ONE pre-season doesn’t make a career.
Evertonians who can recall the cautionary tale of Alex Nyarko will be acutely aware of the perils of making snap summer judgements.
An apparent cross between Patrick Vieira and Ya Ya Toure, the Ghanaian midfielder sparkled in the pre-season of 2000. Two goals at Exeter, another at Plymouth, followed by an exquisite back-heeled goal against Manchester City left Blues fans licking their lips in anticipation.
He scored another sublime strike at Tottenham Hotspur in his second Premier League match...then vanished.
Then there was Slaven Bilic. After an assured debut display against Crystal Palace (Everton still lost 2-1) one over enthusiastic supporter swiftly penned a glowing tribute to the pages of the splendid fanzine When Skies Are Grey, instantly inserting Bilic into his all-time Everton XI, as witnessed by his youthful eyes.
Bilic quickly became more Barmy Balkan than Classy Croatian.
Which is why no-one will place the burden of too much expectation on the shoulders of young Francisco Santos Da Silva Junior.
A promising midfielder snapped up on a free transfer last season after Manch-ester City decided he wouldn’t slot into their multi-million pound midfield, Junior has quietly impressed on his first outings in Royal Blue.
Still only 20, low self esteem does not appear to be a problem.
He uses the name of a player who won 74 caps for a legendary Brazil team, wears shocking pink boots and is totally unafraid of possession of a football.
For those who witnessed his, let’s be fair, mistimed challenge at Tannadice on Thursday, he doesn’t shy away from a tackle either. And he’s unselfish, too.
Played clean through on goal by a superb Marouane Fellaini pass at Fir Park on Saturday he drew substitute goalkeeper Lee Hollis and might have scored himself, but opted to slide the ball square to the only slightly less-pink booted Jack Rodwell.
By this time a defender had got back on the line to cover – and Rodwell guided his careful sidefooted shot straight at him.
But Junior did enough in 45 minutes to confirm the promise shown in previous run-outs at Dundee United and Morecambe.
David Moyes, who shrugged and curled his lip when discussing many aspects of Everton’s performance in a 1-1 draw, became more animated talking about the Portuguese.
And there were plenty of other positives to discuss.
Scottish football is clearly at a pitifully low ebb – just one transfer fee has been paid all summer in the whole of Scottish football (the £2m Celtic forked out for Newcastle keeper Fraser Forster, pub quiz fans) – but Motherwell are just 10 days away from a Champions League qualifier with Panathinaikos and only two weeks from the kick-off of the Scottish League season, and Everton still dominated possession for long periods.
Steven Naismith also enjoyed his first run-out in Royal Blue after international clearance for his transfer was finally received, just down the road from where he caught Everton’s attention.
And Jack Rodwell’s rehabilitation from his worrying hamstring problems continued with another athletic 45 minutes.
Naismith came on for the final 21 minutes, to widespread boos – Motherwell is just down the road from rivals Glasgow Rangers – but he was denied a goal on his debut by a sharp Hollis save as Motherwell came from behind to claim a draw.
Shane Duffy had headed Everton into a first half lead, but a sweet Nicky Law half-volley levelled 10 minutes after the interval.
Leon Osman, Apostolos Vellios and Tim Cahill had all gone close in an entertaining first half, before Shane Duffy celebrated his first senior goal for the Blues after 34 minutes.
Victor Anichebe was still wide left where he had just taken an unprofitable corner, when the ball came back to him.
He curved a much better cross into the edge of the six-yard box where Shane Duffy rose above Apostolos Vellios to guide a header back across goal and in off the far post.
Darron Gibson, Rodwell, Junior and Nikica Jelavic were all introduced at half-time for Osman, Cahill, Vellios and Anichebe and almost had an immediate impact.
The Blues started the second half brightly and Coleman should have done better than drive straight at substitute keeper Hollis from 12 yards.
Then Motherwell equalised 10 minutes into the second half when Nicky Law connected with a sweet half-volley from 20 yards leaving Tim Howard clutching at thin air.
Both teams had other opportunities.
Michael Higdon clipped the outside of the post as the home team rallied, Howard had to palm away a Tom Hateley free-kick five minutes from time and Jack Rodwell fired a low drive narrowly wide – but an entertaining clash ended all-square.
There will be sterner challenges ahead for the Blues, and for their young Portuguese midfielder Junior, but initial signs are promising.
MOTHERWELL: Randolph (Hollis 45), Hammell (Francis-Angol 78), Law, Hateley, Humphrey, Ojama, Higdon (Kerr 62), Murphy (Daley 62), Lasley (Hetherington 78), Ramsden, Cummins (McFadden 62). Unused sub: Murray.
EVERTON: Howard, Hibbert, Duffy, Distin (Naismith 69), Neville; Coleman, Osman (Rodwell 45), Fellaini (Heitinga 69), Cahill (Gibson 45); Vellios (Jelavic 45), Anichebe (Junior 45).
ATTENDANCE: 4,512 (1,049 Everton fans).