THOMAS HITZLSPERGER is determined to earn a long-term contract at Everton FC just months after fearing his career was over.
Hitzlsperger was last week given an extended deal until the end of the season by Goodison manager David Moyes having initially joined in October on a short-term basis.
The 30-year-old has made seven appearances and provided valuable experience in a central midfield decimated by injury during recent weeks.
Hitzlsperger admits he had considered retiring after being released by Wolfsburg last season after a serious knee injury restricted him to just six appearances.
But now the former Germany international wants to prove he deserves to stay on Merseyside beyond the end of the season.
“When I was out in the summer I thought maybe I'd played my last game already,” said Hitzlsperger. “Now I'm back at a very, very good level in the Premier League, playing for a huge club and it's so enjoyable.
“I've always said it since I've been here, I've really enjoyed my time playing amongst these players and playing for this club.
“I think now I'm fully fit, there are not any problems and I think it's gone well. Looking back to where I came from, I was out injured for a long time so I couldn't really expect too much.
“But that's why since I've been here I've worked hard and the now the manager has said he's pleased with my performances.
“I've just got to keep doing those things that I'm doing well and improve on those things he's asked me to.”
Hitzlsperger will hope for further first-team action when Everton travel to in-form Southampton on Monday evening.
A 2-2 draw at Chelsea on Wednesday extended the Saints’ record to just two defeats in their last 12 and edged them further clear of the relegation zone.
Everton, though, are only three points adrift of a Champions League qualification place and Hitzlsperger said: “We've been successful and hopefully at the end of the season we're up there in the top four playing for the Champions League.
“There are so many good footballers in this team and the work ethic is tremendous, so I think we're well equipped.
“But this league is quite tough because you have the usual three or four teams up there that have the financial power and make it very, very difficult.
“It would be a tremendous achievement if we get into the top four. I think we have it in us, we've proved that this season.
“It's only four months but it will be a long season for us and we've just got to maintain that level of performance we've shown.”