David Moyes admits he is facing one of the toughest tasks of his career as Everton hover dangerously over the Premiership relegation zone.
The Toffees' 3-3 draw at Southampton on Saturday leaves them without a win in nine matches this year - and only three points off the drop zone. Their next match is at home to in-form Aston Villa this weekend, with Moyes insisting: "This is a test I am going to stand up to.
"Apart from when I first joined Preston, and the position I found myself in when I first came to Everton, this is a position I am not used to. It is something I am treating as a challenge for me. We know what we are capable of and we are all in it together."
Moyes is encouraged by the fact that Everton is staffed by the same men who fared so well for the club last season.
"Other than Nigel Martyn and Kevin Kilbane, who have come in and performed really well this season, it is the same group of players who finished seventh last season," he said.
The Everton boss has made it clear too that his troubles with the striker Duncan Ferguson are over. Moyes made his fellow Scot the captain at Southampton, with Alan Stubbs injured - and Ferguson may well retain the armband on Saturday. Stubbs is still struggling with a groin injury, while Ferguson is expected to recover from a slight back problem he suffered at St Mary's. "He led the team very well on Saturday and showed he really cared about our situation," Moyes said. "That was noticeable in his play."
David Weir is back in full training after being sidelined since early last month with knee damage similar to that which kept him out before Christmas.
"He has had four weeks of tough rehab and done extremely well," the Everton physiotherapist, Mick Rathbone, said.
The goalkeeper Richard Wright is back in full training, but he and Weir will have to play reserve matches before they are considered for first-team duty.Reuse content