When david Moyes spoke of "wanting the old 'Yak' back" after the Nigerian striker Yakubu Aiyegbeni scored his first Premier League goal in more than six months on Saturday, it may have sounded like a throwaway remark. Yet in some ways it could be a lament.
Moyes is the country's most respected manager – three times he has won the League Managers Association's manager of the year – yet he has still to lift a trophy with his team. It is not hard to work out why.
In nine seasons at Everton, Moyes has only once had a consistent, goal-scoring forward. And that was Yakubu, for one season only. It is not for want of trying. On the bench on Saturday sat Louis Saha, talented but injury-prone, and Jermaine Beckford, yet to show he can graduate from League One.
Yakubu, bought for £11.25m from Middlesbrough in 2007, looked like he had cracked it. The Nigerian's first season yielded 21 goals, the highest tally by an Everton forward since Peter Beardsley, 16 years previously. Then, in November 2008, Yakubu ruptured an Achilles. It cost him 10 months out and he still does not look the player he was; last season, his goals tally was just five.
But, in the 67th minute on Saturday, Moyes spied more than just a glimmer of hope. Yakubu, rediscovering all his old power, dispossessed Abdoulaye Faye in the Stoke penalty area and laid the ball off perfectly for Tim Cahill to shoot. When the Australian's drive hit a post, Yakubu's reactions were instant: he controlled the ball, took a step to the left and hit it cleanly into the roof of the net.
"We have the makings of a very good side, but if we are going to have a real chance we need someone who can get us 15 goals a season," Moyes said.
He may have just found that man.
Man of the match Jagielka
Possession Everton 65% Stoke 35%.
Shots on target Everton 10 Stoke 1.
Referee L Probert (Wiltshire)
Att 35,513 Match rating 6/10Reuse content