Whatever team may be playing, Evertonians are known for their passionate backing – and it is vital for any new manager or player to understand what motivates that support.
It would seem unlikely that a Dane who has never managed outside of his country would understand a club like Everton so instantaneously – but Brian Sorensen appears to have done just that.
With a number of new players following him through the door this summer – more on that to come – he even asked a local poet to speak to his team about what it means to be a Toffee.
In an exclusive interview ahead of Sunday’s Merseyside derby, live on Sky Sports, Sorensen said: “I’m from the countryside where we worked hard, and I worked really hard to be where I am now.
“Like that, Everton is a people’s club and I’m a people’s person so all of these identities were aligned.
“The potential here is massive, the set-up we have and so on. For me, it’s how can we have a clear plan and how can we utilise everything that is around.
“With the fans, hopefully we can build that fanbase even more and make sure that we get even more integrated into the hearts of the Evertonians.
“It’s important that [the players] feel what it means for the community and for the club. You could see what it meant when I met up with one of the fan groups, I could hear and see what it meant to them.
“For me, it was how do we get that message out in a different way so it’s not always me speaking about it.
“Having [the poet] in was really good – not surprisingly good because I think it was the plan by doing it – but looking back, it was really strong and I was touched by it also.
“Hopefully it gets them to understand what it means to be at this club and represent this club.”
As Sorensen tells Sky Sports himself, this season is all about consolidation for Everton. They had a turbulent 2021/22 season, which saw three different managers and a brush with a relegation scrap.
The Dane came with great pedigree from Fortuna Hjorring in his homeland, having won league and cup titles during his career as well as competing in the Champions League – all long-term targets for the Toffees.
During the summer, he targeted players from Scandinavia as well as young loan talent from across the WSL, including Jess Park from Manchester City, Chelsea’s Aggie Beever-Jones and Manchester United goalkeeper Emily Ramsey.
And his transfer strategy was no slapdash plan: Sorensen presented his thoughts to the Everton board during the recruitment process, with the likes of Park and Beever-Jones all mentioned at that early stage.
He explained: “I tried to always scout on mindset before skills set. Of course, the skills set has to be high to compete at this level, but the mindset is the most important thing – those two things are key for me.
“Then I see the potential, where do we have a big growth potential and that’s why we made loans from other clubs because we can give them the platform to grow. We are giving these players the chance to perform at the highest levels so hopefully they, one day, can go back to Chelsea and City and be a top player.
“Some of the players we have here, they may be recruited by other clubs, but if you create that identity, people also want to come here and it’s easier to recruit down the road.
“Recruitment is key and we try to be smart, especially with growth potential. It’s important that we have players in now that are in the very beginning of their international careers, some of them I know from working with them before and some of them have been on the sidelines, but you can see there’s a potential here.
“Many of the targets like Jess Park and Aggie Beever-Jones were on my list when I presented it to the club with ideas and what I want to do. It’s a strategy that was put down, there was an early approach of talking to the clubs and building that trust with them and also that they could see it made sense to come here.”
Sorensen also has a clear idea of how he wants his new-look Everton side to play, adding: “We have a clear structure in the way we want to build-up. We can split it up into four phases and those phases, we will try to be in control and there will be patterns of play that the players will be able to recognise so we can play fast.
“We also have this clear structure to break out of it and that’s sometimes when the magic really happens. We have a strategy for pressing, we’re not going to sit off, we’re going to be proactive in everything that we do, try to be on the front foot and aggressive, basically controlling as much as we can control, but also without the ball, try to control it with a really organised press.
“That’s my philosophy – having control, be proactive without going down into the small details.”
Sorensen will be hoping his philosophy will be used to full effect when Everton take on local rivals Liverpool in the first Merseyside derby of the season, live on Sky Sports Premier League, Football and Main Event from 6.30pm on Sunday.
Everton’s away allocation for the Anfield showdown is sold out. It will be the first time Sorensen has stepped out at the famous ground and he is hoping to have an immediate impact in his first derby.
“I wasn’t a fan when I was younger of Liverpool or Everton, but watching those games, I always did because you know it’s a special day. Others like Celtic-Rangers, Barca-Real, Inter Milan-AC Milan, all of these are big games so I always watched them at home in Denmark when I was a kid.
“Liverpool vs Everton is always one that is up there, every time that they meet, it’s one you cross on the calendar. I’ve never seen it live so I don’t know how it feels, but I’m just looking forward to being a part of it and hopefully I can have a say in it in preparing my team in the best way possible.
“A lot of the international players here have tried those kinds of games [in big stadiums] so it’s not new to them and we have a lot of experienced players here who have played in derbies so they know what it is and how it feels.
“I’m not worried that it would get us a bit out of whack because there’s a lot of people there [at Anfield]. I hope that the Evertonians in the away end will be the loudest and those are the ones we can hear and we can kill the crowd with our football in terms of dominating the play and shutting them down a bit. But otherwise, we’re looking forward to the atmosphere and intensity.”
Liverpool were shock 2-1 winners against Chelsea in their WSL season opener last weekend, so how is Sorensen preparing Everton to face a confidence-fulled Reds side?
“They are very organised, a good team. They’ve been together for a while, they haven’t made as many additional signings because the core group was intact,” he reflected.
“They have a style of play that everybody knows, they’re very well organised and work very hard. It’s probably one of the hardest teams to play against in terms of how well they’re organised but I also think we can hopefully we can control the game. We have to be careful on the set-pieces and long throw-ins where they’re really specialists.
“We’ll try to prepare as well as we can and at the end of the day, it’s up to the girls. I always say to them ‘you have to earn the right to play good football by working hard’. One thing they can’t be allowed to do is out-work us and that has to be the key message.
“We’re looking forward to it. It is a really good team we’re playing against, but that’s true for the majority of the games we play so we need to be well-prepared and know when to hurt them and know when to keep the ball.”
It is certainly a baptism of fire for Sorensen, but his calm and level-headed manner should leave Everton fans in no doubt that this is a man with a plan. But as he said himself, it’s now time for his team to perform on the pitch.
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