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EVERTON have been dealt a huge blow after it was revealed Tim Howard is facing at least a month on the sidelines with two broken bones in his back.
The USA international goalkeeper suffered the injury in a collision during the victory over Oldham in the previous round of the FA Cup, and Jan Mucha will deputise for him against Wigan Athletic in today’s quarter final.
Howard’s complaint is similar to that of Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini who has been ruled out for between three and seven weeks.
David Moyes hopes his first-choice goalkeeper has an outside chance of being fit to return for the home clash with Stoke City on March 30, but is taking nothing for granted with the painful nature of the injury.
He said: “We don't think he will be out for the season. We are not sure how long he will be out because obviously with a goalkeeper he has to dive around and hit the ground. He did incredibly well to finish the Oldham game.
“It might be if everything goes well, he could miss next week's game as well but then because of the international break he might be close after the rest because that would be four weeks.”
“It is similar to Coloccini. He has two fractures, but they are not the bones which are supporting anything, it is off the spine. They are not weight bearing. It just needs a bit of healing time.
“It is not like a pure fracture where need to wait to look at it. It is a question of whether he can cope with the pain.
“The bones will heal themselves. It's not good.”
Moyes has given Howard, some time off as he recovers from the painful set-back, and the Scot is still angry about the challenge by Oldham forward Robbie Simpson which has ruled the shot-stopper out of a pivotal phase in Everton’s season.
“I thought he took him out when the goalkeeper jumped for the ball. He went under him.
When Tim fell he toppled over him like a tree,” he said.
“I have let him go away for a few days. We can't get an emergency loan in for the FA Cup.”
Everton are unable to sign any emergency cover for Howard in the FA Cup, with Mucha in line to start his second consecutive game and 18-year-old Mason Springthorpe, a £125,000 capture from Shrewsbury two years ago, as back-up.
Howard, who remains just two games short of equalling Neville Southall's club record of 212 consecutive league appearances, played the remaining nine minutes of the Oldham replay after breaking the bones.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND manager Giovanni Trapattoni has left Everton midfielder Darron Gibson out of his provisional29-man squad for this month’s World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria.
Gibson began a self-imposed international exile following the disappointment of not featuring in last year’s European Championships and was not named in the squad for the crucial qualification double-header on March 22 in Stockholm and four days later in Dublin.
Aston Villa defender Richard Dunne is left out as he struggles to recover from a groin injury, but Everton’s Seamus Coleman and Stoke’s Marc Wilson have been included, as has Reading defender Stephen Kelly despite his public fall-out with Trapattoni in the aftermath of last month’s 2-0 friendly win against Poland.
Trapattoni revealed he has spoken with Gibson but the 25-year-old is not yet ready to make his international return.
“I was in touch with him and he said that he is still not ready,” Trapattoni said.
“I saw him in the last game and I told him that I was there but he said that he didn’t want the controversy and he wanted to stay so I respect his decision.”
When the Italian was asked if Gibson could return in the future, Trapattoni said: “Why not? He’s a good player and I won’t forget him.”
Norwich’s uncapped midfielder Anthony Pilkington is retained from the squad which faced Poland and West Brom’s Shane Long is also included despite worries over an ankle injury.
Bolton midfielder Keith Andrews misses out due to an Achilles problem but Wilson is included despite only having played two games for Stoke in his comeback from four months out with a broken leg.
LEIGHTON BAINES was at Wembley to see the last Everton team to win the FA Cup – and believes his current Blues side would have the edge.
But if Baines and his team-mates are going to be remembered the same way as Joe Royle’s Wembley heroes, they must emulate the class of ‘95 and become winners.
“I still remember going to the 1995 cup final and I’d fancy our chances against that team, no disrespect to them,” said Baines, who will line up against his old Wigan team at Goodison Park in today’s quarter-final.
“They had a good team then and we’ve got a good team now, but they will be remembered because of what they achieved and that surpasses anything.
“If anyone wants to stake a claim to being better than them well then prove it because they went there and did it and unless we do that we can’t talk about being better than them.
“If you don’t achieve anything then you are not going to get remembered.”
Everton face Wigan in their third FA Cup quarter-final appearance in five years, having reached the final in 2009 and the last four 12 months ago.
Losing to Liverpool at Wembley last April was a painful experience but Baines said it provided added motivation.
“It is hard to explain because losing a semi-final is a blow and to lose to your biggest rivals made it worse,” he added.
“It took a while to get past it and we were probably licking our wounds for a little bit but we are stronger for it and we don’t want that feeling again. You draw on those experiences and emotions and use them as motivation.
“I think you should look back on those occasions because it brings back the hunger to get there again.
“You have to have it in the back of your mind at this stage to spur you on.”
Baines faces his former club having scored three times – all penalties – in his last eight outings against them and is looking forward to the occasion at Goodison Park.
“Wigan is always going to be special for me,” he said.
“Not only did they give me my chance but we had success in that period because we were in League One when I came through and to rise and end up in the Premier League is something I’ll always look back on fondly.”
While Baines is still waiting for his silverware at Everton since leaving Wigan in 2007, manager David Moyes marks his 11th anniversary at the club next week having not yet managed to break his trophy duck.
“It is the one thing that is missing for him and the club,” said Baines.
“The manager has been at the club for a lengthy spell and silverware would cap what has been a good spell for him.
“For the club it has also been too long.”
Moyes also believes his side’s recent near-misses in the cup have allowed them to become more effective in knockout competition.
“I think we are getting a team who are maybe finding a goal to win the games,” he said.
“I couldn’t turn around and say any of my cup performances have made me go ‘wow, that was a great performance’ but in a cup competition the most important thing is you get through.
“I think over recent years we have started to get a little bit closer to the final numbers in this competition and we will try to do so again this weekend.
“To get close to these things you have to be in a position to win the games and we have a chance with a home tie, which we have to make the most of.”
AT AJAX, where John Heitinga was soimmaculately schooled as a young footballer, they are rarely short on self-belief.
One of the famous Amsterdam club’s mottos is ‘de Godenzonen - the sons of the Gods – and for most of Heitinga’s career he may have felt touched by celestial greatness.
The 29-year-old has played for top clubs in his homeland and Spain, represented the Netherlands in a World Cup final, and was once voted Dutch footballer of the year.
Yet Heitinga’s form this season would perhaps have even the most confident of players questioning themselves.
One jarring low point came at Wigan’s DW Stadium, when the defender’s inability to deal with Arouna Kone’s pace saw him hooked off by David Moyes at half time. Further car-crash performances ensued.
But as Wigan (and their speedy Ivorian striker) arrive in town as the opposition for Everton’s biggest game of the season – can Heitinga cope with being thrust back into the frame?
“Heitinga will be able to handle it,” says his manager ahead of this lunch-time’s crunch FA Cup quarter final clash.
“He can handle most things, very few things bother him. He is one of those boys that can brush it off quite quickly andmove on.
“I’m not concerned because John has massive experience. His knowledge and understanding of the game is excellent. We are talking about a very experienced player.
“There have been times when he has been very good. He started the season very well. He is a very confident player which is something that really helps you as well.
“He will be given the opportunity to show what he can do.”
Moyes is certainly expecting nothing less than a stern test from the Latics, despite their manager’s suggestion last week that he may field a weakened side at Goodison today.
“I have to assume that Wigan will come and play their best team. But I understand Roberto’s position,” says Moyes.
“If you give him now the choice of an FA Cup final or finishing fourth from bottom in the Premier League, I know which one he would take.”
Moyes has his split ambitions when it comes to silverware and Premier League progress - but he is aware that Everton’s lack of trophies in the last 20 years remains a shadow over the club.
“At Everton there’s a question over whether we can win a trophy,” he says.
“We have to live with those questions, and they’re right. Can we? Hopefully we’re getting closer but we’ve still not done it yet.
“This is our third quarter final in a few years, we’ve been to two semi finals, so I think we’re improving as a cup team.
“We understand the importance of this game, no doubt.”
Moyes has been keen to keep his players focused only on the task of defeating Martinez’s men, with thoughts of Wembley at bay.
And he warns that playing the competition’s semi-final at Wembley – the prize on offer to this afternoon’s victors – can be a mixed blessing.
Moyes said: “You’ve got to remember if you get through that you’re only getting to a semi-final – not a final – even though it’s at Wembley. We’re in a quarter final but there’s a lot of work to be done and we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves.
“You can’t start thinking that whatever game you’re playing becomes the final.”
Moyes has already admitted that the current run of home fixtures for his side will be pivotal, but he suspects every game has the possibility of being definitive as the season progresses.
“The defining games are coming thick and fast and it’s like that for a lot of teams,” says the Scot.
“Wigan might be thinking the next league game is a defining game.
“We’re nearly thinking every game is massive. A win propels us forward or a defeat makes it much harder.
“But we’re fighting very hard in two competitions at this time of the season and that’s a big plus.”
Back on Heitinga’s day to forget in Wigan, the Blues needed a late Leighton Baines penalty to salvage a 2-2 draw, while strikes from Leon Osman and Phil Jagielka helped secure a narrow 2-1 victory in the return fixture on Boxing Day.
Everton are unbeaten in nine games against their visitors, but Moyes knows they can cause his men problems.
“As everybody is well aware, we’ve played Wigan twice already this season so we know each other quite well,” he says.
“The games were close and we know that it is not going to be much different.
“They are a good football team and he [Martinez] has tried to make sure they pass the ball well. He has varied his teams and formations recently but, overall, you know what you get with Wigan. They are a good footballing side with good individual players.”
Martin Keown interviews David Moyes: People say I need a trophy, but it's Everton that need one ...
KEOWN: David, it's FA Cup quarter-final weekend and you're in the last eight for the second season in a row. Considering how well you're doing in the Premier League too, does today's game with Wigan matter as much?
MOYES: It's definitely better to be a good league team than a good cup team. It shows consistency. The cup could be down to a lucky draw and might not show the value of your team like the league does. But there's a special excitement in the cup: either my team or your team are going to go through to the next round. That's why I'd love to win it. We'vebeen close, in a final, and I've been so hungry to win it from the day I arrived here.
KEOWN: A lot of your key memories come from cup games: you've knocked out Liverpool and Manchester United, haven't you?
MOYES: Yes, beating United on penalties in the 2009 semi-final was one of my best moments at this club but losing lastseason to Liverpool at Wembley was one of the worst. I've lost to Oldham and Shrewsbury and every game hurt. We do everything we can to win the cup and perhaps I'll be labelled in a certain way if I never win it. People are saying 'David Moyes needs a trophy' but it's Everton that need a trophy.
KEOWN: The way your team plays football now makes a trophy more likely. I've noticed you've been more adventurous in the past couple of years. You have been more willing to send your full backs flying forward, particularly Leighton Baines.
MOYES: People often talk about a coach's philosophy but generally I think managers look at the players they have andthen decide on their style. In Everton's first 10 years in the Premier League, they only finished in the top 10 once. We've now been there eight times out of 10. When I took over, my job was to win games by hook or by crook so that Ididn't get sacked. The team didn't have the calibre to play the football we do now. Then you can evolve and get better, with defenders who are more comfortable on the ball or more attacking full-backs. Now the level of player I have allows me to play in a different way. I can send Baines further on because I can trust my centre backs more.
KEOWN: You look like you enjoy it much more now, you're much happier on the touchline.
MOYES: Definitely. If you look back to when I took over, the best teams like Arsenal were having more than 450 passes per game and Everton had about 100 fewer. Now, we are having 400-500 and so aremost teams in the league. The whole style of football here has changed. Even if you go to the lower leagues, you see it. Milton Keynes Dons are a good example of a team who are trying to pass the ball.
KEOWN: Did you know your team has had more shots away from home than any team in the Premier League?
MOYES: I didn't but we can be more adventurous now because our defenders are so quick, which is a great safeguard. When I started, I had Alan Stubbs and David Weir. I probably kept more clean sheets with them but I couldn't play them high up because they weren't the fastest.
KEOWN: Stubbs and Weir are part of the staff here now. It pleases me that you have a lot of former players working at the club. It was something I saw when I visited Dennis Bergkamp at Ajax. Itseems like it's part of a succession plan.
MOYES: When I came here, there were a few people around the club from the great Everton teams of the 1980s but they weren't people I knew. It took me almost 10 years to recycle the players I had - Weir, Stubbs, Duncan Ferguson. I'm a big believer in having former players around because it gives the club continuity. They know how it works, how I work.
KEOWN: Are there any of the current crop of players who you can see taking the management route?
MOYES: I would be very surprised if Phil Neville didn't go into management and possibly Johnny Heitinga too. Johnny is a bit of a thinker and I could see him going back to Holland and being a coach. Leon Osman wouldn't surprise me.
KEOWN: Could Phil be manager of Everton one day?
MOYES: He could be. He's got all the traits: his winning mentality, his thought process and the way he reads themood. He's a model professional on and off the pitch. But it's not easy to go from being a great player to a great manager.
KEOWN: I often thought Phil felt he was in Gary's shadow at Manchester United but coming to Everton helped him mature.
MOYES: All of a sudden he wasn't behind Gary or David Beckham or Paul Scholes or whoever. He could establish himself. I think he'll now be remembered as an Everton player, not someone who started at Manchester United.
KEOWN: Like with Phil, every year, the players you work with seem to get a bit better. And you find a special player to bring in and make the squad better. You're finding players that other people aren't.
MOYES: We can't go to Harrods, we have to buy in a different market. But we've worked really hard to find players, which is why I go to a lot of football. I'm not always at the Champions League games because I have to find players who are going to be future Champions League players. I can't watch the top teams because I can't buy their players. There's a risk that the players aren't always going to be good enough but they can be. Look how good Michu has been for Swansea. People were amazed last year that we only paid £5.5million for Nikica Jelavic.
KEOWN: Do you watch players a lot of times before you sign them?
MOYES: Usually. We went 24 times to watch Joleon Lescott before we signed him from Wolves. People called me 'dithering Davie' because I watched players so many times but I couldn't afford to get it wrong. When you're looking in an alternative market, you're not going to find someone who you're sure about straight away and is ready to come into the team. If he was that good, he would have been taken by the others. We watched Phil Jagielka a lot too. I saw him play badly for England B but we went for him. I liked Leighton Baines after seeing him for the England Under 21s. But neither player got straight into our team once they arrived. It took time.
KEOWN: Is the market you are buying from different now?
MOYES: The prices for English players are so high now. The biggest thing a football club could give me to help with my scouting is a private plane. Whereas I used to jump in the car to see Joleon at Wolves, Tim Cahill at Millwall or Andy Johnson at Crystal Palace, now I'm scouting in Spain, Germany or wherever. It's getting harder and harder.
KEOWN: So if you can't travel all the time, at least so many games are on TV now. Or is home the place for you to unwind?
MOYES: Unfortunately not always. I watch a lot of football. It was always my hobby. My wife just sits there with a bored face thinking "is he really watching this?"
KEOWN: I'm the same. The other night I started trying to analyse the netball because there wasn't a game on. Do you watch to enjoy or always with a working mindset?
MOYES: You watch every game analytically. I watched Bayern Munich the other night and I was so impressed by their energy. I didn't see any special tactics, there wasn't a Messi or Bale in the team but it was an incredible functioning unit full of top players.
KEOWN: Because they don't have one great player dragging them through, a lot of teams can learn from them. Juventus too. I watched them against Celtic and they played with three at the back.
MOYES: I noticed that too and liked that they played with two front men themselves. It caused problems. Centrehalves are thinking "what do we do, it's two against two here?" We've tried it a few times and it has caused problems for the opposition because so often you only see one up front these days.
KEOWN: It made me wonder if I would play that system if I was a manager. We did it for a while at Arsenal under Bruce Rioch and then spent the beginning of the week trying to work out what had gone wrong in the previous game. There were so many questions every week.
MOYES: I've thought about doing it but I don't think most centre backs like it, I certainly didn't. But you need different types of defenders now from when we played.
KEOWN: You are right. I think that central defenders now don't have to be as big as they used to be, that even full-backs can play in the middle.
MOYES: I agree. Jagielka is not thebiggest. I wasn't coached to take the ball out the back like centre halves do now. My job was to outjump the big centre forward. You always had a big striker up against you and usually a small, fast man alongside him. Now defenders usually have just one man to mark between them. You can't really tackle, so you have to learn to intercept, but you're still expected to be good enough in the air to defend corners. It's the hardest position, I'd worry more about playing a young centre half than a young goalkeeper.
KEOWN: The style has changed from my early days. Under Graham Taylor at Aston Villa, I was told to hit everything into the channels. Now defenders are expected to pass.
MOYES: We have to be careful we don't have overkill, a situation where people are taking 20 passes to get out oftheir own 18-yard box. I like football to be progressive and exciting. I like the unpredictable, a clever flick-on or a diving header and sometimes football now is a bit sterile with too many passes going nowhere.
KEOWN: Have you changed the way you manage over the years?
MOYES: I think I've become more mellow and my man-management has improved. I come across as serious sometimes but I'm actually quite light-hearted. My face makes me look serious at times. I still shout at people but you can't go as far with the players any more. I'm not the kind of manager who is going to put an arm round a player. It's not my style.
KEOWN: Arsene Wenger was very into that. He loved his players. Do you love your players?
MOYES: Yes, I love them to bits but I've always tried to be straight with them. If there's something bothering me, Ialways try to say it to their face. I hope they respect that.
KEOWN: That makes sense. One final question: what has to happen to Everton to become a team who challenges for the title again?
MOYES: We've got a brilliant chairman and my relationship with Bill Kenwright is really good. Bill would like to sell, but only if it was an offer that would take the club forward. We've not had that yet. But I start every season genuinely thinking we can win the league. I have to. Maybe as the season goes on, I have to change my targets but I have to start believing it is my year and that somehow the luck of the Gods will get us that.
TWO of the last ‘owner’ fans standing will meet today, with Wigan’s Dave Whelan claiming the influx of foreign proprietors in England has led to too many clubs sacrificing their “heart and soul”.
Whelan, and Everton counterpart Bill Kenwright, will embrace in the Goodison Park boardroom ahead of today’s FA Cup quarter-final in the knowledge that their deep-rooted love for their respective clubs provides an antidote to the bane of overseas owners.
A semi-final date at Wembley would bring kudos to both regimes and Whelan highlighted Liverpool as an example of a club which has lost its identity since coming under American ownership.
“Sometimes it is disappointing when you go into a club, like Liverpool last season, and there is not a soul in the boardroom,” he said.
“Eventually, two or three lads came in, including the one who works for the BBC, Alan Hansen, to represent Liverpool and you think, ‘Where has the heart and soul gone out of thisfootball club?’
“There are so many foreign owners that those qualities have gone out of quite a few clubs.
“You go to Everton and see Bill and the rest of the people there who are Everton through and through, just as we are Wigan through and through. It’s not very often you get that feeling before and after a match anymore.
“If we go to Everton and win, we will still get a great reception, still have a laugh and a drink together.”
But Whelan, who bought Wigan when they were in the old Fourth Division and built the club’s stadium, which now bears his initials, did concede that not every aspect of foreign ownership is bad.
“Foreign owners do inject cash into clubs, I can’t deny it and Everton can’t deny it,” he said.
“They have injected a hell of a lot into football clubs and, like anything, there is good and bad.”