Everton‘s injury crisis has reached such proportions that David Moyes joked he was considering playing himself against Tottenham on Sunday.
With Phil Jagielka and Phil Neville (both knee) still sidelined, the Toffees boss also lost centre-backs Joseph Yobo and Sylvain Distin in the Merseyside derby defeat and Europa League victory over AEK Athens respectively.
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Moyes’ problems have been compounded by the one-match suspension of Johnny Heitinga – another candidate to play in the middle of the back-four – while Jack Rodwell has a niggling groin problem.
It seems likely full-backs Tony Hibbert and Lucas Neill could line up alongside each other at Goodison Park this weekend, although 17-year-old Shane Duffy could be a surprise contender after coming on to replace Distin for his first-team debut in midweek.
“Myself and Andy Holden (reserve team coach) have both played centre-half over the years,” said Moyes, a former Celtic and Preston defender.
“We’ve both put ourselves in the frame this morning when we joined in training and did okay so we’re waiting on the manager’s decision.
“I’m sure I can dig out my registration from somewhere.
“I think we’d quite enjoy it. I know what we would be trying to do in the first 30 seconds, rake our studs down the back of their legs!”
Moyes has never tried to use the injury situation as an excuse for Everton‘s poor form but really is down to his final options in defence.
Hibbert has occasionally played at centre-back and did well against AEK in midweek but faces a difficult prospect with the 6ft 7in Peter Crouch likely to play a large part at the weekend.
“I’m going to have to consider playing him at centre-half because of the injuries we have got,” added Moyes.
“I’m sure Sylvain will be out, Jo Yobo has a doubt with his hamstring and with Phil Jagielka still out and Heitinga suspended we are pretty short for who can do the job there.
“It is a head count on Sunday morning.”
Duffy, fellow 17-year-old Jose Baxter and right-back Seamus Coleman, 21, all played in midweek and can expect further action over the next month if the situation does not improve.
Moyes admits he may have to throw in some of his young fringe players.
“We may have to, but then again they get the experience from it and some of the other younger players will get an opportunity,” he said.
“Like any club you have injuries and suspensions kick in but I’m not talking about long-term injuries but those on a week-to-week basis.
“The amount of games we have had to play is the biggest thing. Players have had to play and maybe it’s been too many but we’ve not had the personnel to change them around and give them a breather.
“If we’d had more cover we probably wouldn’t have played Sylvain on Wednesday.
“Jack Rodwell has been needing a rest for a month but we couldn’t because we couldn’t get him out the team and I think his injury is probably through over-playing.
“We are desperately in need of getting Phil Neville and Leon Osman back because that gives us options.
“Even Victor Anichebe would give me another player up front and all that could help.
“If we can hang on in there and keep our heads above water until the new year, hopefully we will start to see some of them return.”