Everton Under-21s’ forward Katia Kouyate says his pre-season strike against Stade Nyonnais represented a landmark moment in his fledgling career.
The 19-year-old impressed in Switzerland during the summer opener, stylishly netting for the Toffees in a 2-1 victory.
Making sure to enjoy the moment, he celebrated with a somersault in front of the travelling Evertonians, as they applauded the Blues’ first goal of pre-season.
It was a memorable evening on the continent for the teenager. Now back at Finch Farm and away from the Swiss sunshine and alpine backdrop, the goal still lives fresh in his memory, as he recalled the week and his feeling upon scoring.
“There was a lot of fitness work because obviously it was pre-season and we’d been off,” said Kouyate. “With the pace of the Premier League each season, it just gets higher and higher and now with the new rules on stoppage time, we have to be even fitter.
“I’d had a good week training and I felt confident as each day passed. When it came to gameday, I wasn’t really nervous. I sort of had a feeling that I would do something. I didn’t think I’d score – I just knew I’d have a decent game
“To actually score just made things real, and I felt like, right, I’m in this position now; I’ve got a chance. I can make something of it.”
Keen for further opportunities after making the most of his so far, Kouyate detailed the differences between Under-21s’ football and playing with Sean Dyche’s side.
“For me, it’s not physical because I don’t really struggle physically,” said the lightning-quick Kouyate. “I’d say it’s more technical. You’ve got to be sharper. You can’t take as many touches as you would when you’re training with the 21s.
“You have to know what you need to do before you receive the ball, so you want to anticipate what you’re going to do based on other people’s movements.
“I’d say there’s an element of respect there (from the experienced players), but training is training. You’ve got to fight for your own place at the end of the day. Outside of training, the lads took me in well, and made me feel welcome.”
Kouyate enjoyed a strong Premier League 2 campaign for Paul Tait’s Everton Under-21s last season, featuring 25 times in the competition.
Away from the league, December of last year saw the dynamic forward net a hat-trick during a stunning 7-2 victory against Colchester United in the EFL Trophy.
Hungry for more games in senior football, Kouyate outlined his ambitions for the 2023/24 season, listing: “I’d love as much time with the senior side as possible, and to score more goals with the 21s, and then even look to go out on loan in January.
“You can’t always get too comfortable; you’ve got to be able to adapt all the time. Last season, for me personally, was more about just playing, because the season before that, I’d struggled a lot with injuries that I was getting throughout the year.
“So, just keeping fit was important, and then I’d say towards December time was when I really started playing well; scoring goals and then I finished the season strongly, as well.
“[This season] it’s important that we help the new lads coming in, the younger lads, and make them feel welcome; help them adjust and adapt. Once they’re comfortable, I’m sure they’ll get up to speed in no time.”
The next game for Everton Under-21s seems them take on Doncaster Rovers in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday 19 September (7pm kick-off) at the Eco-Power Stadium.
Live on evertontv, the match will be available to stream for free for Official Members, Lounge and Season Ticket Members. To find out how to become an Official Member, click here.