Football: Gemmill in search of redemption

Phil Shaw talks to the Everton midfielder who knows that a good display against Manchester United on Sunday could revitalise his Scotland career

MEETINGS WITH Manchester United tend to be either milestones or millstones in Scot Gemmill's career. Take the first time he played at Old Trafford, at a critical stage in the championship run-in seven years ago. After scoring Nottingham Forest's winner, he was amazed to receive letters from Leeds fans containing pounds 5 notes and the exortation to "buy yourself a drink".

Alternatively, consider his most recent encounter with Alex Ferguson's team, early this year. Forest finished on the wrong end of what even their most stoical follower would have struggled to call a nine-goal thriller. Gemmill was substituted and spent the closing stages of an 8-1 home humiliation "with my head in my hands".

While United's season simply kept getting better, Gemmill's could not have deteriorated further. Nor did it: a move to Everton kept him in the Premiership and helped do the same for his new club. Now, instead of facing derbies with Tranmere or wet Wednesdays at Walsall, the Scottish international has an opportunity for redemption as the treble winners launch a fresh campaign at Goodison Park on Sunday.

"United are a fantastic side but I'm glad we've got them first. The opening day is a one-off spectacle, like a cup final, and that might give us a better chance than on a Saturday in November," recalls Gemmill, who took particular pleasure in Teddy Sheringham's impact on the FA and European Cup finals.

"He was a good team-mate at Forest. When he and Nigel Clough were up front, I scored 14 from midfield. Brian Clough instilled in his forwards the need to hold the ball and if you played the ball up to Teddy you usually got it back.

"I also played alongside Roy Keane, who's someone you'd rather have with you than against you. He always had great potential but so do hundreds of players. Only a few fulfil it. He should have been Footballer of the Year but he may have kicked a few too many to get the votes!"

Gemmill stayed in the East Midlands rather longer than the Irishman, but when Walter Smith paid pounds 250,000 for a player who would shortly be available free under the Bosman ruling it looked as if the 28-year-old midfielder had merely swapped the frying pan for the fire.

After his home debut - April's defeat by Sheffield Wednesday - Everton were rooted in the relegation zone with just six games remaining.

That they won four of those fixtures to finish 14th was due largely to nine goals in eight games by another Trentside refugee now plying his trade by the Mersey, Kevin Campbell.

"If we hadn't had a top-class finisher to convert the chances we were making, we'd have gone down," admits Gemmill. "And for that to happen to Everton would be 100 times worse than for Forest."

Campbell's pounds 3m rescue from Turkish football became a summer imperative for Smith. Gemmill's contribution, which included a goal in the crucial win at Newcastle, was less dramatic but vital to the upturn in Everton's fortunes. "It was a nice feeling to be winning again. When you haven't won for 20 games you start to wonder whether you're as good as you thought."

This time last year, Gemmill was ominously candid about Forest's prospects - or the lack of them - in the Premiership. Like Pierre van Hoooijdonk, he was concerned about the sale of Campbell and what he saw as inadequate funding for new blood. Unlike the Dutchman - "a very outspoken person" - he did not go on strike, though he was also in dispute with the club.

"They took offence because I wasn't satisfied with certain aspects of the contract they offered me. It's often said that players have all the power now that we've got freedom of contract, but what happened to me proved that the clubs wield a different sort of power. In my case it was to deny me the chance to play. When I didn't sign, they said: `Right, then we won't pick you'. Then, after we lost the first game at Arsenal they came back saying they had withdrawn the contract offer, so technically I wasn't in breach. That shows how clubs can mess players around.

"In the end I was relieved to leave. I'll always be grateful to Forest for giving me my chance, but I knew it was time to go. I'd been there too long."

Can he be any more positive about Everton's chances? After all, Olivier Dacourt, Marco Materazzi and Ibrahima Bakayoko have gone, with the apparent aim of reducing the wage bill and the overdraft.

"Yes," asserts Gemmill, "because I look round the dressing-room and see a better squad than we had at Forest and greater strength in depth. If you compare the players here with clubs in the higher reaches, there's no difference. We can do just as well if not better than them."

As at Forest, he finds himself playing against a backdrop of boardroom takeover talk. He maintains that it does not affect the players on a day- to-day basis, yet adds: "Where it does influence things is that you report back for pre-season and three good players have left. But it shouldn't be used as an excuse."

On the credit side, another City Ground colleague, Richard Gough, has arrived, reuniting with Smith, his former manager at Rangers. The ex-Scotland centre-back and captain is in his 38th year, but Gemmill says: "He's one of the fittest guys I've ever seen. With his quality and experience, he's an excellent signing."

Whereas Gough's international career is almost certainly over, Gemmill is concerned that his seems to have stalled. After going to both Euro '96 and France '98 without seeing action, he is not counting any chickens in the event of the Scots reaching Euro 2000.

"People say: `Aren't you fed up when you don't get a game?' and of course I am. At the same time, I'd never jeopardise the chance to represent my country by throwing tantrums. When we played Brazil in Paris I was there, in my boots, a yard away from the biggest game of my life. Anyone who loves football could understand how frustrating that was."

Gemmill stayed on the bench again throughout Scotland's last match, in the Czech Republic, despite having started, if not finished, the 1-0 win over Germany. "It was pleasing to play in Bremen because I want to see whether I can play at that level. But after being taken off, I had to reassure myself that I did well and it was only to give other people a chance."

Having shared in one stunning victory over one set of European champions, he is now aiming for another against United. Fivers through the post are all very well, but Scot Gemmill has more pressing personal and professional reasons for wanting Everton to open on a high note.

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices