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After Sunday’s 0-3 defeat to Liverpool, it was probably hard to get your voice heard amongst the growing crows of dissenters opposed to the downwards direction David Moyes seems to be taking Manchester United on as his first year in charge at Old Trafford. The Red Devils sit 12 points behind Champions League qualification and on course for their lowest Premier League points tally since the competition began.
After Liverpool marched away from Manchester having thoroughly outplayed United, the anti-Moyes sentiment that appears to be growing with every passing set-back hit feverish levels. Along with the emergence from boardroom level that the club’s hierarchy was for the first time considering the rival of the ex-Everton manager, it was the Tweeted views of his former club’s under-18 coach that resonated.
Kevin Sheedy took to the social media site to say that Everton’s, and now United’s, tactics amounted to punting the ball up to Marouane Fellaini. Slightly earlier, in a message that has now been deleted, he took the view that Moyes, during his time at the Toffees, took no interest in the club’s youth team.
The latter barb was slightly harsh on Moyes who gave débuts to Ross Barkley, Jack Rodwell and a 16 year old Wayne Rooney when at Goodison Park. Seamus Coleman, now Roberto Martinez’s first-choice right back, Tony Hibbert and Leon Osman were all guided through the transition from academy to first-team under Moyes while Victor Anichebe and James Vaughan both passed through to represent the club at senior level before moving on. At United, Moyes has already overseen the progression of Adnan Januzaj to one of the Premier League’s most highly-rated youngsters.
Moyes, and indeed Sheedy, would have been interested to learn that on Monday evening it was a former player of theirs that went away with the award of player of the year for League One. Adam Forshaw has been instrumental behind Brentford’s promotion push this season, putting together a run of 24 consecutive starts before a calf problem ruled him out of a win at Port Vale in early January.
His omission, plus the superb form he had shown in the engine room of Brentford’s midfield, lead to questions over his future, though the 22 year old remains dedicated to the Bees’ cause.
“My aim is to get promoted with Brentford. I’m really enjoying it here. I feel I’m gaining a lot of experience playing regularly. Last year was a massive learning curve for me”
That last year involved Forshaw playing 53 times in his debut season at Griffin Park, scoring 3 goals and earning a new contract despite the Bees’ defeat in the play-off final to Yeovil and subsequent failure to go up. He had earlier joined the London club on loan from Everton alongside Jake Bidwell and impressed enough to be given a permanent deal in the summer of 2012 after the Merseyside club had released the youngster after his contract expired.
Moyes had given Forshaw his competitive debut three years earlier in a Europa League tie with BATE Borisov though, despite a Premier League appearance as a substitute against Wolves and a handful of appearances on the bench, the energetic midfielder couldn’t break into the Everton first-team. He exited Goodison Park having been named reserve player of the year in 2012, having scored twice in 13 appearances.
With 7 so far this season Forshaw has added goals to his game though his primary game involves patrolling midfield to break up play before distributing the ball to keep Brentford’s array of attacking quality ticking. His imposing 6ft 1 frame allows him to brush off defenders as he charges into the opposition half, using his energy to play as a complete box-to-box midfielder and make incisive runs into the box, hence his total of 53 shots so far this season. As such a role could encourage indiscipline in a young player, Forshaw seemed to have learnt under Uwe Rosler and now Mark Warburton to become well-regarded around the club for his attitude and consistency.
It would be very hard to criticise Moyes for releasing Forshaw given the inevitable enthusiasm the young player would have for first-team football and the huge chasm in quality that now exists between the Premier League’s top 6 and League One, though he is still displayed proudly on photograph on a wall at Everton’s Finch Farm academy.
The picture includes the teenage Forshaw in his Everton jersey the night he played against BATE in the European game in which he played alongside Barkley and Bidwell, who is now with the midfielder at Brentford on a permanent basis. Also pictured are his team-mates that night, those now plying their trade in the lower leagues; Hope Akpan, Kieran Agard, Nathan Craig, Jose Baxter and Shane Duffy. Also playing was Shkodran Mustafi, a defender of Albanian descent who now plays for Sampdoria in Italy.
After the game with BATE, Mustafi failed to make another first-team appearance for Everton and was allowed to leave on a free transfer in January 2012. Now 21, he has made 41 appearances for Sampdoria and has impressed so much in Serie A this season that Germany have recently handed a national team call-up to the right-sided centre-half. The defender, who played for Hamburg prior to his move to Everton, was naturalised in Germany and was a member of the team that won the European under-17 Championship in 2009 and has two caps at under-21 level.
“So we have decided to look at a few new faces who have been consistently good for their clubs” said Die Mannschaft manager Joachim Low, picking Mustafi for the February friendly with Chile.
Sampdoria have struggled defensively this season but Mustafi has been outstanding in his 23 league appearances so far, playing as a resilient centre-half who, with the help of his hulking build, has won 89 out of his 129 aerial battles. A no-nonsense and rugged central-defender, Mustafi has won 69 tackles and made 78 interceptions while his clearance count stands at a massive 178, an average of 7.4 clearances per game.
Mustafi has played under Delio Rossi and now Sinisa Mihajlovic in Genoa, though they have refrained from using the 21 year old as a right-back, despite his versatility, given his lack of comfort on the ball, he has used the long ball 137 times this season and prefers the uncompromising approach to defending.
Together with John Ruddy, who was acquired from Cambridge as a teenager to provide back-up to Tim Howard in goal, Mustafi and Forshaw mark three players who were perhaps prematurely released by Moyes at Everton. The Scot also showed a clear interest in Sporting Lisbon’s 20 year old centre-half Eric DierDier, taking him on loan in 2011 in a move designed for the youngster to grow in a more demanding competitive environment.
Dier made no senior appearances for Everton but it was clear Moyes was a fan of the 6′ 2” defender, bemoaning his return to Portugal.
“We wanted him to stay with us” said Moyes of the centre-half who has represented England at all youth levels including four times at under-21,“we knew he wanted to be in the first team, even though there would be little chance.”
Over a decade spent at Goodison Park it is hardly a record that portrays Moyes as disinterested in youth and regardless of what Forshaw, Ruddy or Mustafi go onto achieve, the proud pictures of the players that Moyes handed an opportunity to and those who seized it, the likes of Osman, Rodwell, Barkley and Coleman, will remain outside academy director Alan Irvine’s office at Finch Farm. Former Barnsley prospect John Stones, the 19 year old defender on whom Roberto Martinez recently issued a glowing review, was Moyes last signing as Everton boss and has since gone on to thrive as he converts from a right-back to a possible successor to Sylvian Distin centre-back slot.
“He is a confident boy. He knows that he is quicker, stronger and more athletic than the striker he is marking at any time” said the Spanish coach. “John will develop into a special centre-half for England.”
Moyes was arguably naturally cautious when it came to young players, possibly preferring to manage the prospect’s progress gradually which may have translated to some as holding promising talent back. Though he can boast a lot of success stories from his time at Everton as well as an expanse of anecdotal evidence of his dedication to academy football, regardless of outside views from fans or even Sheedy who seemed to be tweeting from a position of vast bitterness as he laid into the Scot while he faced bile from all-comers as Liverpool so resoundingly crushed United at Old Trafford on Sunday. Some of it was warranted given how inept his team looked, but to aim jibes at the man for something that has no basis, was as unfair as it was opportunistic and, most of all, completely wrong.