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What The Papers Say - 25 January

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Liverpool Echo


ANYONE thinking of grabbing an early dart before the final whistle at the Reebok stadium on Saturday would be advised to stay in their seats.

After all, if one thing is usually certain when Everton make the short journey to take on Bolton Wanderers, it’s that drama is guaranteed.

Everton supporters will travel en masse to Lancashire full of FA Cup spirit, hoping to see their side produce an improved display on Monday’s dismal performance on the South coast against Southampton.

And the history books suggest that when these two teams meet – there’s a good chance the contest will linger long in your memory.

You’d certainly have to possess a long memory – not to mention be a record breaker, to recall Everton's first ever FA Cup game which aptly was against Bolton in 1887.

And typically the clash was a strange – and drawn-out affair. After Wanderers won the game 1-0 Everton were handed a reprieve when it was ordered to be replayed due to Bolton fielding an ineligible player.

The ensuing contest was drawn 2-2, and a winner could still not be found when another replay resulted in yet another deadlock, finishing 1-1.

Finally Everton did the business by winning the third replay 2-1 at Goodison, before progressing to the next round and losing 6-0 away at Preston North End. So far, so strange – but it wasn’t the end.

In a bizarre twist the previous round was subsequently awarded to Bolton due to Everton fielding ineligible players; and eventually the heavy defeat against Preston was struck from the FA Cup records. At least it wasn’t all bad.

Fast forward to 1998 and Bolton were to suffer more last-gasp heart-ache, this time thanks to the Blues.

During the 1997/98 season Gareth Farrelly, a man who has incidentally worn the royal blue of Everton and the white of the Wanderers, saved the Toffees’ bacon with his last-day goal against Coventry City that staved off relegation. Just.

Of course, deep sighs and ground swells of relief in Merseyside were not shared along the M62 when Bolton slumped out of the Premier League on goal difference.

Colin Todd’s depression at the time was only deepened by the fact that his side might well have survived, at Everton’s expense.

Bolton’s first ever game at the Reebok was a 0-0 draw against Everton the previous September, when the home side were unjustly denied victory by referee Stephen Lodge who failed to spot that Gerry Taggart's looping header had fallen six inches behind the line before it was cleared by defender Terry Phelan.

The match ended goalless, and the teams finished level on points at the end of the season. Maybe it’d be fair to say there aren’t too many fond memories of Everton visits to this corner of the North West.

Under David Moyes Everton narrowly had the upper-hand. In September 2007 the trend for late, late deciders in the fixture was set when Joleon Lescott’s header from a Thomas Gravesen corner secured Everton a 2-1 victory. Yakubu marked his debut following his £11.25million move from Middlesbrough with the opener before Nicolas Anelka volleyed home an equaliser.

Another last-gasp goal, this time from Fellaini, gave Moyes’s men their first win in nine games in October 2008. Following a forgettable first half, Bolton were in the ascendancy but a lack of cutting edge allowed Fellaini to pounce in injury time with a header from Steven Pienaar’s cross.

The Blues were smarting almost a year later when another last-minute goal from substitute Ivan Klasnic earned the Trotters a dramatic 3-2 victory on home turf. Chung-Yung Lee and Gary Cahill gave Bolton a two-goal lead but goals either side of the break from Louis Saha and Fellaini appeared to have earned the visitors a hard-earned point.

Most Blues will have tried to forget the 2-0 defeat their team suffered at the hands of Bolton on their travels once again in February 2011. David Moyes declared this as one of the worst losses of his Goodison tenure as Everton slumped to a limp defeat. Bolton took an early lead when Gary Cahill headed in Stuart Holden’s free-kick before Daniel Sturridge, on loan from Chelsea, thumped home the second.

They took revenge later that year however, when the sending-off of David Wheater after just 20 minutes for a challenge on Diniyar Bilyaletdinov effectively ended the game as a contest. Everton, though, had to wait until the second half for goals from Marouane Fellaini and Apostolos Vellios to seal the 2-0 victory.

The Trotters’ relegation under Owen Coyle pressed pause on this famous old fixture, but Saturday will see it resurrected with all bets off as to whether things will go to plan for the visitors. Just don’t leave early.

Liverpool Echo


LEIGHTON BAINES believes Everton have saved themselves millions of pounds by handing Sylvain Distin a new contract. The Blues left-back says finding an adequate replacement for the French defender would likely have cost the club a lot of money.

Distin has put pen to paper on a 12-month contract extension which ties him to Goodison Park until the end of next season.

Baines has labelled the 35-year-old as one of the most dependable centre-halves in the Premier League and was delighted to see Distin agree to fresh terms.

“For what he gives the team, it would be very difficult to find someone else with that defensive reliability and his pace and power,” said Baines.

“It would probably cost the club a lot of money to go out and get someone like that as well.

“It is great news for us and hopefully Sylvain is happy as well.”

A professional player for over a decade, Distin continues to perform at the highest level.

Baines says the secret of the former Manchester City man’s longevity is his dedication in training and lifestyle away from the club.

Fittingly, Everton’s full-back was discussing Distin’s staying power with the ECHO at an event to champion the virtues of healthy eating and exercise to a group of Liverpool schoolchildren.

Though now seen as a mentor, Baines admits he looked for guidance in his earlier days with Everton.

The 28-year-old has been taught how to deal with the aches and pains that come with his trade, specifically a minor ankle complaint.

“You learn from all the lads,” he said.

“You’ll look to the good professionals and my first experience of that was when Joleon Lescott was at the club.

“I’d never really seen anyone dedicate themselves to it as much as he did and he took me under his wing. I just latched onto him and learnt from him.

Though now seen as a mentor, Baines admits he looked for guidance in his earlier days with Everton.

The 28-year-old has been taught how to deal with the aches and pains that come with his trade, specifically a minor ankle complaint.

“You learn from all the lads,” he said.

“You’ll look to the good professionals and my first experience of that was when Joleon Lescott was at the club.

“I’d never really seen anyone dedicate themselves to it as much as he did and he took me under his wing. I just latched onto him and learnt from him.

Liverpool Echo


EVERTON captain Phil Neville has urged his fit again team-mate Kevin Mirallas to produce some “big performances” now he is back in the first team picture again.

And the Blues skipper hopes that the Belgian livewire can add the individual brilliance which has been lacking in two successive goalless draws.

Mirallas came off the bench at Southampton on Monday for his first appearance since early December.

A recurrence of a hamstring injury forced the pacy front man off at half-time in that clash against Spurs, the only game he has started since early November.

But Mirallas’ early season form showed he can be a potent threat, scoring three and creating a further six goals before he was force to succumb to a troublesome hamstring problem.

“I think that’s what we’ve missed, particularly in games like against Swansea and Southampton where we’ve needed someone to come on and open up the door and be a little bit more individual,” explained Neville.

“He can provide individual bits of brilliance and I think we need big performances from Kevin now, which we know he’s capable of, and we need him to stay fit.

“It’s the same with Darron Gibson.

“He’s a couple of weeks away now and we need him fit, too.”

Gibson won’t be involved at Bolton tomorrow, but Mirallas and Neville will be, and the Blues skipper is hoping to spot a few familiar faces at the Reebok Stadium before the FA Cup fourth round tie.

“I’ll never forget the first time I went back there,” he smiled.

“I got off the bus and the lady who used to do the scoreboard when I played cricket in the Bolton Cricket League was there, then I saw all the people I used to play against, and the tea ladies. It was great. My dad was born in Bolton and grew up a Bolton Wanderers supporter and my grandad was as well.

“All the family are big‘ ’Boltoners’.

“It’s like seeing old friends from my school days when I go back.

“They give a lot of stick but it’s all good natured, I think the Reebok’s a brilliant stadium to play in. It’s tight and there’s always loads of banter.”

Neville hopes that he’ll be the one crowing afterwards – and he insists that the chase for a Champions League place or a possible FA Cup Final appearance have equal billing in the Blues dressing room.

“They are both equal to me,” he said.

“To win a major trophy like the FA Cup would be massive for the club. In terms of confidence going forward, you need to have something to show for it in terms of a medal or a trophy and the FA Cup is the biggest cup competition in the world. But if we finish in a Champions League place that would be a dream as well so we are fighting on two fronts at the moment. We want to keep challenging the teams above us – we know it is going to be one hell of a fight.”


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