David Unsworth says the “special” ovation he was afforded by Evertonians after the Toffees’ 4-0 thumping of West Ham “means the world to me”.
Wayne Rooney hit a 48-minute hat-trick and Ashley Williams headed home with 12 minutes to play, as Unsworth signed off as boss with a victory that moves Everton up three places to 13th in the Premier League.
Goodison Park rose to acclaim Unsworth on countless occasions during the second 45 minutes, and the former Blues defender’s name was chanted all around the ground at the full-time whistle.
“That was very special and I thank the supporters for that,” said Unsworth.
“I have always had a wonderful affiliation with the Everton fans. I had a great relationship with them throughout my playing career. That was a nice personal moment and I thank them for that.
“It means the world to me. When we took over we were in the bottom three, so to get us up the league to 13th is a step in the right direction.
“We have had a lot of games in a short period of time and it has been a tough six weeks. But, hopefully, we have given the new manager and his staff a platform to build on tonight.”
Unsworth has taken charge of Everton’s past five Premier League matches, winning two and drawing one.
The Blues were beaten 4-1 at Southampton in their most recent game, when Rooney was not involved for the second successive top-flight fixture.
And Unsworth was delighted with the Academy graduate’s exemplary performance in a midfield role on his return to the side.
The caretaker boss was also understandably keen to talk about Rooney’s otherwordly third goal, a technically exceptional strike from inside his own half - and reserved praise for Jordan Pickford, who brilliantly saved Manuel Lanzini's penalty when Everton led 2-0..
"If the penalty had gone in, you just wonder, would we have gone on the back foot?" said Unsworth. "It would have been a nervy time for us. It was a wonderful save and he is forging a reputation as a saver of penalties isn’t he?
“Wayne’s goals were fantastic. He was courageous to get on the ball. And he scored a wonder goal as well, which was fantastic.
“I was right behind it. It was a goal as soon as it left his foot. It was a great strike.
"We look at the opposition in great detail and we just felt, the way West Ham have been playing, Wayne could have a major influence from a deeper role.
“I have spoken to him across the past five or six weeks about where he sees himself and where we can play him to get the best out of him.
“It is probably in a deeper role. He has a wonderful football brain. He will take the ball in any area and he ran the game, really.”
Unsworth had been critical of his side following the loss to Southampton, but was quick to pay tribute to their vastly improved effort against David Moyes’ West Ham.
Moreover, the 1995 FA Cup winner is urging Everton to round off a productive week by completing what would be a third successive Goodison Premier League success when Huddersfield Town visit on Saturday.
“I thought our shape was better,” added Unsworth. “We worked tirelessly on our shape off the ball and that is what you have to do when you are conceding goals.
“The clean sheet is fantastic – as important as the goals.
“I thought the players' attitude was fantastic. Spot on. Everything I asked of them they did with confidence, and I thought they played without fear.
“We went for it, we stuck together and it was a team performance.
“The players showed confidence tonight, certainly after Wayne scored his first goal. They started playing then and reproduced the form I have seen for the past six weeks in training.
“We have had some tough games. But it is always nice to get back to Goodison and I think, with another game coming up, if we can back that up with another three points, that would lift the place as well.”