Tom Cannon says he is ready to push for a place in Sean Dyche's men's senior squad - and cannot wait to experience the “buzz” of scoring in front of a full Goodison Park.
The 20-year-old forward enjoyed a fine 2022/23 campaign, proving a big success at Preston North End after joining the Championship club on loan in January.
While at Deepdale, the Academy graduate scored eight goals in 19 league matches and was a regular in Ryan Lowe's side as Preston narrowly missed out on a playoff spot.
Before that move, Cannon shone for Paul Tait’s Under-21s in the first half of the season, bagging 12 goals in just 16 appearances – including impressive strikes against Football League sides Hartlepool, Mansfield and Lincoln City in the Papa John’s Trophy.
The Aintree-born talent's good form saw him working closely with the senior side, being rewarded with his Premier League debut at Bournemouth in November and then travelling on the mid-season tour of Australia, where Cannon scored against Western Sydney Wanderers.
Cannon now wants to use his Preston success as a launchpad for his Everton career. And the forward, who joined Everton Academy at the age of 10, has revealed his target to force his way into Dyche's plans for the new season.
“I want to come back for pre-season, impress the manager and hopefully show him what I can do, and then get myself in the squad,” Cannon told evertontv in an in-depth interview.
“Scoring goals with the Under-21s is different from Men’s football. Now I’ve gone out to the Championship and scored, hopefully the manager has seen that.
“It’s my aim to score in front of the crowd at Goodison. There’s nothing more that I want to do. I’ve gone out on loan and scored at Deepdale. But I know it would be a different buzz scoring at Goodison Park in front of 40,000.
“I’m looking forward to that and I will try as hard as I can do that.”
With the help of the Everton's Loan Pathway manager, James Vaughan, Cannon gained vital experience for his development with his six-month spell at Preston.
Reflecting on that positive spell in a demanding division, Cannon admitted featuring in high-profile Under-21s matches against experienced professionals helped prepare him for the demands of playing regularly in a congested Championship schedule.
“I had a good chat with Paul Tait [at the start of the season], and we both agreed it would be good for me to stay at the Club until Christmas, try to bag a bunch of goals and see where it takes me in January," said Cannon.
“The Papa John’s Trophy was good to get going in. I thought if I can score against these teams, then it will hold me in good stead in January and, ultimately, it did. I think it paid off.
“The Preston opportunity came up, and I saw it as a good chance to go out into a tough league, the Championship, and I did well. It’s gone perfectly, really.”
Although he impressed for Preston from the outset, it took Cannon time to initially find his clinical edge in front of goal, with his first strike coming in his eighth appearance for Lowe’s side in a clash with local rivals Wigan Athletic.
The forward didn’t look back from that point on but revealed it was a learning curve in those initial weeks as he adjusted to facing experienced defenders who would often use every trick in the book to try to keep him quiet.
“From Under-21s football to men’s football is obviously a big difference," added Cannon. "But then there are different styles, different formations, and even the way the senior players play, too.
“Defenders are on your back. They are trying to chat with you as the game is going on, so you aren’t making any runs in-behind.
“But it’s all a great experience and it went well."
While away, Cannon still felt closely connected to the Blues, with fellow Academy graduate Vaughan - who remains Everton's youngest goalscorer - and other key figures at the Club keeping in regular contact and congratulating him on his standout displays.
“He [Vaughan] kept in touch with me very frequently. He’d either phone me or text me after near enough every game,” Cannon explained.
"He came to the games as well and would text when he was there. I get on very well with Vaughany. He’s good, he helps you with any little things you need some assistance with. You can just text him or phone him and it’s no issue. I had a few meetings with him before I left to go to Preston and they were all good."