Callum Connolly intends to use the “valuable experience” he gained on loan at Ipswich Town to push on back at Everton.
The versatile 20-year-old has just returned from a season-long stay at the Championship Tractor Boys, making 35 appearances.
Connolly – who has one Everton first-team appearance to his name after coming on as a 54th-minute substitute in the 1-1 home draw with Southampton in April 2016 – admits he is hungry for more action at the highest level having benefitted from the tutelage of Mick McCarthy throughout his time at Portman Road.
His intentions to push into the senior squad back at Everton have only been fuelled by watching his former Under-23s teammates Jonjoe Kenny, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Beni Baningime all successfully make the step up into the first team.
“There were a few lads last season who got their chance and took it well,” he told evertonfc.com. “Hopefully I can, too.
“With the new gaffer coming in, hopefully I can come back in pre-season and show what I can do.
“My loan at Ipswich was a great learning curve. I played in a lot of games and it was the experience I needed. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“When the manager [McCarthy] said he wanted me on loan, I couldn’t turn it down. I knew it was going to be a valuable experience and looking back now, eight months later, it’s been a great move for me. Mick was very good with me. He treats everyone the same and he’s been very important in my development.
“That was the aim for the season – to play as many games as possible and play regular football. I’ve done that and hopefully I can kick on next season now.
“It’s been a good year for me. Hopefully next year will be better.”
Connolly has just returned from the south of France where he helped England Under-21s retain their Toulon Tournament crown.
Although he was a late replacement in Aidy Boothroyd’s squad, the young defender-cum-midfielder impressed sufficiently to earn a starting spot in the final against Mexico, having scored in the semi-final defeat of Scotland.
It was fellow Everton teammate Kieran Dowell who netted the winner against the Mexicans, with the duo – alongside fellow Blues Tom Davies and Kenny – adding Toulon gold to the Under-20s World Cup medals from the summer of 2017.
Connolly was pleased to be back on the same team as attacking midfielder Dowell, having been assigned the unenviable task of man-marking the forward while at Ipswich when Dowell was on loan at Nottingham Forest.
That was one of a number of several encounters with familiar faces in the second tier and Connolly is pleased to see his fellow youngsters joining him in pushing for first team places back at Everton.
“I’ve got a picture on my phone of me playing against Kieran,” Connolly added.
“Before the game, the gaffer said I had to man-mark him. We were running up and down, speaking to each other now and again! We both scored but Ipswich won, so that’s the main thing!
“I came up against a few of the lads during the season – Jedi (Antonee Robinson) at Bolton, Mo Besic who joined up with Middlesbrough and Matty Pennington at Leeds.
“It was great. They’re in the same boat and I think it’s been a valuable experience for all of us. Hopefully now we can all come back and push on.”