Everton received two pieces of much-needed good news this week with the overturning of Jack Rodwell’s Merseyside derby red card and the signing of highly-rated young Bradford City midfielder George Green.
Rodwell, sent off by Martin Atkinson early in the Saturday fixture, is now available for the Toffees’ forthcoming games, starting after the international break with the trip to Stamford Bridge to face in-form Chelsea. Rodwell, 20, has started all-but-one of the Toffees’ matches this season, missing only the 1-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers in August. While Rodwell’s tackling may at times be a little rash – witness the lunge on David Silva against Manchester City that drew a yellow card – there seemed little doubt he was wrongly sent off at Goodison Park last weekend.
Having started the first game of the season against Queens Park Rangers in an unfamiliar right-midfield role, an experiment that was tried and failed last season too, since returning to the centre of the park Rodwell has played with growing authority. Starting his career in Everton’s youth academy as a centre-back, Rodwell was moved into midfield on the say-so of David Moyes and then fast-tracked into the first team on the basis of his physical gifts and assuredness on the ball.
A succession of minor injuries has hamstrung his development somewhat, while reported interest from Manchester United brought undue pressure, but with a mature head belying his tender years, and under the tutelage of a manager well-versed in blooding young players, Rodwell is in the right place to fulfil his potential.
Despite Rodwell’s young age, however, he now has the chance to act as something of a mentor, not only to Ross Barkley, three years his junior, but Bradford’s Green, the 15-year-old who will join the club’s youth set-up next summer. An attacking midfielder who reportedly attracted interest from Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Munich, Everton have sealed the signature of a player describe by Bradford’s head of football development Archie Christie as: “…the
Green’s signing, for a reported £300,000 up front rising to a potential £2m, is amongst the highest prices ever paid for a teenager – Arsenal bought 15-year-old Jermaine Pennant from Notts County in 1999 for a similar amount. It is a buy in line with Everton’s recent policy of bringing in young players for relatively low amounts who could grow to become part of the first team.
Apostolos Vellios is the current prime example of the strategy, with the 19-year-old Greek striker arriving on Merseyside in January 2011 for what was reported to be a nominal fee. Originally bought to be part of the reserve side, a number of late season injuries and his rapid development brought the forward’s debut last season, while the dearth of experienced attackers at the club has seen Vellios relied on more heavily this season, netting his first goal for the club with a header against Wigan Athletic.
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