Another week means another trip abroad for Everton’s first-team squad. The Blues are heading to Holland for a training camp, with a game against FC Twente to come on Wednesday, before hopping over to Belgium to face Genk.
Last week the Toffees were in Tanzania, becoming the first Premier League club to play a friendly over there when they edged a tight game with Kenyan side Gor Mahia.
Below are some of the talking points from that memorable stay in east Africa.
They sure do love their football out in Tanzania – and when it was announced Wayne Rooney had returned to Everton, things became even crazier. When Leon Osman was undertaking a bike tour around Dar es Salaam, everyone he met asked him about Rooney and whether he was coming, so when he could finally answer, the excitement was palpable.
When the game arrived, you could not have scripted it better. Rooney, 30 yards, top corner, stadium erupts. It was a magic moment that wonderfully captured the week as a whole. We have certainly made new friends and fans out in Tanzania, and Rooney’s return has only tightened that bond.
Here’s hoping for a repeat of that stunning goal when he makes his second Everton debut when the real business kicks off in Europe on 27 July…
Mo Besic. Centre-back?
Okay, Gor Mahia are not a Premier League side. Yet they still gave it a right good go and certainly made the most of their chance to play a top European club. That meant second half centre-back Muhamed Besic was kept relatively busy until the conditions and the Blues’ quality began to tell on our Kenyan opponents.
Besic will face sterner tests as a central defender but he gave a glimpse that referring to him as a ‘makeshift’ centre half is a little misleading. He has played there before on occasion for previous clubs Hamburg and Ferencvaros so it’s not unfamiliar to him. And he dealt with everything that came his way out in Tanzania in a calm and composed manner.
With Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams starting against Gor Mahia, plus Michael Keane’s arrival, Ramiro Funes Mori to return from injury and Matthew Pennington and Mason Holgate pushing for minutes, Ronald Koeman is well stocked at the back. But with European football, coupled with domestic cup competitions, bringing games thick and fast, having plenty of depth is welcome. Besic could certainly add to that.
Dowell Next Up?
Kieran Dowell put the cherry on top of a lively second half performance against Gor Mahia with a sweetly struck winner, arrowing a powerful long range drive beyond the keeper.
The young midfield schemer had, by his own admission, a difficult season last year but his performance in Tanzania shows he is up for the challenge of becoming the latest youngster to force his way into Ronald Koeman’s plans. His gliding runs coupled with his willingness to try something different meant Gor Mahia’s backline were kept on their toes whenever Dowell had the ball and his link-up play with the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Kevin Mirallas looked natural.
He’ll more than likely see further minutes out in Holland and Belgium and if he can carry on in a similar vein after the start he has made, he could hope to emulate the other youngsters seeing action under Koeman. And who was the first to celebrate his goal with him? Close friend Tom Davies, who you can bet has already offered his advice on how to push into the senior group.
New Faces Settling Well
The trip was an opportunity for the recent additions to the Everton squad to get to know their new teammates and it was great to see them enjoying their time out in Tanzania.
Davy Klaassen was one such player and he took part in the Cooking Challenge alongside Pennington, Jags and Calvert-Lewin. He had a big smile almost permanently plastered across his face as Jags, on the opposite team, constantly gave him a ribbing, even firing back on occasion.
Michael Keane also spoke openly about how easy it has been to settle in since his move from Burnley. Click here
to see what he had to say.
And Wayne Rooney already knows about half the squad via his Manchester United and England connections! He was laughing and joking with everyone, and looks absolutely delighted to be home.
All in all, and with more new faces to arrive this week with the likes of Jordan Pickford and Sandro, the squad is doing its usual fine job of integrating the new signings.
As mentioned above – Tanzanians love football. And they took Everton to their hearts during their short stay. The buzz and excitement from the locals everywhere the team went was fantastic to see, with everybody wanting photos and autographs from the squad.
It was the perfect way to kick off the Club’s new partnership with SportPesa and the locals were asking when we would be coming back when it came time to leave. One thing is for sure, we’ll be welcomed back with open arms when we do return.