Neville Southall talks to Sky Sports about Everton's UEFA Champions League chances, Marouane Fellaini's headbutt and why the game needs more Mario Balotellis.
By Rachel Griffiths - Follow me on Twitter @SkySportsRachG
Last Updated: 19/12/12 2:52pm
After helping Everton achieve some of their greatest feats during his 17-year stint on Merseyside, Toffees legend Neville Southall is glad to see David Moyes' side on the right track.
But Southall feels Moyes needs to splash the cash in the January transfer window if Everton are to stay on course for success, with several areas of the squad needing some reinforcement.
Sky Sports caught up with the former Wales goalkeeper as he discussed the Toffees' prospects for the season, that Marouane Fellaini headbutt and the lamentable lack of characters in the game today.
There's talk of a European spot for Everton this season. How far can they go?
They're doing very well and their football has been very good. There's no reason why they can't finish in the top four. They can score goals now and they play more attacking football. They're solid all-round, in all fairness. I think we've got goals all over the pitch. They've built and built and built and they've got goalscorers now, which they maybe didn't have last season. Obviously they've changed a few more games into victories rather than draws. They're on a run of draws at the minute but you get that sometimes. I've watched a few of the games and there's not been much in it.
Does the building need to continue at Everton in the January transfer window?
I think they need at least three players in January to make sure they've got that cover until the end of the season. They need a striker, a midfield player and a centre-half to make the squad stronger again. They've been on top of some of the games and just not finished them off. If you've got somebody else to come off the bench and score a goal then it makes you stronger. That's why I think they need somebody else. It will be damaging to lose a player of Marouane Fellaini's stature to his ban, but at the same time it might force the club's hand and they might have to put their hands in their pockets and buy somebody else, or loan somebody else. It could be the silver lining.
Speaking of Fellaini, what did you make of his infamous headbutt on Ryan Shawcross at the weekend?
I didn't think it was that bad actually. When I heard all the reports I thought it was a proper, proper full-on assault. I've seen it recently and it wasn't, was it? His hair is probably about six inches high, so whatever he does is probably cushioned anyway. I think he was clever, because he apologised after the game. Everybody has a breaking point and he probably just reached it. I think he has been shackled by a lot of the referees this season and last season. I think he had a reputation when he first came and he's probably had too many yellow cards. He got over that, so this is a shame really. It's probably put him back a little bit, back to square one.
Is a three-match ban a fair punishment?
People have been talking to me about him being out until the end of the season, which I thought was a bit over the top. Three games is probably what you're going to get now so it's a fair result. He's apologised and he's done the right thing, so it's probably time for him to move on.
As a former goalkeeper, how do you think Tim Howard is doing for Everton this season?
I think he's done ok overall. He's made a couple of mistakes but tell me someone who hasn't in the Premier League this year. When you play attacking football, sometimes you get left in situations you don't want to be left in. We trust him, which is the most important thing. I don't think he's played anywhere near as badly as people are trying to make out. They need to just chill out, leave him alone and let him do what he's got to do. You can always do better, but you can say that when you're playing well as well.
You've said before your personal goalkeeping hero is Pat Jennings. What was it about him that set him apart?
He did everything with a calm assurance and he never shouted about how good he was. He'd make a save with every part of his body and he had that cool exterior. Whatever was going on inside, you never knew. He did what he had to do and he was the most efficient, coolest goalkeeper I've ever seen.
Which goalkeepers in the Premier League do you think are the ones younger keepers are looking up to?
People are having a go at Joe Hart but he's only 20 odd. Because he plays for England there's double the amount of pressure and double the amount of intensity on him. He's always going to make mistakes and there's always going to be times when he doesn't do so well. I don't quite get it, I think people should leave him alone and let him make mistakes. He hasn't made any in a major game yet, has he? It's natural because he's up there now to be shot down. I'd say, 'well ok then, who do you want to play instead of him?' and they'd say 'well, nobody.' Well get off his back then! Why are you having a go at him? He's the best one you've got. Their argument falls flat with me, in all fairness. He's the most improved one out of the whole lot. For the past two years he's the most improved goalkeeper probably in the world. There's been a couple of goals where people have had a go at him but he'll pick himself up and be better for it. I can see in two or three years he's going to be the best one in the world, by far.
You were known for being a character during your playing days. Is there less of that in football now?
The media doesn't allow for it anymore, football doesn't allow for it. Especially for you people in the media - do you want somebody who comes and says 'it was a good game, we did alright' or do you want somebody who's got a bit of character? Unfortunately, the way it's gone, is that players feel afraid to say things because it gets all twisted up. And then every time we get a character we just slaughter him. You need characters, you always have and always will do, because that's what people talk about. I don't see the point in having everybody the same and just boring as anything.
So the game needs more Mario Balotellis?
I judge Balotelli on the field, I don't just anybody off the field. I don't care what he's like off the field, as long as he doesn't harm anybody. Sometimes now, the way it's gone, it's so quick now to grab the world it can land you in s**t within five minutes. It's not as insular as it used to be. That's a bit of the problem. But the players need to be able to trust the press and the press need to be able to trust the players. Post-match interviews are a waste of time now, because they don't really say anything. You'd love to see someone who's a bit of a character come on.That's why everyone loves Jose Mourinho and Harry Redknapp. That's what people want. They don't want football to be sanitised - they want it to be interesting and to have talking points. You can't have it both ways. You can't cry out for characters and as soon as you get one, slaughter him. It doesn't work.
What about the quality of the football in the Premier League?
Some of it's alright, some of it I find boring. The way they play, when they all get behind the ball when they lose the ball, I find that boring. I'd rather they attack, attack and attack. There's a feeling in football it can't happen anymore. People are going out not to lose and to maybe win instead of going out for a win, and if you don't then get a draw. It's just the way the world has changed. People are frightened to death of losing their jobs these days. I don't see why, because if you lose your job you make a fortune. There should be less pressure on managers now.
David Moyes is one manager who seems to be backed by the fans through the good and bad. Where's he going right?
People will only realise how good Moyes is when leaves. He'll either leave in a really nice way, by winning things and then moving on, or he'll just get forced out. I'd rather the former than the latter, because I wouldn't like to see his good work go unappreciated. I'd like to see that he finishes his career with Everton as a winner.
Why do you think he retains the backing of fans while other bosses - Arsene Wenger at Arsenal as a recent example - are coming under fire?
Because the fans are brilliant. If you look at Arsenal now, people are up in arms, there's protests. We're lucky because we've got the greatest set of fans who stay patient. (With Wenger) that's football. Somebody said to me once, today's headlines are tomorrow's fish and chip paper. Take it with a pinch of salt. He's at one of the best clubs in the world, managing one of the best teams in the world. Has he got a problem? Not really. They just make too much of it.
Why do you think the pressure is greater on managers these days?
There seems to be more pressure on managers all the time, and I don't really see why. It's gone from managing 14 players who want to play to managing 25 egos, some of whom don't want to play. 14 egos is far easier to manage than 25. It's all about man-management now. Everyone has got a big ego to play football, it's the nature of the job. You have to be incredibly selfish and incredibly egotistic. That's just the way the game is. You've got to prepare properly and you've got to believe that you're good, and sometimes it takes an ego to do that.
Neville Southall were speaking at the launch of The Football Pools 90 Day Community Challenge at St Helens Junior Football Club, who received funding of £50,000 to makeover their club. For more information or if you would like to get involved with the 90 Day Challenge through donating time, funds or materials please email email@example.com. Play The Football Pools at www.footballpools.com.