Mason Holgate is aiming to grasp every opportunity to prove his quality in Everton’s defence after a season in 2020/21 when the player did not match his own expectations.
Centre-half Holgate was part of a back four that frustrated Brighton & Hove Albion immediately before the ongoing international break – four days after captaining Everton to a cup victory at Huddersfield Town.
The 24-year-old, who is closing on 100 Premier League games for the Club, endured an injury-disrupted beginning to last term.
And, after belatedly getting going, Holgate felt he never recaptured his excellent form from the previous campaign, the defender’s best since joining six years ago, which saw him named Players' Player and Young Player of the Season.
“I wasn’t good enough for my personal standards last season and I know that,” Holgate told evertontv.
“It wasn’t something I could put my finger on. Things just weren’t going right, I played in different positions and was injured.
“But just like the previous season didn’t make me better than I thought, last season doesn’t make me worse than I thought.
“As the season was going on, I was trying different things and for whatever reason couldn’t get to grips with it.
“There were no excuses… it is part of football, it is not a straightforward path.
“That time will only make it better when the good things come.
“I have to work hard, I know what I can do and have to consistently show it.
“I am very confident it was an off-season on my part and I will be able to show people what I can do this season.
“But I can only do that when I am playing, so the aim is to get chances in the team and keep performing.”
Holgate’s refusal to look elsewhere for reasons for a self-perceived dip in form is typical of a reflective character.
And the player's analytical nature fits very neatly with the scrupulous approach of manager Rafa Benitez, who appointed Holgate skipper for last month's tricky Carabao Cup tie at Huddersfield.
“The manager’s attention to detail is massive,” said Holgate. “It is benefitting a lot of people and me especially.
“I know my job very clearly. When something happens, I know where I should be and how I am supposed to react to things.
“He goes through everything with a fine-tooth comb and we are benefitting from it with the results we’re having.
“For the gaffer to see my leadership qualities is a positive for me.
“This is my seventh season at Everton. I know what it means and I know all the boys and staff really well.
"I am happy to be part of it and help people through my talking or any other way I can.
“But, ultimately, we all need to step up and help each other.”
Holgate played his 95th Premier League game at Brighton where Everton claimed three points to extend their unbeaten start to a fourth match in all competitions.
Burnley visit Goodison Park on Monday and Holgate is adamant his side will dodge any complacency against opponents that won in L4 last season.
“It was our first clean sheet of the season at Brighton and we’re unbeaten so there are positives to take into the Burnley game,” said Holgate.
“We were far too inconsistent last season. It's been better this season but it’s very early.
“We have a set goal and to achieve it we have to be winning games like the one against Brighton – the squad and team are good enough to do that.
"To perform was satisfying but it is what we expect.
“We view it as ‘job done’, then look to the next one.”
Holgate was stationed behind midfielders Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure against Brighton and added to the widespread praise directed at the pair for energetic and progressive performances this term.
“They keep running all day and get across and break things up,” said Holgate.
“That makes it easier for people like me and Mike [Keane]. When you might be out of position the odd time, you know they will be there covering you.
“That work doesn’t always get noticed but it is invaluable to the team and both of them are world class at it.
“It helps us massively.”