Howard looks for good start

EVERTON goalkeeper Tim Howard may not have been at his best last season, but he is looking forward to the Barclays Asia Trophy to kick-start the new English Premier League football season.

The Toffees will play Stoke City on July 15, and face Arsenal or the Singapore Select XI on July 18 at the National Stadium.

The 36-year-old American shot stopper said it was "strange" to face English opposition abroad, adding: "Normally you face teams in pre-season you don't often see.

"It will be good for us to play in a major pre-season tournament because it gives a feel of the Premier League, as opposed to pre-season games that don't always live up to the expectation.

"If you get those two to three matches under our belt, soon after that the league starts early this year, so we can feel like we are weathered and seasoned a bit."

He is not taking things in Singapore lightly, saying: "We know the teams who have played before and that we have been asked to play, is important for the stature of the club and the exposure.

"That sort of stuff is priceless and it is important that the Everton name is set among the big ones."


Gerard Deulofeu, signed from Barca, was on loan at Everton during the 2013-14 season. PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

Attacking midfielder Steven Pienaar wants to use his time in Singapore to "have a bit of sun" and to get match fit after an injury-riddled season, where he was on the pitch for only 468 minutes.

"You are playing for some honour, for a trophy so it will be nice to go out and play against Premier League opposition," said the 33-year-old South African.

He also praised their Asian fan base, adding: "My memories are that Asian people are very warm and open-hearted... the supporters were all buzzing and excited for us to be there.

"So, for me, I am looking forward to going again to Asia."

Winger Gerard Deulofeu, who just signed from Barcelona, will become an Everton player on Wednesday, in time for him to possibly feature in Singapore.

ISAAC NEO

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2015, with the headline 'Howard looks for good start'. Print Edition | Subscribe