Stuart Backs Blues To 'Stamp Authority' In Opening Games

by Peter Lennox

Graham Stuart believes Everton’s opening fixtures of the 2018/19 season can give the side the opportunity to “stamp their authority on the campaign” and build on the feel-good factor created by the arrivals of Marco Silva and Marcel Brands.

Silva’s first competitive game in charge at Everton will be at Molineux, as the Toffees kick off their Premier League season against newly-promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers on the weekend commencing August 11.

Southampton are the first visitors to Goodison Park the following week, before the Blues travel to the south coast to take on Bournemouth.

Two home games follow, with Silva’s side hosting Huddersfield Town and West Ham United respectively.

Stuart is confident the Blues can build momentum in the opening weeks of the campaign and set the tone for the season. He admits, however, that the opening game against Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves will be a tough test, with the Midlands side still riding the crest of a wave from their triumphant Championship campaign.

“Starting the season well is very important, especially in terms of confidence, and I think the fixtures represent a good opportunity to hit the ground running,” the former Toffees forward told

“The opening game will be an interesting one. It will be two Portuguese managers going head-to-head and, of course, Wolves will be full of optimism after winning the Championship last season.

“From our perspective, we’ve got to go there and make sure they realise this is a different kettle of fish – this is the Premier League now.

“And there is a great feeling around Everton now, too. We have the freshness of a young, vibrant manager coming in and Marcel Brands as Director of Football. The whole club seems to have a very clear direction of where we want to go.

“But, ultimately, everything is driven by what happens on the football pitch and I believe these fixtures give us an opportunity to get out there, get some points on the board early on and stamp our authority on the season. Hopefully, from then on, the confidence levels grow throughout the players and the supporters.”

Silva’s first experience of a competitive game at Goodison Park comes against Southampton – a fixture Stuart has particularly fond memories of.

The striker hit the opening goal in Everton’s 7-1 victory over the Saints in November 1996, a game where Gary Speed hit a hat-trick, Andrei Kanchelskis bagged a brace and Nick Barmby also got on the scoresheet.

While a victory on that scale may be too much to ask for come August 18, Stuart believes kicking off the season at the Grand Old Lady with a victory would only add to the positive atmosphere surrounding the Club.

“We’ve got to use that optimism and enthusiasm that we’re going to have at Goodison Park in that first game of the season,” said the Club Ambassador and 1995 FA Cup winner.

“Southampton are a wonderful club and they’ve produced some terrific sides and terrific players, but we’re Everton and we’re at home.

“We’ve got make sure that we give the supporters exactly what they want and that’s fast, attacking football and energetic performances. I’m sure Marco Silva will be very aware of that. He’ll want to set the tone for what he wants the supporters to see from his side.

“In that game we had all those years ago, the 7-1, it was just one of those days where everything went right. We were a tough side to beat in those days and we had some good individual players.

“You look at the lads who scored – Gary Speed, Andrei, Nick Barmby… They were all good, good players. We had good team spirit, good work ethic and then good players – if you get those three things in place, you’re not going to go far wrong.”

The first Merseyside derby of the season will be on December 1, when the Blues travel to Anfield, with Everton then scheduled to host Liverpool on March 2.

In a hectic festive period, meanwhile, the Toffees will face Tottenham Hotspur on December 22 before travelling to Turf Moor to take on Burnley on Boxing Day.

A trip to Brighton & Hove Albion follows three days later, while Leicester City visit L4 on New Year’s Day.

For Stuart, the release of the fixtures has further whetted his appetite for the new season. He is convinced exciting times lie ahead under the new regime at Goodison Park.

“Marco and Marcel have spoken very positively and sensibly about what they’re going to do at the Football Club and the direction that we need to go in,” he explained.

“I love the fact that they are saying ‘our Club' and we are all in this together, because that is music to every Evertonian’s ears.

“They want the manager to buy into what being an Everton manager is all about. And that is working as a Club together, we’re all as one, we all want success - whether you’re a fan, a manager or a player - we are all in this together. I’ve never been at a football club in my career that has been as intense as everyone being in it together as one.

“I’ve been very impressed with what both Marcel and Marco have had to say so far. I can’t wait for the next season to begin now.”

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