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TIM HOWARD admits that persuading David Moyes to sign a new contract is vital to Everton FC’s hopes of success.
The USA goalkeeper, left, insists the importance of Moyes’ stewardship cannot be over-estimated, and likened the potential difficulty of replacing him at Goodison with Manchester United’s search for a successor to Alex Ferguson.
Moyes maintains he is in no hurry to sign a new deal with the clock ticking down on his contract expiring next summer.
Speculation about his future will continue to grow although both Moyes and chairman Bill Kenwright have been keen to emphasise their daily discussions.
Howard, however, is desperate to see his manager tied-down on Merseyside.
“Obviously for us to go forward and have what we have, we need him to be steering the ship. It’s vital to keep him.
“I remember talking about this the last time he signed a contract, about how important he is to us.
“The next person who comes in after David Moyes is going to have a very difficult job because the gaffer has done brilliant here.
“When you have longevity and success, it’s hard to match. It’s a very similar situation here at Everton to United and after Ferguson.”
Everton are arguably in their best position during Moyes’ 10½-year reign but he is keen to see how things develop before beginning contract negotiations.
“No doubt I will be asked the question every week but I’m in no great hurry,” said the Toffees boss.
“I just want the season to go on, see how we do and overall if we do well it will make things a lot easier.
“I want to see how we are progressing and also I don’t want supporters to get too sick of seeing the same manager all the time.
“I am not (concerned) but I can understand maybe people will be.
“I can understand why at this time people would say it is quite close but all I can say is I’ve been here over 10 years now, we’ve worked really hard together with the club and we’ll continue to do so.”
BILL KENWRIGHT has reassured Everton FC fans he will not miss an opportunity to persuade David Moyes to sign a new contract.
The Blues chairman, left, stressed his admiration for the man he appointed as Goodison boss in 2002, and insisted the lines of communication between the pair remain robust as he bids to extend the Scot’s spell on Merseyside.
Moyes is out of contract in the summer and yet to agree a new deal, but Kenwright knows how important he is to the club. He said: “We talk up to four times a day and everyone knows that I think – and every Evertonian thinks – he is the best thing to happen to this football club for a long, long time.
“He is the greatest manager for this football club and he and I know we will be sitting down and talking about it. That is a given.
“It’s been a really good start to the season.”
The theatre impresario was also quick to rubbish suggestions Everton are among a small band of Premier League clubs reportedly in opposition to Uefa’s Financial Fair Play proposals.
“We are not against any kind of financial fair play,” he said. “We have to abide by financial fair play because we wouldn’t exist if we didn’t. We are not against it, but we just want more talk and more consultation about it.
“There are a lot of people who don’t understand it and it needs more discussion. We have got to make sure that the clubs that do have a tough road to survival can stand up and be counted alongside the clubs that have huge incomes thanks largely to benefactor owners.”
Kenwright, who also spoke proudly of recent high-profile awards for Everton’s world-renowned charity, Everton In The Community, along with Leon Osman’s impressive England debut on Wednesday, reserved special praise for Evertonian boxer Tony Bellew, who fights in Nottingham tonight.
Bellew trains at Finch Farm and enters the ring to Z-Cars, and Kenwright said: “We are also proud of Tony.
“We are proud of our own and you couldn’t get a more humble, committed, winner of a lad than him. There will be many Evertonians watching him.”
MAROUANE FELLAINI has been among the very best performers in the Premier League so far this season, says David Moyes.
The Belgian midfielder will be key to Everton’s hopes of three points once again as they travel to Reading’s Madejski stadium today on the back of last Saturday’s victory over Sunderland, and Moyes reckons his 2008 signing is among an elite band of talents in England.
He said: “Suarez is playing very well but Fellaini is certainly in that category. Van Persie is doing very well for United, too, and Mata is doing exceptionally for Chelsea.
“He's a difficult player to stop. We have to make sure that teams can't think of how to stop him. We had to drop him back a bit deeper last week to get a bit of joy, because we'd stopped finding a way to get through and from a deeper position he got us a goal and created the winner as well.
“We need to make sure we're utilising him well, but also that we don't fatigue him. He had an international game this week, and it's a lot on him. It's not so much the games, although that's strenuous, it's the travelling.”
While Moyes insists he came up against plenty of players as physically imposing as Fellaini during his own days as a defender for Celtic and Preston North End, he admits he encountered few with the same natural ability.
“There used to be hundreds like him in my day,” he said. “The difference is that Fellaini is not a centre forward so you're not always marking him, you're not always picking him up.
“When you got someone that size, you just knew you were in for a day when you might have to win some and lose some. In my day, there were more of that type, but not of the technical ability. Felli's biggest strength is not just his size and strength, it is that technical ability. His feet are very good and he's got great chest control.”
Moyes is satisfied that his current team has more potential game-changing players than ever.
He said: “In the past, Leighton Baines has done an awful lot for Everton and been so creative. Then, with Pienaar coming back, people see them as a combination. I've seen signs of Seamus Coleman developing, and Mirallas has come into the team.
“Jelavic has looked like he'll get you the goals if you give him chances.So we have three or four more players who can open games up than in the past.”
The Blues boss hopes his team’s various star performers mean they are a challenging problem for opponents to try and solve.
“It's a bit like when we used to play other teams, like Arsenal, and we'd say how do you stop Thierry Henry? Or Bergkamp? Or Ljungberg?,” he said. “Before you knew it, you were trying to stop quite a few.”
EVERTON FC won’t be able to spend big on transfers in January, warns David Moyes.
The Blues manager’s significant investment in players over the last 12 months is reaping rewards, with his side fourth in the table heading into today’s match at struggling Reading.
Having brought in Nikica Jelavic and Darron Gibson in January, the summer additions of Steven Naismith, Kevin Mirallas, Bryan Oviedo and Steven Pienaar have catapulted the club into Champions League qualification contention.
But, despite the £10m sale of Jack Rodwell to Manchester City in August, there will not be enough money to strengthen when the transfer window reopens.
“I don’t think we’ll strengthen in January,” said the Toffees boss, left.
“I don’t think we’ll be looking to do any business – not because we wouldn’t want to but I just don’t think we will have the resources to properly do it in January.
“I think we are quite short after our initial 15 players and that was shown when we gave the fringe players a run against Leeds in the Capital One Cup.
“That is a concern for me and I just don’t know if we will have enough numbers if injuries take too much of a toll.”
Despite those worries, Moyes is relishing the task of challenging for the top four.
Asked whether he was excited about this season, he said: “Quite, but not madly.
“We’ve only played 11 games and there are a lot of good teams below us – Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal, Newcastle – who could quite easily jump over us, and West Brom are having a great season as well.
“I am not going to say we have no chance because we have got a chance but the competition is really tough.
“For Everton, it is very rare for us to say we are having a good start.
“If we can have a second half to the season what we’ve had in recent years tagged on to this, then it could be an exciting season – but there are a lot of ifs.”
TIM CAHILL’S decision to call time on his sparkling Everton FCcareer in the summer and head for a lucrative swan song in New York was sad but understandable.
Although Evertonians considered the Australian a modern-day great who contributed everything he had over his eight inspirational years at the club, most also recognised that those long, combative seasons coupled with regular international football, had taken a toll on their idol.
Cahill, while still a leading character in the dressing room and useful operator on the field, was some way off the incessant effectiveness of his prime.
Indeed – and this is certainly not a slight on the man from Sydney – his departure prompted something of a stylistic watershed for Everton.
What the Blues lost in his leadership, and goal contribution they gained in the acquisition of midfielders in Kevin Mirallas, and Steven Naismith, who possess other more progressive qualities.
Such was Cahill’s importance and legacy it was never easy for David Moyes to leave him out of his side, but with that decision taken out of his hands, his teams contain more pace, passing flair and creativity in the final third.
No longer is Moyes trying to build a team around a niche player – albeit a special one – who was neither really an orthodox central midfielder or a centre forward.
In addition to the new exciting talent in his ranks, Moyes has witnessed Marouane Fellaini step-up and fill Cahill’s boots with aplomb.
So it must surely be sentiment alone which prompts some to call for a January loan move for Cahill - who turns 33 next month.
His absence over in America has made the hearts grow fonder, but that’s where the similarities with Landon Donovan’s previous spells end.
When the Californian has jetted in, it has been to add urgently-required pace and directness to Everton’s flanks, and even that is arguably no longer needed. Of course, a cruel glut of injuries could turn this assessment on its head, making moves for both MLS stars worth considering, but if fortune favours the Blues in that department, Cahill – and perhaps Donovan – should not be required to brave the depths of a Merseyside winter again in any other capacity than as welcome and popular guests at Goodison.
THERE were few more satisfying sights this week than a mustachioed Leon Osman looking every inch the seasoned international on his England debut.
As ever – and despite ITV’s lame commentary – the new-boy was ably supported by Leighton Baines, as Everton’s left-back also baby-sat Steven Caulker in Stockholm.
But spare some praise also for Seamus Coleman, who was terrific for the Republic of Ireland against Greece in Dublin, making a mockery of his exclusion from Giovanni Trapattoni’s Euro 2012 squad. Coleman is growing into the right-back role at Everton nicely, maturing as a defender with each passing game.
DUNCAN FERGUSON is urging fans to sign up to this year’s Santa Dash and raise cash for Everton in the Community.
The Blues’ official charity is recruiting supporters to don blue Santa suits and complete the 5km course through Liverpool city centre on Sunday, December 2.
The club announced its biggest ever charitable campaign to date last week to celebrate the difference that Everton in the Community has made to vulnerable and underprivileged people on Merseyside during the last quarter of a century.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary, the charity is also inviting all Evertonians to be part of an ambitious fundraising campaign to raise £1million to help the charity in its mission to support even more people across the region for the next 25 years – and beyond.
Everton in the Community is asking 40,000 supporters, the capacity of Goodison Park, to raise £25 each to help achieve a target of £1million and Big Dunc hopes to see lots of supporters signing up for the Santa Dash to help reach the target. Ferguson said: “I would like to urge all Evertonians to get behind our 25th Anniversary campaign and sign up for the Santa Dash. The charity staff work really hard to support local people and have achieved so much over the last 25 years.”
BARRY HORNE: I WATCHED the Sweden versus England game on a tiny screen on a slow coach back from London, so my viewing experience was hardly the most comfortable.
Still, I couldn’t fail to notice the assured, confident midfielder passing the ball around the field like he’d been doing it all his life.
And it wasn’t Steven Gerrard, on this occasion.
Leon Osman had a fantastic international debut. He looked composed, controlled and seemed to enjoy the night. And that is not something you can often say about players who pull on an England shirt. His interview afterwards was equally impressive. When asked if he had proven a point with his performance, he said that he didn’t have anything to prove. Confidence, without a hint of arrogance.
This is a man who has been proving himself at Everton for the last 10 years.
Nothing will change now he has an England cap, but it looked to me like Leon feels he belongs on that stage. I don’t think it will be the last we see of him on it.
The only sad thing, from a posterity point of view, is that his debut should occur during ‘Movember’, meaning every image of him achieving such a milestone will portray him with what I can only describe as “dubious” facial hair.
Of course the night itself was overshadowed somewhat by the performance of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Talk about stealing someone’s thunder!
His first three goals would, by mere mortals, have been considered pretty special in their own right. His fourth was, in a word, outrageous. It was the most audacious, technically difficult strikes I have ever seen.
Still, while it was Zlatan’s night, Leon Osman can be proud of himself too.
BARRY HORNE: I SPENT a couple of very enjoyable hours at Goodison Park on Tuesday, attending the second event in a new Everton initiative – the fans’ forum.
Hosted by Darren Griffiths of the club’s excellent media team, and attended by some 120 Blues season-ticket holders, the evening was a great success, a lot of fun, and, I think, very well received by all who attended. I certainly didn’t hear any complaints anyway!
I am sure the Everton supporters who went will have enjoyed, or at least endured, the words of both myself and Graeme Sharp, who offered our take on all things Blue, as well as our own careers and memories.
We certainly enjoyed ourselves, and it is always great to interact with supporters who are knowledgable, passionate and enthusiastic about the club.
But more interesting were the views of Robbie Anderson, who coaches at the club’s renowned youth academy, and current first-team player Tony Hibbert, who were also in attendance on the night.
Tony spoke brilliantly about the club, about David Moyes and about his team-mates, and interacted well with the loyal supporters who had attended the event.
These events are to be a regular thing, and are a great way for the club to reach out to its most loyal, hardcore fans. Attendance is, naturally, by invitation only, so my advice to any Blues season-ticket holder is; if you get an invite, make sure you get yourself down to Goodison.
After all, what better way to spend a Tuesday evening is there than by having a pie and a pint, loads of good banter, and a chat about all things Everton?
I can’t think of many, I know that. It is a great initiative by the club, and long may it continue.
When it comes to football’s impossible jobs, replacing Sir Alex Ferguson almost certainly heads the list.
But not far behind, according to Tim Howard - a man who has played for Manchester United boss Fergie and felt his wrath - is the task of emulating David Moyes’ decade of quietly remarkable achievements at Everton.
During that time, Moyes has taken the Blues from a perennial relegation struggle to an almost equally consistent fight at the business end of the table.
And given that the manager is in the last six months of his contract, Howard explains that is why it is imperative to keep an almost irreplaceable figure at Goodison.
“Of course, there is a lot of that, it’s tough to follow a manager who is so consistent. When you have longevity and success, it’s hard to match. It’s a very similar situation here at Everton (to United),” he explained.
“I remember saying how important he is to us the last time he signed a contract. The next person who comes in after David Moyes is going to have a very difficult job because the gaffer has done brilliant here.
“Obviously for us to go forward and have what we have, we need him to be steering the ship. It’s vital to keep him.”
While both Moyes and his chairman Bill Kenwright confidentially assert a deal to extend the manager’s tenure will be done, there is still some uncertainty while the contract remains unsigned.
The sticking point appears to be more over the future direction of Everton, and while Moyes has often said his players are so used to his style they could manage themselves, Howard maintains the reality is very different, as Kenwright must understand.
“Maybe we could for one Saturday because we have been under his tutelage, but he is being very humble when he says that,” the keeper added.
“We are where we are because of the instruction we’ve had off him – he is vital. There’s no drama at the moment but obviously it’s very important to keep our big players and very important to keep our manager.”
Moyes will be pleased his team can consolidate their fine start to the season by keeping a firm hold on fourth place at winless Reading on Saturday, and Howard revealed the manager’s success comes from a refusal to let anyone get too big for the club.
“The egos are very few and far between, which is different to most clubs. In fact our biggest players have the smallest egos and that’s hard to come by,” the American added.
“We have said before that with clubs spending exorbitant amounts of money, and us not being able to do that, we still have more fight and spirit and we show it,
“From the day I walked in here - and I have been here seven years now - this is an easy place to come to work. For a new guy coming in from a foreign county, it’s an easy place to come and adapt.
“The one thing the manager’s able to do, even if he brings in a guy who maybe does have a suspect character, is believe in his own ability to get him to conform to our ways.
“Of course you’re not always going to get it right. But the manager’s not scared to say ‘you’re not a good fit here, get going.’ That shows a real strength of character.”
Moyes will be without influential forward Kevin Mirallas this weekend, with Steven Naysmith set to deputise.
Howard was speaking at the launch of 12 Shades of Blue, Everton’s new charity calendar, which goes on general sale on November 22 - click here for a preview.
LEON OSMAN admits his international future hinges on Everton continuing to sparkle.
Midfielder Osman, 31, made a decent England debut in the 4-2 loss to Sweden on Wednesday.
Now he hopes to stay in the squad when the Three Lions host Brazil in February.
David Moyes’ fourth-placed side look to maintain their excellent start at Reading tomorrow.
Osman said: “I’ve been playing for Everton for a number of years. But it wasn’t until we started playing the football that we have, that I managed to push into the squad.
“It is important for me, if I’ve got any aspirations of staying in the squad, that we stay at the top of the league. That’s vital.
“I still feel I’m young in the head and most people at Everton would tell you I’m young in the head.
“I’m not sure if that is a compliment or not!”
DAVID MOYES has no plans to go January shopping to boost his Everton squad.
The Toffees are currently riding high in fourth in the Premier League, having lost just once this season.
And the Scot does not expect to be able to bring in players to consolidate their position when the transfer window reopens.
Moyes said: “I don’t think we’ll strengthen in January. I don’t think we’ll be looking to do any business.
“Not because we wouldn’t want to but I just don’t think we will have the resources to properly do it in January.”
In the summer transfer window Moyes signed Steven Naismith, Kevin Mirallas and bought Steven Pienaar back from Tottenham.
Prior to that he splashed out on Rangers striker Nikica Jelavic and Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson in January.
DAVID MOYES reckons anyone picking a team of the season so far would have FOUR Everton players in it.
The fourth-placed Blues have blown their reputation as slow starters out the water.
Their star man has been Marouane Fellaini, who is being eyed by Chelsea and Arsenal but Moyes insists he will be staying put.
The Goodison gaffer said: “Marouane is a difficult player to stop, Leighton Baines has done an awful lot for us, Steven Pienaar’s got that combination with him and Kevin Mirallas has done brilliant.
“Nikica Jelavic looks like he’ll get the goals — and we all know the form Leon Osman’s been in.
“So I definitely think three or four of our players would be close to the best XI for the start of the season.”
DAVID MOYES insists Everton will NOT become a one-man show as they chase a return ticket to Europe.
The Goodison boss has been delighted by Marouane Fellaini’s sensational start to the season that has helped the Toffees into fourth place.
Fellaini’s performance in overturning Sunderland’s 1-0 lead a week ago highlighted the Belgian’s importance.
Moyes said: “We have to make sure that teams can’t think about how to stop him. That’s why we dropped him back deeper last week.
“Felli is not a centre-forward, so you’re not always marking him and picking him up. He got us a goal and created the winner.
“When we played Arsenal, people would say, ‘How do you stop Thierry Henry?’ And you’d say, ‘How do you stop Bergkamp, Limpar?’... there were so many players.
“I think that now we have got three or four more players who can win and open games up than maybe we have had in the past here.
“If they were picking a Premier League team so far, I think three or four of ours would definitely be close.”
But Moyes knows the spectre of injuries constantly hangs over Everton’s Champions League bid.
He has been without Darron Gibson and Tony Hibbert for much of the season, Kevin Mirallas is out for at least two games and Phil Neville is a doubt for Reading today.
And he does not expect major reinforcements in January. Moyes said: “I’ll maybe use the loan market, but I’d be surprised if here were any serious purchases.”
It was a game he will remember forever more. A capacity crowd, a sparkling new stadium and a goal fit to grace any occasion.
But while the world and his wife were left speaking about Zlatan Ibrahimovic following the staggering strike on Wednesday evening, Leon Osman was able to come away from England’s contest with Sweden feeling equally content.
Of course, the Everton midfielder’s efforts were not as spectacular, or as game-changing, as the enigmatic Ibrahimovic but, in his own, understated way, Osman proved a point in Stockholm’s twinkling new Friends Arena.
Many had wondered why, at the age of 31, Roy Hodgson had called Osman into his squad. This is a transitional period for the national team and the emphasis is on blooding new, young players who will potentially be the mainstays for major tournaments in 2018 and 2020.
Good footballers, however, never go out of fashion, not matter how old they are. And, that, in a nutshell is precisely what Osman showed on Wednesday night. Dovetailing well with Steven Gerrard, Osman kept England’s engine room ticking over with his assured range of passing.
Those who have been watching him over the last two years will not have been surprised that he fitted in so neatly but to see him make a contribution to the best football England have played under Roy Hodgson was nonetheless so pleasing.
‘We were all genuinely made up when we heard that he had been picked,’ said Leighton Baines, Osman’s Everton colleague and a man whose performances mean that Ashley Cole has genuine competition for his left-back spot.
‘The manager (David Moyes) had pulled me and Jags (Phil Jagielka) before he got everyone together to say he’d heard there was a chance Ossie had been called up but he didn’t want to say too much in case it never worked out.
‘But when he called us around to tell us, everyone was over the moon for him. It’s brilliant and fully deserved. He has had to wait a long time for this and some people will be wondering why he has been called up but he is a footballer’s footballer.
‘He’s so skilful and his passing is brilliant. He has got goals in him too. He has definitely got the talent to stay in the squad and he is someone who won’t look out of place. He doesn’t get lots of headlines but footballers and people within the game appreciate the role he plays and the things he does.’
That may be true but there is a feeling that Osman would have made his England debut long before Wednesday night, had he played for a more 'fashionable' club. This is not being detrimental to Everton. Far from it.
Yet there are players who have played for southern based sides in recent years that have lacked Osman’s technical and tactical proficiencies. Put it another way, had he spent his career at Tottenham, say, he would not be one of England’s oldest debutants.
Encouragingly, though, there are signs from Roy Hodgson that Osman will not join the ranks of players such as Mark Walters, Kevin Richardson, Michael Ricketts and David Nugent, who wore Three Lions on their chest once but never again.
‘It’s very good for me to know that a player like Osman, someone I’ve thought a lot of for a number of years since coming back to English football, can be brought in relatively late in his career and do the job he did,’ mused Hodgson.
‘The next time I put a squad together I can’t make guarantees but one thing is for sure: I believed in him and gave him a chance and he took the chance. He’s certainly a name we will be discussing very seriously the next time we get together.’
And there, if Osman needed any, was the proof he could be comfortable being referred to as an international class footballer.
As the January transfer window approaches it is possible to hear already the distant bustle of tents being pitched, sleeping bags unfurled, sandbags piled, prime pavement spots sniffily contested. Every year there is at least one guaranteed object of sales day frenzy, the season's most desirable must-have item to be scooped up by the January shopper with the sharpest elbows.
This year it is already clear who this going to be. The Bone China Tea Set Player of this year's January sale will be the Belgian Marouane Fellaini of Everton, a player who has consistently drawn ominous and unsettling attention to himself by playing with unsustainable excellence at a merely mid-to-high ranking club. There is a kind of unavoidable burden attached performing like this beneath the eyes of the Premier League's ruling powers, like coming into bloom as a beautiful peasant daughter in some seigneurial mediaeval fiefdom.
Cover yourself my dear, you can almost hear David Moyes hissing from behind his plough. Be not too becoming. The master shall notice.
This week Fellaini has been linked again with a move to Chelsea, on this occasion by none other than Fellaini himself, albeit in the form of a carefully nuanced denial. "I want to play for one of the biggest clubs one day, but I am patient," he said, ruling nothing out and ruling nothing in, but forced to squirm and equivocate in the familiar manner of the player who commits an offence against the natural hierarchy by remaining outstandingly well-used where he is when he could instead be experiencing the elite alienation of big‑club fringe-dom, high-fiving substituted team-mates, running on in a suit when other players win trophies, looking mildly concerned in a beanie hat and so on.
If this is a familiar story, Fellaini himself is an interesting case. Billed most often as an attacking midfielder, it is his sheer physical scale that tends to generate a familiar buzz of folkish excitement: the unusual breadth of his limbs, that vast bobbing head shrouded in its lustrous Bel-fro, the fact that often in the Premier League he looks a bit like a man kicking a balloon around in his socks at Christmas."Fellaini can be unplayable ," it is sometimes said, and English football has always loved this word with its suggestion of some state of unanswerable psychical ultimacy, of tiring of all the difficult, intricate stuff and simply turning the Scrabble board upside down, ripping up the exam paper. Andy Carroll in his best moments is described as "unplayable", albeit his career ambitions seem to have narrowed in recent weeks into a repeated attempt to execute successfully a flying overhead kick, leading him to spend large parts of any game writhing on his back like a giant doomed woodlouse.
It is easy to wonder what Fellaini might bring to Chelsea's already well‑stocked attacking midfield. At first glance, with his outsized physicality, his double-thickness limbs, he looks like another example of that recent phenomenon the Undercover Big Man, an attacking midfielder who lurks in fashionable areas but is there to perform what is essentially an old-fashioned concussive function, not so much playing in the hole as ripping you a new one.
Much has been made of Yaya Touré's highly effective runaway-caravan role at Manchester City, those periods when he is encouraged to gallop with the ball towards an opposing defence, a gambit that in its more unhinged moments brings to mind the final Lycra-ripping, vein-popping stages of the barrel-running round of the World's Strongest Man.
It isn't just size, though. Fellaini brings his own specialised skill: a unique ability to play football with his chest. Really, he is the best at this. A while back, Sky Sports' Goals on Sunday did a montage of Fellaini chest-skill and it was genuinely awe-inspiring, the Fellaini chest seeming to caress the ball, to guide and persuade it with a craftsman's precision.
Like all good players Fellaini can pass, run and finish. But uniquely this is a man who can also run a game with his chest, leaping to grab the ball out of its flight like a man taking a bullet for the president, cupping it, swilling it around, redirecting it with a single practised flex of a chest that must by now have the texture of a delightfully weathered and worn wicketkeeping glove of the 1930s.
Watching Fellaini it is tempting to conclude that the chest is an unfairly neglected tool. It slips through the gaps, failing to register in terms of stats or strategy in a world obsessed with the more obvious charms of the feet and forehead. Currently the chest probably stands a distant third in footballing importance, just in front of the knee. Perhaps part of its problem it is that it lacks a vocabulary of skills. You might want to describe Fellaini, for example, as having "an educated chest", but we never hear this kind of talk: a cultured chest, a jack-hammer of a chest, or for those whose chest work is obviously inadequate, a chest he just uses for holding his neck up. And the fact is the chest is a very difficult technique, a matter of timing, peripheral vision and basic courage to brave those moments where the ball strikes the chest with the horrible hollow thud, the nipple-skinning howl of pain familiar to any Sunday league player foolish enough to attempt it with insufficient give, timing or muscle bulk. All the more surprising, then, that there is no mention of the chest in any of the FA's headline coaching manuals of the last 30 years, not even in the long-ball bible of the 1980s The Winning Formula, with its seven pages on "lofted passes", its preoccupation with "the prime target area" and its single-page entry for something called "patience".
If the chest has always tended to be a source of mild distrust in English football, seen as a compromise, a fudge, halfway towards a handball, there have been plenty of great chesters around. I remember seeing Roberto Carlos pull a huge spiralling goal-kick out of the air with his chest. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who made his first appearance in top-level football only this week, is a brilliant chester. During Sweden's most rampant long ball period he would often use the chest to angle and flick and redirect like a man offering slip catching practice. Mark Hughes gave good chest. Joe Cole, by contrast has always seemed slightly troubled by the chest, constantly trying to tame some horribly bouncing ball surrounded by brontosaurus-thighed aggressors, chesting always in desperation where Fellaini, for example, wears the ball like a scarf.
For the neutral it is to be hoped that Fellaini will stay at Everton in January, if only because this seems to be good for him and good for Everton, not to mention good for those who admire chest work of the highest class. And perhaps in the end the chest simply needs a standard bearer.
This may yet be Fellaini, a man who – as it was once said of Ferenc Puskas's left foot – has a chest that is "like a hand". For now those going to watch football this weekend could even be encouraged to celebrate the chest a little when it appears, to lead a small ripple of connoisseurial applause of the type usually reserved for a sideways pass or a defensive punt into the top tier, sparing a thought for the third way, the game's one neglected border town between hoof and head.