Former Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard has spoken about his undying love for the Blues, and how much he misses being on Merseyside. In a feature article in the July edition of the Everton magazine, the United States international opened up about his emotional farewell from the club and his plans for the upcoming offseason.
“I can’t believe how fast it’s gone. I still get goosebumps thinking about being an Evertonian and thinking about that last game. Very few people get the opportunity to close a chapter in a book the way I did. That’s a huge testament to all Evertonians and those who backed me for 10 years. It was special, a moment that will live with me forever.”
Howard played his last game at Goodison Park to end the 2015-16 season, keeping a clean sheet as the Toffees beat Norwich City 3-0 in his 414th Everton appearance with David Unsworth in charge as caretaker manager following the departure of Roberto Martinez.
Howard hasn’t been able to return to Merseyside since his transfer to the Colorado Rapids in the MLS, but insists he will will be back later this year.
“My intention was to come back in the last off-season, which was December and Christmas time.
“Unfortunately I got injured and needed surgery, so I had to rehab that every day. I had to hit that fitness work hard. My plan this year is that when the season finishes, I will head over to watch a couple of games, see the boys and come back to my old stamping ground.
“The soul of the Club will never change and it will be nice to head to the training ground to meet all the new faces and catch up with the old. I’m also looking forward to feeling that intensity at Goodison again – it’s something I want to do because I haven’t ever had the chance as a spectator.
“I do miss the place, I miss the camaraderie. It’s a place I called home for 10 years. I miss the boys, I miss the people around the place, I miss going to work every day. Obviously the games meant most to me, but I feel incredibly challenged here in my new role at Colorado.”
Howard continues to stay in touch with the club, including waking up early to watch games and talking to the current crop of players.
“It has meant a lot of early-morning get-ups to watch the boys!
“Normally, Everton play on my matchdays, too, so I’ll wake up, watch the game, fall back to sleep and then chit-chat with Leighton and Jags to congratulate them on a good result. I’m still in touch with Ross Barkley, Seamus, Gareth Barry, too – all the guys who were there when I was. I like to tell them I’m watching.”
The goalie was also very complimentary of veterans Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines, who he played with for very close to a decade.
“Jags is the best captain I ever played for and worked behind. He is a great friend, was an incredible teammate. The fee we paid versus the mileage we have got out of him, we got an absolute steal. I still speak to him quite a lot. Him and Bainesy, I’m in touch with them most out of everyone. Jags keeps me updated on all the good, the bad and everything in-between.
“Again, when you look at Bainsey and what he has brought to the Club, he’s a proper footballer’s man. He comes to work every day and digs in. I don’t think there has ever been a game in 10 years where anyone has been disappointed with how Leighton Baines has played. That’s how steady he has been. We have been lucky to have him and Jags together at the same time, particularly in defence.”
Howard missed out on meeting new manager Ronald Koeman by just a few weeks, but has been keeping tabs on the club’s activity this summer and has been very impressed by what he’s see so far.
“The Club is doing some big things, especially in the transfer market – I know every team is moving up, but it’s special what is happening at Everton.
“As someone who has worn that shirt for a long time, I’m proud to have Jordan on board. Any time a player signs with a big price tag, people are looking out to see what is going to happen next, but he’s shown already he has all the ability in the world. Knowing what I know about the Club, he will be given time to settle in and find his feet. Talent-wise, he has got it all. He’ll be a great custodian for Everton.
“I like his movement, his ability to get about the goal and spring around. In a very tough season for Sunderland, he seemed unfazed which, for a young guy, is very good. He was probably their Player of the Season and that’s a tough thing to achieve when you get relegated. I think he has got the mettle to handle the ups and downs of the Premier League.
“If I could offer any advice, I would say to him to get down and work hard. Our Club is about loyalty and hard work. You have to put the kilometres in – that goes without saying – but if you do that, the fans will take you under their wing and love you forever.”
The USMNT goaltender has 115 caps and has starred in two World Cups: South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014. He also holds the record for most saves in a World Cup fixture with 15 in an eventual loss to Belgium. Howard is looking at playing in one more major tournament before calling time on his international career.
“It’s firmly set in my sights. The plan is to help the United States qualify, be a part of that process and then push on towards Russia. Hopefully we are having another conversation in a year’s time about the World Cup.”