By George Overhill

20th Dec, 2022 | 11:10am

Michael Ball tips crucial opportunity for forgotten Everton men to get back into team for Wolves

Conor Coady’s absence for the crucial return to Everton action against his parent club is a “big opportunity” for some forgotten players, says Michael Ball.

Wolves are arriving at Goodison Park on Boxing Day with new manager Julen Lopetegui so their former skipper, and now crucial part of the Toffees line up, can’t play, meaning the likes of Ben Godfrey or Mason Holgate have to step up.

Former Everton defender Ball has done anything but play down the significance of the first game back after the World Cup, with the club heading in with such a poor run of form, and highlighted the chance it provides for the options who haven’t been playing.

In his Liverpool Echo column on Monday (19 December) he said: “What happens in these fixtures can have massive implications for the rest of the season as we don’t want the fanbase concerned over what is ahead of us. 

“Conor Coady has been a fantastic signing for us on loan but with him unable to play against his parent club, the back four is going to have to change and that provides a big opportunity for someone whether that’s Yerry Mina, Michael Keane, Ben Godfrey or Mason Holgate to try and force Frank’s hand going forward.

“Wolves have been struggling but they’ve got Julen Lopetegui now and we know what happens when a new manager enters a building, you tend to get a bounce.

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“This fixture seems to be getting bigger and bigger in terms of importance, the closer we get to it.”


It will be very interesting to see if Lampard turns to Yerry Mina given how badly he needs a result, as the Colombian was arguably the top centre-back at the club before Coady and James Tarkowski arrived.

But his myriad injury problems have left him on the brink of an exit, possibly as early as January, so if the manager does play him it would be a strictly short-term move.

Michael Keane may be on the way out as well, and there are even questions over the long-term future at Goodison of Holgate, so if Godfrey is sufficiently recovered from the nasty injury he picked up on the opening day against Chelsea he surely has the greatest claim to move to the top of the pecking order behind the starters.

Whoever it is that Lampard goes for will have to produce a strong performance because Coady missing leaves a significant hole.

Setting the tone for the upcoming run of games in the first match feels important given how poorly things were going before the World Cup, so fans will be relieved it is Goodison first up.

The focus heading into the transfer window is primarily on what attacking help can be brought in, but there is scope for a fair bit of defensive back-up moving out, and with Tarkowski and Coady ever-present since the latter arrived it could be that the Wolves meeting is someone’s last match for Everton.