“I missed this type of spirit at Real Madrid, but at Feyenoord it was the same and I think I’ll be a better player with this type of spirit,” ROYSTON DRENTHE, reflects on life at Goodison Park.
“I feel we got heavily punished. If we had played this game 10 times we would have got something out of it in nine of them,” ROBERTO MARTINEZ feels hard done by after the defeat at Goodison Park.
LIKE Phil Jagielka’s dancing Everton may not be in perfect rhythm yet, but they can still raise a smile.
The stand-in skipper’s jaunty goal celebration on Saturday was indebted to British comedy film The Inbetweeners, when a group of gauche teenagers jet-off on their first lads holiday to Greece.
And it was a Greek 19-year-old with far smoother moves who helped secure a vital win against Wigan, before a hip-hopping, skate boarding Dutchman raised the Goodison roof.
Apostolos Vellios rose from the bench to cap another encouraging cameo with a goal, and prompt an understated David Moyes to declare: “I think the Greek boy’s got something.”
And Royston Drenthe proved Moyes could yet be in the process of polishing another rough diamond in the Mikel Arteta, Steven Pienaar mould.
Indeed, while Arteta’s departure for £10m still hangs over Everton’s season, what price the loss of Goodison scout Mick Doherty this summer to Chelsea?
As Moyes pointed out after a 3-1 win that consolidated an improved start to the season, it was Doherty who plucked Vellios from Greece’s second division, not to mention discovering £60,000 uber-bargain Seamus Coleman.
Neither might be the finished product yet, but their performances - along with some of the Toffees’ more established players - reiterated that death knells for Everton’s season have been a little premature.
Moyes may not have an abundance of options - but he does at least have plenty of young, hungry players with bags of raw talent.
Victory over Wigan Athletic is not a balm capable of completely soothing any long-term concerns about Everton’s future, but it does present progress of sorts.
Last season the Blues struggled to eke out two draws with the Latics, and their difficulty in finishing the chances they created undermined them time and time again.
It seemed as if that familiar failing resurfaced on Saturday, while Yakubu and Arteta were rubbing it in by hitting the back of the net elsewhere.
But then Moyes was able to turn to Vellios and Drenthe, and the goals arrived right on cue.
Everton’s manager said recently his side needs to find new ways to win now, and one of his young charges, Jack Rodwell, claimed there is a new resilience among his ranks.
Both were proved right, and Rodwell has, to abide by the old cliche, been doing his talking on the pitch too.
The 20-year-old was impressive against Villa and more so against Roberto Martinez’s men, at times over-shadowing his older central midfield colleague Marouane Fellaini, who was having a rare off-day.
Regardless, the vitality and physical presence which the duo bring to a key part of Everton’s engine room, along with their ability to pick a pass, bodes well.
This wasn’t simply a celebration of youth though. Tony Hibbert was excellent, thoroughly vindicating Moyes’ decision to keep him in the side at the expense of club skipper Neville.
The right-back has always been a durable defender, but his forward play, so often his Achilles heel, is evolving - proved by a string of decent crosses that eventually yielded an assist for Vellios’ header in the second half.
That Hibbert was then capable of making a goal-saving block just moments afterwards underlines why he still has plenty to offer this team.
Another veteran with plenty to offer was the incessant, defender’s worst nightmare that is Tim Cahill. It was another lung-busting, no-holds-barred centre forward display from the Aussie which prompted one admiring Wigan official to mutter at half time, “He’s an absolute warrior that Cahill.”
So he was, creating Phil Jagielka’s 32nd minute equaliser by hitting the bar with his own header courtesy of that canny movement and ability to find space in the area from set pieces.
Cahill tweeted afterwards that he felt like he’d done 12 rounds in the boxing ring, and he had certainly softened up the visiting defence enough for Vellios and Drenthe to land their knock-out blows.
It wasn’t all scrap-book stuff. More slack defending had allowed Wigan to take a shock lead when Franco Di Santo was afforded too much space to bear down on goal unimpeded.
There is still plenty of work to be done to tighten up a defence that once prided itself on meanness. And upcoming opponents Manchester City and Liverpool will certainly make the Blues pay more severely for any lack of focus in their own half, in a way that Wigan, despite having tidy spells in possession, could not.
Still, a win over West Brom in the Carling Cup on Wednesday would stretch Everton’s run to five games before Autumn has officially arrived.
Maybe they have finally cured their lousy habit of starting the season slowly after all.
EVERTON: (4-2-3-1) Howard, Hibbert, Distin, Jagielka (Capt), Baines, Rodwell, Fellaini, Bilyaletdinov (Drenthe 58), Osman, Cahill (Stracqualursi, 83) Coleman (Vellios, 66). Subs not used: Mucha, Heitinga, Neville, Barkley.
WIGAN: (4-2-3-1) Al-Habsi, McCarthy, Caldwell (Capt), Watson, Van Aanholt, Lopez, Figueroa, Rodallega (Maloney, 90), Di Santo, Moses, Gomez (Jones, 70). Subs not used: Pollitt, Thomas, Crusat, McArthur, Sammon.
GOALS: Di Santo (30), Jagielka (32) Vellios (83) Drenthe (90 plus)
CARDS: Booked – Fellaini, Vellios
REFEREE: Peter Walton.
ATTENDANCE: 31, 576