Club Focus – Everton – Beckford prepares for Premier League bow with a point to prove

After nabbing his third goal of pre-season on Wednesday night – the first in Everton’s 2-0 victory over their Chilean namesakes – former Leeds United striker Jermaine Beckford goes into the Premier League season on a high. Whether or not the 26-year-old can maintain that form throughout the coming campaign may determine Everton’s own chances of success, come May.

Beckford’s pinpoint second-half header, past a helpless CD Everton goalkeeper, was an encouraging sign for the 26,000 inside Goodison Park, there to see an historic friendly between the two Evertons. Having had a sniff of goal in the previous 51 minutes, including a left-foot volley that flashed over the bar from a tight angle, Beckford finally converted an effort worthy of previous Everton striking heroes Graeme Sharp and Andy Gray. The former Chelsea trainee has a long way to go to be considered on that plain – and will face sterner opposition in his Everton career than the South Americans – but, having arrived from Elland Road on a free transfer, he may yet go down as one of David Moyes’ most inspired signings – a category that also includes Mikel Arteta, Steven Pienaar and another lower league player who made the step up, Tim Cahill. The aforementioned trio are Everton’s modern-day Holy Trinity, in the footsteps of Colin Harvey, Howard Kendall and Alan Ball, but even those three magnificent midfielders needed a Joe Royle to convert the chances they created.

Louis Saha was the man tasked to provide the goals last term and the Frenchman did an admirable job, until February at least, when the last of the ex-Manchester United forward’s 15 goals came against Chelsea. Even without Saha finding the net Everton still had goals in them, mostly from the centre of the pitch, including putting five past Hull City, three past Saha’s former team United, three more against Blackburn Rovers and two at the City of Manchester Stadium without reply. But Saha’s dry spell cannot be allowed to continue into the 2010/11 season, and if it does, someone has to pick up the slack. Yakubu’s post-injury form offered little encouragement – much like his World Cup showings for Nigeria – and the No. 22 may not even be at Goodison Park by the end of the transfer window. His compatriot, Victor Anichebe, has been mostly used in a wide role by Moyes of late, while another Everton academy graduate James Vaughn has yet to show he can be a reliable option due to his persistent injury problems. With little expected so soon of youngsters Magaye Guyere and Joao Silva, it may be down to Beckford to ease the goal burden from the midfield’s collective shoulders.

Beckford has scored goals at every stop on his roundabout journey to the Premier League, starting with 54 strikes in 82 games for Wealdstone, but players with more illustrious backgrounds than Londoner have tried and failed to make their mark on the top flight. The 85 goals in 152 appearances Beckford managed while at Leeds is an impressive number, but only 10 of those appearances came in the Championship, and no goals. On the surface Beckford has the tools every top striker needs – pace, clever movement and a cool head in the penalty area – but using them week in, week out, against some of the best defenders in the game is another matter altogether. As a free transfer from the third tier Beckford will not be expected to replicate his Leeds form of last year – when he netted 31 goals in all competitions – but reaching double figures must be the minimum requirement. With Moyes likely to continue with his one striker policy, Beckford must first do enough to get in the team, but the Scot has a tendency to blood new signings slowly. With more established competition around him, Beckford will probably start the season from the bench.

His opportunity will come, however, either through injury to Saha, Yakubu’s departure or simple squad rotation and having grabbed the second chance at league football given to him by Leeds, Beckford has the offer of another crack at Premier League football following his 2003 release by Chelsea. With a close-knit group of players aiding his adjustment to life on Merseyside, and one of the top managers in the country guiding his development, Beckford is in the right place to prove he can cut it at this level.

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