Tom Davies joined Everton's Academy at Under-11 level and went on to become one of a crop of promising youngsters to put
pen to paper on a professional contract with the club in the 2015-16 season. The then 17-year-old
signed a two-year professional contract with the club in September 2015
after making good progress with the Under-21s and would find himself making his senior debut before that season was out.
The nephew of former Everton player Alan Whittle, Davies had played for England in their opening game at the Euro U17 tournament
the previous May
and would have featured in the Fifa Under-17 World
Cup in Chile between October and November 2015 but he was handed a unique
opportunity to train with the senior England training camp instead despite having yet to played
for the Blues' first team.
That chance would arrive in April 2016, however, after he had returned to Everton's U21s where he pressed his claims for senior recognition with an impressive hat-trick.
He was then handed his Premier League debut by manager Roberto Martínez in a 1–1 draw with Southampton at Goodison Park, entering the
field of play as an 83rd-minute substitute for Darron Gibson.
It was on the final day of the 2015-16 season that young Davies really announced his arrival on the scene at Goodison Park when he was named in the starting XI by David Unsworth, standing in as caretaker manager following Martinez's dismissal three days earlier. Tom turned in a man-of-the-match calibre display of surprising maturity, playing his part in the third goal in a 3-0 victory
over relegated Norwich City.
He established himself in Ronald Koeman's first-team squad during pre-season
in 2016 and his prodigious talent was acknowledged with a new
five-year contract that July but it wasn't until the winter that Davies would emerge as a future Everton star.
Despite a growing clamour among supporters for greater involvement in the first team, Koeman remained patient with Davies until the busy festive season when he used the 18-year-old off the bench twice before handing him a start in the first game of 2017 against the Dutchman's old team.
Davies rewarded that faith with an excellent performance and an assist for the third goal in a 3-0 win but it was in Everton's next league game that he announced himself to the nation as he turned in another man-of-the-match display as the Blues smashed title-chasing Manchester City 4-0. The teenager capped off that fine afternoon with his first goal for the club, starting and finishing the move with skill and a confident finish.
In April 2017, Everton restated their faith in their latest Academy
protégé, awarding him with another improved five-year contract, less than seven months
after the deal he signed in August 2016 and Koeman would underline that faith in him with plenty of game time
for the rest of the season.
So-called "second season syndrome" appeared to strike Tom, however, in
2017-18, coinciding with a collapse in Everton's form that would see Koeman sacked by October 2017 and Sam Allardyce named as manager in the Dutchman's stead.
Davies would make 32 appearances in all competitions but concerns were raised over his form and whether he had been thrown into regular first-team action too soon.
He would demonstrate in flashes during the following season under Marco Silva why there had been so much buzz about him as a teenager and the new managerial hire
would prove his faith in him by making him the youngest player to captain the senior side in Everton's history when he led them out for a League Cup tie against Lincoln City early in the 2018-19 season.
"The way the manager plays suits
me and the way he wants me to play is how I like to play and see the
game," Davies said of the Portuguese at the time. "It’s high tempo. He wants me to press, get forward, be a
box-to-box midfielder. That’s how I want to play, really, so it’s good
to have that sort of freedom and role in the team."
Perhaps to his long-term benefit, Tom would play fewer games during Silva's first season than he had under the previous two managers as the form of Andre Gomes and then Morgan Schneiderlin ensured that the youngster was used sparingly as a substitute.
His importance to the long-term future of the club was underlined in April 2019, however, when he was handed another extension to his contract that would tie him to Everton until 2023 and, thanks in part to injuries to Fabian Delph and Jean-Philippe Gbamin, he was a first-team regular during the ill-fated 2019-20 campaign that saw the Blues slump into the relegation zone by early December and see Silva sacked.
Though the Portuguese's replacement, Carlo Ancelotti, brought about an uplift in form that lifted Everton back into the top half before the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the campaign, both the team and Davies struggled for form after the Premier League resumed in June 2020. It led to an inquest around whether the young Scouser was a long-term, first-choice solution in the centre of the park or whether Ancelotti and Marcel Brands needed to address that area of the squad in the following transfer window.
And address it they did, with the acquisition of three new additions to midfield in the form of Allan, Abdoulaye Doucouré and James Rodriguez, which signalled a reduced role for Davies,
or a battle to establish his credentials in a much-improved Everton
midfield. As a result, Tom would spend plenty of time on the bench, starting less than half of the League and
cup games, despite some fine words of support from Ancelotti.
After the Italian jumped ship for Madrid in June 2021, Davies started the 2021-22 campaign under yet another new manager in Rafael
Benitez in the confirmed role of squad player, sitting out the first
two League games on the bench before playing in the first two rounds of the League Cup which included an unfortunate contribution at Queens
Park Rangers where he was the first player to miss in an epic penalty shoot-out of 14
almost perfect spot-kicks as the Toffees exited the competition at a disappointingly early stage.
The moment seemed to
encapsulate the stagnated nature of Davies's career to that point and there was a feeling that his early promise had dissipated to the point where he no longer looked capable of holding down a regular starting role at Premier League level.
Any hopes he had of disproving that narrative and breaking back into the side were dashed in November
2021 when he picked up a knee injury and a few weeks later suffered a "high-grade tendon injury" to his hamstring that required
corrective surgery at a London specialist. He returned to training before the
end of April and was back on the subs' bench in May 2022.
With and influx of new midfield players in the summer of 2022, Frank Lampard, Benitez's replacement in the preceding January,
would relegate Davies to the role of a fringe squad player once more and his first-team opportunities were similarly sporadic
under Sean Dyche after he replaced Lampard in early 2023 which led Tom, now 24, to turn down the chance of a
new deal at Goodison Park and leave on a free transfer to kickstart his career elsewhere.
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* Everton deducted 6 points for PSR breachView full table