David Unsworth says his players must “puff out their chests” and prepare “for a fight” against West Ham United at Goodison Park on Wednesday.
Everton’s Premier League meeting with the Hammers comes three days after a bruising defeat at Southampton – and Unsworth insists the Toffees need to deliver a performance infused with “courage” and “mental toughness” in order to get the better of David Moyes’ team.
Unsworth masterminded a victory over Watford in the Blues’ most recent home top-flight encounter. Everton, however, have not won any of their subsequent three games, with a draw at Crystal Palace and Europa League defeat to Atalanta preceding Sunday’s 4-1 loss on the south coast.
“I am hurting,” said Unsworth. “When you are giving your all and not getting the results you want, it hurts.
“I just want the players to puff out their chests and say, ‘come on then, I am ready for a fight'.
"I will stand with them if they give me that attitude. I will stand side by side with them. I think any manager would do that. I just want to see the players giving their all and performing for this great club.
“We need to start winning. Goodison has to help us and we need to stick together.
"We need men, we need courage and mental toughness. Not to just turn up and play. When times are tough, you need your top players to stand up and be counted. That is really important.”
Former Everton manager Moyes replaced Slaven Bilic in the West Ham hotseat earlier this month. His first game in charge ended in defeat to Watford, but Moyes engineered a discernible improvement from his troops last week, when the capital team shared a 1-1 draw with Leicester City at the London Stadium.
Unsworth scored 27 seconds into Moyes' first match at Everton’s helm – a 2-1 victory over Fulham in March 2002 – and the former Toffees defender says he has “huge respect” for his ex-boss.
But, with Huddersfield Town due at Goodison on Saturday, and the Blues facing seven Premier League games in 22 days from 10 December, Unsworth insists there is no room for any old pals' act this week.
“I wish David well, but obviously not tomorrow night,” said Unsworth, who will oversee Toffees training at USM Finch Farm on Tuesday night.
“We have a massive week, a big game tomorrow, a big game on Saturday and a huge month in December. We have an awful lot of games, so we need to start winning quickly.
"I have already picked the team in my own mind and I am fully focused on tonight’s session.
“When you play for Everton, you are not just playing for any football club. It is a really intense football club with great demands from our great fans.
“It takes a real strength of character in these times to stand up and be counted. I am one of those standing up and ready for the fight.
“What I am asking the players to do is to stand up, to take responsibility and to perform for our great club. And we have to do that quickly.”