Moyes calls for African shut down

January 23, 2008

Everton manager David Moyes believes the Premier League should look at closing down during the African Nations Cup.

Fourth-placed Everton are decimated by suspension, injuries and international absences for Wednesday night's visit of Tottenham to Goodison Park.

Three Blues players, Joseph Yobo, Stephen Pienaar and Ayegbeni Yakubu are in Ghana for the African tournament, and their absence is felt more keenly due to suspensions for Tim Cahill and Tony Hibbert.

Talk of FIFA moving other global tournaments in line with the European summer has rumbled on for a decade but Moyes - who fell foul of attempting to keep Pienaar for an extra game before his departure - has offered an alternative solution given the increasing number of African players in the English top-flight.

'We were embroiled in trying to get Stephen Pienaar out and everyone knows what happened there,' Moyes said.

'You cannot win. But maybe now we have to consider if we close the Premier League season down during the African Nations Cup.

'That would be the correct respect for Africa and the players in it.

'If we want to bring players in from that part of the world we should be rightly allowed to do so, which we are, but it is not a fair playing field if you cannot field your best team.'

A potential further disruption to Everton's bid for a Champions League place is the call-up of midfielder Cahill for Australia's match against Qatar in Melbourne next week, which will lead to him missing league encounters with Blackburn and Reading.

'I think it's ridiculous that someone has to fly halfway around the world in between two league matches at this stage of the season,' said Moyes.

'But Tim has to make the decision on whether he goes to play for Australia or not.

'He has got a hamstring injury just now so we will have to see if that hinders him in any way.'

Everton's exit from both cup competitions in recent weeks - they were dumped at the semi-final stage of the Carling Cup seven days ago by Chelsea - means they are better rested than Juande Ramos' side, whose exertions against Arsenal were followed by FA Cup defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Moyes' men are now challenging on two fronts - holding the advantage in the pursuit of fourth place and also still involved in the UEFA Cup.

'We would have preferred to play in the FA Cup at the weekend but don't worry, there are plenty of games around the corner for us and we have given the players a couple of days to recover this week, get over the disappointment of the cup and get ready for an important league game,' Moyes said.

'Tottenham came to Goodison and were exceptional last season so we know we will be in for a hard time.

'I hoped it would be a warm-up for the (Carling) cup final but unfortunately that wasn't to be.'

With options limited, Leon Osman, a scorer in August's 3-1 win at White Hart Lane, will be given until the last minute to overcome calf and groin niggles.

'We need him because we are short of numbers just now,' admitted Moyes.

'He's had a very good season - the last couple of games he has been a bit quieter because he's come back from a broken toe.

'Due to our lack of numbers and Stephen Pienaar being away just now it's forced us to put him in earlier than we would have liked to.'

Another midfielder, Manuel Fernandes, will almost certainly be involved again even though Moyes concedes he is not 'fully up to speed yet' after limited opportunities with parent club Valencia this season.

And Leighton Baines is included in the squad after three months out with an ankle injury.