EXCL: Keane on PL struggles, idolising Rio

English Premier League

Everton defender Michael Keane acknowledges that this has not been the best start for his side this season, but is hopeful of a better finish.

Hi, KickOff readers

The expectancy on us here at Everton was very high at the start of the season and rightly so because we finished the last campaign so well. Then we brought in some more good players and it all gave us a lot of hope.

We’ve been disappointed, though, with some of our recent Premier League results but it’s always important to look forward and not behind you because we know what quality we’ve got in our dressing room.

We see it day-in, day-out on the training ground, we know how good a team we can be and we’re still definitely contenders for a top-six place.

It’s not easy to break into the top six. There are the teams that finished in those positions last season and then there are three or four teams similar to us who are hoping to break in. There’s a lot of competition and there are no easy games in the Premier League.

It’s great for the league and there’s a long, long way to go yet, and I think there’ll be a few surprises along the way.

The way we play here at Everton is similar to the way I played early in my career when I was at Manchester United. We like to play from the back, but we’ve also got the quality to be able to change things if we need to.

On a personal level, I’ve learned a lot since coming to Everton, particularly in the first year when things didn’t go too well for me. But I carried on working hard, I came through the tough times and I am more resilient now as a player and as a person.

I am enjoying playing alongside Yerry Mina. We started this season really well, we kept a few clean sheets early on and in general, we’ve defended well. And his English is improving, which can only help us as a partnership!

Scoring goals and providing assists is something I have been working on. I want my stats for those to be better. I want to be a threat in the opposition box but I haven’t had many opportunities this season yet.

Enjoying life with the Three Lions'

Last season was a good one for me and I got myself back into the England squad.

It’s an exciting time to be part of the national set-up. The team is looking really good, very exciting going forward. There are still things that we have to work on but there’s loads of time before the Euros next summer, which hopefully we’ll be at.

I’m still only 26 but I’m looked upon as one of the more experienced players in the England squad, which is just the way the game is at the moment.

The quality of young players is getting higher and higher all the time and getting opportunities at club level is helping them to shine.

It’s great to see them come through. They perform with no fear and that’s all credit to the manager, Gareth Southgate, who gives them the opportunity and freedom to do it.

I did one of those rapid question and answer sessions recently during a television interview and I was asked to choose my ideal dinner partner. Whenever I get a question like that, I always say Tiger Woods, because he was one of my heroes growing up.

The United influence

With regards to footballers, I always liked Andy Cole. My twin brother, Will, and I were both Manchester United fans so when we played football, I would be Cole and Will would be Dwight Yorke. When I became a defender it was always Rio Ferdinand that I looked up to. I wanted to play like him.

I was also asked about the first pair of football boots I owned. They were Adidas Predators that I remember getting for my birthday.

They were ‘champagne’ colour, which was a bit ‘big-time’ for an Under-10s player! Will also got a pair and his were red. I think I’ve still got mine somewhere!