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Everton boss David Moyes is making a frantic last-gasp bid to sign Burnley striker Jay Rodriguez - and pinch him from under Southampton's noses.
The England Under-21 cap has been with Saints for the past two days, discussing a record £6.5million switch from the Championship Clarets to the Premier League.
However, Moyes has now stepped into the chase.
He wants Rodriguez to stall on a decision and allow him time to try to get the finances together to bring him to Goodison as a partner for Nikica Jelavic
Rodriguez has just come back from holiday to walk into a transfer tug-of-war.
Southampton have offered him a lucrative deal, but the chance to stay in the north-west with Everton may sway him.
However, Rodriguez will be taking a gamble if he turns down Saints and waits for Everton as Moyes will have to sell before he can buy - and also has Tottenham's Steven Pienaar as a 'priority' capture.
Moyes' late move will be a pain for Southampton chief Nigel Adkins, who has put a lot of time and effort into Rodriguez.
The Everton entry into the race may also be bad news for Burnley, as Moyes is expected to offer less than Southampton have put on the table.
Rodriguez has just a year left on his contract and will have a fair amount of say in where he goes.
ROSS BARKLEY has become even better since his initial appearances in the Premier League and is ready to step-up again next season, according to Everton coach Jimmy Lumsden.
The 18-year-old made his senior debut in the opening game of last season, and went on to make nine appearances for the first team before David Moyes decided give him more playing opportunities away from the limelight.
Lumsden, who celebrated 10 years at Goodison this season alongside his long-term colleague and friend Moyes, admits Barkley has the potential to be the best midfielder he has coached during his time on Merseyside.
He said: “He’s as good as anyone I’ve seen in the middle of the park, and could be anything he wants. He is quiet but the moment he steps on the field he has got the confidence in his ability for all to see.
“He’s got the touch, the awareness on the ball and the flair. Currently he’s filling out to be a big lad as well which will help him play in the Premier League.”
Lumsden insists Barkley’s development was helped by Moyes’ decision to bring him out of first team duties last term, after he figured in the early part of the campaign.
“It’s a good thing that he wasn’t rushed, he said. “The boy had a couple of injuries which held him back but the boy has no worries now. He looks the business.
“The Premier League is a very hard league to introduce young players to. If you are just below half way in the table you are perhaps looking with one eye at the bottom end and potentially getting sucked into that so it’s tough on young boys to bring them in then.
“You tend to go for the tried and trusted older heads. The experienced guys.
“Then when you get above the half-way point you are glancing at the European places and thinking and figuring out what might happen if you can win every game and wondering if you can get there.
“Fair play to people who will play young kids then because every place in the table is worth a lot of money. That’s why it can be difficult to give the young boys a run of games, but we’ve tried to do it when we can at Everton and it could work out that we use Ross next season. He has got better.”
UNSURPRISINGLY for someone who spent a large chunk of his playing career alongside Billy Bremner in Leeds United’s infamous Seventies team, Jimmy Lumsden does not mince his words.
While the Glaswegian was perhaps a more cultured player than some he shared a dressing room with back then, he was still not fond of backing down – a trait which has served him well during a 25-year coaching career.
The last decade of that varied stint has been spent at Goodison Park, where the popular 64-year-old is head coach, and has become a trusted lieutenant to David Moyes throughout his own tenure in the Everton hot-seat.
The pair worked together at Preston North End before Moyes took Lumsden with him when Bill Kenwright came calling in 2002, but although they are close, Lumsden is quick to admit that he is no yes man when it comes to plotting Everton’s success.
“I wouldn’t say it’s friendship all the time,” he says reflecting on the enduring dynamic he shares with the three-time LMA manager of the year. “We’re close, but I’ve got to be truthful and say part of the reason I think I’m there is because we don’t agree a lot of the time. We see eye to eye on the important things, eventually, but not everything and he accepts that. I don’t just nod my head and say ‘Yes Gaffer, you’re right’. I’ll say my piece and stick by it and sometimes I’m proved right and sometimes not.
“We bounce off each other well because of that and he knows he’ll get honesty from me when we’re discussing a player or something.”
So as someone who has worked so closely to the Everton boss during his time on Merseyside, has Lumsden noticed him change? Surely, he has mellowed to a degree, something even the man himself acknowledges?
“No,” says Lumsden. “I’ve not noticed him change and I wouldn’t like him to change. His work ethic has never once dipped. He works as hard as anyone I know and his training methods are first class. They make him stand out. He takes on an unbelievable workload and he expects everyone around him to follow his example.”
Outside observers may credit an element of fortune to Everton’s capture of Nikica Jelavic for £5.5m in January, especially after his scintillating 11-goal start to life in the Premier League. But Lumsden believes it owes more to precision planning and hard work.
“We watched him for a long time, we always saw him and all had our opinions,” he says. “It was the same with Tim Cahill and Joleon Lescott – we must have watched them 20 times.
“Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka too. I watched Jags playing a lot for Sheffield United; in centre midfield and at right back. We scrutinise them and have different views. We debate it and watch them some more but importantly we prefer to always go to games and watch them. We’ll never rely on watching DVDs of players.
“I’m not exaggerating when I say he works harder than anyone,” adds Lumsden on Moyes. “At the end of the season me and him were watching Crewe and Sir Alex Ferguson was there. They were the only two managers at the game. That sums David up and full credit to Fergie too because he could easily listen to people and not do the miles but he was there. That’s the secret – hard work.”
Lumsden says those long car journeys to and from games are consumed with talk of just one topic. “We never listen to music,” he says. “We are talking about the next day and what we need to do, or how training went that day.
“Maybe it’s the team we’re playing at the weekend or who we would like to bring in if we could.”
For Lumsden, though, it has been a decade he as thoroughly enjoyed. “It’s been a special time,” he says.
“It’s been frustrating at times, like when we think we are getting close to maybe challenging for the Champions League, but then just fell short because of lack of finances.
“But there are a lot of clubs in a similar boat. Everton are a bit like Celtic in a lot of ways. David called it right when he said it was the People’s Club.
“In my playing days I never got to run out at Goodison in a league game unfortunately, but it still never fails to impress me now.
“We might not have the money but our supporters bring the atmosphere and will to win.
“The one thing I hope never stops is that atmosphere.
“No team will ever relish coming to Goodison – let’s always make it like that.”
AS FRANCE and England prepare to face one another in Group D’s opening clash on Monday evening, one man – with an inside track on both sides – is well placed to comment on a match which will carry an extra special personal significance.
After 13 years plying his trade in English football, former Toffees strike ace Louis Saha is arguably as well known to members of the England squad as he is to his compatriots in the blue of France.
Recently involved in the French squad prior to Euro 2012, he has now written an intriguing memoir, ‘Thinking Inside the Box’, in which, amongst other subjects, he offers an insight into the French national team and the unique pressures of life inside the camp at an international tournament gathered from his time at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup.
Saha, who represented his country at both of the above, will be supporting France on Monday, but – as he reveals in the book – could have turned out for the Three Lions had he accepted the overtures of Sven-Goran Eriksson.
The Swede approached the then Manchester United striker in the early days of his tenure as England manager, but was politely rebuffed in his attempts to have the Frenchman change citizenship. He explains: “Had I chosen to go ahead, I would never have been able to play for France, which in my heart of hearts did not feel right. And the idea of not playing well for England and having to put up with insults did not appeal!”
Fast-forward to the present and Saha’s countrymen go into this summer’s tournament looking to exorcise the demons of their disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign, which saw several squad members lead a mutiny against former coach Raymond Domenech.
Writing in his book, Saha – who counts one of the chief protagonists in this saga, Patrice Evra, as a close friend – is keen to dispel the idea that the blame for this episode should lie solely at the players’ door: “The media played a part in what happened in the French squad in South Africa in 2010, but they were not hauled over the coals.”
Whatever the case, the South African debacle – and its accompanying political fall-out – unquestionably marked a low point for a team that, only a matter of years earlier, had seemingly helped France overcome its famously difficult relationship with issues of race and ethnicity by capturing the World Cup on home soil in 1998.
Blessed with the multi-ethnic talents of Zidane, Desailly and Thuram that team, as Saha describes, became “a symbol of French solidarity for a society that is too often divided.”
Not surprisingly, Saha fondly recalls the joyous scenes, “indelibly printed” in his mind, which greeted France’s triumph on the streets of his native Paris that night: “I remember that brief moment when racism and issues of colour and social class all but disappeared. This still makes me shiver….”
On the current situation, Saha speaks of a “renaissance” in the fortunes of the French national team and sees evidence to suggest that Laurent Blanc’s side, who have now strung together an impressive 21-game unbeaten run, has started to re-inject some of that same enthusiasm which engulfed the nation during the heady days of World Cup 98.
Naturally, great credit for this must go to the coach and players, but Saha also feels France’s footballing authorities should share in the praise too – as he writes: “Since the South African meltdown, France has hugely supported its young players. The French Football Federation has improved its PR strategy and image.Flags and bunting along the balconies of theStade de France now celebrate the French national football team.”
With encouraging results and the emergence of an exciting crop of young players – many of whom are unburdened by the scars of past tournaments – the tale since 2010 is then a largely positive one, but that is not to say that the path to redemption has been smooth.
For one, a row over the proposed introduction of racial quotas at French academies – which Saha also details in his book – threatened to derail the new sense of harmony now prevalent in French footballing circles. The episode appears to have been swept under the carpet for now, but once again evidenced the volatile nature of football in a country where the relationship between the fans, media, players and administrators has often been strained, and always makes for a difficult mix.
This can perhaps explain why so many of the country’s finest talents have so often chosen to forge careers on English soil, which – despite his allegiances on Monday – Saha praises as “a football paradise” for the modern professional.
In summing up the fervour that surrounds major competitions, a man who went to two tournaments with his country reflects on the experience – and its pressures – in typically philosophical and poetic style: “The pleasure and pride are immense, but it’s like puffing on the best Cuban cigar without exhaling properly through your nose and enjoying the bouquet.”
MERSEYSIDE’S footballing stars had a humbling experience when they visited the scenes of some of the Holocaust’s worst atrocities.
The England squad – including Liverpool FC’s Steven Gerrard, Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Martin Kelly and Everton FC’s Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka, plus Croxteth-born Wayne Rooney – were taken to tour either Auschwitz or Oskar Schindler’s factory in Krakow.
The team had flown out to their base in Hutnik, Poland, ahead of their first European Championship match against France in Ukraine on Monday.
After a light training session the squad split into two groups.
One led by Rooney, manager Roy Hodgson and Football Association chairman David Bernstein, headed to former Nazi death camp Auschwitz.
The other, headed by captain Gerrard, coach Gary Neville and FA director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking, visited the Schindler factory museum.
They made the 40-mile trip west to the town of Oswiecim and then on to the nearby village of Brzezinka.
An estimated one million Jews, including a minimum of 232,000 children, lost their lives at Auschwitz during World War Two.
Schindler was a German who saved hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust by employing them at his enamelware and munitions factory.
England defender and former Everton player Joleon Lescott was one of 14 players to visit the plant.
He said: “Days like today you tend to look back on as much as the tournament itself in years to come, the things you have done, the people you have met.
“I am sure, in years to come, the tournament will be a highlight but so will visiting places like this.
“It is fresh in my mind at the moment so it might take a while for it to sink in.
“I will go back to the hotel and think about what has been said to us by the guide.
“Most youngsters today have a glorified image of a ghetto but the ghettos we have learned about today are not like that. I did not have a full understanding of what the word means.”
FORMER Everton physio Mick Rathbone will be signing copies of his excellent autobiography, ‘The Smell of Football’, next Saturday.
Mick, whose book tells the story of his eventful 35-year career in professional football as a player, physio and manager, will be at Waterstones in Birkenhead from 12pm and Waterstones in Liverpool Bold Street from 3pm.
The book was nominated for ‘Football Book of the Year’ at last month’s British Sports Book Awards and has enjoyed rave reviews from football fans across the country.
The signings are a great chance to get a copy signed just in time for Father’s Day as the book approaches the first anniversary of its release.
Arrive early to avoid disappointment. If you can’t make the signings but would like to reserve a copy, you can contact either of the stores. You can call Waterstones, Birkenhead on 0151 6502400 or Waterstones, Liverpool Bold Street on 0151 708 6861.