Mason Holgate insists “we are all in it together” as he looks to make it a 21st birthday to remember with a win against Arsenal on Sunday.
After a disappointing start to the 2017/18 season, Holgate says everyone at the Club remains united and determined to turn things around ahead of the visit of the Gunners.
And the England Under-21 defender says three points against Arsene Wenger’s side is the only present he wants this weekend.
“I think that’s what sort of club we are - if one person goes through [a difficult time] then everyone seems to be in and around them, making sure they are alright,” explained Holgate. “I think it’s been proven a lot of times now. That’s what we are all doing, trying to get together as a squad.
“It’s not the manager’s fault we’re not doing well. We will all get together and try to change our form.
“Arsenal are a strong team, we have to go in guns blazing but I think we have proved it earlier in the season against teams like Manchester City. Once we are firing, there’s not many teams in the league that will find it an easy game. I think if we are firing, not matter who we are against we are confident we will make it really tough for anyone.”
While accepting confidence is currently not sky high following stuttering run, Holgate says there is a belief that it is only a matter of time before fortunes turn in the Toffees’ favour.
“I think as a squad we have been more confident [in the past], because we haven’t been winning games but it isn’t at the point where no one has any confidence whatsoever,” he says. “Confidence comes with winning games and we haven’t been doing that but if you look back at games, like against Lyon when we hit the post at an important time, the game against Brighton we had a couple of chances that could have got either way.
“I think at the moment the ball isn’t dropping for us but that is bound to change at some point and when it does, everyone’s confidence will be lifted and we can show how good we are.”
That belief, Holgate reveals, is in no small part thanks to experienced campaigners in Everton’s squad.
The Doncaster-born defender, who was signed from Barnsley in August 2015, has predominantly featured at right-back since making his senior Toffees debut under Ronald Koeman against Tottenham Hotspur on the opening day of the 2016/17 term.
He has played even more regularly in the absence of Seamus Coleman, who continues his rehabilitation from a broken leg sustained in March, and Holgate says the Republic of Ireland captain, along with fellow seasoned professionals Phil Jagielka, Ashley Williams and Leighton Baines are the perfect mentors.
“I feel like I am becoming more comfortable, I certainly don’t feel out of depth in the Premier League,” said Holgate.
“When I first started playing right-back, Seamus helped me out a lot because he is one of the best in his position in the league. When you get advice off him, you know it’s good advice and he’s speaking with experience so it’s a great help. Leighton Baines helps me a lot as well, obviously being another top full-back.
“Similarly, when I play centre-back, Jags and Ash speak to me, I am lucky to have lots of experienced people around me.
“They bring a lot of experience that I can tap into and bring to my game. A lot of the stuff they tell me to look out for, I can see myself now so it’s helped me a lot along the way. I can only learn from playing games, making mistakes but playing with people like that is definitely helping me.”
Wayne Rooney will be playing against Arsenal in Everton colours for the first time since returning to his boyhood club this summer - 15 years on from when he burst on to the scene as a 16-year-old with an unforgettable last-minute strike to end the Gunners’ 30-game unbeaten run.
Holgate was only five years old when Rooney scored that goal and he says it is still surreal to count England’s all-time leading goalscorer as a teammate.
“To be honest, I can’t remember it happening at the time!” admitted Holgate. “But, obviously, I’ve seen it back since and to be able to do something like at that at the age of 16 just shows what kind of player he is and he’s just carried on through his career being that type of player.
“It’s crazy playing with somebody like Wayne, with the experience he has and what he has done in his career so far. It’s brilliant to train and play alongside him.”