Kevin Kilbane is backing Tom Davies to continue getting “better and better” after the teenage midfielder chalked up his 50th Premier League appearance against Watford on Saturday.
Everton Academy graduate Davies, who has played 1,938 minutes of senior football this season, is being deployed in an attacking role by Sam Allardyce and blasted home his first goal of the campaign in the recent 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace.
He has figured prominently since Allardyce took charge three months ago – Davies has started eight top-flight matches and appeared from the bench in a further three in that period – and is thriving in his advanced position.
The 19-year-old’s verve, drive and ambition were instrumental to last month’s 2-1 success over Leicester City, while against Palace he delivered a purposeful and enterprising display, operating on the shoulder of striker Oumar Niasse, as Everton swamped their visitors and scored three times in 29 second-half minutes.
Former Toffees winger Kilbane believes the young star – in common with fellow emerging talents such as Jonjoe Kenny, Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert-Lewin – will benefit prodigiously from the tutelage of Allardyce and his army of experienced coaching staff.
And he insists Davies’ rare “off-the-cuff” ability to unlock Premier League defences is an underrated asset, with the art of spontaneity a precious commodity in today’s ultra-competitive English top-flight.
“I have liked Tom since he broke into the side,” Kilbane told evertonfc.com. “He brings a rawness to the team and some unpredictability, as well.
“Sometimes, that is key to getting results. We can all have functional elements to our game and play a certain way. And Tom is excellent on the ball and can play a specific role – he can play according to the manager’s needs.
“But he also has that off-the-cuff ability, which a lot of teams do not have in their make-up.
“He has reached 50 games now, which is the point where you can start to really feel you have established yourself.
“Once you get to 50 games and beyond, more is expected of you – and there is a bit of pressure attached to that.
“And as he gets better and better through his career, which I expect him to, he has to live up to those expectations and manage the burden which comes with them.
“He is at the right club and in the right environment to help him take that load. And I think he will be absolutely fine. He has massively impressed me with the way he has continued to work at his game and looked to improve from the moment he first played in the team.”
Davies emphatically announced himself as a footballer of rich promise last term, brilliantly and memorably scoring in the 4-0 thumping of Manchester City, and starting 18 of the Toffees’ final 19 matches of the season.
He averages 26 passes per Premier League match, and has used his vision and technical proficiency to complete 50 accurate long balls in his embryonic top-flight career. Davies relishes a scrap, too, an observation born out by him winning 70 per cent of his total tackles and emerging as the winning party from 38 50/50 contests in his 50 matches. He has won 23 of those games, with 12 ending all square.
England Under-21 international Davies has been joined in the Blues side by a host of his exciting contemporaries. Indeed, Everton have given more senior playing minutes this term to last year’s various Three Lions age-group representatives than any other club in the country.
Following Saturday’s match at Watford, that total stands at 9,832 minutes – a figure which does not account for the game-time accumulated by Davies, who was rested from international football during the summer – and is poised to surpass the 10,000 mark in the forthcoming clash with Burnley.
And with the likes of Craig Shakespeare and Sammy Lee – both former Premier League managers – lending a real depth of expertise to Allardyce’s backroom staff, Kilbane says Everton’s young stars are surrounded by people who will enable them to continue to flourish.
“From a developmental point of view, the role of the coaching staff is so important,” said Kilbane, now a leading football pundit for the BBC.
“You go to the coaches for one-on-one advice and training. As a developmental role, it is crucial. On the training ground, in terms of tactical awareness and individual development, the coaches have a vital role to play.
“Craig Shakespeare has extensive coaching experience and helped mastermind one of the greatest stories in football history when Leicester won the Premier League. And you have Sammy Lee there, who has worked with some of the best players in the world – and been successful with them.
“So, these are people you are confident seeking advice from, especially as a young player.
“The manager has a key role to play in helping these players from a mental perspective, and Sam is very adept at doing that.”
Allardyce has called on 13 players aged 21 or under in his short time at the helm – handing those players a total of 4,174 minutes of senior action.
Right-back Kenny is another who has been integral to the manager’s plans, featuring in 12 of Allardyce’s 14 Premier League matches in charge.
The 20-year-old missed out against Leicester due to Seamus Coleman’s stirring return from an extended injury layoff – but Kilbane insists Kenny will profit from working every day with the exceptional Republic of Ireland defender.
“I do not think there is any better full-back in the Premier League in the past seven or eight years for Jonjoe to look up to,” added Kilbane, whose 110 Ireland caps is the third-highest total amassed by an outfield player from the country.
“I remember Seamus Coleman talking about Tony Hibbert and what he did to help him improve as a footballer, certainly from a defensive point of view. And that is what Jonjoe Kenny can do now. He can look at all aspects of Seamus Coleman’s game and that will help him develop as a player.
“Coaches have an enormous influence on your development. But it can also be significantly boosted by the players you are around, their calibre and mentality. There are so many factors that contribute to a footballer achieving his potential – and having the right environment is vital.”
Kevin Kilbane was the special guest on last week's The Everton Show
. Watch it back above or by clicking here