Morgan Feeney says he is driving Everton’s team of analysts to distraction demanding clips of the World Cup’s finest defenders in action.
The 19-year-old Toffees Under-23s captain is with David Unsworth’s squad in La Manga where he is undergoing the latest phase of his recovery from knee surgery back in March.
Feeney and the Club’s medical staff decided the procedure was required to cure a long-standing patella tendon issue in the centre-back’s right leg. Feeney subsequently went under the knife to correct a similar problem in his left leg.
Now free of pain, Feeney is counting away the days until he can spend hours on the training ground honing the techniques he is studying on footage of the likes of Uruguay centre-half pair Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez, two masters of their art.
“I have been watching players I like [in the World Cup] and have done the analysts’ heads in, getting them to clip games for me on passing and defending,” Feeney told evertontv.
“I watch clips back and take those things into my own game. Hopefully, I can stay out training longer [when I am fit], with pain free knees, to work on those things.
“The Uruguay defenders are solid, Godin and Gimenez. And Harry Maguire has looked solid.
“The big centre backs who like to put themselves about a bit… that is what I like to see.”
Feeney had a fabulous season last time round before his campaign was prematurely curtailed.
He stepped up to skipper Unsworth’s Under-23s following Jonjoe Kenny’s elevation to the first-team set-up and responded with a series of stellar displays.
Feeney’s form won him a senior outing as a substitute in the Europa League clash with Atalanta in November. And the following month he made his full-debut at Apollon Limassol, turning in an authoritative display at the heart of the Blues’ back-four as a young Everton side won 3-0.
The Bootle-born player’s progress was recognised when he returned from his surgery in Sweden to accept the Club’s young player of the year prize in May.
“It was a satisfying year for me, to make my debut and receive the accolades I did,” says Feeney.
“To end it that way [receiving the young player prize] was sweeter than it would have been if things hadn’t gone so well.
“The first-team experience is an extra bit of motivation. It makes you hungry for more, once you have had a little taste. That second game in Limassol, especially getting the big win, just makes you want to go and get more.
“It is an extra drive for me. It was a bit of an eye opener, in terms of how they [the established first teamers] carried themselves and went about things.
“Anything I can take from the senior players to bring into my game, on and off the pitch, I will try to put into the 23s and get across to our lads.”
Feeney is following an individually tailored programme in Spain, designed to have him operating at full tilt when he returns to the pitch – and is tackling his work with the enthusiasm he would usually reserve for getting stuck into an opposing centre-forward.
He also underlined the revivifying effects of being part of the squad which has travelled abroad for a seven-day camp ahead of the new season kicking off next month.
“I have been joining in the warm ups and just being around the lads and feeling part of the team again is good for morale,” said Feeney.
“I am starting to get into the swing of things.
“You have to set yourself goals or you would end up just turning up and doing what you’re told. Within limits – because you have to listen to the physios. They give you goals and you cannot jump ahead of them.
“But if they give you some sort of cardio work, for example, I will try to beat the time they tell me to do it in.
“They are just little goals you can go out and reach each day and feel like you’ve achieved something.
“I have never really had a proper long-term injury – nothing as long as this. It is a new test and something you have to get on with and deal with.
“It does strengthen you mentally.”
Feeney featured 11 times in the Under-23s’ 2016/17 title-winning campaign, as he completed the transition from Under-18 football, having made his 23s debut the previous season aged 16.
He would dearly love to skipper his side through another successful season, while keeping sight of his long-term ambition to follow fellow Academy graduates Tom Davies, Beni Baningime and Kenny into the first-team group.
“This is our second season together now… we know each other inside out,” added Feeney. “It would be silly if our aim was not to go and challenge for the league again and I think we have a chance.
“I am a massive Evertonian, so being captain is huge for me. It is something I took in my stride and hopefully I am doing okay at it.
“My short-term goal is to get through to Christmas feeling good and playing well. Hopefully in that period I can catch the eye of the new manager and see where that takes me.
“I have seen some of his training and it looks exciting. You do think, ‘I don’t want to be watching, I want to be over there with them’.
“It is natural when you see how good it looks to want a piece of it. It is another incentive to try to get myself over there.
“But I do not want to rush things. I have been out so long and had the problem a number of years, so it is important I get it right and make sure I come back as fit as possible.”