Anichebe’s patience starting to pay off

by Alan Feehely

Anichebe EvertonIf you look up patient in the dictionary, you will find a picture of Victor Anichebe looking at you.

Well, not quite. But the Everton and Nigeria striker is the epitome of the word – in footballing terms anyway.

For a player who seems to have been around forever, he is still only 23. This is despite him having made his debut a whole seven years ago, against Chelsea in the FA Cup in January 2006. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, he moved to Merseyside as a child, and joined the Everton youth setup when he was just out of his infantile years. He made his reserve debut at just 15, and was tipped to become one of Goodison’s next big stars.

Things looked to have gotten off to the perfect start – he was rewarded Everton’s Reserve Player of the Year at the end of the 2005/06 season, while at the same time making a few appearances for the first team. His progress from then on was steady if a little unspectacular, coming to a head on a fateful night in Germany.

The  UEFA Cup (now known as the Europa League) seemed to be a competition Anichebe liked, as he scored four times in the Toffees run to the last 16, but it was one night in Nuremburg that saw the Nigerian capture the imagination of Evertonians everywhere.

Everton have already taken the lead thanks to a coolly taken penalty from Mikel Arteta, but it’s the second that get the fans talking. ‘Big Vic’, as he is affectionately known, galloped down the right wing, easily shrugging off the challenges of two defenders before finishing into the back of the net. In one swift movement, he showed pace, strength, and skill. The goal encapsulated one of his finest seasons, one which led to him going to China for the 2008 Olympics with Nigeria.

His growth stunted a little however, and appearances in the first team became increasing sporadic. The forward began to frustrate his supporters in Goodison Park, as effortless, lackadaisical performances began to take precedence over whole-hearted displays of pure physical power. Like his compatriot on Merseyside Ayegbeni Yakubu, he developed a tag as ‘lazy’ – only without the shed load of goals that Yakubu offered as an apology.

Then, on the 22nd of February 2009, came a defining moment in young Anichebe’s career. While playing a Premier League match in Newcastle, a horrendous challenge from Kevin Nolan left him injured, and unable to play again for 11 months. This lengthy lay-off would badly damage any footballer, but for it to hit a 20 year old still finding his feet?

Everton manager David Moyes still stuck with the striker, even though many fans were calling for him to be offloaded in the next transfer window. He recovered from his injury but it was followed by a succession of little niggles – something that has harmed his growth hugely. This season, he has made the most appearances in a single campaign since way back in 2007/08, when he was at the height of his promise.

Such a significant run in the side has also led to an increase in goals – with seven at the time of writing, it means that Anichebe has surpassed his previous record, and looks to finally be fulfilling his early potential.

It would be negligible to analyse the man purely on goals scored, for he is so much more than that. He will never be prolific – that much is for sure (as 16 goals in 122 appearances confirms). What he does offer is an honest day’s work, something that has really endeared himself to the Everton faithful.

In recent weeks, he has been as valuable a cog to the Everton machine as anyone. He has put in an indecent amount of hard running, threw his weight around to inspire fear into the opposition defence, and been an altogether nuisance.

He’s had a tough career so far, but things have begun to look up for Victor Anichebe. His patience – after all the injuries he’s had to put up with – is finally starting to pay off.

1 Response

  1. Mark Godfrey says:

    Good article,Alan. Spot on. You could say Victor is ‘coming of age’ this season. Never going to be a world beater but he’s starting to use his talents to better effect and is more committed to the cause. Can still throw in some shockers from time to time though! Injuries did hamper his progress, especially from that horror tackle from that shithouse Nolan which he should have had a 10 game ban for.

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