Tom Cleverley had two reasons to celebrate as he agreed a five-year contract with Everton just moments after being called up to the England squad.
Late yesterday evening the 25-year-old was drafted in by head coach Roy Hodgson to replace Ryan Mason, who withdrew with a knee injury, and within half-an-hour his summer move to Goodison Park was confirmed.
Cleverley’s contract with Manchester United expires at the end of June and while he would have expected to have spent the month sorting out finding another club, the England call came out of the blue – somewhat appropriate considering his next choice of employer.
Mason’s injury, which is not believed to be serious enough to affect his pre-season preparations, sustained while training with the squad at St George’s Park this week meant he had to return to Spurs for treatment and therefore will miss the upcoming double-header against the Republic of Ireland and Slovenia.
That opened a way back for Cleverley, who has not played for his country since November 2013.
He featured in the first nine matches under Hodgson after Euro 2012, but lost his place following a dip in form for United.
Cleverley was named on the standby list for the World Cup last year, but did not make the final 23 even though Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sustained a knee injury in the penultimate warm-up match against Ecuador in Miami.
A deadline-day move to Everton last summer collapsed, but he was able to sign on loan for Aston Villa, where he enjoyed something of a renaissance under the management of Tim Sherwood, scoring three goals in the club’s final three league games to help them avoid relegation.
Just last week Hodgson was enthusing about Cleverley’s form at Villa and said he would be the first person to be called up should any injuries occur.
“Cleverley was very unlucky to miss out on this selection,” Hodgson said a week after leaving the midfielder out of his squad for the games in Dublin and Ljubljana.
“He was someone we discussed a lot. We like him, trust him, we can call him up like that if we want. If someone else went down we have Tom up our sleeves.”
Having now been called up to the 23-man squad, Cleverley stands a chance of earning his 14th cap in tomorrow’s friendly against the Republic or the Euro 2016 qualifier in Slovenia seven days later.
New manager Roberto Martinez will hope, if he does feature in either of those games, he comes through unscathed so he is ready to join them for pre-season in early July.
“We are extremely delighted to be welcoming Tom to Everton and I can think of many reasons as to why our fans will enjoy Tom representing our football club,” said Martinez, who had the midfielder on loan for a season while Wigan boss in 2010-11.
“The most important one is that he is a perfect fit for what we are trying to build here as he has so much experience of playing in the Premier League and he still has his best years just ahead of him.
“At the age of 25 and a player who is representing his country, Tom has experienced winning trophies and having big roles in demanding teams.
“Having worked with him previously, I know the type of character he is and I know that, with the Everton fans’ support, we will get a very special footballer joining our already exciting team.
“It says a lot also, when someone like Tom is available on a free transfer and he can pick his next club out of many options home and abroad, that he has chosen to play for our football club. That’s the perfect start to his career here at Everton.”
Jordan Henderson is expected to start in England’s midfield although the Liverpool man says he does not see himself as an established England player.
“Established? Not really. I have a lot of improving to do,” he said.
“I have played a lot of games. (But) we can do more, I can take more responsibility. We have a lot of young players and I always want to improve as a player for Liverpool and England and I have a lot more to give.”
Asked which areas of his game he feels need improvement, Henderson said: “Everything. I always say I want to improve on everything. I want to improve and get better, things I am not doing so well. I have always done that in my career. Hopefully I can do my best.”
Henderson says England’s players will have the option to watch tonight’s Champions League final between Juventus and Barcelona either together or on their own and that he may well choose the latter.
“It is nice sometimes to watch it on your own, learn and take things in. I might do that,” said Henderson, who is hopeful that Liverpool and England team-mate Raheem Sterling will commit his future to the Anfield club soon.
Sterling’s contract dispute with Liverpool took a bitter twist last month when his representative Aidy Ward allegedly claimed the young forward was determined to leave the club.
Ward reportedly said in an interview hat his client would not accept a new contract at Liverpool, even if the club offered him £900,000 a week. He later denied making those comments but there are no signs contract negotiations are progressing.
“For me Raheem Sterling is a fantastic player and he’s been brilliant for England, I hope he will stay at Liverpool,” said Henderson.