If the rumours are to be believed John Heitinga’s agent is lining him up for a move and many would argue that it would be better for all concerned if he did go, says David Martin.
I appear to be in an ever decreasing minority of people who think Heitinga is a very good player and believe that if he does move on, we might well be missing out.
Evertonians are a notoriously impatient bunch and Heitinga is the latest in a long line of players to be dismissed as useless by much of the Goodison faithful. It is often the case that fans are right but it can be a long way back if you want to change perceptions, ask Victor Anichebe. The question is has Heitinga got the will and the ability to stay and once again become the player who ended last season as one of our best?
Creatively nicknamed, “Shiteinga” by some the memories of many appear patchy at best. I will not for one second pretend he has been in anything but poor form this season. However, he has suffered for being used in rotation, something which has hampered his form previously. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his best form came last season when he was given an extended run in the team to find it! I will stop short of calling Heitinga scapegoat but it is fair to say that he is often the one to be moved out of position (where again his form suffers), or rotated to accommodate Jagielka.
This isn’t even me saying he should be playing over Jagielka, he clearly shouldn’t as Jagielka is clearly a more solid and complete defender. It is a shame that they do not seem to have any chemistry together and that Heitinga and Jagielka always seem to look better lined up alongside an aging Sylvain Distin. I have a lot of love for Distin but the fact is that he isn’t our future and it is a matter of time before we will need a new defensive partnership and if Heitinga does somehow remain at Everton he could be part of that.
Heitinga’s strengths at his best lie in his positioning and composure in possession and his ability to bring the ball out of defence. Last season Howard often used him as a fulcrum to turn defence into attack and as a deep lying defender he can play an almost sweeper like role in bringing the ball out and playing an accurate cross field pass. Sadly at his worst if he plays higher up he is outpaced, outmuscled and has little chance of winning anything in the air. This is the Heitinga we have seen all too often this season although he has hardly been the sole offender of poor defending.
Many have created the aura of Heitinga being a hardman and this appears to have become a cowbell around his neck despite it not being of his own making. That has never and will never be has game. He suffers from not being a defender like Jagielka who throws in an impressive last ditch tackle and for many his lack of physicality has been unfairly associated with cowardice. At his best his defensive work goes unnoticed by many and heralded by few but it is clear to me that at his best, he does have a lot to offer.
It will be a shame if John Heitinga ends up leaving Everton under a cloud, he’s a much better player than he is showing right now and with our small squad it would be prudent to find a way to get the best out of him. It is often said that form is temporary and class is permanent, let’s hope he doesn’t leave and prove that once again to be true.