Everton hosted a free fan appreciation ceremony last night at District House in the city to make up for the End of Season Awards Ceremony that was hastily canceled last season after Roberto Martinez was relieved of his duties earlier in the day.
The event included on-stage interviews with the manager Ronald Koeman and his assistant Erwin Koeman, first-team players (Phil Jagielka, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Gerard Deulofeu, Seamus Coleman, Ashley Williams, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas), musical entertainment, a raffle and auction in support of Everton in the Community, and the presentation of two special awards - the Everton Giant and Howard Kendall Award. The presenter for the evening was the BBC's Steve Bower.
A chant for Geri broke out on his way to the stage as as Pilot's 'Magic' played on the public address system. Here’s what he had to say -
"With the fans, the team is stronger and we are better. Last year was difficult but this year we hope to give the fans more reasons to be happy. It’s exciting to play in this team at the moment. Everton is a historic team and I think this year we have an amazing team, top players and we need to show that."
From the club captain, Jagielka -
"We haven’t set any targets but every year we expect to be in the top half and challenging for those European places. We need to finish in the top half but we expect to finish higher up than that and do it producing good performances, especially at home."
Evergreen midfielder Gareth Barry on marking his 600th game with a goal.
"I was starting to get a bit of stick because I'd gone a couple of years without scoring. For that reason, it was great to get the winner at West Bromwich Albion but it was a big day for me against Middlesbrough and great to cap it off with a goal as well."
Williams said he was surprised the rest of the players didn’t make him sing an induction song when he arrived at Everton, but Coleman promised to get him at Christmas time.
"I'm glad to have joined this great Club and I'm enjoying it so far. I always thought Goodison was a tough place to come and I'm glad now to say it's my home ground."
Erwin Koeman was asked about his experiences as the assistant manager in the Premier League -
"What happened last year I think for the next 10 years it won't happen again. The big clubs have woken up again. I think it's the biggest competition in the world, the best players are here and, if in any game you are not 100 per cent, you will not win."
| "I'm settling in to Liverpool city centre, so I am one of the Evertonians!" - Erwin Koeman at tonight's event. https://t.co/is2qEBJcPT pic.twitter.com/HBIdlmRWk9— Everton (@Everton) October 18, 2016
A fan chant of "Oh, Kevin Mirallas" breaks out for the next group of players, including Mirallas -
“Thank you, thank you.
"I'm very happy because I am playing a lot, we have signed very good players this year and Rom has stayed with the team and he is scoring a lot of goals."
“ I came to Everton to challenge myself. It's going well so far but I'm sure I can do even more and I'm confident I can show that.”
"Thankfully, Yannick has brought some good music to the dressing room."
"He was the one who put the music on before Sunderland, so it clearly works."
"Yeah, my taste in music is pretty decent."
| Who picks the music in the Everton dressing room? And why did @Skepta help inspire our win at Sunderland last month? pic.twitter.com/aygfd5riFj— Everton (@Everton) October 19, 2016
Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg also got a chance to speak about his penalty-saving feats against Manchester City -
"I’d saved one penalty in a game before, obviously, but never two. It was special. I’m enjoying life here. It’s an amazing club."
Club legend and 1966 FA Cup and 1970 title winner Tommy Wright was then announced as the Everton Giant, and becomes the latest player to be inducted into the club’s Hall of fame.
Wright was unable to be present at the ceremony, but said in a recorded message -
“Thank you for this award - it makes me very proud.
“All my life, I wanted to be an Evertonian and when I signed on at the age of 15, it made my day. It’s my joy to receive this award.”
Former manager Joe Royle, also an Everton Giant, received the honour on behalf of Wright -
"Lots of people have won awards in football but this has never been more deserving.
“I’ve said it before but he was the best right-back I was fortunate to play with. I’ve been watching Everton a long time and he is still the best I have seen in a Blue shirt.”
| Tommy Wright has become the latest Everton Giant and here he is accepting his award, plus Joe Royle explaining why he deserves it. #EFC pic.twitter.com/0GgCqVtOq9— Everton (@Everton) October 19, 2016
The Howard Kendall Trophy was then awarded to Colin Harvey, a member of the club’s legendary ‘Holy Trinity’. Harvey went on to acknowledge his fellow member of the trio, Kendall, who passed away a year and a day ago -
"Howard was a great player. I played against him when he was younger and he tackled me a few times and nearly knocked me into the next century. Later, I got to play with him, which was an honour. He also turned out to be one of the greatest men I’ve ever met. It means a lot to me to receive this award."
There was a moment of silence to remember the great player and manager after that. A year and a day on from his passing at the age of just 69, the room falls silent in memory of Howard Kendall.
Finally, the highlight of the night as Koeman came on stage to speak, and took some time to acknowledge the fans whose supports has been unwavering even away from home, as well as having veteran players on the side.
“When I became manager of the Club, they told me that Everton were one of only a few teams that always sold out their away allocation. That is great support.
“It is fantastic for the players. You really feel that support from the fans and that makes the team stronger.
“It is really enjoyable when you get a win away from home and you can celebrate it with the fans.”
| @RonaldKoeman salutes the travelling Blues who have once again sold out the away allocation ahead of the trip to Burnley. #EFC pic.twitter.com/3Vj2tMN9uE— Everton (@Everton) October 19, 2016
He went on to say -
"It's so important to have players like Phil Jagielka and Gareth Barry, who know football and know the Club. That was very important for me when I arrived here."
Koeman also talked about his enthusiasm for the game -
"It's amazing to be part of the Premier League, be that for players, for managers or for the fans.
"Away from football, it is difficult for a manager [to relax]. Doing well with the Club is really my main focus. I spend a lot of time watching football. Football is there to be enjoyed and if you really like your job that's the best thing."
We’ll have the full interview for you here once it is available.