He says it’s an “intimidating” atmosphere for opposing players – so Michael Keane is looking forward to the “special occasion” of having the Goodison crowd on his side as he prepares to make his Premier League bow with Everton.
The centre-back joined the Blues from Burnley last month and is embracing the “good pressure” on him and his teammates ahead of the new campaign.
The 24-year-old is expecting Mark Hughes’s Stoke to provide Everton with a stern opening-day test.
But Keane, who has twice played for the Blues at Goodison during the summer, has first-hand experience of how tough it is for opposing players to perform at the Grand Old Lady, which this year celebrates its 125th anniversary.
The defender was part of the visiting Burnley side beaten 3-1 by Ronald Koeman’s men in April. Asked about the prospect of making his Premier League bow in front of a sold-out Goodison, Keane said: “I am really excited – it will be special for me. The atmosphere will be great and it is a sell-out.
“There is a lot of hope and expectation around the Club, so there is a little bit of pressure on the lads – but good pressure. We want to perform, get a good result and, hopefully, the place will be bouncing.
“It can be quite intimidating (for opposing players) because the fans are close to the pitch. It is an old stadium, so it has a good feel to it with a lot of history.
“When the fans get behind the team it is really loud, so, hopefully, we can get it like that on Saturday.”
Keane could be joined by as many as five fellow debutants in the Blues team this afternoon.
One of the ‘new’ boys is Wayne Rooney, who Keane shared a dressing room with at Manchester United. And he is backing Rooney to have a huge influence on and off the pitch during his second stint as an Everton player.
“It is great to have him back,” said Keane. “It is great to see him happy and you feel this is the only place he would have wanted want to come if he left United.
“The fact he is happy, sharp and fit only bodes well for us. Hopefully, he will start the season well and score a lot of goals.
"Wayne is very vocal and a great leader to have. He is a good laugh around the lads and has that experience. He has played in big games and won it all before.
“He knows what it takes and before games in the dressing room he will be one of the players geeing the lads up and making sure they are ready.
“You only have to see him in training to see how much he wants it, how fit he is and how robust he is. Luckily for him, he has never had any big injuries, so, hopefully, that will continue.”
Keane admits it is difficult to gauge exactly what to expect with regards to Stoke’s tactics and personnel, after a summer of comings and goings at the Staffordshire club.
He is, though, comfortable in whichever role manager Koeman asks him to perform, having already played as part of both a back four and three-man defence in his short time at Everton so far.
“I think you have to be more adaptable,” added Keane, who penned a five-year deal with the Toffees after joining for a potential fee of £30million.
“At Burnley it was always playing in a straight four, with another bank of four in front of you.
“The fact I have already played in a four, and in a three or five… it is about getting used to them and being able to switch. I feel like I have done it well so far but there are always improvements to be made.
“With new signings coming in and new systems used in pre-season, you do not know which one Stoke are going to play.
“You have got to do as much preparation as you can but also wait until you see the team and how they line up on the pitch. You prepare as well as you can but the first week is a bit more difficult.”
Everton is releasing a special commemorative range of clothing to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Goodison Park.
The range is just one of a number of ways the Club will be marking the momentous anniversary season. There will also be matchday activities around the date of the anniversary of the Club’s first game – a 4-2 win over Bolton Wanderers on 2 September 1892, exclusive online content, competitions and plenty of prizes and giveaways for supporters.
Order from the new commemorative range by clicking here.
Evertonians are advised to arrive early at Goodison Park for Saturday’s opening Premier League fixture against Stoke City. The game is a sell-out and supporters who are collecting, upgrading or have a general ticketing enquiry are encouraged to avoid potential queues at the box-office and ticket collection points in the build-up to kick-off (3pm) by arriving in good time.