Michael Keane has turned in more than his fair share of fine performances this season, but the Three Lions regular still has room to grow. That is an opinion Toffees icon Dave Watson has shared with the club’s official website, as he called for the 26-year-old to become an even better player.
Watson knows all about being a great centre-back, having made more than 500 appearances for us, and clinched the 1995 FA Cup with a Man of the Match performance against Manchester United.
Former captain Kevin Ratcliffe even hailed Watson as “the best centre-half I’ve ever played with”, when our most successful player to wear the armband handed duties over to his partner.
It will be a long while before Keane earns reviews like that from his peers, but the former Burnley man is certainly developing into the role as our leader at the back under Marco Silva.
So far this season, the £22.5million-rated centre-back has halved the number of times players have run straight past him while he’s attempted a tackle in an Everton shirt, but that figure is still above his final two campaigns at Turf Moor.
His average interceptions per 90 are also down on his final two years at Burnley, and his first year at Goodison Park, while marginally clipping his fouls per game by 0.1.
Thus, Watson’s claims that Keane has more to give are nothing but the truth, especially as he is a mainstay under Silva, playing all but five of our league games this term.
“Michael has done very well this season, he is taking on the responsibility of being the main man in the middle of Everton’s back four,” Watson said. “That is a big change for any defender, rather than looking for help from someone next you, it becomes your job to guide players.
“He is gaining experience and will become an even better player with more international matches.
“I think he has been great this season and I am sure there is a lot more to come from him. And with the confidence he’s gained recently, he will feel the same.
“You have to be able to play [the ball] at centre-back [now]. At one time, you could head it and kick it and that was enough. These days, with goalkeepers playing from the back, centre-halves are expected to be able to deal with the ball.
“In that position, you have a picture of the entire pitch in front of you, you see everything that is happening. It is not often you need tremendous pace, unless you are playing with a high line, which not many teams do these days.
“As you mature, you become wiser and learn from all your experiences. Michael will play until he is 34 or 35 at least, all being well, so he still has a fabulous career ahead.
“And having another taster of the England set-up will give him an extra lift and add to his learning.”