Ben Godfrey insists Everton are setting the bar high under Rafa Benitez – and determined to fix the inconsistency that has blighted recent campaigns.
Defender Godfrey, the Club’s Young Player of the Season last term, started both matches as Everton recorded successive victories in Florida this week.
Seven days training and playing in the American state, says Godfrey, have enabled the players to make enormous strides physically.
And, echoing the thoughts of Benitez following Wednesday’s win over Mexican team Pumas, Godfrey is detecting signs of Everton implementing their new manager’s strategy on the field.
Everton defeated Millonarios from Colombia on penalties in Sunday’s Florida Cup and have one more pre-season fixture – at Manchester United next week – before beginning the Premier League campaign against Southampton in a fortnight.
“The manager has put across his ideas and we are trying to put those into games, we had two good results against two good opponents and things are looking good,” said Godfrey.
“Pre-season is about intensity, getting that load back into your legs and improving fitness.
“The manager's brought his staff in to condition us in the way he wants, the lads are feeling good and physically we'll be ready come the start of the Premier League season.
“It is a massive club and we set high standards, to get European football would be massive for us and our fans.
“We will keep our overall goals in house but… the feeling is good around the place, we are all competitive and really hungry to improve on last season.
“The consistency [can be better] as well, we were up and down a lot, so if we can fix that it will be a good season.
“We have plenty in the tank and are all ready and hungry to go.”
Everton’s stay in Orlando doubled as an opportunity for a trio of new arrivals to bed into Benitez’s squad.
Demarai Gray scored Everton’s goal against Millonarios and was prominent in both games, while goalkeeper Asmir Begovic twice saved from the spot in the shootout with the Colombians.
Andros Townsend started the two matches and was immediately comfortable on both flanks in Benitez’s original set-up.
“We have a lot of really good characters and a great feeling around the team, so it is easy for new lads to settle in,” said Godfrey.
“There were improvements in our second game [Pumas], we started with much more intensity and can take a lot from it.
“We are building into the season and putting the manager’s methods into games.
“Pre-season has been tough, they have worked us hard and we’ve played two good opponents.
“The teams we played are used to the humidity and heat.
“You don't realise how different it is until you are there, it feels like there's no oxygen.
“We will feel the benefits back in the UK, it will be easier physically.”
Everton complete their pre-season programme against Manchester United at Old Trafford next Saturday.
Southampton are at Goodison Park for the opening day of the Premier League campaign seven days later, with visits to Leeds United and Brighton & Hove Albion scheduled before the end of August.
“The lads feel ready for a massive season and we are looking forward to it,” added Godfrey, who made 36 appearances last term following an October 2020 transfer from Norwich City.
“Anything is possible in football, we all know that.
“We're working to improve on last season. We started off really well but missed out on Europe.
“I've said so many times that this is a massive club and I think European football has to be on our mind.
“That is our aim.”