bizarre. But good to see the lad's form this season.

It's got me humming about passing the Dutchie on the left-hand side!

Darren Hind
18 Posted 04/02/2020 at 19:21:54
You don't go with facts, John, you go with a perception born out of an observation you made very recently and have been banging on about it since.

He's been playing balls to the left all season, long before you got this daft bee in your bonnet. If he doesn't play them, that is a choice; footballers are faced with them all the time.

I'm amused how your daft claims that he can't, can be construed (even by you) as "fact".

The best pass any Everton player made on Saturday was from Holgate. Guess what? It was to the left. The direction in which you had already claimed, he can't pass.

You are very welcome to elevate my ability to see these many passes and his reluctance to play balls he doesn't want to play, to the status of "clairvoyancy"... I would be more inclined to describe it as the inability to avoid the blindingly bleedin' obvious.

You might want to ask yourself: If this is actually something that happens... how come nobody has ever mentioned it before?

Paul Tran
19 Posted 04/02/2020 at 19:26:12
If you're a clairvoyant, Darren, can we have a chat before Cheltenham?
Tony Abrahams
20 Posted 04/02/2020 at 19:29:14
Come on Paul, it doesn’t have to be Cheltenham mate!
Darren Hind
21 Posted 04/02/2020 at 19:29:52
Yeah, I'm TW's own Mason Holgate, Paul.

I'm happy with the left handed track

Paul Tran
22 Posted 04/02/2020 at 19:30:44
Only a few weeks away, Tony. Plenty of rich pickings and I've only done one ante post bet!
Paul Tran
23 Posted 04/02/2020 at 19:33:59
Mystic Mason, surely, Darren?

Darren Hind
24 Posted 04/02/2020 at 19:40:51
I've already been at the tea leaves, Paul.

Looks like all my selections will be going right...

Brian Harrison
25 Posted 04/02/2020 at 19:57:07
Just before the editors clamp down on all this Cheltenham talk I have taken 16-1 for Presenting Percy in the Gold Cup.
Paul Tran
26 Posted 04/02/2020 at 19:59:29
I think you clearly need a visit or blinkers, Darren.

That's a brave leap of faith, Brian. I'm on Defi Du Seuil for the Champion Chase 11/2.

John Pierce
27 Posted 04/02/2020 at 20:24:49
Darren, I’d say the only reason I’ve noticed it recently is because Holgate has only been on the left recently? Mina was there before him. I didn’t see that same bias with him as I do with Holgate. And why does that matter if I’ve only noticed it recently? It’s just as valid.

I know he can pass to the left as highlighted by the one pass he did make on Saturday. You believe in that entire half he chose just that once to pass left. Behave yerself! However he took the ball and strode out with it before sliding the ball inside the full back high up the field. A very different proposition to the number of times he receives the ball at the back and goes right.

I’d of thought you’d want Everton to have a more balanced attack? Whatever the rights or wrongs of why he chooses to play the way he does, it limits us tactically, does it not? Digne is far more measured and capable than the right hand side, no? His tandem with Bernard give us way more options than our midfield or right hand side. That side is much more progressive.

If as you say Digne is not in the right position why isn't Mason, either prompting him or getting on his case to make himself more available? What I can see is Digne waving his arms like a mad man at Holgate.

I did also concede you maybe right, isn’t there one part of my bizarre claim that makes you think, mmm maybe it’s worth a second look? I’d encourage a revisit. I’ll gladly try and discern if Digne is hiding, sat in a position Mason cannot reach him.

In the meantime I’ll go tend to my one bee resident in my makeshift apiary. It strangely only flies round in circles to the right. What to do. 😜

Tony Abrahams
28 Posted 04/02/2020 at 20:30:17
Back to Holgate, and although he’s still had a couple of bad games, or more a couple of bad 45 mins, especially against Norwich, the reason I think he’s improving massively is because he has started to use his brain, which must surely be the first rule for proper defending?

Early last season he was trying to out-muscle players and coming off second best, and now he’s thinking a lot more and only trying to win the ball, when it’s there to be won, and this is something Mina, could learn, because he’s been exposing himself lately, by trying to win balls that are not there to be won, instead of just staying tight, and keeping his opponent with his back to goal.

Paul T, very good point about our younger players being the leaders, mate.

John Pierce
29 Posted 04/02/2020 at 20:35:48
Indeed Tony, Holgate was far superior to Mina aerially on Saturday. Head and shoulders

I think most of his headers went left, WTAF? 😃

Paul Tran
30 Posted 04/02/2020 at 20:36:13
Thanks Tony. In my view, Holgate's always needed a proper run of games. He got that at West Brom and I think it helped him become a bit more clever, as you point out.

It's also clear that, like Calvert-Lewin and Davies, he looks like he wants to learn and apply the learning, which is a good thing in any walk of life.

Nick Lacey
32 Posted 04/02/2020 at 20:42:15
I remember thinking when Man City bought John Stones that they bought the wrong player for the future. Always liked Holgate's tenacity and dirty streak. He always just needed a good run of games. The West Brom loan spell definately helped.
Dennis Stevens
33 Posted 04/02/2020 at 20:43:27
For some strange reason, reading this thread has given me a unexplained urge to watch Zoolander!?!
Darren Hind
34 Posted 04/02/2020 at 21:20:34
"Isn't there one part of my bizarre claim that makes you think, mmm maybe it's worth a second look. I'd encourage a revisit".

Yeah, it's on the to-do list, John... Honest!

Andy Crooks
35 Posted 04/02/2020 at 22:02:41
Mike, fair point, because no-one will be another Bobby Moore. Bobby Moore could not be Bobby Moore today. He was the perfect man for his time. In my view, England would not have won the World Cup without him. Also, I believe he was better in 1970 as were, in my opinion, the England team.

You and I know, Mike, that I am given to hyperbole. There are no half measures, it is all in, be it Duffy or indeed Seamus. But here's what it is for me with Mason Holgate:

He reads the game, a cliche, I know, but watch him, he really does. He can pass inscisively, both right and left, if the options are available. He is athletic, quick over a short distance, calm and confident. He has something about him that John Stones, whom I also compared to Bobby Moore, hasn't. It is hard to define but I will call it presence, or just... IT!

Rooney had it in spades, more than any young player I have ever seen. Rio Ferdinand had it... and a few others I can't recall.

Alan 'Sniffer' Clarke had it back in the seventies. It is just a feeling you have about a player that makes you champion them and defend them to the hilt.

However, just to argue against myself. More than Rooney, more than Stones and Holgate, the best feeling I ever had about a young Everton player was at the Milk Cup. It was Francis Jeffers...

What do I know???.

Tony Hill
36 Posted 04/02/2020 at 22:10:44
He does indeed have something of Moore about him. He will, of course, remain Mason Holgate which is a very good thing.

Moore, incidentally, was capable of errors including, happily, a rather bad one which gifted Alan Whittle the winning goal against West Ham in the 69-70 title season.

Robert Tressell
37 Posted 04/02/2020 at 22:28:33
Holgate is a really good centre-half. Every so often, he'll play defensive midfield and right back. But he's a centre-half. Being able to pass a ball and read the game is a key part of that position in the modern game. He needs a better version of Mina alongside him. Mina might grow into that better version (it's only his first proper season in the Premier League and he's still improving).

What I want to see is more players like Holgate coming through the academy, lower leagues and (don't laugh) Scotland. Young hungry players who feel honoured to play for Everton. We add to them a sprinkling of top quality.

I'm glad we didn't buy Vecino to move the dial ever so slightly. When we spend money it needs to be on younger players who have the potential to be outstanding – not very marginal improvements on Delph. This weird season has been rescued in some ways by seeing Holgate and Calvert-Lewin really grow up and believe in themselves. We need more like them.

Robert Tressell
38 Posted 04/02/2020 at 22:31:23
By the way, Andy, I thought Jeffers was great too. And Michael Ball. Brilliant players and sad we were a mess when they came through.
Mike Gaynes
39 Posted 04/02/2020 at 22:55:41
Brent #17, that cracked me up, but now I'm humming the damn song and can't get it out of my head. I hate you.

John #29, re Holgate being superior to Mina in the air on Saturday, I would point out that every time he went up, Mina was against Deeney. Holgate was against everybody else who was Not Deeney.

Andy #35, the IT that I see in Holgate over Stones is intelligence, or maybe even simple common sense. Stones was confident on the ball, even cocky, sometimes flashing his talent and trying stuff to show everybody how good he was -- thus the mistakes. Holgate has the calm without the show-off element. He stays within his capabilities. Could be it's because he's been so bloodied and humiliated the past couple of seasons, or just because he's a more grounded guy, but I think he's gonna turn out better than Stones has, even with less native talent.

Robert #37, I'm pretty confident that both Mina and Holgate will continue to grow from their first seasons as starters in the Prem. And remember they've only played a handful of games together. As they start to get used to each other, they may turn out to be a CB combo for the future.

Brent Stephens
40 Posted 04/02/2020 at 23:09:38
Take a few puffs, Mike, and you’ll hate me less!
Peter Warren
41 Posted 04/02/2020 at 00:37:26
Never noticed Holgate not being able to play the ball left. I've seen him switch the play right, play through the lines into midfield and range the ball forward and play inside the opposition's right full-back (which I would count okaying it to the left) - eg, against Brighton away.

I will look out for it.

As for a central defender who can only play it to the right full-back, step forward, Michael Keane. Jagielka used to be the same, although thankfully, unlike Keane, he was a superb defender.

Nicholas Ryan
42 Posted 05/02/2020 at 00:46:40
Mason Holgate is like the British electorate: suddenly veering to the right, for no explicable reason!!
Darren Hind
43 Posted 05/02/2020 at 03:19:43
Mike G. You are shameless.

There are plenty of people on here who have been forced to change their opinion of Holgate, but there is also quite a few who dismissed him and are now claiming "I always said he was a good player". You are front and centre of the second group.

When you recently claimed to be the only one on this site saying we didn't need to sign Zouma because we had Mason, I almost fell off my chair laughing. I had many a debate with you last year and you repeatedly dismissed Holgate as a centre-half. When he came back, you repeatedly said he couldn't pass. Now he has demonstrated that he can see, create, and execute a pass and the rest of the team can't, you have latched yourself onto this crackpot idea that he can't pass to the left.

Show me any post anywhere, where you have said this before the game on Saturday? – I bet you can't.

Your problem with Holgate stems from your repeated claim that Mina will prove to be top, top class. Whenever Holgate was complimented by anyone on here, you have seen him as a threat to your prediction. You have always made comparisons to the two players. And in your view (only) Mina always came out on top. Only this week, you were claiming Mina was a better passer. Last week it was he was a better reader of the game. On this very thread, you are arguing the point raised by somebody that Holgate is the better header of the ball.

You will continue to be proved wrong about Mina. No shame in that, we have all been wrong about one player or another... but by first dismissing Holgate and then continually picking imaginary holes in his game in order to make Mina look better, you end up being wrong about both players.

Read the title of the thread. It's a question that will never be asked about Mina.

Deeney isn't a great header of the ball. He is a muscle man who has remarkably made a career out of ruffling the feathers of soft-arsed centre-halves. Mina did not seek him out. It was the other way round. He knew Mina did not have the composure or patience to mark him. He knew Mina would try to climb all over him and give away daft-arsed free-kicks. I guarantee you, next time we play Watford, the journeyman striker will make a bee-line for Big Yerry.

On the question of playing the ball out to the left. I will try one more time, then I'm done.

When a player takes the ball from his keeper on the left side of the box, he will see the overwhelming majority of space and options to his right. If a player takes it on the right hand side of the box, the situation is reversed. Natural footballers are very seldom show-ponies – they play the way they are facing.

Ancelotti has very publicly stated that he does want to play from the back, but he does not want a repeat of the total fucakaroundery we witnessed at Mordor. To say Holgate CHOOSES to play the progressive forward pass into midfield as opposed to playing out crab-like passes to Digne (who will almost certainly give him it back) is not conjecture. It's not mind reading. It's not 'Clairvoyancy'. It's the most basic common sense. An observation that a natural footballer is doing what natural footballers do and he is doing it with the blessing of his manager.

Ancelotti's half-time team-talk – "Look Mason. I've fucking had enough of this. You may have been playing the progressive football I am calling for, and Yes, you may have just played another fantastic half, but You haven't once played the crab ball to Digne... What's the matter? Can't you do it???"


Eric Myles
44 Posted 05/02/2020 at 06:02:38
Peter #41, it's something the commentators particularly drew attention to in our last match.
David Thomas
45 Posted 05/02/2020 at 07:27:01
Neither Mina or Holgate are top class.

We had this last year when we were out the cups and then when there was no pressure on the players and we started winning a few games everyone started to think we just needed a tweak here or there.

Then unsurprisingly when the pressure was back on we didn’t perform.

Let’s wait and see what Mina and Holgate are like over a prolonged period next season when the pressure is back on to truly compete and they are up against Liverpool, City and Tottenham etc and then we can see if they are really improving and if one or both of them can be a key player for us long term in a side hopefully being successful.

Tony Abrahams
46 Posted 05/02/2020 at 07:30:16
Natural footballers are very seldom showponies – “absolutely brilliant shout that Darren” although I'm not always sure they play the way they are facing though!
Mike Gaynes
47 Posted 05/02/2020 at 07:48:33
Darren, the one who is shameless is you. The bollocks, balls and bullshit I'm used to, but please do NOT simply flat-out lie about what I've said in the past. I remember, even if your deep-fried memory is unreliable.

1. I NEVER dismissed Holgate. On the contrary, I have always liked him, and if you look back on my posts from last spring I shared multiple glowing reports about his performance on loan at WBA. I did definitely dismiss his chances at Everton because Silva had clearly, obviously lost confidence in him two seasons in a row, even banishing him permanently to the stands after five games last year. I said he would never get another chance from Silva. I was wrong, although I was right up until October, when circumstances forced Silva's hand and Holgate was finally able to prove himself. But I was also the only one last summer insisting that it would be a waste for Silva/Brands to go after another CB at that time, because Mason could do the job. I openly dismissed our pursuits of Zouma, Rojo at el, and argued constantly with those here who insisted we had to bring Kurt back. I challenge you to find ONE post -- just one -- where I dismissed Holgate.

2. You're drooling like a basset hound over that one superb pass Mason made last weekend ("he can see/create/execute a pass the rest of the team cant"??? So suddenly he's the best passer in the side? Ridiculous!!). Fact is, he improved at West Brom from godawful to decent, and is continuing to improve this season, but he still makes ugly mistakes, like the two scuffs against Norwich and three giveaways in five minutes in the Derby. He has a lot further to go before he can do what "the rest of the team cant". And yes, Mina is a better passer than Holgate, both long and short. His passes are easier to handle and he makes fewer turnovers off them.

3. Hate to call BS on you again, but I never predicted Mina would be a "top, top player." You're simply making that up. What I did predict, multiple times (I found the posts, and you can look 'em up yourself if you want), was that while he would likely have multiple major mistakes the first half of the season as he got used to the Prem, Mina would emerge by midseason as one of the best young CBs in the Prem. I was wrong about the major mistakes -- he's actually made surprisingly few of them -- but I was absolutely right in my prediction. Who among the first-year CBs in the league has improved more over last season or is performing better? Maybe Tomori. That's it.

4. As for Holgate passing the ball mostly to the right, I hadn't really noticed it before. It became obvious Saturday with Digne, wide open out on the left wing and 20 yards advanced, waving his arms on three different occasions as Morgan never even looked that way. Lots of people on the Forum noticed and commented. (You were just an occasional Forum visitor that day or you could have debated the point then.) And, by the way, the NBCSN commentators noticed it too, and chuckled about it.)

5. Your ability to magically discern the thoughts of Holgate, Deeney, Digne and Ancelotti from your remote vantage point in the stand, in front of the TV or orbiting whatever planet you're currently visiting is nothing resembling common sense. It is ESP. Extremely Silly Presumption. I salute the self-cited football expertise required to so assuredly create these fantastical interpretations, but they're not remotely based on fact.

Your fanciful assumptions don't bother me a bit, however. What does bother me is when you deliberately misrepresent what I've written in the past. Which you have done here. I'm able to admit when I'm wrong. How about you?

Tony Abrahams
48 Posted 05/02/2020 at 08:12:21
Football is hard to work out sometimes imo, even if it should be the most simple game in the world, and I say this because, although Everton's results have improved massively, I've been less impressed by Yerry Mina over the last few games I've watched him play.

In saying that, you can't expect everything from a young centre-back, and we must have the youngest pairing in the Premier League at present.

I agree with David @45, but with contradictions everywhere, I also think they are improving as a partnership, hopefully learning from both their own, and each other's mistakes, and it's also quite possible they could become a top-class pairing, given time.

Alan McGuffog
49 Posted 05/02/2020 at 08:28:28
Sometimes it takes a while, and trial and error, to find the best position.

I think John Hurst set out as a centre forward before becoming such an accomplished partner to Labone at the back. Snodin, for me, disappointed in midfield but excelled at full back, as did John Collins.

Ratcliffe was a liability at left back before finding his true role in the centre. Will be interesting but I've a feeling he'll find his mark in a more forward position.

But of course, this being Everton, he'll have to suffer the obligatory hamstring injury first.

Dave Abrahams
50 Posted 05/02/2020 at 09:36:24
Peter(41), that’s the way I’ve seen Holgate play as well, a good player when he first came into the team, made mistakes like most young players, but is getting better as he is playing consistently now and hopefully he will be one of ourcentre backs for the next few years.
Laurie Hartley
51 Posted 05/02/2020 at 10:32:30
He can certainly “play it out from the back” but one thing I find very reassuring about Mason Holgate‘s performances at centre half this season is that he will not hesitate to belt the ball into Row Z when necessary.

If I was comparing him with a player from the 60s, I would say he is more John Hurst than Bobby Moore.

Tony Everan
52 Posted 05/02/2020 at 11:43:53
Fran , it's something I have been thinking about too, where will he have most impact. Centre defence or as a defensive midfielder?

From what I have seen I think Mason could be a brilliant defensive midfielder. He has the poise, control, anticipation, change of speed/direction, tough uncompromising physicality and determination.

Above all he plays with his head up and can read the game. It's these qualities and his quick thinking that are the core attributes of a great Defensive CM, these things along with consistency [which has been so far commendable] are the definition of a class player.

All the great midfielders have that split second of extra time on the ball due to this sharpness of football brain that they have been born with and which has been nurtured. Mason Holgate has been sprinkled with this stardust.

It's still early days and anything could happen with his career, but all the signs are if he continues to work hard and push himself and importantly ignore the inevitable hype, he is going right to the top. He will win things with a resurgent Everton. International honours will be a formality.

A point of issue is who would be playing behind him. It would have to be the right person to allow Mason to flourish as a DCM. If we brought Zouma back to play central defence. With Mason playing in front of him and Mina I think that would be one of the best defensive units in the country. With Digne and JJK as full backs, and Keane waiting for his opportunity.

Re-signing Zouma needs serious consideration as the summer priority signing if Carlo thinks, like a lot of us do, that Mason Holgate could be a first class Defensive CM.

Darren Hind
53 Posted 05/02/2020 at 15:05:13

Lots of people did not (as you falsely claim) pass comment on the live forum. It was only mentioned by John Pierce. You didn't even pass comment yourself. Its a bandwagon you have since jumped on - the forum hasn't been wiped if you want to take a quick scan. When everyone else is praising Holgate. You find reason to have a dig.

I haven't misrepresented you. By your own admission on this very thread You saw Holgate as improving from being "Godawful" ( Really rated him really highly then) to decent. You have repeatedly had a go at him. Even now on this thread you are trying to drag up every error you "CLAIM" he's made.

You are perfectly at liberty to jump on Pierce bandwagon with you ESP jibes, But I know what Ancelotti said because I heard him say it. I know what Deeney did because I saw him do it. I know what Holgate did for the same reason I know what Deeney did.

Rocket science, it ain't

Perhaps that stems from the fact that

Mike Gaynes
54 Posted 05/02/2020 at 15:18:56
Darren, you've misrepresented me again, by taking one sentence out of context. I was talking about Holgate's passing and passing alone in that paragraph, and you know perfectly well that his passing was what I was addressing when I said he improved from godawful to decent at WBA. Not the player overall. If that's what you need to fall back on in order to debate the issue, then this debate is pointless.

We largely agree on Holgate's overall ability, and always have (whether you consider it "shameless" or not), and we largely disagree on Mina, and that's where we will leave it.

Colin Glassar
55 Posted 05/02/2020 at 15:23:14
I think this Darren, Mike, John et al debate needs a VAR ruling.
Mike Gaynes
56 Posted 05/02/2020 at 15:32:49
Tony #52, if we do go that route, there are lots and lots of CBs out there besides Zouma (who has now lost his place at Chelsea), and we have a different manager now, who will have his own opinions and pick his own players. Carlo has no connection to Zouma, whom he never managed, and my guess is that if he does want to sign a new CB, he'll want somebody of higher quality.

Colin #55, only if you're the VAR official. At least we'll get an entertaining ruling.

Brian Williams
57 Posted 05/02/2020 at 16:17:37
Is Jay Wood on holiday or something? :-))
John Pierce
58 Posted 05/02/2020 at 16:42:53
Ooh. I have a bandwagon. That’s exciting. What color? Can you get insurance and most importantly can it turn left?! There’s space for everyone of all opinions. Come on board folks!
Brian Williams
59 Posted 05/02/2020 at 17:03:40
Tony Abrahams
60 Posted 05/02/2020 at 17:07:47
You've got the right idea John, keeping it light-hearted, but I suppose it's the best thing to do because your observation is causing iron-girder!

I would get frustrated playing with Everton's midfielders though. Their instincts are to rarely look forward, they never look to play one-two's, and if things are tight, some of them look to hide behind the opposition, especially away from Goodison Park, and although there is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping things simple, maybe Holgate's head goes at times, because he's expecting more off the players in front of him, and this is possibly when his inexperience might kick-in?

Tony Hill
61 Posted 05/02/2020 at 17:13:11
Laurie @51, John Hurst will do for me if Mason develops into something resembling him. A wonderful player.
Mike Gaynes
62 Posted 05/02/2020 at 17:23:39
I'm on, John! Brought my seat cushion. I hear it's a bumpy ride.
Tony Abrahams
63 Posted 05/02/2020 at 17:29:55
Funnily enough, seat cushions being thrown from the main Stand, was my earliest introduction into Everton, and their great and passionate fans, Mike!
Conor McCourt
64 Posted 05/02/2020 at 17:34:54
Fascinating thread. To make a point that hasn't been made is that so far we haven't seen Mason in his best position this season,which is the position Mina is currently playing.

The whole not passing to the left argument maybe because he's right footed and he likes to be progressive.
I definitely would like a left sided player in the summer and for Mason to be used as his partner or in the midfield depending on the opposition.

Andy, great post about our youngsters.

Paul Tran throw away your docket- Chacun pour soi is a machine. He just hammered Min who loves the track and he dis Defi when he was only a novice.

Great stuff between Mike and Darren and some great points on both sides regarding the two CB's.

Ray Roche
65 Posted 05/02/2020 at 17:36:03
Mike, you've stolen my thunder there. I have been meaning to state for a while that, with all the posters on here talking about Zouma, his may well be a ship that's sailed. Ancellotti has no link to him and he no doubt has ideas in a different direction, after all, Zouma was the choice of the previous incumbent and all the stars aligned for Kurt. He was excellent for us but he's not pulling up any trees at Chelsea. I would be surprised if Ancellotti considered him to be the answer to our defensive “problems“.

I also mentioned on TW ages ago that I considered DM to be Stones best position. Less opportunity to make costly mistakes. I also think that Holgate might be our best player in that position. He has an elegance about him and his reading of the game has improved impressively. I expect wealthier clubs to have noticed and would not be surprised if the likes of Man City, Chelsea etc were to try to prise him away.

John Pierce
66 Posted 05/02/2020 at 17:40:15
Tony, there is no other way! I learnt early on after a scuffle or two to largely stay clear. Twenty years ago I’d have fought to the death! The web is great but tone and intent are lost and easily misconstrued. I’m not getting into CAPS, “quotes”, and bolding of letters. Oh I just did, FFS Jp!

Your point about the midfield was one I was trying to develop. Frequently we passing into players who are really the weakest part of the team. I doubt many would argue our central midfielders collectively rank any better than a bottom six team. They barely have an assist or goal between the lot of them.
Delph who really had a shocker Saturday frequently played with his back to goal. Sadly asking a guy who was a bit part player, with a recurring injury record to play more game than we thought has bitten us firmly on the bum. His poor attitude has possibly been the worst part of the sorry tale.

Digne despite playing below the standard he’s set has 5 assists to his name. My money would be passing to him to make better things happen and let our water carriers in the midfield do the graft. Our better players are on the flanks, I’d use the middle just as pivots until we get some quality in there.

I’m sure Mason will have checked in on TW realized his error! The bandwagon has themed snacks. Wagon wheels and Blue Ribband choccy biscuits!!! All aboard!

Mike Gaynes
67 Posted 05/02/2020 at 17:42:12
Slightly off-topic but an interesting perspective on Ancelotti:

Antonio Bartolomucci is one of the most respected Italian football journalists for many years (and a famously ugly guy, looks like Gérard Depardieu on a bad day). This week he was interviewed on a radio network called Kiss Kiss Napoli and said this:

“Let’s face it, Carlo Ancelotti is the greatest living Italian coach, among the best in the world. You see what he’s doing at Everton? For me he’s better than Gattuso and Antonio Conte, there’s no doubt he’s stronger than them and has more experience. But he has one flaw: he’s very “Milanese” in one respect. When he sees a flaw he doesn’t correct it right away, he lets go and then fills it in later. Unlike Gennaro Gattuso. The current Napoli coach is generous, he attacks you and then immediately hugs you, but immediately corrects mistakes, unlike Ancelotti.”

Some folks here have commented that Carlo doesn't seem to make immediate changes even when the problems seem obvious. The comments from a journalist who has covered him for years makes it clear that this is no aberration -- it's Carlo's style. The more impatient among us are just going to have to get used to it.

John Pierce
68 Posted 05/02/2020 at 17:47:30
Mike, you see his manner with the players and his reactions, not too high not too low in the face of crazy results.
He is exactly what we need, it’s given the players a consistency they’ve not had for some time. I also think the Everton ether has settled down just be he is Carlo Ancellotti.
That’s not a free pass but certainly an endorsement, more cool aid arrived today.
Mike Gaynes
69 Posted 05/02/2020 at 17:52:59
Ray #65, I remember you posting that years ago, and chuckling at it. In retrospect, given Stones' current situation, you may very well have been right. As to whether that might be true for Holgate, I'd like to see a sample size larger than one game.

Tony #63, I remember seeing old black-and-white film of that. Always found it hilarious. That famously happened in an NFL playoff game as well, about 30 years ago in Washington DC. To celebrate a touchdown, 80k people slung their free promotional cushions. Looked like a colorful invasion of giant locusts. Took about 15 minutes to resume the game. And never again has any team in America repeated that particular giveaway.

Mark Guglielmo
70 Posted 05/02/2020 at 17:55:12
Hello everyone, it's been a bit.

I took a couple month's break and just wanted to pop in to say hello.

On topic: Mason is amazing and I genuinely hope he's our long-term captain, soon. It may be covered above, but I want him to stay at centre-back, not central midfield.

Cheers all, hope (most of) you are enjoying the turnaround since Carlo joined us.

Darren Hind
71 Posted 05/02/2020 at 18:47:58
John 58

Maybe bandwagon is stretching it a little. After all, only Mike who has jumped on - belatedly. Perhaps a tandem ?

Kudos to you though. when I looked back at the forum after Mikes post, I noticed you'd made the claim FIVE times by half time.
That's impressive determination and should deffo earn you the right to choose the colour.

No bandwagon, but you and Mike.Sure look neat. Upon the seat. Of a bicycle made for two

Bill Gienapp
72 Posted 05/02/2020 at 19:01:17
I also agree that the Zouma ship has sailed. He thrived under Silva, but Silva is long gone. He hasn't been particularly good this season and Chelsea would no doubt be keen to get us to overpay. There are other, better options out there.
John Pierce
73 Posted 05/02/2020 at 19:13:40
Aww crap Darren. I’ve ordered the bumper-stickers too; ‘Left is best’ ‘Go left’

You can however have a ’Backsie’ if you change your mind! UTFT!

Dave Abrahams
74 Posted 05/02/2020 at 19:18:08
Mike (67), that’s a very serious flaw Mr. Ancelotti seems to have, if a player has a flaw, why not tell him immediately, what’s he waiting for? The player concerned can’t correct the flaw unless he knows about it, and, it seems to me, the quicker he is told about it, the quicker he can try and fix it.
Brent Stephens
75 Posted 05/02/2020 at 19:19:06
Mike, does a tandem beat a unicycle?
Ray Roche
76 Posted 05/02/2020 at 19:36:10

Kudos to your memory! You’re probably the only guy on TW that remembers anything I’ve ever posted and I include myself in that.
To me, Stones has “ lost his way” at City. His big money move may have done wonders for his bank account but his career has grounded. He’d be better off dropping to a none CL club and playing every week and becoming the player we all thought he would become instead of the bench warmer he is at City.
I hope Holgate doesn’t just chase the cash if the likes of City try to entice him away. He’ll become a better player at Everton under Ancellotti. At DM or CB.

Mark Guglielmo
77 Posted 05/02/2020 at 19:44:06
Dave 74 - I'm reading Carlo's autobiography and despite what Antonio Bartolomucci says (I've personally never heard of him but I'll take Mike's word for it), that isn't his style at all.

He immediately identifies any issues or flaws and then works directly with his coaching staff and the player himself to correct it, during training. I wasn't entirely clear on the quote above though, which would appear to indicate that he sees a flaw, shrugs his shoulders, and comes back to it sometime next month. Nothing could be further from the truth. If he's saying this about in-game management, I've personally never seen that happen but, then again, I'm not privy to what he sees as an issue.

Mentioning Ancelotti in the same sentence as Gattuso and Conte is borderline treason, lol!

John Pierce
78 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:01:03
Ray. I’m not sure on the details but I believe Stones has had a very tough time with his personal life. He’s a shell of the player he was before the off field stuff happened.
Steve Ferns
79 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:11:57
Thanks for the quote, Mike #67

Dave #74, have you considered that if you do what Gattuso does then you can achieve the opposite of what you want to achieve? By immediately correcting a flaw, you can unsettle the morale of players, the balance of the team, or simply create another problem elsewhere.

If Carlo's approach is to slowly correct it, then he can keep everything good in tact, but then work to correct the flaw without the adverse consequences. Rino Gattuso is mentioned and it's worth noting that he's yet to achieve anything of note in his managerial career, to date his best achievement is to get AC Milan to 6th amidst off the field turmoil, but they ultimately sacked him. He's had a bad time of it, slipping into Carlo Ancelotti's shoes in Naples, but the last two games have seen wins over Juventus and Sampdoria, so they might have just turned the corner. The turnaround coming after Everton-linked Allan dropped out of the side and also without Chucky Lozano.

Duncan Adams
80 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:16:35
In Ancelloti’s first match against Burnley he played Seamus Coleman at right back of a back four when defending, moving to right centre back of a three in attack. I thought Holgate would be the ideal candidate for this position if Ancelotti persevered with this approach.

However, more than happy to see Mason continue his progress at centre back and I think that’s where he will settle long term.

Paul Tran
81 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:17:20
Conor #64. It's going to take a exceptional horse to beat Defi Du Seuil, winner at the last two Cheltenhams. Chacun Pour Soui may be that horse, but beating Min is no yardstick for Cheltenham.
I'll stick with my annual money-spinner Defi, though its going to be a cracker of a race!
Ray Roche
82 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:17:47
John, I read quite some time ago that he’d been caught “sowing his seed in the wrong meadow” so to speak, so, if that’s the case, no sympathy from me.
If all you have to do is train hard, do your best, and keep away from temptation for a few years while some bugger pays you £5m a year and you can’t manage it. loads of regular people are struggling with personal problems without the cushion of a bulging bank account.
If his problems are of a family or health perspective then that’s another matter.
Brent Stephens
83 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:22:23
Not sure if this has been posted yet


Dave Abrahams
84 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:22:49
Steve(79), you might be right, but there are ways of telling the player, quietly on his own, where/ or what he is doing wrong, without upsetting him. Most players would be happy to listen to a very experienced and successful manager and try to erase the fault, considering it could make them a better player, for the team and themselves.
Steve Ferns
85 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:24:37
Ray, I believe it is. He left his wife and baby and shacked up with someone new. He was in the tabloids for trying to turf her out of the family home so he and the new girl can move in. As you said, no sympathy from me either.
Brian Harrison
86 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:24:50
I read an article by Mason Holgate and he said the player he likes to model himself on is Sergio Ramos, well if he turns out half as good as him he will be very pleased. I think it is a tribute to the lad that he can comfortably play in a defensive midfield role or as a centre back.

I like him at centre back, a big plus for me his ability to read a game. Many in that position tend to react to situations, but to be able to read a game as well as he does is a rare talent for a centre back. He also has good pace another plus for a centre back, I think it was Zoumas pace that helped when he partnered Michael Keane who has no pace. I am sure Ancelotti will have been very pleased with Mason so far, and Mason can only get better working under Ancelotti.

Steve Ferns
87 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:26:59
Does the quote say he’s unable to do that Dave? I don’t believe so at all. I think it simply refers to major flaws, eg Silva’s zonal marking. Carlo won’t wade in and rip it up and change everything, instead he will slowly work on the flaw until it is corrected and if changes had to be made they would be slow and gradual and not a complete revamp.

Maybe Mike can clarify with reference to the original article?

Mike Gaynes
88 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:29:05
Dave #74, I think every manager has to choose the style of managing that works best for HIM. Diego Simeone, for example, has a completely different, more confrontational and fiery approach, willing to dress down a player right on the touchline, and that has worked for him and his club. But Carlo's more patient, scholarly approach has certainly produced unmatched results.

Brent #75, a few posts ago it was a bandwagon, now it's a unicycle. From four wheels down to one is a very discouraging trend. One more post and I'm gonna be sitting on my ass on the ground, waving a little flag.

Steve #87, I posted the entire quote from the radio interview, so I have no further information, but I think you've got it right.

Brian #86, I read an article probably two years ago that said Holgate was Everton's fastest player at the time. That was before the arrivals of Walcott and Richarlison, so it's probably no longer true, but he's certainly among the paciest we have, and you're right, that's another reason to prefer him in the back.

Conor McCourt
89 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:30:17
Fair Play Paul he will definitely be first or second but to beat Min on a going day only Altior has done that as comprehensively and that was at Cheltenham which I don't think suits Min.

I agree with you it will take an exceptional horse to beat rock solid defi and I believe Chacon is...his jumping is electric and like you I can't wait for it.

Brent Stephens
90 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:34:04
Never met you, Mike, but I now have this image of you and unicycle
John Pierce
91 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:34:04
Imagine if we’d signed Zouma would Holgate even be at the club? He certainly wasn’t a favourite of Marco
Steve Ferns
92 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:39:24
John, so why did Silva go into the season with Keane, Mina and Holgate as the only centre-halves, knowing both had had significant injury issues over the previous two seasons? The inference being that Silva was going to be playing Holgate as you could not expect them to be fit for every game because neither has ever been fit for every game.
Mike Gaynes
93 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:41:54
John #91, I've mentioned that before, and I think it's a very real possibility. And we're gonna come out ahead, because Mason will be a better player.

Steve and Ray, here's the Stones article:

"It was reported that Stones's poor play could be a result of alleged trolling by his fellow players over his new relationship with Ms Naylor. The player's new romance is alleged to have been widely discussed on players' WhatsApp groups, with Ms Naylor well-known on the Manchester party scene and a regular at clubs frequented by rival Manchester United players."

Not good.

John Pierce
94 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:43:58
Steve, you could be right but to that point he'd preferred two tall centre backs, somethings you highlighted several times.

He didn't have a lot of choice either tbf. We know the club wanted Zouma so I history might suggest he'd go with a couple of tall lads. Do you think he'd changed his mind over Holgate?

Conor McCourt
95 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:48:33
Steve, I'm with John. Silva wanted another CB and even when the Keane/Mina axis wasn't working he was very slow to change it. If he really believed in Mason, he would have had him in earlier because his pace was sorely lacking.
Steve Ferns
96 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:51:27
John, if the rumours are true, Silva's second choice after Zouma was Marcos Rojo of Man Utd. He's the same height as Holgate. The smallest centre back he ever bought was also the same height and started for two consecutive seasons at Estoril. I think he likes one of them to be fast.

Zouma is perfect for Silva but Keane and Mina was completely wrong for him. I don't know why he didn't switch to Holgate quicker. There was some hesitation there. But let's remember that Silva played Holgate in for the West Ham home game and since then (Brighton away) he started every game. That was six consecutive games under Silva at centre back.

He also played at centre back in each of the cup games under Silva which hints that Silva was trying to get him ready by giving him game time. So, it looked to me like Silva had more confidence in Holgate.

Tony Abrahams
97 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:52:31
It's obvious why Holgate isn't passing to Digne in his own half now JP, because he knows our midfielders are not going to create much, so he's telling Lucas to get up the pitch where he his dangerous and then he will give him the ball!
Steve Ferns
98 Posted 05/02/2020 at 20:59:32
Tony, Ancelotti is clearly telling the centre-backs to stop going side to side, he keeps saying it, and he gets frustrated on the sidelines when he sees it.

Holgate on the left, with the ball on his right foot has the whole pitch open for him. He's been encouraged to play the ball through or over the lines. That's what Carlo Ancelotti wants to see, he keeps saying it in press-conferences. Under Silva he did pass regularly to Digne and when he went long it was balls over the top, and never through the lines. They tended to be more vertical passes and less of a diagonal.

It should be noted though, Silva tended to play Mina on the left and not Holgate. Ancelotti has made that switch, and I think it is to allow Holgate to be the one on the left to try to make the vertical passes. He can look long to Calvert-Lewin's head, or into the channels for him to run onto, the short ball into midfield is a pass often made, and clearly Carlo likes the ball for Sidibe to run onto and overload down the right.

Ray Roche
99 Posted 05/02/2020 at 21:00:03

It would appear that his antics aren’t appreciated by his team mates then.
Not sure I’d want a tool like him back at Everton.
Thanks for the link.

John Pierce
100 Posted 05/02/2020 at 21:01:09
Tony, I can see that point for sure. I'd wondered if that was the case why Holgate wasn't in Digne's ear when he was limiting his options. You would expect that surely!?

However I do see Lucas waving like a nutter to Mason to pass him the ball...

All eyes on Mason come Saturday! 👀

Peter Neilson
101 Posted 05/02/2020 at 21:33:23
Steve (96) I’m glad we didn’t sign Rojo I think United dug their heels in and wanted £25 m for him rather than a loan and now he’s returned to Argentina on loan. Sometimes the best deals are those that don’t happen.
Mark Guglielmo
102 Posted 05/02/2020 at 21:38:03
Wasn't the number Man Utd wanted about £50M? I could've sworn that's what was reported at the time, though it could've been a made-up source planted by an agent.
Laurie Hartley
103 Posted 05/02/2020 at 21:55:50
Mike # 93 - I seem to recall you and I disagreeing a few years ago, on how far John Stones would go in his career. I thought he would go all the way to the top and end up captaining England.

Sadly it looks unlikely now as it seems he has lost his way. It can happen to anyone.

Let’s hope the people close to Mason Holgate look after him both on and off the pitch.

Too many great players have failed to reach their potential in life due to off field distractions such as booze, gambling, drugs, “etc”.

Andrew Keatley
104 Posted 05/02/2020 at 23:31:43
Steve (92) - Still defending Silva I see, which - sorry - just feels like misplaced loyalty. I think you need to accept that Silva was bad for the club, even if you think it could have all worked out so differently.

As far as Holgate is concerned, Silva (and Brands) were scrambling for a new centre-back at the tail-end of the summer transfer window, and only dubious planning/negotiating/executing meant we ended up without one. Silva deserves credit for developing DCL and continuing (on the whole) to show faith in him - but there just isn’t the same story there with Holgate, to the extent that other clubs (Sheffield United were one) were allegedly already queueing up to make offers in the January window. Silva was not backing Holgate as one of his three first-choice centre-backs by anything other than default.

Derek Thomas
105 Posted 06/02/2020 at 00:53:37
I see Holgate as a 70/30 centre half / DMF. In a back 4 if it (the ball) drops short or becomes loose in between the back 4 and up to and including the MF somebody has to get it.

Back in the day we were taught the football equivalent of the 3Rs - The 3 Gs; or, 4 dependeing on how technical your teacher was.
This works from front to back, all over the pitch.
Get it (the ball that is) Give it, Go...and the 4th G - Get it back. Rinse and repeat.

One Centre Half goes, one covers, Holgate is the '3Gs' guy who 'Goes', 'Gets it' and 'Gives it'

Conor McCourt
106 Posted 06/02/2020 at 01:01:49
Steve 98,

My memory is terrible but I thought from recollection that Mina only played on the left of a back five under Silva, ie, Liverpool, Leicester City. When he played with the four Mason was normally there? I thought Mina was moved to the right when Keane got dropped.

Mike Gaynes
107 Posted 06/02/2020 at 01:11:17
Laurie #103, I sorta remember that too, although I had that debate with numerous folks here around the time he left.

I still don't know why, because I was dazzled by his talent, and he gave me a memorable thrill with the top-corner chip penalty against Juve, but I just didn't feel he was going to be great. Something was missing. And I thought £50 million for him was a brilliant piece of business, the smartest thing (maybe the only smart thing) Koeman/Walsh ever did for us.

Stones is, however, only 25... so there's still time for him to resurrect his reputation and get back in the England picture if he pulls his head out of his doggie door sometime soon.

Darren Hind
108 Posted 06/02/2020 at 04:23:50
John Stones has been plagued by injury. Last season I posted several quotes directly from Pep himself talking about how important he was to his system and plans and how frustrating it was that he couldn't get him on the pitch for a run of games. This season has been a mirror image of last for Stones. He has only started about ten games.

The reason England have been so crap, for so long is (imo) because we have not been able to produce central defenders who can play – cultured footballers whose ability hastens what we now refer to as transition. From an early age, our boys are drilled to by unqualified idiots "Get rid of the fucker". We admire stoppers, lighthouses. No nonsense Row Z merchants.

It seems our really cultured Centre halves seem to be blighted by the same problem. Ledley King was plagued with injury, so too was Johnathon Woodgate. Is that just coincidence? The best centre-half I ever saw (bar none) was a willful Irish pisshead who managed to carve out a semi-decent career with Man United and Villa, by virtue of the fact that they excused him from training for years.

Steve F @98

You may think you are simply relaying the message Ancelotti has repeatedly given, However! Posts such as yours will be considered quite mystical among our blue brothers over the pond. I'm already "The Amazing Kreskin"... But by quoting Ancelotti almost word for word, you are showing very definite signs of possessing "The gift".

You're not the seventh son of a seventh son are you?

You're right of course. Holgate used to piss me off with his predictable one-dimensional crab passes to Digne back when Siva's tactics were taking us to hell in a handcart... or was it a bandwagon?

Paul Tran
109 Posted 06/02/2020 at 17:33:42
Stones has been unlucky with injuries, but he make a mistakes, loses concentration and Pep wants results now, I'm not sure he'll wait much longer for him to improve.

Wouldn't surprise me if all the people who moan about us signing 'other people's rejects' are in a quandary when Stones is up for sale. Would we? Should we?

Not really interested in the Holgate passing left debate, but Kreskin? Now that takes me back!

I'm looking forward to the new astrology column in the Echo - 'Hind-sight'

John Pierce
110 Posted 06/02/2020 at 17:45:16
PT. I'd take Stones back in a heartbeat, but would it be at the expense of Holgate? Both need a physically dominant centre back partner to play with.

Stones was great with Jagielka and Kompany not so great when he was forced to be the lead guy.

I sense Arsenal might be his destination and we are beneath him. However, given his off-field travails, Everton would be ideal for him. The lack of spotlight from the national beady eye would help, at Arsenal that would still very much be the case.

John G Davies
111 Posted 06/02/2020 at 17:48:29
A few years ago I posted that I thought Holgate would end up the better player out of him and Stones. I then thought Mason's progress stagnated. The improvement this season is great to see. He is proving me wrong with his progress.

I'm not getting into the Stones argument. Suffice to say Man City will buy centre-halves in the summer. Stones won't play a lot of games under Pep next season. If he is still there that is.

Paul Tran
112 Posted 06/02/2020 at 18:16:50
Yes, John, I was happy to take the money for him and I'd be happier to take him back, for the right price. He strikes me as someone who would do better with us, especially under Ancelotti. But for him to be effective, we'd need people in centre mid to take the ball and run forwards. Until that point, we'd be better off with a hoofer to bypass midfield!
Dennis Stevens
113 Posted 06/02/2020 at 18:36:14
Semi-decent, Darren? Many players would envy his career.

I've always thought it remarkable that he won the PFA Players Player of the Year award a few years after leaving Manchester United when they thought he was finished due to the problems with his knees – but he played on for the best part of a decade after. What a player.

Terry White
114 Posted 06/02/2020 at 18:38:46
As previously mentioned, John (#110) and Paul (#112) - I wonder what #111 says? - I would take Stones back, at the right price and if he can sort out his off-field problems, a big "if", and use him as the defensive midfielder. With his reading of the game plus his ball skills, I have been advocating this for him even before he left for Man City.

As has been said many times, he makes mistakes, but he is a high quality player in short supply and we should be able to accommodate both Mason and John in a side for the future. Or do we prefer Schneiderlin in that role? I would be quite happy, however, to have Holgate in that role if we have a solid middle of the defence.

Darren Hind
115 Posted 06/02/2020 at 19:19:41
I said 'semi-decent', Denis, because the mind boggles at what he could have been. He had something like nine operations on his knees. He was an alcoholic. Sir Alex used his knee problems as a reason for getting rid of him, but the truth of the matter is, he couldn't control him off the pitch. Nobody could.

My favourite memory of him was a World Cup match when Ireland lined up against the mighty Italians. He actually hobbled onto the pitch... I looked at him wondering why the fuck the Irish camp would play a man who could barely walk. I was expecting an almighty spanking for the Irish, but he went on to give the most brilliant of defensive performances I've seen and the boys in green triumphed.

As you say; What a player. If you didn't read his autobiography when it came out, make it your business to find a copy now. You won't be able to put it down.

Darren Hind
116 Posted 06/02/2020 at 19:29:53
Just seen the book is Readily available on Amazon.

"Back from the brink"

Dennis Stevens
117 Posted 06/02/2020 at 19:43:52
Thanks Darren, I'll get straight on it. I heartily agree that he could have achieved so much more were it not for the issues that plagued him. However, he still achieved a great deal & all the more remarkable for the circumstances in which he did so. One of those players I wished we'd signed back in the day. As I recall, we brought in Whiteside & Keown around the same time McGrath left United for Villa & I thought he was better than the two of them put together.
Jim Jennings
118 Posted 06/02/2020 at 21:10:00

I’m with you on Paul McGrath. That performance he gave against Baggio & Signori in 94 is the best individual defensive performance I’ve ever seen. All the more remarkable by the knee problems, alcoholism and also a shoulder injury he had that day. As an Irishman in his early teens at the time, I’m surely biased but that was incredible. He’s incredibly popular in Ireland and there’s a genuine affection for him among fans because he’s such a genuinely lovely fella and of course the hardship he’s hard to endure. And to think Ferguson tried to pay him off so he would retire. Five years later he was players player of the year at 33 or 34, from memory.

On the John Stones debate you are and were right about his injury issues last season. I think however there’s more to it than that as others have alluded to. I hope he gets his mojo back because when City were rampant two seasons ago, he was exceptional. I thought he added physicality to his game to go with his ball playing skills. I would have him back in a heartbeat.

Paul Tran
119 Posted 06/02/2020 at 21:19:58
It's a cracking book, Darren, and he was a super player, especially as he had no knees and was frequently in an, ahem, altered state when he was playing. It shows how much the really good footballers go on instinct.

Years ago we were over in Dublin for a long weekend. Nelson Mandela was in town at a big rally. There was a huge crowd, and when he appeared on stage, the roar went up, 'Ooh ah, Paul McGrath's Da!'

Now that is a true football legend!

Robert Tressell
120 Posted 06/02/2020 at 21:46:01
There seems to be a theme of cultured centre-halves and booze. Maybe cultured players and booze. Saw Woodgate in Ibiza once. Cracking player but not a fan. Hopefully our young lads are on the straight and narrow. Convinced it's booze that leads to many injuries. It interferes with rest and recuperation and recovery.
Paul Tran
121 Posted 06/02/2020 at 22:16:13
Yes Robert, not just in football. James Hunt had a very interesting life off the Grand Prix track and John McEnroe spent his first two or three Wimbledons going on the piss with The Pretenders.

There's something about innate talent making things 'too easy', leading to extracurricular activities. If I'm honest, I always liked the skilful mavericks and miss their like these days. They were the men you paid to watch that gave you great memories.

Tony Abrahams
122 Posted 07/02/2020 at 07:17:19
Funny story Paul, even if, “the see no evil, hear no evil” do gooders, would be absolutely fuming at that genuinely funny Irish wit, if it happened in these robotic days? Some people would take the fun out of anything, especially the maverick, another thing that is sadly lacking in these modern times!

That must have been some performance from McGrath, Darren and Jim, with my own personal best ever defensive performance coming from Ashley Cole, when Chelsea, went down to ten men at the Nou Camp, and came back from two goals down, and a person who I’d never liked, produced an absolute masterclass, of defensive inspiration, just like Richard Gough did, the last time Everton won at Anfield.

Stones, is a great footballer imo, but I think he’s made a proper fool of himself, and possibly lost a lot of respect from his team-mates, and I wonder if he’s got the strength of character to get over this considering Evertonians, once had him crying in a service station?

Steve Shave
123 Posted 07/02/2020 at 08:12:10
Hi Tony 122 what is that story about Stones crying in a service station? Not heard it. I like him but would be on too much now and Mason shaping up to be better. I fully expect EFC to announce Mason and DCL contract extensions at the same time in the morning of a game.
Ray Roche
124 Posted 07/02/2020 at 08:53:02
Paul, Tony,

Yes, the Mavericks of sport certainly brighten up the game and get you off your seats. Sadly that same Maverick trait can ruin careers and prevent players from really fulfilling their potential. One of the greatest players ever was out of top flight football at, what, 27? George Best. How great would it have been to be able to watch his genius for another few years, instead, he ended up turning out for teams like “SeaBee” and Hong Kong. Entertainers like Stan Bowles and the great McGrath had the flaw in their character that allowed demons like alcoholism and gambling addiction to interfere with their lives during and after their careers.
And Tony, I’m not one of the do gooders you refer to, just someone who would have loved to have seen more of their God given talents.

Tony Abrahams
125 Posted 07/02/2020 at 11:06:25
No argument from me Ray, because the same flaw affected the greatest player I have saw play. Diego Maradona, also had that self destruct button, but look what he did for both his country, and Napoli, although I think the city of Naples, ended up playing a massive part in his downfall.

Doing what you’re born for is natural, until the devil and his disciples, come and introduce you to the other side of life. Ask Andy Van Der Meyde!

Steve, Stones was getting stick off a few fans because it looked like he wanted to leave, and he burst into tears, with a senior player having to console him, and tell the fans to leave him alone. He must be tougher now emotionally, because I bet you he takes a lot of stick when his backs turned, for leaving his childhood sweetheart, for someone who has been both round the block and on the scene for years?

Conor McCourt
126 Posted 07/02/2020 at 11:33:01
Interesting stuff about McGrath and Best. Linked to the PC world debate is that I've always felt both those players didn't get the recognition they deserved because of the highlife.

McGrath is seen as a hero by the working man in Ireland but other greats and not so great get more kudos and media jobs etc yet there is nobody more loved and admired by the ordinary man. The same when they eventually gave Best credit after years of neglect by naming Belfast City airport after him. It nearly didn't happen because of the outcry over his personal life.

Tony Abrahams
127 Posted 07/02/2020 at 12:39:32
I’m sure it’s much more gratifying to be loved by the normal man on the streets Conor, although it probably doesn’t help when you’re personality is addicted to demons!

If I was Paul McGrath, I’m sure I would sooner see my name cropping up on genuine football websites, especially if I was getting praise off genuine football supporters, whose teams I’ve never represented, rather than a journalist who possibly couldn’t kick a football down a hill, and is full of his own self-made importance?

Ray Roche
128 Posted 07/02/2020 at 12:48:50
Tony, I'm sure it must be gratifying to know that you have the respect of your fellow man, but it's sad to see former great players having to sell their medals, shirts etc. because their addiction, whatever, has robbed them of their treasures. And I'm sure the list of great entertainers is riddled with players who are skint or troubled by alcoholism or gambling debts. Tragic.

What would Best be worth in today's inflated market? If he'd looked after himself like Ronaldo has who would the public look at as being “The Greatest”?
Maybe an item for its own thread?

Tony Abrahams
129 Posted 07/02/2020 at 13:06:53
You speak a lot of sense Ray, but the one thing my mother has always said, is that when the beer is in, the wit is out, especially for people who love having fun, I suppose?

It would make a great thread Ray. I listened to talk-sport once and they were comparing Best and Giggs. No comparison to most callers, who said Best was on a completely higher level, but who had the best career?

Despicable Giggs by far, but even for someone who never judges, what a horrible human-being he turned out to be.

Tony Abrahams
130 Posted 07/02/2020 at 13:11:22
Talking of this Ray, I was talking to a mate who said Jamie Carragher has been doing pod-casts, and there is an absolutely brilliant one doing the rounds at the minute, with Paul Merson, very frankly, answering a lot of tough questions.
Dave Abrahams
131 Posted 07/02/2020 at 13:30:17
Tony (129), it may be of some interest to you that George Best was signed for Manchester United, as a very player, by Joe Armstrong, a United scout.
Derek Thomas
132 Posted 07/02/2020 at 13:54:54
Ray @ 128; Best did an interview with Parkie and reckoned he could play until he was 50 if he dropped back to sweeper. A slight exaggeration maybe, but given his initial physical shape...a slightly smaller version of Vardy, basically skin and bone, tough as old boots. IF, big if, he had even some of Ronaldo's self discipline, well late 30's at a very high level would be my guess.

But that was never going to happen.

Martin Mason
133 Posted 07/02/2020 at 14:04:20
I'd buy Lallana
Tony Abrahams
134 Posted 07/02/2020 at 14:48:48
I always thought the man who get Best to United, was called Bob Bishop, Dave?

Lallana, is a good shout Martin, he ran us ragged the other week in that cup-tie, but it’s funny the way you’ve just come out with that mate!

Andy Crooks
135 Posted 07/02/2020 at 15:11:28
Conor @ 126. It was indeed controversial when the airport was named after Bestie. I recall one particular letter to the Belfast Telegraph lamenting the fact that the airport was named after "the town drunk".

He's the best player I've ever seen and having met him a really nice, gentle, man.

Brian Williams
136 Posted 07/02/2020 at 15:12:20
Our tainted heroes whether footballers, movie stars, entertainers, prove that fame and fortune doesn't preclude you from being a complete twat or a total idiot, unfortunately.

We've all come across 'em in our working and social life so it's no surprise they exist among the rich and famous as well.

Dave Abrahams
137 Posted 07/02/2020 at 15:30:45
Tony (134), yes Bob Bishop was the man who spotted Best, told Matt Busby “ I think I’ve found you a genius “. Then they must have sent Joe over to have a look at him and convince the family to let George sign for United.
Tony Abrahams
138 Posted 07/02/2020 at 16:04:21
Didn’t know that, but can imagine what it would be like nowadays, if such a young talent was floating about Dave. I was talking to a Charlton coach, a couple of years ago who told me Chelsea, just came and took one of their young players, by offering him a hugh contract.

I’m sure the kids name was Kasey Palmer, and the coach said although he loved it at Charlton, his dad said it would have been stupid for the kid to turn down Chelsea, because they were offering a contract that would have made the kid a millionaire before he was twenty years of age.

It’s fucking ridiculous the money in football, and too much, too soon, is never a good recipe, for keeping a kid on the right track in the long-term.

Dave Abrahams
139 Posted 07/02/2020 at 16:12:44
Tony (138), I’d have paid Chelsea to take you, as long as they guaranteed me you wasn’t coming back.
Tony Abrahams
140 Posted 07/02/2020 at 16:25:09
No guarantees in football Dave, but it would have been an extremely enticing offer that though, one that would have definitely proved that it’s not always about the money!
Brian Harrison
141 Posted 07/02/2020 at 16:33:36

I am afraid the money on offer to youngsters is bordering on the obscene. I heard a guy 12 months ago saying he lived in Cobham by Chelsea's training ground. He said everyday he sees Ferraris, Lamboughinis and every other top of the range sports car you can name, pull into the training ground. But they were driven by 18 year olds who hadn't even played for Chelsea's first team.

So if they can afford these type of cars at 18 you can only imagine the sort of contracts they are on. When I think back to all the great players I saw who were all on the maximum wage of £20 per week. Yes they had crowd bonuses and win bonuses but that was it. Now people can say the clubs exploited those players but the boot is firmly on the other foot now.

Darren Hind
142 Posted 07/02/2020 at 16:46:33
McGrath was brilliant. The best defender I've seen, but George best was genius. No two ways.

Around about the time, Bally, Kendal and Harvey were strutting their stuff. Me arl fella shouted me in and said. get you coat on...Were going to Anfield. I thought he had some sort of mental breakdown. WTF was he talking about ?.
"We're going to see the greatest player in the world"

For some reason (I never bothered to find out what it was ) Man United were playing Arsenal. Mordor was full of Mancs and Gooners .. Imagine that today ?

I'd seen Best before. Twice in the flesh and several times on the box I knew he was brilliant.

We were sitting in crap seats right down the front, but it meant the magician spend long periods no more than 10 yards away. He was even more brilliant than I thought. but what really surprised me and was how hard he was. Arsenal were a notoriously hard team, but fuck me could Best look after himself. often getting his retaliation in first. He dazzled them with the ball and went to war on them when he didnt have it.

I dont think Belfast produced many softies back then. so it shouldnt have come as such a surprise. What is a surprise, is how this part of his game as a younger man is seldom spoken about.

Booze and women had taken the edge of him by the time he reached his mid twenties. The fire had gone out. He was more likely to be sent of for dissent than an attempt to cut his opponent in two.

George Best was one of the few players you could call Genius without fear of contradiction

Mike Gaynes
143 Posted 07/02/2020 at 17:44:16
Darren (#142), I got to watch Best much later from a similar vantage point -- as a sports "journo" I had a sideline pass to shoot video for an NASL game, either in LA or San Jose, can't remember. He was in his 30's by then and not moving much, but he still had the skills.

I remember him flummoxing three defenders right in front of my camera -- just moving the ball around and between them, playing keep-away all by himself for a good 20 seconds while all three kept stabbing at the ball and getting nothing but air. The crowd was laughing out loud.

Finally, of course, one of them got frustrated and whacked him in the leg.

NASL was an absolute godsend to a nascent footy fanatic. Not many people can say they got to see Pele, Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Best and Eusebio play in person. Yeah, they were all sorta past it -- Eusebio must have been close to 40 and his knees were gone -- but it was still a privilege to watch the legends for next to nothing.

Gerard McKean
144 Posted 07/02/2020 at 18:38:10
Darren (#142) and Mike (#143): What's all this deifying of George Best? He was a decent player but that one major flaw he had stopped him short of greatness – he just couldn't pass to his left!
Tony Abrahams
145 Posted 07/02/2020 at 18:47:49
Don't you mean he couldn't pass the boozer on the left, Gerard!
Chris Williams
146 Posted 07/02/2020 at 19:20:50
Who was the player described as not being fit to lace George Best’s drinks?
Brent Stephens
147 Posted 07/02/2020 at 19:51:35
Chris, was it Micky somebody?
Don Alexander
148 Posted 07/02/2020 at 20:00:43
George Best was doing what Messi does without any of the protection long since afforded the skilful ones, on pitches that were rank by December. He did it with seemingly blind ease. I've never seen any other player run with the ball with so few touches of it. It was mesmeric and he always said he trained his ass off as a part to eradicate even a slight weakness, him being naturally right-footed. By the time he was established he was as brilliant with his left. That's called being professional to me.
Dave Abrahams
149 Posted 07/02/2020 at 20:28:01
Brian (141), too much too soon, spoiled a lot of very good players and will continue to spoil many more.

George Best, although not getting anywhere as much as present-day players was well rewarded and deserved every penny of it, but it helped to spoil him having a much longer career, Tom Finney was every bit as good as Best, in my opinion, got very poor wages, buttons in relation to his talent but lasted three times as long as Best, was kicked even more than Georgie but just picked himself up and got on with it.

Different times, of course, and to be honest George's drink problem could have been inherited from his mother, she died from problems caused by her heavy drinking.

Chris Williams
150 Posted 07/02/2020 at 20:48:36
Dave, I remember Tom Finney playing against Brian Labone, for Preston. It must have been about 1958. Round about Brian’s starting with the first team.

I think Brian did better that day but couldn’t swear to it.

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