Everton confirmed the signing of winger Andros Townsend on a free transfer just a few minutes ago, adding that the player has signed a two-year deal. Media sources yesterday claimed that the contract was actually a one-year agreement with the option for adding a second year. The free agent played five years for Crystal Palace before the expiry of his contract this summer.
Speaking to evertontv in his first interview after the news was made official, the 31-year-old former Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur player talked about joining a big club that has plans to go places.
“Everton is a massive football club and very ambitious. They would admit I’m coming here to be a squad player. My job now is to prove I’m good enough to be an important part of this football club.
“Whenever I get the opportunity in pre-season, I will try to prove I’m good enough to be an important player here. That’s what drives me, it is what wakes me up in the morning and gets me out of bed.
“I worked with Rafa at Newcastle and had great success [personally] with him. We tried to link up on a few occasions after that but it wasn’t to be. When he called me, with the backing of Everton, who are a massive football club and have big ambitions… it was a no-brainer.”
Townsend also talked about how his game has matured over his career, and what Benitez said to him when they were together for a couple of months in the 2015-16 season after Rafa stepped in to manage a struggling Magpies side late in the campaign.
“When you’re young and a winger, you focus solely on when you have the ball at your feet. What can you do when you have the ball?
“Rafa tried to get me to work off the ball, run in behind, come into the pockets, work back defensively. As you get older, the penny drops. At Palace, the penny dropped for me. I really grew up, I went from a boy to a man.
“I turned from an exciting player into a dependable player – I matured and became a great professional. I owe them a lot.
“I feel I am at my peak physically, at the best stage of my career. And, hopefully I can show the other side of my game, the crosses, the goals, and getting the shots in, as I did when I was younger.
The forward had the highest accuracy rate last season from crosses, and Benitez will be looking to utilize the strengths of marksman Dominic Calvert-Lewin by having Townsend feed him from the right wing.
“At Newcastle, he [Benitez] knew I could score from outside the box, he was trying to work on me running in behind without the ball and getting on the end of a pass to score goals, as opposed to doing it all myself.
“Hopefully, he can rediscover that goalscoring form I had at Newcastle and I can really start adding some numbers in both goalscoring and assists.
“That’s probably the main reason I am here. I worked very well with [Palace striker] Christian Benteke, another big man, especially last season: got loads of balls in the box and helped him score goals.
“Rafa is very experienced, he does a lot of work on the tactical side on the training pitch and leaves no stone unturned. More importantly, he’s a great man, a great man-manager, and he’s always talking to you. I’m sure he will be very successful here.”
Townsend, like most of his new Everton teammates, is yet to win a major club trophy and is looking to add that to his career resume.
“This is a club set up to be able to compete for honours and win things, whether it be cup competitions or getting into Europe, which I’m sure is the aim this season.
“That’s exactly the reason I’ve got a smile on my face today, that [potential success] excites me. When I left Spurs, way back when [January 2016], the chairman told me it’s very hard to get back to a big club.
“I didn’t believe him but he was right. Now I’m back at a big club… I’m going to work as hard as possible to make it a success and play as many games as possible for this football club.”