Stoke City: Jamie Ness says former team-mate Nikica Jelavic is a touch of class
NIKICA Jelavic was always destined to fit hand in glove at Everton.
And it goes without saying that the 27-year-old Croatian will be a major threat to Stoke's proud home record this afternoon.
So says City midfielder Jamie Ness, a one-time team-mate of Jelavic's at Glasgow Rangers.
Jelavic bagged 36 goals in just 54 appearances for the Scottish giants after joining from Rapid Vienna in the summer of 2010.
And since hopping over the border to join Everton for £5.5m last January, he's netted 15 times in the Premier League in 25 starts and three sub appearances.
"I was just breaking into the Rangers team when he joined us," Ness recalls.
"You could see straight away, from the way he quickly settled in, that he had the ability to go on and play at the top level.
"I'm not sure about his English, but his Scottish quickly progressed while he was with us and he was great to have around the place.
"As a striker, he's got a bit of everything. He's strong, aggressive, has a great touch and you've seen that his finishing is first class.
"He just needs one touch in the box and that's why he's got the potential to play at the highest level."
Not that it was always plain sailing for Jelavic after moving to Glasgow.
"He had a bad injury to start with at Rangers, a broken or twisted ankle," says Ness. "But once he came back and started playing you could see it was only a matter of time before he moved down south.
"There were always rumours of Man United sniffing about, and also Tottenham, but Everton are looking to join that lot by pushing for Europe and that will be a goal for him.
"You always knew he would come down here and score goals. Playing for a team like Everton also helps because he's the main striker there and they have been crying out for that kind of player."
Ness will also recognise another Everton striker this afternoon because former Rangers forward Steven Naismith is certain to feature on the bench.
Like Ness himself, Naismith left the Glasgow giants in the summer when their finances were crumbling all around them en route to demotion to the Scottish Third Division. The 26-year-old Scot has had to bide his time behind Jelavic up at Goodison, however, after seven starts and eight sub appearances in the Premier League thus far.
"Naisy is a really good lad as well," Ness continued, "and I got on really well with him.
"He was a real diehard Rangers fan and so it hurt him a lot to leave the club the way it turned out.
"It's not a surprise to see him doing well at Everton, but as soon as he finds his feet and is playing more regularly, I'm sure he will be a top player as well."
As for Ness, his first five months have been full of toil with very little reward in terms of first-team action.
So far, there has been just the one sub appearance in the Capital One Cup against Swindon, but at 21 he has plenty of time on his side.
"For the last three or four months now, I've been training every day and really enjoying it because it's the first time in a long time that I've been able to do that.
"I've played a few under-21 games and it is now just a case of getting some game time under my belt."
So would he consider going out on loan during the second half of the season?
"I haven't spoken to the gaffer about that, but it's obviously something I would consider.
"At this stage I am getting fit and strong, so I just need some games to go with it.
"Whether he prefers I stay here with the under-21s or go out on loan is something I would have to speak to him about."