Liverpool FC

Ashley Cole explains what Everton are working on in Australia after triple setback

Liverpool FC

Everton’s players need to fight for their places and return to “the fundamentals” as the squad attempts to get back on track in the Premier League, according to Ashley Cole.

Blues first-team coach Cole believes the World Cup break came at a good time for Frank Lampard’s side after a disappointing final week in which they lost twice in the Premier League and were knocked out of the Carabao Cup.

Speaking to the ECHO in Sydney, beneath the city’s iconic Harbour Bridge, the former Arsenal, Chester and England left-back said the trip to Australia had been a positive experience for the players and stressed important work had been done. He also spoke of the value of the fan engagement opportunities that had given supporters Down Under a chance to connect with the current coaching team and squad.

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Everton defeated Celtic on penalties on Sunday in the headline game of the Sydney Super Cup. They play Western Sydney Wanderers on Wednesday (8:45am kick-off UK time) before returning to Merseyside.

After a damaging week ahead of the break for the Blues, Cole said the trip had been a useful opportunity to take a breath, look at the wider squad and give opportunities to players away from the high-pressured environment of the domestic season. Of the trip so far, he said: “It’s been good. Coming here mid-season, I think it was important that firstly, obviously, the football is right. But it is also a great opportunity to come and meet fans that you don’t really get the opportunity to… It was nice to come and meet the fans and have that chance to play in front of them without them coming all the way over to England or watching it on TV. So we’ve had that great experience.

“But, on the other side of that, they certainly came here to work. We also get to see some younger players and, of course, help with some fitness on some older and experienced players, which has worked out well so far.”

For Cole, the trip represents a chance to return to some of the basics that Everton manager Lampard is trying to instil within the squad after recent setbacks – to work on, as he puts it, “the fundamentals”. Cole said: “We’ve got three or four players at the World Cup so it was important that we came here and worked on a few bits, but as a group tried to get some fundamentals back to where we feel they should be.

“And again, it’s just to get some fitness. We didn’t want to spend one month at home without doing any work. So we’ve been able to come here, enjoy the weather, enjoy a beautiful city, but also work hard.”

There is a blend of experience and a variety of requirements among the squad that has travelled to Sydney. The likes of Nathan Patterson, Mason Holgate and Yerry Mina are among those returning from injury – though Mina is to undergo a scan after picking up a new issue against Celtic. Players who have struggled for Premier League minutes like Abdoulaye Doucoure, Michael Keane and Tom Davies also travelled – though Davies has been sent home for a scan on his knee – while the squad also features emerging talents such as Stanley Mills, Tom Cannon, Reece Welch, Isaac Price and others. With several players at the World Cup, on international duty, or injured, the trip represents a huge opportunity for someone to make a breakthrough too.

All those features make this a group intent on doing well, Cole said, adding: “[The squad includes] players that need to top up with fitness because they’ve not got that many minutes in the Premier League. But it is also an opportunity to, you know, prove you should be in the team. I think every day you’re with the group of players or training in front of us as staff, you’re always trying to prove that you’re ready and good enough to get back into the team. As a big exercise of coming here I think it has worked really, really well.”

Cole is well aware of the disappointment and frustration sparked by the defeats to Leicester City and Bournemouth – twice. They leave Everton sitting just one place and one point above the bottom three after a start to the season that had hinted at progress. The visit to Australia represents a chance to address some of the issues of that w…

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