Mike Pejic had a stellar career that included a three-year spell at Everton and international recognition – but it was at his boyhood club, Stoke City, where he first made his name.
The left-back racked up 344 appearances for the Potters and was part of the side that won the League Cup in 1972 – Stoke’s first and only major trophy to date.
Pejic won four caps for England and his impressive performances earned him a £135,000 move to Everton in 1976. He went on to make 96 appearances for the Toffees before moving to Aston Villa in 1979.
A fiercely determined and tenacious defender, Pejic’s competitive streak still burns strong. Now 68, he competes in taekwondo and for the past five years has been the Great British champion at his age group.
When’s he’s not battling it out on the mat, Pejic still keeps a watching brief on the Potters for his local paper, The Stoke Sentinel. He spoke to evertonfc.com this week to give us the lowdown on Paul Lambert’s men ahead of their clash with Everton on Saturday. He began by telling us what the boss has brought to the club since replacing Mark Hughes in January…
He gives a lot of enthusiasm on the touchline, he’s quite verbal with the team and I think they’ve responded to him. He’s tightened things up and he’s now got legs in the team. He’s gone to 4-3-3, three in the midfield area, two wide and one up top. The players are playing for him, which is the main thing.
A TESTING CAMPAIGN
It’s been a difficult season. It goes way back to last season – we haven’t really had a good month since January last year. I think the new manager’s made a big difference, though. We’re not conceding many goals. Since he arrived, in seven games they’ve won one, lost four, drawn two – they’ve scored five but conceded only six. Even against Man City the other night, they managed to keep the score down.
POTTERS' KEY MEN
Joe Allen’s been a massive plus for us in the middle of the park. I think Zouma’s done okay at centre-back, too – he’s done a decent job since coming in from Chelsea. Shaqiri’s our top goalscorer but, for me, he can be hit and miss. He’s a decent player but we need more consistency from him. Jack Butland’s one of the best goalkeepers around as far as England’s concerned but I think he has to be more verbal and dominate his backline.
WHO CAN BOSS THE MIDFIELD?
Whoever gets hold of that area will take control of the match. I know Gueye is back for Everton so that will tighten things up and Rooney’s still top-class for me. Playing in that midfield role, I think he’s one who could break the backline of Stoke with his passing. Joe Allen will be very important for Stoke and it’ll be interesting to see whether Lambert goes for Crouch up front. I actually think it could be a draw.
AND, FINALLY, PEJIC ON BAINES
His return from injury will give Everton a big boost. His distribution and his support play is good and he gives balance to the side. He adds a lot to the team in both defending and attacking. He doesn’t leave holes in behind him, either – you see some people who play there and they don’t seem to understand the difference when to sit and when to go, when to cover. Playing at full-back, a lot of thought has to go into your game – he’s got a brain and his positional sense is good.