Familiarity is breeding confidence for Everton winger Dwight McNeil as a reunion with his former Burnley manager Sean Dyche has changed his fortunes at Goodison Park.
The 23-year-old has started all seven games since Frank Lampard was replaced in late January, having managed just 11 out of 20 previously.
Dyche handed McNeil his debut as an 18-year-old and the pair spent four seasons together at Turf Moor before the Clarets sacked their manager in April and, following relegation, the forward moved to Goodison Park last summer.
The £20million transfer fee began to weigh heavy on him as he struggled to settle in a struggling team but since Dyche’s arrival he has had the stability of starting every game and the last couple of weeks he has started to reproduce his best form.
His first goal since October after just 35 seconds was Everton’s fastest winner in Goodison Park’s history and, backed up by a resolute defensive rearguard, was enough for victory over Brentford.
“I appreciate it a lot that I’m just getting trusted and playing,” said McNeil, whose goal secured a third 1-0 victory in four home matches under Dyche.
“When he came in he knew I wasn’t playing but he knew what type of player I am and the person I am off the pitch as well, which was massive.
“We just had a conversation about how to get me back playing to how I used to be playing.”
McNeil said Dyche had helped restore his confidence and that was making a difference.
“I think (the key) is just having the belief in myself and getting back to basics, first and foremost,” he added.
“It’s just remembering how I used to play when I first broke in (to the team) under the gaffer and taking that into the club here, believing in my ability.
“I’m still learning from him every day so every day is a new challenge and a learning curve for me as well.
“He gives you the freedom to play obviously within the shape but it’s good to know that the lads believe in you, the manager believes in you, the coaching staff believe in your ability as well.
“Then it’s just me taking the ownership of delivering that.”
After converting Abdoulaye Doucoure’s pass so early in the game, McNeil was also in the right place at the right time to hack clear an Ethan Pinnock effort off his own goal-line in the second half as Dyche matched Lampard’s tally of three wins this season, but in 13 matches fewer.
Defeat ended a 12-match unbeaten run for Brentford stretching back to October.
Head coach Thomas Frank is confident his players will produce a response against struggling Southampton in midweek.
“It is an unbelievable achievement that is in the past now. That is football,” he said.
“It is up to us, and I said it in the dressing room, to make sure we are so determined to bounce back on Wednesday and start another run.
“They are so well driven and motivated and they are – excuse my language – p***ed they lost and the unbeaten run is done so I don’t need (to make) any motivational speeches.”