My Everton #81: Success, Survival And The Everton Way – Dave Watson

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People who really, really care about Everton is a must.

You can’t have players who sign and you’re not too sure about what their attitude is like. They’ve got to be switched on mentally and be as tough as they can ever be to play for an Everton team.

I’d had a phone call from Howard Kendall. He was asking whether I’d be interested in moving back to Merseyside to join Everton. I was delighted with it, because by that time, I’d had five years at Norwich.

I’d had an amazing time and got the experience I needed. I felt I was ready for Everton, even though they’d had successful sides. I wanted a challenge again. That’s why I wanted to join and give it a good go.

It wasn’t a difficult decision at all because I’d been playing Under-21s football for England, where Gary Stevens, Derek Mountfield and Paul Bracewell were all playing. I was in the England first team, and Reidy and Trevor Steven were there, so I knew most of the players, anyway.

We got on well and all had the same sense of humour. So that was a big pull, really - knowing the players, knowing what I’m coming into, and knowing the area. So, it should’ve been plain sailing, really, and after a tricky start, it became that way.

The training was a tremendous standard. I took a bit of time to get used to how Everton played with the high back line, because I wasn’t the quickest. I found that tricky at times. But after a few games, I was up and running. I went on that season and got Player of the Year, and we won the league. It was absolutely amazing.

Looking back, my first season really stands out - winning the league and being a part of a tremendous group of players. They’d already won the Cup, the Cup Winners’ Cup, and battered Bayern Munich. They’d already done all that, and I was coming into that team.

I was just a part of teams that won trophies, but to win the league championship is an unbelievable thing. It’s the best one to win. It’s over a distance that you win it, so that for me is the best.

The FA Cup and going to Wembley is an unbelievable experience for the supporters, and for the players as well. That was an amazing day. Going to pick up the Cup and getting Man of the Match - that was great as well. I had really amazing times at the Club.

When I joined, Everton had characters, and everyone was really trying their best to get into the team. We had a great bunch of lads, and you’ve got to have lads who really want the Club to do well.

However, me included, we’ve been in relegation battles. The toughest one we came out of was the Wimbledon game, where we were 2-0 down and came back to win 3-2. That shows there was some tough characters, like Barry Horne, and Joe Parkinson.

They were really great players, and they could fight. We had enough of them and that’s what you need in a relegation battle.

If you’re fighting like that, you need great togetherness.

You’ve got to have really great team spirit between you, and good, strong characters around the dressing room. If you came in during half-time and the team wasn’t doing well, the manager wouldn’t have to say anything. The players would have a go at who they think isn’t doing something.

When we had the likes of Peter Reid and Big Neville, they’d end up doing the team talk themselves at half-time.

A great example of the Everton way of playing is the lads in the Bayern Munich game. It’s a thing that comes from the supporters but rubs off on the players.

Another example is the character of the lads who have come back from these relegation battles. They’ve been in the team where they’ve had to really show grit, determination, and passion for the Club. As they turn up for the games, the streets are jam-packed. The supporters show their passion. That’ll rub off on players getting off a coach. They’ll be thinking, “We can’t let these supporters down".

Now, when I go back to Everton, 30-odd years later, I’m like a hero up there. I’m still getting people looking after me. There’s still the same people working around the ground.

It’s such a welcoming club. As soon as you walk into the training ground, the girls on reception are saying, “good morning” and wishing you all the best. When you go to the ground, the people at the ground – they just seem so nice.

I was at Goodison for the Brentford game, and when I walked in, there were so many people welcoming me. It’s as if I haven’t been away, and it’s been nearly 30 years!

By Dave Watson: 528 appearances for Everton (1986-2001), 1986/87 First Division winner, 1994/95 FA Cup-winning captain.

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