Kieran Dowell is confident he will come back to Everton a “better player” after capping a terrific season by hitting the winning goal in England Under-21s’ Toulon Tournament final victory.
The Young Lions overturned a one-goal deficit to beat Mexico on Saturday and Dowell, an Under-20 world champion with his country 12 months ago, admitted his side “fully expected” to win the competition in the south of France.
Dowell revealed that new Blues boss Marco Silva contacted the Everton contingent in Aidy Boothroyd’s squad by text message to wish them luck ahead of the final. Fellow Blues Academy graduates Jonjoe Kenny and Callum Connolly both started the 2-1 success, while midfielder Tom Davies was among the substitutes.
And Dowell, who played 43 matches on loan with Championship team Nottingham Forest last season, is quickly turning his focus to trying to impress “exciting” boss Silva when he reports for pre-season training on July 2.
“The manager sent us lads a text before the final to say good luck, so hopefully he was watching the game,” Dowell told evertonfc.com.
“I have only heard good things about him. I was with Ben Watson at Nottingham Forest and he spoke really highly of the manager from his time at Watford.
“It is an exciting time for the Club. He has always played attractive football and hopefully he can bring that to Everton.
“We played a lot of attacking football with England this summer. They want you to express yourself and give you the licence to play.
“The winning habits we have formed stand us in good stead and we go to tournaments and meet up for matches during the season expecting to win.
“Growing up at Everton, through the Academy, those winning habits are drilled into you. It is the norm.
“We went into the Toulon Tournament fully expecting to win – and into the final knowing we would win. It was strange, really, but that is the attitude the team and staff possess.
“It is great going into games knowing you will be on top and dominate possession. That belief gets you over the line in tournaments.”
Dowell and Kenny both won the Premier League 2 title with David Unsworth’s Everton Under-23s in 2016/17 – Dowell an ever present, while skipper Kenny missed only one match – ahead of their substantial contributions to the World Cup success of England Under-20s in South Korea.
Dowell has featured three times for the Blues’ first team, including a Premier League start against Norwich City on the final day of 2015/16, but it was at Forest last term where he had his first sustained experience of competitive football.
He started 31 times in the Championship, scoring nine goals, and was also on target in a scintillating individual display when Forest turfed Arsenal out of the FA Cup.
The 20-year-old’s season at the City Ground also enabled him to feature in a number of different positions under managers Mark Warburton and Aitor Karanka, who succeeded Warburton in January.
And Dowell’s versatility proved a valuable asset, once more, in Toulon.
“We played three at the back with England, which meant I had a variety of roles,” said Dowell.
“I played on the right of two 10s behind the striker, then in the final we were being overrun in midfield in the first 20 minutes and the manager moved me inside to be part of a midfield three.
“I really enjoyed it in there and felt like I showed a lot of discipline and demonstrated my quality on the ball.
“It can only be beneficial for my development being trusted in a few different positions. I played right across midfield last season and have learned a lot.
“Going to Forest was my first taste of proper football and I loved every minute of it. It is intense, which is what you want. I played around 50 games for club and country and would not have wanted it any other way.
“Your whole life revolves around the next game – recovering and being ready. It has been a valuable experience, feeling the pressure of games, playing for three points. It is proper, isn’t it?
“I worked under two different managers and learned loads from both of them. I cannot thank them enough for all their help – and the fans as well. It is a massive club – and a club on the up.”
Dowell’s clubmate Kenny, whose 28 Everton appearances last term all came at right-back, was employed in England’s back three in Toulon.
Connolly, meanwhile, forced his way into the side as a right wing-back after receiving a late call-up from manager Boothroyd. The 20-year-old played 35 games last season on loan at Ipswich, where he was primarily used in central midfield.
Dowell confessed he had not been at all surprised by the assured manner in which his two Everton teammates took to their respective tasks across the channel.
And he believes his own exploits across the past nine months will help him in his bid to catch Silva's eye.
“For the past three or four years, it has always felt like my biggest year,” said Dowell, who joined Everton aged seven.
“You are always looking to the next thing. Whatever has happened is nice to remember but the most important thing is what comes next.
“I have learned loads as a player and matured a lot as a person in the past year. It has been really beneficial for me and I think I will come back to Everton a better player.
“I love playing with Jonjoe. We have a great rapport on the pitch. He knows where I am going to run and when he has the ball I know where he wants me to be.
“I was confident he would do well in a back three. He has a lot of strings to his bow. He played centre-back against some big lads in the Academy and has always dealt with every challenge he has faced.
“Callum was brilliant. He played all over the pitch for Ipswich but was mainly used as a centre-midfielder. To come into the squad and fit so easily into the right-wing-back position was incredibly impressive.
“He is another great player to play alongside and reliable going forward and defensively. He has had a great year and come on loads.
“Our ability to adapt goes back to the high standards you set yourself. We face every challenge expecting to meet it and you could say that comes from the Academy coaches and our Everton upbringing.”