TIM Howard believes Leon Osman should be an ever-present in David Moyes’s side after the midfielder was instrumental in another Everton victory.
Osman’s second half goal broke the deadlock against Blackburn Rovers at Goodison on Saturday, and Howard insists the 29-year-old should keep his place in the team when Everton’s trio of injured midfielders return.
Mikel Arteta is targeting a return to contention for next weekend’s trip to take on Manchester United at Old Trafford, and Tim Cahill has been tipped to return again before the season ends.
Even Marouane Fellaini, who had been ruled out for the entire run-in, is hopeful of figuring in the season’s dying stages – but Howard says Osman should not have to make way for anyone.
He said: “The thing with Ossie is that he’s a real unsung hero who will do anything for the team. He’ll come back into the back four and win a header then he’ll take the fight to teams.
“He has amazing feet and he’s a guy you have to have on the team. Where the gaffer plays him is up to him but you always want him in the fight with you.
“He’s had a free role which has given him lots of liberty but he’s been asked to go forward and get the ball to feet, which is playing to his strengths.”
USA goalkeeper Howard recorded a clean second consecutive clean sheet against Steve Kean’s side, but admits there have not been as many as he would have liked.
“Getting clean sheets is always difficult, and statistically a lot of sides are managing less of them this season,” he said. “Trying to figure out the cause for us is tough because I don’t think anyone is playing particularly badly, in fact quite the opposite.
“We have made simple mistakes this season that have cost us goals. It’s not like a guy was playing so terribly that you’d take him out of the team, but it just wasn’t clicking.
“We certainly haven’t kept enough clean sheets but we haven’t conceded a ton of goals. Our goal difference is OK though.”
Everton did enough to overcome a limited Blackburn side and maintain their seven-game unbeaten run, but Howard knows it wasn’t always pretty.
He said: “It was a warm day and a rough and tumble kind of game with very little flow and rhythm. We settled into it knowing what it was going to be like, but it was probably not great from a spectator’s point of view.”
Meanwhile, Phil Jagielka feels it is vital to finish the season strongly but insists overhauling Liverpool or reaching Europe are not the prime aims.
The 28-year-old said: “There is no point setting goals to try to beat another club.
“Obviously with it being our neighbours it adds to the spice but if you ask the boss he just wants to keep going and picking up as many points as possible.
“Obviously, with the way the Carling Cup went, another European position in the league has gone.
“The gaffer has basically said it is just three points for the next game and that is all we can do.
“We are playing against a lot of clubs who are desperate for points for one reason or another.
“If we can keep this little run going it is something to hopefully carry into next season.”