Club Focus – Everton – Saha and Johnson prepare to face former clubs

After a break for the FA Cup Everton return to action this weekend as they host Fulham in the Premier League, and with just two points separating the sides a victory for either team would keep flickering hopes of European qualification alive. Both David Moyes and Mark Hughes, however, will be reliant upon an injury-plagued striker facing a former club – Louis Saha for the Toffees and Andy Johnson for the Cottagers.

Saha spent four years at Craven Cottage, 2000-2004, scoring 63 goals in 142 games and gaining promotion from the First Division to the Premier League in his first season. The Frenchman was an instant hit in London after a taste of English football during a brief loan spell at Newcastle United, finding the net 32 times in 48 second-tier games, and only really began to suffer the serious injury woes that have stifled his career after leaving for Manchester United. At Old Trafford, Saha began the pattern that has continued into his Everton tenure – goals and impressive performances coming sporadically, with long spells out injured much more frequent. Having scored nine goals in 25 appearances this season – from a possible 35 – Saha has featured in the overwhelming majority of Everton games but his injuries have come at the worst possible time, such as the knock suffered in training just days after scoring four times against Blackpool. His stats do compare favourably with Johnson’s, however.

Johnson, who left Everton for Fulham in 2008 for a £10m fee, £2.5m more than Everton paid Crystal Palace two years earlier, has scored only twice from 21 games, and managed only three goals in 13 appearances last season after a serious knee injury. It is a far cry from the striker’s Palace heyday, when 84 goals in 160 games, including 21 in 37 Premier League games, convinced Everton to make him their record signing. Johnson did make an encouraging start upon his return to the capital, netting 10 goals in 36 games during his first season as a Fulham player, the same tally as his final season on Merseyside and only two behind his first. Considering the money spent on Johnson – not only the £8.5m transfer fee but the wages around £40,000 a week – his time at Everton must be considered a disappointment for all concerned, with only 17 league goals, although, since two of those goals came in a 3-0 Merseyside derby win over Liverpool, he will always be fondly remembered and can expect a warm welcome on Saturday evening.

When Johnson left Everton in 2008 Saha was drafted in to replace him, and scored his first Everton goal against Fulham, with Johnson in the visitors’ line-up, in November. Johnson, however, has not scored against his former employers while Saha has not scored against anyone since that quartet against Blackpool in early February. The law of the ex in football often rears its head and few would be surprised if Johnson breaks his Everton duck or Saha gets back on the goal trail against sides they know so well.

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