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VICTOR ANICHEBE insists he expects more from himself next season – as he vowed to come back stronger and fitter than ever for Everton FC.
The 24-year-old striker has enjoyed a strong second half of the current campaign, with five goals in just 13 appearances since January, but still regrets not being able to find the consistency he craves.
Nigerian international Anichebe has mostly been deployed on the flanks by David Moyes this term, and although he admits he will play anywhere for the Blues, he believes he is most suited to a striking role next season.
He said: “Considering the amount of appearances I’ve actually made it’s a good (goal) return, but hopefully next year I will be playing more games and playing from the start while staying injury free.
“I expect more from myself. I need to apply that next year and be better. Someone was telling me about my goals to games ratio and it’s nice to know but I don’t want to look too much into it.
"I’d prefer to play more games and more minutes. Hopefully when I’m fitter and stronger I can do that from the start.
“I see myself as a forward. I don’t if it’s a number nine or behind that, or just drifting but I’ve had experience of playing all these now. As long as I am helping the team I can’t really complain.
“Going on I see myself as playing up front."
Anichebe, who is likely to miss the final game of the season against Newcastle on Sunday, is a silver Olympic medallist after he made his Nigerian bow during the 2008 Beijing games, and he admits he is excited about this summer’s games in London.
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“It was amazing,” said the 11-cap forward. “I don’t think the whole experience has really sunk in yet – even four years later. Maybe I’ll appreciate it more when I’m older.
“The most memorable thing was getting to the Olympic village and seeing Usain Bolt and Andy Murray walking around. Then there was the Argentinean team with Messi, Sergio Aguero and Javier Mascherano.
“They won it in the end and you can see why. Just being round them was great, and it was nice being around top athletes from lots of different sports not just football.”
But the academy graduate is more focused on helping Everton make a strong start to 2012/13.
He said: “There’s lots of optimism for next season.
“The way we’ve finished on a good high, the players that have come in have made a big difference, and hopefully we can bring it into next season this time.”
Everton defender Phil Jagielka is hopeful his strong finish to the season will have sent the right message to new England manager Roy Hodgson ahead of this summer's European Championships.
The 29-year-old has shown no ill-effects from the January knee injury which sidelined him for two months.
As Hodgson, appointed as national team boss last week, has yet to select a squad, Jagielka admits he hopes he has done enough to warrant inclusion for Euro 2012.
'You've got to keep going to the end of the season, not take your foot off the gas, and give Roy Hodgson the headache of who's going to go in his squad.
'Hopefully I've played well enough in the last few weeks to at least be in with a shout.'
Jagielka also insists Hodgson's disappointing spell on Merseyside with Liverpool should not be held against him.
'I think the appointment is really good. We needed it doing as soon as possible,' he told evertontv.
'Look at his CV, look at the successes he's had. Okay he didn't have the best of times at Liverpool but one bad experience doesn't make him a bad coach or a bad manager.
'There weren't too many people out there who could have taken the job but the FA have gone with Roy and time will tell.
'We've not done amazingly well in the championships in the past 40 years or whatever, so hopefully Roy will do as well as he can and the boys can do well for him.'
Manchester United and Everton are pursuing Crewe’s goalscoring teenage midfielder Nick Powell.
Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes both watched the 18 year-old in action against Aldershot last Saturday.
Powell, the latest graduate from a prolific youth academy at Gresty Road, has scored 15 times for Crewe this season as the Railwaymen push for League Two promotion via the play-offs. He is valued at about £2.5 million.
Moyes is desperate to add youth to his squad in the summer but will be realistic about his chances of signing the youngster if Ferguson matches any Goodison bid.
Manchester United are also hoping to add vibrant young talent to their ranks as they fight to retain highly-rated midfielder Paul Pogba in the light of Juventus’s move.
It is understood Pogba’s representatives have written to United’s chief executive, David Gill, to declare their player’s desire to quit Old Trafford for Serie A. That would be a major setback to Ferguson, who tried to convince Pogba his future was in the Premier League.
Manchester City's likely title celebrations will intensify Ferguson’s desire to build what will surely be his last United team in an effort to wrestle back his crown.
He has been forced to turn towards the old guard of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand often during the course of the season, but now needs to freshen up his squad again in the summer.
Borussia Dortmund’s Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa has suggested he will be among those heading to Old Trafford. The 23 year-old, who has scored 23 goals in 69 matches for the Bundesliga side, says “he will start a new chapter with United” at the end of the season.
United also have a long-term interest in Tottenham's Luka Modric and Lille’s Eden Hazard.
It was only yesterday that Phil Neville was jousting with Wayne Rooney on Twitter, warning his former Manchester United and England team-mate that completing his coaching badges was not as straightforward as he might imagine. For Neville, however, there is the possibility of a coaching education this summer that no course could replicate.
Neville, 35, and approaching the end of his seventh season at Everton, is the first choice of the Football Association and Roy Hodgson to join the England backroom staff for the European Championship next month. There have been a few names batted about at Wembley, including Alan Shearer, Jamie Carragher and even Phil's older brother Gary, but Neville Jnr is the one who is expected to be approached this week.
These are crucial days for Hodgson as he tries to piece together a staff, not to mention a squad, while completing his duties at West Bromwich Albion and trying to keep one eye on the preparations that lie ahead in the weeks to come. Phil Neville, he hopes, will give his backroom staff a youthful element and, as a former international who has played alongside many of the current older players, provide the crucial bridge from the staff to the team.
The FA head of elite development, Gareth Southgate, remains a name in the frame for the job because he would still be available in the long-term beyond the European Championship. Should it be Neville, it is anticipated that he would be with England for Euro 2012 only, and that once the World Cup 2014 qualification begins in the autumn Hodgson will appoint a permanent coach to his staff.
Neville won a very respectable 59 caps with England, from his debut as a 19-year-old in 1996 to his last appearance against Estonia under Steve McClaren in October 2007 as injuries took hold in the Euro 2008 qualification campaign. He was unlucky with the 1998 and 2002 World Cup finals, missing out on the squad despite having played in the qualification campaigns for both, but featured at the 2000 and 2004 European Championships.
As far as his coaching badges go, Neville has completed his B licence and is understood to be studying for his A licence this summer. Hodgson will take on the vast majority of the coaching responsibilities with England, as is his way, while Neville, if he goes, will be there in a much more junior capacity.
Hodgson has appointed Ray Lewington as his temporary assistant, having cut Stuart Pearce from the senior team backroom staff despite the former England defender having been very the much the FA's golden boy in recent years. Mike Kelly is another long-term friend and confidant of Hodgson but at 69 it is felt that the former England goalkeeper coach may be a little too senior for another tournament.
As for the squad itself, it could hardly be said that it picks itself. There is a major decision to be made on whether Hodgson takes John Terry or Rio Ferdinand, with Terry's court case for alleged racial abuse of Ferdinand's brother Anton looming over both of them. The suggestion is that it could be Terry who is left behind, which would overshadow all other decisions at the squad announcement a week today.
Otherwise the indications are that Hodgson will favour experience. He is prepared to make sweeping changes after Euro 2012 but would prefer to do so having had the benefit of some time in the job first. That would suggest that the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Gareth Barry are all set to retain their places for this tournament.
The fitness of Theo Walcott remains a prime consideration for Hodgson. So too that of Darren Bent, the Aston Villa striker, who has not played since 25 February. His manager Alex McLeish has suggested that Bent could be fit in time to play this summer but that would represent a major risk, especially given Rooney's suspension for the first two games of the tournament.
In terms of his wide players, Hodgson has to perm around four from Walcott, James Milner, Ashley Young, Aaron Lennon, Stewart Downing, Adam Johnson and the uncapped Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The likes of the Arsenal youngster can expect an opportunity under Hodgson, but this summer may be too soon unless injuries to others open the way for them.
Equally, with the captaincy, it is expected that Hodgson will name an individual for Euro 2012 and then review the situation once the 2014 World Cup qualification campaign begins against Moldova away in September.
One advantage Hodgson does have is that he knows Ben Foster better than most managers and is best-placed to persuade the Birmingham City goalkeeper, who has been on loan at West Bromwich this season, to end his international sabbatical and return to the squad this summer. Foster announced his decision to withdraw himself from selection one year ago and has not budged since but represents the best alternative to Joe Hart, should the No 1 choice get injured.
The FA announced yesterday that it would not be going ahead with its pre-tournament camp at the Marbella Paradise of Football that was put in place by Fabio Capello before his departure. That has been abandoned in favour of another five-star resort between Marbella and Malaga, where the England team will stay the week after next.
It is a small change but reveals that the Euro 2012 itinerary with which Hodgson left Wembley 10 days ago has been well-scrutinised, and that the new England manager is not afraid to make changes. He has already jettisoned Pearce but it remains to be seen just how much further he might go in changing the squad– and the set-up – he inherited from Capello.