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LEIGHTON BAINES insists there will be no room for sentiment when he returns to Wigan on Saturday as the Blues look to maintain their high-flying form.
The England defender admits that the DW Stadium retains a special place in his affections after he got his break in the Premier League playing for the Latics there before joining Everton in 2007.
And even though his family will make the short journey to Lancashire to link-up with old friends ahead of the game, Baines knows that taking three points from Roberto Martinez’s men is vital to ensure there is no pause in the Toffees’ momentum before next week’s international break.
He said: “It’s the last game before the break and it’s one you want to win and then go away on a high.
“Before the last one we got beaten by West Brom and we don’t want to go away with that feeling again.
“Wigan is always a club I'll have an affiliation for – my family feel the same way, and my brother will go and watch Wigan if they’re at home when Everton are away.
“My two little boys and my mum and dad will go on Saturday.
“But we want to keep our run going.”
THEY are the dynamic duo who are so perfectly in tune down Everton FC’s left flank that they’ve developed the nickname ‘Bainaar’.
But while Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar might be one of the best combinations currently lighting up the Premier League, Goodison has witnessed plenty of blessed pairings in the past.
Here we look at some of the best partnerships to have blossomed in Royal Blue.
Dean and Troup
LEFT wingers and centre-forwards go together at Goodison Park like blue and white.
And one of the first prolific partnerships was the legendary Dixie Dean and Alec Troup, or “Wee Troupie” as he was nicknamed.
Perhaps the most celebrated goal in Goodison history, the Park End header which gave Dean his 60th league goal of the 1927/28 season, came from a Troup corner.
And Dean later reckoned that Troup’s delivery “was so precise with these corners that he could have laid the ball on one of the hairs on my head.”
The little Scottish winger was only 5ft 5in tall, but had fantastic ball control and Dean added: “I think we had a perfect understanding and I think I have to thank him more than anyone else for the part he played in scoring the goals I did. I’d rate him one of the best wingers there’s ever been.”
Thomas and Latchford
DAVE THOMAS was a winger of such precise crossing ability, that whenever the Blues won a corner in the 1977/78 season the Gwladys Street would break out with a chorus of: “It’s a Goal, It’s a Goal, It’s a Go-go-goal!”
The Street End’s confidence came from the man on the receiving end of those corner kicks, the prolific Bob Latchford.
The number nine was a traditional centre-forward with outstanding aerial ability – and in his first three full seasons for Everton scored 17, 12 and 17 league goals.
Then manager Gordon Lee had a brainwave: sign an out and out winger who could feed that aerial prowess with a stream of crosses.
Thomas was snapped up from QPR and Latchford’s output soared to 30 league goals – the first top flight marksman to reach that milestone for six years – and many of those goals came from the dancing feet and quality crosses of Thomas.
Sadly it was a short-lived double act.
Thomas only stayed on Merseyside for two seasons, but they were two of the most productive campaigns of even Latchford’s goal-filled Goodison career.
Kendall and Harvey
AFTER their part as two-thirds of a celebrated footballing partnership, Howard Kendall and Colin Harvey forged an even more successful partnership off the pitch, as the brains behind the most successful period in the club’s history.
Harvey had proved his worth as a youth coach, guiding his young charges to an FA Youth Cup final, when Kendall promoted him to first team coaching duties.
It was an inspired move and in the space of three years Everton won two league titles, an FA Cup, the club’s only European trophy, and reached two further FA Cup finals and a League Cup final.
Reid and Bracewell
THE outstanding 1984/85 double winning team was sprinkled with dynamic double acts, striking twin towers Sharp and Gray, defensive leaders Ratcliffe and Mountfield and the right-wing partnership of Steven and Stevens.
But the heartbeat of the team, the men who set a fierce tempo and went hunting the ball back in snarling, snappy pairs were Peter Reid and Paul Bracewell.
And once they retrieved possession, the duo had the class to use it impressively, threading passes through for Heath and Sharp, or shuttling it wide for world class wide men Kevin Sheedy and Trevor Steven.
Ferguson and Rideout
BLACKBURN Rovers might have had their SAS (Shearer and Sutton) but Joe Royle’s 90s Everton side possessed its own nifty combination in the iconic Scot and the softly-spoken Southerner who scored the goal which brought the Blues their last trophy in 1995’s FA Cup Final (pictured).
They were a hit from the offset. The pair got Big Joe’s Goodison Park reign off to the perfect start with a 2-0 derby triumph over Liverpool in his first game in charge.
Rideout struggled to better his 14-goal exploits in the 1994–95 campaign, although he scored six times in 25 league games to help Everton finish sixth the following season.
Ferguson would have a more enduring place in the annals of Goodison history, but their pairing remains one of the highlights of those early Premiership days.
Carsley and Gravesen
THEY were a duo of many nicknames – the gruesome twosome, and two baldies, to name a few – but David Moyes just called them irreplaceable.
Lee Carsley and Thomas Gravesen were the fulcrum of the Scot’s early Everton sides, with the Irishman’s tough tackling and economical passing complementing the Dane’s creative powers.
They were a formidable double act, which Moyes rates to this day as one of the most influential pairings he has overseen during his managerial career.
Like with any classic central midfield, the pair’s contrasting qualities combined to create a cohesive unit which eventually guided the Blues to the brink of the Champions League group stages – even though Gravesen only played for half of the season.
When Real Madrid signed the Mad Dane in January 2005, many joked they had bought the wrong player – although he shone until falling victim of the Bernabeu circus.
Cahill and Arteta
NOT so much a playing axis as two separate key performers for David Moyes’ men who were, well, inseparable! The Blue Kangaroo and the Best Little Spaniard We Knew were best pals – in fact Cahill was Arteta’s best man at his 2010 wedding, and in their own ways added the X Factor to Everton sides in the later part of the last decade.
While Arteta was the silky-skilled artist who was never better than his wonderful goal against Fiorentina in the 2008 UEFA Cup, Cahill was the non-stop grafter with the finely-honed ability to pop up in the opposing penalty area at the right time.
Their alliance was a vital part of the dressing room spirit of that time, and set the tone for the mixture of steel and skill which has characterised Moyes’ tactics.
KEVIN MIRALLAS believes the striking prowess of Nikica Jelavic has helped the impressive start to his Everton career.
Belgium international Mirallas has proven an instant success following his £5.3million signing from Olympiakos in August.
The 24-year-old has already found the target three times and provided a number of assists as Everton, who travel to Wigan Athletic on Saturday, have rocketed to second in the embryonic Premier League table.
Mirallas played a part in two goals in last weekend’s 3-1 win over Southampton, including a fine pass that set Jelavic through to score the first of the Croat’s two goals.
And Mirallas said: “My style of play is to put balls into the box in front of goal and get crosses in whenever possible, and I know Nikica is always going to be on the end of them.
“I know exactly where he wants the ball, in front of him and into space. That’s how I created one of the goals. Playing alongside a striker like that is a massive help.”
Although having forged his reputation playing on the left flank, the form of Steven Pienaar has seen Mirallas employed elsewhere along the forward line by David Moyes.
But the Belgium has no complaints, and said: “I spent a lot of the time playing on the left-hand side of attack last year, more attack than midfield.
“But we all know that Steven Pienaar is doing a fantastic job down that side. The manager is lining me up on the right side at the moment but I feel very comfortable out there also.
“While things are working out like that, then I couldn’t be happier. I’m very much at ease on that side.”
While Mirallas earlier this week admitted the start of his Goodison career has gone better than expected, Everton manager Moyes is determined to ensure the player remains aware of the intricacies of the English game.
“We were told how good he was and we thought he could do well over here but you never know,” said the Scot. “We are not getting carried away.
“There are bits where he will still be learning. You have to keep going in the Premier League until you win it completely.
“Teams in England will try and come back to win the game if they are losing 3-1. In Europe that might not be the case.”
Between them, Mirallas and Jelavic cost less than £11m, a further example of Moyes’s creative transfer policy while working within tight financial restraints.
And the Goodison manager is convinced the duo are already showing they represent an excellent long-term investment.
“They are good value,” added Moyes. “They are both international players, both young enough to stay with us for a period of time.”
“They have made a great contribution. We just need to make sure we keep on top of Jelavic with his fitness. We knew he would be a bit short last Saturday.”
The Goodison derby against Liverpool on Sunday, October 28 is approaching a sell-out, with only around 3,000 tickets remaining.
Everton supporters are reminded that tickets can be bought by any fan who has previous purchase history.
Supporters can purchase tickets either by visiting the Goodison Box Office, phoning 0871 633 1876, visiting the club website, or buying in person at the TicketQuarter in Queen Square and the Everton Two store in Liverpool One.
MODERN football tactics are increasingly focused on playing through the middle into often congested midfield zones.
In what is something of a throwback, David Moyes’ Everton strategy is specifically focused on attacking sides down the flanks where there is more space to exploit 2 versus 1 situations and engineer crossing situations.
Given this, it’s little surprise the Blues have scored more headed goals (five) than anyone in the top flight and Saturday was a good example of how ruthless this approach can be when exploited fully. To dominate the flanks though, you must first dominate through the middle.
Saints boss Nigel Adkins became the latest opposing manager to try to stop our left sided axis.
Whereas Newcastle tried to get men behind the ball, Adkins played a right sided forward (Rodriguez) ahead of Baines to push him backwards. It failed.
Early on, Saints pressed us high up-field to make us go long and what was crucial was our central midfielder’s ability to quickly switch play from one flank to the other to exploit these 2 versus 1 situations as they developed.
Osman was particularly good at this; the diminutive midfield schemer glided along the Goodison turf like a white swan and his ability to recycle possession and move play from one flank to the other was crucial – he made the most touches, most passes and hit a 100% pass completion in his long passes to service the flanks.
The 30 minute spell at the end of the first half was exceptional with the feature being the width provided by the fullbacks with Pienaar/Mirallas drifting inside which the Saints couldn’t handle.
Next up is the short trip to the DW Stadium to face a Wigan side whose annual winter of discontent has begun earlier than usual.
Martinez’s side set up with three at the back with wing-backs pushing on so width again will be crucial. Both side’s left flanks in particular will be of vital importance as the game sees the two sides in the top flight that attack the most down the left flank.
Last season this was the case; Baines in particular thrives at his old ground having scored one and created two in his last three visits and last season his centre was dispatched by Anichebe to claim a point after Wigan left wing back Beausejour had set up Wigan’s opener.
The games atWigan are invariably low scoring ones and with Wigan’s woes in front of goal – they’ve failed to score in 50% of their games so far – one goal would probably be enough to see us past the post and into the international break safely ensconced with the league’s pace setters.