TIM HOWARD probably didn’t appreciate the gesture. But Everton’s abject first-half performance against Southampton at least allowed the goalkeeper to post a reminder that he still deserves to be first choice between the sticks.
By his own high standards, Howard has endured an indifferent campaign.
While Everton’s increasingly expansive game has contributed to a surprisingly low number of Premier League clean sheets – Monday’s stalemate at St Mary’s was only a fourth of the season – so too have some uncharacteristic errors by the United States international.
There were no such complaints earlier this week when his string of superb saves helped David Moyes’s side emerge unscathed from arguably their most insipid opening 45 minutes this season.
Howard needed that performance and the confidence of successive shutouts, the barometer by which every goalkeeper judges themselves.
But perhaps what the American would benefit from most is genuine competition for his place, a point Moyes readily admitted earlier in the season.
Since arriving at Goodison in 2006, Howard has missed only four Premier League games – Stefan Wessels stepping in twice with Iain Turner and Richard Wright both making one appearance each.
Current deputy Jan Mucha, despite being a Slovakia international, has been restricted to occasional cup games while neither Carlo Nash nor Marcus Hahnemann were given a league look-in.
Howard knows he is going to play. And as professional as the keeper is, the presence of a real threat for his place – such as Birmingham City’s Jack Butland – could only benefit his game.
Across Stanley Park, Pepe Reina is having to deal with his own demons.