Jansen upstages Gazza's show

Everton's controversial new signing is eager but unfulfilled as Blackburn win against 10 men
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The Independent Football

There has been an unmistakable sense of records being straightened at Goodison this week. Walter Smith, stung by accusations that Paul Gascoigne was signed as an attention-grabbing smokescreen to hide the departures of Nick Barmby, John Collins and Don Hutchison, retorted as bluntly as he used to whenever the worth of his achievement at Rangers was questioned.

There has been an unmistakable sense of records being straightened at Goodison this week. Walter Smith, stung by accusations that Paul Gascoigne was signed as an attention-grabbing smokescreen to hide the departures of Nick Barmby, John Collins and Don Hutchison, retorted as bluntly as he used to whenever the worth of his achievement at Rangers was questioned.

"I'm surprised people think I'm building the team around him," the Everton manager said. "I have no great expectations that Paul Gascoigne will be the player to make the difference between us and other teams in the Premiership. I don't think it's fair to think that, after the couple of years he has had at Middlesbrough, he can be the player he was five or 10 years ago."

Smith was outlining a role for Gascoigne which will be the cherry on the cake for his worthy, but occasionally unimaginative, Everton team, a bit player used most effectively as a substitute to chase matches or to embellish victories. He cost nothing; he has been vigorously warned about his behaviour; the risk is minimal.

Still, Gascoigne, even as a 33-year-old extra, carries an allure few other English players possess, and the Ewood Park press box contained far more reporters than you would normally expect for a pre-season friendly.

True to Smith's words, Gascoigne lasted only 45 minutes, yet anyone expecting a burnt- out parody would have been disappointed, because "Fat Boy" may not have changed the first word to "fit", but it was hard to fault his endeavour. In debilitating sunshine he was given a free role behind Everton's sole striker, Francis Jeffers, which he used liberally, eagerly dropping back to gain possession while his team mates were equally keen to bequeath it.

True, any pace Gascoigne possessed has long since been left behind in a bar somewhere, yet there was the occasional flourish, a pass dragged out of an imagination far richer than anyone else's on the pitch, to suggest that there are more worthy motives behind his move to Goodison than desperation.

He might even have scored in the fourth minute when Mark Pembridge got ahead of Curtis on the left and drilled a low pass across the area. Gascoigne got there first, and if he could have kept over the ball he would have been rewarded with a goal. Instead he stretched at his shot and his effort screwed high and wide.

Thankfully there were none of the flashpoints that had seen Gascoigne squaring up to Dundee United players in midweek, which is not to say the match was totally devoid of Evertonian insanity. Thomas Gravesen, a £2.5m signing from Hamburg, ruggedly effective in the first half, was sent off after 52 minutes following a series of wild challenges which culminated in a flare-up with Nathan Blake. And Smith thoughthis life might be made more eventful by Gazza.

If that episode could have come from the "daft as a brush" handbook, the outstanding player of the afternoon could also lay claim to apeing Gascoigne in being a talent not wholly fulfilled. Matt Jansen, fitfully effective since his £4m transfer, scored for Blackburn with a scorching cross shot after 16 minutes and then headed in from close range just after half-time.

If Jansen can reproduce this form regularly, Graeme Souness' first full season at Blackburn could be gilded with promotion to the Premiership.

Everton? They pulled a goal back through Danny Cadamarteri and made nine changes during the 90 minutes that did not fully camouflage a lack of resources. Even a Gascoigne of five years ago would not have been able to remedy that.

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