Everton manager Howard Kendall has lambasted Toffees defender John Heitinga for his erratic performances this season.

Heitinga has made over 100 appearances for the Merseysiders since signing from Atletico Madrid in 2009 and he was voted the clubs’s player of the season last season, after winning many plaudits for impressive displays at central defence.

But the Dutch international defender has failed to hold down a regular starting berth in Everton’s line-up this season after several unconvincing performances. Heitinga was at fault for Newcastle’s early goal in Everton’s 2-1 Premier League victory at St James’ Park on Wednesday, after failing to deal with a routine punt forward from Magpies goalkeeper Tim Krul, to which Papiss Cisse reacted the quickest.

And Kendall, who managed at Goodison Park in three different spells, feels the 29-year-old is not reliable enough to be playing in the Toffees’ backline.

“Heitinga’s form this season hasn’t come near the standards he set last season when he won Player of the Season awards,” Kendall told the Liverpool Echo.

“And if Everton are going to get the best out of him I think they need to keep him out of the penalty area.

“Maybe he’s trying too hard to impress, but he is doing far too many rash things, like that premature leap at St James’ Park.

“Sylvain and Phil Jagielka are clearly the better defensive partnership, and maybe Heitinga would be better served playing in a holding midfield role.

“His form simply isn’t reliable enough at the moment to be playing in central defence. He can still be effective for Everton, but not in their penalty box!”