The views on this page are taken from the local and national media and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton.
STEVEN PIENAAR could deliver a crushing blow to Everton’s Champions League push by making a U-turn with South Africa.
Pienaar, 30, quit international football this year to concentrate on his club career with the Merseyside club.
But the winger is expected to hold talks with South African FA officials, who are keen for him to make a comeback on home soil in next month’s African Nations Cup.
IT WOULDN’T be the first time David Moyes has harnessed surplus talent at Sir Alex Ferguson’s stable and revitalised a career. He knows his acquisitions arrive with the equivalent of a footballing Kite mark, blessed with “good habits, a winning mentality and a great deal of professionalism”, as the Everton manager articulates it.
When, in January, Moyes added Darron Gibson to his list of distinguished Old Trafford old boys including Phil Neville and Tim Howard, he cannot have been certain how the Ulsterman would respond to the new regime.
Though the Everton manager concedes that the midfielder needs “a jab with a whip now and again”, Gibson has emerged as a character whose impact has been hailed by teammates, and the Everton faithful, too.
The former United youth player of the year, a man whose fearsome strikes had once encouraged Ferguson to compare him with Paul Scholes, had invested nearly eight years, a third of his life, at Old Trafford. Asked how much of a wrench it had been departing United, he says: “It would have been if you’d asked me a year before I left, but at the time I was happy to move on. I wasn’t getting anywhere.”
Lack of regular games induced self-doubts. One of Gibson’s finest performances, graced by a goal, was in the 4-1 Champions League defeat of Schalke in May 2011. He didn’t make another appearance that season. “You do think to yourself, ‘What’s going on?’ ” he recalls. “But that’s the way football is. If people like you, you play, if people don’t fancy you, you don’t play.”
At Goodison, he is definitely fancied. From “a bit-part player, when your confidence isn’t the best, I’ve been playing consistently here, which I wasn’t before,” he says. “It’s like playing a computer game. The more you do it, the better you’re going to get. I think the more competitive games you play you get used to the pressure and to the pace and your fitness improves.”
One of his first acts was the goal that beat Manchester City, a result that became the start of a trend. When Gibson plays Everton don’t lose. The only possible exception to that rule was this season’s defeat at West Brom, although the scores were level when Gibson was substituted with a thigh problem; an injury from which he has recovered to reinforce midfield in the draws with Arsenal and Manchester City, form he needs continue if his team is to overcome a powerful Tottenham at Goodison this afternoon.
The demanding Moyes believes there is more to be extracted from his January purchase. “He’s done well for us, he really has, but I look at him and say, ‘I’ve somehow got to get more out of him’. He can offer more. He needs to become more influential, look to control games, be the main man.” The Everton manager adds: “I said at the start he could do with the whip a little bit. Like whipping a horse, he needs a jab with a whip now and again to get him going.”
Moyes would also like to see the 25-year-old back playing for the Republic of Ireland. For the moment, Gibson’s international future is in abeyance. Having been a non-playing substitute at the European Championships, Gibson pulled out of manager Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic squad for first World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan in early September, citing his disappointment at his non-participation in Poland and Ukraine. He has not played since.
Asked about the likelihood of being in Trapattoni’s squad for the next qualifier, in Sweden on March 16, he says: “I can’t give you any answers. I’m not ready to make a decision.” He adds quietly: “I’m quite stubborn, to be honest — that’s probably my downfall.”
MAROUANE FELLAINI last night pledged his future to Everton.
The Belgian midfielder is on a red-hot scoring streak of five goals in five games and has eight so far this season.
Fuzzy-haired Fellaini is under contract until 2016 but has been linked with a January move and mega-rich trio Chelsea, Manchester City and Paris St Germain are all in the frame.
Everton host Spurs today and are dreaming of a return to Europe for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
Fellaini, 25, said: “My head is exclusively with Everton — I’m saying nothing about all the rumours.
“Although I’m happy to be praised for my performances, my future is with Everton.
“I’m on a good run and I want that to continue against Spurs.
“We are playing well enough to fight for a European place, even the Champions League, but we must retain this rhythm all season.
“It won’t be easy but we want to do it — our fans deserve to have some more big European nights.
“I am pleased with my current form. There’s no secret to it — it’s a combination of luck, work and good positioning in the penalty area.
“I do what the forwards do... and score goals!”
Team-mate Steven Pienaar is backing Fellaini to stay.
Pienaar said: “He’s enjoying his game and is clever enough not to go. There’s a lot of speculation but he’s still contracted to the club.”
But the big question is — will Fellaini ever trim his hair?
He added: “I’m not thinking about changing my style for years.
“I get many letters from fans asking about my hair and requests about how they should care for their own hair.”
Toffees fans can rest assured that with Fellaini it is a case of hair today, here tomorrow...
DAVID MOYES admits he has to crack the whip to put some life into Darron Gibson – but wants the ex-Manchester United midfielder to become a star man at Everton.
Gibson, 25, joined the Toffees in January from United after failing to nail down a regular spot in Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
Life at Goodison Park started brightly for the Republic of Ireland international as he led Everton to a late-season surge up the table.
A thigh injury has kept him out for three months of this campaign but Moyes wants him to win over the fans by becoming a leader on the pitch ahead of today’s clash with Tottenham.
Moyesie told the Daily Star Sunday: “I think he has the ability but there is a bit more to his game that he can offer.
“He needs a jab of the whip now and again to get going. I think Gibbo just needs to realise if you think leaving Manchester United meant life would be easier, it’s going to be much harder. He needs to become more influential in games. He needs to take control more.
“At times he does not take it by the scruff of the neck and become the main man.”
Moyes also wants the Derry-born midfielder to impress for Everton and end his self-imposed international exile.
The Toffees chief said: “He is a young boy with a big future, he should also be a key player for Ireland. That is something he should work for.”
Everton manager David Moyes owns up to being a fan of ‘unplayable’ Gareth Bale – and admits he’ll be happy to not see him lining up at Goodison Park today.
The Spurs winger is struggling to shake off a hamstring injury and Moyes acknowledges that is a boost for his team in the clash of Champions League contenders.
Moyes said: “I hope he’s still missing. It wouldn’t be a disaster at all for us if he didn’t play.
“Gareth Bale is an outstanding talent. He’s got something different – his movement, his speed, his ability, now, to score.
“And he’s still improving.
“I don’t want to say he’s one of the best talents worldwide because sometimes we have blinkers on. There are a lot of good talents in a lot of leagues around the world.
“But he is certainly one of the best in our league and he can be unplayable.
“We’ve tended to do quite well against him with Phil Neville and Seamus Coleman, but his role has changed slightly.
“He’s found himself coming off the line a bit more, he’s not tied down as much. So, instead of dribbling and beating you off the touchline, he can do it in the middle of the field, where there are bigger spaces to run.”
Everton’s Marouane Fellaini has also been described by some as ‘unplayable’ this season and Moyes is content for the Belgian to be attracting attention – even if it is from other clubs.
“It’s not as though you can miss him!” the Everton boss reasoned.
“But we want that. Everton want to have big players who can handle the mantle and take it on, so that the supporters have someone to look up to and talk about.
“He wasn’t mad on the role when we moved him up off the main striker, but I think he’s enjoying scoring goals, getting the recognition of the fans and seeing his name in the papers.
“He’s saying, ‘I’m having a bit of this’. He’s intimidating defences because he’s so difficult to play against.
“How do they mark him and pick him up?
“They have problems dealing with him. But then we’ve got a lot of good players and good players want to be successful and be involved at the top end of the league and in cups and the major European competitions. It’s a responsibility for all of us to make sure we challenge at the top end and if you do that the payers are more than content.”
Moyes will be looking to Fellaini and his team-mates to measure themselves against rivals for the fourth Champions League place this afternoon.
He said: “I think that spot is open to six clubs. It could be open to Newcastle, Liverpool, Spurs, West Brom and I’d hope Everton as well. Spurs will definitely be one of them. They wouldn’t be out of place in the Champions League with their squad. We’ll need to be good to get a result.
“They’ve got players who can cause you problems.
“But they’ll have concerns trying to deal with Everton, as well. They’ll know coming to Goodison is a really tough game.”
Sam Allardyce admits that he is powerless to keep Mohamed Diame at West Ham.
Diame has a release clause in his Hammers contract that allows him to leave for just £3.5million.
The Senegal international moved to Upton Park on a free transfer from Wigan and has proved to be one of the signings of the summer.
But the 25-year-old midfielder is still available for a bargain price, which has prompted interest from Newcastle, Everton and Arsenal.
Everton intend to push ahead with a move for striker Dieumerci Mbokani. David Moyes is a long-term admirer of the 27-year-old frontman, who is valued at £7million.
KEVIN KILBANE is to retire from professional football.
The 35-year-old midfielder, who 110 caps for the Republic of Ireland, has managed just 12 appearances since signing for Coventry in the summer.
Kilbane played for Preston, West Brom, Sunderland, Everton, Wigan and Hull.