The convincing nature of Everton’s victory over Swansea was not the most surprising aspect of last weekend’s lunchtime fixture. Instead, the biggest jaw-dropping moment arrived when the audience were reminded that Victor Anichebe had never been out on loan during his seemingly extensive career. Anichebe has long been hailed as one of the most promising products of the club’s fabled academy, so why hasn’t David Moyes gifted him the freedom to learn his trade elsewhere?
Unfortunately the main reason undoubtedly surrounds the Nigerian’s woeful injury record, with knees like Ledley King’s it goes without saying that he’s spent more time on the treatment table than on the pitch. His lengthy spells on the sidelines are unfortunately a common and familiar theme at the club, which means Moyes is always reluctant to allow any transfers – even on loan – that will see his squad depleted further.
You may be surprised to hear that Anichebe is a current record holder with the Toffees, although you’ll be less surprised to learn it’s for the most appearances made as a substitute. He seems incapable of escaping the void that exists on the fringes of the first-team, destined to fall further down the pecking order as Moyes continues to strengthen his frontline.
A loan stint at Hull was a genuine possibility back in 2009 before Moyes pulled the plug when he realised he would be unable to bring in reinforcements. Anichebe made his frustration and disappointment very public, which further restricted his already limited number of appearances. Fast forward to the present day though and his career finally appears to be sparking into life, aided by the current injury status of Nikica Jelavić and the recent departures of both Louis Saha and Tim Cahill.
It’s remarkable to think Anichebe is still considered an ‘exciting prospect’ in the Everton side despite the fact he’s 24 years old. His performances still echo that sense of youthful exuberance, as he constantly badgers defenders and chases every loose ball. There are very rare glimpses of a player capable of emulating Didier Drogba, before that image is tainted by the naivety of a ‘boy’ who has never enjoyed a prolonged run of games in the starting XI.
His development is in stark contrast to Steven Caulker, who emerged from the shadows to announce himself as talented youngster, thanks largely to a season-long loan spell at Swansea. His quickly established himself in a team taking their first steps in the top flight, which will have undoubtedly helped him mature as both a footballer and a person. His new found confidence and experience has persuaded Andre Villas-Boas to keep him at Tottenham this season and even if he is unable to break through into the first-team, he will have plenty of suitors lined up ready to make an offer.
Perhaps there is evidence that Moyes is keen to avoid repeating such mistakes with the next batch of promising youngsters. Many fans believe that this could be the breakthrough year for Ross Barkley, who recently joined Sheffield Wednesday on a month’s loan. The England U’21 international has already scored his first goal for The Owls and should flourish playing amongst the significant crowds that grace Hillsborough every week. Watch this space as he is due to return in October.
Anichebe will hope he can continue to imitate team-mate Marouane Fellaini’s ability to impose himself in the final third of the pitch. The fact that he has spoken of his desire to remain injury-free this season highlights his eagerness to finally make an impression on the Premier league. I for one hope the club can learn from his stop-start career and finally reap the rewards of a player they’ve left lingering in the background for far too long.
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