It was a Boxing Day goal that broke Newcastle hearts and galvanised the Toffees’ hearts after defeat to Leicester City. Roberto Martinez’s Everton took all three points thanks to a late strike by their midfielder Tom Cleverley, as he bagged his first goal of the season at a packed St James’ Park.
Shoot takes a look at the Merseyside favourite and his monumental rise from Man United reject to playing regularly for the Goodison Park faithful.
Where did it all start for Cleverley?
Despite being born in Basingstoke, Cleverley moved to West Yorkshire whilst still an infant. It was while living in the Pennines, where he played for his first club at academy level, Bradford City. However, the young midfielder’s talent was clear and, aged 11, he was snapped up by Manchester United. In his later teens played regularly for the reserves.
But to really send a message to Sir Alex Ferguson, it was important that he gained first team football. This opportunity came with Leicester City – at the time a League One side. Signing in January, he made his debut on a cold Monday night against Yeovil and played an influential part in the Foxes’ title-winning campaign as the East Midlands outfit returned to the Championship at the first time of asking.
What happened next?
His next challenge: the Championship. How would he cope playing with some of the most vastly experienced players in English football? With pure ease of course as he guided Watford to their 16th-placed finish with him being awarded the Hornets’ Player of the Season award despite his season finishing early as a result of a knee ligament injury.
After showing his ability at League One and Championship level, his next move had to be to the Premier League. Wigan Athletic provided the chance where he became a regular in the Latics midfield as he made 25 Premier League appearances.
After returning to The Theatre of Dreams, and following Paul Scholes’ retirement, maybe he had the chance to make an impact at United. It looked to be the case when Sir Alex Ferguson referring to him as the Red Devils’ “best player” in a pre-season fixture against Barcelona back in 2011.
His progress was stable but eventually he fell out of place in the Reds midfield following the acquisitions of world class players. It meant that he had to make another move. This time, in another temporary switch, he made the trip back to the Midlands. The time it was the West Midlands though and the Premier League not League One as he put pen to paper on a loan move to Aston Villa.
Despite enjoying his time at Villa Park, he decided to make the move to Goodison Park at the beginning of the season and has been in and out of the team since
How does he perform for his nation?
Dating back to his time at Leicester, Cleverley has regularly played for England at all levels. However, when just beginning to make an impingement at Premier League level, he was drafted in to the senior squad under then manager, Fabio Capello. Despite being around the set up under the Italian, he did not make his debut until August 2012 – under Roy Hodgson – when he featured in a friendly against Italy as a debutant alongside Jack Butland.
And that was after he played a fundamental part in the finest summer of sport Britain has seen in a generation. London 2012 may be remembered for the joyous triumphs of Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Bradley Wiggins; however Cleverley was part of Team GB’s football team. Here he was paramount in Stuart Pearce’s team and was instrumental in them claiming victory against the United Arab Emirates.
Was the goal at St James’ Park a shock?
Cleverley has never been known as a goal poacher and is not one for frequently getting in front of goal and putting it away. So much so that the goal up in the North East could of been classed as a surprise, however he is becoming a regular within the Everton side and will hope to net more crucial goals as he becomes older and more experienced.
The timing of the goal was also an astonishment with the former Manchester United man scoring with the last touch of the game when it looked as if both sides would take a point in the fixture. However, his strike from the edge of the area sent Newcastle fans home distraught and Everton fans back to Merseyside celebrating.
Why is he so dangerous?
Cleverley is your typical British midfielder. His fitness levels are immense and he also has the pace to run at a player at a high speed. His passing is exact and precise meaning that he can play a key part in the Toffees’ counter attacks. His chemistry with midfielders such as Ross Barkley is good too; this could be because of his excellent communication skills and his ability to read the game of others.
Super Stat: Prior to Boxing Day, Cleverley’s last goal came on May 9, for Aston Villa.