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Shane Duffy has underlined his determination to nail down a regular first-team spot at Goodison Park by signing a new three-year contract.
The 20-year old Everton centre-back had successful loan spells with Burnley and Scunthorpe last year and has a host of Championship clubs chasing his signature.
But Everton manager David Moyes believes he has a future at Barclays Premier League level and was able to persuade him to accept an improved three-year deal that was signed on Wednesday afternoon.
I'm delighted to get it done. It's taken a bit of time to get it sorted but I am happy now,' Duffy told the club's official website.
'I have been here for a while now and loved every minute of it.
'Now this is sorted I can focus on working hard and continuing to improve.'
Duffy, capped eight times by the Republic of Ireland, made his Premier League debut for Everton as a second-half substitute at Tottenham in January and followed it up with his first start, in a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa a few days later.
PHIL JAGIELKA believes Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew should show Everton more respect for their Premier League achievements.
Pardew upset the Goodison faithful towards the end of last season when he declared the Magpies, then challenging for Champions League qualification, were operating in a different league to David Moyes’s side.
Newcastle’s hopes of a top-four finish were dashed on the final day by comprehensive defeat at Everton, with the two clubs set to meet for the first time since at Goodison on Monday night.
And Jagielka believes Pardew has overlooked the consistency of Everton, who have finished in the top eight for seven of the last eight seasons, when hailing the relative novelty of Newcastle’s impressive last campaign.
“I wouldn’t say there was a bit of an edge to the game on Monday, but I think it’s a little bit disrespectful for someone to say something like that after one good season,” said the England international.
“Fair play, Newcastle had a fantastic season and massively overachieved, but they aren’t the first team to overachieve for a season.
“In the Premier League it’s all about consistency, and if you look at how we have performed over the years, then it’s a little bit disrespectful to come out and say something like that.”
Jagielka’s impressive start to the season with Everton saw him preferred to Chelsea’s Gary Cahill to partner former Goodison team-mate Joleon Lescott at centre-back for England’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw against Ukraine at Wembley on Tuesday night.
And the 30-year-old admits he has had to raise his game this campaign.
“We’re only four or five games into the season but I needed a good start to the season,” said Jagielka. “You set yourself high standards and I’ve maybe not reached them as consistently as I’d like in the last season or so.
“It was a boost of confidence to get the nod for England. I don’t think there is much to choose between me and Gaz (Gary Cahill). We are good friends, we mess about at table tennis and things like that.
“It’s hard knowing it’s one from two, but we got told the day before so that gave us a chance to prepare.
“But I know if one of the first-choice centre-backs is injured for the next time, I’m not automatically straight in. Gaz has got as good a chance of playing.”
England were on the verge of losing a home World Cup qualifier for only the third time in history until Frank Lampard netted a late penalty to save a point for Roy Hodgson’s men.
And Jagielka admitted: “We made it tough for ourselves. We didn’t start particularly well and Ukraine did, but having said that we had a few good chances before they scored.
“Their goal meant we had to push more players forward and became vulnerable to the counter-attack, so it does become a tougher night.
“We know we didn’t play amazingly well, but we created chances and we were thankful for getting a point even if we left it late to score.”
Jagielka’s focus now returns to club duty, with Everton looking to bounce back from the disappointing 2-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion a fortnight ago.
Moyes’s side opened the season with a Monday night home win against Manchester United, and the defender is hopeful of a repeat next week.
“It’s important we got off to a good start this season and we have another Monday night game at Goodison and hopefully the boys can do well again,” said Jagielka.
“We enjoy those Monday night games especially when the other teams are like Man United and Newcastle, who always bring great support.
“The result was great for us against United but after the disappointing result and performance against West Brom hopefully we can bounce back at home.”
The big man with the big hair has packed a lot into his four years at Goodison – in the final part of his story, we take a look back at his defining moments in a royal blue shirt
THE Big Fella’s maiden strike eased Everton to a 2-0 lead against Newcastle on October 5 2008 – just weeks after his deadline day arrival from Standard Liege.
David Moyes may well have been fuming at how his men ultimately went on to throw away their comfortable advantage amid a floundering start to their Premier League campaign that season.
But he will have been thrilled to watch his £15m man fire home from Leighton Baines’ cross, and Fellaini went on to score nine goals in his first season, the most he has scored in a single season to date.
“GOODISON folklore is littered with idiosyncratic cameos, moments you won’t find in any history books, but incidents still spoken of with dewy-eyed pride years later,” wrote ECHO deputy sports editor Dave Prentice.
“Joe Parkinson’s drag-back in an FA Cup semi-final; Jimmy Gabriel checking an imaginary wristwatch by a Wembley corner-flag; Duncan McKenzie running from Goodison Road to Bullens Road in a cup-tie against Stoke City, feigning step-overs every four or five yards; Big Neville’s one-handed catch...
“To that eclectic mix you can now add ‘Marouane Fellaini’s pirouette’.
“It was the perfect ending to a near perfect afternoon... Played in his most effective role of holding midfielder the man with the big hair is a big, big talent.
“But it was that pirouette which captured the imagination most.
“Like those other iconic moments mentioned earlier, it adhered to a common theme.
“In itself it was hardly significant, but all came at the moment a memorable victory had been all but clinched.”
ICE-COLD AT THE REEBOK
IT WAS the sort of night when Evertonians present must have spent 88 minutes cursing their decision to follow the Blues away at Bolton.
The game on October 29, 2008 had been dodgy, their team’s performance doddery, but Fellaini’s late, late winner warmed their hearts in an instant.
Three goals in four games served to worked wonders for Fellaini’s popularity with fans doubting Moyes’ investment.
The midfielder seemed uncomfortable when Phil Neville ushered him towards the Evertonians who were celebrating his winner with a standing ovation, but it was a display of affection he would need to learn to accept.
“We are all in this together and it’s pleasing that things are starting to go well for the group again,” he said.
“Every team has a set of supporters that stays with them right to the death. They follow their teams through thick and thin.
“That is what is so special about playing in England and, in particular, playing here.”
At the end of the campaign, Fellaini was named Everton’s Young Player of the Season.
POOR Michael Carrick.The Manchester United midfielder, who was forced to become a make-shift central defender for the first Monday game of this season, will have his dreams stalked by a giant afro for some time.
In those restless nightmares when he relives his side’s defeat at the hands of Everton, he will see Marouane Fellaini again and again. The Belgian systematically dominated him, and whoever else was unlucky enough to be charged with marking him, for 90 plus minutes amid the heat and passion of this absorbing contest.
Fellaini terrorised Alex Ferguson’s men as he helped derail their title bid in the previous season’s run-in, and he was at it again in August. A solo display roundly dubbed “unplayable”, which sparked Fergie afterwards to criticise the hosts for “lumping it up” to the Belgian.
DERBY SETBACK Part ONE
FELLAINI’S disciplinary learning curve climbed highest when a soft booking against Hull City in January 2009 meant he missed two Merseyside derbies.
The Toffees had to face their rivals in the Premier League and FA Cup without him, and Moyes took the blame for leaving him on the pitch against the Tigers.
“I made the decision, and if we could have got through 15 minutes or so we would have taken him off,” said Moyes.
“We thought about taking him off at half-time because of the possible problem of him being suspended.
“But we were 2-0 up against Newcastle and didn’t win, so the most important game is the one we are playing.
“I have seen it now on TV and the Hull lad ducked his head down to about four feet off the ground, Fellaini is looking at the ball and toe-pokes it away.
“It can’t seriously be dangerous play, you are entitled to challenge for that. It was a costly decision and clubs do get people suspended.”
DERBY SETBACK Part TWO
ONE LUNGE, one season-wrecking injury.
The Belgium left Anfield in agony after the challenge which saw Sotirios Kyrgiakos sent off at Anfield on February 6, 2010.
Enjoying the best form of his Everton career so far, Fellaini was sidelined for the rest of the season with serious ankle ligament damage.
“He has played really well this season and has been part of the reason for improvement. He has been a big miss for us already but it was a seriously bad tackle,” said Moyes confirming the midfielder would be out for six months.
THE thriller at Old Trafford last term was lit up by Fellaini’s sublime strike. A volley from Tony Hibbert’s right-wing cross reduced the arrears and helped Everton stage their astonishing 4-4 fight-back – two dropped points which ended up costing Manchester United the Premier League title.
EVERTON FC will need to agree a new deal for Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe if they want him in January say Club Brugge.
David Moyes made a last-ditch move for the Belgian international on transfer deadline day last month and agreed a loan deal for the midfielder.
But paperwork was filed too late by the player’s club and FIFA refused to ratify the 23-year-old’s move last Friday.
Now Brugge claim Everton must renegotiate a deal if they want to clinch Ofoe’s signature in the next transfer window.
“The transfer window is now completely behind us and now the focus is back on Club Brugge,” said Brugge general manager Vincent Mannaert, who was keen to deflect the blame for the transfer ultimately collapsing.
“There are two facets to such a transfer. The first part concerns the administrative work: that was fine. The second point is an international transfer certificate and it went wrong.
“FIFA took seven days, but eventually there is no green light.
“We could have appealed to the sports tribunal in Lausanne, but we had little chance of success. Furthermore, we would again have had a long period of uncertainty.
“Now all parties know where they stand.”
He also dismissed claims that a deal for January was in place. “There are no agreements or promises made about.
“I can imagine that they will continue to monitor Vadis, but there are no guarantees.
“If Everton want Vadis in January, the negotiations will start from scratch. I’m sure Vadis will work hard to return to the level of last year.
“The uncertainty is gone and also the stress for Vadis has disappeared. That period is over and that’s not coming back.”
The three-cap Belgian international (left) insisted he is committed again to Brugge.
He said: “I am glad that I can again focus on football. I have had seven days to think, and that is more than enough – in the beginning I was very excited about the transfer to Everton , but now I am very happy to be in Brugge.
“I do not fell like Club Brugge has let me down, on the last day in England a lot of transfers happen and so it is hectic – but Club Brugge were very open with me on their communication and it worked well.
“Everton were just a little too later.”
MIDFIELDER Vurnon Anita is preparing for an aggressive encounter on Monday night when his Newcastle team take on Everton at Goodison Park.
Newcastle return to action after the international break to face an Everton side smarting after their 2-0 defeat at West Brom in their last outing – a result which came as something of a surprise after their blistering start to the season.
And Anita is expecting a difficult evening on Merseyside, particularly as he knows two of the men who helped to secure an opening day victory over Manchester United very well.
He said: “I saw the highlights and they were very aggressive. They played very well, so we must be prepared.
“I know two players who play there. I played with Steven Pienaar at Ajax – he was there when I made my debut – and Johnny Heitinga, also from Ajax and the national team.
“They are very good players, so I know they have a good team and a very strong team.
“It’s a good opponent to play against and we are playing away, so we must be prepared.”
Anita says he is ready to continue as Newcastle’s emergency right-back as manager Alan Pardew attempts to deal with a developing injury crisis.
The 23-year-old Holland midfielder was asked to drop into the Magpies’ defence after Danny Simpson limped off during the first half of the club’s 1-1 Premier League draw with Aston Villa on September 2.
With Ryan Taylor facing months on the sidelines with knee ligament damage and James Perch having missed the Villa game with a neck problem, Pardew’s options are limited to say the least.
However, Anita, a £6.7million summer signing from Ajax, did a job for him against the midlanders and is prepared to do it again if he is called upon.
He said: “We have got two injuries on that side, so if the manager needs me on that side, I will do my best for the team.
“It went well against Aston Villa. As a right-back you can come forward a lot, so I did that also and yes, I think it was a good performance.
“Central midfield is my position, so the main focus is on the midfield, but if the manager needs me on the right side, I can also play there.”
Pardew also has concerns over goalkeeper Tim Krul and skipper Fabricio Coloccini, who have picked up injuries while away on international duty.
Anita’s compatriot Krul returned early from the Holland camp after damaging an elbow, while the Magpies’ medics are awaiting Coloccini’s return from Argentina to assess his hamstring problem.
Veteran Steve Harper is standing by to replace Krul, while Mike Williamson is likely to deputise for Coloccini if he does not make Monday’s game.