Rafa Benitez has said he was not “scared” by threatening banners warning him against becoming Everton manager and said he will prove his commitment to the club by delivering success to Goodison Park.
The 61-year-old has succeeded Carlo Ancelotti as Everton manager, despite anger among some of the club’s fan base due to his spell in charge of Liverpool between 2004-2010 when he labelled Everton as a “small club.”
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Banners insulting the former Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Newcastle United boss were displayed outside Goodison Park prior to confirmation of his appointment, while another was attached to a house close to Benitez’s home which read, “We know where you live – Don’t Sign.”
But speaking at his first news conference as Everton manager on Tuesday, Benitez said he was never affected by the hostility directed towards him by some fans.
“No, for sure, no,” Benitez said. “When I decided to start talking with the club, I was convinced that this is a brilliant opportunity.
“It was easy for me. I wanted to come back [to the Premier League] and have a competitive team. I am not scared, it is the opposite. I want to win, be competitive and ambitious. I am sure we will do it.
“Talking about banners, it was maybe one or two people, you never know. It is better to think about positives. A lot of people are encouraging me to do well and I am happy with that.
“The Evertonians around my place are quite happy and very supportive. Even the Liverpuldians accept it is a chance for me to come back to the Premier League.
“I have a great connection with the city. I have been supporting a lot of great charities and have friends on both sides. I am really pleased and really proud to be here and hopefully do well.”
Having described Everton as a “small club” during a row with former Goodison manager David Moyes in 2007, Benitez accepts that he will have to win over some sceptical fans.
But he said his comments during his time as Liverpool manager are proof of his determination to fight his corner for the club he represents.
“I said before that it depends on the context,” Benitez said. “It was a long time ago and I was fighting for my club and that is what I am doing now.
“I will fight for Everton and do my best every single game and compete against anyone. That is football and football is quite emotional. Everybody will have their own opinions, but I will fight for my team like every place I was working.
“I am a professional and very competitive. I like to see people enjoying the team and the best way to do that is by winning and we are creating an atmosphere that will allow us to compete at maximum level.
“But Liverpool is my city. I have very good connections on the red side and blue side. A lot of people in blue side will be pleased if we are successful and, if we do well, nobody will be talking about the past.”
Rodriguez struggled to sustain his early form at the club under former manager Ancelotti last season and doubt remains over his future at Goodison.
“I am sure I will be asked about players, but it is important to be asked about the team and not individuals,” Benitez said. “To improve the team, it is best not to talk about individuals.
“I have had conversations with some senior players. They are all ambitious, but they realise something was missing and we have to find that winning mentality, from the first day to the last day.
“I am confident we will do it. The conversations with these players has been in this direction. They will carry on, continue pushing and be an example for the young players.
“We are not stupid. The fans want to see us play well, but they want to see us winning.”