Everton Club Focus – Vellios takes another step towards the Toffees first team

Everton recorded their first back-to-back Premier League victories this season with the 2-0 triumph over Bolton Wanderers, a result clinched by Apostolos Vellios, who for the third time this season came off the substitutes’ bench to find the target.

The young Greek striker also revealed he has been working with Everton legend Duncan Ferguson in an attempt to improve his target-man play. Ferguson, the archetypal British No 9, may have been dogged by controversy and injury throughout his career but on his day, as many Premier League defenders will attest, he was unplayable. If Vellios can channel Ferguson’s domineering aerial ability he too will become a handful for any central defender, but his goal at the Reebok Stadium had more of the poacher’s instinct about it than the battering ram style that was Ferguson’s specialism.

By popping up at the back post to convert Tim Cahill’s ball across the face of the goal, Vellios displayed the kind of knack for getting in the most dangerous position possessed by some of the better strikers in the game. It is not the first time that Vellios has impressed with his positioning, either – his first Everton goal, a delightful header against Wigan Athletic, was the product of his own lay-off and then the sense to quickly re-enter the penalty area, as well as being of the Ferguson mould. But the strike against Bolton emphasised that the lanky Vellios is not merely a 6’3” totem pole for direct balls to be aimed towards – there is innate quality to go with his physical gifts.

A common question from Evertonians since Saturday has been whether Vellios has done enough to displace Louis Saha from the Toffees starting XI on a regular basis, starting with the visit of Stoke City to Goodison Park this weekend. Vellios has already once this season been rewarded for a goal with a starting place, featuring from the off against Fulham in October a week after netting as a substitute against Chelsea. That game – Vellios’ first ever start for Everton – saw the striker last only 50 minutes before Saha was recalled, but, given his tender age, it is not entirely fair to judge his starting prospects on such meagre evidence.

Vellios, 19, has become Everton’s second-choice striker almost by default after the sales of Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford were only recompensed by the loan arrival of Denis Stracqualursi, the burly Argentine who in no way looks ready for the demands of Premier League football. With Saha’s frail body and ageing legs Vellios is going to see more action than he is in truth ready for, which will be a sharp learning curve, but not every match will see the Greek’s best.

Young players are often inconsistent enough without the added curiosities that plague even the most experienced strikers – Saha being a prime example, or better yet, Vellios’ mentor Ferguson, but with the right guidance, Vellios could succeed where even the fearsome Scot failed.

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