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.

people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering