David Unsworth says it is “very, very special” to be mentioned in the same breath as a host of Club legends following his unveiling as Everton Giant for 2019.
Unsworth, who was chosen for the accolade by Chairman Bill Kenwright at this year's end-of-season Dixies, made 350 Everton appearances and was a colossus in the heart of defence when Joe Royle’s team won the 1995 FA Cup.
As coach of the Club’s Under-23s, he has nurtured the talent of a succession of players who have graduated into Everton’s first team from the fabled Blues' Academy.
Unsworth trod that same path, joining Everton aged 13 and being handed his senior debut by Howard Kendall as an 18-year-old in April 1992.
His young Blues were Premier League 2 champions in 2016-17 and went one better this term, regaining their title before completing an unprecedented double by claiming the Premier League Cup.
As Everton’s newest Giant, Unsworth is rubbing shoulders with an elite selection of men including Alan Ball, Dixie Dean, Joe Royle, Colin Harvey, former teammate Neville Southall and imperious ex-player and manager Kendall.
“It is an amazing honour and privilege to accept this award,” Unsworth told evertontv.
“The line of men and players who have gone before me and won this award… to be part of that group is very, very special.
“I am very, very honoured and, to be honest, touched by it.
“I am very proud to accept the honour and very proud to be stood here.
“I find it very hard to sum up what Everton means to me. I could say it means everything and that would not be enough.
“It has been my life since I was a 13-year-old boy.
“My desire has always been to be here, stay here and be successful here.
“And having accomplished that as a player and coach is a great privilege.
“Everton means everything. It is a way of living and working.
“You spend so much time here, when you are honoured enough to win awards like this, it is quite emotional.”
Unsworth’s Under-23 team was selected by Mr Kenwright as recipients of this season’s Howard Kendall Award, which acknowledges an area of outstanding achievement at the Football Club.
The Chairman and majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri interrupted the squad’s pre-Premier League Cup final meal at USM Finch Farm to surprise them with their prestigious Dixie.
Mr Kenwright then revealed the identity of this year's Everton Giant.
“I couldn’t quite believe it, I was shocked,” said Unsworth. “We had the final to win that night so it didn’t really sink in until the next day.
“I was wondering why the Chairman and Mr Moshiri were here – and there was a camera behind them.
“I was thinking, ‘What’s going on?’
“It was amazing for the team to win the Howard Kendall Award for the second time in three years.
“Then, when the Chairman started talking [about the Everton Giant award] I said to [Under-23 assistant boss] John Ebbrell, ‘Who is he talking about?’
“It was a very humbling and very proud moment.”
Unsworth’s 302 Premier League appearances across two spells puts him fifth on Everton’s all-time list.
A powerful, fast and versatile defender, Unsworth had one campaign away from Everton in 1997-98 but returned for a further six seasons at Goodison Park.
He scored 40 goals for the Club and after leaving for Portsmouth in 2004 continued playing for five more years, representing another five clubs, including time with Ipswich Town where he reunited with Royle.
Unsworth came back to Everton as assistant to then Under-21 boss Alan Stubbs in September 2013. He was promoted to manager the following summer when Stubbs departed for Hibernian and was instrumental in the development of current first-teamers Tom Davies and Jonjoe Kenny.
Every one of Unsworth’s 2016-17 championship-winning squad is playing professionally today, validation of the 45-year-old’s belief in success as a key element of a footballer’s growth.
Unsworth has twice managed Everton on an interim basis, overseeing the final game of the 2015-16 campaign and taking charge for one month early in 2017-18.
“I still get the same buzz I did as a player when I come in and work with the young players,” added Unsworth.
“I have to thank the amazing staff I work with every day: John, Franny Jeffers and Alan Kelly.
“Without them none of this could be achieved; the success we have had with this group of players is down to them as well.
“The young players have been magnificent in my time here, they are like sponges and desperate to be Everton footballers.
"I have always had a great relationship with the fans and when I stepped in with the first team, they were amazing.
“The support I had from all Evertonians – and still do – was fantastic.
“A lot of them take a huge interest in our young players.
“It means a lot to the Club that we have good young players who can make that transition to our first team.
“It is something we have always done and certainly, on my watch, will continue to do.
“I am still as hungry as ever to be successful as a coach – and desperate to see our first team and young players be successful.
“I am excited to be part of young players’ journeys: to try to help and encourage and make them better, not just as footballers but better men, too.
“It is a role I love and I hope we can continue to be successful.”