Everton Tactics: Why Tim Howard Is the Toffees' Unsung Hero

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Everton Tactics: Why Tim Howard Is the Toffees' Unsung Hero
Paul Thomas/Getty Images

Imagine you're not a fan of football. You've never even watched a game in your life. This whole idea of chasing a leather ball around the field makes no sense to you whatever.

You've come to the conclusion that all footballers are athletic but nowhere near as strong or tough as rugby or American football players. You are convinced that even the toughest player in football doesn't match up.

And then you bump in Tim Howard.

Howard can only really be described as a building with feet, and as a result, it's no wonder that with 33-year-old Howard in goal Everton have conceded just 30 goals in their 25 games this season, the same amount as league leaders Manchester United.

The American goalkeeper, who signed for Everton from Manchester United on a permanent deal in 2007 after a successful loan spell, could've also been a professional basketball player, with the former Metrostars man standing at a towering height of 6'3".

However, Toffees manager David Moyes will be thankful that he didn't. In his 225 appearances for the club, Howard has rarely put a foot wrong between the sticks. A superb shot stopper and a commanding presence in the penalty area, Howard lets his teammates know when they're going wrong.

But it doesn't stop there; if his teammates tend to be struggling to score in a game, Howard likes to get involved, take matters into his own hands. Last-minute corner? Howard surges up the field, no questions asked.

He's a team player, a typical American in that sense, and got his first goal of his professional career by scoring a freak goal in the 2-1 defeat against Bolton in January 2012.

Howard doesn't have it easy, either. The American suffers from Tourette syndrome, which can lead to physical spasms and uncontrollable verbal outbursts, something difficult to deal with on a football pitch.

But eventually he has grown used to the idea of having to control his condition, and you can usually find him happily bellowing out his commands to his defenders in front of him. 

Despite his difficulties, Howard can be regarded as a talented goalkeeper. Time and time again, when Everton are producing one of their heroic, battling displays, they can rely on their man in goal to help them survive several waves of attack.

The fact that the club have drawn 12 games and lost three doesn't so much spell out their failure to win, but rather, their ability to hold on to gain a vital point.

It's inevitable that players such as Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic will grab the headlines when they score important goals, but the players and the manager must realize that having Howard in their team is essential to their success.

He made the most appearances out of anybody at the club last season—44 in total—and it's no coincidence that Everton finished above their Merseyside rivals Liverpool as a result. They currently sit in fifth position in the Premier League, just three points of a Champions League spot and a further point behind third-placed Chelsea.

And so, the future looks bright for Everton. The arrival of Kevin Mirallas in the summer underlined the club's intention to move forward and bring in some younger talent, something Moyes has been desperate to do for the majority of his 10-year tenure at Goodison Park.

Surely though, his priority must be to keep Howard fit and hand him a new deal. The keeper just doesn't miss games.

Never has the phrase "heart of the team" been such a fitting tribute to a magnificent goalkeeper

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