Q&A: Garner & Branthwaite On Personal Growth & Patience For Blues

Ahead of Sunday’s return to Premier League action against Arsenal, James Garner and Jarrad Branthwaite reflected on their personal journeys in recent years as they become established senior professionals, the importance of patience both individually and as a collective, and the eagerness to maintain a Blues record against Arsenal that has lasted six years.

Q. James firstly, how well did you know Jarrad before you joined the Club?

JG: To be honest, we only met in the summer when we were competing with England in the Euros. I have played against him a few times prior to that and we’re good friends now but that first proper induction was in the summer.

Q. How are you finding the relationship between you because despite the fact you've only met in the summer Jarrad, you've been for a lot already haven't you?

JB: It’s been good. Obviously, the experience in the summer (winning the Under-21s European Championship) brings everyone together, not just me and James.  think that was a good experience to have and going back got to club level and being with James there it’s really good. We've gotten really well. In training we like to give each other a bit of banter. We’re clicking well.

Q. In terms of the summer, James, what an incredible experience and what was it like to be part of such success at international level like that?

JG: It was amazing. The best summer I've ever had and that’s hard to top when you go on holidays most summers! It's definitely the best I’ve had with a great set of staff and even better bunch of lads. To win it with your mates is an even better feeling and to do it for your country too. For myself personally, it was my last time with the Under-21s so I’ve gone out on a high.

Q. What did it teach you in terms of a collective, what it takes to be successful and the dealing with the pressure and expectation, even Under-21 level it’s still there.

JG: I think for us it's more that we knew that our squad was definitely good enough to win the competition. We all came together, we all spoke and said: “our team is way too good not to be winning this. We’re going to regret it if we don’t.” It’s taught us a lesson that we have to do all the hard work and the hard dirty things to win tournaments like this.

Q. Jarrad, you may have not got as many minutes as you would have liked when the squad was rich in quality as it was. I suppose it would have been brilliant to be part of that group but is there an element of frustration that you weren’t able to play more?

JB: Yeah, it’s one of those things where you want to play them all but it was my first time being in the Under-21s squad as well, so it was a big thing just to be there. Obviously, you want to play every game and get minutes, but I think you look at the team we had and the success that we had, and obviously to go on and win the tournament, I was just happy to be there, train every day and be amongst it.

Q. How patient are you?

JB: I am patient but deep down I’m raring to go. I always want to be playing but we got to be professional about things. You got to train every day as hard as you can to show that you want to be in the team, and it’s deserved.

Q. I suppose you’ve had to be patient here at Everton, you’ve experienced loan spells elsewhere too. Has that been the most important quality for you, to keep your eyes focussed on what the end game is?

JB: Like I say, you’ve got to take every day seriously. You’ve got to train as hard as you can. Show wherever you are that you’re good enough to be there and that you want to be in the team. If you do that, you’ll get your reward. Now that I’m in the team, I’ve got to keep doing what I’ve done in the past three, four years, train hard and see where it takes us.  

Q. I suppose it’s similar as well with you James, you've had your long spells too. How much stronger do you feel for the experience of having those periods away when you are playing every single week and how much is that benefiting you now when you are in the Everton team?

JG: It definitely benefits you. You’re a lot more ready to go into men's football as it's called. I benefited 100-per-cent from the two loans that I had and I think that put me in good stead when I joined the Club to go on and play 90 minutes in the Premier League which is the toughest league in the world.  

Q. How much does it help mature you off the pitch as well? It’s not necessarily just about getting the minutes, it’s more so about the whole experience of being a first team player?

JG: It definitely helps you mature. I moved away from home at like 11 years of age and moved up to Manchester and I moved into a house at 18 on my own. I had to live in London on my own and cook meals and all that stuff. It definitely helps you to mature off the pitch and puts you in good stead for the future.

Q. That’s the side people don’t see I suppose, that must have been really tough to go through I suppose?

JG: It’s definitely tough. It's not something that you’re used to, so you’ve got to adapt. That's all it is really, just adapting to the new surroundings and the situations you get put in and I don't want to say it was even more difficult, but I went in the COVID years as well, so it wasn’t easy at all. Like I say, it's all just about adapting to the new surroundings and the situations that get put in front of you.

Q. What about moving to a new country, Jarrad, even on a temporary basis? That’s a challenge in itself as well, isn’t it?

JB: Definitely. The first six months I found difficult. I was away from home and on my own, different language, new people. It was difficult but I think that’s part of football. That was the choice I made and looking back now it was probably one of the best choices I ever did make. Going over there and playing the games I've played, helping mature as a footballer, coming back and being ready.

Q. Playing for a club the size of PSV as well, the crowd, the expectation. Again, similar points to the theEngland EUROs team really. It must have been a great experience for you?

JB: Yeah, it was. When you're over there, you're expected to win every single game, and I think that puts more pressure on you. Not just on a game day but obviously through the week training and you've got to have the highest standards. I think that just sets you in good stead for when you come back or even in life to set the best standards that you can to give yourself the best opportunities.

Q. How do you reflect on the start of the season?

JB: It's been a little bit frustrating for me not playing the first few games, but now that I’m back in the team it’s now just about keeping my head down, keep working hard and then hopefully the results start to come.

Q. James, you have been in the team and it's weird how the results haven't come. The performances have been much better than what the team have got in the end.

JG: Like you said, I think the performance have definitely been much better than they were last season. Last season we struggled to create goals and create opportunities. This year, we’re creating a lot of chances as shown. The stats speak for themself. We’re creating a lot of chances but just unfortunate at the moment that we can't put any away. I think the [Aston] Villa game was a blip, but the other three games we've been really good, and we've been quite unfortunate not to win. You’ve just got to remain positive and keep doing the right things and hopefully our luck will come.

Q. When you have a run like this, is it easy to overthink it in a way? But if the performance are good and it is just a matter of putting the ball in the back of the net, then it can change really easily so you don't want to change too much, but you also need to get those points though?

JG: I think it literally is goals win games. That’s something we’re not doing at the moment. I think as we start doing that, the points will come but it’s important that we don’t get too disheartened or we lose our heads. It's so early on in the season, it's a long season. As soon as we start putting the ball in the back of the net then I think the points keep on coming.

Q. How much do you think the new lads share are going to help start putting the ball in the back of the net, Jarrad? Beto and Danjuma have been excellent since they come in and you obviously face them in training too.

JB: Yeah, they’re massive. Two brilliant signings which we've brought in and obviously we've got more players coming back from injury as well which will only boost our squad. Like James said, we need to stay patient, and I think something will click and we will start scoring goals and the points will start coming.

Q. It takes the pressure off you as a defender as well, doesn't it? When you know you've got people up front who are putting the ball in the net.

JB: I think it just gives everyone in the team confidence that we can go out there and we know we can score against anyone. We’ve got the quality of players to do that. We create enough chances, so I’m sure it will come soon enough, and the points will start coming.

Q. Arsenal at the weekend, how you feeling about it?

JB: We’re feeling positive. We’ve had a good block of training during the international window, and we’re all raring to go.

Q. Everton have a good record against Arsenal, James. It was 2017 the last time they won at Goodison Park. It would be a nice thing to keep going?

JG: Yeah, definitely. Hopefully we do keep it going on Sunday. This fixture was the manager first game as well, so hopefully we can replicate the performance like we did last season. Arsenal were the best team in the league at that point and we defended for our lives. One chance and we scored. Hopefully it doesn’t go like that, and we have got a lot more of the ball, create a lot of chances and we score a few goals but I’m looking forward to it.  

Q. What do you think it is about this fixture that brings the best out of Everton, Jarrad?

JB: I’m not quite sure. It’s obviously a dramatic team. They’re one of the best teams in the Premier League so you go into it as the underdog. I think sometimes being that underdog gives you that belief to prove people wrong and go and beat them. Hopefully on Sunday we can do that.