Everton FC News: STEVEN PIENAAR’S outstanding campaign has earned him the Everton player of the season award.
Pienaar was handed the honour last night at the club’s fifth annual end of season awards in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.
The South African topped a poll of Everton supporters and succeeds last year’s winner Phil Jagielka, who presented the accolade to his team-mate alongside chairman Bill Kenwright.
Pienaar has been the creative force of the Goodison outfit’s run of just two defeats in 23 league games that pushed them to the brink of an unlikely European qualification following a poor start to the season.
The 28-year-old has netted seven goals this season – equalling his best tally as a professional – including crucial strikes against Manchester City and Arsenal.
Pienaar will spearhead the host country’s World Cup challenge next month, and is hopeful of overcoming an ankle problem to play in Everton’s final Premier League game of the season at home to Portsmouth on Sunday.
Everton manager David Moyes is hopeful of holding on to Pienaar next season, despite the player approaching the final 12 months of his contract.
Talks have stalled over a new deal for the South African, with his situation being closely monitored by Tottenham Hotspur, Bayern Munich and Manchester United.
Moyes has previously stated his intention to keep his current squad intact while adding “one or two” key players to bolster his resources.
And Jagielka believes that continuity can help Everton come racing out of the blocks when the new campaign gets under way in August.
“We’ve got an important season coming up,” said the centre-back. “We would have hopefully gelled in all the new players and we’ll be looking for those – and the ones who’ve been here for a while – to put in a good start and give the fans something to cheer about from day one rather than Christmas time.”
Everton’s poor start this season was not helped by a succession of injuries to first-team players, and Jagielka is hoping for a clean bill of health after the forthcoming World Cup.
Along with Pienaar, the quintet of Yakubu, Joseph Yobo, Tim Howard, John Heitinga and Tim Cahill are all certain to be involved with their countries, while Leighton Baines, Victor Anichebe and Jagielka himself have not given up hope of also appearing.
And the defender said: “We hope everyone has a fantastic World Cup with the numbers that are going there – but first and foremost we don’t need any more injuries.
“I think (Marouane) Fellaini should be back around the start of the season, (Dan) Gosling is going to be a little bit later and Johnny (Heitinga) will be back.
“Hopefully we will have a nice strong team and everyone will be used to playing with each other and there won’t be a bedding-in period.
“We hope to have a good start, because we’ve struggled to do that over the last few seasons.”