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by Matthew Gamble @efc_mattgamble

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Test Liverpool Echo PNGJOHN HEITINGA admits the prospect of European football with Everton FC next season means he is likely to sign a new deal at Goodison.

The 28-year-old defender says he has been offered a new contract by the Blues, and although nothing is finalised he is happy on Merseyside.

Heitinga had been linked with a summer exit when Turkish giants Fenerbahce showed an interest in signing him, and was said to be unhappy at not being an automatic first choice under David Moyes.

But speaking from Holland's training camp where he was preparing for last night's game against Andorra, the defender said the high-flying Blues chances of securing a European spot via the League has inspired him. "There is a big chance that I sign a new contract at Everton, but I'm not sure yet," he said.

"I just had a new contract proposal. The deal is not done yet. But I really love it at Everton. Everton is a beautiful club with great fans.

"In the English league it's not obvious that you qualify for European football. Every time we are very close. Right now we do have the squad to reach the Europa League. We're in the fourth position now.

"I'm really looking forward to play European football again. I was used to that at Ajax and Atletico, in the Champions League. I want to reach the highest possible. I want to qualify for European football with Everton. With this squad we deserve that.

"There's only a big difference between earning something and getting it. I think the club is craving for European football. Only if you look at the enthusiasm at the fans during the semi-final of the FA Cup last season.

"The group is ready for it. There were not much changes in the group and we grown. We only have one of the smallest selections in the Premier League. We can't handle to many setbacks. Then it would be difficult."

The Echo understands that talks between the World Cup finalist and the Toffees have been ongoing for months, and although positive are not yet near conclusion.

Heitinga also refused to rule out ending his career with former club Ajax in Holland.

Test Liverpool Echo PNG



IT WAS 15 minutes of Conor McAleny's young life which he never wanted to end. Christmas was still a fortnight away, but making that brief cameo for Everton FC against Arsenal in the Premier League last December was almost the perfect present he could have wanted.

Indeed the Huyton-born forward was inches away from the ultimate reward, when his superbly-struck long-range shot flew narrowly past Wojciech Szczesny's post.

Behind the goal at the Emirates, Everton's travelling fans were impressed.

Ten months later McAleny is quietly building on his reputation as one to watch, after recently signing a new two-year deal at Goodison Park.

He is yet to make further appearances for David Moyes' senior side this season, but McAleny - who recently returned from injury - admits he is willing to bide his time.

"I know it takes time to progress," says the quietly confident 20-year-old. "I want a run of games (for Alan Stubbs' U21s) and to get fully fit - then I'll see where I am after that.

"I think if I got on for the first team I'd have a good chance of scoring."

McAleny could offer something different for Moyes. While the Blues boss has height, physicality and brawn in abundance among his striking options - think Nikica Jelavic, Victor Anichebe or Apostolos Vellios, there is perhaps room for a waspish player with plenty of intelligence and raw instinct like McAleny.

His recent goal for the U-21s against Bolton, when he was forced wide almost to the touchline by a defender only to bamboozle his marker, burst back into the area and curl a deft shot into the top corner, spoke of a gifted player with the potential to excite.

"I like to stay on the left shoulder and drop in but I'm comfortable doing any forward role - whatever feels natural," he says. "I like playing as a number 10 or playing as an outright striker."

With his low centre of gravity and speed of thought McAleny draws fouls which can help his side, and admits he has not been short of inspirational mentors during his time at Everton.

"When Saha was here he could do everything," he says. "He could hold the ball up, run in behind, he was two-footed. I used to like watching him in training. I'd get absorbed watching how he did things. It was a bit weird replacing him when I made my second Premier League appearance against Norwich.

"He was so good and that's him these days - he'd have been even better years ago in his prime.

"Then there's Nikica Jelavic. He's superb and another one I can learn from.

"He's always there in the right place at the right time to score. I'm always learning."

McAleny's eyes are set firmly on the future then, but he admits his brief flurry of Premier League experience last term left a huge impression on him.

"Maybe I didn't show it and looked calm but inside I was awestruck," he says. "I didn't even think I'd be on the bench that day and then when they said I was, to be honest I was just thrilled with that.

"But during the game Steve Round was coming over to me telling me things to do if I get on. I just thought he was speaking generally but then he came over while I was warming up and said get your training gear off. I had to repeat it to him and say, "Do you mean me?" He just laughed and said "Yeah you're going on".

"It all happened in the same of a minute or so - it was a blur. But as soon as you're on you can just get on with the game.

"I didn't want it to end. I thought I'd scored with that shot and I could see by the Everton fans' reaction how close it was.

"At the end I had no intention of asking to swap shirts. Van Persie walked past me but I thought, ‘This is my first one I'm keeping this'. I've got it framed and signed.

"There's no way I'd give that away."

McAleny's learning curve continued this year with a brief loan spell at Scunthorpe United, and he would not object to another chance to get further league experience on the road.

But for now he is more than happy to be turning up for work at Finch Farm, a place which is buzzing with positivity.

"They're playing some really good stuff in the league," he says. "It's a great place to be around. Everyone is on a high. The top four feels possible - it's been done before so why not.

"When everyone is positive and confident you play better so I'm loving going to training.

"My goal against Bolton takes a bit of pressure off me and I want to carry on doing well for the U21s and if the club wanted me to go on loan then of course I will."

LEIGHTON BAINES might be Goodison's resident muso - but Conor McAleny is another connoisseur of the city's thriving band scene.

"I like my music," he says.

"I'm not really into r'n'b like the football player stereotype.. All of the bling stuff is just for show anyway. Every changing room I've been in it's the same sort of music.

"I prefer local bands like The Hummingbirds (also championed by Wayne Rooney), The Sonic Faith and the Tea Street Band who are big Evertonians. Bainesy is into it heavy.

"He likes his old stuff as well but his taste is good."

Daily Mirror

John Heitinga claims he wants to sign a new contract with Everton.

The Dutch international has opened talks with Everton over a new deal to replace his current one, which expires in 2014, and the centre-half says he wants to stay at Goodison Park.

"There is a big chance that I sign a new contract at Everton," said the 28-year-old.

"I just had a new contract proposal. The deal is not done yet. But I really love it at Everton.

"Everton is a beautiful club with great fans."

Daily Mail

Everton have opened preliminary discussions with John Heitinga about extending the defender's contract.

The Holland international, who was a target for Fenerbahce during the summer, has entered the final 12 months of his current deal but an agreement has yet to be reached.

Everton, meanwhile, are expecting to be named the first club to get Category 'A' status in the Barclays Premier League new elite play performance programme.

Everton's Head of Performance John Murtough was on Friday appointed the Premier League's new Head of Elite Performance.

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