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EVERTON boss David Moyes says his side are now entering a challenging part of the season after their outstanding start.
Fourth in the Premier League after seven games, they visit QPR tomorrow, but Moyes is expecting it to get a lot tougher as injuries and suspension start to creep up on his squad.
Marouane Fellaini is out of the clash and Moyes said: “We are going into a period where, like all clubs, we will pick up injuries and suspensions. Some clubs have already had that.
“You have to start to change away from your regular team. During a season you have to look for two or three different teams. Maybe the team who start the season aren’t the one who play the middle or end it.”
Striker Kevin Mirallas has three goals since his £5.5million transfer from Greek side Olympiakos and Moyes added: “He had a great record in Greece, they were saying he was the golden boy of Greek football. He has not disappointed us.
“He will get better with time in the Premier League with a greater understanding of what the games are like and the level of fitness you need to finish 38 games.”
Moyes yesterday signed former Aston Villa midfielder and free agent Thomas Hitzlsperger until January to help his squad cope with the problems.
The former Aston Villa and West Ham player has been without a club since leaving Wolfsburg in the summer.
Everton confirmed the deal this afternoon and are hopeful that because the contract was signed before today's midday deadline he will be available to David Moyes for Sunday's Premier League clash at QPR.
Hitzlsperger managed only two league starts in the Bundesliga last season after he suffered a knee injury.
In a bid to earn a deal at Goodison Park, Hitzlsperger has been training with Everton and played 90 minutes for the Under-21 side on Oct 8.
Moyes has moved for the 30 year-old after it was confirmed that Marouane Fellaini will miss the next three weeks with a knee injury, while he is also without Darron Gibson with a thigh injury.
Hitzlsperger has earned 52 caps for his country and made 208 league appearances since his senior debut for Aston Villa in Jan 2001.
David Moyes has admitted he owes a massive thanks to Wayne Rooney for helping make him a top manager.
This weekend sees the 10th anniversary of the moment a 16-year-old Rooney announced himself to world with a stunning winner against Arsenal, spanking a long-range shot past then-England keeper David Seaman.
Moyes had only just arrived at Goodison back then, and admits the wonder-kid who exploded into the football imagination not only put the club on the map, but also his own managerial career.
"That goal was an important moment for Everton and for me personally too - I will always say Wayne helped me, because it got my name out there as the manager who was playing him," the Blues boss admitted.
"For that impact he had on my career, I will always be grateful. I am grateful for the fact that Wayne was here and ready to go into the squad when I first arrived at the club.
"He really helped my profile, because I was the one who could put him in the team, and everyone could see one of England's finest players, if not the finest. He drew such a lot of attention worldwide for the club and for me too, at an important moment.
"So I have a lot to thank Wayne for, for being on the doorstep when I came here, and the club does too."
Moyes rates Rooney one of the greatest players ever to have graced English football, and he believes that goal against Arsenal - which Everton fans recall with pride and passion to this day - was an important catalyst in the evolution of the club.
It lifted the team in the manager's early years, and took them on to a higher level after some struggles at the wrong end of the table.
And the Goodison boss believes it also had a massive impact on the supporters.
"Maybe five or six times since I've been here, in the dressing room at Goodison on the big nights, you can hear the fans singing down the streets, and it happened after that game and that goal," Moyes remembered.
"The supporters knew they'd seen one of their boys, one of them, and they knew they'd seen something special.
"I truly believe he's the last of his kind - the last of the street footballers who don't need coaching - and the noise he generated with that goal was terrific.
"It was a massive win for us, with the team Arsenal had, and the fans had one of their own scoring the winning goal. It lifted us all.
"He was such an incredible, natural talent who simply loved the game - our biggest worry was he'd go off and play in the street again after the match!"
Moyes reckons Rooney is not only the best kid he's ever introduced into the game, he's among the greatest he's ever seen.
And the Scot believes the striker, now of manchester United and, of course, England, has such an appetite for the game, he can go on for years yet.
And if Rooney does, then there is nothing more the Goodison manager would like than to see him return to his beloved Everton.
"Wayne was amazing as a kid. He had such an appetite for the game, and he was a man, even when he was still a boy," he explained.
"He wasn't fazed by the physical stuff defenders use to try and intimidate young players, like butting them in the back of the head when they jump together. If anything, he relished it.
"But I think he's developed into what we believed he would too. [Moyes' assistant] Steve Round has a saying that players can only perform at the very top, top end for 10 years. Wayne's already done 10 years, and that is incredible.
"He will go on for some time yet, but I'd definitely welcome him back. I'd go so far as to say it is in his blood. It would probably only come later in his career if he did, but it's something I would welcome."
Moyes takes his top four challengers to bottom club QPR on Sunday, but must do so without his best player so far this season - Marouane Fellaini.
The Belgian midfielder has remained in his homeland after the international break for treatment to a damaged knee, but Moyes confirmed he did so with Everton's blessing.
"He's doing his work in Belgium and we're comfortable with that," said the Scot. We felt, on this occasion, it would be fine if we're not using him this weekend."
David Moyes thanked Wayne Rooney for helping shape his managerial reputation and predicted an Everton comeback for the England striker.
The Everton manager launched Rooney to international fame a decade ago by sending him on as a late substitute five days before his 17th birthday and seeing him curl a last-minute winner against Arsenal.
Moyes said: 'I have always believed Wayne helped me as a manager. I'll always be grateful he was here, ready to break into the team, when I arrived.
'What the media and public saw was one of England's finest players, if not their finest, and it helped my profile that it was in an Everton shirt.
'There have been four or five occasions when I have been in the dressing room and been able to hear the supporters singing on their way home. That Arsenal game was one of them.
'They had just seen a boy who was probably one of the last street footballers, and he had gone on, at 16, and scored a spectacular winner against Arsenal. He was one of them.'
Rooney was sold to Manchester United for £25.6million eight years ago, but Moyes said: 'I would certainly welcome Wayne back. It's more likely to be later in his career but I think it is something even he would welcome.'
Opinion is divided over whether Rooney has fulfilled his potential, but Moyes said: 'I think he has gone on to be the player everyone expected him to be. He has won a European Cup and titles and has been exceptional.'
David Moyes has said he owes a debt of gratitude to Wayne Rooney and believes the former Everton prodigy wishes to return to Goodison Park later in his career.
It is 10 years since the Manchester United forward announced himself beyond Everton with that stunning winning goal against Arsenal, his first in the Premier League arriving before he turned 17 and could sign a professional contract. Moyes was the Everton manager who gave Rooney his debut – Walter Smith having previously been denied the opportunity because the teenager was still at school – and believes it had a profound effect on his own Goodison career.
Moyes admitted: "I always say Wayne Rooney helped me as a manager. He got my name out there. I was the manager who was playing Wayne Rooney and for that I'll always be grateful that Wayne was at Everton when I arrived. I was able to put him into the team and all the media and public saw one of England's finest, if not their finest player. It helped my profile and I think it helped Everton as well. It drew more attention to them. I have a lot to be thankful to Wayne Rooney for, for being on the doorstep when I walked in here."
The Everton manager and the England striker resolved their dispute over an extract in Rooney's autobiography several years ago and, despite the player's admission that he has struggled to deliver on the international stage, Moyes believes the prodigious talent has been realised.
He added: "I think he has gone on to be the player we hoped he would be. He has been an exceptional player, at the very top, for 10 years. He has won a European Cup and titles and other cups. It's not his fault England aren't doing as well as people would like. Generally England haven't done that well for a long time.
"It has been interesting watching him develop. A lot of people said David Moyes couldn't control or handle Wayne and he'd be better going off to Sir Alex at Manchester United, but I think Sir Alex has had his problems with him as well at times."
Rooney joined United for £27m after two seasons with Everton and, despite the acrimony that surrounded his exit, Moyes envisages the Croxteth-born striker returning to his boyhood club in time. "I would definitely welcome Wayne returning here. It's in his blood," said Moyes. "But it's probably more likely to be later on in his career. I think it might be something that he'd even welcome."
Everton, meanwhile, have signed the former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger on a short-term contract until January, subject to international clearance. The 30-year-old was a free agent following his release by Wolfsburg.
Everton boss David Moyes hailed Wayne Rooney as a rare gem on the 10th anniversary of the striker's first Premier League goal.
It remains one of the league's most famous strikes as the then 16-year-old Evertonian turned and drove the ball beyond David Seaman to end Arsenal's 30-match unbeaten run and announce himself at the highest level.
Rooney scored another 16 times for the Toffees in 77 games before moving to Manchester United in August 2004 for £20m.
Reflecting on the striker's time at Goodison Park, Moyes said: "We knew what we had at the club. I got told about him as soon as I came in the door.
"He was everything we hoped. He was a man when he was very young. He had the ability and the talent but also a desire to play football.
"Wayne could have been a goalie, he could have been a right-back, a centre-half, he could play any position because it was his love for football which I think was one of the biggest factors.
"He didn't need coaching because when he came in he could play with good players, he adapted to what he had to do.
"I think you come across these players very rarely. England have had some great players over the years but I don't think you get batches and batches of them, and Wayne is one of them."
Rooney has had plenty of disciplinary problems - his first red card followed soon after his first goal - and Moyes described his former charge as a street footballer.
The Everton manager said: "All he wanted to do was get the ball. There was none of this warming up and making sure you're all stretched, not with Wayne, it was a case of, 'I'm on the street and I'm going to go and kick the ball and do what I do'.
"It was a throwback to the way I felt I was brought up. Wayne was a street player and he showed that when he came out onto the training ground as a professional. He was a joy to have around - he was hard work at times but he was a great player."
Moyes added to his ranks today with the signing of free agent Thomas Hitzlsperger on a short-term deal until January, subject to international clearance.
The former Aston Villa and West Ham midfielder has been training with the club in a bid to earn a deal after leaving Wolfsburg in the summer.
Hitzlsperger, 30, managed only two league starts in the Bundesliga last season after suffering a knee injury and Moyes admitted he may not even play for the Toffees in the Premier League.
The Scot said: "I'd be careful of using the word signing when you bring in someone for a couple of months. We wanted to have an extended look at him. He's already been here for about a month.
"He needed the training because he's missed a lot of football. He's been a great lad to have around the place and we're more than happy to give him that opportunity.
"We're not saying what he's going to bring to us. He may come here and not play, we're not sure yet, we just want a longer period to have a look at him, make sure that he's fit and he can offer us something."
Moyes has a few problems in midfield for Sunday's trip to QPR, where he will be without Marouane Fellaini and Darron Gibson.
Fellaini, who has been one of the most impressive players in the Premier League this season, picked up a knee injury against Wigan two weeks ago but Moyes hopes he could be back for next weekend's Merseyside derby.
That could also be the case for defender Tony Hibbert (calf) but Gibson is taking longer to recover from a thigh problem.