Matthew Pennington is looking to build on his successful loan spell with Coventry City by pushing towards Everton’s first team next season.
The 20-year-old defender, who has been offered a new deal by the Blues following the expiration of his current contract, made 25 appearances during his temporary spell at the Ricoh Arena last term.
Such was the impressive nature of Pennington's performances, he was named the Sky Blues' Young Player of the Season for 2014/15 after successfully helping Tony Mowbray's side to League One safety.
"It was a great award to win,” he told evertontv. “As a young player, who had come in halfway through the season, it’s flattering to get recognition from the coaching staff for the hard work I put in.
“It means a lot because, more than anyone, the coaches see how much hard work you're putting in every day on the training ground, in the gym and in the games as well - so it was great to be recognised.
“At the end of the day, I know I'm an Everton player, but it was also good to be part of the team at Coventry and to help them get over the line in terms of helping them to avoid relegation.
“I think [when we found out we were mathematically safe] it was a feeling of relief more than anything because Coventry are a big club. They don't deserve to be down there towards the bottom of the league, especially in League One, but it was a relief for everyone there.”
The loan spell with Coventry City was Pennington’s second in as many seasons after making 17 appearances, in two separate spells, for Tranmere Rovers in 2013/14.
Now, after sustaining ankle ligament damage towards the end of last term, he is hoping to be fully fit for the early stages of pre-season to hit the ground running as he looks to earn a senior debut for the Toffees.
He added: “It has been a great season for me. It was another good loan spell and another 25 games under my belt, so, even with the injury at the end, it's been all been positive.
“Getting game time is vital. I learn something with every new game I play and you naturally pick up things from playing with more senior players as well.
“It was also great to play in a competitive league, playing in different types of games and in different atmospheres - whether that's a positive atmosphere or when the crowd is getting on your back a bit and you're up against it.
“Hopefully it will stand me in good stead looking forward because I want to kick on here now and hopefully push towards the first team. That is my target.”