Gylfi Sigurdsson on secret behind his incredible stamina
Gylfi Sigurdsson on scoring a stunner against his old club Swansea, the pressure of playing for Everton and how Icelandic fish are the secret behind his extraordinary stamina
Father knew best. The night before he was about to face a tricky reunion with his old employers, Gylfi Sigurdsson decided to call home. The advice he would receive was crucial.
‘I had a chat with my dad, Sigurd,’ the Everton midfielder explains. ‘He said, “Whatever you do, don’t celebrate”. I’d spent three and a half years at Swansea, played my first Premier League game there. I’ve too much respect. When he said don’t celebrate I said, “I know”. I was never going to do it.’
Sigurdsson ended up scoring a wonderful goal, a whipping, right-foot strike that will be in the voting for December’s best. It offered further proof that after a wretched start, Everton’s club record £45million signing is finding his feet. He’d have been well within his right to let all his emotion out.
Gylfi Sigurdsson revealed he spoke to his dad Sigurd before facing his former club Swansea
Swansea’s obstinacy, after all, was part of the reason Sigurdsson had such an underwhelming start. Everton first made contact in early May about striking a deal but found the goalposts kept moving, leaving them exasperated and the 27-year-old in limbo. As he explains, one 45-minute run out at Barnet on July 12 was ‘not ideal’ to prepare for a Premier League campaign.
‘I’d love to have been here training but what could I do?’ he asks.
Yet there is no hint of animosity towards Swansea, just shock that they have made another high-profile sacking.
‘They definitely had the right man in Paul Clement,’ says Sigurdsson. ‘He is a top, top manager. I’m really surprised they let him go.
The midfielder admitted his transfer saga meant he wasn’t prepared for the start of the season
Sigurdsson played just 45 minutes in pre-season – for Swansea against Barnet back in July
‘For Carlo Ancelotti to take him everywhere speaks volumes about what he can do and you could see why. He is a fantastic coach and a fantastic manager.
‘He is organised, speaks to you man-to-man. His training sessions are good, he’s tactically aware of everything. He makes you feel good and, as a player, you want to play for that kind of manager. It is difficult when you are in that position. But anything is possible. You just keep going.’
A smile follows that last statement. We are sitting in the referee’s room at Goodison Park, Sigurdsson having just returned from one of the most important assignments in Everton’s year – the annual trip to the renowned Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
Sigurdsson scored a stunning effort from outside the area during the 3-1 win over Swansea
Sigurdsson said he had ‘too much respect’ for Swansea to celebrate the brilliant goal
‘It is very important for the club but it is also very important for the players,’ says the Iceland international, who has taken his off-field duties seriously. If we can give something back to them, maybe make their day a little more special, it is worth it.’
‘Worth it’ were words, however, that were frequently mentioned with regard to Sigurdsson during a turbulent autumn in which Everton slithered, Ronald Koeman – the man who drove his signing – was sacked and supporters left the team in no doubt of their fury.
In his first 10 Premier League games, Sigurdsson failed to make a single contribution in terms of a goal or an assist and the wonder strike that he conjured on his debut against Hajduk Split looked freakish when compared to everything else he had done.
The 28-year-old insists he isn’t bothered by the £45million record fee he joined Everton for
Sigurdsson said manager Sam Allardyce (centre) is clear in his message: ‘He tells it how it is’
Through the turbulence, however, one thing was apparent. Sigurdsson never gave up. He was always prepared to run and it says something for his perseverance and desire to keep going that he has produced the highest running figure by an Everton player nine times in the Premier League so far.
‘When I was young, all I wanted to do was play football,’ says Sigurdsson, who arrived on these shores as a 16-year-old at Reading. ‘I was literally counting down the days and hours until I could get over to England to test myself. Coming here was exactly the same. I’ve come to be successful.
‘It’s proper pressure here. The fans really want us to win games and really want us to do well. But that’s good. It drives you on. It’s not something to worry about. If you are winning or losing, it’s only right they show you exactly what they are thinking.
‘The price was out of my hands and, honestly, it didn’t bother me at all. When the team is not performing and you are not producing what you should be, you know what is coming. I didn’t think about things too much. I just get on with it. Maybe it is just the way I am.’
So what does he put the ability to keep running down to?
He struggled initially at Everton and didn’t register a goal or assist in his first 10 league games
Sigurdsson was speaking to Sportsmail after Everton’s visit to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital
‘Maybe it helps eating all that Icelandic fish!’ he says, with another telling smile. ‘I eat healthy and train. Genetically I think I’m more equipped for long distances than high-intensity sprints. It’s not something that started at school. It was always just football. Running without a ball is not for me!’
There is no chance he will be asked to do that by Sam Allardyce. One thing Everton’s new manager has made a point of saying in his opening weeks is that he wants players doing the things at which they are best and that will mean Sigurdsson can get on the ball more.
‘I wouldn’t use the term old-fashioned (to describe Allardyce) but he speaks to you in the way you should be spoken,’ said Sigurdsson. ‘There is no going around it, he tells it as it is. It’s good. I’ve just had quick chats here and there with him, nothing too serious.
‘But he’s been good with us all around the training ground. Very direct, simple. He’s got us organised and that has got us a few points, which in turn has given us confidence. We are going in the right direction.’
Sigurdsson played a key role in helping Iceland qualify for their first ever World Cup in Russia
Paul Clement is a ‘top manager’ and was ‘the right man for Swansea’, according to Sigurdsson
And in 2018 there is much to look forward to, not least Iceland’s first appearance at the World Cup finals. The priority, he stresses, is to ensure Everton cement themselves first and foremost in the top half of the table but it is impossible to keep thoughts of that trip to Russia from his mind.
Already he has June 16 ringed in his calendar, the day Iceland come face to face with Lionel Messi and Argentina in Moscow.
‘As a kid you dream about it,’ says Sigurdsson. ‘But, at the back of your mind, you remember you come from Iceland and think it will never happen. Now we have qualified for two tournaments in a row and it’s incredible.
‘It’s a tough draw, of course it is. But there are two ways to look at it: you either want a good group or the worst one possible. It’s a tough group, I tell you. Croatia are fantastic, Nigeria have a great squad. Then first there is Messi. It will be tough. But why not think we can get a good result?’
And if they were to do that, there would be no limit to the celebrations.