Neville welcomes Pienaar return
Phil Neville admits Everton missed Steven Pienaar and has praised the midfielder for slotting straight back into the team.
Last Updated: 12/02/12 5:53pm
Phil Neville admits Everton missed Steven Pienaar and has praised the midfielder for slotting straight back into the team following his move from Tottenham.
The South African left the Toffees in January 2011 but endured a frustrating year at White Hart Lane and was loaned back to the Merseysiders last month.
He made a goalscoring return to Goodison Park in Saturday's 2-0 victory over Everton and Neville is delighted to be his team-mate once again.
Neville said: "It was a great performance from Pienaar.
"He is obviously back doing what he does best at a club he enjoys playing at.
"I don't think he realises how well thought of he is here.
"When he was at Tottenham I don't think there was a day that went past when we didn't speak about him.
"The combination between him and Leighton Baines on the left-hand side - there is no better combination in English football at the moment.
"He has had a good return. He was man of the match at Wigan last week and probably our best player, along with Denis [Stracqualursi] yesterday."
Bounce in the step
Everton have been on an encouraging run of form over the past few weeks and Neville believes Pienaar's return helped to boost spirits around the club, along with other January arrivals such as Darron Gibson, Landon Donovan and Nikica Jelavic.
Neville said: "At the training ground there is a bounce in everyone's step, the manager is bouncing and the players are all confident.
"There is a real competition for places now and no-one is guaranteed a place.
"All of a sudden you are thinking we are beginning to look like a powerful squad again and that is why the performance levels have been raised."
Everton refused to let Chelsea settle and, aside from a brief spell midway through the first half when Daniel Sturridge and Frank Lampard went close, they controlled the game.
Neville, 35, said: "It was a great performance but that should not be a performance where you think it was one of the best days of your life.
"That should just be a standard performance for us.
"That is what the manager expects and that is what we need to keep up until the end of the season."