Jonjoe Kenny is aiming to follow in the footsteps of Mason Holgate after returning from his season in Germany a “better player and better person”.
Full-back Kenny started Everton’s opening pre-season fixture at Blackpool on Saturday, his first appearance for the Club in nearly 18 months.
The Academy graduate played 34 games for Bundesliga team Schalke 04 last season.
And while reflecting on a “great experience” abroad, Kenny didn’t try to conceal his excitement over being back with his “boyhood club” following a 45-minute run out at the weekend.
Fellow 23-year-old Holgate used a successful loan with West Bromwich Albion in the second half of 2018/19 to ignite his Everton career and crowned a personal turnaround in his fortunes by signing a five-year deal in March.
“Mason was in and out the team, similar to me when I was playing [prior to his Schalke loan],” Kenny told evertontv.
“He went out and performed, then came back and stuck at it and got his chance.
“That is what we all want.
“To play football is the main thing. It is about playing week in, week out and getting that feeling.
“That is what I needed… I felt I went out and did well for myself.
“I had a great experience in Germany but it was good to be back, to meet the lads again, the new manager and staff – and to be back at Everton.
“It is my boyhood club.
“I didn’t go on loan just to play games, I wanted to be a better player and better person and come back having made an all-round improvement.”
Kenny made his first Premier League start in October 2017 following a handful of appearances from the bench and has made 31 top-flight appearances, 25 from the start.
The defender seized his opportunity with Schalke, beginning every league game for which he was available under former Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner.
He reported to USM Finch Farm for pre-season eight weeks after his final Schalke outing – the Bundesliga was the first of Europe’s major leagues to restart following lockdown – and to a new manager in Carlo Ancelotti.
“I have loved every minute and straight away learned a lot about how he wants to play,” said Kenny, whose most recent competitive Everton outing came at Newcastle United in March 2019.
“You can’t forget what he has done in his career and what he’s won.
“He has been there and done it.
“It has been brilliant for me to come in and learn a lot more.
“I have got my head down and am trying to perform and play to the best of my abilities and enjoy it.
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EMOTIONAL MOMENT EVERTON SKIPPER COLEMAN STUNNED FAN OF THE YEAR LEWIS
“I feel I have come back a different player and person and want to show that.
“I have played a lot of games and learned different parts of my game I need to improve on.
“The manager over in Schalke was brilliant for me.
“He put a lot of belief in me and let me go and get my confidence back and play my game and that was really important for me.”
Everton recovered to draw 3-3 against Blackpool after being rocked by an explosive start from their hosts who were three goals to the good inside 11 minutes.
Ancelotti’s team were contesting their opening friendly fixture only six days after beginning preparations for the new campaign.
By contrast, Blackpool were aiming for a fourth straight win after getting their practice matches under way a fortnight earlier.
Everton, who hit back through Dominic Calvert-Lewin and a Gylfi Sigurdsson double at Bloomfield Road, visit Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday 1 September and four days later complete their warm-up games at home to Preston North End.
They begin 2020/21 with an away game against Tottenham Hotspur on the weekend of 12/13 September.
And Kenny echoed the views of captain and fellow right-back Seamus Coleman, who insists a successful first full campaign for Italian boss Ancelotti will stem from implementing a ‘nothing-but-the-best’ culture on Everton’s training ground.
“It was the first game back and not the greatest start,” said Kenny.
“But once the game got going, we started playing how we wanted and felt a bit better.
“We want to get a winning mentality because that is where the Club needs to be, we need to be winning more.
“We need that attitude every day in training: winning, winning, winning.
“That is where this club wants to be and needs to be.
“We will move on now to a good week of training and look forward to the next game.”