In our latest instalment of the Flashback series, we take a look back at a certain moment and look at how things might have changed those initial reactions.
The summer of 2006 saw Everton hit the transfer market looking to build a side capable of challenging further up the Premier League table, after winning just half of their fixtures on route to an 11th-placed finish.
In came Joleon Lescott from Wolverhampton Wanderers, Andy Johnson from Crystal Palace and an FA Cup and EFL Cup-winning goalkeeper by the name of Tim Howard from Manchester United on loan, after Sir Alex Ferguson put his faith in a 35-year-old Edwin van der Sar.
In his debut season at Goodison Park, Howard rediscovered the form that departed him at Old Trafford to keep 14 clean sheets in 29 Premier League games (TransferMarkt), and convinced Everton to turn his temporary stint into a permanent arrangement (BBC) that February.
Howard would go on to keep a further 120 shut outs in 425 games across all competitions and help Everton to an FA Cup Final in 2009, before leaving for his homeland and joining MLS franchise Colorado Rapids in 2016 on a free transfer as a long-term hero at Goodison Park.
He has now called time on his career at the age of 40, having enjoyed a career which featured 121 outings for his country and appearances at two World Cups, having served as the back-up in his first of three (TransferMarkt), before retiring from international duty in 2017.
“Regrets I have a few, but then again, too few to mention. Thank you,” wrote Howard as he announced his retirement on Twitter on Monday, October 7.
Howard is now lauded as the best American goalkeeper in history (LA Times), after leaving a legacy behind him rather than a career, having made more Premier League appearances for Everton than any other player, enjoyed a 16-year international career, made three MLS all-star teams and twice be named as the US Soccer Athlete of the Year.
He also set a World Cup record in 2014 when he denied Belgium from scoring on 15 occasions, and retires with a career well lived.
That cannot necessarily be said for Everton’s current number one, as Jordan Pickford continues to leave much to be admired since first arriving on Merseyside from Sunderland in 2017 for an initial £25millon rising to £30m (BBC).
England’s first-choice ‘keeper put blunders at Newcastle United behind him last season to be a key part of the Toffees side which beat Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United at Goodison Park, but the errors did not leave him, rather laid dormant under the surface waiting for their chance to reappear.
At home to Manchester City last month, Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville (via talkSPORT) was left irate by Pickford when he appeared to laugh as Everton were beaten 3-1 by the Premier League champions, in what was the Toffees’ third consecutive defeat in the top-flight.
Pickford almost gifted Pep Guardiola’s Citizens a fourth when he came rushing off his line late on, as well, and continued to be a cause for concern at Burnley last time out when Everton were again beaten by their own defensive fragility.
His rivals do not fear his talents, either, as Clarets ace Nick Pope is now hopeful he can dislodge Pickford from Gareth Southgate’s plans with the Three Lions (Lancashire Telegraph) after regaining his place in the squad after injury.
If Pickford wishes to maintain his place ahead of Pope and Aston Villa’s Tom Heaton, Stoke City’s Jack Butland and the next emerging crop of young English shot-stoppers, he would do well to look to his predecessor at Goodison Park for inspiration.
While Pickford lacks the authority to command the area, Howard did not. Roberto Martinez hailed the New Jersey native for his ability to take command of the box and lead from the back (Liverpool Echo) during his time at the helm, and looked at his experience as a valuable asset when it was thought Joel Robles would be the Spaniard’s number one (Fox Sports).
“It’s not just about his performances,” Martinez said. “As a goalkeeper, you have a big say about what happens in your own goal and to keep the amount of clean sheets that we have this season – which is already two more than last season when we had very good numbers defensively – is impressive.
“Then you see his human values and the way he effects youngsters; he is the perfect role model for our football club.”
Pickford has the expectations to deliver, and a glance to the past can see that he achieves that and, maybe, enjoy a career as well lived as the man who stood before him.
Everton fans, can Pickford take command like Howard managed? Let us know in the comments below…
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