Beni Baningime says seeing fellow Everton Academy graduates Tom Davies and Jonjoe Kenny thrive at senior level has been an inspiration and insists he is determined to follow in their footsteps and establish himself as a regular in the first-team set-up.
The 19-year-old made his breakthrough for the senior side last season. He was handed his debut in the Blues’ Carabao Cup clash against Chelsea in October and made an instant impact – delivering an energetic, tenacious performance in the engine room of the Everton midfield.
He went on to feature in a further 11 first-team games, where his incisive passing, eagerness to get on the ball and ability to break up play consistently impressed.
The DR Congo-born youngster's rapid acclimatisation to top-level football was rewarded when he signed a new contract in May, which will keep him at the Club until June 2022.
Baningime insists he is now resolved to “push on” next season and revealed the first-team exploits of Davies and Kenny – who made 25 and 43 appearances respectively last season – have given him further motivation.
“Last year, you saw Davo [Tom Davies] playing all the time and Jonjoe was hardly with us with the Under-23s, he was always training with the first team," he told evertontv.
“So you are thinking, ‘I want to be the next one’. That was the goal – ever since I saw them going up [into the first-team]. And going up was great for me. Seeing them doing well encourages you to do the same.”
As a fellow 19-year-old central midfielder, Davies’ development has been a particular source of inspiration for Baningime. And while each of Everton’s emerging talents are eager to break into the senior side, Baningime reveals the atmosphere among the young players is one of constant support and encouragement.
“We are made up for each other [when team-mates get called into the first-team],” he said. “We have known Tom since we were kids and it is great to see him doing so well.
“He is progressing a lot. He is a great player. I see him and think, ‘I wanted to be like you’. And I still feel like that now.”
Baningime - who joined Everton aged eight - also credits Kenny and Davies for helping him settle in when he was promoted to the first team.
“Even when we were travelling to games, Jonjoe said, ‘If you need anything, come to speak to me’,” Baningime added. “It was a big help coming into it, when it was all new to me.
“For my debut, I felt nervous, but I felt alright once I made the first pass. But Jonjoe being there – and with Davo in midfield – it really helped.”
New Toffees boss Marco Silva has already spoken of his willingness to give young players an opportunity to shine, vowing that "quality, not age" will determine his team selections.
And Baningime’s dozen senior appearances last season – one of which saw him thrust into the cauldron of a Merseyside derby at Goodison Park – have whetted his appetite for further first-team action.
He says the experience he has gained during these matches – as well from mixing it with top players on the training pitch at Everton – means he already feels more at ease at the highest level.
“The speed is much faster than Under-23 football and you have to adjust to that,” Baningime said.
“But I have felt a lot more comfortable, even in training. I had to learn and catch up. Now I want to kick on next season and try to fight for a place.”