Ahead of our 2022/23 Premier League opener against Chelsea at Goodison Park, James Tarkowski sat down to discuss a range of topics, including why he was keen to seal his move to Everton as early as possible, realising the size of the Club was even bigger than he anticipated, what to expect from fellow summer recruit Dwight McNeil, the initiation song that ruined his dinner! And much more...
Q: James, you were our first signing this summer. How important was it for you to get the move sorted early?
JT: That was something that I was clear about in my mind from the outset - I wanted to get it done as soon as possible as I'd had quite a few summers where I didn't know whether I was coming or going. I wanted to get it sorted so I could just focus on football. I was really happy to get it done early and it's definitely helped me settle in as well. I've been here for four or five weeks now, but it feels like I've been here much longer.
Q: What have been your impressions of the Club - and has anything taken you by surprise?
JT: I knew it was big. I think I'm slowly realising that it's actually much bigger than I even first thought. The fanbase is incredible. Going to America and seeing how many supporters we had out there was fantastic, then the amount of people - from all over the world - who have been in contact to congratulate me joining. I just can't wait to get properly started now. I'm really looking forward to it.
Q: We know new players face the dreaded initiation song. Did you have to do one during the pre-season tour in America?
JT: I thought I'd got away with it, to be honest! They waited for the last day of the trip to America to tell me I was going to be doing it and it ruined my dinner! I sang Ain't No Sunshine, just because I knew the lyrics and I'm not very good with lyrics. My girlfriend often laughs at me for getting lyrics wrong, so that was in the back of my mind! I thought I knew the lyrics, so I went for it.... Please don't ask me to do it again!
Q: Back to football, you spoke about being ambitious when you joined Everton. How important is it now to put those aspirations into action now?
JT: We know, with the stature of this club, where we need to be. There is an expectation on us to perform on and off the ball. We need to show grit, determination, will in every game. I've played against this team before and I know how good they can be. Being around them now, I can see it even more. We've got a full season now to show everybody what we're about. The manager believes in us and gives us the freedom to go and play. We've got to go out there and do that.
Q: Everton's history of success is well-known but there are clear aspirations to get back up there again. How do you assess that challenge?
JT: It's a big challenge, but the hard work to get there has started already. We're putting hard work in and there's a real desire to be better. We've brought in a few players already and with the talent that we've got, hopefully we're in for a good season.
Q: Looking at another summer signing, Dwight McNeil is someone you know very well from your time together at Burnley. You said after the Dynamo Kyiv game that you felt like a proud dad! What can supporters expect from him?
JT: I've been saying for years that a big, big club should sign him and, finally, one has. I don't think his stats last year reflect how good he was. Sometimes it's tough when people just focus on isolated numbers and don't look at the player - I know how good he is. I've seen it since he was 17. He's got great experience already now for his age, he has bags of ability and he just wants to enjoy his football. I think the manager will allow him to do that here and I think he's really going to help the team.
Q: How would you describe Frank Lampard's management style?
JT: Obviously, he has that initial respect from everyone because everyone knows the footballer he was, but then on top of that, his ideas, the way he motivates us, the way he wants to get this club back to where it should be... it's fantastic. He's working the lads hard and that's what it's all about. As I said, we know we've got great talent here and we need to show that every week. We're putting in the hard yards now to prove how good we can be over the course of the season.
Q: First up it's Chelsea at Goodison Park - evening kick-off, sell-out crowd... not a bad one to make your competitive Everton debut?
JT: Not at all - if selected! I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be a special feeling, but then I know I have to be fully concentrated on what I'm there to do. It's a real tough test against a top side but we're ready to go out there and perform.