Dwight McNeil is vowing to work tirelessly every day to improve and elevate his game to “the next level” after completing a dizzying move to Everton on the eve of the new Premier League season.
Adaptable winger McNeil admits he rushed to complete a transfer from Burnley when he was alerted to Everton’s interest.
And the 22-year-old, who boasted a remarkable appearance record for his former club, insists he is immediately “ready to go” – and aiming to integrate in time for Everton's opening league game, against Chelsea, next week.
McNeil missed only two league fixtures in his final three-and-a-half seasons with Burnley. He was consistently among the top-flight’s most prolific crossers of the ball and in 2021/22 completed the second highest number of successful dribbles in the division.
All very pleasing, in the eyes of a player who captured headlines when invited to participate in a senior England training session as a precocious 19-year-old.
But McNeil, who will wear Everton's number seven jersey, is adamant there is enormous scope for improvement after agreeing a five-year deal to remain at Goodison Park until at least summer 2027.
“It is good to have the stats to back you up, but it is about taking risks and having confidence and, hopefully, that approach pays off this season,” McNeil told evertontv.
“Burnley helped me become the player I am today. Now I am at Everton, I want to get to that next level and I will be working every day to improve.
“The manager knows me as a player and told me what he wanted from me if I came here and his aims and goals for the future of the Club.
“I know within myself… last season, my stats were down in the position I play.
"I feel playing under a manager like Frank Lampard, he will help me get my stats up – that is what I want to do, alongside improving my game.
“Last season was difficult for the Club, but going into the last bit of the season, you saw from the players and fans, the desire and mentality and togetherness they have.
“They came together and united as one, which I thought played a key part in keeping them up.
“This season, they want to do better and I want to be part of the team to help them do that.
“When I heard the manager’s plans, they really excited me and appealed to me. I want to work hard and do well for the team and for the fans.”
McNeil joined Burnley as a 14-year-old, immediately recovering from the blow of a release from Manchester United.
He attributes a measure of a resilient and durable character to dad Matty, who was a professional with a number of clubs, including Macclesfield Town, Stockport County and Southport.
The attacker, who can operate on either side of the field, scored on only his second start for the Turf Moor club, a victory over West Ham United on 30 December 2018.
He was subsequently impossible to budge from the team, playing every game over the remainder of the season, then managing ever-present 38-match Premier League campaigns in 2019/20 and 2021/22, either side of featuring 36 times in the behind-closed-doors 2020/21 term.
“I had the belief and trust of the lads and the coaching staff at Burnley, I was always available to play, but in the games I didn’t play, I wanted to be out there, playing and supporting the team," said McNeil.
“I learn the most from playing the game, you get more out of it. For me, it is about playing as much as I can and helping the lads.
“Having that experience behind me is good but I am hungry to try to get more appearances under my belt this season and be part of a great squad.
“My dad is a massive influence. Right from the start of my career he’s been with me every step of the way, along with my mum and, recently, my girlfriend. I’m really grateful and thankful for them being behind me and giving me all the time in the world.”
McNeil is anticipating a brisk bedding-in process, aided by a quick reunion with former Burnley teammate James Tarkowski and the sight of familiar faces in former England age-group colleagues Ben Godfrey and Tom Davies.
The Everton new boy was with his country’s Under-20 team when he was summoned to train with manager Gareth Southgate’s senior squad in March 2019.
Those who witnessed McNeil join the session reported glowingly on a player who seriously impressed on the lush St. George’s Park pitches.
“Being around other great players helps you out, massively, so it was good to learn from them and now it is about looking to the future because that [England squad] is obviously where every player wants to be," said McNeil, who namechecked Andros Townsend as a new colleague to lean on for guidance.
“I know how good the squad is, how well they did at the Euros and the World Cup and it’s exciting for them going into this year’s World Cup. You never know what could happen in the future but, first and foremost, I want to settle in and enjoy my time here.
“I am looking forward to coming into this group because it is going to be a big season for the Club and the fans.”
On the subject of the Club’s supporters, McNeil watched from an enemy camp in Burnley as Evertonians rallied in a show of passion and defiance and wholesale backing to help drag Lampard’s team clear of trouble last term.
McNeil has tasted a few crackling Goodison atmospheres, too, in addition to reserving one of the finest strikes of his embryonic career for a game at the stadium in March 2021.
The influence of a united fanbase on a player choosing a new club, says Lancastrian McNeil, should not be underestimated.
“It is massive,” he confirmed. “For players, it gives you that extra bit of confidence.
“I’ve played at Goodison and it was always a difficult place to go because the fans are behind the lads from the start to the end.
“It is something I want to be part of.”
Everton meet Dynamo Kiev in their closing pre-season fixture on Friday, eight days prior to the mouthwatering visit from Chelsea on 6 August.
“I am very eager to get going,” added McNeil. “It’s been a fast turnaround. The season begins next weekend and it’s a massive, massive start.
“Hopefully, on Friday, I can be with the lads. I love being around it and learning, being part of it so early to get ready for the first game next week would be amazing.
"I’m ready to go and really happy to be here.”