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Everton seek to bury ghosts of Sunderland past

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Toffees return to scene of Martinez’s grim finale

Sunderland v Everton - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Everton’s quest to right the wrongs of last season continues with a trip to the ground where they reached their lowest ebb just four months ago.

Back in May the dying embers of Roberto Martinez’s regime were painfully played out at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland, needing victory to ensure survival, romped to a 3-0 win that was every bit as comfortable as the scoreline suggested.

It was one dismal performance too many for the Toffees board, who sacked Martinez the following day.

Such was the sense of chaos swirling around Goodison Park the club’s end of season awards evening was cancelled with just hours to spare , a pre-emptive strike designed to avoid further fan protests and spare Martinez further humiliation.

Thankfully things have been on an upward curve ever since. Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh have arrived, as have six new signings. While seven points from their opening three games represents Everton’s best start to a season in a decade.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing. It proved to be a frustrating deadline day as numerous targets slipped through Everton’s grasp.

Enner Valencia was a late, if unsurprising arrival, leaving the squad a bit lighter than Koeman perhaps hoped for at the start of pre-season.

However, once the dust settled and emotions subsided the general feeling among the supporters was one of optimism.

It still proved to be a fruitful summer with the squad stronger than it was when the window opened.

The failure to land key targets is a reminder that the club still have a long way to go to repair their damaged reputation.

But a quick glance back at the dismal night in May reminds us just how far the club has come in such a short space of time.

Opposition

Sunderland’s summer has been equally as eventful. Sam Allardyce’s rescue job was supposed to signal an end to the Black Cats’ annual flirtation with relegation.

The club lost just two games after New Year’s Day to secure survival with a game to spare.

Fate, however, has conspired against the north-east club again with England’s sacking of Roy Hodgson creating a vacancy Allardyce simply couldn’t turn down.

With their pre-season plans in tatters Sunderland had to act quickly and a familiar face to Evertonians become their sixth manager in less than five years.

David Moyes returned to the Premier League determined to restore his reputation after bruising experiences at Man Utd and Real Sociedad.

The Scot, of course, enjoyed relative success during his 13-year stay at Goodison Park, lifting the club away from the relegation zone on a relatively tight budget.

For that reason the Sunderland job looks the ideal fit for 53-year-old, who stated in his first press conference that he sees similarities in his new club and the Everton side he inherited from Walter Smith in 2002.

I understand why a number of the supporters are angry at Moyes for the way he left Everton and his early behaviour towards the club in his first few weeks at Man Utd.

However, since then he had always spoken warmly about the club (listen to his pre-match press conference) and I feel he deserves the benefit of the doubt given what he achieved on Merseyside.

Moyes was busy in the closing weeks of the window, with the club signing 10 players including former Blues Victor Anichebe and Steven Pienaar.

They have made a mixed start to the season, losing their opening two matches before claiming a deserved point against Southampton at St Mary’s.

With the international break affording Moyes further time to get to know his squad, we should expect a much-improved Black Cats side taking to the field on Monday.

Team news

Seamus Coleman is in contention to make his first start of the season after recovering from an ankle injury and featuring for the Republic of Ireland during the international break. Whether he comes straight in at the expense of the impressive Mason Holgate though remains to be seen.

Enner Valencia could also feature for the first time following his deadline day loan move from West Ham.

Darron Gibson and Tom Cleverley are expected to recover from knocks but James McCarthy is out for three weeks with a groin strain.

Sunderland defender Jan Kirchhoff could make his comeback after recovering from a hamstring injury. He could play alongside Lamine Kone, who was heavily linked with a move to Goodison Park over the summer.

New signings Mika Domingues and Jason Denayer could also feature as could former Toffee Steven Pienaar. However, another former Blue, Victor Anichebe, isn’t yet match fit.

The Black Cats remain without Lee Cattermole, Vito Mannone, Billy Jones, Sebastian Larsson and Fabio Borini.

Final word

The international break and disappointing deadline day disrupted some of Everton’s momentum following their fine start to the season. However, confidence should still remain high as they travel north to bury the ghosts of last May.

None of their international players returned to Finch Farm injured and Romelu Lukaku’s return to goalscoring form is equally as significant.

I’m hopeful the Ronald Koeman revolution will continue apace on Wearside.

Predicted starting XI: Stekelenberg, Baines, Jagielka, Williams, Coleman, Barry, Gueye, Mirallas, Barkley, Bolasie, Lukaku.