Everton and England Under-21s stars James Garner and Jarrad Branthwaite have returned to Finch Farm for pre-season training and say they are both highly motivated to forge significant roles in Sean Dyche’s squad this season.
Both players were granted extended breaks after helping Lee Carsley’s Young Lions secure their first European Championship in 39 years this summer.
Garner played in all six of England’s matches in the competition, while Branthwaite featured in the 2-0 group stage win over Germany when he started and completed a full 90 minutes.
Now back at Finch Farm, both are fully focused on Everton and eager to make significant contributions for the Blues in 2023/24.
“I spoke to the manager briefly before the season finished,” revealed Branthwaite to evertontv. “For me, I know I need to come in, have a strong pre-season and secure a place for next season. I have got the experience I need to come back and get into the team.
“Overall, I need to have a strong pre-season and go from there.”
Branthwaite spent the last campaign on loan at PSV Eindhoven where he enjoyed a hugely successful season, making 31 appearances and helping the Dutch giants finish second in the Eredivisie.
Reflecting on his progression across that campaign, the defender explained: “It was a good experience for me. The aim when I went out on loan was to play games so to get more than 30 appearances in the season, it was successful for me and the team.
“It was a really beneficial loan and I enjoyed it. I developed a lot as a person and player. It was what I needed to do, to get out, play games and get experience. I think going over there and playing at the standard we did, I achieved what I wanted.”
While Branthwaite impressed on the continent, Garner returned from a lengthy lay-off in March to impress Dyche and finish the season as one of Blues’ most in-form players. The 22-year-old admitted that run in the side handed him a massive confidence boost for this new up-and-coming campaign.
“It was massive,” said Garner reflecting on last season’s run-in. “At the start of the season, it didn’t go as well as I wanted to in terms of picking up an injury. But the last seven or eight games I managed to stake my position in the team. That was massive for my confidence going into the summer.
“I knew I had the ability to play. But I hadn’t done it in the Premier League. Now I have played a few games I have the confidence to feel like I can be in the starting XI week in and week out."
As he did in the final two games of the season to cover for injured players Nathan Patterson and Seamus Coleman, Garner played in a right-back role throughout this summer’s tournament for England.
“It helps to be versatile,” acknowledged the 2022 summer signing from Manchester United. “Whatever the manager wants, I can fit in with how he wants me to play and whatever position he wants me to play. I think that can definitely help me going into the new season.
“It was a crazy summer and achievement (with England). It was weird playing right-back for every single game, but you know those last couple of games of the season for Everton really helped me and gave me the confidence to go into the summer and play how we played.”
Although minutes were limited for Branthwaite, in an exclusive conversation with evertonfc.com, Carsley spoke highly of the youngster who believes the tournament was a “brilliant” step in his development.
“It was a great experience for me,” added Branthwaite. “It was my first camp so to be there in a winning team at the Euros, it was brilliant. Being around the boys and seeing what it is like to play for England at that level, I really enjoyed my time over the month and to get the win at the end was even better.”