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SHANE DUFFY is happy to wait for his chance at Everton – and believes he is learning more at Goodison than he would on loan.
The 21-year-old (left) has been told he is on the brink of first-team action by David Moyes, and insists he is ready to prove himself when called upon.
Duffy made five appearances for the Blues last term and was tipped to force himself into the Premier League frame this season, but has been restricted to a handful of introductions from the bench.
However the club resisted offers from a number of Championship clubs to land him on loan in January, with Moyes keen to keep him involved in the senior squad.
And with vice skipper Phil Jagielka currently sidelined with an ankle injury, the Republic of Ireland international is eager to take any opportunities that may arise.
He said: “I’m just learning every day for when the manager needs me – this is why I’m playing in these Under-21s games. It’s important to get some match action so that if he needs to throw me in then I’m alright.
“It’s a good time to be around the team and we still have a lot to fight for in the league. It’s good to be around such quality players and I would probably learn more here than if I went out on loan.
“I’m happy to wait for my chance at Everton and hopefully that will be soon.”
Duffy has led Alan Stubbs’ Under-21s side to top spot in Group One, as they have opened up a five-point lead after Monday’s win over Chelsea.
It was their fifth win in six matches and their fourth clean sheet since the mid-season break in January.
“It was a good win and we dug in well at the end,” said Duffy after the victory at Cobham. “The manager came in at half time and said to keep going but take our chances. We were patient and it was a great goal from Conor (McAleny).
“We started off slowly at the start of the season and were a new team that had just been put together. I think we have all matured – I have anyway, being one of the eldest players.
“The squad has been more or less the same for most games, which helps. There are a few first team players sometimes, but it has been drilled into us to stay together as a team and remain unbeaten for the season.”
PETER REID believes Everton will struggle to maintain their impressive streak against Manchester City.
David Moyes’ side have lost only two of their last 11 meetings with the Premier League Champions, and were good value for their draw at the Etihad stadium earlier this season.
But former Everton title-winner Reid, who has also played for and managed the Citizens, believes the fall-out from the Toffees’ disastrous FA Cup defeat by Wigan last Saturday will undermine their usual bogey-team hold over Roberto Mancini’s outfit.
He said: “I think it will be difficult for Everton. I think City will win, I’ve got to say that. I am doing the match for Premier League TV.
“After their disappointment in the FA Cup Everton will want to bounce back and certainly City were very impressive. I always think they are at their best when Tevez and Aguero are together.
“They haven’t given up on the Premier League, I think Manchester United are too far ahead personally but City will keep going so it is a tough game for Everton.
“I can’t remember getting teams who were a bogey side in my day but certainly Everton always seem to do well against City. I was at the corresponding game last year and it was tough again.
“Everton are a really good side but they seem to struggle against the top sides except City.
“David Moyes has done ever so well there and he is tactically very good but I do think City are favourites.
“I think they are two fantastic clubs. I was fortunate enough to play for Everton and to play for and manage City.”
Reid, who won 13 England cups during his successful career at a string clubs, is concerned about the question marks over Moyes’ Goodison future.
“It’s not written in stone that he’s going,” said Reid when asked about the Scot’s future. “It’s a question for David. He is waiting and hasn’t signed a deal. Ten years he’s done a great job.
“Does he want to stay? I don’t know. Bill Kenwright and him have a good relationship.”
TONY HIBBERT'S lengthy absence could yet impact on the defender’s future at Everton.
David Moyes revealed earlier this month that Hibbert may not play again this season as he struggles with a calf injury.
Hibbert underwent an operation earlier in December to rectify the problem that has sidelined him since the 1-1 draw at Manchester City earlier that month and has restricted him to just five appearances all campaign.
The 32-year-old’s present Goodison deal expires at the end of next season, and it’s likely the club will wait until they assess the right-back’s rehabilitation before offering any contract extension.
Everton aim to bounce back from last weekend’s humiliating FA Cup quarter-final exit at home to Wigan Athletic when they entertain City in Saturday’s early Premier League kick-off.
Moyes’ men have lost only two of their last 11 meetings against the champions, and won 1-0 in the corresponding fixture Last season.
While the win over Reading a fortnight ago was only their second in seven league games, Everton still remain only two points off Arsenal in fifth place and Europa League qualification berth.
Kevin Mirallas has suggested he is finally returning to form after a injury-hampered winter by netting against Reading and in the FA Cup replay win over Oldham Athletic.
And Moyes said: “Kevin has needed to get some fitness back and needed games. We bought him to score some goals, which we know he is capable of.
“He got us a goal against Oldham and got us one against Reading, so we are hoping that he is back now, in that he can score us the goals and create them as well.
“It is important to us as we need these players to have a good finish to the season.”
By contrast, Nikica Jelavic continues to struggle in front of goal, with the Croatian having not scored since January 7 and only once in his last 17 games.
“It is noticeable and everybody talks about it so we tend to be as honest and straightforward as we can,” admitted Moyes.
“We don’t try and hide away from anything; we tell supporters what we think as often as we can.
“At the moment we need Jela to try and find a way to score us some goals. Forwards always want to finish and score goals and that’s changed with him.
“Any forward that has played the game and gone through a barren spell will have their own ideas with what they try to do and address the problem.
“We would like him to score and if he can do that then it would help the team.”
Meanwhile, Sylvain Distin has revealed how he is releasing the frustration of Everton’s indifferent recent form.
“I have started to do a bit of work on the boxing pads at Finch Farm,” said the French centre-back. “It’s a good way of getting all the frustration out. I tried it out as part of my fitness and I liked it so I do it every week.”
Norwich and Everton are watching Sporting Lisbon right back Cedric Soares, 21.