Michael Keane: Watch out for ambitious Everton
Everton's joint-record signing Keane tells TNP that the Toffees want to challenge on all fronts
This could be the season that one of English football's sleeping giants finally emerges from their slumber.
Far too often, Everton have been guilty of navel-gazing in the transfer market before desperately scrambling around on deadline day for supposed last-minute bargains.
Last summer provided a series of false dawns - promises of Axel Witsel and Juan Mata ended with a late and failed pursuit of current Tottenham Hotspur misfit Moussa Sissoko.
The times, however, are changing in the blue corner of Merseyside.
Beneath the shadow of Anfield, a blue revolution is in motion for a club who have made five of their six costliest signings in the past 12 months.
Three of those have arrived this summer alone, reflecting that seismic shift in the old order.
"It doesn't surprise me any more, but maybe at first it was (surprising)," Michael Keane, Everton's joint-record signing at £30 million (S$53.1m) after add-ons, told The New Paper in an exclusive interview ahead of the season-opener against Stoke City tonight.
"Obviously we've got a lot of ambition and spent a lot of money on players.
"We had a great season last year but, with the money we've spent this year, we want to push on and do better than we did last year. That's got to be the aim.
"We're in more competitions so we've got a bigger squad to cope with that. We've just got to take it one game at a time and see where it takes us."
First of all we have big ambitions. That is what we would like to show everybody. Everton manager Ronald Koeman
Once dubbed the "Mersey Millionaires", Everton's stock has faltered since their glory days in the 1960s and 1980s.
An inability to drive forward was mirrored by the relatively unchanged appearance of their Goodison Park home since they were last crowned English champions, exactly 30 years ago.
But, spearheaded by Dutch manager Ronald Koeman and bankrolled by a new majority shareholder in British businessman Farhad Moshiri, the Toffees are plotting their route back to the promised land with a crop of promising players who could conceivably form their first-team spine for the next decade.
Besides Keane, Koeman has drafted in fellow record signing Jordan Pickford, an England goalkeeper, Holland midfielder Davy Klaassen, who inspired Ajax Amsterdam to last season's Europa League final, and former Barcelona striker Sandro Ramirez - all at an average age of just 23.
In addition, England's recently crowned Under-20 world champions had more players on Everton's books than any other club - Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ademola Lookman, Jonjoe Kenny, Callum Connolly and Kieran Dowell.
Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney's transformation from a badge-kissing incendiary to the prodigal son once again also offers a wealth of experience.
The England captain was a pitiful shadow of his former self during his final three seasons at Manchester United but appears reborn at his boyhood club.
"We've all got a lot of quality," admitted Keane, 24.
"I think Davy's really good in between the lines, getting into positions to receive the ball.
"He links the midfield and attack and I think he's got a few goals and assists in him, so I think he can add that.
"Jordan's obviously a class goalkeeper. His kicking is unbelievable - he can pick anyone out in any position.
"He can set us off on attacks and he's got great shot-stopping ability as well, so I think he's a great signing.
"I think everything's looking good, but we just need time to gel together. Hopefully, that's happened over the last few weeks so that we can put on a performance at the weekend."
Champions League qualification remains high on Everton's agenda, but delivering a first piece of silverware since 1995 is equally pertinent for a club who have been continually deprived of success despite reaching cup semi-finals and finals at regular intervals during the previous three decades.
"We want to try and win something," said Keane.
"With the squad we've got, we feel like we can go for every trophy we're in - League Cup, FA Cup, Europa League and obviously the league as well."
Beware, the blue tide on Merseyside could just rise this season.