Toffee Talk

Days of Everton living in Reds' shadow gone, ahead of derby

This weekend will mark the 228th meeting in all competitions between Everton and Liverpool, making the Merseyside derby the most played fixture in English football.

We had a good game back in December at Goodison, when only a goal in the fourth minute of extra time separated the sides. For us, it was a really unfortunate way to lose and we know we have what it takes to win against Liverpool, but our motivation won't come from that defeat. It will come from our recent form.

We have taken 27 points from our 12 Premier League games since the derby at Goodison, with eight wins, three draws and only one defeat away at Tottenham by the odd goal.

We have momentum, confidence and belief and we will take that to Anfield with us.

I have played in massive games and managed teams in massive games, but the Merseyside derby is huge and always becomes the focal point for the entire week of the build-up to the game.

Of course, we will be without (right-back) Seamus Coleman after the horrific injury - a double-leg break - he suffered while playing for Ireland against Wales. It's a huge blow for the player and a big, big blow for the club.

Everton's Seamus Coleman (centre) celebrating with his team-mates. The right-back will be a notable absentee from the Merseyside derby, having suffered a horrendous double-leg break for Ireland against Wales and the Toffees will be desperate to beat
Everton's Seamus Coleman (centre) celebrating with his team-mates. The right-back will be a notable absentee from the Merseyside derby, having suffered a horrendous double-leg break for Ireland against Wales and the Toffees will be desperate to beat Liverpool for their stricken player. PHOTO: REUTERS

The team is stronger and we want to continue to get stronger. Qualification for Europe is our objective and we remain on course for this and the next step will be for next season. There is a lot to be excited about as Evertonians.

I spoke to him following his surgery last weekend and he was in pain and feeling very down.

But in all my years in football, Seamus is one of the best professionals I've ever worked with at any club and his dedication to the game, his attitude and motivation, and strong mentality will really be helpful to him now as he embarks upon the road to recovery. It will take time - six, seven, eight months - but he will come back as strongly as before, I am sure.

Overall, we are headed in a very positive direction as a club. We have made good steps in terms of what the club wants, what the fans want and what I want as a manager.

The team is stronger and we want to continue to get stronger. Qualification for Europe is our objective and we remain on course for this and the next step will be for next season.

I also see the difference now at the club compared to the mood at the beginning of the season.

It is different and it is what we like to have.

Of course, we always have the support of the fans. Evertonians are tremendously passionate and they want their team to achieve things and be successful, especially because of our big history.

I think they see the difference in direction this season. That is what we have brought to the club and we will continue that with the support of the fans.

One side of my job is to prepare the team for this weekend, but the other side is focused more on the longer term and working with Steve Walsh (director of football) and the chairman, Bill Kenwright, and (part-owner) Farhad Moshiri to make the team stronger again next season.

Hopefully, we will be playing in European competition and that would also be a difference from this season. This club is focused on pushing on and really determined to do this. There is a lot to be excited about as Evertonians.

•Toffee Talk is an occasional exclusive column by English Premier League club Everton for The Straits Times that gives a more intimate look inside Goodison Park.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2017, with the headline 'Days of Everton living in Reds' shadow gone, ahead of derby'. Print Edition | Subscribe