Theo Walcott admits it has been hard to avoid the speculation swirling around Everton recently – but he felt his team-mates brushed it aside superbly on Saturday.
Bernard and Gylfi Sigurdsson struck as Everton ended a run of four successive Premier League defeats and eased the pressure on manager Marco Silva with a comfortable 2-0 victory over West Ham at Goodison Park.
The scoreline did not flatter the Merseysiders, who leapt out of the bottom three with a high-energy performance which could have easily have yielded more goals. They also hit the frame of the goal twice among 19 attempts on goal.
Walcott, who was responsible for one of those near misses with a thunderous strike against the bar, told Everton TV: “It was enjoyable from start to finish. Everybody worked so hard.
“We’re looking on the outside, we know what’s been happening – people talking. But we’ve just kept it in the group.
“We know what to expect and that is what it is every week, simple as that. The intensity levels from start to finish, from the forward players down to the defensive players was just fantastic, and the support from the guys on the bench as well. We were all united and that’s what we need.”
Everton’s display was not one of a struggling side. With Bernard and Andre Gomes returning to the starting line-up, the hosts bossed midfield and West Ham needed some dogged defending from their centre-backs and several good saves from Roberto to keep the score respectable.
Bernard took his goal well, twisting through two challenges to fire under Roberto after 17 minutes. Richarlison hit a post and Roberto stood up well to deny Alex Iwobi one-on-one in two more of Everton’s clear-cut chances before substitute Sigurdsson struck from outside the area in stoppage time.
On his own close call, Walcott said: “That’s mad. It would genuinely have been one of the best goals I’ve ever scored.
“That was one where you just hit it too well, but I can’t complain. We got the result.”
It was only Walcott’s second start of the season and his first appearance since being concussed in the clash against Manchester City last month and having, against his wishes, to sit a game out.
The 30-year-old said: “I have been working hard in training. That’s all I can do to show what I can do.
“I got my start against City and, obviously, the concussion, which… that’s lost with me. But then (on Saturday) I felt young again and that’s what I want to be.”
As good as Everton played, West Ham were poor. Aside from an effort from Angelo Ogbonna that threatened an unlikely second-half equaliser, the visitors offered little.
After a bright start, they are now without a win in three.
“After a game like that nobody is feeling good,” said Roberto, who is deputising for the injured Lukasz Fabianski.
“We don’t think we’re a team who plays like we did here and we need to recover and keep the positivity to come back.”