Mason Holgate has revealed how the trust shown in him by Frank Lampard has transformed his mindset, as he paid tribute to the Blues boss’ honesty and man-management skills.
The defender was a near ever-present for Everton following Lampard’s appointment in late January, starting 19 of the Toffees’ 21 Premier League matches under his stewardship.
Holgate played every minute of Everton’s final seven games of the campaign and was important figure in the Blues retaining their top-flight status.
The 25-year-old explained how Lampard’s encouragement and infectious positivity provided a foundation for him to perform.
“To be honest, I’ve not felt that level of confidence in me for a long time,” Holgate said.
“I would never criticise anyone who has been here before, they worked hard and made the decisions they thought were best for the team.
“But it goes back to those big parts of my time here when I’ve gone into games thinking, ‘If I don’t get a clean sheet or play out of my skin, I won’t play next week’.
“It is hard for anybody to go in with that mindset. It’s been a bit more relaxed with this manager, I can play my game, and, hopefully, keep doing well for the team.
“I feel I have had more support to show what I can do – and consistently playing games in my position is a huge help because I can get settled and know what I am doing.
“The manager openly says he has faith in the way we are as a group and how good we are as footballers.
“You want the confidence to know you can play – if you make a mistake, you know he won’t think, ‘That’s it, he’s not good enough to do this’.
“Mistakes happen. If you’re a footballer or a builder, you will make mistakes.
"If you make a mistake building, you are not a bad builder, you have made one mistake on one day.
“To have a manager who believes in you and, if you make a mistake, says, ’Keep going, keep going’, rather than, ‘Don’t do that’, is a breath of fresh air and gives us the confidence to try things.”
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WORLD CLASS PICKFORD 2021/22 STANDOUT MOMENTS
Providing Everton with a sound defensive base is, of course, Holgate’s primary responsibility, but the centre-back also provided some crucial attacking contributions during the Blues’ Premier League run-in.
He struck the winner as Everton beat Leicester City 2-1 at King Power Stadium, while his cushioned header set up the Michael Keane strike which sparked the Blues’ unforgettable 3-2 comeback victory over Crystal Palace.
Amongst the joyous celebrations of Evertonians, players and staff on that incredible night, Holgate and Lampard shared a warm embrace on the Goodison turf.
Holgate outlined why he believes the Everton boss has quickly formed such a strong connection with his players.
“Some managers have things already in their minds [before they join a new team], Everton are a big club in the Premier League, so everything is out there to see, and it would have been easy to come in with preconceived ideas about people,” he said.
“But the manager has taken everyone at face value, which is refreshing.
“It gives every player a platform to show what they can do – your position is based on what you are doing, not people’s thought processes before they came.
“Look at Alex Iwobi, he was nowhere near the pitch, but he trained really well and the gaffer saw that and put him in the team.
“I’d played against the manager’s Derby and Chelsea teams, so he might have known a little bit about me. But I’ve not had a conversation with him about that.
“It’s all about what you can do in training and on matchdays and I have worked really hard to show him what I can offer.”