Isaac Price is vowing to limit his rest time this summer and return for pre-season fit and sharp and ready to press his claims for more First-Team football.
Midfielder Price – a former Goodison Park ball boy who grew up idolising Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman – made his Premier League debut as a substitute in Everton’s final-day fixture against Arsenal on Sunday.
The 18-year-old confessed his legs “went like jelly” when summoned by manager Frank Lampard to replace Tom Davies with 12 minutes remaining at the Emirates Stadium.
But the player, who routinely trained with the seniors over the season’s closing months, immediately settled as he entered the field to realise a dream Price harboured for 11 years, after joining Everton aged seven.
Following a “surreal” day, the teenager, who credited Leighton Baines, the Club’s Professional Development Coach, with accelerating his progress, targeted increased action in 2022/23.
“It was surreal [featuring against Arsenal] and one of the best days of my life,” Price told evertontv.
“To play in the Premier League, the top league in the world, is amazing.
“My legs went like jelly when I was told I was going on. I have been at Everton since I was seven and it is a dream come true.
“The nerves settled down a bit, you start to settle into the game and can’t hear as much going on.
“You are just focusing on trying to play well and do the right things.
“I have been to all of Everton’s home games since I was seven and was a ball-boy when I was 11 and 12. It [playing for the First Team] has been on my mind since then.
“To do it is unreal.
“This has given me everything I need, the little bit I got [on the field], I just want more now. I don’t think I will be taking much rest over the summer.
“I will be wanting to get back at it and be ready for pre-season and to get more minutes and play more regularly in the First Team.”
Price advanced through the Club’s Academy to play his first Under-18 football midway through the truncated 2019/20 campaign.
He played 11 Under-18 games from the outset of last term, before a promotion to feature nine times for the Under-23s in the second half of the season.
Price was twice on the First-Team bench at the back end of 2020/21 – and following regular Premier League 2 involvement this term was included in a handful of senior matchday squads.
He played the final minute of an FA Cup fifth-round victory over Boreham Wood in March and used subsequent training opportunities to try to impress Lampard.
To imitate Lampard, even, in some respects, with Price describing himself as “box-to-box” performer, in the ilk of one of England’s finest midfield all-rounders.
Asked if he had scented a Premier League chance in the offing, Price said: “I think so, I have been trying as hard as I can to get my opportunity.
“It is a lot tougher up there [First-Team training], the game is much faster, they move the ball quicker and are better on the ball.
“You learn every day, just from watching other players.
“I think it [reason Lampard is impressed] is just training, so far, trying to do as much as I could, and looking up to him when he was a player and trying to become what he was.
“I am a box-to-box midfielder, I like to go forward but defend as well. I do pretty much every part of the game, if I can.”
Price delivered early evidence of his capacity for timing runs into opponents’ penalty areas with a forward dash against Arsenal.
He connected with a back-post strike from a dropping cross but was off target with his attempt.
“It was at an awkward height for me, if it had been a bit lower on the volley, then maybe [I would have scored], but it was unlucky,” he said.
It was in Price’s industry and enthusiasm off the ball where Baines gently applied tweaks.
The Club’s brilliant former left-back, who retired in 2020 following 420 appearances over 13 years, is an integral figure in the professional development of Everton’s young players, on and off the field.
“He’s really pushed me and I’ve had a lot of one-on-one conversations with him about trying to get to the top,” said Price.
“Luckily, this year, it happened and he has been a big part of that.
“I like to press the ball a lot, he is telling me, ‘In the Premier League, you can’t always press,...you can’t jump out of shape, because you concede goals’.
“He has worked on that a lot with me in analysis and in the media room.”