What The Papers Say - 25 May
The views on this page are taken from the local and national media and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton.
Phil Neville and Steven Pienaar gave Everton a massive double FA Cup final scare last night after limping away from Craven Cottage.
Skipper Neville was forced off mid-way through the second half of the 2-0 win at Fulham with a hamstring strain. South African midfielder Pienaar picked up a similar injury.
And boss Dave Moyes admitted he will have an anxious few days before discovering if the pair are fit to take on Chelsea next Saturday. Moyes said: "Phil has a little bit of a problem with his hamstring, as does Steven.
"Phil is a bit worse then Steven so we will see how they are as the week progresses. At this stage I don't think they are struggling but we don't really know."
Moyes is already without the injured Yakubu, Victor Anichebe, Mikel Arteta and Phil Jagielka but he was given a boost by the display of injury-prone striker Louis Saha, required at Wembley because onloan Brazilian Jo is ineligible.
"Louis is a player very few defenders would like to play against when he is at full tilt," said Moyes. "He has a deserved reputation of playing in big games for big clubs. When he is on his game he has the ammunition to worry everybody and the problem has been getting him out on the field, feeling confident, and him being able to show that.
"But in the last couple of games he has shown it. He got two against West Ham last week, had two or three attempts on goal, not including the header against the bar, and is giving us a good contribution at the right time."
Andy Van Der Meyde is trying to grab a Premier League lifeline with Blackburn after being shown the door by Everton.
The Dutch winger, who has had a miserable time at Goodison Park, is training with Rovers and hopes to prove to boss Sam Allardyce that he can still cut it at the highest level.
Van der Meyde has barely figured in David Moyes' side this season, appearing as a sub at best.
The 29-year-old has battled for fitness over the past couple of years and has been one of Moyes' weakest signings since joining the Toffees in 2005.
And he can go at the end of his contract, with Allardyce willing to give the former Ajax and Inter Milan wide man a chance.
Big Sam has revived careers in the past - and he also had a vacancy for a right winger - yet the van der Meyde possibility still comes as a surprise.
Rovers are now assessing his overall state and mental attitude before deciding whether to take him on.
NOT far from Craven Cottage the Eight Bells pub was doing a roaring trade from Everton supporters yesterday afternoon.
The Blues’ army spilled out onto the streets in front of the establishment, revelling in the London sunshine and in the fact their team have had a memorable season – it was a scene unimaginable eight months ago.
No doubt heard eight miles away at Wembley, the Everton fans warmed up for their big day in the national stadium with a party in the Bank Holiday heat, determined to let any Londoner know of the year they have had – one that could become a whole lot sweeter come 5pm on Saturday.
David Moyes’ men had made a start to the campaign from which only the most ardent of Evertonian could have foreseen such a turn around, a fifth place finish and a place in the FA Cup final must have been beyond the dreams of many at Goodison Park.
But as we all know Moyes and his squad, a group consistently reduced in numbers as the year progressed, have transformed, dug in and gained their just rewards.
The scorching capital heat will have brought back memories of the opening day of the season when Blackburn Rovers arrived at Goodison and stole three points from a side who looked anything but the best team outside the top four – if you asked many of the faithful that day if they fancied a final day trip to London, no doubt you would not have had many takers.
Defeats to Portsmouth, Arsenal and Standard Liege coupled with a draw at Hull City only furthered the doom and gloom in the Blue half of Merseyside but then came the series of late shows that revitalised a team in need of inspiration.
Last gasp victories over Bolton, Fulham and West Ham United kick started Everton’s term and proved the catalyst from which they never looked back.
The occasional set back at the hands of Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic only served to strengthen their resolve and spirit that saw redemption over Villa in the FA Cup and deserved draws with Manchester United and Chelsea.
Everton’s travelling band of fans probably felt like their summer holidays had come earlier as Fulham’s high streets were bathed in sunlight but cruising towards the end of the season is something that can not be levelled at Moyes’ men.
Some people said they had switched off, with fifth all but consolidated and the showpiece final place in the bag, it was suggested they were cruising towards May 30 – if any Blue was in doubt they only had to look at yesterday’s team sheet.
Many managers would have rested key players, taken a youth team to Roy Hodgson’s outfit and played it safe for Wembley.
Moyes would argue the size of his squad does not allow that luxury but the overriding reason for the selection was the same philosophy that has got Everton to where they have progressed under their boss – second best will not suffice.
It must be said, with European football secured for Everton and a near enough certainty for Fulham, there was a celebratory atmosphere in the air, no doubt bouyed by the weather.
A huge roar greeted the players as the walked onto the pitch, a thank-you from each set of supporters for the 37 previous league games that in the main, had brought much joy – you felt the biggest cheers were saved for the arrival of the managers as they made the walk across the Craven Cottage pitch towards the dugout.
With the exception of Sir Alex Ferguson, Moyes and Hodgson have achieved the most with the resources available to them at clubs most people from the outside would deem unfashionable - rightly they are being talked about in the manager of the year list.
Former Fulham striker Louis Saha, booed by a minority of home supporters but surely a shoe-in for a starting place at Wembley in most Evertonian’s eyes, made clear Everton’s intentions inside three minutes when his bullet header cannoned off Mark Schwarzer’s bar.
Likewise Jack Rodwell tested the home keeper early on with a strike from outside the area as the visitors enjoyed the more productive spells of early possession.
Fulham responded though and Zoltan Gera should have put his side ahead on 16 minutes, but his header was saved at the near post by Tim Howard – clean sheet number 17 was still on course.
Although the game was not being played at a scintillating tempo, it was by this stage more than competitive enough to entertain the near capacity crowd.
Saha’s second meaningful strike on goal had Schwarzer at full stretch to force a corner after Steven Pienaar had played him in.
The South African, relatively subdued for the majority of the half, would come alive just before the break to help fire Everton ahead as he slipped in Leon Osman who rounded Schwarzer before firing in from a tight angle.
The lead was nearly doubled early in the second half as Saha rose highest to force Schwarzer into a smart save low down to his right. Fulham would respond with superior possession but little in the way of chances.
John Pantsil dragged one wide from 18 yards as the home side came unstuck against the Everton back four, as so many have done this season.
And with the foundations once again laid down by Howard and co the forwards were allowed to flourish, Osman’s second of the match was a peach of a goal, curled with precision and class into the far corner.
While the Everton supporters were toasting the club’s win and the success of this season, Sunday afternoon demonstrated once more that the future looks bright for Jack Rodwell after putting in one of those ‘coming of age’ peformances.
No longer a Finch Farm secret, Rodwell will have won himself new admirers with a display of maturity and calm in the centre of Everton’s midfield – he looked the most accomplished player on the field for most of the day.
Likewise, Saha was sharp and could be finding his return to form at just the right time.
Perhaps though, and not discounting the acheivement of finishing fifth and reaching the Wembley showpiece, the most telling statistic is that of Howard’s 17 clean sheets.
People marvelled at Edwin Van Der Sar’s epic run without conceding a goal, but Howard’s new record has been equally as pivotal in Everton’s run – many Evertonian’s would no doubt agree and raise a glass in his direction.
All back to the Eight Bells it is then to whet the whistle.
TWO-GOAL hero Leon Osman has fired a warning shot ahead of the FA Cup final saying his work for the season is not done.
The right winger netted at either end of Everton’s impressive 2-0 win at Fulham yesterday afternoon and helped secure the team’s fifth place finish in the Premier League.
Although naturally delighted to have bagged the final day goals, Osman has insisted David Moyes’s men cannot rest on their laurels ahead of Saturday’s Wembley’s clash with Chelsea.
Osman also praised the mentality of the whole squad, one which drove the team above Aston Villa and into the division’s top five.
Osman said: "Is it the perfect way to end the season? It’s not over yet.
"We worked hard all season to finish as high as we could, it turned out to be fifth and feel that is a pretty good achievement.
"Fulham have qualified for Europe, one of top seven teams in the country. "I thought we outplayed them today, we defended well today, scored the goals when we had to. We made a terrible start to the season, it wasn’t what any of us wanted and maybe if we had not had that start we may have finished higher but things happen in football. Football is football and we put it behind us.
"We felt few a reasons to field our strongest team today we didn’t work hard all season to finish fifth just to not try hard on the last day of the season, really wanted to secure fifth place but it also keeps us sharp for next.
"It was possibly the perfect way to warm up for next week, got a good workout under us, although that is not why we came, we came to win the game and finish fifth in the league.
"We were completely focused on Fulham, people have been asking for weeks ‘Are you thinking about the cup final?’ but if we had done that then I do not think we would have finished fifth. We have played each league game as it came and got some pretty good results over the last few weeks, took each game as it came and got the victories we deserved.
"It was great timing for the goals, especially with the cup final coming up. It is always pleasing to score the goals for Everton and to get one in front of the away fans was great."
This time last season Fulham were 14 minutes from relegation when Danny Murphy scored at Portsmouth to keep them up.
A year on and the supporters left Craven Cottage chanting, "We're all going on a European tour," as Fulham booked a place in next season's Europa League.
Tottenham's defeat at Anfield meant their place was secured regardless of this defeat to an Everton team that looked in very good shape ahead of Saturday's FA Cup final against Chelsea.
The only caveat was the early withdrawals of Phil Neville, their captain, and Steven Pienaar. "They both have a little bit of a hamstring problem," said David Moyes, Everton manager. He added: "Phil's a bit worse. I don't think they'll be struggling [for Wembley] but we'll see how they go during the week."
Moyes had fielded his likely FA Cup final XI, with the exception of Marouane Fellaini who was on the bench, teenager Jack Rodwell replacing him in the starting side. A risk? "I don't think so," said Moyes. "I wanted to finish fifth, and for the players to go to the final in good mental condition."
Fulham finished two places behind, seventh being the highest in their history. It has been a remarkable transformation which puts Roy Hodgson alongside Sir Alex Ferguson and Tony Pulis as candidates to be manager of the season.
"I've had a long career and been lucky that quite a few honours have come my way," Hodgson said , "but I'm really proud of the work these guys have done for me this year and will remember this as one of my best seasons. In years to come I'll forget the result of this game, but I won't forget coming to Fulham when they seemed doomed, and a year-and-a-half later qualifying for Europe."
He added: "I'm just a cog in the wheel, it's the players who have done it." Not all Fulham supporters are convinced European football is to be celebrated, given their slim resources, but Hodgson is up for the challenge.
"I'm delighted," he said. "For a team like us being in Europe crowns a season. We can look back and say, 'That was a great season, we got into Europe'. It sounds better than, 'That was a great season, we came eighth'.
"We will have to bolster our squad but it's not as if we're guaranteed to play 17 games."
As important as squad-strengthening will be holding on to the players he has. Brede Hangeland, who has been such a rock at centre-half, is being linked with a move and Hodgson said: "He knows we love him here and we'll do everything in our power to keep him, but our power cannot be compared to the power of some other clubs."
Hangeland had his hands full yesterday with Louis Saha, the striker hitting the bar in the opening minutes to set the tone for a match Everton largely controlled. The inclusion of Rodwell, composed in possession with an eye for a pass and a great future ahead of him, gave Everton a touch more polish in midfield and they always looked more penetrative.
Equally impressive was the unsung Leon Osman who scored towards the end of each half to earn the points. His first followed a loss of possession by John Pantsil. Pienaar played a neat diagonal pass and Osman ran off Paul Konchesky to walk the ball around Mark Schwarzer and tap in. His second was all his own work, Osman running at and bamboozling Fulham's defence before curling a left-foot shot inside Schwarzer's far post.
Nigel Reo-Coker has held showdown talks with boss Martin O'Neill over his Aston Villa future.
The midfielder has become unsettled after losing his first-team place.
But O'Neill has told Reo-Coker he will be needed as Villa bid to qualify for the Champions League.
Everton and Fulham are monitoring the situation.