Mason Holgate credits the faith of Director of Football Marcel Brands for aiding his Everton resurgence in the past 12 months.
Centre-back Holgate, who signed a renewed five-year contract in March following a succession of superlative performances, feared his time at Goodison Park might be up after returning from a loan spell with West Bromwich Albion last summer.
Suspecting he would be fourth in line for an Everton centre-half spot – behind Michael Keane, Yerry Mina and a potential new recruit – Holgate approached Brands with a view to arranging another loan.
Events dictated Holgate would remain with Everton, however, and by dint of the 23-year-old's ongoing determination to finesse his defensive capabilities, coupled with his deep pit of self-belief, the defender emerged as one of the major success stories of the Blues' season.
“It has been very difficult at times and I thought I was going to have to leave and start afresh to get playing,” Holgate told evertonfc.com.
“I spoke to Marcel before going to West Brom and I did the same at the start of the season because I thought I would have to go out to play games.
“I have made clear for the past two years I just want to play football.
“I felt I needed to get my point across and show I wanted more than to be filling up a space here.
“But I am glad I stayed with it and the Club stayed with me.
“Marcel has always shown faith in me."
Dutchman Brands pointed to Holgate’s perseverance and diligence as sources of inspiration when addressing Everton’s players at a team gathering late in 2019.
Those characteristics were passed down by parents Tony and Julie, by their son's reckoning.
And they have compelled Holgate to work assiduously on his primary duty of defending since coming from Barnsley six years ago.
Roundly praised for his ability on the ball – and Holgate’s poise was underlined with a couple of fabulous midfield displays during the recently-finished campaign – the player has latterly garnered attention for his ability to shutout opposition strikers.
“It [work ethic] is a family trait,” said Holgate.
“My mum and dad always worked very hard and instilled in me that if you wanted something, you had to go and work for it.
“Nothing is handed to you. That has stayed with me.
“It is nice if people notice I am focused and working hard but I don’t do it to be patted on the back.
“I concentrate on myself and those are things I should be doing as a given.
“I have worked really hard on the defensive side of my game since I started at Everton.
“I always felt I had ability on the ball, it was the defensive side I wanted to improve.
“It is pleasing people are starting to notice that side of my game.
“I see myself as a ball-playing centre half but with a lot of those types of players, it is easy to say, ‘He’s good on the ball but can’t defend’.
“That followed me around in my early years.
“It is something I’ve worked really hard on, so people couldn’t level that at me.
“The first job is defending and you have to nail down that part of your game before you can play.”
Holgate featured 32 times for Everton in 2019/20 – starting 29 matches – and would have added to that total but for a shin problem which blighted the closing few weeks of his season.
The Englishman committed to using his extended run in the team – he wasn’t displaced after getting his Premier League chance back in October, other than for a one-game rest – as another means of upgrading his game.
Furthermore, his revised standing and relative longevity are adding weight to Holgate’s words in Everton’s dressing room.
“You learn from everything you should or shouldn’t have done in matches,” continued Holgate.
“I can sit here and think, ‘I shouldn’t have done this or that', but when someone is running at you, you have a split-second to make a decision.
“It has to come naturally: the ability to react and make the right choice.
“I don’t feel I’m seen as a young lad in the dressing room – and that’s not how I view myself.
“There’s only Seamus [Coleman] who has been in the First Team longer than me.
“If there’s something to be said, I will say it.
“I’ve never been shy of speaking up. I think if you asked the boys, they would say I get my point across.
“There’s probably more of an onus on me to do it now.
“I’ve been around the First Team four years and it is down to me to get across to everyone what it means to play for Everton.”