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Dacourt helps Everton hand despite perils of card
Therein lies the rub. Hugely competitive but certainly not dirty, Dacourt
has rattled up 13 yellows and one red card, a tally that has had him banned
for five games to date. If Dacourt falls foul of David Elleray in today's
inevitably heated Merseyside derby, he will be up before the beak at Lancaster
Gate with the prospect of a fine and another four games on the sidelines.
"I don't think about getting yellow cards now," Dacourt said yesterday afternoon.
"It's part of life. The manager bought me for my game and that includes a
little bit of aggression. I can't change my game just because I get yellow
card after yellow card. I must keep my passion."
Dacourt's words echo those emanating from his compatriots, Arsenal's Emmanuel
Petit and Patrick Vieira, who have complained about English refereeing, stressing
that football remains a physical contact sport. Dacourt agreed. "Before I
came here, I thought you could make hard contact with players in the tackle.
"Now you cannot make hard contact. If you touch someone now, the whistle
goes and it's a yellow card. Before, you used to get a warning first but
now it's a yellow card immediately. That's life. I don't want to speak bad
about referees. I never get a yellow card for dissent or pulling shirts,
just for tackle, tackle, tackle." It is the price of life in the centre-field
It still represents a substantial problem. Against Manchester United recently,
Dacourt was cautioned and then trod so carefully that he allowed a United
runner to create a goal. Roy Keane was not present that day at Old Trafford
but he performed at Goodison and dominated Dacourt's thoughts.
"Ahhhh," Dacourt sighed in admiration. "Roy Keane is the boss on the pitch.
He is an example to us all. He talks all the time. He tells his players to
do this and that. He does not lose the ball. I know Vieira and Petit well
but, for me, Roy Keane is the best player I have played against since coming
Today pits Dacourt against Paul Ince, a contest that might need Elleray's
full attention. "Paul Ince is very good," Dacourt said of the former Inter
Milan man. "If you have played in Italy you must be good because Italy is
very difficult. But I am not afraid of him. He has two feet, two hands, he
is human. I respect him but I'm not afraid of any player."
Dacourt is no stranger to derby-day intensity. "Strasburg-Metz is a big derby.
Strasburg don't like Metz and Metz don't like Strasburg. It's a similar derby
to this one except Everton and Liverpool are in the same city. You can ask
Rigobert Song [Liverpool's former Metz defender] about what happens when
Strasburg and Metz play. It's a very hard game. Tomorrow will be the same."
The football is unlikely to be pretty. Liverpool, the more attractive side,
have not won a derby fixture for five years, with Everton rising more hungrily
to the occasion. In another season of embarrassing under-achievement at both
ends of Stanley Park, today's match counts for so much.
Local bragging rights are not the only things at stake. If a freakish collection
of results unfold at the Dell, the Valley and Ewood Park, Everton could be
second from bottom by 4.50pm. "Whether we are playing Manchester United,
Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool, the approach is the same: we need the points,"
Dacourt continued. "If we beat Liverpool, we have supremacy in the city but
the most important thing is the points."
Dacourt suggested it was only a matter of time before Liverpool, under his
fellow countryman, Gerard Houllier, rose again. "He was national coach when
I played for the under-21s. He is not having any luck at Liverpool but I
know he will do a good job there. I'm sure of that. He just needs a little
As for Everton's Frenchman, Dacourt brushed aside the compliment that he
had proved one of Goodison's few pluses in a hugely disappointing season.
"For me, I prefer the team to be doing better and me to play average. The
most important thing is the team. Our big problem is in attack. We don't
score a lot. Our defence has done very well, we haven't let in a lot of goals."
Only Arsenal (four) and Leeds (seven) have conceded fewer than Everton's
nine at home but Smith's misfiring strike-force have managed only a similar
number of goals at Goodison. Even Nottingham Forest have scored four more
than Everton at home.
"We have a lot of draws [eight] at home - 0-0, 0-0, 0-0," Dacourt recited.
"If we had won those 1-0 we would be in the top five. If Duncan Ferguson
had stayed, it would have been better. Defenders are afraid of him and he
scored a lot. It was a big error of the [former] chairman [Peter Johnson]
to sell Duncan to Newcastle."
Although frustrated by Ferguson's departure, Dacourt played on, showing his
typical determination while relying on conversations with Vieira, Bernard
Lambourde, Marc Keller and Remi Garde to steer him through any awkward patches.
"It's difficult to adapt quickly when you arrive in another country and another
style of football," said Dacourt. "Before I came, I spoke a lot to Pat [Vieira].
He helped me prepare for the game and the life in England."
Dacourt has settled in well on and off the field. "I live over the water,
on the Wirral. Mark Wright, the old player of Liverpool, is my neighbour."
Like many of the overseas players, Dacourt has explored his temporary domicile.
"I have been to London, which is a beautiful city. Manchester is more beautiful
"I think the most important thing for people in Liverpool is not the city
but the football clubs. It's incredible. People live for the football here.
I have a lot of respect for this." Evertonians have a lot of respect for
Dacourt, which would rise even further if he can help Smith's troubled team
upset the neighbours today.
Harvey the happy harvester
Alex Hayes meets the old boy nursing the new boys of Goodison
Manchester United? Arsenal? Liverpool? Actually, it is the blue half of
Merseyside, Everton, who won the Youth Cup last year and have reached the
last eight this season, after beating Sheffield Wednesday 3-1 on Monday.
While their more illustrious colleagues are struggling in the Premiership,
the "Baby Toffees" are dominating the nursery game, like the grown-ups last
did in the Eighties. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that the
man leading the present mission "to have a team that is full of Scouse
kids" was at the heart of the last.
Colin Harvey joined Everton as an apprentice in 1962 and made 384 League
and cup appearances for them. After retiring in 1976, he took charge of the
youth set-up helping to nurture the talents of such youngsters as
Steve McMahon, Paul Lodge and Kevin Ratcliffe before Howard Kendall
appointed him first-team coach. Together, they masterminded the Eighties
Eighteen months ago, the Everton board offered Harvey the opportunity to
rejoin the club he had left in 1993, in order to run their new Youth Academy.
"I had no hesitation in returning," said Harvey, now 55, at the Bellefield
training ground. "The club had ambitious plans for the youth team, and I
believed I could do the job."
Having made his first-team debut at the age of 18, in the European Cup against
the great Internazionale side of the early Sixties, Harvey is ideally placed
to appreciate the difficulties a young player faces. "As I went through every
stage at the club, I suppose it does give me an insight into what's needed
and how the kids are feeling," he admitted. "I guess it rubs off."
Harvey's influence will be evident at St James' Park today when Everton meet
Newcastle in the FA Cup. Both Danny Cadamarteri and Francis Jeffers have
recently broken through, while Michael Ball and Richard Dunne have already
made an impact. Despite his obvious success, Harvey shies away from the limelight
much as he did for three years when he managed the senior side after Kendall's
departure in 1987. "Being Youth Cup champions is not the be-all and end-all.
Our job is to get players to the first team," he insisted. "When a kid arrives
here, he is basically raw material. Then we mould him into an Everton player:
someone competitive who can play attractive football.
"That's the job, really. Doing well in youth competitions is a bonus. What
you strive for is a bunch of lads who aren't just going to do well for a
season, but will be consistent," continued Harvey, who is a keen supporter
of manager Smith. "We get on smashing," he said. "The fact that he's putting
my players in the team proves that."
Comparisons with the Manchester United youngsters are possibly premature,
though Harvey seems flattered. "That's what you want. Ideally, you would
like to have a team that is full of Scouse kids, who have been with the club
since they were nine, and all want to stay with us until they finish their
careers," he said passionately.
But while Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Gary Neville were integrated into
a winning side, the fruits of "Harvey's Harvest" are being thrust into a
fight against relegation. "It's always difficult to introduce young players
to the first team. Ideally, you would like to play them in a stable situation
and blood them gradually. But they wouldn't be in the side if Walter didn't
think they were good enough."
Not that any of his players have looked out of place. "Lads like Ball and
Cadamarteri may have had to make the step up a little bit earlier than most,
but they have established themselves in the team now, and are there on merit,"
insisted Harvey. As for Jeffers, the 18-year-old who is sinking his teeth
into that most difficult of tasks, scoring goals for Everton, little seems
to faze him. After scoring the equaliser against Wimbledon last weekend,
he remarked: "How can it bother me playing in front of 35,000 at Goodison
when I've played in front of 70,000 Germans for England Schoolboys?" Oh,
So, while Arséne Wenger is buying young players abroad, Harvey is
more than happy grooming local talent. "To find good players you need to
look as comprehensively as possible. I can understand why Arsenal go out
to France and pay a small amount now rather than £5m in the future,
but I am delighted with the British lads. The important thing is for us to
teach them good basic technique. If we can do that, the rest will follow."
For Harvey, the dream is simple. "It would be lovely if, in four years' time,
the Everton team made up entirely of local lads were playing
in the European Cup," he enthused. If the club can solve the boardroom struggles,
and resist the urge to change managers again, his blue vision might yet become
Buoyant Barmby looks to future
A fortnight ago Barmby's admiration for Peter Beardsley dictated that he
treated the near 400-mile round trip between his Warrington home and St James'
Park as a pilgrimage. "It was Peter's testimonial and, as he's always been
my hero, I went up to Newcastle," said Everton's attacking midfielder over
a pot of tea at Bellefield, the Merseysiders' training ground.
Hyped as "the new Beardsley", Barmby bonded with the original when the pair
were England room-mates before Euro 96. Putting young pretenders and old
masters in such close proximity often provokes jealousy and insecurity, but
the newcomer was soon at ease.
"With the press making a big thing of it being me or Peter for a place in
the squad there could have been an atmosphere between us, but he was fantastic,"
he said. "Peter's given me a lot of advice. He loves the game so much, he
can't let go, which is why he's turning out for Hartlepool."
But why is Barmby, formerly of Tottenham and Middlesbrough and twice the
subject of £5m-plus transfers, playing for defensively-orientated, goal-shy,
relegation-flirting Everton at Derby County today? Why is he out of an England
side he once illuminated?
This, remember, is a son of Hull who Pele predicted would become a world
star. Somebody whose magnetic two-footed control, inventive passes and
defence-debilitating changes of pace wowed Jurgen Klinsmann at Tottenham
before ensuring he either scored or created every goal Bryan Robson's
Middlesbrough registered in the first 12 games of their 1995-96 Premiership
"My ambition is to get back into the England team but I try to block frustration
out," said Barmby. "I know it hasn't gone that well but I've never had one
regret about moving to Everton. There is something about this place that's
really special, the people are very friendly and I don't want to leave.
"I've been very impressed with Walter Smith's management, he's stamped his
authority on the club and is hard but fair. Considering everything that has
gone on at board level, the dressing-room spirit is surprisingly good. But
it is going to take the manager time to get things sorted and he's started
by making defence the priority."
Appreciating that life is too short to waste on residual bitterness when
he harbours far more reasons for contentment than most, Barmby tries to keep
things in proper perspective. "I know my goals have dried up and I need to
start scoring again but I still enjoy football, still love the game. I consider
myself very lucky to have my hobby as my job."
Capable of volleying outstanding training ground goals, his penalty area
positioning can betray him in matches, but he explains that Everton's necessarily
defensive emphasis presently cramps his preferred style. At 5ft 7in and 11st,
Barmby excels at dropping off physically imposing strikers and exploiting
space between midfield and attack, but Everton's shoestring frontline resources
demand that he sometimes serves as an ersatz centre-forward.
Mustering elbow grease has never been a problem for a player who insists
his principal quality is "giving 100%" but pre-Smith he contended with the
loss of Joe Royle, the manager who signed him, before slowly winning over
Howard Kendall while struggling with injuries. Not that such mitigating factors
should obscure the fact that Barmby's Middlesbrough pomp saw him deployed
in a 5-2-2-1 configuration.
"A great formation: we had two midfielders who sat back, leaving Craig Hignett
and me to use the space between them and Jan Fjortoft. It took everyone by
surprise and I noticed Glenn Hoddle adopted it at Chelsea," he smiled.
Coincidentally, Hoddle's first international as England coach saw Barmby
earn the last of his 10 caps, scoring against Moldova in the process. "Eileen
Drewery wasn't around then," he said. "And everybody enjoyed Glenn's coaching."
Like Hoddle, Robson succumbed to a self-destructive urge to meddle with a
successful formula, buying Juninho from Brazil. "I soon realised I couldn't
play in the same team as Juninho," Barmby said. "When I dropped off, I'd
always find him in the same place; we just got in each other's way. I think
he's a fantastic player, though, and I'd love to see him back at Middlesbrough."
Bitchiness and resentment simply do not seem to feature in Barmby's make-up;
indeed he is possibly too reasonable. As one former Boro colleague put it:
"Nick was very self-critical, very intense about his game; he wanted to do
well so badly, he almost tried too hard."
The rugby league-loving teetotaller, dubbed Duracell by team-mates noting
his enviable resistance to fatigue, certainly has a stubborn, fiercely
independent streak. While at Tottenham, Barmby, 25 on Thursday, courted family
disapproval by marrying a woman seven years his senior. Unfazed, this unlikely
rebel silenced the censure by forging an evidently strong, enduring marriage
with Mandy and their son, Jack.
Instinctively open-minded, even if he is implacably opposed to the next England
coach being a foreigner, he addresses the "are too many overseas imports
in British dressing rooms a bad thing?" question with typical balance. "English
players can cause problems too, it's more about personality than nationality.
I do think that fans relate to local players though - look at Peter Beardsley
When he wakes on Thursday, Barmby should recall that it was not until shortly
after his role model's 25th birthday that Beardsley won the first of his
59 England caps. There is ample time to prove Pele right.
Time to give Dunc the elbow
Smith has to get rid of Duncan Ferguson.
He has to push aside the big Scot's popularity with the fans, the sense that
one day all the foibles and frustrations will fall away and reveal a big
and consistently brilliant thoroughbred.
It is an appalling dilemma in which Smith finds himself. On Sunday his team
was slaughtered by fellow strugglers Coventry.
But at no point did I detect a sliver of difference in the distribution of
talent in the two teams. The point of separation was honesty.
Coventry's strikers Darren Huckerby and Noel Whelan worked slavishly in the
vacuum left by their old team-mate Dion Dublin. They ran endlessly, they
supported each other.
Ferguson? It was the same old Duncan. He has tremendous talent, can be
witheringly effective in the air and has a smooth touch on the ground. He
should really be one of the top strikers in the Premiership.
But he is not. He is a classic example of underachievement. I would not say
Ferguson cheats every time he pulls on the shirt of Everton. But I will say
this: a more honest approach would bring a much more dramatic yield from
all those enviable natural gifts.
For Smith the problem is intensified by the fact that Ferguson is a Merseyside
cult figure. The fans love his combative style, his feisty approach to officials
and, sometimes it seems, the entire world.
But if they analysed his contribution to the team a little more carefully
they might be less enthusiastic. They might consider the careless use of
his elbows and the free kicks he needlessly concedes when Everton are applying
Compounding the difficulty is that Ferguson is captain of the team. He is
supposed to be the team's role model. But what the team get from Ferguson
is not true leadership.
They get an attitude of aggression but it is one without real substance.
If Ferguson was just another component of the team, someone who only occasionally
hit the heights his talent promised, it would not be so bad.
But Ferguson has become bigger than the team for no better reason than that
he is a man of great ability who on any given day may remind us of his gifts.
But those days are just too infrequent.
Certainly there was a simple reason for the radically different moods of
Smith and Coventry boss Gordon Strachan on Sunday night.
Strachan could see a vein of energy running right through a team who were
scoring their first back-to-back wins of the season. He could a see a work
ethic emerging at every point.
He saw the craft and leadership of Gary McAllister, the Scottish veteran
who is still recovering from a long injury lay-off but was able to provide
the insistent prompting so absent in Ferguson's approach.
Smith desperately needs the collective conviction which gave such a vital
launching pad for the fireworks of Huckerby and Whelan and the inconsistent
but potentially brilliant Steve Froggatt.
Already Smith has invested heavily in Everton's Premiership survival, but
as long as Ferguson dominates the scene I suspect further buying will bring
no greater reward.
It is one of the most basic situations in football. Ferguson is the man at
Goodison. He is inevitably deferred to in the dressing room. Young players
will follow his lead. Unfortunately they see a player of quality going about
his business at his own pace and to his own liking.
It is simply not good enough, and for Smith the problem is central to his
prospects at Everton. Soon he will confront the basic question facing every
embattled manager considering the contribution of his main player. It comes
down to this: who goes, you or me?
Smith is probably not in the mood to create a storm of controversy on Merseyside
at this early stage of his regime.
But my suspicion is much pain will be saved down the road if he moves now.
Smith has to get Everton moving sooner rather than later. His job depends
He has to close the book on the big man who just doesn't deliver.
Everton and England keep their eye on Ball
Losing the England left-back seemed to leave Everton desperately short of
options in that department. But as the season progressed and one man in
particular plugged the gap, it became clear that the sale of Hinchcliffe
was not such a rash move after all.
Michael Ball stepped in and straightaway settled down to the task. His
performances were so impressive that although it was based on just half a
season's work, the 18-year-old came in runner-up to Duncan Ferguson as Everton's
Player of the Year.
On Saturday, Everton visited Sheffield Wednesday so Ball lined up on opposite
sides to Hinchcliffe. In the 4-4-2 system favoured by manager Walter Smith,
the Liverpool-born teenager occupied a midfield berth out on the left where
he found plenty of room to show his skill.
If he is indeed a more natural defender than midfielder, Ball's forward play
certainly did not lack imagination or composure. As the rain lashed down
during the first half, he mastered the soggy surface better than most with
a sure touch and accurate passing. A clever ball fed Ferguson for a shot
and then neat chest control won a dangerous free kick on the edge of the
While it was difficult to gauge the quality of his defending because it was
rarely called into question, one crunching challenge on Ritchie Humphreys
was evidence enough of Ball's bravery in the tackle.
Known as "the German" by team-mates for his blond, Aryan looks, Ball also
seems to have that same cool temperament under pressure. After John Collins
missed from the penalty spot on the opening day of the season, up stepped
the youngster to volunteer his services. Since he was in the same year as
Liverpool's Michael Owen at Lilleshall's school of excellence, perhaps such
willingness to accept responsibility comes with the package.
In what was a fairly drab game without much goalmouth incident, Ball had
to give a disciplined and workmanlike performance. Yet whenever he got the
ball on to his favoured left foot, his side's prospects brightened considerably.
Once or twice he sent over swerving crosses that nobody could latch on to,
but occasionally a lack of concentration let him down.
In fact, one of the better chances of the match fell to Ball towards the
end. Ferguson rolled in a tempting pass that Ball miscued and dragged wide
from 15 yards.
In view of his overall vision and intelligence in attack, though, a wing-back
role, a la Graeme Le Saux, is probably Ball's ideal position. A regular in
the England Under-21s, coach Peter Taylor thinks he is ready for promotion.
And with the Wembley friendly against the Czech Republic approaching, perhaps
now is as good a time as any.
Smith digs deep to find way forward
Back at his desk, Smith is obviously still preoccupied. The Everton manager
doodles a football pitch on a pad and starts placing dots on it. The goalposts
loom disproportionately large. You don't have to be a psychologist to work
out what is occupying Smith's mind: how can his side start scoring?
Everton have played four games at home this season without finding the net.
Their record at Goodison comprises three goalless draws and a 1-0 defeat
by Tottenham. The famine that afflicts them at home is not so acute when
they travel: four away games have produced six goals, including two in a
win at Wimbledon yesterday. Nevertheless, improvement is required.
"We've got one of the best defensive records, but we've got to try and get
a better balance. We've got to start making sure we threaten the opposition's
goal. Apart from John Oster, we don't have natural wide players and, Duncan
Ferguson aside, we don't have out-and-out forwards who jump in with their
share of goals."
Smith was not slow to wield the chequebook in attempting to correct inadequacies
at Ibrox and he has shown similar instincts at Goodison. Howard Kendall,
his predecessor, moaned that big-name players would not consider a move to
Everton. By signing John Collins from Monaco, in the face of keen opposition
from his Premiership rivals and Paris Saint-Germain, Smith immediately signalled
his intent and the rebuilding continues.
As soon as the Department of Employment hands him a work permit, Ibrahim
Bakayoko, the coveted Ivory Coast international, will arrive from Montpellier
for £5M, taking Smith's spending in three months close to £17M.
He hopes Bakayoko, in tandem with Ferguson, will produce goals, although
he will continue his hunt for a winger to provide the most feared forehead
in England with better ammunition.
The inference is that Ferguson, a cult hero with the Everton fans, will not
be used to fund further rebuilding. Those who deduced he would be, because
Smith, while Rangers manager, sold Ferguson for £4M, forget that he
also bought him for that fee. The argument that an over-reliance on Ferguson
has been a primary cause of Everton's malaise apparently holds no weight
"It's wrong to say that Everton have been held back by Duncan Ferguson. I
think he's been keeping them up. People say that he's lazy, but, for me,
he's been as hard working as any player in the team. What he needs more than
anything else is people around him. He doesn't want the ball lumped in the
air all the time, he's not that type of player. The temptation is there if
you are struggling to get a goal. We need to supply everybody with more options."
While trying to inject creativity into his own team, Smith must also contend
with former allies, who possess such qualities, yet are intent on causing
him harm. Requiring a winger, he will cast envious glances towards Stamford
Bridge, where Brian Laudrup is a luxury rather than a necessity for Chelsea.
He has already encountered Paul Gascoigne in Everton's 2-2 draw with
Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium a fortnight ago.
"I enjoyed managing Brian and Paul. There are different skills, but in creative
terms they were the two most talented I worked with in my time at Ibrox.
It was a pleasure to be involved with them. I think people in England thought
it was easy for them to be successful in Scotland, but it wasn't that easy.
I think they will both do well down here. They will certainly have no problems
in terms of ability."
Smith, in common with Gascoigne and Laudrup, may feel like a school dux,
who, arriving at university, finds there are, after all, other people as
clever as him. He is careful never to belittle Scottish football, where he
won six championships in succession, but he knows the slightest scuffed shot,
mistimed tackle or tactical gaffe will be amplified in the League table.
"The margin for error is very thin indeed. John [Collins] missed a penalty
in the first game and Duncan got through last Saturday against Blackburn
and hit a post. These two opportunities would have given us four points and
put us on 11 points. We are not unique a lot of teams in the League
can look back like that. That's what makes it interesting.
"I had been involved in coaching and management for 18 years in Scotland.
The whole thing down here is different, there's a real freshness and a bit
of anticipation about building a team again, although we don't get an awful
lot of time to do that nowadays."
The only regret Smith nurses about his departure from Rangers last May, was
the unprecedented, for him, failure to secure a piece of silverware
"my biggest disappointment in football". Otherwise he believes the time was
ripe for a parting of the ways.
"The biggest difference you can make in any team is the manager. You can
change the players, but the whole thing remains much the same. I'd had my
time at Rangers and it was the right decision by everybody concerned. It
was also the right decision to break up the team when we did. If anything
it was a little bit too late, but if that's blaming the chairman for a little
bit of loyalty, you can't do that, because he always gave his backing to
David Murray, chairman of Rangers, gave Smith the chance to melt into the
comfort of a backroom role at Ibrox. The manager's polite interest in such
a post was betrayed by a series of hints that he wanted to try his hand at
an English Premiership club. Two came knocking on his door, Sheffield Wednesday
first, then Everton. Many felt Hillsborough offered better prospects, in
terms of stability and money for players, but not Smith. "I was very impressed
by Wednesday and, particularly, by their chairman, but when I looked at Everton
I just felt they had a good football tradition. I enjoyed the rivalry between
Rangers and Celtic and I saw the Everton and Liverpool situation was similar.
"They are both footballing cities and there is nothing flash about the people.
They are solid and they like their football. Everton are, or were, among
the top six clubs in England. They have winning potential, if we can manage
to turn the team around."
The size of that task can be measured in the opponents Everton face in the
next month. After next week's break for international matches, they play
Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal in three weeks. Time for some frantic
doodling in red ink.
Copyright © 1998 Times
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