Alex Iwobi is under no illusions: Everton will feel like they’re going into war this Sunday.
Not that he’s comparing football to combat in any way. On the pitch, he insists his team will be calm and prepared for the victory which guarantees the huge prize of Premier League safety that is within their grasp this weekend.
It’s just the tense, heavily-charged atmosphere that is generated by the emotional Goodison support that offers such an impression - and an inspiring prelude as the team bus edges its way through packed, brooding streets that huddle next to the old stadium.
“We thrive on it. It is electric when we are on the bus, coming into the game, and you can see them chanting, banging the bus. You definitely feel it, almost as if you are going into war,” he explained.
“It will be important, so important for us. We really feel it on the pitch, everyone is doing that extra bit of running, moving that extra mile to make a tackle.
“We definitely feel it when they are chanting, we say things to each other on the pitch. We are going to need that good atmosphere again, definitely.”
Iwobi knows all about the seething emotion of Goodison Park, after Everton ’s great escape last season, when a magnificent comeback win three days before the end of the season delivered safety.
This time, it has come down the final game with the same scenario: it is in Everton’s hands, a win over Bournemouth condemning both Leeds and Leicester to fall into the Championship no matter what they do.
Iwobi knows how massive it is. He doesn’t even live in the city of Liverpool, yet he is surrounded by Blues! “My neighbours are Everton fans, they always say ‘come on, you can’t go down’…even my gardener is an Everton fan!” he said with a smile.
“This morning the gardener was there and he just said: ‘we’ll do it, we’ll do it.’ I was driving off like, ‘yes i’m sure we’ll do it.’ It shows me who I am doing this for and what it means to them.
“It affects them and if Everton go down they will be devastated. It shows how much Everton means to them. If I am not doing this for myself, then at least let me do it for them.”
There are plenty of reasons for Iwobi and his team-mates to do it for themselves though, £100m of them - which is the calculated cost of losing Premier League status.
Given Everton’s precarious financial situation, relegation could be even more catastrophic, fatal even, and Iwobi won’t even consider the possibility: “Yeah, there is a massive gulf, and no disrespect to the Championship, but you don’t want to go in it.
“Everyone sees the Premier League as the best league in the world, and that’s where we want to stay. Honestly we are not thinking about going into the Championship, not in my mind, I am just making sure next season we are in the Premier League.”
There will be one last reminder of what it means for Everton on Sunday, just before kick off. Skipper Seamus Coleman - “he IS Everton” according to Iwobi - will deliver a rousing speech, just before battle.
“He will 100pc speak to us before the game - he’s been hobbling around on his crutches, reminding us how so many people are affected by our results and to him, the people upstairs, the staff and what it should mean to us.
“What it means to Evertonians…” On Sunday, with the sound of war in their ears, Everton will know that for sure.2023-05-25T21:37:28Z dg43tfdfdgfd