JOHN HEITINGA insists fighting it out for a starting position at the heart of Everton’s defence will make him a better player – as the club confirm Ross Barkley will continue his development away from the Blues.
Dutch centre-half Heitinga hopes to earn selection for Sunday’s 219th Merseyside derby with Liverpool, a game he describes as the biggest of any season.
However, the 29-year-old will have to break back into David Moyes’ team having been left out of the weekend’s draw against Queens Park Rangers, with Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin starting in the capital.
Heitinga was substituted at half-time of the Blues’ previous game at Wigan Athletic, acknowledging his disappointing performance at the DW Stadium, and with Jagielka and Distin impressing at Loftus Road, the former Ajax man could be struggling to face the Reds this weekend.
But the Holland international has welcomed the level of competition at Goodison Park and believes patience is the key because he will get his chance again.
“I’m not frustrated,” he said.
“We’ve got three really good centre halves and the manager spoke with all three of us and said you are all going to play a lot of games this season.
“Of course you want to play all the games, and also I can play in different positions, but my best position is centre half.
“Last year I think the manager was lucky that one of us had injury or suspension and he didn’t have to choose but now the three of us, at the moment everybody is fit and the only player that played all the games is Jags.
“Competition for places makes you a better player.
“There is a lot of competition in the team at the moment and the best player will always play.”
Understandably, Heitinga is itching to earn a recall from his manager in time for Sunday’s game with Liverpool and though he knows it can often be foolish to label one side as favourite, the Dutchman says Everton have an opportunity to open a healthy gap between themselves and their city rivals.
“I can’t wait till Sunday because it’s the biggest game of the year in my eyes,” he said.
“It’s a home game as well and if you take a look at the table, you know, you can’t talk about favourites but if we win, there’s a big gap between us and Liverpool.
“I’m not talking about favourites but you know this is a game that is different to a league game because it’s a derby and the stadiums are not far from each other.
“There is just a park between the stadiums. In games like derbies there are some different emotions that are coming up into your body.”
Everton prospect Barkley, meanwhile, has extended his stay at Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.
The 18-year-old will spend another month on loan with Dave Jones’ squad having played there for the last four weeks.
Barkley has played seven times for the Owls, scoring once.
Jones said: “The lad has a very bright future and playing games in the Championship will certainly help his development.”