While much of the country (and indeed the footballing world) was engrossed in the fascinating Manchester derby last weekend I had the good fortune to be at Goodison Park to watch David Moyes’ Everton continue their upturn in form against a dour and bedraggled Blackburn Rovers side.
Though the match was over as a contest after 55 minutes I saw enough action to glean a few post-match points to ponder:
First off, Everton are better than their position suggests. Once again it looks like Moyes’ boys have begun badly but are set to shoot up the table like last season. With the Lescott situation finally put to bed the team has a more settled look about it and in Sylvain Distin, have a ready made replacement.
Secondly the Toffees have a star in the making in Jack Rodwell. Please believe when I tell you – this kid can go all the way.
Still just 18, he has and air of authority that belies his tender years. He makes football look like a graceful art as he glides across the turf, calmly spraying passes across all corners of the pitch.
Wayne Rooney is generally considered to be Everton’s greatest youth product. But Rodwell is rapidly challenging that crown.
Anyway, to my third and main point, and that point is Louis Saha. The enigmatic Frenchman bagged another two goals against Rovers (the first admittedly was aided by a static Blackburn defence) and another against Pompey on Saturday to take his tally to seven this season.
But it is not just the goals that have made him stand out this campaign. Blues fans have noticed an extra spring in his step, the extra spark that only comes with match sharpness.
It amazes me how many Premier League players struggle to control the ball, turn and pass to a team-mate in one fluid movement. It is a good barometer as to the standard of the player. Observe Saha for a few minutes and by that measure you will quickly tell he is a quality footballer.
His control is instant, he turns on a sixpence and his vision and accuracy is that of a striker once valued at £12.8 million by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Saha’s problem at Old Trafford was his increasingly brittle limbs as a succession of injuries eroded his confidence and ruined his Manchester United career. In the end United couldn’t afford to carry him along their trophy-laden path. But at cash starved Everton, they knew he was a risk worth taking.
Toffees boss Moyes has spoken of his belief that much of Saha’s injury worries are in his head, that the fear of injury has hamstrung his play, a debilitating self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now he seems clear of his injury demons Saha’s play appears to be returning to the level of four years ago, Evertonians have certainly never seen him fitter.
But will it last?
Everton fans certainly hope so, and you can almost feel the sharp intake of breath that echoes around Goodison Park every time Saha goes in for a challenge.
I get the impression most football fans hope he does well too. Neutrals appreciate his talents and empathise with his troubles while Fulham and United fans are only too aware of is abilities – many of my United supporting friends still rue his injury enforced departure.
At 31 Saha not getting any younger and his fitness will no doubt be nurtured and monitored throughout the season. But if he can avoid serious injury this year then Everton have a world class striker on their hands once more.
And after all his troubles that have wrecked much of his career, few would begrudge Saha his second chance.