‘Everton sign Tom Cleverley from Manchester United on a 5 year deal’
Admittedly yes, it isn’t the most exciting headline we’ve seen in the press in the past few weeks, but the recent signing of Tom Cleverley by Roberto Martinez and Everton is a smart move for all parties in my opinion.
The thing with football fans like myself is that we are very judgemental, we pay our money and we have our opinions – and we are certainly entitled to them. Unfortunately though, in certain scenarios we jump to conclusions, we write someone off before they’ve even been pictured with that Everton contract fella (you know the one, with glasses and spiky hair) and make our minds up before a ball has even been kicked. That’s fair enough, that’s people, that’s life and that’s football, I suppose? Each to their own.
“For f*ck’s sake he’s shite” – Admit it, you’ve seen it several times this week on Twitter or overheard it in the pub/work. But then again we heard that when James McCarthy signed. We heard it when we signed Barry for the first time on loan, we also heard it when we signed Tim Cahill, and many, many more. I remember some Evertonians venting their fury because we signed Aaron Lennon, look how that one turned out?! Many of us automatically slate a player because we don’t necessarily think he is good enough to play for Everton, it’s in our character to do so. Some signings work out, others don’t, as fans we can only give them a chance to prove themselves. The thing with this is that our attitude can have an adverse effect on the player – Cleverley must be brimming with confidence after his displays for Villa, his return to the England fold and signing for a brand new Club in Everton – so us as supporters writing him off before he’s even stepped out in royal blue is hardly going to help matters, is it? Whether you like the lad or not – he is now an Everton player so get behind him. Confidence can be massive for players, look at Ross Barkley as one example. Let’s have confidence that Cleverley will turn out well for Everton, rather than be dismissive of his chances because he isn’t a Deulofeu or a Lukaku type signing and you think ‘he’s crap’ because you might have seen him play a few times for United or Villa. He’s at a new Club now, a fresh start, a real chance to shine.
I’d like to think with the signing of Cleverley – just as many players have previously – the doubters will be proved wrong. For me personally I completely understand that he isn’t any sort of glamour signing, but I believe his addition is a good move – it makes sense and it was to be expected (the deal was agreed last year) – Martinez was keen to sign him in the last window – he managed him during his loan spell whilst at Wigan too, he knows the player, and he is obviously a big fan of what he sees. Let’s have a little bit of faith for once.
Cleverley wouldn’t have broken in to the United team and lasted as long as he has at Old Trafford if he was that bad, would he? Ok he is no Paul Scholes, and his goals/assists statistics hardly make you leap from your seat with anticipation, but let’s at least give the lad a chance at Goodison Park. Remember when we signed Darron Gibson – the midfielder who was slated by United fans for his lack of ability – he came to Everton and many wrote him off too. But let’s be perfectly honest here, he would have been a regular in the Everton team week in week out since he arrived if it wasn’t for his injury problems. Gibson, in his small doses of regular action, has shown us what he is capable of and it is so frustrating that he’s had such poor luck. Unfortunately Gibson is injured again, and he might depart this summer with a massive tag of ‘what might have been’ hanging over him, but his fellow ex-United man Tom Cleverley comes in to a midfield in need of new faces, regardless of whether Gibson stays or goes. It is a midfield that should welcome further competition for places, and looking at our squad I feel that the addition of Cleverley should be welcomed.
The lad is 25 years of age, he’s still got an awful lot to prove, he has the ability to get goals, he comes on a free transfer with experience of playing at the top-level for United, he’s played European and international football, and his bird is a bit of a looker too, isn’t she? He’s been out on loan a few times from United, gained experience in different leagues and at different levels, and now he is at the point in his career where he needs to settle at a Club and prove his worth – that Club can be Everton. Cleverley, Barkley, Besic, McCarthy – a core of midfielders who are primarily British, still relatively young, all vying for positions and offering us different styles which can complement each-other’s – I am excited by that, aren’t you?
Known for his athleticism, Cleverley will provide another option to the Everton midfield. An Everton midfield which contains players like Gareth Barry, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman who are already in the latter stages of their careers. Cleverley will bring an added dimension alongside the energetic McCarthy and Besic – the latter who you’d expect to feature more next season, with Barry playing less. Let’s give him a chance to prove himself before we be too critical. Cleverley played an integral part in Villa’s relegation survival, he scored three crucial goals towards the end of his time at Villa Park – ultimately saving them from the drop – and played over 30 games as Villa secured their league status and fought their way to an FA Cup Final. Villa had been keen to sign Cleverley but after passing a medical at Finch Farm and agreeing a 5-year-deal at Goodison Park, he will officially become an Everton player on the 1st July when this summer’s transfer window officially opens.
Since agreeing to join the Toffees, Cleverley was called up to the England squad and his involvement with the international set up again is a result of his form for Villa, especially during the closing few months of the season. In the past few years we’ve ended up with a number of United’s so-called ‘reserves’ but if these players bulk up our numbers, provide experience, an additional option to what we currently have and give us competition for places then so be it. Plus he is on a free transfer, we haven’t exactly splashed out on him have we. I’m not for one minute suggesting that I am happy to just make do with picking up United’s scraps – the importance of spending elsewhere and bolstering across the team continues – but we have to be realistic and there is no denying that we’ve benefitted from signing players who might not be able to get regular action at their current clubs, we’ve given them an opportunity and they have taken it. There is no reason why Cleverley can’t be the latest name to do so. Cleverley is a Premier League player, capped at international level and coming into the prime of his career in terms of age and where he is at – we’ve snapped him up on a free and he was obviously keen to come to Merseyside. Gareth Barry won’t be around forever, there’s doubts if Gibson will see another season or not, what about Osman, Pienaar, we need to be planning for life after them. At the back and in goal we should be looking to do this too – Howard needs replacing now, we need to plan for life after Jagielka, bolster the ranks and ensure we have sufficient quality and numbers so as we don’t experience another season like last term.
Injuries hurt us during the last campaign and although this can’t be held as the main excuse for our downfall – we do need more players at Everton FC – especially when we are bound to lose one or two this summer also. We need players across the squad, and I am hoping Cleverley is the first of a few new faces through the door this summer. We’ve signed some useful players on free transfers or on loan in the past few years and I am confident Cleverley can be the next new recruit to do well at the Club. I hope he succeeds, I will get behind the lad and believe he can really focus his career now. When you look at his statistics compared to Barry, Besic and McCarthy last season it makes for interesting reading – yes he might not be flush with assists and goals but there is no reason to suggest that they can’t come in time.
The question now is how we follow up from the Cleverley signing. It is good to see Everton making an early addition and preparing for next season already. However, although they have been useful for us in recent times, I don’t want to just make do with a free transfer here or a loan there, we need to go out and spend – but the lingering doubt about this current Everton Board and our lack of spending power is always in the back of our minds. We’ve already been linked with a number of potential targets, some exciting names and some not so exciting, but let’s see what happens and try to have a confidence (I know it’s hard, but I’m attempting to be upbeat here!) that over the course of the summer we will get shut of some of the dead wood – already started with the departures of Alcaraz and Distin – and bring in much-needed quality and depth. Overall Roberto’s signings have been good since he became Manager two years ago, but there has been questions about some of his decision-making in the market – most notably McGeady, Alcaraz and Kone. If he does get money to spend this summer, he needs to be wise with his recruitment, focus on the areas that require additions and not just sign players for the sake of it – something which I believe he won’t do. Even after such a disappointing campaign I do harbour some trust that Martinez can get this right, even though he has had me tearing my hair out on numerous occasions since last August.
The Cleverley deal might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and many have dismissed him already, but I confident he can be a success here and he certainly gets my full support. I haven’t written anything even nearly positive about Everton for some time, and although I know there is still major on-field and off-field issues at the Club it actually feels good to be slightly upbeat about something we’ve done. I believe signing Cleverley is a good start to what will hopefully be a busy period for Everton FC and after the worries of last season it will make for a refreshing change this summer if we can perform well in the market and get ourselves re-energised for the next season.
A season which could well be make or break for Roberto Martinez….