Everton Under-23s begin a rush of Premier League 2 fixtures when Leeds United visit Southport's Pure Stadium on Monday (7pm).
Midfielder Lewis Warrington, who turned 19 on Monday, will hope for a fifth appearance of the campaign as he continues the transition from Under-18 football.
In advance of the game – which is followed by meetings with Arsenal, Burnley and Chelsea before the end of the month – boyhood Evertonian Warrington told evertonfc.com about his football journey to this point.
My passion for the game was inspired by…
I’d have to say my dad. I’ve been an Everton fan all my life because of him. As soon I was old enough, we would go the game together.
I’ve been playing football ever since I could walk, really, and myself and my older brother used to go to a place called the Soccerdome every week. We would do a soccer school, and you’d have to drag us out of there!
Ever since I was a kid I was always thinking, ‘I want to play for Everton – I don’t want to play for anyone else’.
Before I was a midfielder…
I used to be a central defender because I was quite big for my age. I played there for my local team and when I first went to Everton. I only became a midfielder when I got to Under-9 level.
I really enjoyed playing in defence because I love a tackle! No-one really got past me when I was younger as I was a big lad. Now, I love being in midfield and being right in the thick of the action, so I’m happy I made that transition.
My football heroes were…
When I was growing up, it was the 2010 Everton team – the likes of Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill, Bainesy and Seamus.
I looked up to Arteta, the way he moved the ball. When I was a centre-back, I used to like watching Jags. He was a top defender.
Now I love tenacious, aggressive midfielders – players like Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure for us and Hojbjerg for Spurs – as that’s what my game is like.
I also enjoy watching videos of Roy Keane from his playing days. He’s great on the telly, too. He tells it how it is!
My first Everton memories are…
Even though I was only six when I joined the Academy, I remember my first session like it was yesterday.
We were on the indoor astro pitch and striking the ball against the wall with both feet. I was so nervous! I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to hit these passes right’. But as a boyhood fan, I just absolutely loved coming to the training ground every week.
My best moment in football has been…
Off the pitch, signing my first professional contract. On the field, it would have to be the Youth Cup run last season, when we beat Manchester City and Chelsea on the way to the quarter-finals.
They were a couple of the best matches I ever played – and I captained the team against Chelsea. The buzz in training for a few days after those games... it was great to be a part of.
I know the City and Chelsea lads quite well and I went on holiday with a few of them in the summer. I was giving them some stick!
But a lot of them play for England and you admire their quality, so to beat them on the biggest stage for our age group was a big achievement.
My Everton dream is…
This season, I’m focused on getting regular game time for the Under-23s. I just need to keep working hard and staying focused.
Of course, I want to eventually make that step up to play for the First Team. Lewis Dobbin’s done it recently and I’m made up for him.
I’ve known him since I was about seven. I was buzzing for Dobs and one day I want to follow in his footsteps.
If I made my debut at Goodison... Ahh, it would just be amazing. My whole family would be there, as well as my dad’s mates, my mates… They’re all massive Evertonians. It would be a dream come true.