What The Papers Say - 25 April
Heitinga talks about his form and Ian Snodin speaks on Fellaini.
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JOHN HEITINGA believes he is playing the best football of his career – and has targeted a perfect end to the season for Everton.
Heitinga has been in outstanding form since cementing a regular role at the heart of the Goodison defence in the New Year.
The Dutchman is in the running for the club’s player of the season award with his recent efforts recognised by winning March’s best performer accolade.
And Heitinga is convinced he has plenty more to offer at Goodison.
“I think this is my best season for Everton so far and I hope I can keep the level up,” he said.
“It is one of my better seasons, maybe my best as a professional.
“But I am only 28 and there many years to come. I am only looking forward.”
It is a significant turnaround for Heitinga, who in the wake of his exploits for Holland in the 2010 World Cup suffered a significant dip in form and was linked heavily with a move away from Goodison.
Heitinga helped Everton fightback to secure a remarkable 4-4 draw at Manchester United on Sunday to extend their sequence to just three defeats in 19 games.
And, with four games remaining, the Dutchman is eager for David Moyes’s men to finish the campaign on a high, starting at home to Fulham on Saturday.
“The season is not over, there are four games to play and we want to surprise some teams and finish high up the league,” said Heitinga.
“There are points to play for and we want as many as we can get.”
Meanwhile, Leighton Baines admits he was taken surprise at being named in the PFA Team of the Year.
Baines became the first Everton player since Neville Southall in 1990 to be included in the line-up.
But the left-back said: “I didn’t really feel like I should be in it to be honest, but I was still delighted to be chosen – especially because it’s voted by players which means a lot.
“It’s nice to be recognised in that category of players like Clichy and Cole.
“I don’t think I’ve been the best left-back in league this season, but if other people think I have then obviously that’s great. It’s a surprise, there have been players who I feel have done better.”
DAVID MOYES wants Everton to concentrate next season’s transfer business to the summer market – to avoid having to play catch-up in the January.
Moyes helped transform the fortunes of his team this campaign with some creative business in the winter transfer window.
Having shipped out Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Louis Saha, the Goodison manager brought in Landon Donovan and Steven Pienaar on short-term loans and sealed permanent deals for Darron Gibson and Nikica Jelavic in January.
All have played their part in taking Everton to seventh place in the table and the FA Cup semi-finals, with Jelavic netting seven goals in his last six games.
And Moyes has sent a message to the Goodison board to ensure the team hits the ground running by making their moves before next season rather than during it.
“We added two players this season and we added them in January with Darron Gibson and Jelavic,” said the Everton manager.
“If you can add a couple of players every year it enhances your squad, it keeps you moving in the right direction and the idea would be to do something similar.
“And that would be the way to keep going forward.
“Ideally you do two or three players in the summer if you can and move a few people out. It’s always better if you can do it in the summer.
“If you can do your recruitment early it makes a big difference to your group and gives them a chance to bed in and you get better results sooner.”
Everton are two points ahead of neighbours Liverpool with only four games remaining and a favourable fixture list.
But Moyes continues to regard a top-half finish as a success following a difficult first half to the campaign given the club’s ongoing financial restraints.
“I’ve said all along that we could finish in the top 10 and I’ve said it from day one, I think it would be a great result,” he said.
“We’re in a position where a lot of clubs have spent to be in a position where we are. We didn’t spend to finish to finish above the teams above us because we didn’t spend anything.
“We were able to get some in January which made a massive difference. A lot of clubs below us, we’re trying to improve their squads Stoke, Fulham and they are the teams around us who are trying to pip us for whatever position – eighth or ninth or whatever
Meanwhile, Tony Hibbert has played down his role in Everton’s remarkable 4-4 draw at Manchester United on Sunday.
Hibbert created his team’s first two goals from the right-back berth with fines crosses that were converted by Nikica Jelavic and Marouane Fellaini.
And Hibbert said: “It was just one of those situations where I got a chance to cross it. The manager had told us to get the ball in the box if we had the chance, so that’s all I did.
“You try and put the ball in the right area. You can try and pick people out or you can put it in dangerous areas. That’s what I did and we have two big lads in Niki and Felli who can get on the end of it.”
Ian Snodin: EVERTON FC’S display against Manchester United made a lot of people sit up and take notice – and one thing’s for sure, a lot of clubs will have noticed one particular player in Blue.
Marouane Fellaini was simply different class.
For me the big fella was our best player in the FA Cup semi-final defeat, and this time in a more attacking role from the start he showed why he is often talked about as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League.
Certainly if any scouts were watching him they’d have filled a few pages of their notebooks.
It’s no secret he’s a class act – the lad is a Belgian international who has been linked with huge clubs in the past, but it still makes me shake my head to think I had him down as over-priced when David Moyes paid £15m for him in 2008.
Back then he was gangly, awkward and seemed like a fish out of water in the country.
At times I struggled to see what had made Everton stump up a club record fee to Standard Liege.
But players don't set transfer fees, they just have to live with the tag of them, and he slowly and surely went about showing everyone what he was all about.
Against United he bossed the game. Felli isn’t the type of flashy midfielder who will spray 50 or 60-yard passes all over the pitch, but he’s got so many attributes going for him that it’s frightening.
His physicality in the centre of the park is a huge headache for opponents – even ones who are chasing the Premier League title, and I doubt anyone likes playing against him when he fancies it.
There will be managers in Europe who will say, ‘I’d like a bit of that in my team’ but for me it’s premature for him or his advisors to get their head turned.
It was a big boost when he signed a contract last summer, and an even bigger boost that – touch wood – he has managed to avoid any big injuries this season.
The lad is only 24 and has a good few years until he’s approaching his prime.
I’d like to think he enjoys it here at Goodison, enjoys being so highly thought of by his team-mates, and enjoys the top contract the club have got him on.
Hopefully we won’t be forced to sell any players this summer, but David Moyes should send anyone who comes calling for his big destroyer packing.
Fellaini has done it against Chelsea, Manchester City and now Manchester United – he can be the player who, with a couple of additions, maybe helps Everton step-up a level and regularly compete against the league’s top players.
He’s still a cult hero in these parts but these days it’s nothing to do with his hair style and everything to do with his ability.
That finish at Old Trafford hinted that he may yet even be able to start scoring more often. What a boost that would be.