LET’S get the bad news out of the way early: Tim Cahill is geared up to play his first Everton match in a month, and eager to mark his homecoming with a goal.
Like the Seasiders’ full-back David Carney, Cahill spent January competing in the Asian Cup for Australia.
He returned at the start of the week, but was left out of the Toffees’ Tuesday night defeat at Arsenal to allow him extra time to recover – and ensure he’s fully raring to go tomorrow.
“We are delighted to have Tim back,” admitted boss David Moyes. “We have missed him, not just because of his goals, but what he brings to the team.”
The 31-year-old has been a huge part of Everton’s success over the last six years, a shrewd piece of business by Moyes, who signed Cahill on a free transfer from Millwall.
He has since become one of the Premier League’s most consistent performers, and notched his 50th top-flight league goal in Everton’s 2-2 draw with Pool in the reverse fixture at Bloomfield Road in November.
Top scorer this term with nine goals, tomorrow will be his first game in an Everton shirt since the New Year’s Day defeat at Stoke.
That setback was a rarity, for Moyes’ men don’t lose often.
They have been beaten just seven times (as opposed to Blackpool’s 11 defeats), but find themselves in the bottom half of the table, in 14th position, because of too many draws – 12 – more than anyone else in the division.
Worryingly for Moyes, his team have won only five games – less than second-bottom Wolves and three fewer than the Seasiders.
“We have drawn some games we should have won and drawn some where we have been a bit fortunate,” added the boss. “But getting wins is really important because we have not really had enough of them.”
They were unlucky not to add to their points tally at Arsenal though, where Louis Saha gave them an early lead before the Gunners hit back.
“We were up against a side that is pushing for the league, and my players played well,” Moyes said. “I’ve always said I think we’re a good team as well, and I think we showed that on the night. I thought the lads did a sterling job, but we gave it away by our defending at a set-piece.
“We have got nobody else to blame but ourselves, but apart from that we did a really good job.”
Saha’s goal was only his fifth of a patchy season. But it was his second in a row after notching at Chelsea in the FA Cup in the previous game, and Moyes finds that encouraging.
“Goals change centre-forwards. If they get some goals it makes them look better and everything they do feels much better,” said the boss.
“Louis scored a lot of goals at the start of last season. Let’s hope he can score a lot of goals in the second half of this campaign.
“He is playing with a lot more confidence and belief, which goals give you as a centre-forward.”
Saha and Cahill are bound to be in tandem up front tomorrow – Pool have been warned.
Phil Neville, 34, is the backbone of his team, with more than 220 appearances since joining in 2005.
Seamus Coleman will start after becoming a regular since his loan stint at Bloomfield Road at the end of last season.
The Irishman is a popular figure with Pool fans – helping the club win promotion, and refusing to celebrate after scoring against the Seasiders earlier in the campaign.
Moyes should have Tony Hibbert back after fitness, while striker Victor Anichebe is fit again after a groin injury, but might have to settle for a place on the bench.