This time last year we lost, arguably, our most influential player to Tottenham, in Stephen Pienaar and they were also doing their utmost to unnerve Phil Neville, with the promise of one last hurrah in the Champions League. So understandably when Big Ben tolled for the start of 2012 there was a resounding groan emanating from Blue households, as the expectations were that inevitably someone was going to come in with low yet reasonable offers for the improving Jack Rodwell, the untested Ross Barkley, the excellent Leighton Baines and/or the recently re-committed Marouane Fellaini. Rather than showing interest in our fringe or ageing personnel which would obviously be more welcome, dependant of course on whether we could replace any of those departing for pastures new.
So the month starts with the much publicised arrival of Landon Donovan of a 2 month loan deal from LA Galaxy whilst they are in their “close season”. Then basically out of nowhere he is followed through the door by Darron Gibson on a permanent deal for 4 and a half years, becoming the first signing who we've both paid money for and has a name we've actually heard of, in nearly 36 months. The tabloid gossip columns started to link Everton with players again, from the exotically named Alessio Cerci to the dependable Kevin Doyle.
However, it's common knowledge that in order to be able to be in with a chance of acquiring any of the plethora of possibilities we would need to sell. Regular readers will recall earlier in the season, I felt that it was time for the mercurial Russian Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to move on. David Moyes clearly felt the same, the next challenge was to find a suitor, although Bily had being acting as his own recruitment consultant in the latter months of 2011 so it seemed that a return to his homeland would be the most obvious resolution, Spartak Moscow became his (and our) saviour with an respectable fee of £5m, which was about his actual worth when we purchased him over 2 years ago at the very inflated price of double that sum.
That took us into the final week of January, so far so good, but surely there was a nasty surprise awaiting us around the corner. There was a surprise, in fact there were quite a few, Everton were the movers and the shakers in the transfer market on Deadline Day. An agreement was reached with Rangers for prolific Croatian Striker Nikica Jelavic, potentially the centre forward we have been crying out for, the YouTube videos of his exploits north of the border are mouth-watering (but then again so were Bily's) and at the money we have paid it's worth the risk, as there is clearly some talent there.
The next shock threw everyone, high flying Champions League chasing Tottenham Hotspur looking to goal shy Louis Saha to bolster their forward line. I'm a big Louis fan, I'd probably go so far to say that he's the best out and out Striker I've seen in an Everton shirt, but even I have to admit this year he has been a little short of awful. Maybe this move will suit him and reinvigorate his passion for the game, I hope it does as he can be a joy to watch, however it was a wonderful opportunity for Everton to recoup some sort of money on an ageing player with less than 6 months left on his contract. I recently read an article that Dan Brown would be proud of suggesting that some transfers are so clouded in mystery that no one knows when negotiations started or who approved them, as much as this could be dismissed as “old tosh”, Saha's could definitely fall into that bracket or at least filed under just plain bizarre.
Now, I for one expected all of our activity in this window to be completed a day earlier than the rest of the League as we had an important match against Manchester City rescheduled for 31st January. I was proved to be wrong, the Jelavic deal wasn't sealed until just before kickoff, meaning he was able to be introduced to the Goodison faithful at half time and then as previously mentioned Saha was on his way down to White Hart Lane to finalise his switch to Spurs.
The build up to the game had been tense but somewhat thrilling, forums and Twitter were awash with rumours of players having medicals at Finch Farm and of course the usual “sightings” at airports of Defoe, Riquelme, Pele et al. It was to be special night, the game was a decent reflection of our January, it was David versus Goliath in regards to spending power but we were still able to compete and come out victorious. Moyes was absent for the press conference afterwards stating he still had business to do, he needed to be quick, just over an hour after the final whistle was the equivalent whistle on transfers until July.
Evertonian eyes were glued to all mediums of communication as the 11 o'Clock deadline came and went, but a trickle of information started to come through. Moyes and Bill Kenwright had convinced Harry Redknapp and Daniel Levy to allow Steven Pienaar, who had taken a place on Tottenham's bench that evening, to come home and rekindle his almost telepathic relationship with Baines. The paperwork had been processed in time and the diminutive South African was on his way back up the M6 with a 6 month loan deal secured.
So what started as a month full of fear and dread, finished on a high filled with optimism, talk of a late push for Europe and another jaunt to Wembley, so it may be cold out there but another day in the Sun may be sooner rather than later.
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