In an interview that first appeared in the Official Matchday Programme for Everton's visit of Manchester United, Abdoulaye Doucoure sat down to discuss rituals, the Blues' defiance in the face of adversity, a peculiar goalscoring habit, and starting a new royal blue chapter after playing a crucial role last season…
It was approaching 10.30pm when Abdoulaye Doucoure arrived home from Everton’s last game — a 3-2 win at Crystal Palace.
With the rest of the Doucoure family asleep in bed, and still feeling the after-effects of an adrenaline surge following a match-winning contribution of a goal and assist to edge a back-and-forth encounter, the 30-year-old midfielder set about his usual post-match ritual.
On went the television, with a replay of the Blues’ third consecutive win in the capital this season.
“It is the same after every game, I am always a bit tired but it is difficult to sleep,” Doucoure explains. “My routine is nothing crazy, but I am a lot more relaxed after a win.
“After a good result, I enjoy it with my teammates and the supporters, then I will catch up with my family and some friends, and then — whatever the result — I’m going home to reflect on the game.
“I like to see what I’ve done well, what I’ve done wrong and where I can get better straight away. That’s my way of unwinding. First I watch us and then I will watch highlights of all the other games.”
Rewind five-and-a-half hours or so, Doucoure and his teammates were celebrating another impressive result on the road in front of 2,931 travelling Toffees.
The scenes illustrated manager Sean Dyche’s belief of the growing “teamsmanship” within camp - and the bond between players and supporters that has been so crucial during recent testing times appears stronger than ever.
“It felt very good,” says Doucoure, who signed a new deal with the Club earlier this month to extend his stay at Goodison Park until at least the summer of 2025. “I don’t think it was our greatest game, our greatest performance, to be honest. Palace is a tricky place to go, with the old stadium, the atmosphere and it feels edgy, but at the end to get another win away from home was massive for us.
“You see we enjoy the moment with the fans at the end. I will never get tired of that feeling.
"I feel the love here and I am very happy. My new contract shows that. I love the fans, the way they look at me and love me, I just want to repay that back and give everything for the Club.
“The dressing room was buzzing afterwards. We knew we could win the game and we got ourselves into a position to do so but then we conceded fairly late and from there it can go either way. I think everyone was relieved to have got the win over the line, more than anything.”
In many ways, Doucoure, with his total commitment, relentless running and ability to execute important action in high-pressure situations, personifies the impressive wider improvements made under Dyche.
His relationship with the manager is low maintenance, though, one based more on action rather than constant dialogue.
“In terms of atmosphere and the group, it is definitely one of the best feelings I’ve been involved in during my career,” says Doucoure. “I am very happy to be here, of course. It feels like everyone is very happy to be here and understands the importance of playing for Everton - and the responsibility that comes with it. That is very, very important.
“When the manager came in, he sat everyone down and explained what he wants and an important part of that is having everyone together, pulling in the same direction. That was particularly important at the time he came in because it was a difficult moment, but we have built on that over pre-season, which was very good, and the early part of this season.
“It feels like a real team. Everyone is together, anyone can speak up when they need to. It all helps. It’s a healthy environment.
“The players who joined over the summer have helped that, too. They’ve given us a good mix, added to our fight and they also know what it means to play for Everton.
“The mindset has been different since the end of last season. We came back from the summer very strong, ready to work and like the manager says, ‘No excuses’. These were the most important things, in my opinion.
“The manager doesn’t speak for the sake of it. If he has something to say, then he’ll say it but otherwise we get on through actions. I prefer that. I prefer to do with actions rather than words. It’s more meaningful. Once it’s explained, we have what we need, then it’s up to us to go and do it.”
Despite being well into his seventh season on English shores, Dyche’s ‘Johnny-on-the-spot’ idiomatic nickname is a new one on Doucoure, who has netted nine goals in 27 Premier League outings since the manager’s arrival at the end
But he is more than happy with the sentiment - despite an ongoing joke behind the scenes at Finch Farm.
The Blues boss, who gave the Paris-born midfielder the endearing label in his post-match evertontv interview following victory at Selhurst Park, is a self-confessed long-term admirer.
“It’s natural, to be honest,” admits Doucoure. “Ever since I’ve been a professional I’ve found that I get myself into the right spot to score goals. I think sometimes I can feel where the goal is coming.
“Now, I guess, people are talking about it a bit more. It’s actually a joke in the dressing room — Tarky, Dwighty and everyone always says, ‘Scrappy goal? It must be Doucs!’… Obviously, it’s funny, but it’s natural for me to be in the right places.
“It’s a special feeling to score goals. I think it is the most difficult thing in football so when you score, you know it’s a big moment and a special feeling. To score and to help the team win games is an amazing feeling - and to be one of the main guys to be scoring goals makes me feel happy and proud. It makes you feel useful, that’s for sure!
“But, honestly, I am just happy whenever we score, whether it’s me or one of my teammates. My main target - our main target - is to win games, regardless of who gets the goals.”
Doucoure’s goalscoring record is a rather peculiar one.
Seven of his nine strikes since his resurgence under Dyche have come away from home. That tendency is reflected in the bigger picture, too, with 28 of his 45 goals as a professional footballer coming on the road.
“It’s hard to say why,” Doucoure ponders. “Throughout my career I have always scored more goals away from home and I’m not sure why.
“I would prefer to score at Goodison, for sure! But maybe away from home the games suit me more, maybe I have a little more freedom, maybe more time and space than at home, but whatever it is I am happy to be contributing.
"The confidence in the group is there. Each game we can score goals, the team is showing consistently how capable it is of scoring a lot of goals. We have to keep that feeling going.”
Posting on X, formerly Twitter, following that win over Palace, Doucoure’s message was short and sweet.
“Keep the momentum”, he wrote, followed by a blue heart emoji.
Motivation has never been an issue for Doucoure, but the fire inside is currently burning brighter than ever.
There is no doubt whatsoever that, following the ruling of a Premier League commission over the international break to deduct Everton 10 points - a decision that the Club has immediately appealed, Goodison Park is set to be at its defiant best today.
While relatively short, Dyche’s reign in L4 has been packed full of incident. If there is one thing his group have already proved, it is that they are up for a fight.
Likewise, Evertonians, who will have the chance to unite vociferously behind their side to create the infamous bear pit atmosphere that has triggered so many memorable nights at Goodison over the stadium’s illustrious 131-year history.
“We have to be ready and we are ready,” Doucoure insists. “We are focused on the game, a big game, under the lights at Goodison.
“International breaks are an opportunity recharge. It’s a time you can spend with your family and get back to 100 per cent but, of course, football never goes away. We keep working, too.
“The break just allows you to come back with more energy and more fight to keep up our performances and the momentum we’re starting to build.
“I love playing against the biggest teams, especially at Goodison Park.
“It’s a massive game for us and we have the belief that we can beat anyone at Goodison when we’re on it.”
Doucoure etched his name into Everton’s history books last season by netting a stunning winner against Bournemouth on the final day of the campaign to preserve the Blues’ proud top-flight record.
It is, he says, a chapter that will forever live in his memory, but there is clearly still an appetite to create more significant moments in royal blue.
“Of course, the goal against Bournemouth makes me proud,” he admits. “It’s something myself and my whole family enjoyed and we will never forget that day and that feeling after so many stressful months. Every time I see the goal on television or wherever, I can’t help but smile.
“It changed everything for me when the manager came in. Everyone saw my quality and I think I showed everyone what I’m capable of. I can’t thank the manager and Kevin [Thelwell] enough for that.
“I feel very good. I think all of my teammates and all the staff and everyone all around the Club has supported me a lot and given me good advice. I feel in shape and believe I can play even better football.
“To be part of the history of a club like Everton is something special. I love the Club and it means a lot to me to have the opportunity to fight for it.
“I want to keep making my mark here.
“That [Bournemouth] goal is in the past now and I want to continue my story from here.”