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5 of Everton’s most underrated players of the last decade

Which men in royal blue haven’t got the credit they deserved recently?

Soccer - UEFA Europa League - Group H - Everton v Lille - Goodison Park
There are a few in this picture...
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As many Evertonians know, our fan base can be notoriously quick to deify a player as they to write another off as an outright failure.

As part of SB Nation’s ‘Underdogs Week’, we thought we’d look back at five players in the last decade who perhaps went a little under-appreciated during their time at Goodison Park.

None of them will be remembered as anything close to legends, or even as members of particularly remarkable Everton teams, but can at least stake a claim for warranting a bit more adulation than was forthcoming at times.

Joel Robles

Football - Premier League - Everton v Manchester City
Robles was predominantly a number two during the goalkeeper’s time at Everton

Not an outstanding goalkeeper by any means, but Joel Robles could rightly feel disappointed that he only made 65 Everton appearances during five seasons at the club from 2013 to 2018.

After impressing Roberto Martinez enough during a loan spell at Wigan to convince the new Everton boss to make him one of his first permanent signings, Robles largely played second fiddle to Tim Howard in his first two years.

But as Howard showed more frequent and glaring signs of decline, Robles was gradually afforded more opportunities; in truth, he should have displaced the American long before he actually did, midway through Howard’s last season, 2015-16.

The Spaniard would have to bide his time again under Ronald Koeman before eventually taking the number one jersey off Maarten Stekelenburg. But despite ten clean sheets in 20 games, a clumsy concession of a penalty against Burnley in April 2017 saw Stekelenburg re-instated. It felt rather harsh on Robles, a man who had done little else wrong in a strong start to the new year for Everton.

Jordan Pickford’s arrival the following summer more definitively relegated Robles back to number two, and he made just two appearances in his final season before being released. Not spectacular, but a reliable stopper more often than not, the Spaniard deserved more game time at Goodison.

Sylvain Distin

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Everton v Tottenham Hotspur - Goodison Park
Distin spent six years at Goodison Park

Though a regular for much of his six years at Goodison from 2009 to 2015, Distin’s generally impressive form at centre-back often seemed overshadowed by that of his peers.

Arriving from Portsmouth in the same summer that Joleon Lescott departed, Distin filled the void adequately (more so than John Heitinga, anyway). Good for the odd headed goal and a great turn of pace, the Frenchman dovetailed with Phil Jagielka expertly for the most part.

Indeed, despite joining Everton at 31, you could often barely tell Distin was approaching the latter stages of his career, though age admittedly looked to have caught up with him in his final year, the same campaign that John Stones really broke through in central defence.

Stones’ emergence and Martinez’s over-indulgence in him at times seemed to set the wheels in motion for Distin’s departure. Often ostracised by the manager during 2014-15, it brought to an end a quietly excellent Everton career on an overly sour note.

There were no 30-yard Anfield screamers or Cruyff turns in his own penalty area from Distin, but instead a player who often showed himself as a model of consistency, even if went under the radar at times.

Leon Osman

West Ham United v Everton - Premier League
Osman retired in 2016 after spending almost his entire career at Everton
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

The player some Evertonians seem to love to hate, Osman proved an increasingly divisive figure the longer the midfielder’s 16-year spell at the club went on.

Osman did not have as much panache as Mikel Arteta, or as much of a clinical nature as Tim Cahill, but was treasured by David Moyes for his industry as much as his technical ability. Not once did he go hiding; more than once did he deliver something special.

The rasping finish to a masterful move against Larissa is the obvious candidate, but think also of Osman’s wonderful solo effort in the 7-1 drubbing over Sunderland, or the textbook volley against Blackburn. He scored crucial goals, too, not least the injury-time winner over Portsmouth in the year Everton finished fourth.

Quite why Osman never seemed to garner as much affection from fans as some of his midfield colleagues remains a mystery; like many players, he showed more evident signs of decline towards the end under Martinez, but you would be hard-pressed to find an Everton player more besotted with the club in the last ten years.

The two-time England man was a superb servant to Everton, and often had the ability and the end product to underpin his enthusiasm and work rate.

Gareth Barry

Everton v Liverpool - Premier League - Goodison Park
Barry was a successful signing, initially on loan, from Manchester City
Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images

Though much of the Goodison faithful took to Gareth Barry during his four seasons on Merseyside, it still felt at times as if the importance of his role in the side was a little understated.

The perfect complement to fellow new boy James McCarthy in Martinez’s superb first year, Barry’s loan spell from Manchester City was such a success that Everton could not offer him a three-year deal quickly enough in July 2014. Lacking in pace, certainly, but not in precision with a pass or in intelligence on the pitch, either.

And after his first full season was somewhat disappointing, as Father Time looked to chasing Barry, then 35, down, he responded supremely by winning Everton’s player of the season and player’s player of the season awards the following year.

Even the year after, despite the arrivals of Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin and the emergence of Tom Davies, Koeman found space for him on 34 separate occasions. He let him go the following summer to West Brom at the age of 36, but admitted it was a ‘really difficult season’.

For a while after his departure at least, Everton looked rudderless and ponderous in midfield. This was no coincidence.

Jermaine Beckford

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Everton v Queens Park Rangers - Goodison Park
Beckford scored ten goals in his only full season at Everton
Photo by Jon Buckle - PA Images via Getty Images

Perhaps a more left-field suggestion than the four previously mentioned, but after a slow start at Everton, Jermaine Beckford began to find his feet as quickly as he was let go.

Having exceeded 30 goals in the previous two seasons for Leeds United in League One, Beckford joined Everton on a free transfer in May 2010. And though he did not break his Premier League duck until November, there were soon signs that he was getting to grips with the top-flight.

There were some low points - the galling misses against Sunderland and West Brom in the space of a week, for example - but also signs of genuine quality. He curled home a stunning injury-time equaliser against Bolton, struck home an ice-cool finish to put Everton ahead at Anfield, and most memorably ran almost the length of the pitch before slotting past Petr Cech in a 1-0 win over Chelsea.

Finishing 2010-11 with ten goals in all competitions (eight in the Premier League), Beckford looked the sort of player who might flourish after a year of acclimatising. Unfortunately for him, it was not to be.

Leicester City, then of the Championship, signed Beckford on the summer transfer deadline day in 2011 for £2.5 million. He was replaced at Everton by Denis Stracqualursi. Not the best move, in retrospect.