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Stoke City (A) Wed 4 Mar 2015, 19:45, Barclays Premier League


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Liverpool Echo

WITH long-overdue England recognition finally secured, his displays earning widespread acclaim and even a comparison to Barcelona magician Andres Iniesta – Leon Osman could be forgiven for declaring the 2012/13 season a personal success already.

Don’t expect to hear that sentiment any time soon from the midfielder, however.

The 31-year-old, who celebrates a decade as an Everton player in Saturday’s Premier League visit of Swansea City, won’t feel content until he has fulfilled one burning ambition.

For a one-club man who is as immersed in the Blues as any supporter, Osman craves the chance to get his hands on a trophy and is spurred on by the fear that it won’t happen before he hangs up his boots.

Not since lifting the FA Youth Cup back in 1998 has Osman got lifted some silverware.

The decision of David Moyes to field a strong starting line-up for Monday’s FA Cup third round rout of League Two side Cheltenham Town sent out a significant statement of intent that Everton are serious in their attempts to end a trophy drought that stretches back to 1995.

But for Osman, who was part of the Everton team that were beaten in the 2009 FA Cup final against Chelsea and lost to neighbours Liverpool in the semi-final last season, that honour can’t come soon enough.

“It is getting greater,” says Osman, who scored a typically refined solo strike at Whaddon Road. “You can’t play forever, so it’s something I’m desperately hungry to achieve – to win a trophy at this club, for this club, for the fans and myself.

“I want to be a part of that and although I wouldn’t like to say time’s running out I’m not getting any younger and I need to achieve it sooner rather than later.

“You’d rather get closer than further away and we’ve been developing as a team and are finding a way to win games now. We drew a lot at the start of the season but we’re finding a way to get the wins now which should put us in good stead.

“The test will be if we can sustain it. In the past we’ve managed it for the second half of the season but we’ve had a reasonably good start to the second part of the season and hopefully we can maintain it.

“We hope we have the depth to do it. We’ll need to have some luck in keeping our key players injury free.”

Osman will make his 357th appearance for Everton this weekend, a Goodison career that took time to take off with the Billinge-born player’s development hampered by a serious knee injury suffered after the Youth Cup success.

The midfielder scored in the first leg of the 5-3 aggregate success over Blackburn Rovers but would have to wait almost five years before his first team bow as a late substitute in a 4-3 Premier League defeat at Tottenham Hotspur in January 2003.

Osman had not long returned from an encouraging a loan spell at Carlisle United, and it was after a similar stint at Derby County the following season that he marked his first Everton start with a goal after just three minutes in a 2-1 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers in May 2004.

And Ray Hall, Everton’s former academy chief and responsible for developing Osman during his youth, never had any doubts Osman would succeed.

“People talk about Leon having made his debut 10 years ago,” says Hall. “No he didn’t – he made his debut for Everton 20 years ago for our under-11s.

“He’s been here longer than almost every other member of staff. That says something about the kind of quality and character of the man. Everton has been his club, still is his club and will always be his club.

“I think the academy system is all about players like Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert. Players who are local, players who have got an obvious ability and players that have got a desire to want to improve every year that they are playing the game.

“I don’t think I have worked with anyone with the same technical qualities as Leon, and that includes players like Wayne (Rooney). He is the most naturally gifted, two-footed player that I have worked with.

“Because of his size, you wouldn’t say he is the quickest player in the world. He is not the strongest or most powerful, so he kind of goes against the grain. Yet, he has got better and better throughout his career.

“Leon must be so difficult to play against because once he has got the ball he is hard to shake off it.

“He is one of the modern era midfielders like you find in the Spanish national team or Barcelona who are on the small side but keep possession ever so well.”

Everton’s excellent 2-1 New Year win at Newcastle United maintained their challenge for Champions League qualification with Moyes’s men having taken nine points from 12 over the festive period to move within three points of third-placed Tottenham Hotspur in fifth place.

They are aiming for a league double over Swansea City after a 3-0 romp at the Liberty Stadium in September and will hope the Welsh side are distracted by their Capital One Cup and FA Cup commitments against Chelsea and Arsenal.

Like Osman, Leighton Baines found the target at Cheltenham on Monday, the first time in his career he had scored in successive games following his blistering strike in the 2-1 win at Newcastle United last Wednesday.

And, in the week Lionel Messi was named Ballon d’Or winner, Osman believes there’s no doubt who’d claim the accolade if it was restricted to left-back.

“Bainesy would win it,” added the England international. “He’s been performing outstandingly well for many years now and think he’s pretty much made himself the first choice left-back for England. In fact, he’s incredible.”

Liverpool Echo

HOLLAND U-21 international defender Virgil van Dijk has revealed that Everton FC are interested in luring him to Goodison Park.

The 21-year-old Groningen centre-half insists a number of Premier League clubs are closely monitoring him with a view to a £1.3m January swoop, and he refused to rule out a switch to the Toffees.

David Moyes is keen to boost his defensive options, with the future of John Heitinga still tinged with uncertainty, and van Dijk would be a cheaper option than his other target – £4m-rated Norway international Vegard Forren.

“I know certain clubs are following me and that Everton are one of them,” Van Dijk said.

“I have heard and read a lot about it and after the winter training camp I will sit down with my agent Henk-Maarten Chin and catch up with where we stand.

“Of course I am flattered by the interest, but I have to make sure I make the best choice for my future career.”

However Groningen, who play in the Dutch top flight, claim they have no intention of selling during the current window.

General director Hans Nijland said: “I don’t expect Virgil to leave.

“No clubs have made official contact with us regarding a possible deal and therefore we don’t need to talk about it.”

Whie van Dijk may well remain on Everton’s radar, they have not made a bid for Tottenham midfielder Jake Livermore despite reports yesterday.

It had been reported that Spurs had rebuffed an Everton attempt to take the promising starlet on loan because they view the Blues as Champions League rivals, but Moyes has not been in contact with the Londoners.

The Sun

SYLVAIN DISTIN is set to become the latest Everton star to commit his future to the club.

The French centre-back has just six months left on his current contract and talks have been going on for a month.

Now Distin, 35, is expected to sign a 12-month extension in the next few days, joining Phil Jagielka and Seamus Coleman as the latest first-team player to sign a new deal.

Daily Mail

Sunderland are continuing their search for a defender and have added FC Groningen's Virgil van Dijk, 21, and Kader Mangane, 29, of Al Hilal to their list of targets.

Van Dijk also has interest from Newcastle and Everton, but Martin O'Neill is hoping to hold off the competition.

'I'm aware of the interest of a few clubs and Everton is one of them', Van Dijk told Voetbal International.

'I hear and read a lot. Soon I have dinner with my agent Henk-Maarten Chin. He will tell me how things are going.

'I enjoy the interest, but if I leave it must be a good decision when I leave.'

Daily Mail

Everton chairman Bill Kenwright will sit down with David Moyes over a cup of tea and map out the club’s future.

The pair, who have worked together for over a decade, are thrilled by the club’s form and now have their sights on some silverware.

Moyes has yet to sign a new contract, and the pair are expected to discuss the matter when the time is right.

Meanwhile, they are focusing on bolstering Everton’s squad in the January transfer window, with Wigan and Republic of Ireland midfielder James McCarthy, 22, among their targets.

Daily Mirror

Jack Butland has told his bosses at cash-strapped Birmingham that he will only move on for first team football.

The troubled Championship side have a plan to sell the £6million-rated keeper this month to raise funds and stave off administration.

But the England international is playing regularly for Blues and is reluctant to leave if it means sitting on another club's bench.

Liverpool, Everton, Southampton and Fulham are all interested in the 6ft 4in teenager, who kept goal for Great Britain at last year's Olympic Games.

Butland, 19, is hoping to join Liverpool if boss Brendan Rodgers sells Pepe Reina, who's been linked with Arsenal, this month.

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