After how last season had ended, it looked more than certain that Morgan Schneiderlin would request a transfer this summer no matter who was manager, and most supporters would gladly see the back of him.
His casual demeanor on the ball has always been perceived by fans in one of two ways: composed and elegant, or lackadaisical and disinterested. At Everton last season, especially when things were looking quite bleak, he became a popular target of derision from the Goodison crowd.
Then there was some talk of a training ground spat where he and fellow ‘bad attitude’ teammate Kevin Mirallas walked out on interim manager Dave Unsworth and Duncan Ferguson.
But he appeared reinvigorated after Marco Silva came onboard and immediately declared that the #6 position was one of the key elements of his tactics.
Now in a no-holds-barred interview with Paul Joyce in the Times, Schneiderlin has revealed the reason he stayed at Everton. He starts with an incident that happened in February as Everton were leading 3-1 against Crystal Palace, and as he came on as a late substitute, a chorus of boos went around Goodison Park.
“I knew straight away. I knew it was for me because of some notifications [on Twitter]. I am not paying too much attention to that, but I got messages saying, ‘You have a bad attitude’, ‘You are not fit to wear the shirt.’
“So I knew there were some people who were not happy. I am a human being and for any human being to have people turn against you is not good.
“But I had two ways to see it. I stay strong or I say, ‘Ok, f*** that. I am just going to come into training, work for myself but I don’t care anymore. I don’t play anymore until the end of the season and then I go.’
“That might have been the easier way. But the motivation for myself was to turn the minds of people. That people regret what they said and they have a different perception of me. That is what I want to do.”
Schneiderlin went on to explain in detail his account of how the training ground incident developed, starting with his sending off three days earlier against Lyon in the Europa League.
“On the Saturday [the day] before Watford, we did a warm-up of five minutes and David said his squad. I didn’t hear my name.
“There were four or five of us and he said, ‘You are going to train on the other side of the training ground.’ I had played 80 minutes against Lyons — I had run, I was not walking — and Duncan said, ‘Morgan, I understand you are tired, you played two days ago. There is no problem, if you want to rest and go inside, you can rest and go inside.’ I said, ‘Thank you’ and I went inside.
“I was not happy, of course. But I was just like maybe 99.9 per cent of the guys are when they are not in the squad and they have to train away from the first team.
“When the story came out [after Watford], I spoke with David. He said, ‘Morgan, no problem.’ We spoke honestly. I said sorry for my red card, because that is the only thing I could say sorry about. We looked to turn things around and I started the next game.”
The 28-year-old described how he made the decision to stay and fight for a spot in Silva’s squad.
“As well as my wife, I had a long chat with my best friends, my parents, my agent. They are not the type of guys who say, ‘Oh Morgan, you are the most beautiful. Oh Morgan, you are the best.’ They say [honest] things to me. I agreed with them. I didn’t have the best season.
“It eats me like crazy because the most frustrating thing is that image is not myself. I am an honest guy who works very, very hard. I can have a bad game, or a bad performance, but putting that on me that I don’t give a shit, I don’t care — that is not who I am.
“I knew I had to work twice, maybe three times as hard as anyone else because I knew some people and some fans would see me in a different way.
“That is what I said to the manager. I said I was prepared to do that and that was what I have done.”
Under Silva, it appears the Frenchman is discovering facets of the game that he had not considered before, and is enhancing his development.
“He is challenging the players and training is great. The feeling is that, if an opponent has the ball, you don’t wait for them to come, you have to press them. Then, when we have the ball, we have to be clever.
“He always tells me about the second phase. If I make a pass, I have to understand where my position needs to be after that pass. The second step. Don’t just think about the pass.
“I know what I have to do when I have the ball and I know what I have to do when I don’t have the ball. It is a clear message and you can only improve like this.
“He [Silva] doesn’t say, ‘You have to do it.’ If you feel that is the moment to do it, do it. He gives you a line to follow and then, after, it is your instinct.”
Schneiderlin appears to have found a new lease on life under the Portuguese manager, and it seems to be a happier camp all around at Finch Farm too.