PHIL Neville believes Everton are still on the verge of great things despite their disjoined campaign – and wants a win against Wigan to continue erasing the negativity that has hampered the club since January.
The Toffees skipper admits he has been aware of unrest from some sections of fans since the start of the year, culminating with the club’s FA Cup exit against Reading in March.
But while the 34-year-old recognises the need for manager David Moyes to have funds to freshen-up his squad this summer, he insists the club is not weaker since last year when they were widely tipped to break into the top four.
He said: “I have been speaking to the fans and there seems to have been a lot of negativity about the club since January. I was at a season ticket conference a few weeks ago and there was real worry from some that the club is going backwards, but I think we’re in a great position.
“We’re going forwards. We have the best manager, a core group of good players signed up on long term contracts, and yes we need a couple of new faces but you need that every summer.
“We are not far away. The next step for Everton will be the biggest leap. We finished eighth last season and everyone was saying how well we finished. Now we’re seventh after a bad start.
“I know there have been disappointments, but I think the future is as bright as last summer. The negativity in January and February affected everyone. I think the good run lifted us all and we ended that.”
Neville is preparing to lead the Blues into action against relegation-haunted Wigan tomorrow, aware of the need to cut the points difference between them and sixth-placed Liverpool - especially after Bolton Wanderers missed an opportunity to overtake Everton on Wednesday.
And although the Everton captain concedes the Blues have a tough run-in, he believes it will keep the squad fully focused on the job of finishing as highly as possible in the Premier League.
“I think the run-in keeps us motivated,” he said. “We are all looking up, but playing Chelsea and Man City keeps us focused. You could easily switch off at this stage and say there’s nothing to play for but there is.
“The manager is keeping our edge in training because they’re all big games. Wigan is massive. There will probably be 10,000 Evertonians there and we can’t let them down. There is a steel coming back to us and I think we’ll finish strongly.”