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Kieran Dowell 28

Kieran Dowell is an Everton Academy player from Aughton, near Ormskirk. An attacking midfielder with an eye for goal, he is predominantly left-footed but can shoot from distance with either foot and looks very neat on the ball. In May 2014, The Guardian singled him out as Everton’s best prospect born between 1 September 1997 and 31 August 1998 in a feature on 40 of the world's top youngsters. Of those, only two were English, the other being Everton midfielder Ryan Ledson.

Dowell’s inclusion on the list should not be seen as a surprise.  Everton have been dominant with that particular age group for some time, and Dowell has been at the front of the charge. In May 2015, he signed his first professional contract set to run through June 2017. The then 17-year-old midfielder was a regular for David Unsworth’s Under-21s side  and made his first-team debut for Everton in the Europa League dead rubber against FC Krasnodar in December 2014.

After signing, he said: “It's what I have wanted to do ever since I joined the club, so it's great to be able to finally say I'm a professional footballer for Everton. I've been here since I was seven. I was with a few different clubs before that, but then I got the opportunity to join Everton and I've enjoyed everything about it all the way through the age groups.

“All the coaches have been brilliant with me, I've been on some great trips with the club and there are always opportunities.  To be honest, [the 2014-15 season] has probably exceeded my expectations in terms of what I wanted to achieve,” he said. “I made my first-team debut which has been the main highlight of my year – but we've also had a good run in the Under-21s and Under-18s leagues as well.

“It was unbelievable and being an Evertonian myself, it was a dream come true. All my family are Blues as well so they were there watching and they were made up for me. Ever since I came up to the seniors this year, it's been something that I have noticed – the first-team players are really friendly and really helpful. They'll always look to give you little tips for your game which is obviously really good.

“Roberto has been great, too. He has congratulated me [on signing a professional contract] and he's told to just keep going and to work even harder.”

The next time he got to wear a senior jersey was at Tynecastle, coming on as a late substitute in the 2015 pre-season friendly against Hearts. He as very impressive in the pre-season Dundee game. His vision, touch, and balance are all top class and he shows great promise of becoming an attacking force operating from the right. However, he picked up an ankle injury around same time as Leighton Baines and missed the early months of what could be his breakout season:  

"I was training with the first team and I went for a ball. Unfortunately I have gone to ground and snapped the ligament, which meant I had to have an operation. It was a bit of a nightmare really!

Dowell came back also around the same time as his first team mate, playing for the Under-18s in a win way to Stoke City. He progressed to the Under-21s and received plenty of acclaim when he scored all three goals in a win over Leicester City U21s at Goodison Park. That would not be enough to propel him into consideration for inclusion in an injury-hit first-team squad as the Premier League season wound down, with Martinez having been notably reluctant to blood many of his bright up-&-coming youngsters.

But after Martinez was finally sacked, Dowell was one of two youngsters to be given their debuts in the Premier League by caretaker manager David Unsworth in the last game of the season against relegated Norwich City. He caught the eye, setting up the first of Everton's three goals as they got back to winning ways. And in June 2016, he was awarded a new 3-year contract after Ronald Koeman had been appointed.

His laconic style is deceptive as it can hide his better skills, notably his ability to play quick, forward passes, his dead-ball kicking, crossing and finishing ability. He seems to link well with Kenny,  tracking back in support of the full back, and in terms of decision-making he is generally excellent – certainly much better than Ross Barkley or Gerard Deulofeu showed in their final seasons with Everton.

Despite playing an important part in the Under-23s triumph winning Premier League 2, he was not rewarded with any involvement at the senior level, but would be picked as one of five Everton players for the England team that would go on to win the U20 World Cup in South Korea. A couple of excellent strikes in pre-season did not convince Ronald  Koeman to give him an opportunity to show what he could do in the early qualifying rounds of the Europa League; instead, he was dispatched to Nottingham Forest on loan for the full season.

He made a dream start in the Midlands, attracting plaudits from his manager and Championship observers and the adoration of Forest fans, notching nine goals in 31 league appearances, including a hat-trick against Hull City in October and weigheing in with a number of assists.

Since helping Forest into the Fourth Round of the FA Cup (where they lost, coincidentally, to Hull) at the expense of Arsenal in one of the highlights of the Third Round, Dowell's form went off the boil somewhat following a managerial change at the club. Former Middlesbrough manager, Aitor Karanka, was brought in to replace Mark Warburton and Dowell wasn't able to replicate his sparkling form from earlier in the campaign playing in a wider role under the new boss.

This left some uncertainty for the young star as he looked to run out his loan spell at the City Ground. “I'll see what happens in the summer,” he told the Nottingham Post. “Obviously, if I'm in Everton's plans then I'd love it, but if not I wouldn't rule out [returning to Nottingham Forest].”

A brilliant striker of the ball from distance with great movement and an eye for a pass, he has long been seen as future Toffees star in the making but much may depend on the new management team at Goodison Park over the close season.

There were high hopes at Finch Farm that Dowell could become the next player off Everton's impressive Academy production line, with Blues supporters remaining hopeful he could finally make the breakthrough into the first team in the 2018-19 season.  He underlined his potential value, slotting in the winning goal for England U21s at the Toulon Tournament, their third trophy win in succession.

Dowell featured in all but one of Everton's pre-season games under the watchful eye of new manager, Marco Silva; he did not join the cadre of 14 players sent out on loan, and looked like he might be given a chance in the first team. But that would come only in League Cup games and he failed to impress, getting hauled off at half-time after The Saints had gotten their go-ahead goal just before the break on another maddening night in that competition at Goodison Park. His appearances for the U23s would also be inexplicably sparse.

FactFile

Squad numbers 51, 28
Position Midfielder
Nationality England
Born Ormskirk
Date of birth 10 October 1997
Height 5'-10" (1.78 m)
Joined 10 December 2014
Joined from Everton Academy
Signed under Roberto Martinez
Transfer fee No fee
Contract duration 2 + 3 years
Contract expires June 2019
Debut (sub) v Krasnodar (h)
11 December 2014
Debut (full) v Norwich City (h)
15 May 2016
Previous Clubs None
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Everton First Team

Season Squad No. League Apps (sub) League Goals Cup Apps (sub) Cup Goals Total Apps (sub) Total Goals
2014-15
51
0 (0)
0
0 (1)
0
0 (1)
0
2015-16
51
1 (1)
0
0 (0)
0
1 (1)
0
2016-17
28
0 (0)
0
0 (0)
0
0 (0)
0
2017-18
28*
0 (0)
0
0 (0)
0
0 (0)
0
2018-19 28 0 (0) 0 2 (0) 0 2 (0) 0
  Totals 1 (1) 0 2 (1) 0 3 (2) 0
* On Season-long loan at Nottingham Forest

Loan Spells

Season Team League Apps Cup Apps League Goals Cup Goals
2017-18 Nottingham Forest 31 (7) 5 (0) 9 1

Academy U21s/U23s

Season Team League Apps Cup Apps League Goals Cup Goals
           
2013-14 Under-21s 0 (1) 0 (0) 0 0
2014-15 Under-21s 9 (7) 3 (1) 1 0
2015-16 Under-21s 12 (1) 5 (0) 9 0
2016-17 Under-23s  22 (0) 6 (0) 5 0
2017-18 Under-23s  On Season-long loan at Nottingham Forest
2018-19 Under-23s 2 (0) 0 (0) 0 0

Academy U18s

Season Team League Apps Cup Apps League Goals Cup Goals
2013-14 Under-18s 8 (5) 0 (1) 0 0
2014-15 Under-18s 8 (0) 1 (0) 3 0
2015-16 Under-18s 1 (0) 0 (1) 1 0


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