Midfield talent Halid Djankpata has revealed how Under-18s manager Paul Tait’s continued support spurred him on to “come back even stronger” after a lengthy spell out with injury.
Djankpata’s development in 2021 suffered a setback when he injured his medial collateral ligament, resulting in a five-month spell on the sidelines.
While the recovery process was difficult for the 16-year-old Italian, he thanked Tait for checking in on him on a regular basis and explained how he is eager to repay his manager with performances on the pitch.
The young Blues are in U18 Premier League (North) action on Saturday when they travel to Derby County (12pm kick-off GMT).
“It was a tough time [when I was out injured], but I just had to keep working hard to come back stronger,” Djankpata told evertonfc.com.
“I did a lot of work in the gym and with our physios over the summer to eventually be able to get back on grass to do sprints.
“It was a bit lonely at times because you’re doing a lot of work away from the team by yourself.
“Paul was really good with me through that period, though.
“He would come in regularly and ask how I was feeling and where I was with my recovery process.
“The fact he wants to learn about your personal life, as well help you on the pitch, makes you feel wanted.
“It just made me want to work harder to get back in the team and for Paul.”
Djankpata has made seven U18 Premier League appearances since recovering from injury, scoring two goals, and is aiming for more game-time in 2022.
He believes his all-round qualities have come on leaps and bounds under Tait’s tutelage.
“Paul is a great coach,” said Djankpata, who is comfortable operating as a central midfielder or on either flank.
“He gives you good advice on your positioning, style of play, and he’s a genuinely nice person as well.
“The attacking side of my game has improved a lot since I started working with Paul.
“That extra bit of time he spends with you on a personal level just makes you want to work harder for him.
“If he is taking that time out for you off the pitch, I want to make sure I’m repaying him on it.
“There’s a togetherness with our squad and I feel that stems from the coach.”