Billy: a Muscovite on Merseyside

Everton winger Diniyar Bilyaletdinov tells Ian Herbert about adjusting to fast-paced football and Phil Neville's sense of humour

Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, the Russian left-winger most Evertonians prefer to call "Billy" but whose surname the Goodison Park receptionist can proudly rattle off without drawing breath, knew there would be some acclimatising to do when he swapped Moscow for Merseyside. "I haven't drunk tea yet," he told a Russian journalist recently. "Naturally they have their own traditions and habits but people are the same everywhere."

Phil Neville being the honourable exception. It was Neville who called Bilyaletdinov, shortly before the Everton team were due to meet up at the Attica restaurant in Manchester for a recent team bonding evening, to inform him that there was a smart dress code. The Neville tone would probably have given the game away to those more learned in his ways. "He was talking in a really serious voice and said, 'Don't forget to put on your team suit,'" Bilyaletdinov recalls. "My first feeling was 'oh no!' I had already dressed to get ready – jeans, T-shirt, trainers. My shirt was washed but not ironed. I was in a state of panic." His girlfriend, Maria, set to work with a steam iron, Bilyaletdinov changed ... "and then I got to the restaurant and saw everyone in their jeans. Everyone found it very funny. Phil Neville, he's a funny man. Nice joke."

They give as good as they get in Moscow, of course, a city where the pace of life makes Merseyside seem comparatively sedate. "I reciprocated the joke," says Bilyaletdinov, his good grasp of English making the translator beside him in the Everton boardroom slightly redundant. "When he wasn't looking I put my food in the inside pocket of his coat. I have got a sense of humour too."

Gentle knockabout and certainly nothing like the drama accompanying the most famous Russian to join Everton, Andrei Kanchelskis, sold to the club by Manchester United in 1995 after his agent told the then United chairman Martin Edwards, "If you don't sell him now you won't be around for much longer." But Bilyaletdinov, 24, certainly needs that sense of humour. When Guus Hiddink, his national coach, helped broker the £10m move to Everton this summer that was initially planned as a loan last January, he told him that David Moyes' side was one of the best he had encountered as Chelsea's temporary manager. "He said it would be good for the development of my career and that Everton were a team, first and foremost, who wanted to play good football and get results," the player recalls. Instead, that team have plummeted to within four points of the relegation zone with one win in 10. Tomorrow, after a week in which Everton's new stadium plan was rejected and the side lost at Hull City, it is the Merseyside derby at Goodison, against a Liverpool stung by Champions League elimination.

Bilyaletdinov has not had much taste of febrile derbies. CSKA v Spartak is Moscow's equivalent, but he played for Lokomotiv, though Moscow is as obsessed with English football as anywhere else, which is why he saw Dan Gosling doing the business in February's FA Cup tie against Liverpool.

The pace of the English game is certainly taking some adjusting to and if Patrice Evra's difficult debut in the Manchester derby nearly four years ago was anything to go by, tomorrow will not be easy. Evra has described that match as "terrible – like being caught up in a washing machine" and Bilyaletdinov thinks he knows what the Frenchman means. "The mileage [in English football] is probably the same, but the speed is different. And there is more of this," he continues, tapping his head. "You need more concentration and attention. Every game is a hard game. It's fast. Not exactly like being in a washing machine, but something along those lines."

Bilyaletdinov is not short on advice. His father, Rinat, played for Lokomotiv and coached "Billy" for a year in the club's academy before the young man moved on through the ranks. He also talks to Tottenham Hotspur's Roman Pavlyuchenko and Chelsea's Yuri Zhirkov although, for reasons which are not altogether clear, not Andrei Arshavin. "No. He's not my friend and I didn't speak to him," he says firmly. Arsenal, in fact, do not seem to delight him at all. "I always favoured Arsenal because of the way they used to play but in recent years, no, I think Arsenal have lost something in the way they play," he says.

There is certainly something for Bilyaletdinov to prove tomorrow. It was fair to assume that when Moyes intoned darkly after Everton had lost three games in six days last month that "I'm like an elephant, I don't forget. I don't forget if people don't perform and let me down," the Russian was probably in his thoughts, and just when the player looked to be coming into his own, with goals in successive league games against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa, he was sent off for a high tackle on Villa's Stiliyan Petrov. This will be his first league game back.

The Everton fans who have approached him in the past week have made him quite aware of what is expected at Goodison. "There are fans who come to watch us train and they tell me," he says. "In Moscow nobody spoke about the game in the weeks before whereas here they are talking about this game the whole year around." So time to deliver and restore some much needed joie de vivre to the ranks before his next Neville initiation ceremony: singing at the club Christmas party. "I'm not sure what to do yet," he says. "I have never sung before in my life, so it will be my first time. But if it's a tradition for new players I will have to do it, no problem. That's how it should be."

My other life

I'm still adjusting to a new life, new city. Moscow is faster. More people. Most of the restaurants are open to 5am or 7am when the last client leaves but I can adapt to that.

I was in Manchester recently in a traffic jam and said "Oh my God, I wish I was in Liverpool sooner."

I do have a problem sometimes with the Liverpool accent when I'm out shopping, which I am often. Outside of football my passion is car design. I graduated with a degree in engineering, specifically in the design of cars. I have always liked cars and had an interest in what goes into them, what makes them run fast.

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes