Ahead of Everton’s trip to Turf Moor to face Burnley, evertonfc.com caught up with former England and Everton goalkeeper turned BBC pundit - and childhood Clarets fan - Rachel Brown-Finnis to help assess the two men between the sticks on Saturday and what to expect from Sean Dyche’s men...
Since hanging up her gloves in 2014, Rachel Brown-Finnis has moved seamlessly into the world of the football pundit.
Her decision to retire after nearly 20 years – 11 of which were spent as a Toffee – happily coincided with the 2014 Women's World Cup and, having amassed 82 international caps, she was seen as an ideal addition to the BBC’s coverage of the Canada-based tournament.
That has led to further work - analysing both the men's and the women's game - with BT Sport and on the radio, helping establish her as one of the up and coming personalities we can expect to see covering the beautiful game.
So with the Blues tackling the Clarets this Saturday, we decided it was time to put her newfound skills to the test and assess a meeting between two teams she truly holds dear.
“These are two clubs very close to my heart,” she explains. “My parents still go to watch Burnley. They have had a yoyo few years going between the Premier League and the Championship and it is always a bit strange when they play Everton. I have always been torn – my team is Everton but I grew up following Burnley.”
It would be a little harsh to press Brown-Finnis for her thoughts on who will win the game but she has seen enough to know that those at Turf Moor on Saturday will watch two exceptional goalkeepers at work.
“For me, Maarten Stekelenburg and Tom Heaton are two of the best keepers in the league,” she adds. “Tom has perhaps been a little bit unlucky not to get more of a look in for England. He has consistently played well for the last two or three years and that has, at least, seen him break into that England squad.
“As for Maarten, he has been quality. When a new manager comes in with his own ideas it brings about change. Ronald Koeman knows Maarten from Ajax and Southampton, so he will have known the ins and outs of what he can do on the pitch but also what he was like as a character off the pitch. He knew he would fit straight into this Everton team and he has been outstanding.
“Maarten seems to have everything that the team needs for him to fit into the style of play. He has command of his area, has the ability to make that last ditch save, and from a communication point of view, you can see him organising his defence.
“I have not seen any holes in Maarten’s technical ability, what he sees from a distribution point of view or areas like coming off his line and his decision making.
“If you watch, he keeps his weight forward on his toes. You see some keepers who rock back on their heels and get beaten because they are slow to get down. It’s things like that which, as a player, you notice about a goalkeeper and will look to exploit.
“Everton have improved at the back this season and Stekelenburg has been a big part of that.”
As for Burnley, Brown-Finnis knows Everton will have to match the Clarets’ work ethic if they are to leave with any sort of result on Saturday. Sean Dyche, himself a never-say-die centre-half who turned out for the likes of Chesterfield, Millwall and Watford in his playing days, has instilled that same battling attitude in his players.
“Dyche’s ethic has not wavered at all,” assesses Brown-Finnis. “The tactics can vary slightly depending on who they play but the main characteristics of his teams have remained the same – the work rate and the team ethos. There is not one player who doesn’t work his socks off. If they are beaten on quality, then that will happen in the Premier League. But they will never be beaten on effort.
“Burnley are a tough team to break down, as Liverpool found out at Turf Moor [the Clarets won 2-0 despite enjoying just 19 per cent possession against our neightbours]. That game certainly threw all the arguments about possession out of the window.
“But Everton are in decent form and played well against Manchester City. Stekelenburg had a fantastic game and was influential in earning a point but Everton showed they could compete with City and they are an exciting side under Ronald Koeman. I'm expecting another good game on Saturday.”