A former team-mate of David Moyes at Preston North End, Kevin Kilbane had long been linked with a reunion with his former captain when the Everton manager made a £1.1million deadline day move for him in August 2003.
A left winger, Kilbane had been harangued by Sunderland fans during the latter stages of his time at the Stadium of Light, prompting some scepticism among Evertonians when Moyes made his move. But the adopted Irishman soon confounded any doubters, providing solid service down the Everton left.
Strong, tall and with no little pace, Kilbane was at his best knocking the ball past opponents and running on to it. He was a good header of the ball, but lacked a killer instinct in front of goal and his strike rate was disappointing for a player whose attacking duties were his primary responsibility. At the same time he was an adept makeshift left back and was called to fulfil the role on several occasions. For Ireland, for whom he qualified through Irish parentage, he was a fixture in the national team, often taking up a more central role.
Moyes, a man who always expects a strong work ethic, got just that from Kilbane. Dubbed ‘Zinedine’ by Everton’s supporters, there was nothing mocking or ironic in this nickname, for there was a healthy respect for a player who never gave anything less than his all. In 2004/05, Kilbane was ever-present as Everton confounded expectations to qualify for the Champions League.
Thereafter, as Moyes sought a more expansive style, increasingly preferring Mikel Arteta on the Everton left, Kilbane’s chances became more limited. Included in two of Everton’s first three games of the 2006/07 season, his was asurprise departure to Wigan on August transfer deadline day – exactly three years after his arrival. Nevertheless the £2million fee represented a healthy profit on a good servant who was nearing his 30th birthday.