Men's Senior Team Coach Steve Stone believes there’s a large crop of exciting young players at Everton - and that it is one of his priorities to help develop them.
Stone, who amassed 263 Premier League appearances and nine England caps during his playing career, arrived at the Club as part of manager Sean Dyche's backroom staff in late January.
He is currently in the middle of his first pre-season at the Club and is playing a key role in the squad's preparations for the new Premier League campaign.
Reflecting on the summer so far, the 51-year-old admitted it’s been beneficial to get to know the members of the squad, including during the Blues' pre-season camp in Lake Geneva, and added he’s particularly keen to aid the development of the exciting prospects in the group.
“It’s been good to get to know the lads on a personal level” Stone told evertontv. “(Last season) we had been working together so hard on the tactical side of the game and trying to prepare for games. So really on an individual level, pre-season has been really important.
“In Evian, we got to spend seven days together, one-to-one, 24 hours a day, you really get to see some of the personalities come out. You know, the leaders.”
On working with individuals, Stone added: “I am a big believer in trying to improve the players we have got here. We have got some really good young players. You can talk about Jimmy Garner, Patterson, you can still talk about Dwight McNeil being a young man, Branthwaite has come back in from his loan spell.
“There are so many young players here who we have got to develop and work with. Our job as coaches is to try to make those players better so we don’t have to go out and buy those kinds of players.”
While there will have been several tactical elements of Everton’s play that Dyche, Stone, plus assistant manager Ian Woan will have been keen to improve across this summer, building the squad’s overall fitness was a priority.
The team have been put through a number of rigorous physical sessions – including the much-talked about 'Gaffer’s Day' – all of which, as explained by Stone, are about building mental toughness as well boosting physical conditioning.
“Gaffer’s Day has been done over the last 15 years with the manager when he started at Watford. He’s brought it through to Burnley and he’s taken it on here,” explained Stone. “It's probably infamous around the country with other people.
"It’s basically a two-hour running session, including the warm-up which takes you past the limits of your mind. The body can do a lot more than the mind will let it. The mind will break down first, it always happens. The mind just wants to give up. The aim is to push through that barrier.
“Gaffer’s Day is all about locking in a two-hour session, so your body and mind get mentally get through a session. It’s a really tough one, but by the end of it, there’s a real togetherness and camaraderie around the squad, to show that they can all do it.
“The players know going into a Premier League game, they have locked in an incredibly tough session.”
He added: “It doesn’t guarantee you a win, of course. But on the fitness side, we have to make sure we are one of the fittest sides in the league.”