Mark Pembridge represented one of Walter Smith’s more astute purchases, providing four years of solid if unspectacular service on the left side of Everton’s midfield.
An £800,000 signing from Portuguese giants Benfica on the eve of the 1999/2000 season, Pembridge had made his name with Sheffield Wednesday and Luton Town earlier in the decade. A diligent player who made up for what he lacked in flair and impudence with hard work and application, he was a useful addition to Smith’s squad, yet was never able to elevate it from the mediocrity in which it was mired.
Possessing the versatility to play across the midfield, Pembridge was palpably more comfortable on the left. He was a fine crosser of the ball, particularly from corners, but his overall distribution was somewhat pedestrian and unimaginative. He was, nevertheless, a hard worker – always willing and prepared to track back and help his defence. Walter Smith found such virtues particularly endearing and, injury permitting, Pembridge was a regular through Smith’s final 30 months at Goodison.
Equally, David Moyes found such qualities virtuous and, despite his limitations, Pembridge was a stalwart through the 2002/03 season. He started the next campaign for Everton too, but was a surprise £750,000 departure to Fulham in August 2003. Days later, Kevin Kilbane arrived in his place.
Pembridge made his Wales debut as a 21-year-old in 1991 and continued representing his country until 2004, making 54 international appearances.