David Moyes believes Everton can salvage their underwhelming season with qualification for the Europa League.
One week after being knocked out of the FA Cup by the Championship side Reading and languishing five points above the relegation zone, Everton will rise to eighth in the table should they beat Birmingham City in their rearranged fixture at Goodison Park on Wednesday night. Birmingham's Carling Cup triumph has reduced the opportunity to secure a Europa League spot through the Premier League this season but, while conceding Everton's prospects are slim, Moyes insists a sustained run of form is not beyond his squad.
"I said when I joined that I thought the club needed Europe. I needed it and the players needed it," the Everton manager said. "We missed out last year, probably because of the injuries that we had to Phil Jagielka and Mikel Arteta. But we have not had those problems this time. We have not had that excuse. Never at any time have we challenged or looked like doing so.
"We have only got into the top 10 for the first time this week [after beating Newcastle United]. I have got to say it looks a long way off because we have not got close. But it is there for anyone. We have won three out of four in the Premier League and that is not bad. If we could make it four out of five, people will say Everton are ticking along and might come with a strong run at the end."
Phil Neville has joined Tim Cahill and Marouane Fellaini on Everton's injury list with a hamstring strain and Moyes admits a concerted push for European qualification would ease one of the most trying spells of his nine-year reign at Goodison.
"At the moment I'm just glad the team is in the top half of the league. This has been as bad as it has been for me because I don't think I've ever had a season where I have never seen Everton in the top half of the league until March.
"We would love the opportunity to be back in Europe. As a club we need it. Financially we could do with it as well. I have watched the Europa League this season but, because our own form has been so bad in the Premier League, I have said to myself at times: 'Thank goodness we have not got a European game to concentrate on as well.'"
Alex McLeish, meanwhile, has revealed Barry Ferguson will have an injection later this week to enable him to return to the Birmingham side despite suffering from a broken rib, that he picked up in the Carling Cup final victory over Arsenal. Ferguson has no chance of featuring at Everton but the midfielder is willing to play through the pain barrier during the run-in to help Birmingham in their relegation battle. "It's Barry's decision. It is a risk, he could get another bang, but he's a brave boy," said McLeish, who will also be without Craig Gardner on Wednesday night but hopes Martin Jiranek and Nikola Zigic are passed fit.