Oumar Niasse could join Everton cult heroes Ferguson, Moore
Everton fans have a new hero, though it's not the one they expected after a summer of extravagant spending. Oumar Niasse, once valued by manager Ronald Koeman so little that he was stripped of a squad number, told to train with the development squad, and eventually sent on loan to Hull and back, has scored three goals in two games.
The 27-year-old Senegal international is a very different sort of forward to his predecessor, Romelu Lukaku. While Lukaku moves like a shark, fluid, predatory and rippling with kinetic energy, Niasse is ungainly, seemingly uncertain in his movements. But he seems to know where the goal is, and right now that's a rare commodity at Goodison Park.
It's also enough to turn him into something of a cult hero. And they've had a few of those over the years at Everton...
Joe-Max Moore, 1999-2002
It was legendary Scottish defender Richard Gough who recommended the services of Joe-Max Moore to manager Walter Smith after spotting Moore during his brief stint in Major League Soccer. He made his debut from the bench in the 5-0 thrashing of Sunderland on Boxing Day in 1999 and would score six league goals in the back end of that season, including a last-minute equaliser against Spurs in January. But Moore didn't score at all the following season and added just two the next year, though one of them was a late winner against Derby County. He left by "mutual consent" in 2002 and is now a mortgage broker in the U.S.
"He was always on a hiding to nothing in one of Everton's worst-ever sides," recalls Everton fan John Merro, "but his song -- to the tune of 'More, More, More, how do you like it?' -- lives on."
"My abiding memory of Joe is not his strike rate, but his enthusiasm and work rate," said comedian and Everton fan Samantha Whyte. "He seemed to be the only player not totally browbeaten by the perennial slog of playing for Everton in the 1990s."
Tomasz Radzinski, 2001-04
It took a fee of £4.5 million (a considerable wedge at the time) to bring Tomasz Radzinski to Everton from Anderlecht, but like so many Everton signings in that era, he never quite lived up to expectations. He'd scored 52 goals in 77 games in Belgium but could offer only six in his first season in England, the first coming in a 5-0 drubbing of West Ham in September 2001. A decent-enough haul of 11 in his second season was the high-water mark; publicly advising Wayne Rooney to leave Everton was an undoubted low. He is now the technical director of Lierse in Belgium.
"Many questioned his movement off the ball and lack of refinement," says Whyte, "but he wasn't exactly overburdened by good service from midfield. He wasn't quite the finished product, but then again, neither were Everton."
"At one point in time, Radzinski was probably the quickest player I'd seen," Everton fan Chris Smith told ESPN FC. "His finishing ability was genuinely impressive, but he famously told Wayne Rooney to join Man United while still at the club, so he can go to hell."
Marcus Bent, 2004-06
Flush with those Rooney millions, Everton fans might have expected a rather more prestigious new striker than Ipswich Town's Marcus Bent. And yet it was Bent who led Everton's fourth-place team in 2005, still their best league finish in the Premier League era. Though perhaps "led" is the wrong term: as the lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation, he ran and ran and ran and ran and ran, trying to bring his teammates into the game by holding up the ball and laying it off. He scored six goals all season, only one of which came after the turn of the year, yet Everton finished above Liverpool and qualified for the Champions League. Albeit for a very brief time. Now 39, Bent is on the books of Southern Combination League club Wick.
"He chased lost causes alone up front and played a key part in Everton securing an unexpected finish," recalls Merro.
"Evertonians should probably have more affection for Bent, seeing as he was one of only two strikers the season we finished fourth under [manager David] Moyes," says Smith. "But nothing comes to mind: no standout games, no amazing goals."
"There's not much to say about Bent," says Whyte, "but he marks the transition from clinging desperately to survival to forming some notion of what we wanted to be and achieve as a club."
Duncan Ferguson, 1994-98
Cult hero? Antihero? Or just hero? He never scored more than 11 goals in a season, but Duncan Ferguson is forever a legend at Everton. Indeed, he's still there, retained on the coaching staff by every manager, possibly because no one would ever be brave enough to sack him.
"When your team is totally bereft of quality, a fearsome bogeyman willing to batter any centre-back who stands in his way is, strangely, good for the soul," says Smith. "Ferguson was the hero we needed when we had no hope."
"How many ways can I love thee?" beams Whyte. "The archetypal 1990s No. 9: massive, strong, incisive and scary. If you were pernickety, you might say it's unprofessional for a player to unfailingly ensure he's suspended every Christmas and New Year. You might wonder what horrors emerged from his mouth to get a straight red for 'foul and abusive language' at Ewood Park. And, of course, it's not ideal to lose a player to a prison sentence ... but we're none of us perfect, are we?"
"An initial short-term loan that turned into a long-term love affair," says Merro with a smile. "He said, 'Once you play for Everton, you forget the rest, the rest means nothing.' Words that supporters identify with enormously."
Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.