When Stewart Donald took over as owner of our club during the summer of 2018, it’s safe to say that his in-tray was somewhat full. Apathetic, fed-up supporters, a crippling losing mentality, and perhaps, of most pressing importance, a playing squad that was filled with players who had played their part in our nosedive into the third tier of English football.
Fortunately for us, as we braced ourselves for a campaign in League One, many of these grossly-overpaid, ludicrously under-performing players bit the dust.
Didier N’Dong, Jack Rodwell, and Papy Djilobodji, three utterly disastrous signings, were cut loose and left to head to pastures new, being replaced by players who If nothing else have certainly given their all in their short time here.
After the dust had settled and the squad had been reshaped the one major player who, for one more season at least, ended up remaining was Bryan Oviedo, a player of Premier League pedigree who now found himself preparing for trips to the Wham Stadium, Roots Hall, and Fratton Park.
Of the David Moyes signings Oviedo was certainly of the best, which, when framed against the quality of his other recruits, is not the most glowing reference.
During the Scotsman’s single season in charge, aside from filling the entire club with some good old Glaswegian doom, he seemed desperate to ‘reunite the Everton band’, with Joleon Lescott and Darron Gibson also arriving.
Whilst Lescott’s signing (utterly predictably) turned sour and Gibson’s Sunderland career ultimately ended in disgrace, Oviedo was left as the last man standing from the raid on Goodison Park. Ultimately, he couldn’t prevent our relegation from the Premier League and nor, despite his best efforts, could he contribute to us stabilising ourselves in the Championship during the ill-fated 2017/2018 season.
Whenever he played for us, what shone through was his professionalism and his desire to contribute to the team as best as he could.
His ‘#OviedoBaby’ hashtag might’ve sailed close to cringeworthy at times, but you never got the sense that the guy was disrupting the harmony in the dressing room as he desperately angled for a move away from the football club. He was also a more than effective fullback, bringing experience and some undoubted class to a defence that has been chopped and changed with startling regularity in his two and half years at the club.
During the 2018/2019 season, Oviedo’s experience as a World Cup player with Costa Rica was often used as a stick with which to beat the team on the occasions where results did not go our way. “We’ve got a World Cup-experienced right back in Oviedo, and we STILL can’t beat team X, Y, and Z!” cried aggravated supporters.
As I maintained throughout the season, in League One, opposition teams don’t particularly care about how many World Cup players you might have, or how much ‘big-game’ experience your players might possess. They simply see you as another team to beat, and they’ll gladly do their best to shred your reputation as they fight for every loose ball and scrap for every point.
In a similar vein to Aiden McGeady, whose Champions League experience with Spartak Moscow was often mentioned, Oviedo seemed to find himself labelled as the poster boy for the, ‘we are too big and too good for this league’ argument.
And so, to the question of how we will cope without his influence at left back - as ever, the quality of his replacement will be key.
In order to keep our defence as tight as possible, a no-nonsense, disciplined, athletic full-back will be the order of the day. Idealistically, someone in the Chris Makin mould would be the ideal template.
Ultimately Oviedo is a rare, and somewhat faint, bright light in what has been a dark era in the history of the club. He could never be deemed as a roaring success, nor could he be classed as a wretched failure. He contributed where possible, and he never stopped trying, for which he does deserve credit.