Tom Cleverley and the United link
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With Tom Cleverley signing for Roberto Martinez for the second time in his career, what can we expect from him at Everton?

By the time next season kicks off, Tom will be 26 years old- a great age which should hopefully see the most productive years of his career in royal blue. A free transfer for an (ex) England international midfielder off the books of Manchester United is not to be sniffed at. After all, we've made some relatively successful signings from United in recent times, players like Cleverley who weren't going to make the United first team, but were good enough to improve others in the league. Players like Jesper Blomqvist, Tim Howard, Louis Saha, Darron Gibson, and until he was cruelly struck down by temporary paralysis of the limbs (yet went on to play countless games): Phil Neville. Of course the list goes beyond these players but under our previous manager each of these players were moderately successful for Everton. I say moderately because each one were/are decent players in their own way, who came in cheaply or on a free, yet I don't think any of them actually had United regretting letting them go a year or two too early. Harsh? Maybe...

Jesper Blomqvist

Jesper was a decent player and had he have been able to stay fit, might have had a longer Everton career than he did. Probably best remembered by many Evertonians for throwing his lucozade bottle to the ground in frustration having been substituted towards the end of a game which drew an instant and very public reprimand from new manager David Moyes who allowed Jesper to leave Goodison Park just a few months later.

Tim Howard

Tim has played over 300 games for us now and has seemingly been an excellent professional in his time with the club. On the football side- has he been good enough? Probably not. Aside from a couple of solid years, he has been (in my opinion) an average to below average premier league goalkeeper in a side that has had ambitions on being one of the top 6 teams in the league. I'm struggling to think of a single game when Tim has saved us points and won us games, let alone more than one occasion in his 300+ appearances for the club. Obviously Tim has made some saves and had his moments like the penalty save against Spurs at home a few years back, but think how many points United were better off for David de Gea last year- unfortunately, Evertonians witnessed it first hand at Old Trafford with his MoM performance as United beat us in the season just gone. You could make a strong case for Nigel Martyn having single-handedly saved us from relegation in 2003/04. According to ESPN, Tim Howard had the second lowest save % of all goalkeepers in the top European leagues last year with 61.1%. Tim may be a stalwart of our team, but does he improve us? I'm not suggesting Joel is the long term answer at 'keeper, but the best goalkeeping performance of last season (and for several years as far as I'm concerned) was Joel at Upton Park, and he was subsequently dropped immediately when Howard returned from injury.

Did he have lead insoles in his boots when he was trying to get across to that Lampard winner at Wembley? Because it still smarts.

Louis Saha

Clearly a talented player and enjoyed some good moments for us, but not the same player he had been in his pomp with United. Riddled with injuries, Louis enjoyed an up and down time at Goodison but was worth the effort to bring him in on a free. Fondly remembered for his goal in the FA cup final, the night under the lights at Goodison when he schooled John Terry, and the 4 he scored against Blackpool in a 5-3 win at Goodison.

Darron Gibson

A sore point for many Evertonians- I think a lot of people had forgotten how good he was for us before he returned from injury this year and gave us some much needed attacking impetus from central midfield before his return was cruelly cut short with another injury. When he has been fit, Darron Gibson has been one of our best players in his time with the club- the problem is, since signing in 2012, Darron has only been able to find the field 44 times to date. Had he been able to stay injury free, I don't doubt I would be writing this calling him an unequivocal success, but he had his injury problems at United prior to joining us, and like those before him in this list- United won't regret letting him go.

Phil Neville

Captain. Skipper. Leader. Inspiration? The best paid cheerleader of all time- Phil Neville. I don't think anyone can deny his drive and 'winning mentality' were a positive for us in his time here. The problem was, Phil had the mentality of a winner which his ability simply could not live up to. The reason he ended up at Everton is because he wanted to play regularly and play central midfield: he wasn't really good enough for either. At times it appeared as though our physios had been giving him his rub downs with night nurse as he tried to carry his weary body round the pitch only for the ball to bounce off him most of the times he even dared to look at it. You see, Phil was signed off the back of us pipping Liverpool into 4th place, but in the years that followed, we had to watch as we constantly lost the midfield arm wrestle against them as he was left impotent with the likes of Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano being a moderate improvement on the likes of himself in the middle of the park. And by moderate, I mean massive. Phil played 59 times for his country with the vast majority of those caps being won playing for Manchester United with quite the supporting cast around him, and this brings me back to Tom Cleverley...

What can we expect from Tom Cleverley? I haven't a clue. Like Darron Gibson before him, he was subject to the Old Trafford boo boys, but Gibson (injuries withstanding) has been a good player for us- Tom carries no such injury concerns. Tom has played for England 13 times to date... Phil Neville also did, though. This is far from black and white.

Tom is going to be playing for a manager who has arguably gotten the best football of his career out of him whilst at Wigan- although Tim Sherwood might disagree with that. The best thing about this signing is the fact it is a free and with a manager who already knows his game, and the player already understands the footballing principals of the philosophy that Roberto Martinez is trying to impose. I think much is dependent upon where Roberto sees Tom Cleverley playing for us. When Roberto sat down for an interview with fan sites as the season drew to an end, he described the need for a deep lying midfield playmaker- the master of this role in today's game being Andrea Pirlo. Of course, nobody could expect Tom to play to Pirlo's standards, but is that style fit to his game? I'm not sure. I think Tom is probably best used as a box to box midfielder with lots of energy, a player assured in possession who can get around the pitch the way Sherwood had him playing once he took charge...

In Tom's own words: "I watch Spanish football a lot," he said in a 2014 interview, prior to his move to Aston Villa. "If they pass the ball sideways but keep possession, the fans clap them. Their attitude is that as long as you have got the ball, the other team can't hurt you. I know the mentality is different here and that is what makes our game the best in the world because it is so intense. But sometimes I have got to not listen and play my game because I feel I'm doing the best thing for the team."

I don't think any of us watched Everton last year and thought 'we could do with a few more sideways passes here, slow this down a bit': the reason Gibson was so well received on his return last year was the stark difference he made to our play- the intent each pass carried, the instinct to look forwards first before playing a sideways pass if nothing was on- with Barry, McCarthy and Besic in the middle of the park we were going sideways or backwards more than a blind man in the Oval office trying to find the exit (presumably would).

Some have said Tom will play on the left for us in a role he played for Wigan but I hope he doesn't. I can't see how a player like him who isn't going to tear past anyone, isn't particularly tricky with his feet (by his own admission), or who doesn't average out at 4 goals per season in his career can play that high up the pitch. Except, that's what we need (or at least one of our needs), and in that sense, I'm not sure Tom is it. Last year we were desperately short of creativity between the lines of midfield and attack, and I hope Tom isn't expected to perform that role this season coming.

Over to you, Roberto- I can't wait to see how you're going to use him because there is clearly something there, as you and Tim Sherwood have shown. My concern is when he played for you at Wigan, teams wouldn't have sat in against you like they did against Everton last year- making themselves difficult to get past- is Tom going to be able to adjust to that? Or are you going to follow Tim Sherwood's lead and let him off the reigns and allow him to play with energy from the middle of the pitch?

So, after all that... I still don't know. I think a massive part of the reason we're signing him is because he is on a free and I can't reconcile that with being a 'good' signing based off the fact a transfer fee hasn't been paid. I think he's worth the punt, but that's what he is in my opinion. I think ultimately he'll join the list of players United don't regret letting go and he's likely to be the kind of player that has been emblematic of Everton's transfer business for too long now: he's a body, he'll do a job and it hasn't cost much. But will he improve us enough? Will he push the team on towards where we all want to be? Or will he be join the long ranks of decent enough, but not as good as we need?

None of these questions should be seen as a knock on Tom Cleverley- a player who is yet to kick a ball for us, and at the back end of last year reminded everyone what a good player he can be, but we're beginning to see more and more ask serious questions of our club and the (lack of) direction we've taken. We talk about having done well from United- but have we? Or have they just been bodies who have maintained the status quo of us just existing as a football club.

Good luck, Tom. You'll have my full support every time I watch you play. I hope you're played in a way that suits your game and you enjoy your time here.

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Comments about Tom Cleverley and the United link
Cleverley is a tidy player who has been bought to fill the gap probably left by one of our more coveted assets. In general the players we've got from United have been at best third pick for positions at a top 4 team. Kanchelskis signed when we still had aspirations to be a contender. Players now reflect our more modest ambition and wealth.
Paul, Wirral, 2:11 AM 13/06/2015
Good point. I can remember the excitement of jesper coming to the blues. However dissapointed with him. The arrival of phil neville was the start of the catalyst to what we are today IMO. Like marmite love him or hate him, but you cant denythe passion he brought to our club.
Bluemick, Staafford, 9:52 PM 12/06/2015
Bluemick, I did make a nod to the fact I wasn't going back any further than Moyes (and Martinez): 'Of course the list goes beyond these players but under our previous manager each of these players were moderately successful for Everton' Otherwise where would you stop? I think back to the start of Moyes' time gives a big enough sample size for the points I'm making. Cheers for reading though
Everton Musings, Liverpool, 11:13 AM 12/06/2015
Bluemick, Kanchelskis is the best player I've seen at Everton but I have kept it limited to the players under the previous manager (and Roberto). I do mention that: it isn't about Andrei being forgotten, just has to be a cut off at some point- otherwise how far would I go back? I think the Moyes and Martinez years provide enough of a sample size for the points I'm making. Cheers for reading though!
Everton Musings, Liverpool, 11:08 AM 12/06/2015
Forgetting best of them all Andrej Kanchelskis. One of the best footballers I have seen grace the Old Lady.
Bluemick, Stafford, 8:57 AM 12/06/2015
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