Connolly Happy To Cancel Holiday

Having to cancel a holiday would be, for most, a nightmare. Not Callum Connolly.

The Everton youngster was all set to head off into the sun in June but was then named in the England Under-18s squad for two games in three days away in Russia.

A phone call later the holiday was cancelled and Connolly was preparing to give his all for the Three Lions, who eventually returned home having recorded one win and one defeat.

Within three weeks, Connolly was back at Finch Farm and preparing to fly out to Austria for pre-season training with Everton's Under-21s.

But the 17-year-old was in no way disheartened by his stunted summer.

“I just love playing football," he explained. "I did have a holiday booked for June, but when I was named in the squad for the Russia trip then England comes first – you can’t turn that down.

“Last season was massive for me, both internationally and at Everton. I’ve gained a lot of experience, especially with England, and I’ve been in every single squad.

“I played against some of the best players in Europe, going up against the likes of Holland, Italy and Russia, and I’ve enjoyed every moment. I just hope there is more to come next year.”

Turning out for the Under-18s saw Connolly link up once again with Young Lions boss and former Everton Academy coach Neil Dewsnip - a very familiar face for the defender and a man he credits massively for his progression through the Blues' youth ranks.

“I’ve been with Neil for the last nine or 10 years after he coached me at Everton in the Academy," he said. "He’s a great manager both on and off the pitch. You can talk to him about anything and he has a great understanding of what a player needs.

“His knowledge about the game is great too, and he is a top coach. It’s been fantastic to work with him again over the last year and I’ve learnt a lot.

“Individually he has really given me more belief to go out there and show people what I can do.

“He’s encouraged me to have the confidence to do that and he has really instilled a winning mentality into me and the lads.

“I wouldn’t really say I lacked self-belief before but it hadn’t really sank in I was playing for England. Now I know when I pull that jersey on, I have to work 10 times harder.”

Connolly's busy summer could prove ideal preparation for the season ahead. Despite his brief rest, the flying full-back feels fit and raring to go - and knows he's already a step ahead in what promises to be an important campaign in his fledgling career.

“Next year is a big one for me at international level and my club," he added. "With England I want to play in big tournaments and make an impression to show people what I can do.

“I want to ensure that I am a part of the Under-19s squad this season and hopefully help us to have success in the Euros. We know that if we do that then we will get the opportunity to show what we can do at the World Cup, which would just be unbelievable to be involved with.

“And I am going to be working extra hard to try and move up the ranks at Everton too. It would be great for me to get that little bit more physical and stronger and develop my football mentality a little more – that would hopefully impress the gaffer and edge me a bit closer to the first-team squad.”

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