Defender’s comments highlight lack of Everton leadership

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JULY 01: Mason Holgate of Everton during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Leicester City at Goodison Park on July 1, 2020 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JULY 01: Mason Holgate of Everton during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Leicester City at Goodison Park on July 1, 2020 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus) /

Everton central defender Mason Holgate has been talking about the team’s latest defeat to Manchester United and how the players should react to it.

Holgate came back into the Everton team for his first game of the season in Saturday’s match at Goodison Park and he seemed a little off the pace, which is understandable after a prolonged period out with injury.

One thing that Holgate did immediately offer was vocal leadership from the back. The former youth team product was talking, shouting and directing his team mates play.

The fact he has come out and publicly spoken about what happened at the weekend after his first appearance of the campaign, also speaks volumes.

A long-standing problem and something the Toffees have lacked is leadership. For far too long Everton teams have seemed to be bereft of individuals who can not only lead by example but also offer vocal support to push, organise and cajole their team mates to raise their game.

Lack of leadership is yet another issue with the Blues team, that manager Carlo Ancelotti has been wrestling with ever since he took over at the club.

Holgate’s return to the side will be welcome therefore not just for his defensive qualities, but his ability to offer that determination and willingness to lead. Indeed he is a player who already has the look of a future Toffees skipper. Although perhaps in truth, the team shouldn’t really be reliant on young players who have only been in the side a year or two, to provide those qualities.

All the successful teams have leaders, not just a man who wears the armband, but players who have the character to push themselves and their team mates to reach their full potential.

One player who definitely fitted that bill in the 1980s was Peter Reid. The midfield dynamo was a pivitol performer in the Blues great mid-eighties side that swept all before it.

Reid was tigerish workhorse and ball-winner but he was also a very good player too possessing an excellent range of passing. Most of all though he was a born leader who showed huge commitment to the cause and often played through injury.

Players like Reid and Andy Gray helped to lift the whole team in the dark days of the early eighties and instill a sense of belief in them that they could become a good and successful side.

One notorious moment during the Blues’ most successful ever campaign – 1984-85 – encapsulates what Reid was all about.

In December 1984 Everton were flying in the league and diminutive forward Adrian Heath was the leading goalscorer in the team. He was having a superb season and looked odds on for an England call-up. Then the Toffees hosted Sheffield Wednesday in a routine first division encounter.

During the game Wednesday’s Brian Marwood brought down Health with a terrible tackle that now, would usually be, an instant red card.

But those were different times and he got away with it. His challenge left Heath badly injured and in fact he wouldn’t play again for the Blues that season.

Reid responded by tracking Marwood down and putting in a really hard tackle that floored him! It was a deliberate marker to avenge Heath and underline his commitment to his team mates.

I’m certainly not saying Everton players should do this now or make silly reckless challenges like Richarlison’s in the derby, for a start you will get sent off straight away in today’s Premier League!

But that attitude of relentless commitment and a never-say-die approach to the game is something this current Toffees team could do with. It’s a quality especially important when you’re struggling for results and things aren’t going your way.

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There are other senior players who have tried to provide that leadership on the pitch. One is veteran right-back Seamus Coleman.

The Irish international certainly has the experience and has been a consistently fine player for the Blues over a number of seasons.

However, he seems to be too nice a person as evidenced by his reaction to the response of Son Heung-Min after his horror tackle on Andre Gomes last November.

My feeling was that it was crocodile tears on the part of the Korean forward who had after all chased down Gomes and then tackled him very aggressively.

Coleman’s reaction, while a sign of how decent an individual he is, was a little too timid for me and smacked of a mentality that wasn’t prepared to fight hard enough.

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I think that Everton need leaders who will battle, occasionally even be a little nasty for the cause and be ready and able to stand up for themselves and their team mates. Such qualities are still important in deciding which teams win things and which don’t.