Seamus Coleman has full belief Everton can look forward to more positive times with a burgeoning new mentality under the leadership of manager Sean Dyche.
The 34-year-old, who last week signed a one-year contract extension to take his time with the Blues into a 15th full season, says there is cause for optimism, with momentum since Dyche’s arrival in the Blues’ dugout in late January on an upward trajectory heading into the first pre-season under his stewardship.
And, reflecting on putting pen to paper for a further 12 months, Coleman says his hunger to help “my club” is as strong as ever.
“It’s the Club I know, it’s the Club that took me in as a 20-year-old and looked after me,” he told evertontv. “I’ve tried to repay that in every way I could. It’s hard to walk away from something you love and I still feel good on the pitch at the minute.
“This is my club - and I love it.
“To be honest, I had a bit of thinking this time around, which was different to the past. You always hope for better and the past couple of years haven’t been great but I always believe and I’m always positive things can get better.
“The manager has come in and, while it went to the wire last season, the lads showed really good mentality towards the end to get points that were important.
"I think we have a good base to work from. When the manager and his staff came in you could see what they were about but I’m sure they obviously would have liked more time to put their full stance in place and lead the way they want to lead.
"They’ve been very approachable, very calm in the middle of all the anxiety we were facing over the last couple of games of the season. They stayed calmed, stayed focused and gave the right signals out to the team that if we do the right things then we would have enough.
"I’m really excited by what they can bring us in pre-season and going forward and building that really strong mentality the manager keeps talking about."
Having been at Finch Farm over the summer as part of his rehabilitation from a medial knee ligament injury sustained at Leicester City during last season’s run-in, Coleman was joined by his teammates for the first official day of pre-season this week.
His recovery journey is progressing well and the Club captain says there has been a buzz at Finch Farm as the Blues prepare for a fresh start.
“It’s been very good [to be back],” said Coleman. “I’ve been in a little bit over the summer trying to get the knee as strong as possible to get back as quick as possible.
“It’s been great to see all the lads come back in. Everyone has come back in in good shape, which is a positive sign and, obviously, we’ll be hoping to add some bodies to that as well.
"I’m very excited to have the lads back in and very excited for the season ahead. I think we all need to be like that — we have to be positive.
"I think as a group we need to stand up and respect where we are, respect the club we’re playing for.
"We have got a good group in there, I have to say. I know we finished just above the relegation zone and people will be quick to say that’s a failure and, of course, that is absolutely not where Everton Football Club should be. We should be higher up the table but in those last few games, or after Newcastle when we got beat, it would have been very easy for some of the lads to go hiding but that wasn’t the case.
"They kept working, they kept fighting even though we were down to the bare bones and, again, I think that’s touching on the manager’s mentality of trying to build that into lads that we can go away, put your backs to the wall and come away with points.
"We need to build a good team spirit and that is something the gaffer has been working on. I think pre-season is vital for that and through the ups and downs of a season, we need to stick together, keep fighting and keep working in order to have a successful season."
Coleman joined Everton from Sligo Rovers in January 2009 for £60,000 and has since made 409 appearances for the Club, putting him 17th on the Toffees’ all-time list - and a place in the top 10 of those rankings firmly in sight.
The right-back is also the longest current serving player in the Premier League and is just three matches away from surpassing Tim Howard (354) as Everton’s record appearances maker in the competition.
"I’m very fortunate," he reflected. "I came over here as a reserve player, as everyone knows. I just wanted to be the best I could be every single day and keep pushing every single day.
The mutual love and respect Coleman shares with Evertonians ensures his place in Everton history is already cemented.
His selflessness to the cause was underlined once again when, while being taken off on a stretcher after that nasty collision at King Power Stadium at the beginning of May, he gestured to the travelling Everton supporters in a bid to give them a final boost.
In return, Coleman's name was sung by supporters in every game in his absence, including after the full-time whistle of the all-important 1-0 win over Bournemouth at Goodison Park on the final day of the campaign.
"Their support means everything to me," reveals Coleman. "I knew coming off the pitch that night [against Leicester], as I was in quite a lot of pain that it was probably the end of my season, so I thought, ‘What else can I do, as one last thing to keep us going or to keep the crowd going?’... I’ve lifted my fist to them because I know them and they know me — and I knew I’d get a reaction from it and I knew the lads would, too.
"Thankfully, we ended up getting a point that night.
"The fans’ support to me has always been incredible and I really appreciate it.
"I live in the city and I see them all of the time — they’ve always been great with me.
"I think — and I say this to all of the players — all they ever expect from someone is to give their all and to show respect to what you do and for this football club. If you do that, they’ll welcome you with open arms."
After watching the Bournemouth game from the stands and hearing his popular 60 grand chant afterwards, Coleman revealed: "It was [emotional], to be honest. They were singing it while I was sat there and there were much bigger things going on than me at that time.
"When you hear your name being sang, it is quite emotional and it does touch you. I can only thank them for that.
"At the end of the game it was just relief for us all. That was the most important thing — that this football club stayed up.
"It goes to show that there is no God-given right to stay in this league and you’ve seen that with the teams that have been relegated. We need to make sure that we don’t put ourselves in that situation again."