Wayne Rooney says his determination to perform for his boyhood club is bringing the welcome pressure to be “the best I can be” at Everton.
And the forward believes returning to Goodison a “much cleverer player” can be a key asset for the Blues this season.
The forward capped a fantastic individual display by scoring the only goal of the game on his second Premier League ‘debut’ for the Blues, against Stoke on Saturday.
One of the Club’s most venerated Academy products, the 31-year-old came back to Everton from Manchester United this summer.
He accepts he is under pressure to deliver for the team he supports – but feels that will bring the best out of him.
“There was a lot of expectation coming back here and there were maybe even a few fans who thought I might not be good enough,” said Rooney.
“But it is on me to prove myself – I have been working hard and I am ready for that challenge. I think there is always pressure to do well.
“I could have gone to another Premier League team and almost taken my foot off the gas and seen out the last few years of my career – but I know coming back here I have to be at the best I can be, because it is the club I have grown up supporting. It is the club I want to play for and I want to do well.
“There were lots of offers from other Premier League clubs and abroad, which financially would have been a lot better for me. But I have always been a player and person who wants to play football and that was why I chose to come back here… it was not about the money side of things.
“Hopefully I can repay some of the faith that Ronald Koeman has shown in me.”
Rooney immediately went about doing exactly that with his decisive contribution towards the Blues banking three points against a resilient Stoke.
He planted a header past visiting number one Jack Butland nearly 15 years after entering the wider football public’s consciousness by defeating David Seaman with a wonderful, last-gasp effort to topple Arsenal at Goodison Park.
Rooney claimed both goals were equally “special” – but said he was now a different type of footballer from the 16-year-old whose audacious strike outfoxed Gunners keeper Seaman in October 2002.
He said: “Football fans aren’t silly. I think everyone knows I’m not the explosive player I was when I was here aged 16 to 18.
“I think I’m a much cleverer player than I was back then, so my game has changed and I’m sure people will see that in the next few weeks. But, hopefully, the change in my game can help the team.
“I think both are special goals (against Arsenal and Stoke), but this was a special moment.
“I knew when I came back here that I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and that’s how I like to play. I’m enjoying my time here, I had a good pre-season and I’ve been waiting for this game for a long time.
“Thankfully we got the three points and, of course, it was a special moment for myself to get the winning goal.”