He may look like a student backpacker but England Under-19 midfielder Tom Davies is belying his youth in an increasingly impressive breakthrough season with Everton.
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Last summer he was just another football fan at UEFA EURO 2016. This week he is the talk of the Premier League after scoring a brilliant goal in Everton's dismantling of Manchester City last weekend. Meet Tom Davies.
Name: Tom Davies
Debut: 16 April 2016 v Southampton
Born: 30 June 1998
Preferred foot: right
They say ...
"[Sunday] was one of the best days of my life. When you see all that hard work from the players come through, and you see it celebrated – not just [in] performances [but] a goal from Tom as well – it was a brilliant day for the club."
David Unsworth, Everton U23 boss and former England defender
"You get some players who train well but flatter to deceive in a game because it can be daunting as a young lad. But Tom is the opposite. 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 get behind."
Leighton Baines, Everton left-back
"It bodes really well for Everton that Tom has that desire to play for the club. You can see it from the way he goes about his job. He showed just how much he wanted to win the match for Everton. It's a brilliant attribute. You can have all the skill and technique in the world but you have to have that desire, and Tom has that. He looks the real deal."
Peter Reid, former Everton and England midfielder
A nephew of Everton's 1970 English title-winning forward Alan Whittle, Davies came to the Blues academy from Tranmere aged 11. Initially deployed in defensive positions, he had developed into a central midfielder by his mid-teens, proceeding to captain England at Under-16, U17 and now U19 levels.
His Premier League debut was a substitute cameo against Southampton last April, but a month later – on his first full appearance – his man-of-the-match display helped defeat Norwich. His subsequent top-flights starts, both this month, have brought convincing 3-0 and 4-0 victories over Southampton and City respectively.
Playing style ...
If socks worn at half-mast and straggly long blond hair suggest confidence on Davies's part, his performances confirm it. From minute one he has appeared totally at home in Everton's midfield. He always wants the ball. His all-action style offers drive and desire. It is a dynamism underpinned by no little flair or quality: witness decisive forward passes to set up Romelu Lukaku's goals against Saints and City.
Shades of ...
In an era when players are often pigeonholed as No6s, 8s or 10s, there is something old-school about Davies in that Everton's latest prodigy is just a proper central midfielder. An amalgam of talent, industry and enthusiasm, he reminds older supporters of the Toffees' 1966 FIFA World Cup-winning dynamo Alan Ball as well as 80s general Peter Reid.
Eureka moment ...
Evertonian eyes were opened to Davies's potential when the Scouser – at the time preparing for England's FIFA U17 World Cup finals campaign – was invited to join Roy Hodgson's senior squad for a training session in October 2015.
Davies actually scored twice in that session, and in every senior outing with Everton he has looked like he belongs. Undoubtedly, though, his first goal has anointed the 18-year-old as an outstanding prospect. A swashbuckling box-to-box run was thrillingly rerouted when, with a back-heel, he chopped between Gaël Clichy and Yaya Touré; he then picked himself up off the turf to complete a one-two with Ross Barkley and dink the ball over Claudio Bravo.
For sheer youthful impudence, it was a goal to rival Wayne Rooney's first Everton strike, at Goodison Park in 2002. And after emerging from the ensuing pile-on of players, Davies milked his moment by jumping joyously into the crowd.
Best-case scenario ...
Everton head the U23 Premier League, their academy vying with Man. City for domestic dominance. Of the Merseysiders' young guns, however, it is the energetic Davies who seems to have gained most favour with Ronald Koeman as the manager reshapes the senior squad. In the mid-term he could become a key player in club owner Farhad Moshiri's attempt to return the Blues to the top of the English game.
He says ...
"[Ronald Koeman] speaks with me a lot, as does Erwin [Koeman]. 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."
On playing under Ronald Koeman
"To score my first goal and beat Manchester City 4-0 is a really special day for me. I'm so thankful for it. There are a lot of players – Agüero, Touré and Silva – that have been around for a long time. To be up against them on the pitch, it's strange but it's a good feeling to know you are at that standard. Hopefully days like this can come around more regularly."
On last Sunday's momentous victory
"That's just me. It's how I have always played. I don't know how to describe it but it is just the way I feel comfortable playing. If you feel comfortable and relaxed, then your game is going to be as good as it can be."
On those idiosyncratic socks