James Tarkowski has been confirmed as Everton’s first summer signing. The 29-year-old central defender has now officially joined the Toffees with the expiry of his previous contract with Burnley yesterday.
Since he became an impending free agent after the completion of the 2021/22 campaign, the Blues have led the pack chasing the defender’s signature and the deal was done nearly three weeks ago as soon as the transfer window opened.
Speaking during his unveiling, the Manchester-born player spoke about his excitement to join the Blues.
“I’m excited to be here. I’m really looking forward to the years ahead and I’m just thankful for the opportunity that I’ve been given. There’s a few [reasons why I chose Everton]… Speaking to the manager, first of all, which is very important – seeing what he wants from his players and from his team, what he saw in me and why he wanted to sign me.
“He also spoke about leadership and that was something that was just brought out of me at Burnley. I was made captain a few times, and then being the position I’m in and the qualities that I have, I feel it’s a real strength in my game. I hope I can bring that to this group.
“Speaking to Kevin Thelwell was also important to my decision. He tried to sign me when he was at Wolves and I was at Oldham so he’s known about me for a long time. It’s gone full circle and he’s managed to sign me in the end.
“And then also the Everton fans, seeing the way the team struggled last season but how the fanbase were behind them and the way they supported them right until the end to get the lads over the line.
“I thought it was incredible, to be honest. You don’t often see it from any fanbase so to see it from a team that was struggling at the time is just incredible. Fair play to the fans, I think it’s a massive factor about this club.
“Hopefully successful times are ahead and the fans can get something that they really enjoy.”
The 29-year-old spoke with pride about his defending ability, and what he brings to the team.
“First and foremost, I’m a defender. That part of my game is something I’ve really worked on the past few years to become the best defender possible. It’s my job. I enjoy it, I thrive off it and hopefully I can bring those qualities to this team and more, because I do think I’ve got a good all-round game as well.
“As I was coming through the leagues, from League One to the Championship, I was more known as a ball-playing defender, so when I went to Burnley I tried to bring out the defensive side of my game which has definitely caught up to the offensive side of my game.
“I can move the ball well, I can pass, I can attack the ball in the other box, so I feel like I’ve got myself in a good place as player to be successful at a club like Everton.
“When you’re a new player in a group, you have to settle in, get to know the players and how they react in certain ways, but I want to bring my leadership skills and experience and there’s some good young talented players here so I’d like to guide them in whichever way possible both on and off the pitch.”
Tarkowski will be reunited in the squad with his former Clarets teammate Michael Keane.
“It’s always nice to have someone you know you can go to when you’re settling into a new group. Keano’s a great lad and someone I’ve always kept in touch with ever since he left Burnley.
“I didn’t actually speak to him before joining, just because I didn’t want to open my mouth too early. But, speaking to him through the years, I know how much he loves this club and know how big the Club is just from speaking to him. I know what I’ve got here and I look forward to it.
“It’s nice to join up with him again and I look forward to seeing him. Of course, there’s some very good players here. I’ve played with Keano, I know how good he is, and I’ve played against other lads here.
“Competition is important, it pushes you on and makes you want to play better, so I look forward to getting out there and training with the lads. It’s a squad game so everyone is in it together for a successful season.”
What were this thoughts regarding the part he can play as new Director of Football Kevin Thelwell and manager Frank Lampard establish themselves at the Blues?
“That’s really important for me - to feel the ambition [from Lampard and Thelwell]. I’m an ambitious person, I want to achieve, I want to win things so I’ve not just come here for a nice time.
“I’ve come here to be successful. As I said before, you saw during a difficult season last year how big this fanbase is. A lot of fans could have turned against their team in a situation of struggle but Everton fans got behind their team more than ever.
“Growing up down the road, I also saw a lot of successful times for Everton, how good there were then, and hopefully we can bring back the good times. I’ve enjoyed every minute of playing at Goodison Park in the past, seeing the fanbase and the atmosphere. I just can’t wait to get out there and play there myself.
“Last year was difficult as a club but hopefully there is a successful season ahead. There’s a talented squad here and I know that because I’ve played against them. Hopefully I can bring some qualities to that and, with a few more additions, I’m sure we’re in for a good season.”
Tarkowski has two England caps, does he think he can work his way back into Gareth Southgate’s reckoning with a winter World Cup coming up?
“The ambition to play for England is still there for me. I’ve always said my club football is the most important because if you get that right, international football will come. I’ve just got to do my job for this club which I’m really excited about, and if I play well then we’ll see what happens coming into the winter.”