The future could not be brighter for youngster Kieran Dowell.
The 20-year-old was hoping to make the Everton squad last season after an excellent preseason for Ronald Koeman, and was understandably disappointed when he was sent out on loan to Championship side Nottingham Forest instead.
However, the attacking midfielder knuckled down and did the hard work, and had an incredible first half of the season for the Reds as he plundered eight goals and four assists before Christmas and had the Forest fans raving. He was also the architect-in-chief of an FA Cup disassembling of a hapless Arsenal side, scoring once and laying on another in a 4-2 win.
The back half of the season wasn’t as kind to Dowell with the player affected by the behind-the-scenes wrangling at the club that saw Mark Warburton sacked in December, with Gary Brazil taking over on an interim basis and then Aitor Karanka eventually taking over and pushing the youngster to the sidelines.
Dowell did look fatigued and understandably so; at 20 he might not be ready to play a full season, but he still racked up an impressive 3,077 minutes in 43 games in all competitions. He also looked very good over the weekend as the Blues demolished Austrian Fifth Division amateur side ATV Irdning, taking over set piece duties for the absent Gylfi Sigurdsson and laying on three assists.
Speaking to evertontv, he spoke about the value of his time in the Championship, a move that Everton used for Ross Barkley too to toughen him up.
“That was the plan when I went out on loan – to get that experience under my belt and bring that back to Everton and use it to push into the first team.
“It was my first experience of proper football. I played 40-odd games last season and off the pitch I grew up a lot living on my own. Every week, I had that need to win.
“I learned about changing the way you play depending on how the game is going. If you are winning 1-0, you are less likely to try stuff – you try to keep hold of the ball instead.”
The player is looking forward to impressing Marco Silva this preseason -
“It is great to be back and seeing the same faces again. Last season was my first time away from Everton, so it was a different experience. But it is good to be back.
“It is a clean slate for everyone. To come in again under a new manager, he will have his own ideas. He has had the time to look at everyone and has got his own point of view across.
“You’ve got a chance to push yourself forward and show him what you can do.”
Dowell is a key component of the England youth international setup, which has its foundations set in Everton with Jonjoe Kenny, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Tom Davies, Ademola Lookman and Callum Connolly all present too. He capped off an excellent Toulon Tournament earlier this summer with the winning goal in the final.
“The international success is always nice. I love going away with England and it is always good in the summer. It helps you get going in pre-season back at Everton. You do not have as much of a break but it helps you hit the ground running when you come back.
“That Everton core [in England age-group squads] is how it has been for years. It is nice to have the lads there with you when you go away.”