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EVERTON are sweating over Marouane Fellaini’s availability for the forthcoming Merseyside derby after he was sidelined with a knee injury on international duty with Belgium.
The influential midfielder is almost certain to miss the Blues next game against QPR on October 21, and will be assessed by Finch Farm medics at the next possible opportunity after also being ruled out of his country’s World Cup qualifiers against Serbia and Scotland.
It is unclear whether the 24-year-old picked up the problem during Saturday’s 2-2 Premier League draw with Wigan – during which he completed the full 90 minutes – and subsequently aggravated it yesterday, or it happened at Marc Wilmot’s training camp.
The Belgian FA’s official website last night carried a statement claiming that Fellaini had been given permission by Everton to recuperate in his home country, although Everton officials were unable to confirm that – along with the suggestion he has already had a scan on the damaged knee.
Official clarification on the situation from Goodison is expected to emerge later today.
It means David Moyes will be even more anxious for Darron Gibson to recover form a thigh problem in time to be involved against Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 28.
The Republic of Ireland midfielder is recovering slower than hoped from his own ailment, although the Blues hope he will have shaken it off in time for the clash with Brendan Rodger’s men.
DAVID MOYES insists European football is a must for Everton next season – after picking up the Barclays manager of the month award for September.
The Toffees won two and drew another of their four matches to remain in the top four of the Premier League heading into October.
Now Moyes is now keen for Everton to build on their good start and maintain their elevated position for the rest of the campaign.
He said: “With the quality of the Premier League it is really hard to qualify for the Champions League but I wouldn’t say we can’t do it.
“If we fall short and end up in the Europa League then so be it, but in recent years we have been pretty close, finishing sixth, seventh or eighth, so we want to do that at the very least.
“But I am really pleased and with all these awards it comes as a team thing. It is something the whole team has strived to achieve.”
The Blues boss has now received the award nine times, meaning he is second only to Alex Ferguson (26) and Arsene Wenger (12) in the table of all-time winners.
While his side’s uncharacteristically good start has met with glowing reviews so far this term, Moyes is wary of getting too carried away.
“The pleasing thing is that we tend not to start that well but we have won a few games,” he said.
“I see 10 games as a start and we are only six or seven in at the moment – we have to be careful how we view it.
“People have asked me like there has been a big change, or we have done something differently but every year you try to do things right and get off to a good start.”
SYLVAIN DISTIN has urged Leon Osman not to give up on England – even if in his own experience international football can be a fickle business.
The French defender has never been capped by his country despite a 12-year top-class career at clubs such as Paris St Germain, Manchester City and Everton.
And with Osman again being overlooked by England manager Roy Hodgson for his latest squad – while Tom Cleverley was included after just four Premier League experiences and uncapped Liverpool rookie Jonjo Shelvey was also called-up – Distin admits his team-mate can do little more to gain recognition.
Osman has scored twice in eight games for the Blues so far this season as they have climbed into the top four, but Distin insists his 31-year-old team-mate must remain philosophical.
He said: “In football it’s a case of one guy deciding if you play or not. Tomorrow it can be a new manager and you go from being on the bench to being captain. Maybe they just don’t like the way you play or simply prefer another player.
“All Ossie can do is keep doing what he has done so far and keep working hard and his chance might come – but there’s a lot of things in football that you can’t and never will be able to control. You can often wonder “Why him – not me?” but there’s no point wasting your time thinking about it.
“The most important thing is what you’re doing at this club and having a good career. We all want to play for our country but sometimes we’re not in the right time or the right place, and you just have to make sure you don’t have any regrets.”
Osman has previously admitted he still holds out hope for a taste of international football, saying last month: “I wouldn’t say I have accepted getting called up for England is going to elude me just as I wouldn’t say I was disappointed that a young lad got called up.
“It is what it is. I am an Everton player and try and give my best for them and if I was to ever get called up then that would be great.”
EVERTON boss David Moyes has his eyes firmly set on a return to Europe after the club’s impressive start to the season earned him the Barclays Premier League Manager of the Month award for September.
The Toffees won two and drew one of their four matches to remain in the top four heading into October.
And Moyes is now keen for his side to build on their impressive start and maintain their elevated position for the rest of the campaign.
“With the quality of the Premier League, it is really hard to qualify for the Champions League, but I wouldn’t say we can’t do it,” said the Scot.
“It is possible and you have to aim for that. If we fall short and end up in the Europa League, then so be it.
“But in recent years we have been pretty close, fi nishing sixth, seventh or eighth, so we want to do that at the very least.
“I am really pleased with all these awards but it comes as a team thing.
“It is something the whole team has strived to achieve.
“The players have played well, they are in good form. We have had a good start to the season, through August and September, and big thanks to Barclays for giving me this award.”
Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher scooped the Player of the Month prize after fi ring fi ve goals in his first four league games for the Stadium of Light club.
Everton boss David Moyes has his eyes firmly set on a return to Europe after the club's impressive start to the season earned him the manager-of-the-month award for September.
The Toffees won two and drew another of their four matches to remain in the top four heading into October.
Moyes said: "I wouldn't say we can't do it [qualify for the Champions League]. It's possible. You have to aim for it."
Phil Neville is a man in love. Like his brother, Gary, he has fallen head over heels for St George’s Park.
“You been round it?” the Everton captain says. “Phew, it’s just fantastic. I’ve been to brilliant facilities in Spain, in America, in Dubai and it’s the best I’ve ever seen. Incredible. It offers us in this country such an opportunity. We have to use it, have to get junior teams there, have to get our coaches trained up there. Mind, I think we needed it 10 years ago.”
When Neville looked around the Football Association’s newly opened showcase he did so with a fresh eye. Although at 35 he has no plans yet to hang up his boots, he has made no secret of his ambition to remain within the game when he finally does retire.
“The bottom line is, I want to be a coach. I want to be a manager. That’s my love. I spent three days with the England Under-21s over the summer and it was the best three days I’ve had in football. It inspired me.
“I watched a match and the manager said to me: ‘Give me two things at half-time we need to improve on’. Well, the whole first half I must have written down 100 things. I was that nervous I was shaking. It was a totally new experience. I did come up with the two, eventually. It made my mind up: I want to become a manager, definitely.”
But he adds he has no expectation it will be an immediate transition. Nor, he reckons, should it be.
“I’m not going to make mistake of thinking I can become a manager without having done everything possible beforehand to learn, study, get my badges,” he says.
That’s where St George’s Park comes in. As the university of football – the Oxbridge of the game according to David Bernstein, the FA chairman – Neville believes it should become the place ex-players go to learn their new craft before they step into the technical area. Coaching, he says, is too important a thing to be left to chance.
“It’s difficult to get our kids to the level of Santi Cazorla or David Silva. But I would say the kids coming through now are better technically than I was.
"I think Spain has been the flag bearer, shown us the way, there’s much more emphasis on technique now, making them much better players. But it doesn’t happen overnight and there’s more to do.
"Coaches – both in the professional game and in the community through the grassroots education programme McDonald's are financing – play a massive part, the system plays a massive part. And that’s where St George’s comes in.”
Although an advocate of the new approaches St George’s will pioneer, Neville believes the fundamentals of coaching have not changed since he came through the Manchester United youth system, changing in portable facilities and playing on pitches which, by comparison with the sylvan acreage of the new football centre, were like ploughed fields. “I think the basics are still the same, they haven’t changed,” he says.
“Yes, sports science is important – my sister is a sports scientist and I chew her ears off for knowledge. But it’s a small percentage. Yes, I’m a stat nerd. But I think the stats just back up your naked eye.
"The most important thing is to get out there and practise kicking a football. Sometimes at Everton I see a young lad come in the weights room and I say to him: ‘Oi you get out there, and kick a ball’.”
Certainly the upbringing he enjoyed has enabled him and his peers to enjoy new levels of playing longevity. From the youth set-up from which he emerged, like him, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham are all still playing way beyond the traditional footballing retirement age.
“It’s the extra bits that do that, the extra that makes you a champion,” he says. “I think we’re looking at probably the best crop of good young players coming through our academies for ages.
"But if they want to have the careers we have I think they need to do more, more training, more of everything. That’s what we were taught by [Manchester United youth coach] Eric Harrison when we were 16: do more. If you’ve got a 15-minute session, stay on and do 20. If you’ve got two days off, take one.
"Giggs is my hero. The extra he does, in terms of yoga, Pilates, the way he rests. That’s what makes the difference.”
Harrison, he adds, remains 20 years on, still the single most important influence in his career. “He comes and sees an Everton game and rings me up afterwards and still, at 35, strikes the fear of God into me.
"I know when he rings he’s going to say I need to do extra on my heading, my crossing or something. And the thing is he’s usually right.”
On the day football’s new educational hub opened, that is what you call coaching.