This week on evertonfc.com, we are profiling the five Academy graduates who made their Everton debuts during 2015/16.
With a whole host of talent in the youth system at Finch Farm, we have spoken to the people who have worked closest with the quintet to find out more about their development as individuals - both on and off the pitch.
Having started with Jonjoe Kenny on Tuesday, today we take a look at the youngster who was named as the Everton man of the match on his first senior start for the club…
Place of Birth:
Date of Birth:
30 June 1998
On that day in history…
- Argentina eliminated England from the World Cup in France. After a 2-2 draw through extra-time, David Batty saw his decisive penalty saved by Carlos Roa in the shootout.
- ‘3 Lions 98’ by Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds was number one in the UK music chart.
- Top of the UK box office was City of Angels, starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan.
Date of first-team debut: 16 April 2016 (v Southampton at Goodison Park)
STARTING OUT ACROSS THE WATER
Davies’ connection to the Club runs in the family - his uncle is Alan Whittle, the midfielder who made 74 appearances and scored 21 goals for the Club between 1967 and 1972.
Davies began his association with Everton while at primary school, however he was originally on the books with neighbours Tranmere Rovers and was a quiet, reserved schoolboy when he first joined the Blues' youth system.
Academy coach Paul Tait always felt that Davies had the potential for stardom, albeit he had to instil more confidence in the youngster when their paths first crossed.
“Tom came in from Tranmere at 12 and I remember saying to him at 14 that he needed to have a little bit more self-belief," he explains. "You certainly wouldn’t think that when you see him on the pitch now.
“He’s in an age group where there’s a lot of good midfielders and sometimes he used to take a bit of a backseat because he was the youngest. I used to say to him, ‘Come on, you’re as good as them,’ - and now he’s come on in leaps and bounds.
“I think the people who have worked with him at the Club for a while - the likes of Sean Lundon and myself - have always fancied him as a top player because he’s an all-rounder who can do everything.
“People start finding out about the Academy kids early but Tom went under the radar a little bit, even though internally we all knew how good he could be.”
IN THE CLASSROOM
A long-serving figure in the Everton Academy was Mike Dickinson, who occupied the position of Head of Education and Welfare until a couple a years ago.
He remembers how Tom Davies and Kieran Dowell were trailblazers for a now well-established relationship with Wade Deacon High School, where the pair would study in the morning, before honing their footballing skills at Finch Farm later in the day.
“Tom and Kieran were the first age group to go to Wade Deacon as part of our partnership for years 10 and 11. What that school did for us was absolutely huge.
“The lads had a five-period day and came out every afternoon for coaching, so they only missed one lesson a day - the equivalent of just a day per week. But they got the best time in the school, the morning, and we got the best time to work with them, the afternoon.
“It was win-win. Teachers would come across to Finch Farm if they needed lessons between coaching sessions, and it all worked. Our boys raised the school’s percentage by three points at GCSE level.”
Davies’ crusade towards the Everton first team took a big step forward when he signed his first professional contract last September.
Hair slicked back and wearing a bright white shirt, he beamed with pride as he put pen-to-paper on his two-year deal.
“It’s a great honour to sign my first contract, especially with Everton, a Club that means so much to me,” he told evertontv at the time. “To sign my first contract is all I’ve ever wanted to be honest.”
Davies, of course, would realise his dream of representing the Everton first team in April 2016, when he emerged from the substitutes’ bench to replace Darron Gibson for the final seven minutes against Southampton at Goodison Park.
Davies was captain of the England team which travelled to Chile for the Under-17 World Cup last October. Fortunes weren’t favourable for the Young Lions and they didn’t progress out of their group.
However, before departing for South America, Davies was given a surprise call-up by Roy Hodgson to train with the senior squad at St George’s Park - an invaluable experience at that stage in his development, according to the youngster.
“I came down from my breakfast when the lads told me that Neil Dewsnip (England Under-17s coach) wanted to speak with me,” Davies says. “I went and found him and he just explained to me that later on I’d be training with the seniors. It was totally unexpected!
“The squad were really good and Ross Barkley helped me a lot. I even managed to score twice! I had Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain attacking with me, which was unbelievable at the time as they are both top players.
“It was great to have that involvement with the seniors. It gave me a really good insight into what it takes to become a top player for England.”
‘A PROPER EVERTON PLAYER AND A COOL DUDE!’
Over the course of the 2015/16 season, Davies thrived for Everton Under-21s under the guidance of coach David Unsworth, forging a combative, energetic central midfield combination with skipper Joe Williams.
When Unsworth was asked to take temporary charge of the first team for the final Premier League game of the season against Norwich City, he had no hesitation in handing the Scouser his full Everton debut.
Davies didn’t disappoint and even won the sponsors’ man of the match prize.
“It is always difficult for me to single out players - I don’t like doing it, I’ve not done it a great deal," said Unsworth. "But to play like that at 17, to control the game with Gareth (Barry) and James (McCarthy)… it was an awesome performance. I have to say I am not surprised because he has been playing like that all season.
“He is a proper Everton central midfielder; you just look at him and know he’s an Everton player. He’s all-action and doesn’t just do one thing - he can go box-to-box, he can screen, he can tackle, he can pass the ball, he can get in the box and score goals - there’s no end to where this lad can go.
“He’s also a cool dude, the one who plays the music in the changing rooms, and his music taste is horrendous, so he’s not shy when it comes to things like that!”
NERVES OF STEEL
Also sitting in the Everton dugout for the fixture against Norwich City was John Ebbrell, a former central midfielder who appeared over 200 times for the Toffees.
What struck the Academy coach about Davies’ performance was teenage Davies was in no way overawed by the occasion.
Ebbrell eulogised: “When I made my debut, I had nerves and it probably took me about half an hour to settle down. But if Tom had any nerves, I didn’t see any of that. Psychologically, he looked as though he was ready to play straightaway.
“He reads the game really well and one of the things I liked was that on one of the few occasions he gave the ball away, he won it back immediately. That’s ideal for an Everton central midfield player.
“It’s obviously one game but he has got to build on that. He seems a well-grounded boy and it’s a good measure for the Academy. We feel like we have got lots of boys that could step up, so it’s a great gauge for them that there is someone who they have been playing with for years who has been able to make that step.”
PRAISE FROM THE MASTER
In May 1998 - a month before Davies was even born - Gareth Barry found himself in exactly the same position as the recent debutant.
As a fresh-faced 17-year-old, Barry earned his first senior call-up to the Aston Villa team. He made his Premier League bow from the bench against Sheffield Wednesday, before progressing to win a full debut the following week against Arsenal.
Eighteen years later, the former England man is now the third-highest Premier League appearance maker with 595 top-flight matches to his name.
Barry anchored Everton’s midfield alongside Davies against the Canaries. He believes the youngster is destined for a lengthy career at the top, just like he has enjoyed.
“For someone of Tom’s age, you could see how confident he was,” Barry lauded. “I was sat next to him in the dressing room and, as we were all getting ready to go out, he was just having a read of the match programme! I could sense how relaxed he was.
“I remember playing at that age and it is so nerve-wracking. But he wasn’t overawed or nervous. I’ve seen him train and I know what sort of player he is, so I was delighted for him.”
If you missed the first instalment in our ‘Next Generation’ series, profiling Jonjoe Kenny click here.