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DAVID MOYES has not ruled out allowing Jack Rodwell to play for Great Britain in the Olympics this summer – but he warned the injured midfielder that Everton FC must stay his priority.
Rodwell remains on the sidelines with a hamstring problem which has so far left club medics perplexed, and means he has hardly figured for the Blues since before Christmas.
However, the 21-year-old is one of two Everton players, alongside Phil Jagielka, who have been selected in Stuart Pearce’s 80-strong preliminary GB squad, and Moyes is yet to decide whether it is in his best interests to allow him to take part.
The Toffees boss believes that unless the England international has a completely clean bill of health, he could benefit more from playing a gradual role in Everton’s pre-season games, as the club looks to help him shine again next season.
He said: “He is running quite a bit but I’m not quite sure how far along he is.
"I’m not sure yet what would benefit Jack.
"He would benefit from having games here.
"We will be on tour or having pre-season friendlies, so Jack can play for Everton.
“We are going to be short of players at the start of the season because of players coming back from the Euros.
“I wouldn’t be mad keen on him going if I didn’t think he was going to be
"He has pulled his hamstring now three or four times. I’ve got to make sure that he is going to be right. I will need to see how he develops.
“When the season finishes, he will have plenty of time to recuperate. But he won’t have had any practice and he won’t be going away saying “I know my leg is okay”. Where does he get the practice?
“Everton is where his priority should lie. But I wouldn’t want to rule him out of an opportunity to play in the Olympics. But I wouldn’t want him to be going there if I thought he had a hamstring problem. We would feed him in to non-competitive games better than those really competitive ones.
“We are not discouraging people from playing in the Olympics. We would like to make sure that they would be fit to do their best but we also want that to be the same for Everton.”
HE’S busy plotting the formidable task of tackling Stoke City in their vociferous backyard, but David Moyes cannot avoid questions about the summer.
The Everton boss is feeling like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day when asked for the umpteenth time what he can do to prevent his team starting next season poorly.
It is, he concedes, an obvious but understandable question, and if only the answer was equally straight forward?
While Moyes wants his team to continue their fine form right up until the finishing line this term, including a victory tonight over a Stoke side which has become a thorn in Everton’s side, he must also soon address the task of warding off the summer blues.
“It’s like deja vu – the same questions from the Press for the last two or three seasons,” he says, after hearing the line of enquiry multiple times since before Saturday’s emphatic triumph over Fulham.
“The summers have been difficult times at Everton. In the end we’ve tended to finish the season strongly, but we’ve sometimes let it peter away in the summer – so we’ll try and learn from our mistakes and get it right this time.
“I’ll just try and do what I can. Look at different things. Definitely recruitment plays a big part of it and when you get players in it makes a big difference.”
Not for the first time either, Moyes admitted that his ability to sign players early in the post-season will be crucial – especially given the boost his January recruits have given to the last four months.
“In the main over the years we haven’t brought people in over January,” he says. “We’ve maybe had injured players coming back and this year we definitely needed the improvement of new faces.
“The players who came in January will be ready for next season, but when you’re starting a new season you always need fresh faces and a new impetus can make a big difference.
“The last couple of summers we haven’t been able to do that much, and if we have it’s been very late. So I do think it’s partly important to get it done early.”
He may be keen to make some additions to his squad, but the Blues boss is not plotting any grand overhaul.
“I don’t think we would have been in a position to make a massive over haul anyway,” he says. “We’ve got players who are getting older, so we’ve got to be replacing from underneath and bringing in some younger legs as well. But we also need players who can go into the team so to get that balance right is where it would probably cost a lot of money.”
Moyes admits he has been thrilled watching recent displays – a stark contrast to his mood before Christmas.
“The team’s playing really well at the moment,” he smiled. “There’s a confidence which hasn’t been in them for most of the season, and belief is growing. We went into a semi final with the same confidence and couldn’t produce it on the day, but if you take that away in the main Everton have performed well in the games.
“We came back at Manchester United and played well. We’ve scored four goals a few times.
“I am enjoying watching it. Earlier in the season there were bits I wasn’t, but the players have really stepped up. We’ve got competition at centre-backs, we’re without Leighton Baines who most people would have said was our best attacking player, and we’re scoring goals without him now.
“Tony Hibbert has even stepped up in recent weeks creating goals. We’ve had to alter things and the players have really raised their game.”
By contrast, Moyes hopes to exploit any lack of vibrancy among the weary Stoke ranks tonight.
In four fixtures against Tony Pulls’ team Everton have found the net just once. But with the campaign in its final throes, Moyes wonders whether Stoke’s Europa League exertions – tomorrow’s match is their 54th of the campaign - may finally begin to tell.
“It has been a long old season,” said the Scot, whose side’s distant ambitions of European football were ended at the weekend despite that win over Fulham.
“They have had a lot of games, they got through the group stage of the Europa League and they will be disappointed their league position is not further up.
“European football was a great achievement for them but it does take its toll when you are in the Thursday-Sunday scenario – but I would take it.
“I think nowadays it does make a difference because I think the players think about it the number of games they play.”
Tired they may be, but Moyes knows Stoke’s style of play will pose his men a tough test.
“Over the years Stoke have been a good side and have improved year-on-year,” he says.
“When you look at the opposition you always look to see what they do and try to make sure you deal with it.
“But we will go there and try to play our own game.”
David Moyes has admitted he would be reluctant to allow Jack Rodwell to pursue his Olympic dream if the midfielder does not recover properly from a chronic hamstring problem.
The England international is a poster boy for Team GB and is expected to feature prominently in Stuart Pearce’s squad this summer but Everton’s manager has misgivings.
Rodwell, 21, has barely featured for Everton in the last six months after damaging his hamstring on five separate occasions and, though he has started running again, he will not play again this season.
Moyes has made it clear he would not stand in Rodwell’s way if he is fully fit but would have grave concerns about letting him leave Goodison without proving his well-being.
‘I wouldn’t be keen on him going if I didn’t think he was going to be right,’ said Moyes, whose side face Stoke on Tuesday.
‘He has pulled his hamstring now a few times. I’ll need to see how he develops.
When the season finishes, he will have plenty of time to recuperate. But he won’t have had any practice and he won’t be going away saying “I know my leg is okay”.
‘Everton is where his priority should lie. But I wouldn’t want to rule him out of an opportunity to play in the Olympics. But I wouldn’t want him to be going there if I thought he had a hamstring problem.'
DAVID MOYES fears he may have to ruin Jack Rodwell’s Olympic dream.
The Everton star has started only 14 games all season and missed the last six weeks with hamstring problems.
Rodwell, 21, and team- mate Jagielka are both in By PHIL THOMAS Stuart Pearce’s 80-man London 2012 squad.
Yet boss Moyes has serious doubts that chasing Olympic gold would be the best thing for his bright young stars.
He revealed: “I don’t want to rule Jack out of an opportunity to play in the Olympics. But he’s pulled his hamstring three or four times and I wouldn’t want him going if he has a problem.”
Everton face Stoke tonight on a run which has seen them lose just three times in 19 games.
Moyes added: “There’s a confidence in the side that wasn’t there earlier in the season.”