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When you possess a physique like Everton's super-strong striker Victor Anichebe, it is hard to imagine falling prey to self-doubt and depression.
But the 24-year-old Nigerian international frankly admits only a strong religious upbringing and some choice words from his Mum kept him going during the dark times when one bad injury seemed to follow another.
Anichebe's return to goal-scoring form has mirrored Everton's excellent start to the season, which they hope to continue at bottom club QPR on Sunday.
But it hasn't always been like that for the 6ft3in striker, who grew up on Merseyside after his parents moved there from Africa when he was a baby.
He missed a whole season after suffering knee ligament damage against Newcastle in 2008, a further six months after injuring his other knee warming up in a pre-season friendly against Preston, and four months last year after tearing a groin muscle when on international duty for Nigeria in Madagascar.
'There were plenty of times when I was at a low ebb. To come back after 12 months, get injured again, and then again, I began to ask whether it was worth it,' he admitted.
'It's hard for people to know what really understand what it is like being injured. It is not just physical, it is mental too.
'You see your team-mates out there when you should be playing with them. Your friends and family tip-toe around, not knowing whether they should talk to you about being injured.
'I am a Christian but it was difficult to keep my faith at times. It was easy to think it is all rubbish and didn’t mean anything, but it does.
'My mum was supportive and said God had given me this ability so I should use it. She almost forced me to continue with my faith when I was in danger of losing it.
'If you stick with something, you will get through to the other side, and it got me through some hard situations.
'Steven Pienaar (Everton team-mate) also has his faith. I’m not saying that it makes you a great player, but it helps. It’s always nice to think you have that extra push behind you.'
As he chats about his beliefs, Anichebe appears the archetypal gentle giant. Yet he is no shrinking violet on the pitch, happy to use his power and aggression to unsettle opponents.
He was once criticised for a studs-up challenge on Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek during a reserve derby that attracted a lot of publicity on Merseyside. And he was sent off for a lunge on Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta in December 2010, the last time City lost a home game.
'I don't need to go to the gym to lift weights and be big,' he reveals. 'When I come off the pitch, I am chilled, normal, not this aggressive person. Some people say too laid-back because I don't do enough. But I might be something else on the pitch.
'Look at boxers, you see them praying before a fight, and then they try to punch someone's head off. I am big and powerful, I use the attributes God has given me. I am not like Steven (Pienaar), where I will glide past players.'
Injuries have restricted Anichebe to only 40 Premier League starts since signing professional forms for Everton in 2005, the club he first trained with as a 10-year-old.
On the flip side, he has been used as a substitute 85 times by manager David Moyes – a club record. The signings of Belgian international Kevin Mirallas and Croatia's Nikica Jelavic means there is plenty of competition for places up front but that is something that appears to have inspired rather than deterred Anichebe, who has scored three goals already this campaign.
Rather than any opponent, the toughest experience Anichebe has had to overcome on a football pitch came early in his career when Everton played in a European game in Ukraine and encountered similar scenes to the alleged racism suffered by England under-21 players in Serbia last week.
'It happened before the game and was probably the worst thing I have ever seen in my life,' he said.
'I was walking around the pitch with the team and the whole crowd were doing big monkey chanting. It was like they were doing it synchronised, together - it was crazy.
'Everyone was spitting on me, so much it was like it was actually raining. I told the guards and they just laughed. I could see where the England boys were coming from last week.'
He also underwent a painful experience in 2009 when police questioned him as he looked into a jewellery shop window during a walk to help ease the boredom of being injured. Humiliatingly, the officers grabbed his crutches in case he tried to "escape". They later apologised for the incident, which Anichebe believes was racially motivated.
If Anichebe continues his recent good form, he may have a difficult dilemma to make if Nigeria call him up for the African Cup of Nations in January.
A proud fan of the Super Eagles – and his parents have both returned to live in Nigeria – he is torn between helping out his country and showing loyalty to Everton after they have supported him.
'I love my country but Everton is what I am thinking about,' he admits.
'Everton helped me so much particularly when I was depressed about my injuries. They stood by me. They sent me away to America and to Belgium for rehab. I could look back at my injuries but it's better to forget about that stuff and be a man. As long as I am fit, I am good.'
David Moyes has promised Everton will 'shoot for the stars' as they bid to continue their fine start to the season with victory at winless QPR on Sunday.
The notoriously slow starters have been one of the form teams of the opening two months of the season and travel to Loftus Road with 14 points from seven games.
Pundits are already talking about Everton as potential challengers for a Champions League spot, and it is the kind of pressure Moyes relishes.
He said: 'I enjoy being near the top of the league, and what comes with that is people thinking how well you're doing and talking in a positive fashion.
'I enjoy that and it's something I would like to happen more often when we're talking about Everton at the top and how well we might do. We'll shoot for the stars and see where we end up.'
Moyes is confident the international break will not disrupt his side's rhythm but does want them to tighten up at the back after conceding eight goals so far.
He said: 'We've tended to find that after these sort of breaks we've settled down and got the group together and been better so let's hope we can continue to improve from the form we've already shown up to now.
'Our attacking play has been excellent, we've probably created as many chances as anybody in the Premier League and had as many shots as anybody, so we're certainly up with the main teams doing that.
'We've got to make sure that we're a little bit harder to beat, but our points tally is good for this time of the season. We've normally got about five or six at this time of the year so to have what we have is good.
'But we've got to build on it, we have to try to make sure we kick on, and I see this period as a difficult period. We've got quite a few difficult away games in London and a derby to play.'
On paper, Loftus Road is not one of those. Mark Hughes' side sit bottom of the table having picked up only two points from their first seven games, while they have managed just one goal at home and conceded seven times.
QPR were one of the summer's bigger spenders and had been expected to fare better, but Moyes believes it is only a matter of time before the team gels.
The Scot said: 'That's the one thing I feel we've had over the years is that constant team and stability where we've got a group of players we know are with us and we try not to change it around too much.
'We have to make additions every year but I think when you're coming up and you're trying to build a new team, which is maybe what Mark's doing, it's very difficult.
'But what he has got is a very experienced side and that's something which you've got to be mindful of that those players one day will pull all together and get a result.
'They've got Djibril Cisse, Bobby Zamora, they took (Junior) Hoilett from Blackburn, Adel Taarabt has a goal in him, Park (Ji-sung) from Manchester United, Shaun Wright-Phillips, they roll off your tongue quite easily.'
Everton will be without midfielders Marouane Fellaini (knee) and Darron Gibson (thigh) and defender Tony Hibbert (calf) through injury while new signing Thomas Hitzlsperger will not be considered.
DAVID MOYES has promised Everton will “shoot for the stars” as they bid to continue their fine start to the season with victory at winless QPR today.
The Blues travel to London with 14 points from seven games and pundits view Moyes’ team as challengers for a Champions League spot.
Moyes said: “It’s something I’d like to happen more often when we’re talking about Everton at the top and how well we might do.
“We’ll shoot for the stars and see where we end up.”
DAVID MOYES has grafted tirelessly to mastermind Everton’s rise to rub shoulders with the billionaires of football.
He has driven his club to an elite position in the Premier League with the kind of budget Manchester United, City and Chelsea would dismiss as small change.
Moyes, 49, has accepted his lot and worked carefully under financial restraints which go hand in hand with the job at Goodison.
But the shrewd Scot cannot help but daydream about where Everton would be with a mountain of money behind them.
Marouane Fellaini remains Everton’s record buy at £15million – and that was four years ago when Moyes plucked the afro-haired youngster from Standard Liege.
Since then budget buys have been Moyes’ stock-in-trade.
He said: “We have had to do everything on a steady incline and we haven’t spent fortunes to do it.
“We have done it slowly and sometimes it’s hard for our supporters to take.
“They want their ready-made fix. They want it now.
“But if you put up a graph of Everton’s progress, there have been signs of us rising for most of the time.
“We have worked to get in the group with Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal.
“We are in there because of the players Everton have got and the team we have got. We’re good enough to be in there with them. This time last year we were drowning. We were struggling. I wasn’t enjoying watching the team play – and I’m the manager.
“I couldn’t get the team to play. I couldn’t get anything like what we wanted. But this is now probably the best year and the most confident I have felt with the team.
“There’s a chance we can do something. Kevin Mirallas and Nikica Jelavic have given us something we have not had and a bit more belief.
“The players are focused and I have a team bubbling behind the top boys. In fact, bubbling among them,” added Moyes.
VICTOR ANICHEBE will refuse to wear a Kick It Out T-shirt today – even though the Everton striker suffered terrible abuse at the hands of racist fans.
The Nigeria hitman had to run a disgusting gauntlet of vile monkey chants and spitting from a vicious crowd BEFORE a UEFA Cup game in Ukraine.
But Anichebe, 24, will be the latest black player to snub the national T-shirt campaign when high-flying Everton face strugglers QPR at Loftus Road.
Reading striker Jason Roberts was blasted by Sir Alex Ferguson for boycotting the familiar T-shirt – because he believes racism is not being tackled strongly enough.
And Man City’s former Everton star Joleon Lescott is standing by his refusal to wear the shirt – triggered by an incident in 2007 when Newcastle’s Emre Belozoglu escaped a rap after alleged abuse of former Toffee Joseph Yobo.
Anichebe sees this weekend’s actions as a token gesture – and declared he did not want to be “a poster boy” for the anti-racism movement.
Without naming the John Terry case, he said: “Are we really kicking it out? There’s a situation that’s just happened.
“I believe in kicking racism out of everything, not just football – kick it out of society.
“Situations have happened and I don’t feel the outcome has been just. I won’t wear the T-shirt, I don’t think it’s right to wear it. If other people want to wear it that’s their right.
“I don’t want to be some poster boy for Kick Racism Out of Football.
“You don’t really see the T-shirts until something happens, then we decide to wear the T-shirts.
“If you wear it on a more consistent basis, fair enough. But if you just wear it when something happens, it’s pretty pointless.
“I don’t think the T-shirt matters, we’re all fighting the same thing whether you wear a T-shirt or not.”
Anichebe has suffered first-hand the kind of racial abuse directed this week at England Under-21s player Danny Rose in Serbia.
In 2007, what should have been a big night for the striker – who came off the bench to score Everton's late winner at Metalist Kharkiv – holds bad memories instead.
He said: “It’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
“I was only young and I was walking round with the team before the game – and the whole of the crowd was doing monkey chants.
“They were all doing it together. It was crazy. It was like it was raining, because they were all spitting on me. I told the people at the home club – and the guards – and they were just laughing.”
Anichebe added: “These situations happen now and again but there are a lot more positives in football now.
“I don't think racism is a big thing like it was.”
TASKMASTER David Moyes has drilled his stars not to whinge when the big decisions go against Everton.
Woeful calls cost them victory against Newcastle and Wigan but they are still in the mix at the right end of the table, says Goodison legend Peter Reid.
He said: “They say it evens itself out over a season but I don’t think it does.
“Everton are still up there and the fact that the players don’t moan and just get on with it is very pleasing. David’s teams have always been disciplined.”