Marcus Bent says Everton will be confronted by an “exciting and attacking” Crystal Palace side at Selhurst Park this afternoon.
Former Toffees striker Bent had his first taste of Premier League football as a Palace player – his debut, coincidentally, coming against Everton – after moving to the south London club from Brentford in January 1998.
He navigated his way to Goodison Park via spells with Port Vale, Sheffield United, Blackburn Rovers, Ipswich Town and Leicester City, signing for boss David Moyes in summer 2004.
Bent scored his first Everton goal in a 3-1 win at Palace on the second day of the 2004/05 campaign (pictured) – a victory that acted as a springboard for a fantastically productive run of Toffees form, with Moyes’ team winning seven and drawing two of their subsequent 10 top-flight matches.
Londoner Bent left Goodison for Charlton Athletic in 2006 but remains a supporter of the Club and considers Everton “my home".
As such, he is desperate for the Blues to relocate their winning touch away from home, with the Toffees not having claimed three points on the road since their last visit to Palace, back in January.
“Crystal Palace are a strong side, with a lot of youngsters who are doing well,” Bent told evertonfc.com.
“It will be hard graft for Everton on Saturday, but they did so well to come back and win against Watford and that has to act as a spur for them.
“Palace can be powerful at home, although their results this season have not always reflected that. Their fans really get behind them.
“But we have had some good results at Palace. I hope we win, but Palace are an exciting, attacking team. They do not sit back, at all.
“Hopefully, we can get our heads up and get a win, because it is crucial for us to start winning away again.”
Seamus Coleman snatched victory for Everton with three minutes to play at Selhurst last term, so preserving the Toffees' stellar current-day record at the vibrant south London ground.
The Blues are unbeaten on their past six visits to Palace, a run stretching back to a 1-0 defeat in October 1994.
Bent featured in the first two matches of that run, and has happier – and more vivid – memories of the latter encounter.
“It took me a couple of games to score at home for Everton (Bent opened his Goodison account at the third attempt, in a 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough), so Palace was my first goal,” said Bent, who netted seven times in 55 Premier League matches for the Toffees.
“I remember Tommy Gravesen scoring a penalty after we had gone one down (to a Mark Hudson header). Palace were all over us at the start… we were really under the cosh, to be honest.
“But we got ourselves together and started playing a bit of football – Tommy curled in the second, then I went through and got the third.
“It was a good game – but a hard game!”
Bent’s first Palace appearance came as a second-half substitute in a match Everton won 3-1 midway through the 1997/98 campaign.
The three points they prised from that game were critical to the Toffees’ eventual survival, on goal difference at the expense of Bolton Wanderers.
Palace, in stark contrast, ended the season bottom of the Premier League and seven points adrift of safety.
Everton had already established their 3-1 lead by the time Bent came on – and he needed some prompting to remember the occasion.
“Did I!,” exclaimed Bent, when reminded he had debuted for Palace against the Toffees, before the cogs started whirring. “It was at Palace, wasn’t it?
“I remember walking up to the sidelines – you have just refreshed that memory, now. I can’t remember it clearly, but I can remember getting up and thinking, 'Oh, right'… and running on!
“Wow, that is mad. I cannot remember anything about the game. It was a long time ago… a very long time ago!”
Bent does nevertheless reflect with some affection on his 12 months as an Eagles player, and believes his spell with the club helped shape his career.
“I had a really good time there, it was my first experience in the Premier League,” he said.
“One of my first goals was against Liverpool at Anfield – it was a Marco Van Basten-style volley ( in a 2-1 defeat in April 1998)!
“It really bugs me, because whenever I watch Premiership Years, they always have all these goals – but mine was one of the best ones and it’s not on there!
“If you can ever look it up… do.
“I got into the England Under-21s through Palace, and played with some really good players there; Attilio Lombardo, Matt Jansen, Sasa Curcic, Bruce Dyer.
“You could not buy a better learning experience than that, training and playing alongside those types of players, it makes you grow as a footballer and a person.
“You have to mature quickly.”