Beni Baningime scooped the big prize at Everton’s Academy Awards evening on Wednesday as he became the latest recipient of the prestigious Keith Tamlin award.
The accolade, named after the Club’s Vice Life President, rewards a player for their excellence, attitude and application during their time spent in the Academy.
Baningime, who is now 18 but joined the Academy at the age of nine, helped the Under-23s secure the Premier League 2 title this season and received his prize during the event at St George’s Hall.
He follows in the footsteps of 2015/16 winner Tom Davies, who was also in attendance to answer questions and present awards.
Baningime told evertontv: “It’s a great moment for me and I feel very proud to win this award. Tom won it last year and hopefully I can follow in his footsteps in the future. He is the inspiration for me and everyone in the Academy. You look at him and how well he is doing in the first team and it is just fantastic.
“It has been a great season for us in the Under-23s. We have played well and we feel like we deserved the title at the end of it.”
Other special guests included Everton’s Director of Football Steve Walsh, CEO Robert Elstone, Deputy Chief Executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale, Under-23s coach David Unsworth, Ambassadors Graeme Sharp and Ian Snodin, and young Blues midfielder Joe Williams.
Meanwhile, defender Morgan Feeney, 18, was also recognised for an impressive season with Unsworth’s triumphant Under-23s by picking up the Tony Heslop award, a prize chosen by the Club’s coaches and staff to reward a youngster who “represents The People’s Club with distinction and passion”.
Jack Kiersey was named the Under-18s Player of the Season for his consistent displays in the heart of Kevin Sheedy’s midfield.
Matthew Johnson received the Sir Philip Carter Education and Endeavour Trophy, while a member of the Under-9s team secured the Goal of the Season prize for a stunning effort against Derby County.
A long list of tournament winners from throughout the year were acknowledged, as well as every player who gained international honours in the campaign.
Academy Chief Operating Officer Joel Waldron, said: “It has been a great chance to get every player, parent and Academy member of staff together to celebrate the achievements over the course of the season.”
When asked about the impact of Davies’ visit, he added: “Tom has been with us since the age of 11 when we brought him in from Tranmere Rovers. A lot of the existing coaches have worked with him and they can pass on the levels he was at the the current players we have in the system now.
“Our boys have sat here tonight listening to Tom, who speaks extremely well. He is a fantastic role model for his performances on the pitch and how he conducts himself off the pitch as well. We are so fortunate to have Tom as part of our family.”
Phase Lead and Interim Assistant Head of Coaching for Under-15s to Under-18s, Sean Lundon, said: “It has been another good season and tonight has been a good opportunity to celebrate that.
“People have the discussion about winning and development. We’re trying to develop winners - that is the job, that is what gets them to the top. Tournament football is an important part of that and we challenge them to win. You can’t always win, but we always want them to learn.
“We are always looking at how we can improve on what we’ve done. Pre-season is already planned and we’re always looking at groups and coaching in terms of where we need to strengthen. It’s an ongoing process - there’s no real end of season for us.”