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red to blue Crossing the Mersey divide holds no fear for former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez

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New Everton boss Rafael Benitez in conversation with club captain Séamus Coleman earlier this week INSTAGRAM.COM/EVERTON

New Everton boss Rafael Benitez in conversation with club captain Séamus Coleman earlier this week INSTAGRAM.COM/EVERTON

New Everton boss Rafael Benitez in conversation with club captain Séamus Coleman earlier this week INSTAGRAM.COM/EVERTON

Rafael Benitez has insisted his decision to cross the Merseyside divide is nothing to be “scared” about and that his past association with rivals Liverpool will be forgotten if he brings success to Everton.

Everton’s appointment of Benitez as manager to replace Carlo Ancelotti last month was met with fury by sections of the club’s fanbase.

Merseyside Police launched an investigation after a sinister banner carrying the words: “We know where you live don’t sign” was left near Benitez’s house on the Wirral while other hostile banners were draped across gates outside Goodison Park.

Benitez has already admitted he “made a mistake” when he branded Everton a “small club” in 2007 during his reign as Liverpool manager.

But the Spaniard - who won the Champions League and FA Cup during his six-year tenure at Anfield - said he was relishing the challenge of restoring past glories and create a winning culture in the blue half of Merseyside.

Convinced

Asked at his first press conference as Everton manager if ever thought taking the job was not worth the opprobrium, Benitez said: “For sure, no. I was convinced when I decided to say yes, or even when I decided to start talking, that it was a great opportunity and for me this challenge is not something I’m scared of. It’s the opposite. I want to win, I want to do well.

“You can talk the talk or walk the walk, I prefer to walk the walk and see if we can do well. Hopefully everyone will be happy, starting with me. If I am happy the fans will be very happy as well.”

Benitez was an unpopular appointment as interim Chelsea manager in 2012 but went on to win the Europa League and he hopes if he is successful with Everton that any ill-feeling will subside.

“I’ll tell you something that maybe not many people know but when I was there with Chelsea at Cobham, we’d go to the supermarket, the restaurants and the fans were really good - we didn’t have these things you could see sometimes on the TV,” he said.

“The majority of the fans every day were fine. Liverpool is my city, we have very good connections with the red side and blue side and now obviously a lot of people on the blue side will be pleased if I am successful. So I don’t see a big issue.

“I think the fans will appreciate we’ll be here working really hard for the team and club and if we can do well nobody will be talking about that or what happened in the past. I’m thinking about the future. I know they want me to be successful and I’m sure we can do it.”

Benitez said his remarks about Everton being a “small club” were solely a case of him defending Liverpool’s position at the time. “It depends on the context. It was a long time ago, you’re fighting for your club and that is what I do now,” he said.

“If you are the manager you have to defend your club in any context. In this case I will fight for Everton. I will try to do my best every single game and I will try to compete against anyone. So I’m really pleased this club is getting bigger and bigger and I’m happy with the idea we can challenge and compete and I will fight for that.

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Everton faded away badly after a bright start to last season under Ancelotti, who left for Real Madrid this summer. Benitez said he had already held conversations with senior players, including Seamus Coleman, and that the biggest challenge was to address the team’s mindset.

“I have had conversations with some senior players and I’m really pleased because they are all ambitious but all of them realised something was missing,” the former Newcastle manager said. (© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2021)

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