Dynamic full-back Kyle John says Everton Under-23s are determined to “prove our quality” when the young Blues lock horns with free-scoring Manchester United on Monday night (7pm GMT).
The clash at Southport FC’s Pure Stadium is being streamed live on Everton’s Official YouTube channel – log on from 6.45pm to watch David Unsworth’s talented side in action.
Everton face a United team which has been involved in a succession of highly-entertaining Premier League 2 clashes of late.
United’s past five matches have produced 35 goals (18 scored, 17 conceded). Only leaders Manchester City have netted more times than United’s 42 this season, but the Red Devils also have the worst defensive record in the division having conceded on 39 occasions across their 15 games.
John believes Everton can showcase their own attacking prowess and blunt the threat of United’s in-form forwards – and is targeting a victory which would lift the Blues above Neil Wood’s side in the Premier League 2 table.
“We have enough quality in our team to come out on top,” said John, who joined Everton aged six and recently celebrated his 20th birthday.
“It’s going to be tough defensively. But we’ve got a good team, with some very strong defenders.
“We’ve been watching videos of United and looking at what they like to do.
“We want to hold them out and play our own game, too.
“As a young player, you have to look forward to matches like this. I’m not going to shy away from it.
“You want to be playing against top players, challenging yourself and showing what you can do.
“We’ve got real quality and we’ll have to prove that against United.”
John has battled his way back to peak form and fitness after rupturing ankle ligaments in Everton Under-23s’ second game of the campaign.
The injury represented a significant blow for the young defender, who had been training regularly with the Everton First Team and featured in senior friendly matches against Blackpool and Preston North End during pre-season.
John was forced to undergo an operation and was out of action for almost three months – he explains the mental challenges in coming to terms with such a setback.
“When I got the call from the physio, I remember it was late evening… he told me I’d ruptured my ankle and I needed an operation.
“The whole thing was just such a shock. I was on my own and I started crying.
“But after that, I got it in my head that I was going to come back quicker than they [the medical staff] said I was going to. And that I was going to come back better.
“That’s what I did. It was tough but I just had to have that attitude.”
John returned to the Everton Under-23s team in December’s 2-2 draw at Brighton & Hove Albion and has remained a fixture in boss Unsworth’s starting line-ups.
The right-back paid tribute to the expertise of the Blues’ medical team in helping him make such a speedy recovery – while highlighting the key role physios Mick ‘Baz’ Rathbone and Joe Hinnigan had in helping him maintain a positive outlook during his rehabilitation.
“The staff just kept reminding me that I was going to come back, that it wasn’t the end of the world – that I’m only young and I’m going to come back stronger," John says.
“I had great help from Joe.
“And obviously we’ve got Baz, too. He’s a great character. I don’t think it [the rehabilitation process] would have been as easy if Baz wasn’t here every day.
“He’s just so lively and you always see him running around everywhere! You can’t help but end up laughing when he is around. He helps a massive amount – even more than he thinks he does.
“So, really, it was impossible to feel down because you’ve got people around you who want to cheer you up and reassure you.”
Watch Everton Under-23s v Manchester United Under-23s live on our Official YouTube channel from 6.45pm on Monday night.