After making seven appearances for Everton Ladies in the second half of the 2017-18 campaign, young striker Elise Hughes is hoping for more ahead of the new season.
The Blue Girls are back in competitive action on Sunday when they travel to Durham in a Continental Cup clash at New Ferens Park, kick-off 12pm.
Having made her debut at the age of 16 back in February, during a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal, Wales international Hughes has been with the first team throughout pre-season and travelled with the squad for the recent Friendship Tournament in Gibraltar.
With Everton's 2018-19 schedule beginning at the Championship Wildcats this weekend, Hughes has her sights set on building on her debut campaign and looking to put pressure on established strikers Claudia Walker, Simone Magill and Chloe Kelly.
“It was a really enjoyable season last year, if a little overwhelming, looking back at it,” she said. “I just tried to take every day, every week, every month as it came because I wasn’t expecting anything. As the season progressed, it just got better and better for me.
“That Arsenal game was unexpected. But due to injuries in the team, I managed to get the opportunity to get on and make my debut.
“Just to travel with the first team down to London was a great experience – I didn’t think I would play. It was a dream come true to make my first appearance. I have supported Everton all my life so it was a special moment.
“I did think that might have been it because there was an international break soon after. I was going away with Wales and I thought that when I was back, everyone would be fit again.
“But afterwards I was with the first team again and training with them. I managed to get a few more chances across the rest of the season and I really enjoyed them.
“This is my second season with Everton in the WSL and as a team we have had to adapt to the top division. We have brought in players who will help us and if anything, it’s great for me because they are just more players to learn from.”
Hughes is fully aware of the challenge facing her this season in trying to break through into the first team of a club like Everton competing in the top tier of English football.
But, having made her senior Wales bow in the Cyprus Cup tie against Switzerland earlier this year, the 17-year-old is ready for the fight.
“It is a big step up, but you just take each day as it comes,” she added. “Just training with the girls makes me a better player. You have to think faster and be quicker in what you do.
“If you are ready to play games then you’re ready. Then it is up to you to give it your all against some really top opposition, players who have been playing at a high level for years.
“My experiences with Wales do help when I’m back at Everton. I enjoy going away with the international side and I love playing for Everton and they have both helped each other. I am glad I have the opportunity to experience both.
“Pulling on the shirt for the first time was a dream come true. At first you think it is only a proud moment if you are a lad but that’s definitely not true. It’s just as big a deal for a young girl who has grown up supporting Everton all her life. I am very lucky to have the opportunity to be here and play for this Club.”