What The Papers Say - 23 May
Jelavic, Baines, Donovan and more in today's papers.
The views on this page are taken from the local and national media and do not necessarily reflect the view of Everton.
NIKICA JELAVIC has reassured Everton FC fans he will not be tempted away from Goodison – despite his red-hot form since January grabbing the attention of Europe’s top clubs.
The Croatian striker was a revelation during his debut spell in the Premier League, scoring 11 goals since arriving on Merseyside at the start of the year.
That sparkling form has not gone unnoticed by scouts from a clutch of Champions League clubs in England and on the continent, but the 26-year-old insists he is loving life at Everton.
And with a confidence likely to unsettle defenders across the Premier League, Jelavic insisted he is solely focused on scoring even more goals next term.
“I signed a four-year deal and I don’t think about going anywhere else,” he said. “I want to become even better and I want to score even more goals next season.
“Everything is just great – my first season at Everton couldn’t be better.
“I have to say thanks to my team-mates. When I came here I immediately felt like we had known each other for many years.”
Jelavic, who is preparing to represent his country at Euro 2012, admitted he is surprised at how quickly he has adapted to life at Everton, after making a £5.5m move to the club late in January.
He said: “When I signed for Everton I was sure that I would have some problems with the English league which is harder than the Scottish one.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I was a little bit afraid that I might have some problems, but that was not the case.”
Meanwhile, James McFadden is determined to try and salvage his career in England despite being released by the Toffees last week.
The former Scotland forward, 29, joined Everton for a second time in October, after agreeing a short term deal until the end of last season.
But he was restricted to just eight appearances last season, and was told he will not be offered a new deal.
That prompted Aberdeen boss Craig Brown to try and tempt McFadden back to the Scottish Premier League, but the Dons chief was unsuccessful.
“We would like to have McFadden at Pittodrie but that one doesn’t look likely,” Brown told the Daily Record.
“McFadden made it clear he would rather stay in England. I asked him to inform us if he has a change of heart but I’m not expecting that to happen.”
HE consistently covers more ground than any other Everton FC team-mate. Only Yohan Cabaye won more tackles throughout 2011/12 – and he made the most Everton passes during the campaign just ended.
Yet Marouane Fellaini didn’t feature in the top three shortlist of Everton’s Player of the Season, voted for by Blues fans – making the big Belgian Everton’s unsung hero for 2011/12.
For some he’s a curate’s egg of a player – only good in parts – and he did commit more fouls and collect more yellow cards than any of his team-mates.
But while a lack of discipline has seen Fellaini miss some significant clashes in the past, it’s worth noting that he only missed one game through suspension last season – and following that ban at Newcastle he collected just two more yellow cards in his final 22 appearances of the season.
David Moyes has spoken of building his Everton team around the multi-talented Belgian, but our season by numbers snapshot of Everton’s campaign also highlights just how important it will be to try and secure a permanent deal for Steven Pienaar.
Despite only arriving in February the on-loan midfielder ended the campaign with more assists than anyone else and was responsible for most dribbles.
The figures, however, won’t help the Blues boss make his mind up over which two from three centre-backs to perm next season!
Player of the Season Johnny Heitinga made the most blocks, Sylvain Distin the most interceptions and Phil Jagielka the most clearances.
Leon Osman ended the season as the most accurate marksman, with 38 shots on target, although Nikica Jelavic wasn’t far behind on 25 despite playing 18 matches fewer.
Jelavic also figured very highly in the curious ‘Goals via Clearcut Chances’ category.
This category was created to decipher which players are reliant on their team creating clearcut chances.
But while Emmanuel Adebayor is totally dependent on his side creating a chance and putting it on a plate for him – he scored every one of his goals via clearcut chances, none of them difficult or made by himself – Jelavic scored more goals from difficult angles or volleys.
The only other player not relying on his side to create easy chances for them in 2011/12 was Norwich’s Grant Holt with 31 per cent of his goals coming from CCCs.
Just how badly Jelavic was needed at Everton becomes even more clearcut when the departed Yakubu’s statistics are analysed.
Despite Blackburn’s relegation, Yakubu ended the season with the Premier League’s best goals to shot ratio of 29 per cent.
Another old boy, Mikel Arteta, also ended the season with impresive figures – enjoying the most accurate pass completion ratio of 91 per cent.
Manchester United have opened talks with Everton to sign England left back Leighton Baines in a massive deal.
United supremo David Gill has contacted Goodison chief Bill Kenwright to open the bidding and the Old Trafford club are prepared to pay £12 million for the classy defender.
Kenwright does not want to lose Baines and will ask for more - with £15 million the least the Toffees will accept - but the negotiations are now on.
Baines is waiting on word before heading off with England for Euro 2012 duty. He will not rock the boat and is waiting on the bid being accepted.
The move comes just after United failed to beat Manchester City to the Premier League title and comes as a surprise as Patrice Evra has been a regular for so long.
However Sir Alex Ferguson wants to strengthen in key areas and Baines has proved his quality, starring for David Moyes's men since he joined them from Wigan.
Baines is under contract but a big offer would give Moyes the financial strength to go and do business of his own - with Tottenham 'old boy' Steven Pienaar in his sights.
Moyes managed to use Sylvain Distin in the left back role at the end of the campaign, so he may even have Baines's replacement on his books.
David Moyes has made an enquiry about Sunderland’s Kieran Richardson.
The 27-year-old, who has 12 months left on his present contract, is expected to leave the club this summer after intimating to Martin O’Neill he would not be extending his deal.
West Ham boss Sam Allardyce is also mulling over a move for the midfielder while Fulham, QPR and Reading have also enquired. Londoner Richardson is keen to hear Moyes’ vision for the future although would prefer a move back to London.
West Ham, where Richardson played as a schoolboy, had seemed the favourites to secure his signature but he is aware that Everton’s European ambitions could bolster his chances of an England recall.
A feeling of scepticism washed over Phil Neville as he drove up the long and winding road on the approach to St George’s Park.
Though he had heard all about the FA’s grand vision for their new £105million national football centre in Burton upon Trent, Neville was dubious as to whether the impressive rhetoric would have any substance. At the back of his mind, one word kept popping up: Lilleshall.
‘I always thought Lilleshall was soulless,’ Neville recalled. ‘It was in the middle of nowhere and it felt like boarding school. It took me five or six years to get over it. Homesickness has been a big issue in my life and it started because of Lilleshall.’
Two hours later, his concerns had been banished. After Everton’s captain had been given an extensive guided tour of the vast complex by David Sheepshanks, chairman of the St George’s Park project, cynicism had been replaced by enthusiasm.
No expense has been spared but the money the FA has pumped in will give England the world-class football facility it has been crying out for. It may have been more than a decade in the making but, come September, the idea behind St George’s Park will reach spectacular fruition.
‘We have got the best stadium in the world,’ said Neville. ‘Wembley is second to none. Everyone used to love playing at the old Wembley but the new one blows people’s mind.
‘When I came here, I was expecting a Lilleshall. Just a central building with 15 pitches dotted around and a gym. But it feels like a centre of excellence. You just sense it is elite. I have been blown away.’
St George’s Park will be the base for 24 England teams, in all the male and female age groups, and that means his brother Gary is set to become a frequent visitor now he is part of Roy Hodgson’s coaching staff. Putting aside obvious family pride, the younger Neville believes it is an inspired appointment.
‘When you look at the backroom staff, this is not jobs for the boys,’ said Neville, who was capped 59 times by England. ‘Gary had never dealt with Roy Hodgson before he was approached, so it wasn’t as if anyone saw it coming. It would have been easier to promote from within the FA.
‘Second, Gary is current. He has played with all the squad and been to five major tournaments. He will have respect. It reminds me of how Terry Venables had it at Euro 96 with Don Howe and Bryan Robson. You need strong characters who are not afraid to offer forthright views.’
That is a Neville family trait. Had there been shortcuts taken or corners cut at St George’s Park, the former Manchester United defender would not have wasted any time pointing out discrepancies but the more he saw, the higher his opinion became.
Set in 330 acres of sprawling countryside — it cost the FA £2m to buy the Byrkley Park estate in 2001 — St George’s Park has been influenced by world renowned facilities such as Coverciano in Italy, Aspire in Qatar, Zeist in Holland, France’s fabled base Clairefontaine and Ciudad de Futbol in Madrid.
It is a facility which will inspire top sportsmen and it should stop Premier League teams needing to send their injured stars around the world to get treatment, as everything is now on the doorstep.
Aside from the five gymnasiums, 90 seat lecture theatre, conference rooms, two hotels and 12 football pitches, there is a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy unit which contains a HydroWorx 2000 swimming pool — it is one of only six in the country and has a retractable floor. There is also an underwater treadmill.
‘If you want a Premier League footballer to come here for rehabilitation, you need five-star facilities,’ said Neville. ‘If you want elite teams to come here to train, you need the latest technology. All this is here. The hydrotherapy room is amazing and the benefits are immeasurable.
‘If you don’t have these facilities, people will go to Aspire in Qatar. It is pointless building a facility as vast as this and not having the facilities and equipment to match.
‘Last summer, Everton went to a camp in Austria. Why? The facilities were brilliant, the pitches were first class. But now we have got a facility like this, maybe more clubs would think about staying at home.’
Sheepshanks has vowed that the project will come in on time and on budget and when St George’s Park opens for business, it will be a defining day for the national game as the foundations will be in place to shape future generations.
‘It is exciting for English sport,’ said Neville. ‘In four years’ time, this is not going to guarantee England win a European Championship. But in 10 years, who knows?
‘The work that Stuart Pearce and Noel Blake have done with the age groups shows there is a structure in place. It is small steps but it is all there for the new manager to utilise. There can be continuity now, just like in Germany. This is a place that will be inspirational.’
A career in coaching beckons for Phil Neville and he has become even more determined to follow that path ever since receiving a surprise call from Stuart Pearce.
Back in February, Neville was invited by Pearce to join the England Under 21 set-up for the Euro 2013 qualifier against Belgium and, such was the impression he made, it would be no surprise if there was a similar offer in the future.
‘To go away with the Under 21s was an amazing opportunity,’ he said. ‘I see David Moyes and other managers being obsessed with detail and sometimes think, “Switch off”, but you can’t.
‘Those three days were a perfect learning experience. It also made me realise what a special thing being involved for your country was.’
Neville, 35, was mooted as a candidate to join Roy Hodgson’s staff for Euro 2012 but the role went to his brother, Gary, and the Everton captain insisted he was never in the running.
‘It was an honour to be linked but there was no approach,’ he said. ‘I am still a player. I think it would have been impossible for me to do it.’
EVERTON boss David Moyes is set to go head-to-head with Sam Allardyce in the race to sign Kieran Richardson.
West Ham had been in pole position to capture the versatile Sunderland midfielder.
Richardson, 27, is in the final 12 months of his deal and has made it clear he will not be extending his contract.
After five years on Wearside he wants a new challenge and is keen to hear Moyes’ vision for the future.
Cash from the sale of the former England star would help bolster Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill’s transfer kitty.
Meanwhile, Landon Donovan is eyeing a third stint at Everton next season. The LA Galaxy forward has had two successful loan spells at Goodison Park.
He said: “There’s no question I’d like to come back. But a big part of it is whether David Moyes wants me. There is a lot of factors that go into it.
“I miss the people a lot and I miss driving to Goodison Park.
“I miss the players and the positive energy of the fans, and how much they care about that club and the team.”