Everton: Former Blues could prove pivotal in Championship playoff race

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09: Tim Cahill of Millwall warms up during the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Cardiff Cityat The Den on February 9, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09: Tim Cahill of Millwall warms up during the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Cardiff Cityat The Den on February 9, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images) /

With only three games to play in the regular season, the Skybet Championship playoff race is heating up. We detail three former Everton players who could have an impact on their teams’ fortunes. 

Thankfully, Everton have fended off the risk of relegation, in what has been an intensely disappointing Premier League Campaign. Now, attention turns to next year.

Hopefully, new faces, on the pitch and on the touchline, will improve the Blues’ performance next term.

But what of the League below? Currently, a host of teams are duking it out to win promotion from the Skybet Championship to join Everton, and 18 other teams, in the Premier League.

Just four points separate sixth (the final playoff spot) from 11th. With three games to go, it is getting very tight indeed.

In regular articles, I have detailed the performance of Everton’s loanees who are plying their trade in the Championship this year. Only one of them though will have any say on the playoff race.

Muhamed Besic and Middlesborough are sitting in fifth, positioned precariously above six other competing teams. Besic has been a dynamo for Boro’ since his loan arrival, so expect him to have great impact on their ultimate fate.

This piece will look at players who no longer play for Everton, but could yet be competing in the Premier League, if they can drive their team to success this season.

It’s worth noting that one former Blue has already confirmed his Premier League place. Wolves have already clinched automatic promotion, backstopped by 31-year-old goalkeeper John Ruddy.

Ruddy came to Everton as a youngster, and was contracted to the club for six years. He made one appearance for Everton in that time.

From my assessment, there are three ex-Evertonians in the playoff pack. Read about their performance, and their potential impact below.

Tim Cahill – Millwall

Tim Cahill re-signed for Millwall, his first ever pro-club, in January 2018. This prompted many to joke that he was doing a second lap of his illustrious career. By my measurement, this would take him back to Everton in 2024, at the age of 44.

Since rejoining the South London club, Cahill has played sporadically, but he fits well into an attack dominated by target men, including Lee Gregory, Steve Morison and Tom Elliott.

If they do clinch a playoff position, Millwall will likely finish at the bottom, giving them a tough semi-final draw. Cahill’s experience and versatility will be crucial in the dressing room and on the pitch.

In seven games since January, Cahill has failed to score. However, his minutes have been limited. Hopefully, he will have some say on Millwall’s promotion hopes, before he turns his attention to the world cup with Australia.

Verdict: Unlikely to play enough minutes to define the playoff series. Likely to pop up with a crucial goal.

John Lundstram – Sheffield United

Much was expected of John Lundstram, as he progressed through the ranks at Everton in the early 2010s. The now 24-year-old midfielder played for England at multiple youth levels, but failed to make a senior appearance on Merseyside.

Unperturbed, Lundstram has carved out a solid career in the lower leagues, and was snapped up by Sheffield United in July 2017. Since then, he has proved an important cog in the United midfielder, sitting back and allowing more creative talents such as Lee Evans to dictate play further up the pitch.

Sheffield United have surpassed all expectations this season, and have an outside chance of making the playoffs. Their hopes however are hindered by a tough final two games against Preston and Bristol City.

If they do compete past the regular season, expect Lundstram to be tasked as a water carrier at the centre of the team’s midfield. He does have a scoring touch though, having hit three goals already this season.

Verdict: Lundstram is not the sort of midfielder to win a game on his own through flair and invention. His steady play will be integral however if The Blades seek to maintain discipline and structure in the post-season.

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Liam Walsh – Bristol City

Liam Walsh started the 2017/18 season with Everton. But, after a decent loan spell at Birmingham City, he made a permanent switch to the South West for an undisclosed fee.

Since then, he has struggled for Bristol City, playing only five times since his transfer.

If the Robins do make the playoffs, Walsh could use these high-pressure games as a springboard to success with his new club. The challenge will be making the squad in the first place.

A packed midfield with few injuries has left him out in the cold in the past few weeks. The Bristol post suggests that

he may no longer be in manager Lee Johnson’s plans this season


Next: Who could Everton look to sign next summer?

Verdict: Walsh has shown flashes of talent since he began his professional career two years ago. He could have an impact, but he risks having no say on the Championship playoffs if Bristol stick with their current team selection.