Everton Club Focus – Yobo and Irvine return to Goodison Park with contrasting futures

Despite there being no new faces at Everton as pre-season training continues, the return of two figures to Goodison Park has provided much debate and discussion. Former player and assistant manager Alan Irvine has been appointed the club’s new Academy manager, while, after the collapse of a move to Fenerbache, Joseph Yobo is also back on Merseyside.

Yobo spent last season on-loan in Turkey as Fener won the title, but the inability of Everton and his Turkish suitors to agree a fee and the arrest of the newly-crowned champions’ President over match-fixing allegations have brought the Nigerian back to the club he has served since 2002. Indeed, Yobo was David Moyes’ first signing as Everton manager, loaned from Marseille and made permanent a year later. In his near decade in Everton blue Yobo has partnered the likes of David Weir, Alan Stubbs, Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka, but – despite signing a five-year contract in 2009 – was deemed surplus to requirements last summer and allowed to leave.

It appeared Yobo’s Everton career was over but with the centre-back reporting for pre-season training at the start of the week that may no longer be the case. Both the player and the club have made it clear they would prefer to end their relationship this summer, but Everton are holding out for a fee closer to their £6m valuation – Fenerbache offered closer to £3m.

A player hoping to leave back at a club keen to sell him is a potentially awkward situation. Yobo however deserves credit for his professionalism in returning to Liverpool for pre-season despite Everton banking on his departure to bolster Moyes’ transfer kitty – the player is no longer wanted, and he does not want to be at the club, yet both parties have acted amicably so far. With Yobo now primarily intended as a cash cow rather than part of Moyes’ plans for the new season a new centre-back does not appear to be on the manager’s wish list. That is despite Press reports linking the Toffees with a bid for Birmingham City defender Scott Dann, but exactly where the logic lies in hawking one centre-back to raise much-needed cash only to spend it on a player in that very position remains to be seen.

If Yobo does remain an Everton player his actions this summer suggest there will be no hard feelings between the player and the club, and the addition of an extra defender in an area Everton are a little lightweight is a positive. With Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and John Heitinga as senior centre-backs, plus youngster Shane Duffy to call on Moyes clearly feels he is well equipped, but an injury to one of the more experienced trio could change that quickly.

Off the pitch, Irvine replaces the retiring Ray Hall as Academy overseer. Hall had worked at Everton since 1991, guiding the likes of Francis Jeffers, Michael Ball, Richard Dunne, Wayne Rooney, Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman, James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe through the youth ranks and into the first team, saving a succession of managers millions of pounds in transfer fees in the process. With Everton again struggling to make financially prudent new additions, Irvine’s new role is as vital as ever.

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