Five Everton players reborn under David Moyes


Stephen Pienaar Everton

You have to be doing something pretty special to keep your job for ten years in any high pressure industry, but when the stakes are high as they are in the Premier League these days and impatience continues to spread throughout the game like an outbreak of a deadly virus, David Moyes must be wondering how he has managed to stay in charge at Everton football without seemingly getting close to putting his hands on that Premier League trophy.

Progression continues to be made by the man who has had to work hard to make his transfer budget count as other clubs are given the spending power to close the gap on the usual title-challenging suspects. Thankfully a productive youth academy which has produced the likes of Rooney, Rodwell and Osman continues to bear fruit when it is needed most, but one of Moyes’ strengths in recent years has been the ability to rejuvenate some of the most talented players in the game to play some of the best football of their careers. Whether it was an ill-judged move or failure to adapt to new surroundings, these five players have been given a new lease of life by a man who continues to help Everton football club punch above its weight, year after year.

Stephen Pienaar (2007-11. 2012)

Yet another young talent to graduate from the Ajax youth academy, Pienaar’s precision passing and excellent positioning sense ensured he had a place in a midfield that included the likes of Rafael Van Der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder. Despite his tender years, he had already matured into a player capable of dictating a game and it was no surprise that Borussia Dortmund came calling. Coach Bert van Marwijk feel he could fill the void left by the departure of Tomas Rosicky, but with debts spiralling and Dortmund struggling to challenge Bayern Munich for the title, Pienaar never really imposed his style on the team. Secured on loan, Moyes moved the midfielder out to the left hand side of midfield, but his composure on the ball and passing ability began to show an influence in other areas of the pitch racking up nine assists in his first spell at the club. The move to Spurs was a compliment to the type of football Pienaar was producing for Moyes on a weekly basis but as he struggled to break into a formidable Spurs midfield, Pienaar returned to the club where his footballing talents have been most appreciated outside of South Africa and Holland.

Landon Donovan (2010, 2012)

Widely regarded as one the finest products of US football, Bayern Leverkusen were quick to recognise Donavan’s talents, but he failed to get to grips with his first taste of German football. He tried his luck once again at Bayern Munich but struggled to make an impact and was back in the more comfortable surroundings of the MLS. Moyes pounced twice to secure the services of the withdrawn forward and in his first loan spell made his mark with a debut performance against Arsenal where he bagged an assist and looked a constant attacking outlet throughout the game. Often deployed out wide, Donavan’s energy and directness were enough to endear him to the Goodison Park faithful and it was no surprise to see the American back at the club for a second spell earlier this year. Most importantly, he had finally proven that he could deliver the kind of performances in Europe that he had always been capable of in the US national side.

Royston Drenthe (2012-present)

Quite simply the star of the show for Holland in the 2007 Under-21 championships, once Drenthe was pushed into the left-wing position his influence on the Dutch side retaining their title was evident for all to see. It was no surprise that Real Madrid pounced quickly to sign Drenthe, but with another talented left-sided player in Brazilian Marcelo also in the Madrid ranks his time in Madrid was not exactly the dream move he perhaps thought it would be. Drenthe was often alternated from the left back and left-wing role, but struggled to win over coaches Bernd Schuster and Juande Ramos.  He spent some time out on loan with big spending Hercules who were relegated to the Segunda division, and now at Everton, Moyes has slowly integrated the winger into his attacking plans and Drenthe has returned the faith with some scintillating performances in recent weeks.

John Heitinga (2009-present)

After working his way through the Ajax ranks, Moyes whisked the defender away from the circus that was and still is Jesus Gil’s Atletico Madrid. Heitinga made the move to Madrid for £8.8 million just as Fiorentina and Czech Republic international Thomas Ujfalusi also signed on a free, but the two failed ultimately to strike up a great centre back partnership. Moyes sought to save the Dutchman from his Spanish nightmare and signed the Dutchman for £6 million. Hetinga was not guaranteed a first team place with Lescott, Jagielka and Distin ahead in the pecking order, but with Lescott leaving for Manchester City and Jagielka on the sidelines, Heitinga has been given a run in the team and has shown the kind of dominant performances that has made him  a mainstay in the Dutch national side.

Tim Howard (2006-present)

The American ultimately failed just as the likes of Barthez, Bosnich and the rest did before him in Sir Alex’s quest to find a replacement for the great Dane Peter Schmeichel. He fared better than most showing consistency in his first season at United before sharing the number one jersey with Roy Carroll after a series of high-profile errors crept into his game. The acquisition of veteran Van Der Sar proved the final straw and Howard made the decision to join Everton on loan before making the deal permanent for a fee of around £3 million. 188 appearances on and the Everton number one forms one of the most disciplined defences in the league, and holds the record for most clean sheets in a Premier League season for an Everton goalkeeper justifying his decision to leave a club where he was likely to play second fiddle to a goalkeeper who still had plenty of football left in him.

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