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Leon Osman is the focus of banter in the Everton dressing room after his shock call-up into the England squad.
Yet behind the jokes, there is a sense of pride not only in the midfielder’s achievements, but also the strides made by the Blues this season.
Boss David Moyes revealed that Osman was uncomfortable about the fuss, saying: “There hasn’t been a more deserving player to win a cap, in my view, but Ossie was embarrassed when we told him he’d been called up.
“You can imagine the ribbing he has been getting. Players have been joking that he’s changed already! They’re also saying he’s getting the suit made for when he goes big time.
“But behind the embarrassment, you can see he is extremely proud. And the boys in the dressing room are delighted too. I really hope he gets a cap because at Everton we would all feel good to see Ossie play.”
Meanwhile, Martin O’Neill has vowed to battle through and turn Sunderland into contenders in the next two years.
STEVEN PIENAAR is living proof that big things sometimes come in small packages.
The 5ft 7in Everton winger may have been overlooked for more strapping team-mates like Marouane Fellaini in a cheeky nude calendar just released by the club called “12 shades of Blue”.
But no-one has made a bigger contribution to the rise of the Blues this season.
Pienaar claims his decision this summer to return to the club where he made his name after a failed move to Tottenham was the best thing he ever did.
And it has certainly helped transform Everton, who can cement fourth place in the Premier League with a win at home to Sunderland today.
Pienaar has slotted back in effortlessly, and his partnership with flying full-back Leighton Baines down the left tends to produce most of their goals .
That and the form of Fellaini in a new role up front has meant the Toffees are flying so high this season they believe the Champions League is in their sights.
To top it all off, they are also looking down on the red half of Merseyside, having finished above them in the league last season as well.
Not bad for a club with a tiny transfer budget who struggled to get the £4.5m together it took to bring Pienaar home.
The South African spent most of his time at Spurs on the bench, but is one of the first names on the Everton teamsheet. It’s just a shame he doesn’t cut it when it comes to charity calendars!
Pienaar said: “I’m not in the calendar – I got scared off. There are too many big guys in it. I was in it, but they took me out – like I say, too many big guys!”
Reflecting on his return to Merseyside, he continued: “You never know which way it’s going to go when you come back to a club. They do say, ‘Never go back.’ But I feel comfortable at this club. When I came back, it was like coming home after a vacation. It’s going well for me, and I think the supporters are enjoying it too.”
Re-signing Pienaar was a no-brainer for Everton boss David Moyes. In 14 games back at the club on loan last season, he scored four goals and had six assists.
In that time, Everton lost two league games and their fast start this season has been anything but a surprise to Pienaar, who has now signed a permanent contract.
He said: “Other people might be surprised at how we have started the season because we often do not start well. But it was definitely not a surprise to us. You could see it coming.
“Our form at the end of last season was title-winning form. We have just carried it on, and it’s just been fl owing for us.
“But the game against Sunderland is really important. After four draws in a row, we have to win the game.
“We need to concentrate because we have been conceding early recently and that has really hurt us.
“But our style is changing. We are a lot more attacking now. But when we go forward we know we will score goals, and sometimes we switch off a bit at the back.”
Those draws – at Wigan, QPR, Fulham, and at home to Liverpool – have threatened to put the brakes on.
Everton got off to a flyer in their opener when they beat Manchester United at Goodison, but Pienaar reckons last month’s fightback from two down to draw the Merseyside derby was more important.
Pienaar – who missed that game through suspension – said: “We showed our character in that game. That we could come back from anything and fight.
“We work hard for hard each other and we’ve showed it’s possible to get results doing that. We set ourselves a target of 20 points after 10 games and we’re not far away from that. The Champions League is something that could happen.
“But there will be a time when we’re not playing well and we have to dig out results. We don’t want to get carried away.”
DAVID MOYES believes nobody deserves an England call-up more than Leon Osman.
Goodison boss Moyes thought Everton fans’ favourite Osman had missed out on the Three Lions.
But in a season in which he has consistently caught the eye, the modest 31-year-old is in line for a debut in Wednesday’s friendly against Sweden in Stockholm.
Moyes said: “In the past I thought he was just going to miss out because of the toughcompetition in England’s central midfield.
“A lot depends on how your club side is doing – if it’s doing well it improves people’s chance of getting in the national team .
“I hope he gets a cap because it will be recognition for somebody who has been a really good professional.
“He’s worked hard at his game and been a regular in Everton’s team for 10 years so he deserves it.”
Moyes also revealed: “He was embarrassed when we told him. You can imagine the ribbing he’s been getting here – that he’s changed already and away getting measured for his suit!
“But he’s extremely proud and I’m sure his family will be delighted.
‘‘I hope it will kick him on. He was great for us at Fulham last week.”
Moyes, whose side face Sunderland today, will probably go to the England game if Osman plays, as he did when Wayne Rooney made his international debut while at Everton.
David Moyes has urged Roy Hodgson to complete Leon Osman’s fairytale call up to the England squad by giving him his first cap against Sweden.
Osman’s inclusion in the party that travels to Stockholm next week was greeted with surprise in some quarters but Moyes says there has not been a more deserving footballer to receive the ultimate recognition.
The 31-year-old has been an influential figure for Everton this season and Moyes, whose side face Sunderland at Goodison Park, said: ‘The competition to play in central midfield and other midfield positions for England has been difficult. I hope he gets a chance to get a cap.
'It will be recognition for someone who has been a really good professional, worked hard at his game and been a regular for Everton for 10 years. He is someone who might not get many caps. That’s why I hope he gets this one.
'Ossie will help make England play. He will try to make passes and get people on the ball and maybe England are looking for players who can do that. A lot depends on how you’re club is doing. If they are doing well then it improves your chances of getting into the international team.’
Moyes was thrilled to be able to tell his squad that Osman had been called up on Thursday afternoon and there was genuine delight on the training fields at the club’s Finch Farm headquarters when the manager made his announcement.
Predictably, though, Osman – who is regarded as the joker in Everton’s dressing room – has subsequently had to endure his fair share of ribbing from the rest of the squad, with many telling him “he’s already changed”.
On a serious note, however, Moyes believes Roy Hodgson’s decision to take a belated look at a player whose professional career almost never got off the ground because of a serious cruciate ligament injury vindicates all his hard work.
'I’ve been asked many times in the past about Ossie and England and I’ve always said that I thought he was just going to miss out,' said Moyes. ’I hope he gets a chance to get a cap. It will be recognition for someone who has been a really good professional and worked hard at his game.
'He has been a regular for Everton for 10 years. He is someone who might not get many caps. That’s why I hope he gets one. There hasn’t been a more deserving player to win a cap, in my view. He was embarrassed on when we told him he had been called up and you can imagine the ribbing he got.
'Behind that embarrassment though you can see he is extremely proud and his family are no doubt delighted. I hope it will kick him on again. He played great for us last week (at Fulham). I hope he gets a chance to somehow earn a cap.'
Moyes, who also has Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka in Hodgson's squad, is now considering flying to Stockholm for the game.
'I went to see Wayne (Rooney’s) first (full) game (for England) up at Sunderland,' said Moyes. 'Will I go to see Ossie’s first? I might do. But we at Everton would all feel good to see Ossie play.'
MORE THAN 300 servicemen and women will join the Goodison faithful today to mark Remembrance Day.
Everton has donated tickets to the Armed Forces to demonstrate its support and appreciation of the dedication and commitment displayed by men and women serving in the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.
And the tickets, which were distributed via the Tickets for Troops initiatives, were snapped up by hundreds of keen military personnel.
Tickets for Troops helps to provide free tickets for big events and Everton have pledged tickets to the scheme for the last three years.
Chief executive Robert Elstone said: “This is the time of year that we recognise the magnificent work carried out by the Armed Forces and the donation of tickets is a small way to show them that we respect the sacrifices that they make for our country.”
The club has also invited representatives from each of the Armed Forces to lay poppy wreaths on the centre circle before kick-off and observe a minute’s silence with the Goodison crowd.
Corporal Mike Jones of the Royal Air Force, Colour Sergeant Paul Radcliffe of the British Army and CPO Jack Russell of the Royal Navy, will also be accompanied by Standard Bearers from the British Legion.
As part of the Club’s activity to mark Remembrance Day, the Blues will also wear poppy embroidered shirts for the match against Sunderland and the shirts will be donated to the Royal British Legion after the game.
Earlier this week, Everton in the Community held a special event for ex-servicemen who are taking part in the charity’s groundbreaking health and wellbeing project Inside Right.
The programme is designed to support veterans who are at risk of becoming isolated once they have returned to civilian life, and is backed by leading military charities including the Royal British Legion, Ministry of Defence, the RAF Benevolent Fund, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and Combat Stress, as well as the Football Foundation and Comic Relief.
To find out more about the Inside Right programme, contact Johnnie Garside on 0151 530 5253 or email jonathan.garside@evertonfc,com.
THE demands of European football on a team can be great. Players can feel the strain of long-haul flights and squads can buckle under the weight of playing three times a week.
League form can dip and seasons are at risk of fizzling out because sides struggle to cope with a rigorous schedule.
But the buzz and electricity that comes from a midweek game, under the lights against your peers from the continent, is hard to replicate.
This is Everton’s third season without European competition and its absence is a glaring omission in their calendar.
Not that the manager David Moyes required any more motivation to bring such prestige back to the Blues but watching his former club Celtic, and their uplifting victory over Barcelona on Wednesday night, only served to heighten his desires to experience something similar with Everton once again.
Talk of Champions League qualification is only a whisper at present but after 10 games of the Premier League campaign, Moyes’ men are worthy occupants in the top flight’s first four places.
Everton are playing football at a lofty standard and attracting new admirers by the game.
Understandably, Moyes has often been asked whether this side in his best ever.
The manager’s answer remains an indefinite one given the comparison he must make to the last group of players who out-muscled the establishment and planted themselves in the top four.
Moyes recalls with satisfaction the savvy and experience of the side in 2005 which had the ability to be incredibly effective if not necessarily easy on the eye.
The Everton manager wants to find out if his current crop can also marry mettle and steel to their flair and free flowing play.
If they can, then perhaps they will be his greatest piece of work and lead the Blues on another European campaign.
“I remember when we had European football at Everton and I miss it. It was terrific,” said Moyes. “People say playing Thursday-Sunday-Thursday is difficult, and it is. But I miss that. Everton miss that.
“Our first target is always to be safe and then look whether there’s any chance to be in top 10.
“Qualifying for European football would be great if we could get back to that.
“Only people who can understand what it’s like to play at or be at Celtic on a night like that will know how good it was on Tuesday.
“I see a different type of team now (to the one which qualified for the Champions League).
“That team in ‘05 had the ability to grind it out and could win a big game when it needed to as well. They had a lot of experience.
“The team now is more liable to go and play better and probably create more chances. But the team I have now is a really good side and they are performing well.”
But Moyes still believes there is more to come.
Ahead of Sunderland’s visit to Goodison Park this afternoon, Moyes reflected on the opening 10 games of the league season.
A haul of 17 points has only been bettered by both Manchester clubs and Chelsea whlst their total of 19 goals is one more than the defending champions. But four successive draws, including last weekend’s sickener at Fulham, have left Everton frustrated.
“Our start has been good,” said Moyes.
“But it could have been a bit better. We are probably a little bit disappointed that we aren’t further up the league. We could easily be in a higher position.
“That might be down to a lack of experience at times and maybe just giving away silly goals at silly times like we did at Fulham which cost us all three points.
“I remember the year we got the Champions League we had 22 points after 10 games, so we are nowhere near that.
“We’ve not reached that target, but I’m hoping we can stay up near to the top. It might not always be that way all year.
“The players have been excellent and if they play like they did against Fulham in most weeks then I won’t be complaining too much.
“We are trying to hang in there and I think the big thing is consistency. The team that finished fourth in 2004-05 ground out results and we won a lot of games 1-0 that year, but at the moment we have had a few 2-2s which we could have won 2-1, for example. We need to be a wee bit more ruthless. But what the players are doing just now is admirable.”
DAVID MOYES believes no player has merited an England call-up more than Everton FC midfielder Leon Osman.
Osman has been selected by national boss Roy Hodgson to be part of the squad to face Sweden in Stockholm on Wednesday night, with Moyes hoping the 31-year-old is handed his first Three Lions cap.
The Everton manager believes Osman reaching the England set-up is overdue recognition for the midfielder’s professionalism after nearly a decade of playing top flight football.
Moyes broke the news to the long-serving Blues player at training on Thursday and revealed that Osman has been the butt of some good natured jokes from his proud team-mates ever since. And the Everton boss says making his international debut can help Osman improve his club form even further.
“There hasn’t been a more deserving player to win a cap, in my view,” said Moyes. “He was embarrassed on Thursday when we told him he had been called up and you can imagine the ribbing he has been getting here. Players have been joking that he’s changed already!
“You can see he is extremely proud and his family are no doubt delighted.
“I hope it will kick him on again. I hope he gets a chance to somehow earn a cap.
“I went to see Wayne Rooney’s first game down at West Ham. Will I go to see Ossie’s first? I might do. But we at Everton would all feel good to see Ossie play.”
Moyes has long called for Osman’s inclusion in the England set-up.
And he believes Osman’s consistency, coupled with the manner in which Everton have started this season, has finally convinced an England boss.
“I think a lot depends on how you’re club side is doing,” said Moyes. “If they are doing well then it improves your chances of getting into the international team.
“I’ve been asked many times in the past about Ossie and England and I’ve always said that I thought he was just going to miss out.
“The competition to play in central midfield and other midfield positions for England has been difficult. I hope he gets a chance to get a cap.
“It will be recognition for someone who has been a really good professional, worked hard at his game and been a regular for Everton for 10 years.
“He is someone who might not get many caps. That’s why I hope he gets one.”
Osman is expected to be named in the starting line-up for today’s game with Sunderland – but Moyes will be without Tony Hibbert or Darron Gibson.
Victor Anichebe has joined the list of absentees after picking up a hamstring problem when playing for the reserves last Sunday.
Moyes said: “Hibbo has had a recurrence of his calf strain. He’s back training but he’s not felt right so we are going to get him
“Gibbo has been coming on, but Victor pulled his hamstring in a reserve game last weekend and looks like he will be out for four weeks.”