IN ADVERSITY, Jack Rodwell senses an opportunity. Amid the disappointment at Everton losing their playmaker Mikel Arteta to Arsenal last week, the 20-year-old is hoping it may finally herald his chance to shine.
Rodwell has yet to truly fulfil his undoubted potential in a royal blue shirt, and injuries have dogged his fortunes as much as lack of first team opportunities in his favoured central midfield position.
But now, with Arteta out of the equation and the overload of personnel in Everton’s midfield reduced, the Birkdale-born academy graduate sees a route to first-team regular status.
“Mikel is a great player. He’s a good lad as well and he will be sorely missed,” said Rodwell.
“It’s a good opportunity for him, so we all wish him the best. But we’ve got a lot of young players who can fill in. I’m ready to step up and fill his boots, definitely.”
Since emerging from Everton’s academy as a 16-year-old with plenty of expectation on his broad shoulders, Rodwell has never been a constant in Everton’s starting XI - with niggling injuries the main factor.
And the England U-21 international had another difficult spate of injuries last season that prevented him nailing down a regular place.
But with a clean bill of health and a burning desire to succeed for the Blues, he has started two of Everton’s three games this season and feels ready to establish himself.
“I’m ready now,” he said. “I feel fit, I feel sharp and focused. I believe this is the season for me.
“What I’ve been missing in my career is 30 games back to back and getting a good run of form and confidence, so hopefully this season I can do that.
“Last season was frustrating for me. I had a lot of injuries and couldn’t really get a pattern of football going. I wasn’t really fit, but hopefully that won’t happen this season.”
Another Everton youngster desperate to break into the reckoning for regular football at Goodison is Shane Duffy.
To that end, the 19-year-old has been keen for a loan move to help himself progress, and his wish was granted on transfer deadline day with an initial month-long switch to League One side Scunthorpe.
Now Duffy is aiming to set Scunthorpe back on course for the Championship after joining the Iron on Wednesday, and the central defender hopes that his time there will be extended if things go well for him - and for his new side.
Duffy said: “Scunthorpe is a good club, they were in the Championship last season and they got relegated but hopefully they can go back up this season.
“I hope they will be a team on the up this season and if everything goes well they will get back up.
“Hopefully things will go well for us both and if everything goes okay I might be there until January.”
Duffy also wants to gain some personal benefits from the switch and is hopeful of featuring on Saturday when Sheffield United face the Iron, with the long term aim to feature in David Moyes’ first team options, especially if Joseph Yobo departs to Turkey today.
“I am hoping to get some experience and some first team games under my belt to see what it’s like,” he continued.
“I know a few of the players and that will help me settle in. I am looking forward to my first game, it will be exciting to get out there on the pitch.”
Meanwhile, another Everton defender - John Heitinga - netted a rare goal for Holland in a low key night of international action for Everton’s players on Saturday.
The Dutchman netted his first goal for the Netherlands since 2008 in an 11-0 thrashing over no-hopers San Marino.
Heitinga’s headed goal was his side’s third, with Robin van Persie grabbing four.
England pair Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka looked on from the bench as the Three Lions recorded a straightforward 3-0 win in Bulgaria.
Bolton’s Gary Cahill was preferred to Jagielka in England’s back four and marked his first international start with the first goal before Wayne Rooney bagged a brace.
Jan Mucha kept a clean sheet for Slovakia as they frustrated the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.
Earlier, Marouane Fellaini played 90 minutes for Belgium but they were pegged back late on against Azerbaijan and had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
Diniyar Bilyaletdinov didn’t feature at all for Russia as they saw off Macedonia 1-0.
In Brisbane, Tim Cahill helped Australia defeat Thailand 2-1 and in European Under-21 qualifying action, Apostolos Vellios scored a late second goal for Greece in their 2-0 win over Cyprus.
Tim Howard was in goal for the USA as they lost 1-0 to Costa Rica on Saturday morning, while Victor Anichebe, who has since picked up an injury, and Joseph Yobo are with Nigeria ahead of Sunday’s game in Madagascar.