Plenty of reasons to be cheerful at Goodison

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In previous years, one crisis or another has blighted Everton’s pre-season campaign.  From Joleon Lescott exchanging flirtatious glances with Mark Hughes and his bulging wallet at Eastlands this time last year to fans worrying over the size of the squad the year before.

Five first team players left in May, no replacements were brought in until the final week of August and untried teenagers given starts in the first games of the season.

The years 2003 and 2005 were spent worrying about the lack of incoming players until, again, the final week of August while 2004 was spent agonising over the market forces that saw Wayne Rooney replaced with Marcus Bent.

As such, the relative calm of the summer of 2010 has been more than welcome. That’s not to say there have not been slight question marks over the future of some of our players.

Steven Pienaar has yet to sign an extension to his contract that expires in 2011 and Arsene Wenger has coveted Phil Jagielka.

However, few of the rumours have been as substantive as, say, Lescott last summer. Man City’s millions were always going to poach him in the end but this summer it has been different.

Scanning various Everton forums across the web, optimism is growing for the coming season amongst supporters. Here are some reasons why:

1. There is no manager in the Premier League who is as irreplaceable and paramount to his club as David Moyes is to Everton. Ferguson or Wenger? The wealth and stature of their clubs would attract comparable replacements.

Redknapp? He’s done a great job but he’s been well backed and Martin Jol was only a game away from finishing 4th.

Quite simply, I believe Everton would plummet if Moyes were to leave tomorrow simply due to the financial position of the club.

2. Despite finishing three places lower than the previous year, the form Everton showed last year inspires confidence. A combination of long-term injuries to key players, fall-out from the Lescott transfer, and new signings taking time to settle in contributed to a poor start.

However, from November onwards we lost twice in 24 games, despatched Man Utd at Goodison, did the double over Man City and took four points from the eventual champions.

Carry this form over to the beginning of 2010/11 and Goodison could be a very happy place to be.

3. The aforementioned long-term injuries have finally cleared up. Mikel Arteta and Phil Jagielka were out for the best part of a year while Marouane Fellaini, in the form of his life, missed the end of the season. Not to mention the likes of Aiyegbeni Yakubu and Louis Saha, who have also suffered.

It’s a while since Everton have been able to field their best possible team. Touch wood, players have returned to fitness and look sharp during pre-season.

4. Nearly all Everton’s key players have committed themselves. Arteta, Leighton Baines and Jack Rodwell have all signed five-year deals since the last season drew to a close. Phil Jagielka signed one last season.

The only doubt remaining is over Steven Pienaar, whose contract expires in 12 months time. Nevertheless, Pienaar has spoken in the press of his delight at “returning home to Goodison” after the World Cup. For the time being, it looks as though he’s happy to continue as a Blue.

5. The emergence of youth at Goodison is another cause for optimism. Jack Rodwell’s progression since making his debut as a 16-year-old has been a delight to watch.

He made 36 appearances that season, topping it off with a stunning goal in the victory over Manchester United. Rodwell was rewarded with a new five-year deal and has drawn plaudits for his assured display as England U21 captain earlier this week. A senior call-up is not too far away.

In addition to Rodwell, Seamus Coleman has returned to Goodison after impressing on loan in Blackpool’s promotion campaign. Coleman has shown much promise in his rare appearances for the senior side and is likely to see more first-team action at some point this season.

New signing 20-year-old Magaye Gueye, a nippy Frenchman who can play on the left or behind the forward line, has shown enough pre-season potential to suggest he will also have a part to play.

6. The wealth of midfield options Moyes has at his disposal should bring a smile to even the miserable pair who sit behind me at Goodison. Now they’re all fit, Moyes has 8 midfielders all capable of making an impression. Bilyaletdinov, Arteta, Cahill, Neville, Pienaar, Osman, Fellaini and Rodwell will all be pushing for a first-team place.

The manager’s penchant for 4-5-1 ought to ease the demands these players will all make for a first-team place.

Fellaini has the potential to be one of the finest Premier League players in his position, Rodwell’s potential is widely acknowledged, Arteta’s wizardry pulls the strings for the whole team, and Bilyaletdinov has performed well enough in fits and starts to suggest he can only improve after settling into the rigour and style demanded by Premier League football.

7. Finally, a less demanding fixture schedule ought to help ease the burden on the squad. Tottenham, for example, undoubtedly benefited from a reduced schedule last season as they pushed for the top four.

This season, although the squad is still small, it also packs a punch in many areas, provided our best players remain.

We have spent next to nothing on transfer fees again but Moyes has been quoted as saying: “We don’t need money. We are happy to keep the squad and move along and I think the team we have has got a really good chance of doing well.” He’s not wrong very often.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.

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