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Arsenal (A) Sun 1 Mar 2015, 14:05, Barclays Premier League

by Andy Lewis @efc_andylewis

Slaven Bilic claims Nikica Jelavic is ‘flying’ after making a ‘dream start’ to his Everton career.

Striker Jelavic overcame an initial injury setback to announce himself to Blues fans in fine style with some intelligent displays and important goals.

The 26-year-old has scored three times, including a winner against Tottenham and the crucial opener in the FA Cup quarter-final replay at Sunderland.

But on top of those eye-catching goals, the January signing from Rangers seems to have established an instant rapport with his teammates.

And Bilic, a former Toffees defender and current manager of the Croatian national team, told evertontv: “I spoke to Nikica the other night and he is very happy here, he has made a dream start but I am sure it is not just a start – he will last here for a long time.

“He is flying and is so happy. He is a guy who is down to earth but also very self-confident. He knew he needed a good start and he has made one.”

Bilic, who spent two seasons with Everton between 1997 and 1999, was back at Goodison to watch Jelavic produce another excellent display as West Brom were comprehensively beaten last Saturday.

The forward did everything but score with his link-up play particularly impressive.

And Bilic said: “It was easy for me (to predict Jelavic would be a success) because I have known him since he was a kid. He is an honest player, a quality player and exactly what Everton needed. Sure, they have a great squad here but I felt they needed a proper centre forward and he has started very well.

“Modern football is so competitive, physical and tight so you need a player up front who can hold the ball but is always very dangerous in the box. Nikica is good in the build up, good in every part of the game really and is also very hard for an opponent to mark. He is a good link player and in my opinion is ideal for Everton.

Bilic added: “There is always a doubt when a player signs (for a new club) because you meet new teammates, maybe there’s a new system and tactics so some players need time to adapt. You maybe need a little bit of luck as a striker to get a goal straight away. He has got that and now I expect him to play even better for the Blues.”

And with Jelavic having made such an encouraging start to his Everton career, Bilic admits it can only be good news for the Croatian national team.

“He has been a regular member of our squad for three years now,” he said. “He is a very important player for us and I am expecting big things from him at this summer’s Euros.”


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