Sylvain Distin has reached make or break time in his hopes of extending his Everton FC career beyond this season, believes former Blues hero Derek Mountfield.
The French defender has been left out of the squad for the Toffees last three games, as youngster John Stones and Phil Jagielka formed a burgeoning partnership in central defence.
But with Stones now facing up to four months out with an ankle ligament injury, Mountfield reckons the long-serving French defender will establish himself again if he can rediscover the form which made him such an influential performer in previous campaigns.
Distin, 36, is out of contract in the summer, and Mountfield said: “It could be a big three or four months for him.
“John Stones had broken into the team and set the standards so far this season with some terrific performances; always comfortable and composed.
“He’d made himself impossible not to pick alongside Phil Jagielka.
“But you’ve got two other centre backs in Antolin Alcaraz, and particularly Distin, who want to be playing and have got the pedigree too.
“If you look back over the seasons Distin has always been good. He’s solid defensively, aggressive and composed – the qualities you need.
“Every player ages and Distin has managed to make a mockery of his age over the years because he’s so fit and quick.
“So there’s no reason he can’t do that again and strike up that solid partnership with Jagielka again but we’ll just have to wait and see.
“It’s a massive time for him. Whether he’s called upon to start against Villa or not he should get a chance again while Stones is out and he must convince the manager again that he must be in his first-team plans.”
Mountfield admitted he was as disappointed as every Evertonian with the news that England international Stones is facing such an extended lay-off, but he insists the 20-year-old will return an even better prospect.
“He will come back stronger,” he said.
“Hopefully they will use the time while he is out to put a bit of extra muscle ion him, build him up and get his strength improved and when he comes back he will have the physical dominance to go with everything else he has going for him.
“He’s been a pleasure to watch so far in his Everton career and let’s hope it continues for a long time to come.”