Good afternoon, fellow Evertonians.
Today is a chance to start the second half of our season on the right foot.
It’s been tough going so far and we’ve not done ourselves justice – so let’s come together and show the world the real face of Everton Football Club.
It’s on all of us to swing this situation around and get our club going again.
Everybody at Everton is completely together and pursuing the same goal, I promise you that. The owner and Chairman have been incredibly supportive and right through the Club – from Mr Moshiri and Mr Kenwright, through to the Board and the staff, to the players – we are united and driven to get this great club moving in the right direction.
We love Everton and every one of us is going to fight to give you a team that makes you proud.
I was honoured to be asked to manage the side for these upcoming games and accepted in a heartbeat. I first came down here when I was 22 and I am 50 now. It’s been a long love affair and the flame is burning hotter than ever.
I wrote in these notes before I took the side against Chelsea a couple of years back that nothing on earth felt as good as scoring a goal for this club.
Well, when I had those matches in caretaker charge of Everton, I discovered something even more special.
The Club touched every corner of my life for that fortnight. You’re completely consumed by the challenge and when all the thinking and planning come off, the feeling... Wow. I don’t have the words to truly convey the emotions you experience.
This isn’t a case, though, of clicking my fingers and summoning a repeat of what happened back then.
Winning a Premier League match is damned hard work and we are up against a really good side, a club on the up and feeling very good about itself.
Nothing was left to chance in our preparations this week. The players know what to expect from Aston Villa. But – and this is far more important, in my book – they know what is expected from them.
Our backs are against the wall right now and that calls for a certain set of qualities. You must play with aggression and speed and hunger and, my word, you’d better work hard. Run your legs off and Evertonians will stand in your corner all day and night.
I’ve been there. I had some wonderful times wearing that royal blue jersey. But I did a few daft things, too, I made some mistakes. And when you know those supporters have your back, regardless, it has a liberating effect. It strips away any fear, you want to go to war for those people.
I want Everton’s footballers to play with courage. Not just in terms of sticking their bodies in where they might get a kick. I want them asking for the ball, showing for their teammates. If they get something wrong? Fine. It sounds cliched but most of us make tons of mistakes every day. You carry on, keep putting in your shift and trying to do the right things.
The connection between the players and all of you in the stands is priceless. Pretty much everyone reading these notes is doing so because they care about Everton.
You know, then, the power of Goodison when Evertonians and the team are in unison. It is exhilarating and uplifting and that all-for-one atmosphere is exactly what’s called for today.
We welcome Steven Gerrard and the staff and players of Aston Villa.
Villa are coming here in rude health. They have been putting points on the board and, looking at the way they recovered from two down to draw with Manchester United last week – if it had gone on much longer, Villa would have been favourites to win – there is spirit and cohesion in the camp.
Steven is quickly bedding in his ideas and creating an identity and he’s always going to send out a team that wants to have a scrap.
We’ll be up for that and, whatever the outcome, Villa should be going away from here knowing they’ve been in one hell of a game.
That they’ve had to fight for every little thing that went their way, every throw-in and set-piece. If a Villa player tries to pinch a couple of yards at a free-kick, I know all four sides of this ground will hold him to account. That’s what I mean when I talk about this as a collective effort.
For my part, I will do everything to ensure that come full-time, you are bouncing out of this ground, standing tall and proud to call yourself an Evertonian.
There is a packed edition of the Official Matchday Programme for the visit of Aston Villa this weekend, with notes from caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson and in-depth interview with January recruit Nathan Patterson, plus a catch-up with former defender Matteo Ferrari and fun features with Demarai Gray and Jordan Pickford.
Pick up a copy, priced £3.50, around the ground at Goodison Park or, alternatively, click here to order a copy online now.