Byline: David Prentice
THE sight of Stuart Hall striding purposefully through a Goodison Park press room is a reassuring one. Like Christmas, or the visit of Sunderland, he carries the promise of good things to come.
David Moyes has taken charge of an Everton team eight times against yesterday's Wearside visitors. He has now celebrated seven wins and a draw.
But when you put him into partnership with the BBC's veteran broadcaster the cocktail is compelling.
The venerable Hall provided the media highlight of last season when Sunderland visited Goodison.
True, he did have a memorable 7-1 slaughter to work with, but his words were resonant.
"Classic, inspirational football that demolished Sunderland, brought Mr Keane to impotence and apoplexy and brought priapic joy unconfined," he purred like a contented tom-cat.
"Keats, ex-School of Science, once said 'a thing of beauty was a joy forever'. This was his day."
The exuberant Hall was back with a microphone in his hand yesterday, but had much less to work with.
If Everton's play was poetic, it was more Pam Ayres than the great Romantic. But let's not be churlish.
This was the fourth match in succession Everton have endured without a recognised striker on the pitch. Three have been won and Chelsea given an almighty scare.
If there were groans of dismay amongst the home faithful when Victor Anichebe's bad back kept him on the bench until 13 minutes from time, perhaps they should now be tempered by a reappraisal of Everton's ability to improvise.
The lack of a totemic striker has forced Everton into a style of play which is difficult to track and pleasing on the eye.
Fluid movement, interchanging personnel arriving late in the penalty box making them almost impossible to mark - and most importantly of all, passing on the floor.
That was the style which characterised last season's Magnificent Seven, albeit an afternoon when Yakubu led the line with pace and power.
It was also the afternoon Ricky Sbragia was introduced to a new life at Sunderland. By an unlikely coincidence, Goodison was also the scene of his latest debut, as the Black Cats' full-time manager. But all he could aspire to yesterday was a spirited bid to keep the score down.
Everton were always in control from the moment Mikel Arteta connected with a ninth minute …