When Everton sold Joleon Lescott for £24m in 2009 it allowed Everton to to expand their squad by duly bringing three players into the club. First of all Everton bought in 24 year old Diniyar Bilyaletdinov for around 9 million pounds to much excitement from the fans. It seemed like this was the player we needed who would unlock defences and give us that X factor in the final third. A few days later, Everton secured the signature of 25 year old Dutch defender John Heitinga from Atletico Madrid, who it was thought would be able to replace Lescott whilst also giving us an extra option in the much needed right-back position.
In the middle of that was the signing of a 31 year old from Portsmouth for 5 million pounds. Whilst accepted that it was a signing for a much needed position, for a club of Everton’s financial stature, it seemed a heavy price to pay for a 30+ Portsmouth player who relied on his exceptional pace. Bilyaletdinov flattered to deceive during his time and although a lot would say he was never played in his correct position, his signing didn’t work out for the club. Heitinga did will for periods, but compared to Everton’s signings for similar amounts, the money could have been better spent elsewhere and ended leaving on a free transfer.
Distin on the other hand has been an unqualified success and had been a mainstay in the Everton defence since he signed in 2009 up until this year. At 31 years old it seemed like time could catch up with him at any point but year after year he had seemed to get better and better and his pace, quite incredibly, had maintained. At 37 years old, you’d still only bet on Kevin Mirallas beating him in a foot race, and even then it’d be close. It speaks volumes of how Sylvain Distin had managed to keep up his level of performance for so long. Ryan Giggs was consistently lauded, and rightfully so, for his longevity and dedication to his profession and the same can be said of Distin. Unlike Ryan Giggs, Distin didn’t have the option of changing his game as he got older, but he didn’t have to. Whether it is due to his sparring in the ring with Liverpool’s finest, his extra sessions in the gym or his dedication to recovery after games, his performance hadn’t wavered . . . until this season.
Last season was a particularly good one for Distin, and left Martinez no signs that this season would be such a bad one. Distin has been prone to mistakes every now and again, most obviously against Liverpool in the semi-final of the FA Cup which I think Everton fans still hold a grudge against him for in the back of their minds.
Distin seems to be a bit of a love/hate figure with Everton fans, and seems to take the brunt of the fickle praise or criticism that is expected after a win or loss. Whether it is his notorious twitter defences after a poor performance or the mistakes he can make, I can’t be sure. He will however be a player long remembered at Goodison after his playing days.
It’s easy to forget how good he was last year with his partnership with John Stones. They were solid at the back and helped drive us to near qualification of the Champions League and memorable victories (with clean sheets) against the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United.
This will be his last year and it would be a shame for his time at the club to dwindle into fan unrest, poor performances and being left out of the team. He is by all accounts a popular member of the club, a consummate professional and his experience will prove invaluable for the young players at the club like Stones, Browning and Garbutt who will hopefully be able to succeed the Frenchman shortly after he retires.
I do think Distin deserves better from the Everton fans, and to be cut some flack. He may be a victim of his own success as the club has improved a lot since 2009. He has played over 200 times for the club, played with passion and has never taken a backwards step. It will be sad to see him leave Everton not on his own terms.
I think the whole situation has been handled very poorly by Martinez. To give the fans such little information about a player of that many appearances has been poor. To freeze out a player who has proudly represented this club on so many occasions is poorer. Whether they had a falling out or not, Distin asked to leave in January or not, Martinez has not been fair to either Distin or us, the fans.
“Once Everton has touched you nothing will be the same” – This club leaves a special mark on a player which comes from his relationship with the club and it’s fans. A relationship that Martinez seems to have soured for Distin for selfish reasons.
I’m a big fan of Distin both as a man and a fan of the service that he has given our football club. I hope Everton fans can show their appreciation for the big man this weekend which is the least he deserves. I hope, however unlikely, that he gets some game time but if not, there is talk of applause on the 15th minute or even a few chants would be a nice touch . . . And the least he deserves.