Howard hopes for Fellaini stay
Fellaini, who is out for the rest of season with an ankle injury, is one of Toffees' most prized assets and has been linked with a host of leading European clubs. With Everton having spent little money in the last three transfer windows, there has been speculation over whether the club might be tempted to sell - but Howard hopes that is not the case. The United States international said: "He is tremendous for us. He really helps us build and he calms things down the middle of the park. "We have missed him dearly, along with other players. "He had a terrible injury last year and has had another this year. "We hope we can tie him up for another few years, get him healthy over the summer and he'll be raring to go." Recent injuries have highlighted the lack of depth in Everton's squad - David Moyes named a seven-man bench for last Saturday's Premier League draw with Aston Villa without a single minute's experience in the competition between them. Howard recognises new players are needed in the summer but also feels it is crucial the existing big names remain at Goodison Park to maintain spirit. The 32-year-old said: "We need a few fresh faces, I think everyone would agree with that. "And it is vital we stay together. "I think we have got a tremendously talented core of players with a lot of quality and we don't seem to be a club who can just let players go willy-nilly and try to replace them. "There is heartbeat and a passion about the club the players understand." The Toffees have generally endured a disappointing campaign but a five-match unbeaten run has seen them push up to seventh in the table. A challenge for Europe remains unlikely but, after spending most of the season in the bottom half, Howard feels overhauling sixth-placed rivals Liverpool is a realistic target. He said: "The fact we are in seventh place and nipping on the heels of Liverpool is a great thing. "It was only four weeks ago we were drifting down near the bottom somewhere. "It was important for us to stay positive and know that one or two results could push us up the table. "I think realistically we can finish higher. We have the ability to do that and we have our sights set on Liverpool." Howard joined Everton on loan from Manchester United in 2006 and signed permanently the following year. After agreeing a contract extension in 2009, he still has three more years remaining at Goodison but he is keen to play on beyond that. He said: "I would like to finish my career here. "Unfortunately there is always a business side to football - everyone understands that - but as far as I am concerned, if Everton will have me, I am staying put." Howard was speaking at a coaching session in the city of Liverpool in conjunction with Everton Ladies, whose campaign in the new Women's Super League begins next week. Women's football is well established in Howard's homeland of the USA and he believes the new competition will help England's development considerably. He said: "The fact they are going to have a league which is going to be played in the summer, I think more attention will be paid to it. "The most important thing is creating an environment the women can thrive in. "Once you do that, the talent will take over and I think we are seeing the beginnings of that. I think the sky is the limit."