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David Moyes has hailed Nikica Jelavic as Everton’s answer to Newcastle talisman Papiss Cisse.
Cisse has become an instant Toon Army hero, with 13 goals in his first 12 matches – many of them spectacular strikes.
But Moyes believes that Jelavic has had a similar impact at Goodison in the two months since he paid Rangers £5million for the Croatian striker.
Jelavic has scored 10 times – including goals in the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool and two at Manchester United – becoming the quickest Everton player for a century to reach double figures.
Moyes said: “For me, Jelavic has been every bit as influential for us as Cisse has been for Newcastle.
“He has made a big difference for us, not least with his goals.
“He has been very good for us and we are all very pleased with the impact he’s had here already. You hope that new signings have an impact. Sometimes it takes them time to settle in, but Jelavic and (Darron) Gibson have hit the ground running, got their goals and encouraged their team-mates.
“Our lads have certainly taken to Jelavic. It’s given them something different. They know that if we get quality balls into the box, then he will score goals.
“He is good to have around the place and I think he is enjoying himself as well.”
Moyes will speak to chairman Bill Kenwright at the end of the season before deciding to extend a contract that will have just 12 months to run.
After a decade at Goodison, he will want assurances that the Blues have not become a selling club.
Moyes was deeply affected by the Wembley FA Cup loss to Liverpool this month. His side bounced back to force a draw with two late goals at Old Trafford and are on course to finish above their Mersey rivals in the Premier League.
But Moyes admitted the campaign has taken its toll.
He said: “I think it has probably been the toughest season since I’ve been at the club.
“There have been some bad times since I took over, but because of what we have built Everton up to, in its own way this year has been the hardest.
“At times, it has taken it out of me. We were all feeling the strain because it wasn’t going the way we wanted.
“But we got our heads down, mucked in, and we’ve been to the FA Cup semi-finals and we are seventh in the league just now.”
He added: “If you had said at the start of the season that we’d do what we’ve done, well people might have just taken that.
“But we would have liked to do much better because we don’t see this as the level of our ambition – we want to win cups and finish towards the top of the league.
“Teams have a dip, but ours probably lasted for the first half of the season.”
DAVID MOYES has hailed Nikica Jelavic’s impact on the Everton team.
Jelavic joined for just £5million from Rangers in January and reached 10 goals quicker than any Toffees player for 100 years.
Boss Moyes said: “He has been every bit as influential for us as Papiss Cisse has been for Newcastle.
“He’s made a big difference to us with his goals, which we hadn’t got. Did I think he would have such an impact? You hope!
“Our lads know if we get the ball in the box we can get ourselves a goal.”
Wins at Wolves today and against Newcastle next week would see Everton finish higher than Liverpool for the first time since 2005.
But Moyes said: “It’s been the hardest year. At times it took it out of me.”
EVERTON manager David Moyes has given his defenders a big hand in the run-up to their clash with relegated Wolves.
Attackers Nikica Jelavic and Steven Pienaar have been earning the plaudits and the boss believes the defence has been overlooked in his side’s recent resurgence.
Moyes said: “We were being asked questions about the goals we were conceding but over the year we have tended to be defensively strong.”