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PHIL JAGIELKA has warned that when Nikica Jelavic rediscovers his goal scoring touch then Everton FC will be a force to be reckoned with.
Jelavic has found the net just once in the last eight league games with Marouane Fellaini leading the way for the Blues this season with eight goals.
But Jagielka is unconcerned by the Croatian striker’s difficult run and believes it is only a matter of time before the 27-year-old is back in the type of form which saw him plunder 11 goals after joining the club from Rangers in January.
Such dips are normal says Jagielka, who uses the example of how a pair of Newcastle United strikers have continued to share the scoring burden at St James’ Park over the last year.
And the Blues stand-in captain believes that when Jelavic is back amongst the goals then it will give Everton’s bid to qualify for the Champions League a major shot in the arm.
“Everything was working for him when he came and now the person who is playing up front with him – Felli – everything is coming off for him,” said Jagielka.
“Look up at Newcastle, Demba Ba was on fire then Papiss Cisse came and Ba didn’t score. This season it is the opposite way round, that is the way cycles go.
“We’d love to have both Felli and Jela firing on all cylinders but it’s not like Jela is getting into four or five good positions and missing easy chances every game.
“It is just not breaking for him.
“He knows we’re supporting him and he’ll get frustrated on the days it doesn’t happen but we know he’ll come good. And, at the moment we’re doing ok without his goals so when he does hit the ground running again he’ll make us even stronger.”
And having backed Jelavic to return to his best, Jagielka believes he is still working towards what he considers his most pleasing period at Everton.
“I had a little spell before I got injured when I was younger, which I would put up their with my best periods of form,” said Jagielka.
“I was playing alongside Jo (Joleon Lescott) and we were getting through to the FA Cup final and that season was where I felt most confident.
“I feel like I’m getting back to being there.”
Jagielka has suffered two knee injuries in his Goodison career and just hopes to remain fit and healthy.
“My knees have been feeling better than they have been for a while and so I do feel in a good state of mind everytime I go into a game, touch wood,” he added.
“It has only been 15 games so once we get through Christmas and the New Year and if my form is still up there then I will be able to look at it better.”
Jagielka was speaking at EA Sports’ Need for Speed challenge event, held at Finch Farm yesterday
STEVEN PIENAAR has been urged to reconsider his international retirement – after being labelled ‘selfish’ and ‘egotistical’ for quitting South Africa.
The Everton play-maker announced his decision to step down from national football in October, saying trying to balance club and country football was proving too difficult.
Pienaar’s decision to stop playing for South Africa means he will miss the Africa Cup of Nations in his home country in January. Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, chairman of the Local Organising Committee, pleaded with Pienaar to change his mind after launching a stinging criticism of the 30-year-old, who used to captain his country.
“I would say to [Steven Pienaar], he must remember that he came from the ghettos in South Africa and he became a national player because the South African FA identified him and developed him to be where he was,” said Nonkonyana.
“He would not have gone to England unless he had some international caps.
"I hope he is listening to me. My plea is for him to reconsider and join the national team.”
Of the decision of Pienaar – and Ghana’s Michael Essien who has been asked to be excused from the tournament – he added: “It cannot be right for any player produced [in Africa] to say I prefer my club
“That is selfishness in my view; it is very egotistical. It is time to instil in every player national pride.”
He went onto say: "It is time now for players to be proud of their own nations. The gentlemen we are talking about, they are megastars now as a direct result of the contribution of their national associations," he said.
"For them to disclaim their own national associations, their own country, it is something we cannot smile about. It is a pity they have decided that way.”
DAVID MOYES remains unsure if Everton FC have the strength in depth to sustain a challenge for Champions League qualification, but performances against Arsenal and Manchester City have shown him the Blues can match the best in the division.
Saturday's well-deserved 1-1 draw with reigning champions Manchester City came just three days after the Blues superiority was not rewarded with a win against Arsene Wenger's side.
Moyes felt that with a full complement of attacking options, Everton may even have been strong enough to have taken maximum points in both of those games, but the manager was nevertheless satisfied to have picked up draws with Arsenal a team who have enjoyed 15 years of successive Champions League football and City, a team with designs on becoming a real force in Europe's top club competition.
But the Everton boss knows that although points against the leading sides are welcome, his side must cut out being pegged back from winning positions as they have done at times this season.
"I think that's the way we have been playing, we wanted to go and try and make a challenge," said Moyes.
"I think the game against Arsenal as much as this one against Manchester City shows we can have a go.
"Whether well ever have enough to be right amongst those teams when it comes to it (I don't know) but were not a million miles off them on a Saturday, so we can be quite close to them.
"We should have had more points. It's not been Saturday's point or the point against Arsenal, it's a couple of games before that where we've let winning positions slip to draw them. It's very rare it's been coming back from a losing position to draw, it's winning positions we've let slip."
Although the talk is of Everton strengthening the squad in January, the form and fitness of those currently at the club is of greater importance.
Defender Phil Jagielka, who captained the side at the weekend in the absence of Phil Neville, has been in excellent form so far this season and Moyes believes the former Sheffield United man has qualities other English centre-halves do not have.
"He has been good all season in the main but in the last eight weeks in particular he's been exceptional," said the Everton manager.
"I don't know where he's at I think there are some great English centre halves, Terry, Ferdinand but Jags has got something that not all of them have got. He's got great recovery, really good speed which sometimes goes unnoticed and he'll throw himself in front of things, I think he did that with a Dzeko shot in the second half on Saturday.
"He's a good all round defender."