Football: The JURY - With Lee Carsley's enforced absence this season, what has the Everton team been missing?
THE euphoria of a 2004-05 season that produced so many positives for the Blues quickly evaporated through the embarrassment of our early season European exit and disastrous league form this term.
Something was certainly missing - Lee Carsley!
You do not necessarily appreciate a player of his calibre.
His role is generally the one that doesn't attract headlines - a solid, no-nonsense approach in picking up the pieces in midfield, getting in the tackles, marking key rivals, always being available for a pass and creating the space for others to link with the attack.
It's a pivotal role that Carsley does to great effect and fans will be delighted he is back in that role at a time when stability is needed.
We have seen great improvement in the second half of the season, but how much better it might have been had Carsley's cool, calming, controlled influence, been available for more than a handful of games.
KEN STEWART, St Helens
THERE was a joke doing the rounds last season.
The punchline was that Real Madrid had signed the wrong midfielder when they snapped up Thomas Graves-en.
Alright, it wasn't that funny - but it underlined the influence Lee Carsley had on the team.
Since arriving at the club he has been something of an unsung hero, and his discipline, his professionalism and his selflessness gave Gravesen the platform to shine.
It may be no coincidence that it took Tim Cahill some time to rediscover his goal touch this season, with Carsley's shielding presence missing for so long.
The very nature of his game means that Carsley will never receive the kind of adulation the likes of Arteta and Cahill collect.
But, like Joe Parkinson, Barry Horne and John Ebbrell before him, he is a highly influential member of the Blues squad.
Welcome back, Harry Hill!
DAVID SPOWART, Wavertree
AS DIFFICULT as it must have been for the players to bear the exit from the Champions League last August, the frustration must have been particularly trying for Lee Carsley.
It was, therefore, one small crumb of comfort to see him complete 90 minutes in a disappointingly low-key display at the Valley on Saturday.
Although most of his best performances last season came as part of a five-man mid-field, his presence alone before Christmas might well have prevented some of the embarrassing capitulations we endured.
It would be good to see him get a small run in the team until the end of the season, as his combative and whole-hearted style may go some way to combating the feeling that, once again, the players' minds are starting to drift towards their summer holidays.
He, as much as anyone, deserves the opportunity of European football next year.
GARETH SCOTT, West Derby
ONE of the things that Everton have been missing is quite obvious - somebody controlling the midfield.
When Carsley plays he offers simple football, excellently played. This involves winning a tackle, and then passing the ball to a play-maker. He has a no frills approach because he knows what he can and can't do.
When he played on Saturday Everton looked a lot stronger. Better at the back and better in midfield. Although it was not our best performance, we looked like we would not concede.
If Carsley continues to play and play a very good holding midfield role, then Phil Neville will have to ply his trade as a left-back. There's no room for two holding midfield players in the Everton starting 11 and I definitely prefer Carsley.
Everton needs a player with years of experience in a position, not a player who gets shipped around from pillar to post.
BACK AT LAST: Lee Carsley has been missed in a tough season