Q&A: Branthwaite & McNeil On Everton Togetherness, Improving Standards & Run-In Focus

Ahead of Monday night's clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Jarrad Branthwaite and Dwight McNeil sit down to discuss Everton's recent two-point deduction, setting standards for the season's run-in, what to expect in the capital against Mauricio Pochettino's side and more...

Q. Jarrad, let's begin with you. News broke at the beginning of this week that the Club would be deducted a further two points. How has the squad reacted to that?

JB: I would say it’s probably the same as when we first got the first deduction earlier this season. There’s nothing we can do, it’s out of our hands. I think it's about how we react, like we did with the first points deduction. We went on a run of games getting wins, and I think we’ve got to take what we did after hearing the news for the first deduction into the second.

Q. Dwight, as far as motivation is concerned for the rest of the season, this news doesn’t change much. The focus is still on getting as many points and wins as possible?

DM: Exactly. We got a massive win last weekend; we know we need to win games. Now we need to take that forward, regardless of what’s happened with the deduction, that’s what we need to do. Going into the last run of games, we need to win games.

Q. How important was it to break that run without a win last weekend?

DM: It was massive. There was a lot a talk about us not winning in so many games, and then we finally got that win. It was nice from that perspective, but we know that we have to still improve and kick on because we still have to win games. We take it a game at a time going into the last seven.

Q. There’s been a lot spoken about that winless run, but the performances have been there for large parts of the season, even if the results haven't always followed...

JB: I think if you look at some of the games that we’ve lost or drawn, we’ve been unlucky. I’ve said this before, but if our luck begins to change and a few goals begin to fall for us then I think we’ll get the momentum to go on a run of games like we have done previously. It’s just about sticking to what we know, training hard every day and keeping that consistency.

Q. A knock in training this week but two goals in his past two games for Dominic Calvert-Lewin. His luck has changed, hasn't it?

JB: Yeah, it has. Got a nice lucky goal last weekend! He’s deserved that though. As a striker, you take any goal you can get and especially with the run that he was on. He’s scored two in two now so the confidence he’s got from that will be massive and he can take that into the remaining games of the season.

Q. Chelsea on Monday - what challenge do you expect at Stamford Bridge?

DM: It’s going to be a tough one. They’re a top team, they’ve had their own struggles this season as well but going there is always difficult. For us, we’ve just got to try and get points on the board, try and bring momentum and confidence into the game.

Q. Chelsea have been a bit of an unpredictable team to watch this season. Lots of goals, end-to-end games, what kind of opponent do you think you’ll face, Jarrad?

JB: They’re an exciting team, attacking, they leave a lot of space and make it an end-to-end game. We’ve got to go in with a game plan, concentrate on how we play and focus on ourselves. When we went on that run earlier on the season, we focused only on what we could do rather than focus on other teams. We’ll go down there with full belief that we can get a result.

Q. How have you found your first full season in the Premier League?

JB: It’s been a good season for me. If you told me at the start of the season how it had gone up to now, I wouldn’t have believed it. First three games I didn’t play, was beginning to get a little bit frustrated, then I got into the team and I’ve played every game since then. For me, it’s just a big confidence boost to know that I can play at this level. I’ve just got to keep doing that.

Q. How much have you learnt?

JB: A massive amount. For any young player to learn, you’ve got to play games. I’m learning on the job and I’m learning in the best league in the world so there’s no better place to be.

Q. What have you made of Jarrad this season, Dwight?

DW: He’s class. It’s my first season with him but he’s been brilliant. He’s a proper leader, a proper professional, it’s all credit to him. All of the lads want him to keep going, keep improving because we know of the qualities he’s got. It’s been a pleasure playing with him this year.

Q. The defence in general has given us a great platform this season?

DM: Definitely. We know we have got a good back four and a good goalkeeper in Picks [Jordan Pickford]. It’s good to have that confidence in what’s behind us. That said, we’ve had more struggles going forward this season. The lads at the back have been excellent, so we want to score more goals to help win us more games.

Q. Your performances with Everton were rewarded with a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s England squad. What was that experience like?

JB: It was a dream come true for me to be picked for England. It’s every boy’s dream to play for his country. For me to get that opportunity to go and train with all the boys there was a great experience. Obviously, I didn’t get to play in any of the games which was a bit disappointing but it’s just one of those things. For me now my focus is just on playing here, give strong performances from now until the end of the season and see what happens.

Q. Dwight, for you it’s been a challenging season for many different reasons. How have you found it? You’ve been played in teams who have been fighting at this area of the table, how well do you feel we have done with that challenge?

DM: We’ve obviously had our struggles that have put us in the position we are in now but we’ve got a good group here. Me and some of other lads have been in this situation before, we know what the job that needs to be done and now it’s about getting that job done.

Q. It’s a situation we don’t want to become used to, but does that experience help when you’re in this kind of fight?

DM: Definitely. As a footballer you don’t want to be surviving, you want to be challenge and push on, but it’s the place that we’re at currently and we’ve got to undo it. We’ve got an experienced group and I think we’ve got enough to get away from the bottom, but we need to take it a game at a time. Get the job done, that’s the most important thing for the Club.

Q. What qualities do we need to bring from now until the end of the season to ensure we are in the Premier League next season?

JB: I think it’s about every single player that plays, everyone that’s in the squad to just be themselves when they’re on the pitch. I think we have the quality in every individual to stay up. Our form this season has been a bit up and down but when we’ve had our luck we’ve played really well. It’s about taking what we’ve got from those games, taking past experiences and bringing it all together in putting out performances in every game now until the end of the season.

Q. One thing that’s never been questioned is the spirit and togetherness of this group...

DM: Absolutely. We’ve got a good set of lads here, everyone is together. We’ve had our difficult times but we’re a strong group and we can’t let it affect us. We just have to focus on the job that we’re in control of. It helps when you’re in a squad that’s together, everyone wants the same goal so now we’ve got to go out and do it.

Q. You recently took part in our annual Academy Day event. It’s always a special occasion and it must feel great to be a part of it?

DM: It’s class. Not long ago me and Jarrad were in that position so it’s great to see the young lads. Some of them are technically brilliant, it’s good to see that young talent coming through.

Q. Jarrad, that was your first Academy Day you’ve been involved in. How did you find it?

JB: It was brilliant. It was nice to see all the smiles on the little kids faces when we all went over. That’s the main thing when you’re a kid when you’re playing football, to have a smile on your face and just enjoy it. There’s a lot of good talent we’ve seen over there. They’re going out there and expressing themselves and as a kid that’s what you need to do so it was nice to see.

Q. How important is that pathway, Dwight? That we see some of these players breathing through over the coming years.

DM: Very important. We train at times with our Under-21s and some of Under-18s. The experience is good for them because having been in that age group, you know that you want to make that next step. It’s good for them to come and get involved when they can. It’s about them learning and improving, our job is to help them improve.