What The Papers Say - 25 March
Irvine, Coleman and more transfer talk in Monday's round-up.
The views on this page are taken from the local and national media and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton.
Everton will be encouraged by the news that £13million rated Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo is open to a move to England.
David Moyes tried to procure the striker in the summer but could not match the La Liga side's valuation of their Spain international.
The 27-year-old hitman who has 15 goals in 26 league games this season, claims that he likes English football and he will play in the country at some point.
'It is a league that I like and sooner or later I will play in it,' he said.
'President Jose Maria del Nido received some offers in January, but decided not to consider them.
'We’ll see what is going to happen in the future.'
STEVIE NAISMITH reckons it’s time struggling Scotland “grew up” and started delivering on promises.
The Scotland ace believes a young squad has the potential to compete on the world stage, but has to walk the walk after talking the talk for too long.
Scotland have failed to win any of their last six qualifying games – the latest defeat coming on Friday against Wales. This morning Naisy and the squad jet to Belgrade for a clash with stuttering Serbia and the Everton attacker reckons the fans deserve to see progress.
He admitted: “A lot of the boys are still quite young, so maybe it is an immaturity thing. But it is something we do need to get over. We can’t continue to say we are progressing but not produce it on the pitch.
“The group table obviously isn’t telling lies.
“We’ve lost three games and haven’t got a win yet.
“That’s where the immaturity maybe comes in. We need to grow up and face facts.
“If you are in the team, you need to go out and perform and get results.”
Scotland trained yesterday at the indoor arena at Toryglen minus the defensive trio of Charlie Mulgrew, Gary Caldwell and Grant Hanley and attacker Kris Commons All four are, however, expected to be available for the clash with Serbia along with striker Kenny Miller who showed no ill effects from a knee injury picked up against the Welsh and completed a full session.
Naismith is a contender to replace the banned Robert Snodgrass in Novi Sad while Steven Fletcher is definitely out with ankle ligament damage.
Scotland kicked off the World Cup campaign with a disappointing 0-0 home draw against Serbia last September.
Serbia are also out of the running for qualification with just four points from five games.
SEAMUS COLEMAN believes he is currently playing the best football of his Everton FC career – after adding defensive meanness to the attacking flair he has shown all season.
After tormenting champions Manchester City’s rearguard in last weekend’s famous victory, Everton’s Republic of Ireland international helped his country to an invaluable 0-0 draw in Sweden on Friday night.
And the 24-year-old explained he is happy to rein in his attacking instincts when the situation demands.
“I feel good in my proper position,” he explained.
“I have always felt I am a right-back and I am getting a good run of games for club and country in that position.
“The manager likes me to get forward. That is a big part of my game.
“But sometimes you have got to think a point is a good result and there were times when I stayed back and let the lads do it.
“It was about being solid more than anything but if anyone was going to win it it looked like we could have.”
The disciplined draw in Stockholm means that Ireland will face Austria tomorrow with the chance to leapfrog their visitors in the chase to qualify for Rio next summer.
And Coleman claims that Friday’s creditable draw will count for nothing if they fail to beat Austria in Dublin.
Coleman added: “It was a good point and a good performance. We can bring that on to Tuesday now.
“It has set us up nicely for the game against Austria, but a point will mean nothing if we can’t finish it off.
“There is no better feeling than going into that game after a good performance and a good point.”
Sweden had the more clear-cut chances on Friday, but Millwall goalkeeper David Forde made three superb saves.
Coleman said: “He was brilliant. He came for corners and caught everything.
“It was a massive save at the end. It would have been a kick in the teeth if that had gone in but I thought he had a great night.
“I thought we kept them quiet and played when we had the chance.
“We handled them well and they weren’t expecting us to play like we did.”
HE IS the man charged with the crucial task of producing Everton’s next crop of home-grown heroes.
The Blues world-renowned academy has long been considered a production line of top talent; with stars such as Wayne Rooney, Jack Rodwell, Leon Osman, and Victor Anichebe to name a few, passing through its doors.
Alan Irvine has already served the club as a player, and assistant manager to David Moyes – but now he is more than a year into his toughest challenge yet – ensuring there are more starlets who are ready to save Everton millions of pounds in transfer fees over the coming years.
But Evertonians can rest assured, the job is in the best possible hands.
In November the academy was awarded category one status in line with the FA’s Elite Player Performance Plan or EPPP.
It capped 12 months of hard graft for Irvine and his staff, and the Scot is now ready to concentrate on emulating some of Europe’s best academies.
To do that Irvine has been prepared to travel, and he admits he found inspiration in some of the least glamorous corners of the continent.
“I went to a presentation at the Emirates which was by the European coaches association and I was really impressed by what I saw from Dynamo Zagreb,” he says. “It made me curious to find out more so I went over to have a look.
“It wasn’t anything revolutionary but it reinforced my own beliefs. Their attention to detail in terms of the technical development of players was outstanding. I left academy football in 2002 to come to Everton with David, and at the time all the talk was about how the continental players are better technically than we are.
“I came back just over a year ago and people were saying the same thing. That surprised me. I was disappointed. I thought, ‘What have we been doing for 10 years?”
“Zagreb have got a lot of players playing in the top leagues around Europe. They said in their presentations they’ve got 25 ex-players in the top leagues in Europe. Their academy is run for a different reason than ours. Ours is to produce players for the first team, theirs is to produce players to sell.
“They tell me they’ve got the next ones lined up as well, and having seen them I can believe that. They’re way ahead of where we are. I looked at them from under-19s to under-9s. There was nothing I saw that I hadn’t before.
“I didn’t see circus acts either. I saw functional footballers, performing techniques in the right way with an intensity in terms of the tempo and concentration.
“If I went to Barcelona I’d probably see that happening. Techniques don’t just happen.”
Irvine believes English clubs must readdress the importance of practise – and quickly if they are to catch up with the rest of Europe.
“My feeling is that we need to improve technically and how do you do that? Practise,” he says. “Our mentality in this country towards practise isn’t good enough. We love a game. We like a competition.
“By the very nature of that people want to win – and while that is important – it’s not everything. Sure, clubs in Germany, Holland or Spain envy us in terms of our never say die attitude and competitive spirit and we should never lose that but we need to get what they’ve got. They’re looking to get what we’ve got and vice versa.
“Funnily enough it may be harder for them, because it’s taken us generations to develop into the fighters we are. But there’s no reason why anyone can’t improve technically.
“We need the buy-in of the parents too. If they come along and think, ‘they didn’t even have a game’ it’s going to be an issue for us unless they realise why. Games have to be played, but they should be a test of the techniques you’ve learned.
“You want to see that technical work reflected in a game and hopefully see the decision making improve too.
“You can’t develop players without putting them in positions were they have to make a decision.
“But what it boils down to is that I can never understand why in football, where there is such a range of techniques to refine compared to a sport like tennis, and yet tennis players spend far more time working on their technique than footballers do.”
Everton’s footballing philosophy at academy level is playing with style, although Irvine – who has tasted the demands of first team management at Preston and Sheffield Wednesday – insists there will always be a degree of pragmatism as well.
“When I was academy director in Newcastle and I was coaching the under-17s I wouldn’t let the goalkeeper kick it,” he says.
“We lost some goals because of that but gradually we got better and the team developed as a result. The good thing is that it’s less about results at that level and more development. Winning is important but it comes after development.
“It’s about when to do things and when not to do them. If another team is pressing on, and you throw it out to one of your players who is under too much pressure and you concede a chance – that doesn’t make sense.
“It’s about when to play it from the back, you get your chances to do it.
“Quite often it’s during the course of the game, when play is flowing, rather than dead-ball situations when everybody has got time to get in position and set traps. There’s got to be a realism to it all.
“So yeah, playing from the back is a philosophy of our academy but you’ve got to be clever with it.
“We don’t want players who make poor decisions about when and when not to play at first team level because it’s too expensive then. The first team is results first.
“Any manager of a first team will take a scrappy 1-0 win week after week and if they’re doing it enough times they’ll say OK let’s start doing it with a bit of style.
“They’ll always take three points though.”
“I was very fortunate in that my first experience as a coach was to take a team to Old Trafford to play against the class of ‘92.
“They inspired me. I thought ‘That’s the way I want to see teams playing’. They had great individuals but they played as a team.
“I saw the Beckhams, Scholes (below) and the rest develop from fantastic youth players into fantastic reserve players then onwards and upwards.
“The team in Europe at that time was Ajax. Then it became France. Today it’s Spain and Barcelona. In 10 years time there’ll be someone else everyone is trying to copy.
“The problem with copying is you’ll never catch up if that’s all you do.”
“Dave Sexton (below) died last year and he was a fantastic coach who would be a top coach today. I look around now and feel for the young coaches because when I was learning there were some outstanding coaches to learn from, and I don’t know if there are so many now.”
“The academy is extremely important at a club like this. The club plough a lot of money into it – money that could perhaps be used by David to sign a player. It shows they understand the importance of it, but also makes us accountable. We need to produce players because we don’t have the money to go out and buy them.
“Even at academy level some clubs are spending huge amounts of money to buy players in that we couldn’t dream of. We’ll buy the odd player from a smaller club but it won’t be significant. There are certain boys that we show an interest in but when we find out other certain clubs are interested we just back off. We know that we can’t compete financially.
“But opportunity is our biggest selling point. We don’t carry big squads at any level. We play players up the age range, and in our youth team then.”
“We’re trying to anticipate where the game is going in the next 10 years. What will the game look like for our nine-year-olds when they’re 19?
“I think it will be less physical in terms of contact. Defenders will need to be better at defending without smashing into people. Positional sense will have to be better, as will spoiling and pressing.
“I think it will be even faster. The ball will move quicker. It will be even more open then it is now, with the game moving quickly from end to end.
“That’s why we need to be better technically as it goes on – making better decisions with less time.
“At the moment the top players at the top level in midfield get maybe two touches in two seconds. If they have any more they’ll probably get challenged and lose the ball.”
An 87th-minute header by Nikita Parris snatched a Continental Cup point for Everton in Saturday night's eagerly-awaited Ladies derby.
But the Blues had their international goalkeeper Rachel Brown to thank for keeping them in the game after the new-look Reds created the better chances on a bitterly cold evening at Widnes' Halton Stadium.
Volunteers cleared the ground of snow and a crowd of 1,432 defied the weather, and the presence of ESPN cameras, to watch the curtain raiser for the new season.