What The Papers Say - 21 March
Wednesday's newspaper round-up.
The views on this page are taken from the local and national media and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton.
Everton captain Phil Neville insists the club's packed fixture schedule will not be a problem for the squad as playing games are easier than manager David Moyes' training sessions.
A 1-1 draw at home to Sunderland in their FA Cup quarter-final at the weekend means the Toffees now face four matches in 10 days, starting at home to Arsenal on Wednesday.
By the end of March they will have played 10 games in the month but Neville said it was not an issue.
"It is great. The players absolutely love it. You ask any player, they would rather play than train," said the Everton captain. "It is common knowledge the manager trains us hard - the games are actually easier.
"We are really looking forward to the next two weeks. I thought before the game on Saturday, 'This is why I am in football - to play in games like this'.
"The atmosphere was incredible, the atmosphere on Wednesday night against Arsenal will be good. Then we go down to Swansea, then we have the replay, then West Brom. It is really mouth-watering. To say I am excited is an under-statement."
Neville also praised the work-ethic of midfielder Tim Cahill, who is enduring his worst run at the club in terms of goalscoring. The Australia international was on target against the Black Cats for only his second for Everton since December 2010.
"Maybe he has been disappointed with his goals tally this season but he is not one to shirk responsibility and I think the fans appreciate that," added Neville.
"That is why he is a legend at the club. For me he was the best player on the field and we will need that effort and determination in the replay.
"It was great to see him; he was like a man possessed at times. Even when balls were falling on other players' heads he really wanted to win. That is what he is all about. There is no hiding place when you are out there on the pitch."
Kick-off for Everton's FA Cup quarter-final replay at the Stadium of Light on March 27 has been put back 15 minutes to 8pm to accommodate live television.
The club have also announced award-winning actress Dame Judi Dench has accepted an ambassadorial role for their official charity Everton in the Community.
Everton are set to call in the experts to get to the bottom of Jack Rodwell's mystery injury problem.
The emerging England star has completed 90 minutes just once since he burst onto the international scene under Fabio Capello in November, and has again been ruled out after his hamstring jinx struck once more at the weekend.
It means he misses Wednesday night's Goodison clash with Arsenal.
Given it is the FOURTH time the problem has surfaced this season, Everton's coaching staff have admitted the puzzling problem is giving them a major headache.
Steve Round, manager David Moyes' assistant, said: "We think it is something to do with the nervous system and are exploring that avenue.
"We owe it to him to make sure that we are doing the right thing and it maybe that a summer's rest or an injection into a nerve to get the inflammation down helps."
Everton will now explore the option of sending Rodwell to see a nerve specialist to get to the bottom of the problem that has effectively ruined his season... and his hopes of a place at Euro 2012 virtually destroyed.
But Round is still hopeful the youngster can come back for the crunch games at the season's finale.
"He is working really hard to strengthen his hamstring, and we won't finish him for the season," he added.
"We have to keep him going, we have to try and re-strengthen and make sure that he is doing all the right things to prevent. Jack seems okay, he seems quite strong and will overcome that. It is just a case of easing him off at the minute and easing him back.
"Once he gets into the team and gets a run, he will improve. Jack is at the stage where he needs to be a regular. This has set him back a little bit but I have confidence he is going to be a top player."
Mikel Arteta returns to Goodison tonight for the first time since his surprise summer switch to Arsenal.
Moyes is likely to make more changes as he looks to freshen up his side.
Everton assistant manager Steve Round expects Mikel Arteta to be given a warm welcome by Toffees fans when he makes his first return to Goodison Park tomorrow.
The midfielder was a firm favourite during his six and a half years at the club before leaving to join Arsenal last summer, and the Gunners travel to Merseyside in the Barclays Premier League tomorrow evening for a clash between two of the country's form teams.
Round said: "He was a big favourite here and I think the Everton fans are very knowledgeable and respectful towards the senior players who have played for the club. I think they'll give him a good reception.
"He was a tremendous player for us. His attitude when he played for Everton was never in question, his ability was second to none and I think the Everton fans respect that.
"We do welcome him back and obviously we'll be fighting hard to make sure he doesn't have an influence on the game."
Arteta has settled well into Arsene Wenger's side, playing 23 times in the Premier League this season and netting six goals for the Gunners.
"They were big boots to fill when he went there as a sort of replacement for (Cesc) Fabregas but he's got the ability and the temperament to be able to handle that stage," said Round.
"It was at that stage of his career where that was the next step for him and when he left we wished him well."
Both teams will take confidence from their recent form, with Arsenal having won five league games in a row while Everton's 3-0 derby defeat by Liverpool last week was their first loss in any competition for two months.
In that time they have beaten Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham at Goodison Park, and Round said: "We've had a really good run of form against the big teams of late so we are looking forward to it.
"It should be a cracking game because I think Arsenal are currently top of the league on current form, they've won five on the bounce in the Premier League, we've lost one in 11 so it should be a really good game, and one both teams will go out and try hard to win."
Everton have a number of injury worries, with the game expected to come too soon for Darron Gibson, Jack Rodwell and Seamus Coleman, but Steven Pienaar is available again after being cup-tied for the FA Cup draw with Sunderland on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Round is confident Everton's medical checks are thorough enough following Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore's comments today that procedures would be reviewed.
The announcement came four days after Fabrice Muamba collapsed with a cardiac arrest during Bolton's FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham.
Everton will hold a minute's applause prior to tomorrow's game to show support for Muamba, who remains in intensive care at the London Chest Hospital.
Round said: "I'm no medical expert but the guys assure me we screen the players every pre-season without fail. We adhere to the strict guidelines given by the Premier League and the FA.
"I'm sure now the whole system will be in review just to try to improve it a little bit more.
"From the club's perspective we obviously wish Fabrice the speediest recovery. The signs are looking good we believe from what we've heard and that's fantastic."
Everton will offer extra screening to players should they request it, although none have so far, and Round praised the way the squad have coped with the situation.
He said: "There was a little bit of shock and disbelief that this could happen to a fit young person and obviously people were saying 'if it could happen to him, it could happen to anybody'.
"But by the next day there was just an overwhelming show of support towards him. There were a lot of people asking how they could get in touch and what could they do, and I think you'll have seen that right the way through football."
Round believes David Moyes will attempt to take maximum points from the league games, but injuries and fixture congestion could influence his selections.
“I don’t know whether the manager will rotate or rest players,” he said. “We’re obviously without Jack and Seamus for Arsenal, so one has to come back. Steven Pienaar is available too.
“We’ve had an extra day this week between Saturday and Wednesday, so the team will be fully recovered. The difference might be Wednesday to Saturday for the third game in a week. But the manager wants to try and win both games so we’ll see.”
Meanwhile, Round admitted it would be a boost to see 34-year-old defender Sylvain Distin sign a new contract.
The Frenchman, who joined the Blues from Portsmouth in 2009, is close to agreeing a new one year extension at Goodison, and Round said: “I’d be absolutely delighted if he signed.
“He’s been a terrific player for us and a great servant. He’s athletically excellent, he really is. He’s got tremendous speed.
“The thing that not many people see is the work and preparation that Sylvain puts in himself. He’s the first one here and he’s one of the last to leave every single day.
“He’s in the gym making sure his body is in perfect condition. And that’s testament to him and his character and his professionalism.”
Distin himself is also hoping the terms can be quickly finalised. “We’re talking about it and it’s the same as before,” he said. “I want to stay, they want me to stay so I’m sure we’ll find a solution.”
EVERTON will provide free coach travel for thousands of fans travelling to Sunderland for the club's FA Cup quarter final replay.
All supporters with a valid match ticket will be entitled to take advantage of the offer for next Tuesday's game at the Stadium of Light.
It could mean the club transporting up to 5,000 fans from Goodison Park to the North East, and chief executive Robert Elstone said: “We appreciate it is not always easy to get up and down the country for midweek fixtures, so we have tried to help out by organising coaches for fans planning to attend the game.
“We understand not everyone will be in a position to travel from Goodison but we want as many Evertonians as possible in the Stadium of Light to support David and the team, so hopefully many of our travelling supporters will be able to take advantage of this gesture.”
Supporters should contact the Fan Centre to book their official coach travel for the fixture, and can call 0871 663 1878 or visit the Park End Box Office.
Any supporter who has already bought their coach ticket from the club will be contacted by the Fan Centre who will process the appropriate refund.
Fans should note that a valid coach ticket is required to travel and the offer is subject to availability. Under-16s must be accompanied by an adult.