Howard: Everton deserves European spot
Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard has not given up on European qualification after the Premier League club clawed its way back into contention following a poor start to the season.
Everton is only a point behind seventh-place Aston Villa, which occupies the last likely Europa League spot, although Howard's side has played two games more.
"We are pushing to get back into the Europa League at the moment. We feel that's where we belong at a minimum," Howard said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Unfortunately, we are going to the need the help of some other teams to pull that off. But we still have to focus on our three games and, if we can take maximum points from those and get a little bit of help, we will be OK."
Everton plays Sunday at Fulham, which features United States teammate Clint Dempsey. The team goes to Stoke the following weekend and hosts relegated Portsmouth on the final day of the season.
That Everton is in contention for European football for a fourth successive season was unimaginable when Howard conceded six goals in an opening-day 6-1 loss to Arsenal at home. The team was then beaten 1-0 by promoted Burnley.
"We didn't get off to a great start, but we envisaged ourselves being even further up the table than we are," said Howard, who is promoting the One Goal charity to provide education for impoverished children.
For Howard, who moved to Goodison Park from Manchester United in 2006, Everton's revival is vindication of the team's thrifty approach - although the club remains on the lookout for a major investor.
Everton has been outspent by its main English rivals after making no major signings in the last offseason. Manchester City is only eight points above the Liverpool-based side despite spending more than $300 million rebuilding its squad.
"Everyone would like more money, particularly when it comes to buying players, but we do a really good job," Howard said. "But we have shown this season that you can have your hundreds and hundreds of millions of pounds but it doesn't make you a phenomenal team.
"What we have is spirit in abundance and we have talent. And yes, we don't have a massive squad but we do very well ... our manager (David Moyes) buys players and puts them in the right positions, and he is very shrewd in the transfer market. We know that with a good healthy start to the season we can be competing for honors."
Before that mission resumes in August, Howard will be on international duty at the World Cup in South Africa and the 31-year-old New Jersey native knows he won't get many more chances to play at major tournaments.
Howard doesn't want to emulate compatriot Brad Friedel, Aston Villa's goalkeeper, by still playing at 38.
"I can't see myself playing for another decade, certainly not. But we will see. There is a lot of other things I want to do outside of football, also within football, but no I don't see 10 years," Howard said. "I don't know what the future holds, so at the moment I'm on the right path and I'm where I want to be.
"I'm contracted to Everton for another four years, and fingers crossed they want me for the next four years as I can't envision myself anywhere else."
While Howard is focused on the U.S. team performing well at the World Cup, he also wants the first time the tournament is hosted in Africa to be used to highlight the lack of education children receive on that continent. One Goal is trying to get world leaders to commit to investing $16 billion annually to ensure the 72 million children currently unable to go to school can receive an education.
"I do feel in a privileged position as a footballer and want to make a difference," Howard said. "One of the biggest issues in Africa is poverty. Education is a tool to overcome poverty. When you look across the board, there is a lot to be done."