Everton Under-18s midfielder Jenson Metcalfe believes developing his tactical awareness under manager Paul Tait has elevated his game to a new level – and is setting is sights on becoming a central figure for the young Blues in 2021/22.
Everton kick off their Premier League North campaign on Saturday with a trip to Leeds United on Saturday (12pm BST), with Metcalfe aiming to sustain momentum following a strong finish to last season.
Just 16 years of age, Metcalfe broke into the Under-18s side at the turn of the year and quickly impressed. He went on to make 10 league appearances for Tait’s team, scoring twice.
Metcalfe’s development caught the eye of Under-23s boss David Unsworth, and he made his debut at that level in April, playing the full 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion.
Metcalfe credits his growing football intelligence as a key factor behind his progression.
“I’ve learned a lot about reading the game and my responsibilities,” he told evertonfc.com.
“Paul Tait is a very good manager. He expects a lot from each individual and won’t let anyone slack.
“He wants every single one of us to use each day to improve.
“The tactical side and my positioning were the main things I needed to learn, whereas the football side comes more naturally.”
An energetic central midfield player with an eye for goal, Metcalfe is composed and purposeful in possession.
A growing understanding of the game has boosted the confidence of a player who is increasingly vocal on the field – and looks to a great from Barcelona’s midfield for inspiration.
“I’m loud and like to encourage my teammates and take on that leadership role,” says Metcalfe, who joined Everton at Under-5 level.
“I’ve progressed those skills from knowing the game more. I’ve learned a lot over the past year and now I just want to help the other lads, too.
“In games, I see myself as a tempo-setter, so I look up to Sergio Busquets. He’s so relaxed on the ball.”
While his immediate goal is to cement a spot in the Everton Under-18s side, Metcalfe is also targeting more Under-23s action in 2021/22.
He describes making his debut for Unsworth’s team last season as “a proud moment for myself and my family”.
“My family have done everything they could to help me,” Metcalfe says. “My dad has taken me everywhere to play.
“If it wasn’t for their support, I wouldn’t be here at Everton now.
“Making my Under-23s debut was a big moment for all of us.
“It was tough, but the manager [Unsworth] thought I was ready. I like the way he pushed me that high.
“You want to be challenged and playing for the Under-23s aged 16 was a big challenge for me. I just couldn’t wait to get on the pitch when he said I could play. It was more excitement than nerves.
“This season, my aim is to play as well as I can in the Under-18s and try to get into that Under-23s squad when I can.”