While John Stones has relished the season so far, in amongst the succession of highlights there is still one thing missing – a first Premier League start.
The youngster, signed from Barnsley back in January, has done everything but, making four appearances this season, and enjoying his first Everton start in the League Cup tie against Stevenage.
But, backed by a manager who had him all but signed him before Everton stepped in to gazump Wigan Athletic and snatch his signature, Stones is working hard to try and dislodge part of one of the top flight’s most consistent back four.
Speaking to evertontv, the young defender declared he was up for the challenge: “To come on at Goodison [against Chelsea], my first appearance for the first team at Goodison, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Especially against a big team like Chelsea, it just added that extra buzz.
“The next stage now is the get a first start in the League. I’m working hard, enjoying my training and hopefully it will come. I just need to be patient.
“I’ll never stop working hard in training. That’s what I did last season – I just worked hard and while my chance didn’t come, it has done this season and I’m thankful for that.
“What the gaffer has done for me in pre-season and putting me on late in games, it’s given me real confidence and a real inspiration to push on and hopefully get a start sooner rather than later.”
The lack of starts has not, however, stopped him from earning a nickname.
With the likes of Ossie, Jags, Hibbo, Gibbo, Bainesy et al all familiar shortenings around Goodison, surely we’re adding ‘Stonesy’ to the mix? Apparently not…
“I’m called ‘Pirlo’ all the time by all the fans when I get to Goodison!” he laughs. “After the penalty in America, they just call me ‘Pirlo’.
“But it’s just a penalty. It was a spur of the moment thing. I think it’s died down now. I’m not Pirlo anymore!”
‘Stonesy’ it is then…