Martin O'Neill believes Ashley Young can still wear the three lions next summer – despite signs that Fabio Capello views the Aston Villa attacker as no more essential to England's prospects of World Cup success than the squad's traditional pre-tournament tilt at the pop charts.
A year earlier, Villa had beaten Everton in exhilarating fashion at Goodison Park and their manager's praise for the match-winner appeared to herald Young's arrival as a global player. "World-class stuff," O'Neill gushed of his stoppage-time goal, "from a world-class player." After this scrappy stalemate, in which Young seldom hinted at a repeat performance, O'Neill defended the "moral courage" of one of a vanishing breed. The £9.65m winger persisted in his lung-bursting endeavours even though teams were "double- and treble- covering him".
Young played in England's World Cup rout of Andorra in June, started his first international against the Netherlands in August and scored in Villa's 3-1 success at Liverpool. He has neither been picked again by Capello nor found the net since Anfield.
O'Neill maintains Young would bring something different to the party in South Africa. "I watch a lot of football. I'm a boring t***. I watch Barcelona, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man United; sometimes the Bolivian league as well. And I don't see too many men in European football wanting to beat players. It's a dying art."
"This time last year Ashley Young scored two wonder goals here. People who had only seen him that particular day would have wondered at him. That was something he was doing regularly for us. He has the talent and he's still trying to beat players."
The drama was crammed into two brief bursts. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov's goal for Everton was answered swiftly by John Carew's first of the season. Then, 70 seconds after the £12m Russian's late dismissal for a two-footed challenge on Stiliyan Petrov, the referee appeared intent on evening up matters again by banishing Carlos Cuellar after he took the ball in a tackle that inadvertently brought down Yakubu.
Everton (4-3-2-1): Howard; Neill, Yobo, Distin, Baines; Heitinga, Rodwell, Bilyaletdinov; Cahill, Fellaini (Saha, 72); Yakubu (Jo, 90). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Gosling, Coleman, Duffy, Agard.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Milner (Carew, h-t), Sidwell, Petrov (Reo-Coker, 90), A Young; Agbonlahor, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), L Young, Delph, Shorey, Beye.
Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).
Booked: Everton Cahill; Aston Villa Warnock, Cuellar, Carew.
Sent off: Bilyaletdinov (87); Cuellar (90).
Man of the match: Carew.