Everton Club Ambassador Leon Osman tips Toffees to rebound in Premier League under Frank Lampard
Leon Osman has seen enough Everton games over his lifetime to know that things are looking up for the Toffees.
While last season was tumultuous for fans on the blue side of Liverpool, the 2022-23 campaign brings hope once again for fans. Everton signed a new club-record shirt sponsor deal with Stake.com, and have Manager Frank Lampard in charge of full preseason preparations for the first time.
Everton will have a chance to get off to a good start to its season in August and early September against teams that finished the 2021-22 campaign in the bottom half and/or in the Championship, starting at home to Chelsea. The Toffees first away match is against Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa, and there would be nothing better for fans than to get that victory.
Osman, who went on the tour of America as a club ambassador, is excited to see what his former squad can do after a summer of preparations
“You always want to get off to a good start," Osman said in support of sponsor Stake.com. "Although the start isn’t everything: Everton’s start to the season last year was actually pretty decent. I think we had three wins out of four games and a draw in there with a start similar to this one. It was then the next period of the season where we really struggled.
“So yes, we want to get off to a good start. The Chelsea game at home to start is big, because obviously, beating Chelsea would be big. It is the start of the season for us, but it is also that start of the season for them, and you would expect they would not quite be up to speed yet. So there is an opportunity there.
“And then, you are looking at every game, and thinking ‘Can we win that game?’ Although you want to start well, it is about consistently picking up points throughout the season. We fell into a hole, as you put it, in that second stage of games. It was as if the importance of the points was kind of forgotten. So it great to see us get back to that at the end of last season."
Osman also thinks that this preseason tour of America will prove pivotal to Everton's campaign. With Frank Lampard able to stamp his authority on the squad for the first time before a new season, these are key weeks leading up to the start against Chelsea on August 6.
"I think it is really important that Frank and his team get a chance to work with this team all preseason," Osman said. "Obviously, Frank and his team came in at midseason, and they were always playing catch up. You are trying to figure out what kind of squad you have got, what kind of character, who can do this for you, who can do that. And that is all at the same time you are just trying to get results too: you are just trying to do your job.
"During the preseason, you get to take a good look at the squad, you get some work in. The physical demands each manager puts out there for a team will be a bit different. When you get preseason, you get to train the players and make sure they can do the things you need. That is vital for preseason training.
"So when you get to come away on a trip like we are now, you get to not only see team camaraderie, sometimes you can force it, you can initiate it. Sometimes you can sit back and let it happen. I think for Everton, to get them all in the same hotel, and on this trip together, it has been a lot of fun. We hope, like it did in my day, that they really take that forward into the new season: we hope that is the case this time.”
That start to the season has many fans thinking they can finish in the top half of the table, where Everton had resided for so many years. Could a European spot (top seven in the table) be in the cards?
“We hope that we can start to propel ourselves back to the top half of the Premier League," Osman said. "I think we are rebuilding towards that. It is about progression. You are always trying to improve your team, and to achieve things, but it never works in a straight line. You have some moments where you go up, and some where you go backwards a step: there is no getting away from that, it was a big backwards step last season.
"But you just started to see signs at the end that we could make progression. That will be in the minds of the manager and the players. ‘Can we take some more steps? Can we improve some more this season?’”
As for Osman, he might be ready for a new career now after putting away his boots: he threw out the first pitch at a recent Washington Nationals v. Atlanta Braves game, and it was a perfect strike.
“I threw the opening pitch at the Nationals game when they played the Braves last week," Osman said. "That was amazing, honestly. A bit nerve wracking: playing a sport I had never played before, and throwing the first pitch. But it went okay: I really enjoyed it.
"They are my new team now, that is it. The Nationals are my team for life. We went to watch DC United as well. I have been up to a lot on this tour. I have got a chance to see the differences in match day preparation, which has been brilliant.”
EVERTON ODDS TO BE TOP SCORER IN 2022-23
Dominic Calvert-Lewin -200
Anthony Gordon +400
Demarai Gray +500
Salomon Rondon +1000
Alex Iwobi +1600
PREDICTION: Calvert-Lewin -200
BONUS PLAY WORTH TAKING
Everton to finish top half +220