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Arsenal (A) Sun 1 Mar 2015, 14:05, Barclays Premier League

by Matthew Gamble @efc_mattgamble

Everton v Newcastle

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Daily Express (new)

IT MAY soothe the embarrassment felt by the Premier League managers who studied Nikica Jelavic only to decide he was not worth taking a chance on, that even his own father once misjudged his shimmering skills.

Philip Jelavic took to striking a bet with his son in the build-up to matches at the onset of his career, though the clinical finishing that currently serves Everton so well, and will leave Liverpool quaking ahead of Sunday's Merseyside derby, ensured he quickly had to welch upon the wagers.

"My father used to say to me that if I scored he would give me the equivalent of a few pounds for each goal," said Jelavic.

"But sometimes I would score six or seven goals in a game when I was playing for my first youth team, GOSK Gabela, and he said, ‘No more! I have no money!'

"I used to spend the money on sweets or chocolate but most of the time he couldn't give me the full amount. Maybe that was a good thing.

"My dad was a player as well and then he became a referee in the Bosnian league.

"Now he is a referee's assessor and whenever we speak on the phone, he always tells me off for speaking back to referees in the Premier League."

Mitigation for Jelavic's father comes from the fact he missed parts of his son's upbringing due to the Bosnian War.

While he headed to the frontline, liberation came rather more easily for those left behind.

Jelavic, who plays international football for Croatia, would spend his days honing his prowess in the fields by the Neretva River which runs through his hometown of Capljina, in what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina, just 12 miles from the Croatian border.

For more than three years Europe's bloodiest conflict since the Second World War raged, but for Everton's No7 the only battle he became embroiled in was with his friends and neighbours.

"I was six when the war started and this might sound strange, and people might find it difficult to understand, but it was the best time of my life. I swear," he said.

"There were no rules. I would wake in the morning, leave the house and then I would spend the day playing football in the fields and swimming in the river.

"My father was on the frontline and my mother was at home, so I had a kind of freedom that a lot of children do not get. It was different for us because the normal rules had broken down because of the war and that meant we didn't have to go to school.

"I remember that I always played with boys who were older than me. It was more of a challenge, but I was still the best player. It was a great time for me and for my generation. I was too young to realise just how serious the situation was.

"It is always a good discussion with my dad, but the war is one thing he doesn't talk too much about. It is too difficult for him."

It serves to highlight just how much Jelavic's fortunes have blossomed that where once his talents proved too costly, now Everton cannot afford to let him go. Four goals this season complement the 11 he plundered in the second half of last term following his £5million move from cash-strapped Rangers and see him ensconced in the role of hero that Goodison Park has long-since craved.

Life without him already feels unthinkable for David Moyes' side.

While his goals have been varied in execution, 12 out of his total haul of 15 have been one-touch finishes. It is a quality that sets him apart, but one the laid-back Jelavic explains so matter-of-factly that it belies the difficulty of the art.

"If you compare me with someone like Phil Neville, he is always focused even days before a game but I never think about things," he said. "That's just the way I am. I never think about how many touches I take to score a goal or how I score a goal, I don't have those kind of thought processes.

"If I have the ball when I see the goal then I will shoot. Why complicate it?

"I am the player in the box most of the time and to me this means that usually one touch is enough because I am already so close to the goal. It is natural for me. Maybe if I started to think about what I do then I would stop being able to do it because it wouldn't be natural anymore."

Jelavic is hopeful that Europe's elite will soon be on the receiving end and Everton, currently fourth in the Premier League, can maintain their resurgence.

Victory over Liverpool would settle a score from last season when twice Jelavic lost, including in the FA Cup semi-final after he had scored the opener, as well as secure bragging rights but, more importantly, it would bolster that quest.

"We are a strong team," he said. "I have heard all about the success that Everton enjoyed in the mid-Eighties and what a great team they had back then. I can't promise that we are ready to get back to those levels just yet but I do believe we are strong enough to play Champions League.

"We have already beaten Manchester United this season, and last season we beat Manchester City, so we have shown that we can play and also that we can compete.

"I have had two bad experiences playing against Liverpool in this country, but I did beat them in a pre-season friendly when I was with Rapid Vienna.

"Obviously, it is a big derby and it is a big game for everyone and I want to beat Liverpool with Everton."‘If I see the goal, then I will shoot'.

Test Liverpool Echo PNG

EVERON FC striker Victor Anichebe admits he is desperate to break his derby duck against Liverpool on Sunday.

The 24-year-old is yet to net against Everton's local rivals, and believes derby goals are the benchmark of any Goodison centre forward.

He suffered a head injury during Sunday's draw with QPR, but Anichebe could keep his place in the side against Brendan Rodgers' men, with Steven Pienaar's absence meaning David Moyes must re-shuffle his attacking options.

Although as much as the Nigerian international covets personal glory in the 219th derby, he insists three points is more important as the Blues look to stay in the Premier League's top four.

He said: "I was thinking about the fact that I haven't scored against Liverpool recently.

"I really want to change that - it would mean a lot to me.

"Scoring is always nice no matter who it's against but against Liverpool would be extra special.

"It'd be nice for me and the fans. Jela has done it and many of Everton's best centre forwards over the years can say they've done it.

"More important though is that we win.

"That'd be perfect for us."

Evertonians are still waiting for official confirmation that influential midfielder Marouane Fellaini will be fit to face Liverpool, but his team-mate for club and country Kevin Mirallas is confident the 24-year-old will return.

"I think he will be playing on Sunday," said Mirallas. "He is a fantastic player and when he's not there it's harder for the team to get good results.

"It's also good to have Marouane available because he is scary for the other team.

"People in the opposition fear him.

"It will be really important for him to play.

"He would be a psychological asset."

Daily Mirror

Everton talisman Marouane Fellaini will make a surprise return in the Merseyside derby.

And the big Belgian's club and country team-mate Kevin Mirallas believes the sight of his trademark afro emerging from the tunnel at Goodison on Sunday will frighten bitter rivals Liverpool to death.

Fellaini missed last weekend's visit to QPR with a knee injury he picked up
the week before, and was also ruled out of the World Cup wins over Serbia and Scotland.

After he went to Brussels for treatment with his regular doctor, it was feared he would be out for at least three weeks - and miss the showdown with the team from across Stanley Park.

But, after being given permission to remain in Belgium for treatment, Fellaini has responded quicker than expected.

He has trained for the past two days, and looks likely to be pitched into battle against the Reds.

And according to striker Mirallas, that fact will strike fear into a Liverpool side already worried about facing their in-form neighbours at such a difficult time in their evolution under Brendan Rodgers.

"I think he will be playing on Sunday, and it will be important for him to play because he is scary for the other team," said Mirallas.

"It would is a real psychological asset for us to have Marouane available, because of the impact he has - people in the opposition fear him.

"He is a fantastic player and when he's not there it's harder for the team to get good results."

Fellaini picked up the injury playing against Wigan just before the international break.

When he reported for duty with his country, doctors ruled him out for up to a month.

A statement issued by the Belgian FA read: "Fellaini suffered a small tear at the juncture of muscle and tendon in the knee. He will be out three weeks.

"It has been agreed with his club Everton FC he will rehabilitate in Belgium during this period."

Fellaini's fellow midfielder Darron Gibson may be on the Toffees' bench on Sunday, after resuming training this week following a month out with a thigh injury.

And with defender Tony Hibbert also back, manager David Moyes will have a near full-strength squad to choose from, as he looks for the victory to consolidate Everton's position in the top four.

A win would also keep Liverpool pinned just above the relegation zone.

The significance of the game isn't lost on the Everton squad, with defender Phil Jagielka admitting: "We are normally desperate to beat Liverpool because it's Liverpool. But this time we also have to think about keeping ourselves up at the higher end of the league, so that makes it even more important."

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