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FRANCISCO JUNIOR is playing himself into David Moyes’ Premier League plans for the coming season.The young Portuguese midfielder, snapped up on a free transfer last season, has enjoyed a promising start to Everton’s pre-season campaign.
And after another impressive 45-minute cameo at Motherwell on Saturday, Blues boss Moyes said: “I think by the way he’s playing at the moment, yes, he’s got a good chance of being involved in my plans for next season.“I think pre-season he’s probably looked as good as anybody.
“Of course it’s a different ball game pre-season to the real thing so we won’t be kidded, but he’s not looked out of place that’s for sure.“He’s very good on the ball.”Team-mate Tony Hibbert, one of five Blues players to get through a second 90-minute run-out in less than 48 hours, added: “He’s a livewire.
"He’s one of those players who wants the ball constantly which is good. He’s still young and he’s still learning, but he brings a spark to the side.”A former Benfica Academy graduate, Junior has been capped twice by Portugal Under-21s and spent some time in Manchester City’s development squad last season. Born in Guinea-Bissau in West Africa, he signed a four-and-a-half year contract in February and enjoyed another 45 minute run-out in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Motherwell.
New signing Steven Naismith also enjoyed his first appearance in Royal Blue after international clearance for his transfer was finally granted on Friday night.
He played for 21 minutes and Moyes said: “It was a relief to get the registration through but we’re not in a big hurry because we’ve got to build his knee up.“He’s not quite there yet, but he’s done a big majority of the training so from that point of view he’s okay to play matches.“We can start to bring him on in matches now.”
On the match itself, Everton’s second in less than 48 hours after the midweek Dundee United friendly had been postponed by 24 hours because of a waterlogged pitch, Moyes said: “It was okay. I wasn’t too excited by it and I wasn’t too disappointed.
“We missed a few chances but they had a few chances as well. It was okay.”
TONY HIBBERT does not expect Greeks to come bearing gifts when AEK Athens arrive for his testimonial match at Goodison Park on August 8.The long-serving defender was acting under orders when he gave Morecambe manager Jim Bentley the chance to score in his own testimonial match at Morecambe last weekend.
But Hibbert wants the visit of AEK Athens for his match to be as competitive a game as possible, and he is focused on being in the best possible shape in time for the start of Everton’s Premier League season on August 20.At Motherwell on Saturday, Hibbert got through his second 90 minute run-out inside just 43 hours.The postponement of Wednesday’s Dundee United match to Thursday evening, and the early kick-off for the Motherwell friendly (1.30pm), meant that four players – Hibbert and team-mates Shane Duffy, Phil Neville and Seamus Coleman, together with goalkeeper Tim Howard – got through two full 90 minutes in less than 48 hours.“I feel very tired!” he said afterwards. “I think the last time I played two games back to back so quickly is when we were in Europe.“But I’ve got that in the bank now.“The hardest part was finishing at left-back and having to adjust. People say it’s just a case of switching sides, but it changes everything.“You’re so used to your body positioning being a certain way and when you go to the left it’s completely different.“Training’s been more about endurance and getting your legs going again so the matches help build the sharpness.“But I’ve not really thought about the testimonial yet. The manager says he wants it to be a competitive match so I’m just taking it match by match and hopefully be ready for that one.”
Hibbert added: “We’ve all been away for six or seven weeks, so it’s just good to get back to playing football and all the camaraderie and banter again.
“The feeling’s good in the camp. Motherwell have got a big game in 10 days time so they’re well ahead of us in preparation and fitness.“But we did okay.”Hibbert will be supporting Claire House Hospice, amongst other local charities, from his testimonial.A spokesperson for the Hospice said: “The children and staff at Claire House Children’s Hospice are extremely proud to be one of Tony Hibbert’s chosen charities for his upcoming testimonial.“Claire House is a home from home for local children who suffer from life limiting or life threatening conditions. We rely on the generosity of people like Tony and all the local community to continue to provide the services that our children and their families depend on.“We would like to congratulate Tony on being given a testimonial, he has been a fantastic and loyal servant to Everton FC and we are honoured to be associated with him.”