Keane Reveals Secrets To Holgate Partnership Success

Michael Keane says his burgeoning centre-back partnership with Mason Holgate has plenty of scope for improvement – and the 27-year-old reckons his fellow defender boasts the potential of a “world-class” footballer.

Everton have recorded successive clean sheets after the Premier League resumed this month following the coronavirus shutdown.

Keane and Holgate have been integral to that effort, neither player putting a foot wrong in matches against Liverpool and Norwich City and both men embracing the responsibility of “holding the team’s shape together”.

With Yerry Mina closing on a return from injury, ex-Manchester United player Keane reckons Everton are well-resourced in central defensive areas for the season’s closing seven games.

The onus of late has been on the Keane-Holgate axis after Colombian Mina sat out Everton’s four matches either side of lockdown.

“We have been working together a lot in training and I am sure we can form a solid partnership,” Keane told evertonfc.com.

“We both have room for improvement and, I think, in the next year or two you will see that improvement in both of us.

“I enjoy playing with Mason, we communicate well and are good mates off the pitch.

“It is important for centre-halves to dictate where your midfield and full-backs are – they hold the team’s shape together.

“Sometimes one is louder than the other but it is better if you have two who are communicating all the time.


“I try to talk a lot and Mason is the same.

“We work together, we speak a lot during and after games about tactics.

“We know how to help each other and get all the others in the right positions to give us a solid base.

“We are both vocal on the field and that is a big positive.

“As you play a game, if something is not going right, if you feel you are getting overrun somewhere, for example, you talk about how you can correct it.

“It is important to speak to the person next to you, so you are both aware of what is happening and how you are going to make it better.

“I have done that a lot with Mason. When you are playing, you can say anything to anyone.

“Everyone respects you just want the best for the team and no one takes anything personally.

“You go about it the right way but if someone needs a kick up the backside they know they are getting it for the right reasons.


“It is not to have a go at someone, it is for the benefit of the team and to help them out.

“The game at Chelsea [4-0 defeat on 8 March] was a disappointment for everyone but we have played well in every match other than that under the manager.”

Keane reached his century of Everton appearances – and made his 21st Premier League start this term – in the Blues’ 1-0 win at Norwich last week.

He celebrated the milestone by scoring Everton’s goal, adding a pleasing footnote to a personally wonderful 24 hours following the birth of his daughter.

Keane’s strike, a towering header from a corner, was his fourth for the Club.

It is a tally the player insists should be higher and he perhaps sent a warning shot to Premier League opponents when twice heading home in a Goodison Park practice match this month.

“I scored a lot of goals when I was younger but, for one reason or another, I haven’t scored many for Everton and it is annoying, to be honest," said Keane.

“I know I have the ability to head the ball and score.

“It is just getting in the right areas and making aggressive runs.

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02:12

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“I have always been doing extra work with Big Dunc [assistant manager, Duncan Ferguson] on heading for goal.

“We work on set plays the day before a game and try to get our best headers of the ball in the positions where it will go.

“The manager is not putting pressure on the centre halves to score goals but if a centre-half can score five goals a season it is a massive help for the team.

“It is something I have wanted to improve for the past few years and, hopefully, I can add a few goals before the end of the season.”

England international Keane, a summer 2017 acquisition from Burnley, has started next to Holgate 14 times this term.

Holgate, four years Keane’s junior, has ignited his Everton career in 2019/20 and started and finished 24 of the past 25 games in all competitions.

And Keane reckons the sky is the limit for his compatriot, who spent the second half of last season on loan with West Bromwich Albion.

“The whole time I have been at Everton, I’ve known how good a footballer he was,” added Keane.

“I think getting that experience last year in the Championship was brilliant for him.

“I had that at a younger age and it was the best thing I did.

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04:19 Sun 28 Jun 2020

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“It turns you into a man on the pitch and teaches you what to expect.

“He had played for Everton before going on loan but never really had a consistent run.

“Everyone knows the talent he has and he is a very good athlete.

“He has improved his defending a lot and is still only young so there is a lot more to come from him.

“He has definitely been more confident and more vocal on the pitch since coming back and probably realised the importance of communicating in games while on loan… it is a massive help at centre-half.

“He has all the talent to play out from the back, he is physical and quick and bright.

“He has done brilliantly but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him improving even more.

“He has everything.

“I think he can reach higher and higher and become a world class centre-half.”

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