Nathangelo Markelo has revealed the depth of hunger within the Everton Under-23s squad to atone for their frustrating opening-day draw against Leicester City with a victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday (2pm).
Netherlands Under-21 midfielder Markelo, a key figure as the young Blues won a Premier League 2 and Premier League Cup double last season, admits the team did not play to their potential against the Foxes.
He says the players’ steely focus and determination to hit back has been evident during training at USM Finch Farm this week.
The Toffees will face a Wolves outfit that won the Premier League 2 Division 2 title last season. The Midlands side kicked off their 2019/20 campaign with a 2-0 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion, who finished runners-up to Everton in the top division.
“The manager [David Unsworth] has made it clear he wants these three points,” said Markelo.
“On Monday, it was frustrating. We didn’t play like we know we can. I think we could have passed the ball better and that’s what we need to do on Sunday.
“You can feel that hunger to win this game [against Wolves].
“It comes from the manager, the captain, Morgan Feeney, and goes for all the players.”
Markelo was a near ever-present in the Under-23s’ unprecedented 2018/19 double-winning season.
He enjoyed a formidable central-midfield partnership with Dennis Adeniran – the duo’s energy, combativeness and slick, imaginative passing helping the young Blues seize control of games.
The Dutchman says the pair’s close friendship has helped their understanding on the pitch to flourish.
“We don’t just have a good relationship when we play together, but also outside,” Markelo explained.
“I see him nearly every day after training. I feel I can say anything to him on the pitch, and he is the same with me. That helps us a lot.”
The team spirit in the camp is an important contributing factor in Markelo’s belief the Under-23s can have another successful season.
The 20-year-old insists the team’s ambitions are clear.
“I think we have the quality to win the league again – and that’s what we are focussed on trying to do,” he said.
“We have got good players. They are not only good players but great people, too.
“There is a fantastic atmosphere in the squad. We all want to improve as a team, to have fun, and to win.”