‘It’s a bit unexpected’: Andros Townsend on why he understands fans may be underwhelmed by his move to Everton and wanting to ‘prove those people wrong’… as he insists Rafa Benitez WILL win over his doubters
- Andros Townsend has insisted he wants to prove his doubters wrong at Everton
- Townsend arrived on a free transfer in a move that left some supporters critical
- He has admitted he can understand the underwhelming feeling around his move
- But Townsend is eager to pay back Rafa Benitez and is targeting Europe this year
- Benitez has been tipped to win the fans over by Townsend despite Liverpool past
Soon there will be talk laced with enthusiasm and expectation but first comes a dollop of realism – which Andros Townsend delivers with a wry smile.
Everton have made a habit of spending big in the last five years, with Farhad Moshiri – the club’s whimsical major shareholder sanctioning buys that have cost in the region of £500million – but this summer, to date, there has been parsimony.
Rafa Benitez has scuffled around looking for deals and Townsend knows he was plucked from the value end of the market. He was a free agent, training on his own, when Everton’s new manager – with whom he had worked at Newcastle in 2016 – picked up the phone.
Everton’s summer signing Andros Townsend has admitted that his move was a ‘bit unexpected’
‘Everton are ambitious, have spent a lot of money in the past and are going for Europe,’ said Townsend. ‘So I understand when I signed maybe Everton fans – or fans in general – didn’t understand why this club, with its ambition, would get a free transfer from Crystal Palace.’
There is a twinkle in his eye before he starts to offer an explanation as to why this deal – the 13th of his career – makes sense at this time. Really, though, the fact Benitez made a beeline for his services – and persuaded him to turn down the chance of playing Champions League football with a club in Europe – spoke volumes.
Benitez had identified what areas of Everton’s team needed to be improved long before he started work and getting crosses in to Dominic Calvert-Lewin was, he believed, a prerequisite. He enjoyed a fruitful time with Townsend in the Northeast and did not flinch about bringing him to the Northwest.
Townsend arrived on a free transfer after leaving Crystal Palace to reunite with Rafa Benitez
The winger says he understands why supporters may have been underwhelmed by his arrival
‘I feel like a 21-year-old,’ says Townsend. ‘I feel like I am just coming through and having a lot of doubters, wondering if I am good enough to play at this level. These are all things you go through as a 17-year-old, when you are coming through. Having just turned 30, I honestly feel like a young man.
‘I’ve got a great opportunity at a massive football club. It’s probably a bit unexpected. A lot of people wouldn’t have expected me to get this opportunity but, listen, I am going to try my hardest to make this successful. This is what gets me out of bed – trying to prove those people wrong.’
That theme will follow Everton through the season. The squad remains cluttered with a number of players who have seen five managers come and go in the last five years and there has been little warmth for Benitez, with fans unable to forget about his Liverpool past.
Can he possibly succeed? Benitez, to his credit, will not give two hoots about public opinion. He could have enjoyed a quiet life and rejected the chance to talk to Moshiri but he actively wanted this job, adamant that he can turn things around.
Townsend is relishing a ‘great opportunity’ at the club and wants to prove his doubters wrong
Townsend and Demarai Gray will add dash on the wings, Asmir Begovic will provide quality back up to Jordan Pickford; Benitez is also sweet on signing Dwight McNeill from Burnley and Sean Longstaff from Newcastle United and is relishing the challenge.
‘Everyone can understand the connection between the two clubs and why there was maybe opposition to him getting the job,’ said Townsend. ‘But he will win the fans over for sure, his passion, his attention to detail, the way he wants to play and how hard he works in getting his teams to play.
‘Once the season starts, once we get up and running, I’m sure the fans will warm to him just as other clubs, he had a similar thing at Chelsea, he ended up having a very successful season and winning the Europa League with them so he has had that before.
‘He knows how to deal with it and how to be successful so I am sure it won’t faze him, just as the Chelsea situation a few years ago didn’t faze him. I know what I can do, I know what I can bring.
He also admitted he feels he is aged 21 again in light of some people questioning his abilities
Benitez has been tipped to win the fans back over by Townsend despite his past with Liverpool
‘I know what I did for Crystal Palace last season, in terms of creating chances and getting crosses in the box for a big number nine in Christian Benteke, and if I can do that again this season, playing at a club that will have more possession than Palace had last season, then I know I can be successful.’
But can Everton? Their preparations for the campaign concluded with a 4-0 defeat at Manchester United last Saturday that Townsend described as being a ‘reality check’; there are well-founded suspicions about them from the outside but, within the camp, there are no doubts.
‘Tell me if I am mistaken, but Everton is a massive football club,’ said Townsend. ‘It is one of the most historic football clubs in England, so when this opportunity arose to fight for Europe to fight for those sort of places it was one I couldn’t turn down. It was a no brainer.
‘There is definitely no pressure, it is a challenge we are all really looking forward to, I am glad in a way we had that game against Man United, it was a real eye-opener. But all those boys in the dressing room are focused on having a great start. Hopefully we can do that.’
Townsend says it was a ‘no brainer’ to join Everton and is targeting European football this year
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