LEIGHTON BAINES is confident Everton’s ability to “find a way” means they can overcome their New Year injury crisis.
The Goodison outfit’s efforts to keep pace in the race for Champions League qualification are being threatened by a succession of major absentees.
Darron Gibson will miss the next month with a thigh injury, Phil Neville has been recovering from a knee operation while Tony Hibbert remains out for a lengthy period.
Marouane Fellaini sat out three matches of the festive period through suspension, Kevin Mirallas suffered a recurrence of a hamstring problem and Seamus Coleman has also been sidelined.
Everton, though, have demonstrated in the past their ability to battle against the odds, and remain within striking distance of the top four.
And Baines said: “When we’ve struggled at the start we’ve found a way and that’s the one thing we’ve always done. We’ll find a way.
“Whether it’s when we’re at our bare bones or whatever we’ll come up with something at the end, and I do think people are starting to give us the acknowledgement for doing a good job.”
Baines added: “I think we do get the credit more now. People acknowledge what we do. I think you can use teams like Newcastle as a comparison to see just how difficult it is. Great last year, struggling this year.
“Over the last few years we haven’t had those bigger dips. But it’s not to say it’ll never happen because if you let your standards slip it will.”
Baines believes the struggles of Newcastle United this season illustrate Everton’s achievement in consistently finishing in and around the European qualification places.
Newcastle were only four points off fourth last term but have spent much of this campaign hovering above the relegation zone as they attempt to balance Premier League and Europa League commitments.
“It does put into context how difficult it is to stay up there in a sense,” said Baines. “They had a brilliant season last time around but it’s difficult to sustain it and do it over a course of four or five seasons like we’ve been doing.
“I think maybe some people thought that was it, they were going to be there every year. Now they’re scratching their heads wondering what they’re doing wrong because Alan Pardew is probably doing the same things he did last year.
“We’ve been there, like in the early stages of the last few seasons when you’re just not quite sure what’s going wrong. It’s difficult.”
With the transfer window now open, David Moyes in intent on utilising the limited funds available by scouring the loan market for one or two fresh faces.
However, it’s unlikely there will be any signings before Monday’s FA Cup third round clash at League Two side Cheltenham Town.
Meanwhile, John Heitinga hopes Everton can benefit from a fresh Fellaini after the self-inflicted absence of the club’s leading goalscorer this season.
“He is important for us,” said Heitinga. “He has played really well for us this season and he is one of our main players.
“We have missed him in the last couple of games. Hopefully he can surprise everybody by showing that the last couple of weeks off has been good for him!”