Weir on Everton success, Rooney and Saturday's game

Ahead of Albion's Premier League clash against Everton, one person with an insight into the opposition is former defender David Weir.

By James Hilsum • 10 January 2020

By Paul Hazlewood
David Weir watches on.

Albion's pathway development manager made 254 appearances in eight successful years for the blue half of Merseyside, and explained how the Toffees faithful demand a return to the upper echelons of the Premier League.

The big-name appointment of Carlo Ancelotti last month prompted an upturn in their fortunes with victories over Burnley and Newcastle United in the Italian’s first two games in charge before they came crashing back to earth with an embarrassing 1-0 FA Cup defeat to a youthful Liverpool team. With that in mind, Weir expects his former club will be eager to right those wrongs on Saturday.

By Rex/Shutterstock
Carlo Ancelotti

“The manager may have won his first two games in charge, but the cup tie was very disappointing and Everton will be a wounded animal as a result,” he said.

“The crowd will be anxious because, if you lose a derby, you want to bounce back in the next game. The way they lost it was unacceptable to everyone, so I would expect a reaction from the players and the crowd.

“The fans believe they are a top-six club and that’s their expectation every season. They’ve fallen away from that recently and Everton fans are very impatient to get back to that level.

“Carlo Ancelotti’s pedigree speaks for itself in terms of what he’s done and what he can do for the club. That’s exciting for the fans, but they are in a rush to get back to where they expect to be. Liverpool doing so well doesn’t help because they are the neighbours and the gap is too big between them at the moment.”

By Rex/Shutterstock
David Weir marks Arsenal's Nicolas Anelka.

The Scot was a highly revered player in his time on Merseyside and reflects on his playing days with tremendous pride, particularly when they qualified for the Champions League in 2004/05.

“The best years of my career were probably at Everton in terms of where I was as a player and what I was capable of doing,” he added.

“When I came in we were fighting relegation and by the time I left we were competing in the top six consistently. I’m not saying that was all down to me by any means - David Moyes’ management created that expectation for Everton.

“That 2004/05 season was particularly special because we finished above Liverpool and that’s the benchmark for Everton.

“To finish above them, qualify for the Champions League and perform consistently all season was very special. It was like winning the league for the club because Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea were very strong at the time.

“It was a great achievement in terms of the budget we had and the competition we were playing against. Leicester have won the league and are challenging again, but there haven’t been too many clubs that have broken that ‘big four’, or ‘big six’ as it is now. At the time it was Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. Neither Manchester City nor Tottenham were at that level then. Those four clubs set the standard.”

By Rex/Shutterstock
Wayne Rooney during his Everton days.

One of Weir’s stand-out teammates at Everton was a certain Wayne Rooney, who went on to become England’s and Manchester United’s record goalscorer. Weir says that the current Derby County man’s potential was clear to see straight away.

“He was very impressive in terms of his mind set and quality. He believed he should be where he was and wanted to prove it," said Weir.

“At the same time he was also very respectful towards the senior players and was very mature for a 16-year-old boy.

“As soon as he came to train with us we knew he was ready to contribute. He got better and better and within a year or 18 months it became impossible to keep him at Everton because he had progressed so much. We were privileged to play with him, and he went onto achieve some incredible things in his career.

“That match against Arsenal [won 2-1 in October 2002] was a big game for Wayne, where he announced himself on the biggest stage by scoring the winner.

“Arsenal were on a 30-match unbeaten run at the time and they had some top quality players.

“It was a fitting end to that run, with a quality goal from a quality player. When the Goodison crowd is on your side they can almost suck the ball into the back of the net, which was the case that day. It was a very special game and one that I will remember for a long time.”

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