Everton winger Andros Townsend says he savoured representing “this famous club” for the first time in Sunday’s Florida Cup victory over Millonarios, as he expanded on why Rafa Benitez is the ideal manager to help him maximise his talents.
Townsend delivered a dynamic debut performance as he played the opening 45 minutes of the Orlando clash, which the Blues eventually won 10-9 on penalties after the game finished 1-1 in normal time.
The 30-year-old’s direct running, sharp movement and intelligent use of the ball impressed throughout the opening half.
And he almost marked his Everton bow with a fabulous goal when he cut on to his left foot and hammered a shot off the crossbar.
Townsend declared his determination to build on his fine display – and is convinced boss Benitez’s tactical acumen and attention to detail can help bring the best out of him.
“I really enjoyed the game, and it was nice to be out there playing in front of the American fans,” he told evertontv.
“They won’t have been able to see Everton play live for a few years, so it was nice to give back to them and to win the game, which is the most important thing.
“I put a couple of nice crosses into the box and I almost scored as well. I had the exact same type of shots in training a few days ago and I hit them both in the top corner, but this one hit the crossbar.
“I’m very fortunate playing with world-class players, they’re getting me into good positions, and hopefully I can just hit one a little bit lower next time and open my account for this famous club.
“I need to keep improve. I know the manager well and I’m sure he’ll go through the tape of the game with me and show me my good parts and – more importantly – my bad parts, so I can improve and help this club in any way possible.
“When I speak to him, he’ll be telling me what I could have done better and the positions he wants me to pick up.
“He wants to keep improving players and that’s why I had such a great spell with him at Newcastle. Hopefully, I can have similar success here.”
Indeed, in just 10 appearances under Benitez’s tutelage during Townsend’s loan stint with the Magpies, he scored three goals and provided two assists.
As well as Townsend’s eye for goal and tireless work-rate, Benitez has highlighted the winger’s ability with both feet and creativity as key qualities – and Townsend says he is eager to offer a consistent flow of inviting deliveries for Everton’s talented attackers.
“I’ve had to work over the years to improve my weaker side,” said Townsend, who is naturally left-footed. “It’s got to the point now where I actually prefer crossing with my right.
“I was brought to this club to put crosses in the box. We’ve got a big number nine in Dominic [Calvert-Lewin] – or it could be Moise [Kean] or whoever is playing in that position – and my job is to put the ball in the box.
“I did that on a couple of occasions against Millonarios and hopefully, the more the communication grows with my teammates, they’ll know where I’m going to cross the ball, and we can get some joy from it this season.”
Townsend completed his transfer to Everton only six days ago but explained how the US pre-season trip has helped him swiftly settle in with the squad.
The former Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur player could regularly be seen encouraging and cajoling his new teammates in Sunday’s Florida Cup game.
Townsend says he hopes to utilise his considerable experience to help the team on and off the pitch.
“I grew into that role at Crystal Palace, helping the youngsters and helping the team,” he added.
“I’m come to Everton and I feel like there’s a role like that for me here as well.
“Seamus [Coleman] has been great with me, he’s been a leader, and I want to be a similar leader.
“I’ve just turned 30, and I’ve got Premier League games under my belt. I want to help the boys, whether it be with my feet, with my voice, or in the dressing room.”
He added: “I’m enjoying every minute of being here, as you can see with the smile on my face.
“It’s a lot easier [to settle in] when you’re away with the group and you’re interacting 24/7.
“I’ve got to know the boys a lot more quickly than I normally would have.”