David Moyes spotted a good one in Steven Naismith, who arrived from Rangers in the summer of 2012, somewhat unheralded, and wasn’t much more than a bits and pieces player until Roberto Martinez got hold of him and identified that his speed lay between the ears rather than over the ground. Cue a switch from a Dirk Kuyt lite (in more senses than one) harassing opposition midfielders to no great effect, to a Tim Cahill de nos jours, running in late from those awkward spaces between the lines.
With the confidence that Martinez seems to inject into everyone with whom he comes into contact, the almost transparent Scot grew into not just a certainty for the matchday 16, but a very handy first XI player, as he proved today popping up to score a goal in that vital spell just before half-time. Moreover, he speaks well, an articulate and well rounded man who makes friends for Everton with each interview he gives. The most solid of solid pros.
Aiden McGeady pitched up in the quieter transfer window from a strange sojourn in Russia having been something of a star in the backwater of the Scottish Premier League – a bigger name than Naismith anyway. He looked a little chubby and somewhat nondescript, so Evertonians, wary of the source after the Bilyaletdinov debacle (£8.9M!), were underwhelmed but soon saw that the bustling Irishman could find a yard and see a pass and had more discipline in his game than the mercurial Deulofeu.
With Ross Barkley unexpectedly missing after a Friday Finch Farm injury, McGeady was given the job of providing the creativity in an awkward banana skin of a game away at newly promoted Leicester – and it wasn’t long before he threaded in the first goal of the season. That’s pretty much the job description handed to McGeady when Martinez asked him to sign on the dotted line – but it’s one thing to talk it and another to walk it.
Opposition fans won’t fear names like Naismith and McGeady on a teamsheet when they have Lukaku and Barkley to catch their eyes, but Everton’s manager – and, increasingly, Everton’s fans – know exactly what they get when these two Celts, both experienced players in their late 20s, turn out for The Blues. And there’s plenty of managers in the Premier League would envy such resources at Roberto’s disposal – one down to his predecessor, a cannier Scot than he is given credit for, the other a reminder of his own eye for a player, a deal and a role in the squad. It won’t be the last time these two will prove their worth in the long season to come.
The result – and no weekend gives more unreliable results than the first one – shows potential with two goals away from home: and cause for concern, with a lead twice conceded. The need for defensive cover I identified in the season’s preview has been worryingly borne out at the first time of asking.