Jonjoe Kenny says the "high" of starring in Everton’s win over Leeds United on Saturday compensates for a lot of personally “low moments” over the past 18 months.
Defender Kenny was so outstanding playing out of position at left-back that Leeds withdrew exceptional right-sider Raphinha at half-time.
The 24-year-old Everton’s player’s performance was all the more impressive for his paucity of competitive football this season.
Kenny, who spent the second half of last term on loan with Celtic, started only three Premier League games prior to Saturday – and none until the draw at Chelsea in December.
“I wasn’t playing but it was down to me [to regain place], I looked at myself and changed a lot of things, I didn’t make excuses anymore and forced my way back in,” Kenny told evertontv.
“It [personal change] was my mindset of, ‘I want to play for Everton’.
“I want to be the best player I can.
“I am a local lad but I want to show everyone what I am about.
“It is not just lying down and letting the bad times take over.
“I had a lot of lows and that is part of football – but those moments mean nothing when you are this high.
“I expected to be where I am now because I trained and had the mental focus to get where I want.
“I love to defend, everyone knows that – and I showed moments going forward [against Leeds], which I know I have.
“It is just having that confidence in myself to go and express that.”
Kenny’s words over his renewed attacking intent are supported by statistics from the Leeds game which showed he delivered two key passes, struck three accurate long balls and embarked on the most dribbles (three) of any Everton player.
The Academy graduate was characteristically adhesive in defence, making two tackles and completing three interceptions and two clearances.
Manager Frank Lampard spoke glowingly about Kenny post-match, praising the player’s perseverance and technical ability, as well as giving a nod to the impeccable attitude noted by a succession of Everton bosses.
“I would say I am a professional and I did a lot of extras outside football [while out of the team],” said Kenny.
“Extra runs and crossing and passing… I try to look after my food and sleep… these little things might not mean so much [in isolation] but they add up to little wins every day.
“I still don’t know everything, but it is working on me and trying to be the best Jonjoe Kenny I can.
“I knew my chance was going to come, just not when it would come, and wanted to make sure I was ready.
“I made everything down to me, changed what I needed to and tried to get rid of excuses, which is difficult.
“I didn’t want to be giving the excuse that I wasn’t ready or didn’t take my opportunity.
“Celtic was a difficult period for me, off the pitch, especially. But having close family and friends and my agent and good mentors around me, and choosing that path and having these people who can really help me progress, changed a lot of things for me mentally.
“I have had a lot of ups and downs but it is about staying at it and doing what I need and focusing on me.”
Kenny played the final 14 minutes of Lampard’s opening game in charge, the FA Cup victory over Brentford nine days ago, but was an unused substitute at Newcastle United last week.
The meeting with Leeds, then, billed as Everton’s biggest in the Premier League so far this season, doubled as an opportunity to stake his playing claim to the new man in charge.
“The boss has been different class… even after the result didn’t go our way against Newcastle, the way we bounced back is credit to him and the staff,” said Kenny.
“They have been a breath of fresh air for us.
“He has given me a lot of confidence.
“I want to express myself, I know what I can do, so it is going out there and believing in myself and doing what I am good at.
“I’ve played left-back before and once you find your feet and rhythm it becomes natural.
“I just want to be on the pitch, playing football, and I loved it.”
Kenny added: “I really want to do as well as I can for the manager and staff because they’ve put a lot of belief in me.
“I think I can speak on behalf of everyone in the team... they have brought a lot of belief back into the players – and I think it is showing.
“It is only two weeks but you can feel and see the difference in the lads.
“That is nothing against anyone in the past – but it is all praise to the manager and staff for what they’ve brought in.
“It was a great win but we know where we are in the table and don’t want to be there.
“With the quality we have… we know we can go up the table.
“But it is about consistently repeating this performance, not just the quality, but the aggression and high-intensity runs and passion, then the quality shines.
“The more time the manager has with us, the more we will build, and it is a really exciting time.”