In 1998 Steve Simonsen became the most expensive goalkeeper in British football history, when he crossed the Mersey, swapping Tranmere Rovers to join Everton in a £3.1million deal. The transfer was mired in controversy, however, as the Everton chairman, Peter Johnson, was later found to retain interests at Prenton Park and was alleged to have used this influence to secure the deal.
Simonsen had made his Tranmere debut during the 1997/98 season aged just 18, and immediately broke the club’s clean sheet record with seven consecutive shut outs. Such form earned him both England under-18 and under-21 recognition as well as the Goodison switch.
His new manager, Walter Smith, was, however, noted for his reluctance to stake his faith in youth, and for Simonsen’s first three years as an Everton player, Evertonians barely caught a glimpse of the young Geordie as he was alternatively second or third choice.
Following Thomas Mhyre’s sale and Smith’s final loss of patience with the erratic Paul Gerrard, in November 2001 Simonsen was given his belated Premier League debut away at Bolton. His previous cameos, mostly in the League Cup, had been beset by nerves and plagued by error, but his return to the Everton team was initially marked by a show of command and composure.
After David Moyes’s arrival four months later, he alternated between Simonsen and Gerrard as he worked out his best options. While there was a general upturn in from, neither man shone as Everton conceded 22 goals in nine matches. At the season’s end, Moyes bought Richard Wright from Arsenal, and while Gerrard was eventually released, the purchase of Nigel Martyn in August 2003 was a signal that there was little confidence in Simonsen. Although he was offered a one-year contract extension, in July 2004 he joined Stoke City on a free transfer, making a belated Premier League return some four years later.