Everton’s Tom Davies confirms Leighton Baines’ view of a proper player
It reflects Tom Davies’s character and confidence that he viewed Yaya Touré not as a more powerful, experienced opponent on Sunday but as a barometer of his own progress on his third Premier League start. The sight of the 18-year-old sending the Manchester City midfielder off course with a flick of the instep and evading his attempted recovery tackle to score a first Everton goal was therefore a significant step. It also underpinned Leighton Baines’s theory of what makes “a proper player”.
Baines was among the first to congratulate Davies and the debutant Ademola Lookman after the teenagers opened their Everton accounts in the 4-0 defeat of Pep Guardiola’s side. The England international has been a mentor to his fellow Liverpool-born Evertonian since Davies graduated to the senior squad late last season and was unsurprised by the midfielder’s impact against City.
“You get some players who train well but flatter to deceive in a game because it can be a bit overwhelming and daunting as a young lad,” Baines said. “But Tom is the opposite. He trains well but he finds another level when he gets out on the pitch and that is always the sign of a proper player. He’s a lovely kid, a great player and he’s Everton – he’s one of the ones we’ll all get behind.”
Davies’s Everton credentials are well-established. A nephew of the 1970 title winner Alan Whittle, the teenager has told how he has taken inspiration from the championship medal he admires on visits to the former Everton forward’s home. The same may apply to Whittle’s haircut from his playing days, judging by the similarity. Davies joined Everton’s under-11s from Tranmere Rovers – where his older brother Liam turned professional before being released last summer – and captained England under-17s at the 2015 World Cup in Chile, where his temperament and talent were noted by the Football Association’s coaches. He was invited to train with the senior England squad in October of that year by Roy Hodgson, scoring twice in one session, and made his full Everton debut on the final day of last season when the caretaker manager David Unsworth deployed several of his under-23 charges against Norwich City.
There was concern opportunities would be limited under Ronald Koeman, not least when the Everton manager said in early December that Davies, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Kieran Dowell and Jonjoe Kenny were “not ready” for a consistent run at Premier League level. Impressive substitute appearances at Leicester City and Hull City over the festive period prompted a U-turn and starting roles in the 3-0 defeat of Southampton and the FA Cup exit against Claudio Ranieri’s champions. City, and Touré, were undoubtedly the biggest test so far of a player who signed a new five-year contract with Everton this season.
Davies said: “Going into the game it was a test for me to see where I was as a player, coming up against him [Touré]. What it has shown me is that if I keep working hard I can reach the level they are at. To beat Manchester City 4-0 is unbelievable, really. I would never have dreamed I would be in a game or in a team where Manchester City have been beaten 4-0.
“It was a great boost to start. Then you see the substitutes getting ready to come on and you think it could be you but the manager left me on and I am thankful for that. It’s good to have the new players in and the lads back around because it is great competition for the squad and that is what you need. Hopefully I can keep performing as I have done and keep my place.”
The Everton midfielder insists Koeman – who has also handed a full debut to Calvert-Lewin since expressing those doubts – has been instrumental in his development this season. “He speaks with me a lot, as does Erwin [Koeman, the assistant manager],” Davies said. “Together they have helped me a lot and I think my game is improving because of them. Hopefully that continues and I can keep improving as a player. The first pass [that led to Romelu Lukaku’s opener] is something I have been working on with my positioning, trying to be in the right position to make the passes. I can always improve and I will do that.
“The manager told me to be aware of players running in behind me. With the players they have got, like Sterling, Agüero, Silva and De Bruyne, they are always on your shoulder. It was something I had to be aware of and something I am working on. City could have really put us to the sword but, as a whole, the shape we kept as a team was very good and it showed by keeping a clean sheet. Afterwards the manager came into the dressing room and congratulated us as a team and he congratulated myself. He is always professional and he’d want us to celebrate the result but then focus on the next game, which I think is key for us to keep the momentum going in the league.”
The grounded Davies planned to celebrate on Sunday by “seeing what my mum and dad and my brother are up to” and has no plans to roll his socks up, not in the sartorial sense at least. “That’s just me. It’s just how I have always played,” he said. “I don’t know how to describe it but it is just the way I feel comfortable playing. I think that is the best way to be. If you feel comfortable and relaxed, then your game is going to be as good as it can be.”
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