The Unsworth Column
The Blues legend gives his views exclusively to evertonfc.com.
I’m really looking forward to the new season and to start this new column on evertonfc.com is a great honour. I’m delighted to be able to share my views with all Evertonians.
I left Everton a few years ago but the Club never leaves you. I was privileged to have come through the ranks and to have played there for 13 years; sampling many great highs along the way, experiencing the Goodison crowd, the training ground and dozens of teammates.
Everybody knows how much of a massive Blue I am – I don’t have to tell people. Everton meant a great deal to me and still does. Without the Club I wouldn’t have been the player or person I am today.
MARTINEZ THE GENTLEMAN
They say first impressions count for a lot and I remember very well the first time I met new manager Roberto Martinez.
I was first-team coach at Preston North End and we played Wigan Athletic in the League Cup. After the match we went in to the coaches’ office and Roberto came across straight away.
The first thing is said to me was that I was a legend for keeping Wigan in the Premier League all those years ago with my penalty at Sheffield United on the last day of the season. I was blown away by how humble he was and how he made a point of coming over to talk to a young coach.
He is a top guy and I left the DW Stadium that evening with nothing but great words to say about him.
NEW SEASON EXCITEMENT
When I saw the fixture list come out I was pleased. There are a few games where I feel Roberto can bed in and which you would expect an on-song Everton to do well in. It will help Roberto to get his feet under the table and hopefully put some points on the board early doors.
A couple of good results will help the feel-good factor too. You never disrespect anybody in the Premier League because most teams are capable of beating each other but I do fully expect Everton to make a good start.
Norwich are first up and everyone knows that Carrow Road is a tough place to go. Chris Hughton has done a very good job following Paul Lambert. It’s never easy to retain your Premier League status when you first get promoted and then it’s even more difficult to kick-on. They have spent a few quid and I think they had to but we are talking about Everton here, a top team that I expect to gain points no matter who they are playing.
One thing is for sure, there will be a great atmosphere at Carrow Road. I’ve played there numerous times, in fact one of my first games for the Blues was away at Norwich. Mike Walker was the manager there before he came to Everton and they had a really good team then with players like Ruel Fox and Chris Sutton.
It’s a tight ground, the crowd are vocal and there will be a sea of Canary yellow everywhere - but I’m sure Everton’s full allocation of fans will make themselves known.
A BIG YEAR FOR BARKLEY
Throughout pre-season Ross Barkley seems to have got a lot more minutes than he has done previously. I have followed his career quite closely over the last couple of years and I saw his performance for England Under-21s last night when he impressed again.
I’m really looking forward seeing him mature, play more minutes and have a greater influence in the Premier League. All Evertonians love to see young players break through the ranks and Ross is a player that excites me. He is the type of player who, when he picks the ball up, you sit on the edge of your seat.
He can go left or right, has got a trick and a shot. From a coaching point of view, I’ll be interested to see where Roberto plays him, whether it is down the middle or off one of the wings.
A REGULAR VISITOR TO GOODISON
After recently leaving Sheffield United, I’m now looking forward to what lies in front of me from a coaching or managerial point of view. I’ve had two great experiences at Preston and Sheffield United – my first couple of jobs on the coaching ladder have been great and I’m excited about whatever the next challenge is.
I’ll be out watching all levels of football and hopefully that will mean I can get to more Everton first-team games. My daughters are all Evertonians and they have made a point of wanting to come to Goodison with me. They are now old enough to understand what’s going on and they are looking forward to visiting a place where I spent most of my career.