Everton had several pieces of good news on the injury front this week – captain Phil Neville played for 30 minutes against Burnley, James Vaughan also had a run-out in the same game, bagging a goal for the Toffees in the process and Mikel Arteta also announced that he is on the mend and hopes to be fit for February.
The ex-Barcelona midfielder hasn’t played since rupturing knee ligaments in February last year, and after such a long lay-off, the Spaniard will be raring to perform in front of the lively Goodison crowd. The dead ball specialist is currently in light training and confident in his speedy recovery, he stated: “I have been able to run at a good rhythm and I am starting to train with the rest of the squad”. With the midfielder’s return, the Everton faithful will hope his creativity can help the Blues climb up the table and push for a top six finish, an achievement the Toffeemen have attained in the last three seasons.
The news that Neville’s injury looks well and truly behind him will certainly come as an extra Christmas present for David Moyes after it was revealed last week that dynamic youngster Jack Rodwell’s injury will see him miss a whole month of matches. The 18-year-old is suffering from a hamstring injury picked up in the Toffee’s 1-0 loss to BATE Borisov in the Europa League in their final group match. The Everton physio room already has midfielders galore propping it up with Dan Gosling, Rodwell, Arteta and Tim Cahill sidelined. So the news that the ex-Manchester United stalwart is fit for selection will be received extremely well at Goodison Park. Meanwhile, Vaughan’s return also alleviates the Scot’s fears that losing Yakubu Aiyegbeni to the African Cup of Nations may leave him short up-front. Since Yakubu’s return, the Nigerian has only hit the net twice in 20 appearances, although the big forward looked to be reaching full fitness of late but has now joined up with the Nigeria squad ahead of this month’s African Cup of Nations. He will return as soon as Nigeria are knocked out of the competition, and the latest this could be would be 31 January.
The People’s club climbed to 11th in the Premier League after they saw off Burnley over the Christmas period – however the Blues boss cannot build on this progress until mid-January as the next fixture is at home in the FA Cup to Carlisle on January 2. The ex-Preston tactician will hope to repeat last year’s successful run and reach another final. With the injuries Moyes has to a lot of his squad and with Yakubu going to the African Cup of Nations, the manager has looked for replacements in all areas. Already agreed is the loan signing of Landon Donovan, the American whose work permit was agreed last week will join the Blues on the same day as their first FA Cup match. It is possible that he could make the bench for this game, however, with the next fixture away to Arsenal, the skilful midfielder will certainly have a baptism of fire if he is to start that game. The 27-year-old can play on the flanks or also behind the strikers and his signing again brings options and flexibility to the Everton squad. The Goodison fans will be hoping that at least two other players are signed before the end of January as they will want to avoid a sticky toffee end to the season – fighting off relegation.
Vaughan who scored after just one minute on the pitch against Burnley has stated he wants to “invent” himself again, and rekindle the expectations set when he became the Premier Leagues youngest ever goalscorer. The 21-year-old has had several big injuries since this goal in 2005 and is even willing to spend time out on loan to recapture his form. Whether Moyes will allow him to leave however with the Yak now absent for a month and Jo injured – plus Louis Saha always an injury concern – the young forward may see more minutes on the pitch than he imagined. The goal poacher will want to remain fully fit for the remainder of the season and prove to the Everton crowd that his potential was not just hype – however Derby County are interested in the youngster and it remains to be seen on what will happen to Vaughan in 2010.