Rooney departure fires Everton

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The Independent Online

The departure of Wayne Rooney has been the catalyst for Everton's remarkable start to the season according to the club's assistant manager, Alan Irvine.

The departure of Wayne Rooney has been the catalyst for Everton's remarkable start to the season according to the club's assistant manager, Alan Irvine.

Everton intend to send out a strong side in the hope of extending their four-match unbeaten run when they face the League One side Bristol City in the Carling Cup at Ashton Gate tonight.

Irvine hopes a streak of defiance will carry them to victory and a profitable run in the tournament. "All the things that have been said about them and all that went on with Wayne as well has probably helped to galvanise the squad.

"What people have forgotten is that Wayne developed playing with these players and we have been a bit disappointed at times in things that have been said. Whenever Wayne played well it was always said to be down to Wayne Rooney's talent. When he didn't play so well it was seemingly because of the other lads around him. That was a bit unfair.

"It wasn't Wayne's doing, it wasn't anything that came from anyone around him, it was just the way people looked at the situation. That was unfair on the lads. What has happened is that it gives other people an opportunity to come in and do well, and that is what's happened."

Marcus Bent is Everton's one major doubt for the trip to Bristol. Bent, who scored the winner on Sunday against Middlesbrough, has hamstring strains in both legs and the striker is unlikely to be risked. Everton intend to give a run-out to players who are on the fringe of a team currently third in the Premiership.

Everton insist they will not be using youngsters in the side, but it is likely goalkeeper Richard Wright, defender Joseph Yobo, midfielder Tim Cahill - now available after a one match-ban - and strikers Duncan Ferguson, Kevin Campbell and Nick Chadwick could come into the equation.

Everton have a good record in cup games at Ashton Gate, having won there in FA Cup ties in seasons 1998-99 and 1994-95, while they beat Bristol City at Goodison Park in the same competition in 1968-69 as well as a League Cup victory in Bristol in 1967-68.

It is also a special night for the Everton manager, David Moyes, who spent two years as a player with the Robins between 1985 and 1987.

Irvine believes Everton's players are determined to give their manager the boost of a win on his return to Bristol.

Irvine said: "Our good start to the season proves football is a team game. Of course, the more great individuals you have within a team does help but I think with everything that has gone on the players decided they were going to get themselves together and be very strong."

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