DAVID MOYES has ordered Jack Rodwell to get tough as he challenged the talented midfielder to build on his consistent start to the season.
Rodwell impressed his manager with a confident performance during the draw with Aston Villa last weekend, and Moyes admits he wants to see the 20-year-old improve further.
The England U-21 star has forged a promising partnership with Marouane Fellaini, in a youthful central midfield pair, and the Blues boss says he will pull no punches with his constructive criticism this term.
He said: “What we are saying is let’s see if he can given us some consistency, and then if that happens we’ll get him playing and improving.
“We’re on his case now. Sometimes when the young boys come in you don’t always treat them like the older lads, you don’t want to be too critical of them and be positive with the good things they do.
“And while he’s still a young boy he’s also experienced at Everton and has been around the team so we’re a bit more on Jack’s case to say ‘Come on, the demand is if you’re going to do it we need to see you stepping up’. I thought he played quite well last week so he’s got the chance to do it again.”
Moyes insists Rodwell has played plenty of Premier League matches compared to some of his England U-21 team-mates.
“He’s still young, he’s 20,” said the Scot. “There are a lot of 20-year-olds who don’t get consistent runs of games. Jack’s been in the spotlight with the media since he was 16.
“There are a lot of people who have just broken into the U-21’s who probably don’t play as much as Jack. But because we’ve put him in there early it’s easy to forget he’s still young.
“He’s been doing some extra work, he’s been watching a lot of stuff on the video to see things he could do better and what he’s done well. Steve Round has had him a few afternoons working with him as well. We always try and improve all our players but we’re trying to give Jack every opportunity and we want him to do well.”
Moyes praised Rodwell’s good-natured attitude in training, but stressed he wants to see a nastier side to him during games.
He said: “He needs to be tougher on the field. He’s a great lad to have around, he’s a good lad to work with, pleasant, respectful, and he listens and enjoys his work. You want him to be like that, and he is. But at the same time you want him to roll his sleeves up on the pitch, and fight his own corner.
“He knows he has to do it now, step out. That’s not to put pressure on him, but it’s to say we really think he’s a good player, he can do better, and he showed it last week. Let’s get a consistent run of form from him.
“Him and Felli are both very energetic and their youth is something we want to have in the side.”
The Everton boss insists the pair must be allowed to grow into the partnership.
“I see Jack as being someone at the moment who is a bit more box to box and can do everything, not someone who can necessarily sit there and break up the play,” he said. “He can break forward and join in. He’s an excellent striker of the ball with both feet, and has got the ability to score with his head in the box.
“So there’s a bit of a similarity with Fellaini and we need to see if we can marry that together. They’re both quite happy to run into the box and join in and in modern day terms we need one to sit and not move.”
Meanwhile, Victor Anichebe is the only Everton player sidelined by injury for the visit of Roberto Martinez’s men.
John Heitinga is fit again after recovering from a niggle picked up on international duty and Louis Saha is also returning to fitness after missing each of the club’s games since the Carling Cup victory over Sheffield United.
Magaye Gueye has recovered from a broken toe and Tim Cahill has overcome a minor knock picked up in the draw with Aston Villa.
EVERTON take on Wigan at Goodison Park at 3pm today and tickets are still available. Prices start from £30 for adults, £15 for juniors and £19.50 for OAP’s. To buy your tickets call 0871 663 1878 or drop into the box office at Goodison Park.