Leighton Baines has hailed the impact of Jonjoe Kenny - and backed the Kirkdale-born defender to one day become a leader in Everton’s first team.
Academy graduate Kenny, who joined the Blues at the age of nine, has been the only player to play every minute of the past four matches since David Unsworth took charge of the senior side.
Now playing alongside Kenny, and having watched him captain Everton Under-23s to the Premier League 2 title and play a pivotal role in England Under-20s’ World Cup triumph in the summer, Baines says he has been mightily impressed by the 20-year-old both on and off the pitch.
“I’ve been a big fan of Jonjoe for a while, I’ve been watching the Under-23s play and he has always been top drawer for them and whenever he trained with us I have admired the way, not just how he performs in training, but the way he goes about himself,” Baines told evertontv.
“He’s a leader in the Under-23 group and he steps up to the first team and still has a presence about him which is important.
“His performances have been great, I thought he was magnificent at the weekend, one of the best players on the pitch.
“It’s great for us to have young players coming through, it’s not just Jonjoe, if you look through the team sheet and look how many young players were on the pitch at the end, there’s lots of good young talent at this football club.”
Baines helped the Toffees head into the international break with a win, converting a stoppage-time penalty to seal a 3-2 win over Watford on a thrilling evening at Goodison Park last Sunday.
The experienced left-back admitted he was “relieved” to register the Blues’ first win in nine attempts and insists, despite depleted numbers at USM Finch Farm, the remaining players are doing all they can to continue their momentum ahead of Saturday’s trip to Crystal Palace.
“It’s hard to work on things [during the international break] because there’s so few people around,” added Baines. “Managers probably become a little bit frustrated because they have a break from games but not everyone is there to do it. What you can do is do the best with what you have got and that’s what we will be doing, whether that’s improvement on the small things for the players still here, fitness or something tactically, then that’s what we’ll knuckle down on this week and try to enjoy the weekend off.
“We have been travelling round and playing a lot of football, the schedule only becomes more hectic over Christmas and into the new year so there’s a lot of football to be played. Hopefully the win against Watford will be a turning point for us and we can climb up the table from here.”