Football: Walker's sweet tooth is worrying

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Everton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Aston Villa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

SHORTLY after BBC radio's Test match commentary team agreed that they would want Kepler Wessels to bat for their lives, Goodison Park witnessed a graphic illustration of why few among the football fraternity would nominate Anders Limpar to play for theirs.

With barely 15 minutes remaining and Everton leading Villa 2-1, Limpar lofted a pin-point pass from one wing to the other. He then turned his back on play to run towards the bench and, though the weather was more Ormskirk than Orlando, gestured to his mouth to demand liquid refreshment.

The Everton staff pointed out that there was a game going on. But moments later, with the contest still raging, the Swede returned and was again waved away.

While the distracting charade went on, Villa advanced down the same flank and Ray Houghton crossed for Dean Saunders to score. Limpar was left to slake his thirst among equals. This bizarre episode was an ominously early reminder of the mercurial nature of Mike Walker's first seven-figure signing for Everton. That the second was Vinny Samways, another flamboyant if fitful contributor, suggests the former Norwich manager has the transfer-market equivalent of a sweet tooth.

Bought for an eyebrow-raising pounds 2.2m, nearly a fifth of the funds made available by Peter Johnson, Everton's new chairman, Samways had Goodison purring as he sprayed long passes to the wide men during a hugely promising first half. In the second he all but disappeared.

That enabled Villa to mount the pressure which led to their cancelling out Graham Stuart's chipped goal, John Fashanu marking a robust debut with a soft set-piece header. Paul Rideout's clinical finish restored home advantage before Saunders glanced the third goal in eight minutes, the last of an entertaining game.

Everton, who escaped relegation only in the final 10 minutes of last season, are already resembling Norwich, with Neville Southall seemingly under orders to bowl the ball out to initiate the build-up from the back. But while Evertonians take pride in a tradition of cultured football, they like it played with the passion of a Peter Reid or Andy Gray. Walker's next recruits need to redress the imbalance.

Villa are also in transition, albeit a less radical one befitting their status as League Cup holders. The touchline teasing of Tony Daley and Steve Froggatt is no more, and the new winger, Nii Lamptey, was left out. Exploiting the departure of a concussed Dave Watson, and the target offered by Fashanu, they were uncharacteristically direct, though slick enough in midfield to be identifiable as a Ron Atkinson team.

Judging by his weakness for wingers, Atkinson may fancy he could coax the best from Limpar. The tanned one could not, however, have been impressed by the former Arsenal player's dive after a fair challenge by Dwight Yorke. The referee ignored his histrionics but failed to caution him, whereas Yorke was later booked for wasting all of 10 seconds.

The cricketing pundits' faith in Wessels proved ill-founded. One suspects Walker may soon learn the folly of relying on Limpar.

Goals: Stuart (22) 1-0; Fashanu (66) 1-1; Rideout (70) 2-1; Saunders (74) 2-2.

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Jackson, Watson (Parkinson, 29), Unsworth, Ablett; Stuart, Ebbrell, Samways, Limpar; Rideout, Cottee. Substitutes not used: Angell, Kearton (gk).

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Bosnich; Richardson, McGrath, Ehiogu, Staunton (King, 50); Houghton, Parker, Townsend, Yorke; Saunders, Fashanu. Substitutes not used: Atkinson, Oakes (gk).

Referee: K Morton (Bury St Edmunds).