Ahead of Saturday’s trip to Selhurst Park, Amadou Onana sat down to discuss the upcoming clash, as well as the mindset of the squad going into the game. The Blues midfielder also spoke about his connection with the fans, the lessons he's learned since moving to the Premier League, and his upbringing and education.
Q: Firstly, how are you? Was it your groin that was an issue last weekend?
AO: Yes, but I am doing well. I’ve been improving since the beginning of the week. I trained on Thursday, so we’ll see.
Q: It must have been a pretty frustrating experience for you to watch that Fulham game.
AO: It’s hard. I feel more nervous when I’m sitting in the stands than when I’m on the pitch because you can’t influence the game, and you can’t help your teammates. That is the worst feeling you can have as a football player. It was a disappointing performance. We lacked a lot of things in that game, like physicality and intensity. They’re the things we stand for as a team and the things that define us. We have to take it and move on. We’ll try to build our confidence and go to Palace and give our all.
Q: Is it important to try to forget about that result and go to Palace with a fresh outlook?
AO: That’s the mentality we have. We know that game wasn’t good. We all know, but it’s all about being positive right now, sticking together, and going out there with a fresh mind. It’s going to be a tough battle, but we’ve prepared. They look like a different team since the new manager came in and they’ve got talented players. We know what it takes to beat them because we did it at home. We know that away from home, it’s a different game, but we’re ready.
Q: Up until this point, it’s been a battle for your team. How do you see the remainder of the season?
AO: It’s been tough, but it’s all about sticking together and trying to get the fans behind us. We’ll need them like we did last season. We all have one mission, and it’s to keep the Club in the Premier League.
Q: How much are you enjoying being an Everton player?
AO: I can’t hide it! Everyone can see it. I’m really enjoying it and it’s a pleasure for me. I know how big the Club is. Everyone can be sure I’ll give 100 per cent every time I’m on the grass. I’ll leave my heart out on the pitch, and that’s what I’m about.
Q: You seem to have a really strong connection with the fanbase. What’s your feeling towards them?
AO: I still have the same connection as when I first joined. The fans have been incredible because having the team in this kind of situation, and still sticking together and supporting us – for me, it’s fantastic. I’ve never had something like that. I’m enjoying it and even though there’s tough times, I’m enjoying every second of being at the Club.
Q: You’ve had a new manager come in this season. What’s it like working with Sean Dyche?
AO: It’s a pleasure. He brought a different mentality and energy. I think you can see that since he came in. The way we play, the mentality, and the character of the team has been different. It’s a good thing for all of us.
Q: You’re still only young, but how much of you have we seen so far in the Premier League?
AO: One thing is for sure; you still haven’t seen the finished article. I’m only 21, and still improving. I think I’m having quite a good season, but I can do better. I’m aware of that and I’m working on myself to reach my maximum potential.
Q: How much do you think you’ve learned this year by being in the Premier League?
AO: A lot. I think I’ve probably learned more about myself as a man than as a player. You have to deal with a lot of things, like the pressure. For me it’s a different experience to other countries I’ve played in. The people here, they live for football. They eat, sleep, and think football, and the media are always talking about it. I don’t really listen, but you feel that pressure. I think that brings the best out of me because I need challenges.
Q: You often play alongside Idrissa Gana Gueye and Abdoulaye Doucoure in the midfield. How has it been to play alongside those more experienced players?
AO: They make it easier for me. They talk to me a lot and not just on matchdays, but in training too. They try to help me as much as they can and give me their experience. They’re quite old. Well, way older than me! I’m trying to be polite, but they’ve got more experience and they try to help me in the best way possible. They’re two top quality players and I’m enjoying playing alongside them.
Q: The manager said he was going to get Steven Defour to speak to you. He’s another Belgian and someone he worked with at Burnley. Did you manage to speak to him?
AO: Yes, I spoke to him a few weeks ago. He talked – how can I be polite? He spoke about the nasty side of the game. But I really enjoyed talking to him. For us, in Belgium, he’s been a top player for many years, so I have a lot of respect for him. He gave me lots of good advice and I can certainly build on that.
Q: You’ve had an incredible journey so far, and your education is impressive. How many languages can you speak?
AO: I’m on five now. I want to get more on top of that, because you can’t go wrong, learning languages. You can always use them, wherever you are. My education is thanks to my granddad and my mum. They gave me values taught me to be respectful. I’m very thankful for that. I had a great to start to my life in Dakar, in Senegal. I moved from there and went to Belgium. It was a different culture, different language, different everything. But all those moves built the man I am today, and I’m happy.
Q: How important is it to you to have that confidence and to show your own personality?
AO: You can’t blame someone for being who they are. I care a lot about what those close to me say, but I don’t care what people outside of that think about me. They don’t know me. As I say: “You don’t know me enough to hate me.” I’m just going to be me.