Chris Hughton examines the challenge presented by Everton ahead of our New Year's Day clash at the Lane...
I THINK EVERTON have taken a few people by surprise this season, not just because of how high in the table they are but the fact they have managed to sustain it.
Many teams, including ourselves, will look at them and their league position and in some ways they are a little bit of an inspiration to everybody. The top three are the best teams because they have the best players but, with organisation and the quality you have in the side, Everton have showed what is possible.
There is no other explanation for Everton's success other than they deserve it. I would think they are probably a little bit annoyed that, when people talk about them, they generally talk about team spirit and work ethic and not the quality in the side.
I know Kevin Kilbane very well and he has matured into a fabulous all-round left-sided player who, at times, can be an old fashioned winger but also can play in-field and get into the box.
Tim Cahill has been a revelation since joining from Millwall and has got forward to score vital goals, while Thomas Gravesen has just gone from strength to strength.
Up front, Marcus Bent has always been regarded as a good player but he has probably not been anywhere long enough yet to cement this season after season.
For me, what they have done is testament to them and a really big achievement.
We played Everton back in early October and we don't mind admitting that we were fortunate to win on the day. That is the game though, teams will go places and not play so well while still getting results. It is not just about playing well, it is about putting the ball in the net, but they will feel they deserved more from that game.