Yesterday’s announcement that Everton will sign Tom Cleverley on the expiry of his contract on 1st July 2015 was a year in the making. Cleverley seemed destined to wear an Everton shirt from when he was first made available by Manchester United last summer and even throughout his loan spell at Aston Villa the speculation didn’t desist. He is a player that has divided a lot of opinion between most football fans, not just Evertonians. This article is for those of the opinion that Cleverley is a good signing or those who need convincing.
First of all, this is a free transfer; financially speaking there isn’t much Everton has to lose in signing Cleverley without a transfer fee. Additionally, signing the midfielder on a 5-year contract guarantees that even if the move doesn’t work out on the pitch, the Toffees will still make a profit, if they sold him on. Conceivably it is a cynical way to look at a player who has barely put pen to paper and hasn’t even put on an Everton shirt yet, but in a financial sense it is definitely a pro in this signing.
Whatever your opinion on Cleverley, it can’t be denied that he has a wealth of footballing experience for a 25-year-old. Cleverley is an England international and was not only in the news yesterday for his Everton transfer but also his recall to the England squad replacing the injured Ryan Mason. Cleverley already has 13 caps and will no doubt add to that, possibly as soon as Sunday’s friendly with Republic of Ireland. The former Villa man also represented Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics.
Furthermore to that, while on-loan at Wigan Athletic, Cleverley played his part in the Latics’ great escape from relegation. If that helped build Cleverley’s character then Manchester United’s Premier League win in 2012/13 only enhanced his footballing experience that bit more. Following that, it feels as though Cleverley received the criticism of the entire nation during his United and England career – coming out of that period will have only built his mental strength to a high level.
Cleverley has the experiences some players go there whole careers without, yet he is 25-years-old. The midfielder hasn’t even entered his prime before being slated by most of the country. As Roberto Martinez has already said since announcing the Englishman’s signing; we haven’t seen the best of Cleverley but with the 5-year deal he has been given, he will be playing the prime years of his career in a Blues shirt.
Cleverley graduated from United’s famous youth academy. He is a player that, early in his United career; Sir Alex Ferguson heaped praise on and who Ferguson planned on replacing Paul Scholes with – beyond a compliment in itself. Fair enough it didn’t work out with the Red Devils and Cleverley has shown a decline rather than progression but when the nation was on the young player’s back a couple of years ago for not scoring and assisting enough and claiming he was only in the England squad because of the club he played for, there is no wonder he had a crisis in confidence. Cleverley clearly has ability with all this behind him, he just needs the support and trust of everyone at the club and confidence to perform.
The playmaker played his best football at Wigan under Roberto Martinez and that was definitely the clincher in him signing for both parties. Martinez knows Cleverley well and vice versa. The Spaniard’s arm round our new signing’s shoulder will only give him the confidence that he needs to play at his best.
Personally, I think the reason for Cleverley’s drop was the pressure of England fans and media. He was criticised for not scoring and assisting enough for someone who plays attacking midfield which saw him drop deeper and deeper. With Cleverley’s passing ability some thought giving him a deeper role, similar to Michael Carrick’s, was the solution; in fact it only caused the problem because that created the uncertainty that, probably even the player didn’t know at some point, where his most effective position was. Then he signed with Paul Lambert. Signing for a manager that actively discouraged players from going forward for Aston Villa only added to restricting Cleverley from expressing himself. We saw first-hand this season at Villa Park what Cleverley can do when given the license to go forward, as he was by Tim Sherwood.
Martinez’s philosophy is to let players express themselves on the pitch and that is something that has proved successful with Cleverley before, and hopefully with his confidence rebuilt; can be the case once more.