The Everton striker crisis has given Victor Anichebe the perfect chance to make a name for himself, according to manager David Moyes. With Ayegbeni Yakubu and James Vaughan out for the rest of the season, and Louis Saha struggling with a hamstring problem, the Nigerian, 20, is Everton's only fit centre-forward.
And Moyes has asked Anichebe to grab his opportunity with both hands - starting against Aston Villa today. "If you don't feel 10 feet tall leading the line and playing centre-forward for Everton then I don't know if you are ever going to feel 10 feet tall," said the manager. "When you get chances in football, it's a fact of life that you have to be ready to take them." Meanwhile, Villa manager Martin O'Neill has called for winger Ashley Young to be given greater protection by officials as he battles to be fit for today's clash.
Young's outstanding form during the past 18 months has led to him coming under closer scrutiny from defenders. He came in for particularly rough treatment during Thursday's UEFA Cup clash with MSK Zilina at Villa Park and ended the game limping heavily after a knock to a calf. "In an ideal world, it would be better for him to get more protection," O'Neill said. "He probably doesn't think of it as a compliment when he has landed on his head after being kicked but teams are most definitely giving him attention."
In today's other Premier League game, bottom club West Bromwich Albion take on Portsmouth with long-serving full-back Paul Robinson determined to play his part in keeping morale high at the West Midlands club. Robinson said: "The experience of people like myself is vital for us and it is important we keep the spirits up in the changing rooms as well with the young lads." Over at Portsmouth, manager Tony Adams is confident his side's European flop will not lead to an exodus of players in January. Thursday night's 3-2 defeat at Wolfsburg ensured that Pompey cannot now progress to the knockout stages.
Adams, however, would rather focus on a daunting festive schedule than the potential loss of key men when the transfer window reopens. "I've got good players at the club and most of them are signed up," he said. * With agencies