Picture the battlefield of English football, in the muddy fields of Stevenage. Bryan Josué Oviedo Jiménez is being carried off on a stretcher while his team-mates cry in horror of his gruesome fractured fibula and tibia as the Evertonian away support roar the encouraging tune of ‘Oviedo baby’. Before he exits into an ambulance down the tunnel, the 24-year-old cries: “Don’t worry about me, just win”.
Evertonians carried on chanting ‘Oviedo baby’ with added passion throughout the remainder of that match, and throughout the remainder of the season while Oviedo was watching on the sidelines with his broken leg in a cast. But what brought the 5 foot 8 left-back from squad rotation player to cult hero?
Oviedo began his Everton career after signing from Danish side Copenhagen in the summer of 2012 for an undisclosed fee but it’s reported he cost around £3.5million. Relatively unknown to Everton fans, he was signed purely as cover for talisman Leighton Baines. Oviedo played 15 games in his first season; however 14 of them were substitute appearances.
Then came his chance. On Saturday the 30th of November 2013 at 3 o’clock, Bryan Oviedo stood confidently on the left side of defence. Leighton Baines was injured, giving the Costa Rican an opportunity to show the Goodison faithful exactly what he could do.
After a promising first half, Oviedo was encouraged by manager Roberto Martinez at half time to push on in the second half.
In the 58th minute, Everton won a corner. Loanee Gerard Deulofeu took it from the left hand side, deciding to play it short to Oviedo. After a confident run inside to just outside the box, Oviedo looked up to see that all of his teammates were blended in with Stoke City shirts in the box. He unleashed a strike which pierced through all of the blue shirts and red and white shirts, and buried itself in the bottom corner of the goal. The Costa Rican reeled away in delight to the roar of the Goodison Park faithful.
21 minutes later, Oviedo made a pacy run down the left-hand side which he seemingly owns when on the ball. Spotting the unmistakable figure of Romelu Lukaku lurking in the six-yard box waiting to pounce like a hungry tiger, Oviedo slipped the ball across the floor into the Belgian striker’s path, and Lukaku dispatched confidently.
Oviedo consequently posted a photo on his Instagram page thanking the fans and describing it as ‘a very happy day’.
Four days later on a cold winter’s night at Old Trafford was the evening which truly wrote the name of Bryan Oviedo into Goodison folklore. Everton travelled to Manchester United, then the new den of old manager David Moyes. Moyes was abused all game by the travelling support, but Everton lacked a goal to hold against their former manager. Rather unsurprisingly a flattened Manchester United team had also failed to score. However, 86 minutes into the match, something happened which Evertonians watching the game will never forget. With just minutes to go and both teams crawling for that vital goal, Romelu Lukaku used his sheer strength to keep hold of the ball and unleash a rather reckless shot across goal. The effort rolled between United’s defence and the onrushing David De Gea, who was beaten to the ball by a burst of pace from none other than Bryan Oviedo, who slotted the ball into the back of the net before the away end of Old Trafford erupted, as did every Evertonian pub and living room back home. As the camera zoomed in on the miserable face of David Moyes, Toffees danced around in ecstasy. Bryan Oviedo was an Everton legend.
Any top national sports reporter could write a report on that match and describe the raucous atmosphere on that night, but none better than an Evertonian who them self enjoyed the bitterness and joy of seeing the grumpy old face of their old Scottish manager, and shared their joy with Evertonian family and friends. The fact that Oviedo, after just a year at the club, shared the same joy made him a club favourite.
Oviedo’s passion which won over the Everton fans was exhibited against Stevenage, when Simon Heslop tried to release a shot at goal. Desperate to help his team, Oviedo attempted to get in front of Heslop to block the shot. However, as his toe dug into the ground while the rest of his leg moved over it, his ankle could not take the weight. Oviedo crashed to the floor with a double leg break. As the paramedics rushed on with a stretcher, Everton players grimaced and cried at the shocking site of the injury. Oviedo was carried off on a stretcher to a rapturous applause from both fans to the tune of ‘Oviedo baby’. “Don’t worry about me, just win”, he cried before disappearing down the tunnel.
Despite attempting to recover in time to fulfil his dream of playing for Costa Rica at the World Cup in Brazil, Oviedo was unable to return to match fitness in time. Before the competition he posted a video online of himself training to try and prove his fitness, but it was too late. Bryan had to sit at home watching his beloved Costa Rica exceed all expectations by reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup only to be beaten by Netherlands on penalties.
He could still fulfil his dream, should his success continue into the next World Cup in 2018 when he will be 28 years old. Oviedo is said to be nearing recovery at the moment, which is promising for both club and country.
Oviedo never hides his raw passion and love for the club, something the supporters both admire and share. He often posts messages of support for Everton on his Instagram and Twitter pages, posting a picture of him in an Everton shirt lying in a hospital bed the night he broke his ankle.
Recently embracing a trip to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital with two of Everton’s youth players, Oviedo’s commitment and true love for Everton has won over the supporters. In a modern era where players don’t necessarily always value and understand the passion and commitment expected at the club they’re playing for, Oviedo well and truly ‘gets it’.
By Tom Clarke – @TomClarke40