From the moment I joined this great club, I have made clear what an honour it is to manage Everton, and that privilege continues today for our opening match of the Premier League season against Chelsea at Goodison.
The last time we were all here together for a competitive match was truly special. The way everyone connected with the Club – fans, players, Board and staff – unified to inspire our comeback win against Crystal Palace was honestly one of the best moments of my career.
But we need to move on from that. It’s a new season, with different objectives and a fresh start for everyone. Everton is one of the biggest clubs in English football for a reason: we must have ambition to continue to improve and work towards success.
What we hope can continue from last season, however, is the strong bond that was built with our supporters and the spirit and togetherness that makes playing for Everton – home and away – so unique.
I’ve pointed out many times the difference you as fans can make to our players. The atmosphere generated before, during and after our matches towards the back end of last season was often breath-taking and something I’ve never witnessed in all my time in football. It was key to us remaining in the Premier League.
My two eldest daughters attended Goodison for our match against Dynamo Kyiv last week and they were blown away by our unbelievable support – and that was for a pre-season friendly. It’s clear how much this club means to our fans. The players know it, too, and their side of the bargain must be to always show that on the pitch with the Everton fundamentals: to play with passion, desire and to fight for every ball. Together, we will be stronger this season.
Pre-season has flown by but has been a positive one for the squad. We’ve been building fitness with every match and I thought there were plenty of pleasing aspects from our friendly win against Dynamo Kyiv last week. We were purposeful with our passing, mixing up our play, getting up the pitch quickly, keeping possession and creating chances.
The win over Kyiv was also a first chance to see the three signings we’ve made so far this summer at Goodison. I have admired James as a player for a long time. He is an outstanding defender, comfortable on the ball, who can pass from all areas of the pitch. Every squad needs leaders who can influence others and be strong in difficult moments. He is certainly one of those.
Dwight took no time settling in at Everton with two goals against Kyiv and we are really excited with the qualities he brings. I’m a big believer in his talent and we are confident he can make a real impact.
Rúben, meanwhile, is a proven Premier League performer who brings much-needed competition to the squad. Everyone at the Club is continuing to work hard to ensure we add more quality signings before the end of the transfer window.
We welcome Thomas Tuchel and the staff and players of Chelsea.
Thomas’ managerial record is one of the finest in Europe and he has made excellent additions over the summer to further strengthen a hugely talented squad.
Obviously, I spent many memorable years at Chelsea and I’m looking forward to seeing friends today from my time at the club. It goes without saying, of course, my focus will be on us getting all three points once that first whistle goes.
And we are under no illusions over the challenge Chelsea pose this evening. They are Premier League title-contenders and, because of their style and quality, will provide a big test for us defensively. But we are ready for this battle.
In many ways, our victory over Chelsea here in May is the blueprint for what is needed again today: pressing, tireless work-rate, concentration and commitment, backed by thousands of passionate Evertonians.
That has to be a very clean identity for us this season - that we are all together and fighting in the same direction.
Enjoy the game,