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Everton manager Frank Lampard believes the importance of team spirit and commitment has become a clearer reality for his players as their league position worsens.

Last Saturday’s home match against bottom side Southampton was the club’s biggest fixture since they escaped relegation in the penultimate game of the 2021/22 season.

Defeat means the trip to 18th-placed West Ham, only above Everton on goal difference, is now the biggest 90 minutes of the season so far, and Lampard thinks last weekend may be the wake-up call his players need.

“The players don’t want to be in this position. The reality is we are here and there are lots of reasons for that,” he said.

“If the players in the dressing room are disappointed we lost then that is good.

“If they want to fight and be a good team-mate and not think about themselves, think about the team and trying to get the result the next week and train throughout the week with great intensity, whether they are starting or not, that is all I want.

“Off the back of games like Southampton that reality has become even more clear.”

While off-field issues, namely the fans’ protests against the Everton board, have taken some of the focus off Lampard, he is by no means safe as he approaches his first anniversary in charge.

The former Chelsea midfielder has won just nine and lost 20 of his 37 Premier League matches and has a worse points-per-game ratio than Rafael Benitez, the man he replaced.

While Lampard received owner Farhad Moshiri’s full backing last week, he needs fortunes to change soon.

Asked whether it was the biggest match of his managerial career, he added: “I don’t know, I only have to prepare for the game.

“I have played and managed in many big games with a lot of jeopardy: whether one will get you into the Champions League next year, whether one will keep you in the league, whether one will get you in the play-offs. These are all relative.

“I’m not making light of this, there are 17 games to go after this so I’m not thinking of the ifs and buts after this game.

“I came in with 18 games to go last year so we are in a similar spot. The emotions change weekly throughout those 18 games by the results.

“It was an amazing experience: not always good but the end result was good.

“I know what it takes, some of the players do, but that is all words when it is in front of us again. Now we absolutely have to act on it.”