Players from Everton past who would solve the present squad’s problems

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 23: Leighton Baines of Everton warms up before the Premier League match between Everton FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on December 23, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 23: Leighton Baines of Everton warms up before the Premier League match between Everton FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on December 23, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images) /

For those of us of a certain vintage, the archetypal ‘Everton Da’ if you like, there is only one thing we love more than bemoaning the current state of our team, and that is harking back to a long-distant time when the Toffees were genuinely successful.

And not just successful as in the sense of regularly finishing in the top six as they often did under David Moyes. I mean successful as in actually winning trophies.

Any Evertonian born this century will be unaccustomed to the feeling of seeing their team collecting silverware, and no amount of being shown DVD’s or YouTube clips, as I often do with my own kids, will compensate for that.

This summer is likely to see a much-needed overhaul of the Everton playing staff, with several key areas of the squad in particular need of attention.

But which players from the club’s past would be ideally suited to filling the talent gaps that have been so evident over the last two seasons in particular?

Alan Harper

Not the most obvious choice. Harper’s name may not be the most familiar to younger Evertonians, even those with a decent knowledge of the club’s illustrious past, but Harper was a vital part of the most successful team ever to represent the club.

While not necessarily first choice in Howard Kendall’s all-conquering team of the mid-80’s, Harper was able to slot comfortably into almost every position on the pitch.

His preferred position was right back, but he was just as likely to be used in any position across the back four, as a neat-and-tidy central midfielder, or on either wing, and sometimes as a second striker, and he never let his team down wherever he cropped up.

He even once filled in between the sticks when goalkeeper Neville Southall was forced off through injury.

With Everton likely to be short of funds this summer, adaptable utility players who can provide vital cover in several positions may be something the club will be forced to look at, and Harper is the best example of that the club has ever had.

Leighton Baines

Three years after his retirement, Baines is yet to be suitably replaced at left-back. One could argue that perhaps the greatest left-back the club has known is irreplaceable, but his former berth has become a problem position.

Lucas Digne had a great first eighteen months, although there were often questions about his defensive capabilities. His form dropped off somewhat, and a public falling out with Rafa Benitez saw him frozen out before being sold to Aston Villa.

In came Vitaliy Mykolenko from Dynamo Kiev. A young man playing abroad for the first time, in a struggling team, against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of his homeland, it was a lot to ask for him to come in and hit the ground running.

Despite the obvious difficulties he faced, Myko impressed the fanbase with his commitment and work ethic, but many remain unconvinced he’s the long-term solution.

He is a tenacious defender, often doing very well in one-on-one situations against dangerous forwards.

But one goal and no assists from nearly fifty games highlights the lack of attacking threat which, for a modern full-back, is an issue. Baines’ defensive attributes were excellent, but he excelled in the attacking half.

At one point, Baines had the most assists of any defender in the top five European leagues, behind only Philip Lahm. He would have undoubtedly played scores of times for England, had he not been playing in the same era as Ashley Cole.

Baines developed an almost telepathic understanding with Steven Pienaar down the left flank, and it’s easy to imagine him doing the same with the like of McNeil and Iwobi, as is the thought of him doing something Everton haven’t done in three seasons; scoring direct from a free kick.

Kevin Campbell

The striker that Farhad Moshiri promised never materialised in the inter transfer window, despite the glaring need for one.

Had the club managed to bring one in, if he’d had even half the impact of Kevin Campbell, Everton would have been safe with a couple of weeks to spare.

Signed by Walter Smith on an initial loan from Tranbzonspor during the 1998-99 season to bring some attacking experience to a struggling side, ‘Super Kev’ scored nine goals in eight games to almost single-handedly guide the club away from the drop zone.

Campbell was adept at doing the simple things well; holding the ball up, bringing others into play, as well as knowing where and when to make his move in the box, and finishing when he got there. In short, everything Everton have lacked for most of the last two seasons.

Trevor Steven

After his transformation under Frank Lampard from a misfiring right winger to a box-to-box midfielder, Alex Iwobi found himself largely re-utilised on the wing under Sean Dyche.

You got the sense that this was largely out of necessity than desire as, following the sale of Anthony Gordon, and Dyche seemingly unconvinced by Demarai Gray’s ability to put in the hard running he requires, options in the position were limited.

Another star of the  trophy-winning 80’s team, Steven would have offered the solution to all these issues.

Despite his ‘Tricky Trev’ nickname, he was a no-nonsense type of winger, less inclined towards showboating trickery than he was to taking on his full-back and whipping a dangerous early cross into the box.

He could also cut inside to shoot with either foot, offered great cover to his right-back, and was comfortable being used as a central midfielder. Like Baines, he was also deadly from the penalty spot.

Derek Mountfield

Any player from Howard Kendall’s first spell would walk into any Everton team since, but I’ll limit myself to one last selection from that side.

Given the paucity of striking options available to him, Sean Dyche has often had to rely on goals from defenders at crucial times, with Tarkowski, Mine, Keane and Coleman all scoring vital goals.

It is to be hoped that recruitment will solve the striker problem, but Dyche is the kind of manager who would expect defenders to weigh in with their share of goals from set pieces, and there have been few better goal-scoring Everton centre-backs than Mountfield.

Averaging roughly a goal every five games across his time with the club, Degsy had a knack of popping up with important headed goals, often from a Trevor Steven corner.

Romelu Lukaku

So much of Everton’s recent poor fortunes can be attributed to poor recruitment, and the greatest example of this is the failure to adequately replace Romelu Lukaku. It is now six seasons since his departure, and only Dominic Calvert-Lewin, when fit, has come close.

Despite his prolific goal-scoring in his time at the club, there was often a sense that much of the fanbase with ambivalent about the Belgian striker. Complaints about his touch, attitude and habit of talking himself up for a move on international duty didn’t endear him to some.

But nobody could argue with his finishing ability. More than perhaps any other club in his career, Everton based their game largely around creating maximum opportunities for him, something that hasn’t happened elsewhere, other than perhaps his first spell at Inter.

He remains Everton’s top scorer of the Premier League era, and at the age of 30 would undoubtedly walk back into the current side, and you suspect Dyche would relish setting his team up to ensure he received the kind of service he would thrive upon.

In the absence of a football time machine, this is all Everton Da fantasy talk, and this summer’s recruitment drive will be grounded in reality.

But it’s hard not to rub your hands with glee at the thought of these past greats running out onto the pitch with the current squad.