Branthwaite's Biggest Lesson Of Breakthrough Season

Ahead of Saturday's trip to Brighton & Hove Albion, Jarrad Branthwaite sits down to reflect on an impressive breakthrough year, the influence of manager Sean Dyche, playing in front of England's No.1 and forming a close bond with defensive partner James Tarkowski, the biggest lesson he has learned this campaign and much more...

Jarrad, another late equaliser to take a point from Monday's game against Crystal Palace. How do you reflect on that now?

JB: Yeah, it's massive. Every point is massive. It's not been a difficult season but a challenging season for the team with the points deduction and things and having to get used to those points being taken away from us. But we've had to use it as motivation to push even harder and put more good performances on the pitch. We want to push on and put some wins on the board from here. The focus going into every game is on trying to win it. This is a really challenging league and you know every team you come up against will have good players. We have full belief - in the manager and in each other as players - and motivation to keep pushing right until the end of the season.

On a personal level, you've had an excellent season so far. You must be pleased with how it's going?

JB: It's been a positive season for me, my first full season in the Premier League. Obviously, I didn't start the first few games but I've been in since then and I'm learning as I go, loving every minute of it. It was a dream of mine to be playing in the Premier League so to be doing it week-in, week-out now is good for me and my family are loving it watching on. I think I've just got to keep playing, keep learning and developing as a player.

How much of a change and a step up is Premier League football?

JB: It is. It's a huge step up. It's the best league in the world with the best players, so you've got to be on your game at all times and if you're not you get punished for that. That's one thing I've learned - to always be ready, no matter what team you're playing against, because they've all got top-class players and you always have to be aware and on your toes.

Is there anything that you can pinpoint that has been behind the big leap forward for you personally this season?

JB: Probably my loan move last season helped me. I played 30-odd games and I think for any young player, the best thing to do is to play games and develop. That's what I went and did and it's helped me massively coming back into the first team environment here. I got back and didn't play the first few games, as I said, but the manager had full belief and said: 'Keep training the way you are and you will get your chance', then once I got my chance it was up to me to take it. 

Having been at the Club for a number of years now, albeit as a youngster, what does it mean to you to be playing every week for Everton now and having an impact on the team?

JB: It's really nice. I came when I was 17 and to be playing week-in, week-out in the first team now is what I dreamed of back then. I've just got to keep going. The fans' support for us is massive and their support between now and the end of the season will be massive for us in getting us to where we want to be.

How much did the summer help as well, winning the Under-21 European Championships with England?

JB: It was my first proper international camp with the Under-21s and it was a very good one! All the players there are all playing in the Premier League so the standard in training every day and that environment was good for me to develop while I was away from the Club. Then coming back here, knowing I'd been in that environment and training with those players, I knew I was good enough to train here. 

Back at Everton, you've been playing in front of England's No.1 in Jordan Pickford. How good has that been for you?

JB: He's been massive for me, with the experience he has. Obviously, him and playing alongside Tarky as well. It's great for a young player to have experienced heads around you to help you through games and give you pointers. It's been really good to play around them.

Talking of James Tarkowski, he's started every game this season. What has it been like to have that constant, ever-present next to you in defence?

JB: It's good. I think in defence you've got to have a good partnership and we've built that since I came into the team. I think you can see that we work well with each other - we know where to be and the different positions each other takes up and when to cover. I think the main thing of a partnership is to have that good connection with each other and I think even off the pitch we have a good connection as well, so that helps.

What have you been learning from him? 

JB: Obviously, he's a really experienced defender who has been in the Premier League for a long time now. You learn little things off these players... they don't tell you how to do it, you just learn by watching them and I think I've done that since I came in. He's helped me a lot.

What do you think has been key to the impressive defensive record this season? Only the top three sides have conceded less...

JB: It's a team effort and you have to defend from the front. That's what the manager has instilled in us - be a hard team to break down, be a hard team to score against. We want to be defensively strong and that gives you a very good chance of winning games. I think you can see the mentality shift from when I first came to now in terms of being a hard team to break down and having that fighting mentality to go until the end.

A 1-1 draw with Brighton at Goodison earlier in the season - what did you learn from that game and what are you expecting this weekend knowing they've only lost one game so far this season?

JB: They are a very good team with a very clear style of play. We go there knowing it's going to be a difficult game but we've got belief that we can get a result. We drew at Goodison this season and then won there last season at the back end of the season. We go there with belief that we can win.