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A BARGAIN summer move for Joleon Lescott would make sense for Everton FC, insists Graham Stuart.
The 31-year-old defender left Goodison in acrimonious circumstances in August 2009 when he opted to join Manchester City in a £22.5m deal.
However Lescott, who David Moyes originally signed from Wolves for around £4.5m in 2006, has fallen out of favour at the Etihad stadium, and is rumoured to be available again for a similar fee at the end of the current season.
And former Toffees hero Stuart, who won an FA Cup Winner’s medal with the Blues in 1995, reckons the chance for Moyes to bolster his defensive ranks by re-signing the 25-cap England man again may be too good to resist.
He said: “I think he’s got plenty to offer. He’s probably going to carry on playing for England and there’s no doubt he’s one of the top six centre backs in the country. His only problem will be not playing regularly at City.
“If he knows Everton are back in for him I’m sure that would really entice him. They say don’t go back, but Everton is a massive football club and the type of club where you can’t help wanting to come back. Howard Kendall did it three times. You know you get looked after.
“Joleon was very popular with the boys here, and still is by all accounts. I’m sure that deep-down the fans would recognise their club got a great deal even though he left. Hopefully if the money was right and he did come back it’d be another great deal to get him.”
Stuart, who was speaking at an event to urge fans to sign up to the Anthony Nolan bone marrow register in memory of former team mate, Gary Ablett, insists it is difficult to argue with Lescott’s reasons for seeking pastures new four years ago.
“I don’t think he ever let anyone down at Everton,” he said. “Whether he played left back or centre half his performance levels were top draw. In fairness to Everton as well they got a phenomenal amount of money for him at the time.
“Joleon decided it was a good opportunity for him to go to Manchester City, and it’s difficult to argue with his decision based on the fact that he’s got a Premier League winners medal and an FA Cup winners medal. In that respect he got out of it what was required. The problem for him now is he seems to not be playing too often and the player in you wants to be on that pitch every Saturday.”
SEAMUS COLEMAN is determined to erase the memories of his Euro 2012 disappointment by booking a World Cup adventure.
The 24-year-old Everton defender did not make the Republic of Ireland squad for last summer’s finals in Poland and Ukraine, and could only look on from afar as Giovanni Trapattoni’s men so drastically under-performed.
Eight months or so on, the survivors of that ill-fated campaign are busily attempting to repair the damage by qualifying for the World Cup finals in Brazil, but the hunger is as strong with the new generation of players who have joined them since.
Coleman has been a member of the senior squad for some time, but in recent fixtures has made the right-back spot his own.
He said: “I have been in and around the squad and I haven’t got as many games as I would have liked, but it definitely keeps me hungry.
“One of my aims is to get to a major tournament with my country after missing out in the summer at the Euros.
“I’m sure there are a lot of lads out there who didn’t go to the Euros who want to play in a major competition, so there is good hunger in the squad.”
Coleman’s form for both club and country has seen him take a major step forward in his career this season.
However, the former Sligo Rovers player is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
EVERTON midfielder John Lundstram, 19, is staying on loan at Doncaster until the end of the season.
Positivity has been a rare commodity for Ireland since the European Championship finals last summer and Giovanni Trapattoni is eager that it does not prove to be brittle.
The problem with a young team, as the manager explained yesterday, is that confidence can dissipate as quickly as it rises and, with some impetus clinging to their World Cup qualifying campaign, he is urging his team to believe in themselves.
Optimism has returned to the Irish camp after their 0-0 draw in Sweden on Friday, but an encouraging result will count for little if it is not followed by victory over Austria at the Aviva Stadium.
Ireland are lacking the titans of their recent past — Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane, who is injured — and perhaps also a little leadership.
As with many things, Trapattoni has an idiosyncratic approach to eking character from his players and he highlighted the example of James McCarthy, the talented Wigan Athletic midfielder.
“I told him, ‘I will punch you if you don’t stop being shy,’” the Italian said. “He can increase his confidence, he can dominate opponents. He should be saying, ‘I am James McCarthy.’ He already has these qualities; he just has to improve on them.”
The issue is a more general one, too; Ireland’s is not a rowdy dressing room. “The question is that sometimes the young are up and down,” Trapattoni said. “I’ve had many young teams in the past and with good results they took more confidence and trusted in their own quality. We must have this behaviour against Austria.”
In Keane’s absence because of a calf strain, Conor Sammon, the Derby County striker, will partner Shane Long in attack. “He is strong and can head the ball,” Trapattoni said of Sammon, who made his international debut against Poland last month. “He showed good quality in the last game. He can give us a presence physically and also technically.”
Stephen Kelly is on standby in case Marc Wilson, the left back, does not recover from a sore groin.
Ireland are fourth in their group, level on points with Austria, who beat the Faroe Islands 6-0 four days ago, and one behind Sweden. With Germany leading comfortably, the three sides are challenging for second place and a win is viewed as crucial.
Ireland’s home form has been moderate and after losing 6-1 to Germany in October, their supporters are owed a response. “Before these two games, we would have taken four points, but it means nothing if we don’t get a result against Austria,” Séamus Coleman, the Everton defender, said.
“We’ve lost a lot of big players, so the younger lads need to show we belong on the international stage. We’re not that young now, we’re 22 or 23, and need to step up and be counted.”