Everton Under-21s prospect Liam Higgins has opened up on his “emotional” return to competitive action last week.
The Welshman, who joined the Club’s Academy aged 15, has endured a tough run of injuries across the past two years, meaning minutes on the pitch have been at a premium. Higgins made just two Premier League 2 appearances for the Toffees last season.
Despite this, the 19-year-old was handed his first professional contract in June 2022, penning a one-year deal, and on Wednesday he made his long-awaited return for Paul Tait’s side, coming on at half-time in the 2-1 victory over Mansfield Town in the Papa John’s Trophy.
It proved to be a climatic contest in which Everton scored two goals in stoppage-time to seal a phenomenal turnaround.
Higgins grabbed Everton’s equalising goal in the 90th minute and admitted it was an unbelievable moment for him.
“It was my first time at Goodison and that in itself was unreal,” said Higgins to evertonfc.com.
“For me to come on and score, it was actually a really emotional moment for me.
“Obviously, I’ve been out for two years or so, and for us to go and get the win as well, it was just an unbelievable moment.
“The lads were made up for me as well, it’s been so long and to get the win on top, everyone was just buzzing.”
It was an exquisite finish from the midfielder who showed little sign of any rustiness in front of goal as he made a busting run from deep to meet a clever flick from Tom Cannon before rifling his shot into the top corner.
Higgins added: “I saw the goalkeeper running out and I thought, ‘I am just going to smack this’. I hit it and it went top corner.” Provider Cannon then turned scorer minutes later to seal the win.
“I knew we had the momentum to go and win it,” continued Higgins.
“They were on the back foot and when you have Tom Cannon up front, anything can happen.”
Standout performances from Cannon for the Under-21s this season have been rewarded by Frank Lampard with opportunities to train and play for the First Team. It’s been a similar story for the likes of Stanley Mills, Isaac Price, Reece Welch, Joe Anderson, Seb Quirk and Billy Crellin, too.
And Higgins admitted he’s hoping to follow in the footsteps of his teammates in trying to earn similar opportunities within Lampard’s squad in the near future.
“I want to be around the first team, going on tours, getting minutes for the first team. That’s the goal for me.
“But for now, with the Under-21s, I want to be starting games and playing full matches just like I used to before I was out for so long injured.”
Everton Under-21s return to action on Tuesday evening when they take on Colchester United in the Premier League Cup at Southport (7pm GMT). The game will be streamed for absolutely free on our official YouTube channel.
Friday’s Under-18s FA Youth Cup third-round tie will also be streamed on our official YouTube channel as Leighton Baines' young Blues welcome Reading to Goodison Park (7pm GMT).