SYLVAIN Distin settled in front of the TV on Monday night to watch Liverpool’s clash with Manchester City feeling both surprised and excited that the result was relevant to Everton.
The Frenchman is one of life’s beacons of positivity, but even he admits there have been times this season when the Blues looked unlikely to be hot on the heels of the top six with five six games left.
Yet, as the 33-year-old defender acknowledges, this consistently surprising season has kept everyone guessing.
The Blues were just a point behind Liverpool before kick off at Anfield, and even though the Reds’ 3-0 victory restored a four point gap, Distin insists there is still everything to play for.
“I was watching Manchester City rooting for them,” says the man who spent five years with the Eastlands club between joining Portsmouth in 2007.
“It wasn’t a case of being against Liverpool. It was just that we’re in touching distance all of a sudden, and you wouldn't have believed that four months ago. We feel we’ve got something to chase now.”
The Blues impressive run of form, which continued with their own 3-0 thumping of Wolves at Molineux last weekend, has seen them go unbeaten in six Premier League games and bag 14 points from the last 18 available.
It has, says Distin, been enough to help the team recover from those frustrating early season days when victories at Goodison were difficult to find and the natives were becoming restless.
“You can still feel the frustration of the fans at Goodison but it’s normal. We didn't win that many games earlier, although we weren’t losing, we got frustrated as players so we can understand it got to them too.
“Eventually it frustrated us all, but the players didn’t take it personally because they understand. The fans are always behind us when it counts.
“Every game we hear ‘this is an important match’, but they all are.
“They are not more important now.”
Distin believes that the season’s lowest moment so far, that FA Cup exit by the hands of Championship side Reading, has had a galvanising effect.
“Sometimes you need something like that to react,” he says. “You can call it the lowest point of the season, or you can say it in a more positive light and see it made us realise what we need to do. At the moment though we’re looking up and thinking, we’ve never really been that far from the top six. If we win then next two games we’re flying.
“But the season is so strange, with such a tight table, that if you lose two you're back down again!”
Blackburn Rovers arrive at Goodison scrapping for their top flight status tomorrow, and Distin feels that their recent takeover by Indian poultry giants Venky’s underlines the need for patience.
It is a quality he says fans of his former club Manchester City still need in abundance too.
“Man City are the best example,” he says. “You can spend millions and millions but it’s plain to see it isn't the answer on its own.
“It’s a team game and to build a team is a slow process. You can’t just sign the best player in the world and then expect to win everything.
“Even Real Madrid can’t do that. Barcelona have top players, but they've been at the club for a long time.
“It takes patience to find the new mentality of the team under a new regime.”
Stability is something Everton have off, and on the pitch thanks to players like Distin who has started every game of this season.
But the perfectionist in him demands that he improve - and that means contributing more at the other end of the pitch.
Despite scoring in a Merseyside derby this season at Anfield, the ex-Newcastle and Paris St Germain linchpin wants to hit the back of the net more often.
“Me and Jags have been saying we need to be chipping in more from set pieces,” he says. “But I’m far from the tallest guy. There are players in this league bigger than me and they grab you and hold you.
“I know I could be better offensively, so I work on it, but it’s a different skill. If we could score 10 goals a season between us it’d be a good thing and it will be a target for next season.”
l Tickets for Everton’s home game against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday at 3pm are still available.
To buy your ticket visit evertonfc.com/eticketing, call 0871 663 1878, pressing option 1 or drop into the box office in person at Goodison Park.