Joe Royle has revealed the key qualities that “intelligent” David Unsworth and “deep-thinking” John Ebbrell bring to Everton.
Former Blues players Unsworth and Ebbrell have taken charge of the Toffees' past four matches, with boss Unsworth receiving glowing praise from Leighton Baines for the inspiring team talk he delivered prior to Sunday’s victory over Watford.
Royle managed the duo during a stirring mid-1990s period at Goodison Park and has been on hand to lend an ear to Unsworth and his assistant Ebbrell across the past three, hectic weeks.
The 68-year-old, a title winner as a player with Everton in 1970, 25 years before he led the Club to FA Cup glory, identified leadership traits in a young Unsworth – and was not surprised to learn of his former charge’s rousing dressing-room rhetoric last weekend.
“I also heard the talk was inspirational,” Royle told evertonfc.com. “It was what we needed and it worked.
“We have not been out of any game, really – we had just been short of a cutting edge. A powerful team talk is extremely valuable, particularly in bad times.
“He was always an intelligent boy and always had a smile on his face. He loved the game and loved playing for Everton.
“I took him to Ipswich on loan as well (in 2004/05). We could not afford to keep him and that cost us in the play-offs (Ipswich lost a two-legged semi-final to West Ham).
“I always admired Unsy the player… but the lad, as well. He is a fine human being.”
Prior to his current stint as boss, Unsworth’s first-team managerial experience was limited to overseeing a 3-0 home win over Norwich on the final day of the 2015/16 campaign.
He had Royle by his side on that occasion. But while the more seasoned man is enjoying his current role as counsel to his former defender - along with his job as the Club's professional development co-ordinator- he insists Unsworth could not have a better right-hand man than ex-midfielder Ebbrell.
“I loved being on the bench for the Norwich game,” said Royle. “John Ebbrell is there now, a trusty pair of eyes and a great lad.
“He is still the recipient of the hardest decision I ever had to make in football, when I left him out of the Cup final (in 1995).
“I remember saying to him after that, ‘John, I know it will be hard for you, I will go whichever way you want, you can have a new contract or, if you feel you cannot play here any longer, we will let you go’.
“He went to Sheffield United, where Howard Kendall was manager and also respected what he did. He was a top player but, unfortunately, had a lot of injuries.
“He is quiet, deep-thinking, analytical and, together, they are a great pair. As a duo, I think they have a great future.
“I have had a very remote hand (in first-team operations), I might say. But I am there. I sit in the stands and we have a little chat before Unsy speaks to the players at half-time, just to see if he is seeing the same things as me.”
Royle finished his playing career with Norwich City in 1982 and almost immediately crossed the great dressing room divide by agreeing to become manager of Oldham Athletic.
As such, he had to learn on the job, particularly when it came to the art of addressing his players before a match.
“I was nervous and probably naïve,” said Royle. “I was barely 33, the youngest manager in the country. I still had the dressing room mentality, which, unfortunately, gradually leaves you – because those years as a player are the best of your life.
“You will have a framework of what you want to say, if there is any particular message you want to get across.
“But, equally, you have to remind people of their jobs – you have worked on it in training – so there is that, too.
“And, probably, the final thing you say before you go out is the most important of the lot.
“Unsy had the advantage of having been coaching and managing the Under-23s here for a number of years – that meant going up to work with the senior players, who all knew him and his capabilities, was not going to be quite that hard for him.”