“There’s only one club for you son, and it’s Everton.”
I was watching a game at Blackpool when an old Scottish guy said those words to me, years before I ended up at Goodison. I nodded my head, smiled politely and didn’t really think much more of it.
But his words stuck with me. And they proved to be right.
The circumstances were difficult at first, because I was being lined up to replace Walter Smith. Walter was probably my biggest mentor, and a good friend – a person I could always phone for advice, or to swap ideas. I didn’t want to start talks with Everton before his future had been decided. In the end, a defeat at Middlesbrough brought Walter’s reign to a close, and it went from there.
I don’t think anybody can quite understand the step up that the Premier League represents. On the first day, I walked into the dressing room and saw Paul Gascoigne, David Ginola, Duncan Ferguson and Tommy Gravesen. It was full of international players. You can have all the badges, but nothing can prepare you for that moment. The question then is how you deal with it.
There were some big egos there, but you cannot just demand respect; you have to earn it. You do that by coaching, by showing on the training ground that you’ve got good knowledge of what you’re talking about. You also have to show that you’re the boss as well, when it comes down to it.