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Everton FC winger Kevin Mirallas worries David Moyes as injury shows no signs of healing
DAVID MOYES admits he is worried about Everton FC winger Kevin Mirallas – as the Belgian shows no signs of recovering from his ongoing injury problems.
The influential 25-year-old has been dogged by hamstring trouble since joining Everton for £5.5m in the summer, and had to be replaced at half-time during what was supposed to be his come-back against Spurs two weeks ago.
With Marouane Fellaini starting a three-game ban for head-butting Ryan Shawcross today, Moyes would dearly love to have his Belgian compatriot’s goal-threat in his team at West Ham, but instead faces the prospect of having to further bide his time.
He said: “I am worried, yes, especially when you are a quick, fleet-footed player like he is. It is also his first year in the Premier League and there is a little bit of surprise trying to get used to it.
“I also think Christmas can take them by surprise when they come from a different league.
“He got this injury six weeks ago. Sometimes you see some of them who have not been used to the Premier League, playing over this period and then having to get used to playing game after game regularly.
“That can at times be noticeable.”
Mirallas has been sent to renowned German specialists Dr Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt to see if he can identify the problem, something Moyes hopes will bear fruit.
“What we are trying to do is find a way of getting people back quicker,” he said.
“But sometimes with these injuries, you have to give them a bit of time and TLC.”
HANG ON in there - that’s the message from David Moyes to his Everton FC players, as he urges them to stay with the chasing pack over Christmas.
The Blues might not be safely ensconced in the Champions League places for the duration next month, but Moyes believes that by staying in touching distance they can keep their hopes alive.
That thrilling victory over Spurs at Goodison at the start of the month pushed Everton back into the top four, but last weekend’s draw with Stoke saw them slip down to sixth place in the Premier League as an increasing amount of sides fight it out for the European places.
Injuries are beginning to bite into the Toffees’ small squad again with Kevin Mirallas and Tony Hibbert still missing, but Moyes believes his squad’s long ingrained spirit will see them weather their difficulties.
“I think just at the period we're in at the moment we've got to hang on to people's shirt-tails if we can,” says the Scot.
“We could bob in and out of it, like it happened last week but I think we've got to try and hang in there.
“This is quite a difficult period for us, we've come through hard games - if you look we've had Man City, Arsenal, Tottenham ... you're away at Stoke and away at West Ham.
“It's a difficult period we've had and we're still in a pretty good position. I don't think there's anybody looking as if they're really running away with it but it's really important if you can somehow just start to pick up the points.
“The one point's good but we need to start trying to find a few victories out of that.”
Everton’s team-spirit was epitomised by Nikica Jelavic’s enthusiastic high fives for the entire bench after he scored the winner against Spurs, but for Moyes it was merely affirmation of what he has tried to build at Goodison.
“We've got what I call a DNA in here which people see, which is a sort of spirit and a commitment and I think that's something we've had here and its something we're going to need to get us the results,” he says.
“I think they all know it, the players know it, that they've got that ability - when they have to go into their resources they've got bags of Everton character written in there.
“It gives me the confidence that if things weren't going that well we can hopefully go back and use that, if we need to go into that and use it.
“But I've got to look at what's happened in the past and Everton's record in the last few years has meant that we've tended to do quite well in the second half of the season.
“People ask about getting off to a good start, and I try to say well maybe Everton finish where they finish.”
Moyes is still dearly hoping his men can repeat the achievement of their 2005 predecessors who started well and kept it going.
“The one real good year we had we got off to a good start and were able to maintain it,” he says.
“I think really we're hoping for that season to fall rather than get a good start and a bad finish which might be just a flip of what we've done in recent seasons.
“So hopefully the one real good season we've had we got fourth, we started well and it gave us a chance of maintaining it.”
The Blues boss is a renowned meticulous planner, but nevertheless he is not setting his side a points total target to realise their ambitions.
“Not really,” he says. “Because the way the Premier League has been at the moment it’s so tight, and there could quite easily be somebody in 15th or 16th who comes on a run, wins three or four games and is suddenly in the mix.
“61 points (in 2005) last time was one of the lowest figures to get in.
“I genuinely haven't looked at the figures to see what might be needed.
“Because realistically we're not directly going for fourth place, we're going to try and finish in a European spot, that's what I'm hoping we might do.”
Moyes admits there is more pressure on other clubs to finish fourth than on the Blues.
“That's why when you talk about Arsenal and Tottenham and Liverpool - Newcastle are in there as well, you have to give West Brom a lot of credit for the way they're going.
“You'd have to say there's probably three or four of those teams their names might spring to fourth before Everton's would.
“But hopefully we've something to go to this year as well, there's a real something for the players to attain, to hang in and not get yourself too far out of it.”
DAVID MOYES has called for clarity on ‘grappling’ between players in the box.
The topic has come under the spotlight in the past few days following the Toffees’ 1-1 Premier League draw at Stoke last Saturday, during which there were several notable moments where their midfielder Marouane Fellaini came together with Potters captain Ryan Shawcross in the hosts’ area as they jostled for position at set-pieces.
In one incident not spotted by referee Mark Halsey at the time, Fellaini floored Shawcross with a headbutt, something for which the Belgium international apologised after the contest and was then handed a three-game suspension by the Football Association in a retrospective punishment.
In his apology, Fellaini made reference to “a lot of pushing and pulling going on inside the Stoke penalty area”, adding that he did not feel he was getting any protection from the match officials.
His team-mate Sylvain Distin has subsequently expressed frustration at what he described as “wrestling” by Potters players, suggesting a lack of consistency from officials on incidents in the box.
Asked if “grappling” in the area was something that needs to be dealt with, Moyes said: “It is not part of the game and the only people who can stamp it out are the referees.
“It is for them to sort out, not us. If they think grappling is okay, then they need to tell us all because then we will all do it and make it harder for people to move or run in the box.
“It has to be the same for everybody – if grappling is allowed, we all have to be allowed to do it.”
Everton, who take on 11th-placed West Ham at Upton Park today , slipped from fourth to sixth in the table having been held to the draw at the Britannia Stadium.
With them only being beaten twice in the league so far this season, though, overall it has been yet another impressive campaign for the Toffees under Moyes, their manager for more than a decade.
The 49-year-old has often been touted for other major jobs in English football, and he indicated he would indeed be interested in working away from Goodison Park in the future – but with a German club.
“I’m one of these people who always likes to try to keep learning in the game if I can, and not just think that the job is easy - and it never is easy,” Moyes said.
“I have mentioned Germany because I think at the moment Germany is one of the up-and-coming countries.
“I think their teams are doing very well and that their games are full every week.
“So it is maybe something for the future, but not for just now.”
Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill is ready to make a cheeky inquiry for Everton’s veteran centre half Sylvain Distin.
O’Neill wants the French defender’s steadying influence for his survival fight and hopes to exploit the fact that his Goodison deal is running out.
Distin is still one of the classier performers in his position in the top flight and O’Neill would offer a low fee and a decent contract to tempt him back to the north east.
The Black Cats chief is not worried about Distin playing for Newcastle United a decade ago - and is only focusing on his ability to sort out his defence.
Everton boss David Moyes is keen to keep Distin and would be a reluctant seller.
The Toffees would rather trade some of their fringe men to raise funds.
But if O’Neill can put a long-term deal on the table for the player he could pull off the coup - one of four he intends to complete in the market.
David Moyes fears hothead Marouane Fellaini's ban for his mad moment at Stoke could have a huge impact on Everton's season.
And the frustrated Blues boss has revealed that is why he has laid down the law to the Belgian, by making clear in no uncertain terms just how costly the act of stupidity in headbutting Ryan Shawcross could be.
"If I'm honest, I'm not sure if we will cope without Felli - that's why it was such a big miss to lose him," the disappointed boss conceded.
"We don't have loads of solutions to fix it. People shouldn't be surprised if we aren't able to solve it."
Fellaini starts a three match suspension when he misses Saturday's visit to West Ham, and he is also ruled out of the games against Wigan and Chelsea over the crucial Christmas period.
With the big Belgian so central to Everton's tactical approach, Moyes knows his absence may dent the team's hopes of a top four finish, with the manager admitting they will somehow have to "cling on to the coat tails" of their rivals until the midfielder returns.
"I have spoken to him a few times about it. I said at the time that I had felt he had let us down and that hasn't changed. He let a lot of people down," Moyes added.
"We need him, this is a busy time of the season where you do pick up injuries and suspensions. Things will happen - you may get a sending off.
"But you can't do what he has done. He knows he has done wrong - 100 per cent. He is a good boy, a good lad. He is aware that he has got it wrong."
Moyes will also be without his other influential Belgian Kevin Mirallas, with the Blues boss revealing the striker has visited top German doctor Hans Muller Wolfhart, in an attempt to cure a debilitating hamstring problem.
And he explained there is nothing alarming in the visit. "It's standard practice. They sometimes have their own advisors and we would always use our own.
"What we are trying to do is find a way of getting people back quicker. But sometimes with these injuries, you have to give them a bit of time and TLC.
"I am worried about the problem, yes, especially when you are a quick, fleet-footed player like he is. He got this injury six weeks ago. Sometimes you see some of them who have not been used to the Premier League, playing over this period and then having to get used to playing game after game regularly. That can at times be noticeable."
Moyes does at least have his skipper Phil Neville back to lead the side at Upton Park, and Victor Anichebe also returns.