Everton Under-18s midfielder Owen Barker has set his sights on raising his game to the next level in 2022 following a frustrating end to the year.
Barker – who has been with the Academy since the age of nine – has missed the past three matches through illness, including the five-goal thriller at Goodison Park where the young Blues beat Fulham 3-2 in the FA Youth Cup.
Motivated to make his return to the team in the new year, the 16-year-old reflected on an enjoyable campaign so far, one of which he hopes gets even better in 2022.
“It’s been a difficult few weeks, being unable to help the team for some big games," he told evertonfc.com
“However, when you reflect on our season so far, it’s been really good. At the start of the season, we were getting used to the tempo and the physical side of the game.
“Now as a team, I feel like we have dealt with that and are stronger.
“We have come a long way as a group and long may that continue.
“In the new year, I want to get more goals and assists so I can try to affect games as much as I can.
“Longer term, I want to break into the Under-23s squad and experience training sessions with them.
“I’ve spoken to some of the lads who have made the jump and they have said it’s challenging.
“David Unsworth demands 100 per cent from every player, but we expect the same from ourselves in the Under-18s set-up.”
Barker spoke of his confidence that Everton is the best possible club for him to continue his development, with First-Team players like Anthony Gordon proving there is a clear pathway from the Academy.
“I want to be at this Club long-term so I will fight to make that a reality," added Barker.
“When you see a player like Anthony Gordon make it into the First Team, it shows that there’s a pathway there.
“I can look up to someone like him and think, ‘If he can do it then so can I'.
“I’ve enjoyed my time at Everton so far.
“I feel like I have developed a lot over the years and that’s a credit to the Academy and the Club."