Some might call it a holiday, but David Moyes and the Everton training staff made sure their Premier League footballers didn’t slacken the pace as they pounded up and down the pitch at Tenerife Top Training. Not that the players were moaning, it was clear to see that they were relishing a four day break as the first bite of winter moved in back home. The blues should have been here back in January but they only got as far as the airport only to find their plane had a major fault.
Making up for lost time, big household names like Phil Neville, Louis Saha, Phil Jagielka and Tim Cahill led the club’s crop of rising home grown talent in a combination of sprinting trials and mini games. Manager David Moyes is approaching his tenth year at the helm, a great example of loyalty at a club that isn’t blessed with the mega bucks of their rivals.
Steve Round (above) assistant manager, is proud of the clubs production line of hot prospects. “Our Academy is the best in the Premier League, midfielder Ross Barclay for instance is a local lad who joined us as an 11 year old and made his full debut this season at 17. Then we have lads like Seamus Coleman and Conor McAleny pushing for a regular team place as well so it’s really encouraging.”
Some players stand out more than others in the training session. Marouane Fellaini, a record 12 million pound signing from Standard Liege, Belguim in 2008, has become something of a folk hero to fans with his distinctive mop of hair. Phil Neville may be 34 now but the former Manchester United defender still has the fire and passion made him an England regular.
So what brought Everton to Tenerife? “We have great facilities at Everton but the climate out here adds something extra to training,” said Steve. ” We needed a quality set-up with all the back up like the gym and treatment areas so we had T3 checked out and it has worked out great for us.”
The tragic suicide of former Everton captain Gary Speed was felt hard at the club and on their return to play Stoke at home on 4 December there will be a charged atmosphere and an emotional farewell. “Gary was a great servant for this club, we will pay our respects to his memory and the family but once the whistle goes the players will concentrate fully on the game. They are all good professionals like Gary was and he would have expected nothing less from us.”
Sitting in ninth place prior to the Tenerife break, Everton will be looking to push on. “We had a tough start to the season playing all the top four sides in a short space of time, now the run of games is a little easier and we will be looking to capitalise on that.” Goodison Park may be considerably colder than La Caleta on Sunday but Everton will be sharp and looking to seize a UEFA league spot for next season.